Fun and fascinating Christmas trivia!
Write these down to dazzle your holiday guests!
The crew of NASA’s Gemini 6A space flight made history when they played “Jingle Bells” on December 16, 1965, earning the jolly jingle the Guinness World Record for being the first song ever played in space. Written by Unitarian church organist James Lord Pierpont in 1857, the song originally titled One-Horse Open Sleigh was composed as a Thanksgiving tune and was first performed during a Thanksgiving concert at Pierpont’s church in Savannah, Georgia.
The North American Aerospace Defense Command, or NORAD, has been tracking Santa’s journey around the world since 1958. According to their website, the innovation was set into motion in 1955 when “a young child accidentally dialed the unlisted phone number of the Continental Air Defense Command (CONAD) Operations Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, believing she was calling Santa Claus after seeing a promotion in a local newspaper.” The Air Force commander on duty, Colonel Harry Shoup, saw an opportunity to create a little Christmas magic and assured the youngster that CONAD would guarantee Santa a safe journey from the North Pole. This sparking the idea to track Santa’s travels and it has continued each year since, to the delight of children all over the world.
We can thank great American inventor Thomas Edison for the light bulb, phonograph, and even the movie camera. He is also responsible, along with friend Edward H. Johnson, for inventing Christmas lights! According to the Library of Congress, Edison created the first strand of electric lights in 1880, which he hung outside his laboratory in Menlo Park, New Jersey during Christmastime that year. However, in 1882 it was Johnson, his partner at Edison Illumination Company, who became the first to wrap a strand of hand-wired red, white, and blue bulbs around a Christmas tree.
The Christkindlesmarkt in Nuremberg, Germany has been held since the Middle Ages. Private letters dating to 1530 refer to a market taking place during Advent and the first documented mention of a three-day holiday market dates to 1628. To this day, the now one-month long Nürnberger Christkindlesmarkt is not only one of Europe’s oldest Christmas markets, it is the largest in Europe. Dozens of European cities host Christkindlesmarkts (translated as “Christ Child Market”) inspired by the original in Nuremberg.
Home Alone is the highest-grossing Christmas movie of all time. When Macaulay Culkin starred as a young boy accidentally abandoned by his family during the holidays in 1990’s Home Alone, the child actor became an instant star and the film an instant Christmas classic. According to Forbes, Home Alone remains the highest-grossing Christmas movie of all time in the U.S., earning $285.76 million at the domestic box office. It’s followed by 2000’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas ($260.04 million), 2018’s Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch ($189.67 million), and 2004’s The Polar Express ($183.37 million).
The largest gingerbread house ever made was as big as a real house. In November 2013, a group from Traditions Club in Bryan, Texas constructed a gingerbread house that was 160 feet long, 42 feet wide, and 10.1 feet tall. Made with a wood base, it reportedly took 1,800 pounds of butter, 7,200 eggs, 3,000 pounds of sugar, 7,200 pounds of flour, and over 22,000 pieces of candy to cover the record-breaking structure!
Decorating Disney World for the Christmas season involves 8.5 million lights. To prepare for the holiday festivities, Disney embarks upon a remarkable setup. According to Trip Savvy, preparing for the holidays Disney-style involves “unloading 150 semi-trailer truckloads of decorations, stringing 15 miles of garland and 8.5 million lights, hanging 1,314 wreaths, and trimming some 1,300 trees with 300,000 yards of ribbon and bows across Disney World’s four theme parks, two water parks, and over two dozen Disney World resort hotels.”
Stockbridge in Massachusetts recreates the famous Norman Rockwell Christmas painting each year. The picturesque town becomes even more picturesque during the holidays when it transforms into a Norman Rockwell painting. Each December, according to the town’s website, Stockbridge recreates the Sunday scene depicted in Rockwell’s 1967 work, Stockbridge Main Street at Christmas (Home for Christmas), complete with vintage automobiles parked in the spots occupied in the painting.
There are real Christmas trees, artificial Christmas trees, and in Chandler, Arizona there’s a 30-foot Christmas tree made out of tumbleweeds. It takes 1,200 tumbleweeds to create the structure, which is then covered in glitter as well as 20 gallons of flame retardant, according to Fodor’s Travel. Every December, visitors and locals celebrate the holidays at the City of Chandler’s Annual Tumbleweed Tree Lighting and Parade of Lights, visiting with the jolly man himself, Santa, and enjoying musical performances and a glowing pageantry of lights.
December 26, the day after Christmas, isn’t just Boxing Day—it’s also National Candy Cane Day! To quote the website National Today: “…while that doesn’t mean it’ll keep us from munching on the sugary sticks as early as Thanksgiving, it does give us a chance to indulge as much as we can before New Year’s.” Activities to do include: adding candy canes to your hot chocolate, making peppermint bark, and stocking up on candy canes for the next year.
In America, families who celebrate Christmas might enjoy a turkey or ham for their holiday dinner, but over in Japan the modern holiday festivities involve eating KFC at Christmas. It’s estimated that 3.6 million Japanese families enjoy the fast-food chicken on December 25. The credit goes to Takeshi Okawara, the manager of the first KFC in the country, who overhead a couple of foreigners talking in his store after it opened in 1970 about missing turkey on Christmas. Okawara then jotted down an idea that came to him in a dream: a “party barrel” to be sold on Christmas. He hoped a Christmas dinner of fried chicken could be a fine substitute to turkey and marketed his party barrel as a way to celebrate the holiday.
During World War II, Bicycle, the United States Playing Card Company, joined forces with American and British intelligence agencies to create a very special deck of cards. Known as the “Map Deck,” the cards were distributed by the Red Cross as Christmas gifts to allied prisoners of war held in German POW camps. Unbeknownst to the Nazi Germans, when soaked in water, individual cards peeled apart to reveal maps of escape routes. The plan was such a closely guarded secret that to this day no one knows how many cards were produced or how many prisoners escaped and survived. The only two known surviving decks are in the International Spy Museum in Washington D.C.