Dotty's Christmas Facts

Who is Santa Claus? Santa Claus traces back to Saint Nicholas, a priest who lived 1600 years ago. Legend tells us that one of his miracles was bringing three lost children back to life, thus becoming the patron saint of children.

In Holland where he became most eagerly celebrated his name became 'Sinter Klaas'. When Dutch settlers arrived in the New World and founded, in the early seventeenth century, the place they called New Amsterdam (later renamed New York) they took their Sinter Klaas customs with them. The Americanized pronunciation of Sinter Klaas was 'Santa Claus', and this soon became his nickname.

Why does Santa come down the Chimney? All modern references can be traced to the famous poem 'The Night Before Christmas' written in 1822 by the Clement Moore. In it he describes 'And then in a twinkling I heard on the roof, the prancing and pawing of each little hoof. As I drew in my head and was turning around, down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.'
Why Celebrate Christmas on December 25th? In the fourth century, Pope Julius I announced that Christ's official birthday would be December 25th. Prior to his ruling there had been a great deal of confusion. No-one was certain about the year, let alone the month or the day.
Who invented Santa Claus' Suit? In 1931 the Coca-Cola Company hired American artist Haddon Sundblom to redesign Santa Claus. Sundblom chose the official colors of Coca-Cola, red and white.
Why are there Twelve Days of Christmas? Traditionally, it took the 'Three Kings' this number of days to find the baby Jesus. Their arrival on the twelfth day was celebrated in the form of the Feast of Epiphany in medieval France, and later in other countries.
Why we Abbreviate Christmas to Xmas? The word 'Xmas' has been in use for at least 600 years and has a special, religious meaning. The X does not, as many think, represent the Christian Cross, but the Greek letter 'chi', which is the first letter of 'Christos', meaning Christ.
The Candy Cane In a small Indiana town, there was a candymaker who wanted to spread the name of Jesus around the world. He invented the Christmas Candy Cane, incorporating symbols for the birth, ministry, and death of Jesus Christ. He began with a stick of pure white, hard candy to symbolize the Virgin Birth. The candymaker formed the stick into a "J" to represent the name of Jesus. It can also represent the staff of the "Good Shepherd." He thought the candy was too plain so he stained it with a red stripe to symbolize the blood shed by Christ on the cross.
Why is Poinsettia so Popular at Christmas? Poinsettia is not only a beautiful plant, it is also a strange one. What makes it so odd is that as it grows older in a sunny climate its upper leaves change color when exposed to prolonged sunlight. In Mexico its unusual red 'flowers' puzzled the local people sufficiently to invent an explanatory legend. Since the plant appeared to be blushing, the story went as follows:

On Christmas Eve a poor peasant child was standing by the door of the local church, forlornly watching other people arriving with splendid gifts to place beside the crib of the Infant Jesus. An angel appeared and whispered in the child's ear that there was a beautiful plant growing be the roadside that would make a ideal offering. The child picked the simple green plant, took it into the church and put it near the crib, alongside the other presents.

The congregation in the church laughed when they saw the little child offering what appeared to be a common green weed to Christ. This made the child blush with acute embarrassment and the blush was reflected on the upper leaves of the plant, which also turned bright red. In an instant the common weed had become a beautiful flower and the congregation were deeply ashamed of their behavior and astonished at the miracle they had witnessed.

From that point onwards the plant was known locally as 'The Flower of the Holy Night', but was unknown outside Mexico.

Then in 1825, the United States appointed the diplomat Joel Poinsett to become their first Minister to Mexico. He became fascinated by this strange red-leaved shrub and when he returned to the United States he took several specimens of the plant with him.

Because of its legend and because it conveniently bloomed in midwinter, it soon became on of the most popular Christmas plants in North America, and was named after its discoverer.

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Some of these facts were obtained from Desmond Morris' book 'Christmas Watching'.

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