The holiday celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ has evolved over centuries, amalgamating traditions related to different cultures into a season of merrymaking and sharing of bounty, so that it has now transcended religious boundaries and is a festive occasion across the globe.

  1. The evergreens or fir trees associated with Christmas have been part of pagan rituals for centuries before the advent of Christianity. They were part of worship rites, symbolizing eternal life and rebirth; later the converts to Christianity inculcated them into the new religion’s traditions.

2. Though the Christmas tree that is lit up in front of the White House is an iconic tradition now, there was one US President who was not a great fan. Theodore Roosevelt banned Christmas trees at the presidential residence because he was a conservationist. He called it a ‘despicable practice’ because he was opposed to the deforestation it necessarily involves.

3. There’s actually no evidence that Jesus was born on December 25. In fact, there’s plenty of proof to support the contrary. Historians quote the Bible as saying that the farmers were tending to their flocks at the time of his birth, so it was more likely to be Spring. The date was probably chosen because it coincided with the pagan festival of Saturnalia, involving partying, gambling and gift-giving.

4. In Poland, Christmas trees are decorated with spiders and spider webs, something that would be associated more with Halloween in other countries. According to Polish legend, a spider wove a blanket for baby Jesus. Spiders are linked to goodness and prosperity in that country.

5. Santa Claus is based on a real life charitable personality, not from the North Pole but from Turkey! St. Nikolas was a priest living in Patara, present day Turkey. He had a large inheritance which he used to give gifts to poor children and women who could not afford dowries for their marriage. The spirit of giving is his legacy to all those who celebrate the holiday season all over the world.