Christmas Facts and Trivia | The Old Farmer's Almanac

Christmas Trivia Questions and Answers

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Fun facts about Christmas!

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Where did the phrase “Jiminy Christmas” come from? What about “Godspeed”? Why do some people write “Xmas”? Why do we decorate Christmas trees? The answers may surprise you! Enjoy Christmas trivia and fun facts about the festive season.

Where Did “Jiminy Christmas” Come From?

“Jimmy Christmas” or “Jiminy Christmas” is a direct reference to Jesus Christ and dates back to 1664, when it was first recorded as “Gemini,” a twist on the Latin phrase Jesu domini. The name of the Walt Disney character Jiminy Cricket was probably based on this phrase!

Where Does “Godspeed” Come From?

This dates back to a 15th–century song sung by English ploughmen on Plough Monday, the first Monday after Twelfth Day, which marked the end of the Christmas holidays. Before farm laborers returned to the fields, they dressed all in white and went from door to door, drawing a plow and soliciting “plough money” to spend on a last celebration. The song lyric “Godspeed the plough” expressed a wish for success and prosperity and was soon shortened to just “Godspeed.”

What is the Origin of “Yuletide”?

The word Yuletide originated from the word Yule, which was recorded in Latin writings as early as A.D. 726. At that time, the form of the word was guili. Both terms refer to a 12-day pagan feast celebrated around the time of year that has come to be known as the Christmas season. Discover more about the Yule Log.

Why Do Some People Use “Xmas”?

This answer might surprise you! No, it’s not because people were too lazy to write “Christmas.” In the Greek language used by the early church, the letter “C” for Christ or Christos was the letter “chi” or “X” (pronounced ‘kye’). Christ’s name was often represented with the first two letters of the name “Christos”—’chi’ and ‘rho.” This looks like an X with a small p on the top, as shown below.

Christ's name was often represented with the first two letters of the name "Christos"—'chi' and 'rho.

Why Do We Decorate Trees?

Evergreen trees have been a traditional symbol of winter festivals for thousands of years, well before Christianity. Plants and trees that remained green all year had a special significance for people who lived in cold winter climates.

  • Ancient people hung evergreen boughs over their doors and windows. Some believed that evergreens kept witches, ghosts, evil spirits, and illness away. 
  • Romans decorated evergreen trees with trinkets and topped them with an image of their sun god at the festival of Saturnalia.
  • Christians started using evergreen as a symbol about 400 years ago in Germany as a sign of everlasting life with God.


Why Do We Give Gifts?

Have you ever wondered how the custom of giving Christmas gifts originated? No, it wasn’t invented by the department stores!

  • The ancient Romans gave each other gifts on the calends (first day) of January, and the practice spread throughout the Roman Empire.
  • Christians give gifts at Christmastime or on the Epiphany, commemorating the visit of the Magi or Wise Men to Jesus. The “Magi” (a Greek word) refers to learned priests of an ancient Persian religion called Zoroastrianism. Today, we’d called them astrologers. Back then, astronomy and astrology were not differentiated. The Magi would have followed the patterns of the stars religiously. See our post on the Star of Bethlehem.
  • Many cultures believe in a “gift giver.” Many countries, especially some in Europe, celebrate Santa Claus or Father Christmas on St. Nicholas’ Day on December 6 (not December 25). In the Netherlands, children leave clogs or shoes out on the night of December 5 (St. Nicholas Eve) to be filled with presents by morning. In parts of Germany, they believe that it is the Christkind, an angel who comes on Christmas Eve with gifts. In parts of Italy, there is an old witch called Befana. In Spain, children await the Three Kings’ Day on January 6 (Epiphany).


Who Made The First Christmas Card?

People used to write their own cards. The first Christmas card design is thought to have been printed in England in 1843 by Sir Henry Cole, who was a prominent educator and patron of the arts. (He founded the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.)

Fretting over the many Christmas cards that needed to be made, he asked an artist friend to create a design. The card has the “To:” salutation at the top so that he could personalize it.

Wood engravers of the time often produced prints with religious themes, but this was the first time anyone produced these prints in quantity and sold them (1,000 copies in London). The design was of a family party, beneath which were the words “A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to You.”

The initial response was mixed, but soon, everyone recognized the time savings and enjoyed creating or commissioning their designs. Early Christmas cards were very artistic and collector’s items.

The first mass-produced Christmas card.

How to Keep Cats Away From the Christmas Tree

This might seem an odd Christmas question, but it’s a common one! Folks have suggested many things over the years, and you may have to try several until you find a method that fits your cat’s personality. The most direct route may be to keep your cat out of the room with the tree.

Try lining the tree’s lower trunk with aluminum foil if that’s impossible. Some cats hate the sound and feel of it and won’t try to climb up with the foil there.

Another trick may be to keep a pot of ryegrass or catnip near the tree to act as a diversion. Cats may respond to loud noises or the popular method of spraying water at them when they begin to attack the tree, but we’ve found that their little cat brains forget this message pretty quickly, and they’re soon back to cause trouble again.

Enjoy more Christmas facts! See Christmas Traditions in America.

About The Author

Catherine Boeckmann

Catherine Boeckmann loves nature, stargazing, and gardening so it’s not surprising that she and The Old Farmer’s Almanac found each other. She leads digital content for the Almanac website, and is also a certified master gardener in the state of Indiana. Read More from Catherine Boeckmann

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