Charles Dickens is largely responsible for the way we celebrate Christmas today; before the publication of A Christmas Carol in 1843 Christmas seemed to be dying out in Britain. The old-style 12-day Christmas had been observed in the large households that typified agrarian England; urbanised industrial revolution period households had less use for them.
Southey, Walter Scott, and Washington Irving all lamented the demise of Christmas in their time. Dickens kicked off a nostalgia boom for the family Christmas by publishing Christmas Specials of the various periodicals for which he wrote, and created the Christmas book trade with A Christmas Carol. Amongst the traditions associated with Dickens is the ‘White Christmas’. These have always been intermittent at best in southern England, but there happened to be snow every Christmas of the first eight years of Dickens' life, and they're a consistent feature of his stories.
In the Early Middle Ages, the big festival was Epiphany, but Christmas was the key day during most of the later Middle Ages. Oliver Cromwell's mob regarded it as a decadent holiday, and its celebration was banned outright in 1644 - even Mass was forbidden, as well as mince pies and holly, and shops were required to stay open. These laws were repealed in 1660. But even in 1849, the headmaster of the Quaker-run Bootham School postponed breaking up until after December 25 and declared that he would rather have no holidays at all than call the period ‘Christmas holidays’.
The story about a council attempting to avoid offence by renaming Christmas ‘Winterval’ continues to do the rounds despite it not being true. Eleven years ago, Birmingham ran a promotional campaign for businesses in the city that lasted the whole of the period from November to the end of January. The campaign was called ‘Winterval’. They have never used the word to describe Christmas and there was no PC aspect to the way they did use the word. It's non-news, and it's really old non-news.
The alleged ‘War on Christmas’ is a recurring theme in the press, but in a nation with decorated trees in every home, Father Christmas everywhere, carols and Christmas songs playing non-stop on the radio and in shops, and Christmas an official national holiday that has now grown to consume the last three months of the year, it seems clear that Christmas has never been less threatened than it is at present. Surveys show that 95% of businesses hang Christmas decorations in their premises.
I heard the bells on Christmas Day; their old familiar carols play, and wild and sweet the word repeat of peace on Earth, good-will to men!
The world's largest gathering of Santa Clauses in Newtown, Wales, in 2004 ended in a mass brawl.
Santa Claus has the right idea: visit people once a year.
Santa Claus has his own postcode in Canada: HOH OHO
'Five go-old rings' is the only copyrighted part of The 12 Days of Christmas; the rest is in public domain.
Czechs eat fried and breaded carp with potato salad or plum sauce for Christmas.
Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer is a girl.
Benjamin Franklin nearly killed himself in 1750 trying to electrocute a turkey for Christmas dinner.
I once bought my kids a set of batteries for Christmas with a note on it saying 'Toys not included'.