5 facts about Christmas that might surprise you
Christmas will be different this year – but no matter how different, it will still be Christmas. Just for a change, we at IUBH want to teach you something you might not need for your career: 5 useless (but fascinating) facts about the festive period in Germany.
1. Hardly anyone knows why Christmas is celebrated.
There are no easy answers as to why Christmas is celebrated at all or why on this specific date. One explanation goes like this: Christmas is simply a solstice festival. Long before Christianity existed, other cultures such as the Romans, Egyptians and Teutons celebrated the birthdays of their respective sun gods around the time of the winter solstice. Accordingly, church leaders tried to ban the festival around 400 AD. However, the custom was already too deeply rooted in society. So they quickly declared the winter solstice to be the birthday of Jesus Christ (the date of which, conveniently, is not clearly documented) and were thus following a very old tradition. The fact that it fell on December 25th and 26th instead of the 21st or 22nd, the dates of the actual solstice, may be explained by the inaccuracy of the calendar at that time.
2. Santa Claus was not invented by Coca-Cola.
He is actually based on St. Nicholas of Myra, a very generous saint who lived and performed good deeds and miracles in 4 AD. To this day he is commemorated on the day of his death, December 6th. The Dutch call him Sinterclaas and it was they who brought the tradition to America, where the name eventually became Santa Claus. But before that, the tradition of exchanging gifts had been transferred to Christmas during the Reformation and so Santa Claus was created in parallel to St. Nicholas. Hoffmann von Fallersleben wrote his famous poem “Morgen kommt der Weihnachtsmann” as long ago as 1835. The songs “Up on the housetop” and “Jolly Old St. Nicholas” likewise date from the mid-19th century. From 1931 Coca-Cola used Santa Claus for Christmas advertising every year. The drawings were by Haddon Sundblom, who based them on a close friend’s appearance and dressed him in a Coca-Cola red coat. And so the rumour gradually spread that Santa Claus was an invention by Coca-Cola and a symbol of excessive consumerism and materialism.
3. Most Germans want cash gifts in 2020, and would like to spend less money on gifts this year.
According to this year’s Christmas survey by Deloitte, women mostly want gifts of money (44%), cosmetics/perfumes (31%), clothes/shoes/accessories (29%), food/drinks/delicatessen or wellness products (19% each). Men mostly have money (37%), electronic gadgets (19%), food/drinks/delicatessen products (18%), clothing/shoes/accessories (15%) and travel/leisure activities (14%) on their ideal wish lists. This means that the top gift wishes in 2020 differ greatly from those in 2019. And in contrast to the previous year, many Germans want to buy their gifts this year primarily in brick-and-mortar stores and less online. Germans’ planned budget for Christmas gifts has also changed, dropping from an average of €642 per person in 2019 to €343 in 2020. But after all, in Germany Christmas is known as the Season of Love, not the Season of Buying!
4. Christmas trees used to be hung from the ceiling.
For many, the Christmas tree is an indispensable part of the holiday. But living space is limited these days and not everyone has room for a standing tree. In the US, there is now a “new” trend of hanging an artificial, decorated tree upside-down from the ceiling. In fact, this custom has been around for a long time: Christmas trees (real ones) were being hung from the ceiling since before the 20th century, particularly in Eastern Europe. If you have a dog or a cat, this might sound like the ideal set-up! In Germany, the trend has yet to catch on. Here, miniature Christmas trees, whether artificial or potted, are more popular as a space-saving measure. The important thing is: You can’t just leave both of these out in the forest after Christmas.
5. Despite what you might think, it isn’t in Europe or America that Christmas is most enthusiastically celebrated.
No, actually they do that in Asia. The longest and most elaborate Christmas celebrations are in the Philippines. The festivities already start there in September and last until January. During this time Christmas carols can be heard on every street corner and everything is festively decorated. In the Philippines, the focus of Christmas is still very much on the Christian faith. Many Catholic masses take place in the former Spanish colony, for example the “Simbang Gabi”, nine services at four o’clock in the morning from December 16th to 24th. And in all other respects Christmas in the Philippines is very different to ours.
From all at IUBH, we wish you a wonderful close to 2020. We hope you and your loved ones stay healthy, enjoy the holidays, and have a happy and successful start to 2021!