11 Christmas Facts You Didn’t Know, Like Why Rudolph’s Nose Is Red (Hint: It’s Not Pretty)
There are a lot of weird facts about the holidays. We’ll rush home after work to catch the 25 Days of Christmas special on ABC Family. We’ll go to a party dressed in the ugliest sweater we can find and be happy about it. We’ll go to the office holiday party with our coworkers, and end the night holding hands in a circle singing “Jingle Bell Rock.” We’re so busy spreading holiday cheer that we’ll go through the motions and do things that at any other time would seem positively strange.
Take, for example, mistletoe. Why do we kiss under the mistletoe? I’d like to ask Sandra Bullock and Peter Gallagher, who famously shared a smooch in one of the ultimate Christmas movies of the '90s, While You Were Sleeping, or maybe Justin Bieber, who kissed a cute brunette under the branches in the video for his song "Mistletoe." Nowadays, people don’t even hang the mistletoe. They just hold it over their head when they’re ready for a smooch (seen here, here and here). But why??
The mysteries of the holidays are what make them so exciting and fun. But sometimes, I find myself asking silly questions that no one can really answer. And maybe you do, too. Here’s a list of 11 little-known facts about the holidays you've probably found yourself wondering about. Whip these out when you're looking for something to fill that awkward lull in conversation when you're sitting down for Christmas dinner with your family.
1. Why is Rudolph’s nose red?
Some people have speculated that his nose is bloodshot red due to the cold weather (though that doesn’t explain why all the other reindeer have boring old black noses), or because, you know, he's an alcoholic (not sure how much vodka you can drink while guiding a sleigh in the middle of the night while Santa yells directions at you). Those are all great theories and all, but the truth is a little more, um, gross. In 1986, Norwegian scientist Odd Halvorsen led a study to prove that Rudolph’s famous red nose is the result of a parasitic infection, which I guess happens to reindeer from time to time. I’ll let that one sink in for a bit…
2. How many people have ever gone Christmas caroling at once, and where?
The record belongs to a group of more than 15,000 people who went caroling in Bogota, Colombia in 2013. They sang multiple verses of "Silent Night" in Spanish at Simón Bolívar Park. Let’s hope they were all in tune.
3. Why do we kiss under the mistletoe?
The let-me-stand-under-this-herb-and-hope-someone-cute-walks-by tradition probably started sometime in the 1700s. Lovers would share a kiss for each berry that could be picked from the branches. Refusing to be kissed was considered bad luck.
4. But does mistletoe have any other uses?
Because of its healing properties, mistletoe has been used medicinally since the ancient Greeks and Romans were alive. It was thought to cure everything from menstrual cramps and infertility to epilepsy and ulcers.
5. How many Christmas trees are sold in the U.S. each year?
Anywhere from 25 to 30 million. Luckily, for every one tree that’s cut down, three are planted in its place.
6. Where did the snappy jazz soundtrack in A Charlie Brown Christmas come from?
Vince Guaraldi was the brainchild behind the music in the Peanuts Christmas special. Producer Lee Mendelson heard his rendition of Cast Your Fate to the Wind in a cab on his way to the Golden Gate Bridge, and immediately contacted him for A Charlie Brown Christmas. Ironically, director Charles Shultz hated jazz music.
7. Just how many gifts did the woman in “The 12 Days of Christmas” receive in total?
364 gifts. Now that’s true love.
8. Why do we decorate Christmas trees?
This tradition probably came from Germany. Merchants in the early 1500s would decorate fir trees at Christmas markets to lure shoppers into their stalls. I have to admit, I’d probably fall victim if I saw a tree as appealing as this one.
9. Who is St. Nick, and how did he become Santa Claus?
Bishop Nicholas lived in Turkey in the 4th century, and was known for giving coins and food to the poor who lived in his town. In the 1800s, the character Santa Claus was created as a personification of Winter. By the 1930s (and after many, many, MANY costume changes), St. Nick became the Santa we know and love.
10. Why do we celebrate Christmas on December 25th?
While we don’t know the actual date of Christ’s birth, legend has it that leaders of the Roman church created Christmas on December 25th in an effort to Christianize pagan worshipers who held a celebration around the same time.
11. What’s the most popular Christmas song of all time?
"Silent Night" has been the most popular song since 1978, when the U.S. Copyright Office began collecting data on album sales. Oh the irony.