The Truth About Christmas

Interesting Facts You May Not Know

By Shala Hainer

Holly Jolly Santa. Santa wasn’t always the cute, happy character we associate with Christmas. Traditionally, he’s often shown in dark clothing, usually blue. He rarely had a smile on his face in drawings of him. In 1931, however, Coca-Cola decided to craft a happier version to include in some advertising. They changed his clothes to red, updated his demeanor to joyful, and the jolly old elf was born. 


Santa’s Sleigh. Washington Irving is best known for creating the story of the “Legend of Sleepy Hollow” and the headless horseman. However, he brought us one important tidbit of Santa lore: the sleigh and eight flying reindeer. He was a huge Santa fan, even helping found the Saint Nicholas Society of the City of New York in 1835. 

Tinsel Town. Originally made from real silver when it was first introduced in Germany in the 1600s, tinsel was once banned in the United States. For a while, it contained lead and contributed to cases of lead poisoning. Whether it contains lead or not, it’s not a good idea to eat tinsel, so try to keep the newer plastic versions away from kids and pets regardless. 

Rudolph By Any Other Name … Rudolph first appeared in the late 1930s, and Rudolph wasn’t the only choice for his name, according to NPR. Other top contenders included Reginald, Roland and Romeo.  

Illegal Holiday. Because a few traditions of Christmas can trace some of their roots to the pagan festival of Saturnalia, the Puritans in the Massachusetts Bay Colony actually outlawed the holiday. If you were caught celebrating Christmas between 1659 and 1681, you would be fined five shillings. 

Santa Tracker. The beloved Santa Tracker provided every year by NORAD started as a happy accident. In 1955, a Sears ad misprinted the phone number of where children could call to give Santa their wish lists. It turns out that number was the hotline to the U.S. Continental Air Defense. When children started calling and reached Col. Harry Shoup instead of Santa, the soft-hearted colonel got airmen in his command to start answering the phone pretending to be Santa, and even called a radio station to give updates on where Santa’s sleigh was every hour. NORAD continues the tradition today with trackers on TV and apps for other devices every Christmas Eve. Visit to track Santa this year.

Holiday ‘Stamp’ede. Although several countries had Christmas stamps as early as 1898, the United States released its first one in 1962. The 4-cent stamp featured two candles to one side and a wreath, and it was printed in red and green


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