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Festive Facts  



* Advent, the period leading up to Christmas, begins with the Sunday nearest to St Andrews Day (November 30) and always includes four Sundays. It can begin as early as November 27 or as late as December 3 meaning that advent can vary in length between 21 days and 28 days.

* The Twelve Days of Christmas are the days between Christmas Day and Epiphany and represent the length of time that the three wise men from the East took to reach the manger of Jesus Christ after his

*The festival of Epiphany on January 6, for western churches, commemorates the showing of the Christ child to the three wise men. In the Orthodox tradition and other eastern churches it marks Christ’s baptism.

* The names of the three wise men are Caspar, Balthazar and Melchior.

* 26 December is traditionally known as St Stephen's Day, but in the UK it is more commonly known as Boxing Day. This expression came about because money was collected in alms-boxes placed in churches during the festive season.

* Silent Night was written in 1818, by Austrian priest Joseph Mohr. The story goes that his church organ was broken so he had to write a carol that could be sung by choir to guitar music.


St Nicholas

*The history of Santa Claus begins with a man called Saint Nicholas, the Bishop of Myra in Asia Minor, in what is now Turkey.

* The feast day of St Nicholas is December 6.

*St Nicholas is an extremely popular patron saint. As well as being national saint of Greece and Russia he is also the patron saint of brides, bakers and brewers, children, dockworkers, judges, merchants, murderers, pawnbrokers, perfumiers and pilgrims!

*In the 1860s cartoonist Thomas Nast drew pictures of a plump and kindly Santa Claus for the illustrated Harper's Weekly.

* Historians have traced some of the current traditions surrounding Father
Christmas, or Santa Claus, back to ancient Celtic roots. Father Christmas's
elves are the modernization of the "Nature folk" of the Pagan religions; his
reindeer are associated with the "Horned God," which was one of the Pagan

* Santa Claus is the Anglicised version of Sinter Klaas, which was colloquial
Dutch for Saint Nicholas.

* Santa Claus comes in many different guises including Pere Noel in France, Julinesse in Denmark, Kriss Kringle in Germany, La Befana in Italy, Babouschka in Russia and the Three Kings in Spain and Mexico. In England he’s known as Father Christmas.

* The poem The Night Before Christmas, which played a major part in propelling Santa Claus to superstar status was written by Clement Moore for his children in 1822. It was published anonymously the following year in a New York newspaper and was an international hit.



*Early Christmas trees were often decorated with apples, nuts and candles.

* In 1834, Queen Victoria's husband, Prince Albert brought the first
Christmas tree to Windsor Castle for the Royal family.

* The tradition of a holiday tree has been around since ancient times and has played an important part in winter celebrations for many centuries.

* Poinsettia, a flower with close associations to Christmas, originated in Mexico where it is known as Flower of the Holy Night.

* That old Christmas favourite Jingle Bells, much loved by children at Christmas parties, wasn’t actually written for Christmas at all. Originally titled One Horse Open Sleigh, it was written in 1857 by James Pierpoint for the US celebration of Thanksgiving.

* The tradition of the UK monarch delivering a speech to the nation on Christmas Day began in 1932.

* The fifth Sunday before Christmas is known as stir-up Sunday. It is considered lucky on this day for everyone in a household to help stir the Christmas pudding.



* In Scotland Christmas Day was not a public holiday until 1958.

*Last year the average person in the UK spent £568 on Christmas

*In Scotland the 12 days of Christmas used to be known as the "Daft Days."

* Famous people born on Christmas Day include WC Field (1946), Alice Cooper (1945) Princess Alexandra (1936) and Charlie Chaplin (1889).

* English Parliamentarian and Puritan leader Oliver Cromwell banned Christmas between 1647 and 1660 as he believed the celebrations were immoral and inappropriate for such a holy day.

* Good King Wenceslas, who in the song looked out on the feast of Stephen, wasn’t strictly speaking a King at all. He was a duke who ruled Bohemia in the 10th Century.

* The first charity Christmas card was printed by Unicef, the United Nations Children Fund, in 1949.

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