Winter Holiday Trivia
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Festive Fun Facts1 of 21
By Julie Fishman and Paige Brettingen
Need a break from toy shopping, tinsel hanging and chestnut roasting? Pour yourself some eggnog and take five with some fun facts about the holiday season. From the origin of Santa's name to the number of lights on the Rockefeller Center tree, these bits of winter wisdom will give you a needed reprieve from the holiday hoopla—and they're also great conversation starters for the company holiday party.
Name Game2 of 21
We may call him Santa, but Christmas' leading man has many other names currently and historically, including Father Christmas, Kris Kringle, Père Noël, Babbo Natale and Father Frost, to name a few. The shorthand moniker "Santa" may derive from the Dutch words "Sinterklaas," a name for St. Nicholas, but some believe that it evolved from the working-class British accent pronunciation of St. Nicholas, which sounds like "Saint'ny Claus."
A Christmas Story3 of 21
While the modern Christmas tale involves a bearded man riding around the world in a sleigh pulled by flying reindeer, most Santa stories have a common thread: his signature gift-giving spirit, at least to good girls and boys. In fourth-century Greece, a bishop named St. Nicolas gave gifts to children after inquiring about their behavior over the past year. And in the Netherlands, the story follows that Sinterklaas would arrive by steamboat in mid-November bearing a book that told him which children had been naughty or nice. He'd then bestow treats upon the well-behaved.
Seeing Red4 of 21
Conspiracy theorists claim that Santa's iconic crimson and white ensemble actually originated with a marketing scheme by Coca-Cola in the 1930s, when the company featured a jolly, red-suited Santa Claus in its ads to boost sales during cold winter months. While a similarly outfitted Santa appeared years earlier in newspapers like The Saturday Evening Post, many agree that Coca-Cola may have had a hand in creating the Santa we know today.
Santa Craze5 of 21
Thousands of Santa enthusiasts gather each December to pay homage to the big guy at what's called SantaCon. Celebrated in 314 locations in 42 countries, SantaCon was founded in San Francisco in the '90s and continues to be the largest public gathering of people dressed in festive gear and engaged in holiday-related revelry.
Holiday Hits6 of 21
Sometimes all you need for some holiday cheer is a hilarious Saturday Night Live skit. Since 1975, SNL has provided us with arguably the best holiday sketch comedy on television. Our favorite, though, has to be The Lonely Island original: D--- in a Box.
Season's Eatings7 of 21
Although now mostly vegetarian, mince pies were made with beef and spices in early Victorian times. Christmas pudding was also different; it was originally a soup made with raisins and wine. If that doesn't fill you up, you'll be pleased to know that many parts of the Christmas tree can actually be eaten, with the needles being a good source of Vitamin C.
Confection Affection8 of 21
In 1847, a process was developed to allow confectioners to mold chocolate into shapes, paving the way for candy bars and chocolate Santas. In the 1920s, the first chocolate gelt was made, allowing Jewish families to use candy in lieu of actual coins for the custom of giving money to their children during Hanukkah. Today, the winter holidays rank third, behind Halloween and Easter, in terms of U.S. candy sales, and National Confectioners Association reports that approximately 150 million chocolate Santas will be made for the season.
Getting Hooked9 of 21
While the candy cane is a seasonal staple in the U.S. today—over 1.76 billion candy canes are made each year—it has a storied past. The first canes were created in 1670 by a German choirmaster, who gave out all-white sugar sticks—bent like the shape of a shepherd's staff—to keep children in his congregation occupied between hymns. In the U.S., the treat began as a straight, white stick of sugar until the turn of the century. The jury's out on who exactly brought the stripes and shape to America.
Wacky Canes10 of 21
Peppermint may be the standard favorite, but it isn't the only candy-cane flavor on store shelves these days. In recent years, confectioners have experimented with flavors like wasabi, gravy, pickle and bacon to make the treat a bit more unconventional. Unwrap your favorite flavor on Dec. 26: National Candy Cane Day.
Attention Shoppers11 of 21
On Thanksgiving weekend, stores opened earlier than ever before with 25 percent of the 141 million shoppers kicking off their shopping on Thanksgiving night at 8 p.m., and 37 percent arriving at stores by midnight (up from 28 percent last year). The National Retail Federation predicts that Americans will spend an average of $786 on holiday purchases this year.
Tree Truths12 of 21
The American Christmas Tree Association says that 83 percent of American households who display a Christmas tree will display an artificial tree this season. That said, an estimated 22 million real Christmas trees will be sold this year.
Fir Frenzy13 of 21
While most take their time decorating a Christmas tree, James Moore of London would argue that it only requires a few minutes. On Dec. 12, 2011, Moore set the record for fastest time to decorate a Christmas tree, which he adorned with 100 lights, two lengths of tinsel, 15 baubles and a star. The time it took him to achieve the feat? One minute, 55 seconds, according to the Guinness Book of World Records.
Spruced-Up Spruce14 of 21
In 1931, construction workers raised a 20-foot tree on the muddy site that would become Rockefeller Center. They had no idea that, more than 70 years later, tens of thousands of people would crowd the sidewalks for the ceremonial lighting of this year's 76-foot, 12-ton Norway Spruce, which features 45,000 multi-colored LED bulbs attached to 5 miles of wiring. The glitzy star atop this year's tree is 9.5 feet in diameter and weighs a whopping 550 pounds—the same one that topped the 2012 tree and survived Superstorm Sandy.
Toy Story15 of 21
Run by U.S. Marine Corps Reserve, Toys for Tots began in 1947, when 5,000 toys were collected outside Warner Bros. Studios in Los Angeles and given to local children. Since the nonprofit's launch, more than 500 million holiday gifts have been donated and distributed to underprivileged kids throughout the country.
HOW TO DONATE: Toys For Tots
Family Ties16 of 21
Following the 1966 Watts Riots in L.A., Maulana Karenga, Ph.D., professor and chairman of Africana Studies at California State University, Long Beach, created Kwanzaa as a way to unify the African-American community. Swahili for "fresh fruits," Kwanzaa was inspired by traditional African harvest celebrations and honors not only family and cultural heritage, but also values like unity, self-determination, creativity and faith.
Gingerbread Giants17 of 21
The largest gingerbread house in the U.S. was fittingly constructed inside the largest mall in the U.S. when a 67-foot-tall gingerbread abode was built inside Minnesota's Mall of America in 2006. The house, which took nine days to construct, could have fit the country's largest gingerbread man, also made in 2006, who stood over 20 feet high and weighed over 1,308 pounds. In 2009, a potentially record-breaking gingerbread man was created in Madison, Wis., but Guinness World Records has yet to officially recognize the achievement.
Trash Talkin'18 of 21
The U.S. produces an estimated 1 million tons of additional waste per week between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day. This includes 38,000 miles of decorative ribbon, enough to tie a bow around the entire globe. If each family in the U.S. sent just one less holiday card, then the nation would save 150,000 cubic feet of paper, enough to fill 25,000 wheelbarrows.
D.C. Dreidels19 of 21
Starting with Jimmy Carter in 1979, each U.S. president has attended a menorah-lighting ceremony to recognize Hanukkah. President Bill Clinton began the tradition of placing a menorah in the Oval Office in '93, and President George W. Bush threw the first White House Hanukkah party in '01. While the past three commander in chiefs have acknowledged Kwanzaa, the White House does not have an established set of customs surrounding the holiday.
Yuletide Tunes20 of 21
According to American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, between 2000 and 2010, the most-performed holiday song was "Winter Wonderland," which was written in 1934. While recordings by The Andrews Sisters and Perry Como popularized the song in the '40s, versions by Eurythmics, Jewel and Air Supply are frequently heard on the radio today.
Holiday Blockbusters21 of 21
Movies released during the holidays typically rake in big dough. The biggest one to date? Sherlock Holmes, which grossed about $24.6 million dollars on Christmas Day 2009 and set an all-time single-day record for Dec. 25. Avatar ranks first in New Year's Day sales, having made nearly $25.3 million on Jan. 1, 2010. Also ranking high on the charts for both days is 2004's Meet the Fockers, grossing $19.5 million on Christmas and $18.3 million on New Year's Day.
NEXT ON GLO: 11 Wildly Creative Christmas Trees