Whether you’re a festive elf or a bit bah humbug at this time of year, we’ve compiled a list of 15 little known facts about the history of gift giving at Christmas. So settle back with a sherry, put your feet up and see if you know your Ukko from your Meat Hook - and be glad you weren’t carried off to Spain as a child….
- There is some speculation that the “gold” given by the wise men may have actually been the golden spice turmeric.
- When visiting Finland, Santa leaves his sleigh behind and rides on a goat named Ukko. Finnish folklore has it that Ukko is made of straw, but is strong enough to carry Santa Claus anyway.
- When distributing gifts in Holland, St. Nicholas is accompanied by his servant, Black , who is responsible for actually dropping the presents down their recipients’ chimneys. He also punishes bad children by putting them in a bag and carrying them away to Spain!
- The tradition of putting tangerines in stockings comes from 12th-century French nuns who left socks full of fruit, nuts and tangerines at the houses of the poor.
- In Syria, Christmas gifts are distributed by one of the Wise Men’s camels. The gift-giving camel is said to have been the smallest one in the Wise Men’s caravan.
- There are 13 Santas in Iceland, each leaving a gift for children. They come down from the mountain one by one, starting on December 12 and have names like Spoon Licker, Door Sniffer and Meat Hook.
- There are 364 gifts mentioned in “The Twelve Days of Christmas”.
- Christmas purchases account for 1/6 of all retail sales in the U.S.
- Gold-wrapped chocolate coins commemorate St Nicholas who gave bags of gold coins to the poor.
- Black Friday actually isn’t the busiest shopping day of the year. The Friday and Saturday before Christmas are the busiest shopping days.
- The well-known reason we give presents at Christmas is to symbolise the gifts given to baby Jesus by the three wise men. But it may also stem from the Saturnalia tradition that required revellers to offer up rituals to the gods.
- The “true love” mentioned in the song “Twelve Days of Christmas” does not refer to a romantic couple, but the Catholic Church’s code for God. The person who receives the gifts represents someone who has accepted that code. For example, the “partridge in a pear tree” represents Christ. The “two turtledoves” represent the Old and New Testaments.
- Early illustrations of St. Nicholas depict him as stern, commanding, and holding a birch rod. He was more a symbol of discipline and punishment than the jolly, tubby elf children know today.
- Our use of stockings comes from this story: A poor man with three daughters couldn’t afford the dowry to have them married. One night, St. Nicholas dropped a bag of gold down the man’s chimney so that his oldest daughter would be able to get married, and the bag fell into a stocking that was drying by the fire.
- And finally, Rudolph was almost named Rollo or Reginald. We’re not sure Reginald the Red-Nosed Reindeer trips off the tongue quite so easily...
If you’re feeling inspired to get your Christmas gifts together then why not check out our great range of Christmas ideas, brand new for this year!
Merry Christmas from all at Harmans Oak Furniture!