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Here's why you should keep a slipper on your window sill this Christmas

Speed News Desk | Updated on: 24 December 2015, 17:47 IST

Deck the halls! It's the cheeriest season of the year. Hang up the stockings, wrap those gifts and get your baubles out of the boxes to put up on your Christmas tree.

While you are at it, get some fake spider webs and brush up your boxing skills. Wait, what? Yes, you got that right. In some countries, Christmas is celebrated with fist-fights and some others decorate their tree with spider webs!

These and a few other lesser-known facts about Christmas, right here.

Christmas as we know it
  • In 350AD, Pope Julius I announced that Christmas would be celebrated on 25 December - to bring it closer to pagan rites surrounding the winter solstice.
  • Xmas has been used as a replacement since the 1500s - the X refers to the Greek letter for Christ.

  • The first Christmas trees were made of dyed goose feathers. We'll keep the fir trees, thanks.

  • Nobody knows who composed, or wrote, the song We Wish You a Merry Christmas.
The thing about Santa

Guess who else flew around handing out gifts to the good children? According to Greek mythology, Viking God Odin did.

The fourth century Catholic saint Nikolas - from Myra in present-day Turkey - was a stickler for discipline. The stern Nikolas would have probably been rather displeased if he knew he was going to be immortalised in the form of a redsuited, jolly bearded old man.

Santa Claus vs Saint Nikolas, also known as Sinterklaas in Dutch

The Santa Claus we know today is the culmination of years of culture and art. Coca Cola has been printing ads of the redsuited man since the 1920s.

Santa Claus is the patron saint for orphans. Isn't that sweet? But few know that everyone's favourite North Pole resident is also the patron saint of pirating, butchery and thievery. Is that why the chimney seems to be his only way in and out of locked houses? We may never know.

In October this year, a 68-year-old man with a white beard won a council seat in North Pole, a 2000-strong community in Alaska. Oh, and his name is Santa Claus. According to a Guardianreport, the "fiscally conservative, socially liberal" Claus - who changed his name in 2005 - advocates medical marijuana. This Santa may just have added to the green in Christmas.

A closer look at Santa's wonderland
  • According to the US Geological Survey, the North Pole is home to over 20% of the world's undiscovered oil and natural gas.
  • All the flying reindeer who pull Santa's sleigh - Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, and Blitzen - were all female. Male reindeer shed their antlers in this season.

  • What's more, Rudolph's famous red nose was probably the result of a respiratory infection.

Christmas traditions and customs around the world
  • Sorry Santa! In Italy, Befana the witch calls the shots. She brings gifts and candy for all the good children.
  • In Iceland, publishers usually flood the market with the release new books around this time. The Christmas book flood festival also means that books are extensively discussed and reviewed. Come Christmas, and everyone exchanges books as gifts.

    Iceland is responsible for publishing the world's largest number of books per capita. We'd love to adopt this tradition. Watch an Iceland publishing house speak about the Jolabokaflod tradition:

  • Some communities in Peru partake in the Takanakuy - a festival where people engage in fist fights to settle old disputes and start the year afresh. Don't believe us?
  • In Newfoundland, people dress up in crude disguises and go from door to door dancing and playing music while the hosts try to identify them. Take a look:
  • In Ukraine, artificial spider webs are used to decorate trees and houses. The tradition is inspired by a tale of a spider who wove a web around a poor family's Christmas tree and left them precious gifts in the morning.
  • In Estonia, children leave a slipper on their windowsill on Christmas eve to find it filled with candy when they wake up on Christmas day.
  • And now for the grinches. Brunei banned Christmas in 2014, threatening to punish those celebrating the festival with punishments like a five-jail term and death by stoning. Saudi Arabia too frowns upon the holiday, but permits private celebrations.

First published: 24 December 2015, 17:47 IST
 
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