Christmas Trivia from the USA, and more tidbits

As a sorta followup to last Friday’s blog Fun and Fascinating Christmas Trivia,
here are more interesting factoids about the holiday.
These tidbits center around the United States and pop culture. Enjoy!

Christmas Trivia from the United States

The first Christmas celebrated on land that is now part of the United States took place near Tallahassee, Florida, in 1539, according to historians. It was a religious observance with no trees or presents. Spanish explorer and conquistador Hernando de Soto established his winter encampment near what is now the Historic Capitol in downtown Tallahassee. Archeological evidence reveals some of what took place with de Soto and his men.

The first batch of eggnog in America was crafted at Captain John Smith’s Jamestown settlement in 1607. The name eggnog comes from the word “grog,” which refers to any drink made with rum. President George Washington so loved eggnog that he had his own unique recipe.

Alabama became the first US state to declare Christmas as a legal holiday in 1836. The last state to do so was Oklahoma, in 1907.

The first Christmas tree retail lot was established in 1851 by a Pennsylvanian named Mark Carr, who hauled two ox sleds loaded with Christmas trees from the Catskill Mountains to the sidewalks of New York City.

President Franklin Pierce (1853-1857) was the first to put up a Christmas tree in the White House, however some dispute this being an “official” Christmas tree. In 1889, President Benjamin Harrison placed what he clearly dubbed the official White House Christmas Tree in the Oval Office.

Christmas was declared an official holiday in the United States on June 26, 1870.

The Statue of Liberty, weighing 225 tons, was gifted to the US by the French on Christmas Day in 1886, making it the biggest Christmas gift in the world.

The first department store Santa Claus was at Edgar’s Boston Store, a dry goods marketplace in Brockton, Massachusetts. In 1890, owner James Edgar switched from his tradition of dressing as a clown during Christmas to visit with children, buying a custom-made red suit to be Santa Claus instead.

Since 1918 the city of Boston has received a giant Christmas tree as a gift from the Canadian province of Nova Scotia. Boston lent considerable support to the city of Halifax during their 1917 explosion and subsequent fire disaster.

The National Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony on the White House lawn was established in 1923 by President Calvin Coolidge (1923-1929).

Coca-Cola was the first company that used Santa Claus during the winter season for promotion. An ad commissioned from illustrator Haddon Sundblom in 1931 resulted in the rosy cheeked, jolly, red-coated Santa Claus we are most familiar with.

Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer was created as a marketing gimmick for Montgomery Ward in 1939.

Toys for Tots

Toys for Tots, run by the US Marine Corps Reserve, was founded by Major Bill Hendricks in Los Angeles, California, in 1947. The first donation was a handmade doll, the first of some 5000 toys collected during that initial drive. Over 97% of donations go directly to disadvantaged children. To date, 604 million toys have been distributed to over 272 million children.

The first White House Christmas Card was sent in 1953 from the administration of President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Interestingly, Eisenhower was an amateur artist and the White House issued many cards bearing the President’s own artwork.

Eisenhower Christmas Card

In 1961, First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy started the tradition of a decorative theme for the White House Christmas tree. Her first theme was “The Nutcracker.”

The first United States Christmas stamp was issued in 1962 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and featured a candle and wreaths in green and red. The USPS printed 350 million stamps, the largest every produced at that time, which all sold out in days.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that 14,700 people visit hospital emergency rooms each November and December as a result of holiday-related decorating accidents. Having seen National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, I can easily believe it! Additionally, more than 400,000 illnesses are caused by spoiled Christmas leftovers. Yikes! Be careful, y’all!

Black Friday is not the busiest shopping day of the year. That honor goes to the two days right before Christmas. All those men doing their last minute shopping, I suppose! After all, statistically 1 in 3 men wait until Christmas Eve to shop. It’s a scientific fact!

During the Christmas season, nearly 28 sets of LEGO are sold every second.

Christmas Trivia on Songs, Movies, and More…

Silent Night earns the title of the most-recorded Christmas song in history. There are more than 733 different versions of Silent Night copyrighted since 1978. A 1906 violin solo version was the second piece of music broadcast on radio.

White Christmas, written by Irving Berlin in 1940 and sung by Bing Crosby in the 1942 movie Holiday Inn, holds the Guinness World Record for the best-selling single of all time, with over 50 million copies sold worldwide. Also interesting tidbit is that Berlin so hated Elvis Presley’s version that he tried to stop radio stations from playing it.

Charles Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol in six weeks!

If you gave all the gifts listed in the song “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” it would equal 364 presents—almost enough for every day of the year! It would also cost a small fortune.

Believe it or not, the enduring Christmas classic It’s a Wonderful Life initially bombed at the box office. Not until 1974, when the copyright expired and television networks could air the movie for free, did It’s a Wonderful Life gain prominence and become cemented as one of the most beloved Christmas movies of all time.

Natalie Wood was eight years old when she starred in Miracle on 34th Street and still believed in Santa Claus. As she later wrote, during filming she thought Edmund Gwenn, the actor who played Santa Claus in the movie, was the real deal. She never saw him without his beard until filming was over, and did not recognize him.

Speaking of Edmund Gwenn, he rode on the 1946 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade float as Santa Claus. Those shots are seen in the movie Miracle on 34th Street.

The first Christmas song to mention Santa Claus was Benjamin Hanby’s Up On The Housetop. Written in 1864, Hanby was inspired by Clement Moore’s 1823 poem A Visit from Saint Nicholas.

Thurl Ravenscroft, the singer of “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” in How the Grinch Stole Christmas is also the voice of Tony the Tiger, the mascot for Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes.

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Sharon Lathan

Sharon Lathan is the best-selling author of The Darcy Saga, a ten-volume sequel series to Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice.

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Glynis

Well! I’ve certainly gone off Irving Berlin! How anyone can object to Elvis singing anything is totally beyond me! I absolutely love whatever he sings!
My favourite Christmas film is Pride and Prejudice! (ok so it’s not really a Christmas film but it IS my favourite! 🙂

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