Photo: Some favorite old Christmas decorations
Christmas may be one of America's favorite holidays, but it's rather surprising how little folks know about this day. Here are four strange facts about Christmas you probably didn't know:
Christmas was Against the Law: It's true. Christmas was declared illegal in England by Protestant extremists during the English Reformation (1640s to 1660). In other words, citizens were forbidden to sing carols, decorate their homes or prepare the traditional Christmas goose.
Even in the American Colonies, it was a penal offense to observe Christmas in New England. The law was declared in 1659 and continued until the 19th century, when the influx of German and Irish immigrants lessened the puritanical strictness."… no observation shall be had of the five and twentieth day of December,
commonly called Christmas Day;
nor any solemnity used or exercised in churches
upon that day in respect thereof."
An Order of the English Parliament, December 23, 1652
In Scotland, Christmas was banned for nearly 400 years ... from the 1580s until the 1950s. It wasn't until 1958 that it became an official public holiday.
Photo: A neighbor's tree during a recent snow storm
Christmas Trees Weren't Popular: The Christmas tree got off to a rocky start in the United States. German settlers had brought their rich tradition to this country, and trees were found in the Pennsylvania settlements as early as 1747; but they weren't accepted by mainstream society. Many considered Christmas trees to be dangerous pagan symbols.
The custom caught on when the English Queen Victoria was photographed with her German husband Prince Albert with a Christmas tree in the Illustrated London News in 1846. The rest is history.
The tradition spread throughout England, Europe, Russia and the United States. By the 20th century, the Christmas tree was firmly entrenched in our nation's culture.
Meanwhile, don't let that Christmas tree end up in the landfill. Here are earth-friendly ways to recycle your Christmas Tree -- from pine-needle bath oil to creative ideas for the garden. They are from a guest post I wrote recently for aHa! Modern Living's highly entertaining blog.
Photo: Christnas decorations found while walking my pup
Santa's Big Start: Believe it or not, but Santa Claus and Rip Van Winkle have something very important in common. Washington Irving -- the author of "Rip Van Winkle" and "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" -- introduced Santa Claus to the United States.
Irving adapted legends about a Dutch Saint Nicholas to create his best-selling 1809 Knickerbockers' History of New York. In this story, he gave the first literary description of Saint Nicholas in this country.
The legend traveled fast. Before long, the character evolved into the loveable Santa Claus we know today.
Xmas Not So Bad: Those eager to keep "Christ" in Christmas needn't worry about using "Xmas." The letter X is the first letter in the Greek word for Christ -- Xristos.
So, saying or writing Xmas is actually quite appropriate, when you think about it.
Ho ho ho... happy holidays everyone!