5 Surprising History Facts About Christmas Everyone Should Know

Red Christmas Balls on Old Wood with Christmas lights

Although we now see Christmas as the most festive time of the year where everyone is jolly and neck-deep in candy and delicious meals, that wasn’t always the case. In fact, if we turn back time, we’ll go to a place where Christmas was associated with times of evil spirits, killer frogs, and subversive snowmen. Check out these five must-know facts about everyone’s favorite holiday!

1. Sending Sinister Christmas Cards

circa 1879: Two women in Stuart costume roll Father Christmas through the woods in a giant snowball, on this unusual Christmas card.
Victorian times were weird times, and that extends to the tradition they created of sending each other cards during the festive season. After half-penny stamps made sending cards more affordable in the 1870s, the imagery on these cards started getting more… sinister. It would be normal for you to receive a card showing a frog killing another frog using a dagger and stealing money from the poor animal’s corpse. Odd, right?

2. Evil Beings Coming Down From the Chimney

A depiction of goblins wreaking havoc on a tree

We all know the romantic story of Saint Nickolas descending from the sky in his awesome sleigh to go through tiny chimneys and deliver presents to the good kids. That story, however, has a much more evil predecessor. In European folklore, chimneys were associated with the supernatural and served as the entry for evil spirits into the home. In Greece and Serbia, for instance, people believed goblins lived underground and only surfaced to wreak havoc during the 12 days of Christmas. Scary!

3. Violence and Rioting

A depiction of Oliver Cromwell and the puritans banning Christmas

It may be hard to believe, but in the past, Christmas was as much about rioting and violence as it was about sharing and caring. It’s no secret that Oliver Cromwell and the puritans swore to abolish Christmas, which to them was nothing more than a “popish superstition.” In June 1647, they even threatened to punish anyone who dared to celebrate the holiday. The public was not having it, however, and many of the citizens of Canterbury went out on the street to riot against that threat.

4. The Serendipity of ‘Survived’ Letters to Santa

A depiction of a letter to Santa

A little known fact is that chimneys sometimes keep artifacts that have been lodged up the flue. In the past, some of those artifacts were letters to none other than Father Christmas. Historians discovered a letter written by Hannah and Alfred Howard in 1911, which had survived in their Dublin home. Someone threw the letter in the fire, but it was picked up in a draft and saved by the chimney.

5. Carrots Were All the Rage

An excerpt from the Ministry of Food's booklet full of affordable, easy carrot-based recipes published during World War II
You probably don’t know this, but there was actually a time when carrots were one of Christmas’ top festive foods. Since the supply of goods during the world wars was greatly affected, the British Ministry of Food issued a booklet during World War II full of carrot-based recipes that could be done easily and affordably. Who knew carrots could be so versatile!