Christmas Trivia: More holiday facts to dazzle your friends

Today we will learn about Christmas bowling, stocking stuffers and other odd yuletide traditions.

Nast's classic American Santa Claus. (Imagery now in the public domain)

CHARLOTTE, N.C., December 21, 2016 – As Santa makes ready for his annual round-the-world junket, we impart a few more tidbits of Christmas knowledge to share at your holiday get-togethers.

1 – Odd traditions: Father Christmas, as Santa Claus is called in Canada, has had a personal zip code since 1982: HOH OHO (Ho-Ho-Ho). The reason is simple enough. In this way Canadian children will know their letters arrived safely.

Meanwhile, Norwegians hide their brooms on Christmas Eve because it is believed that witches and trolls come out and steal the brooms so they can ride them throughout the night.

In Caracas, Venezuela, the streets are blocked off on Christmas Eve. Why? So people can roller-skate to church, of course. How obvious.

Never send a red Christmas card to someone in Japan. It is considered bad manners because funeral notes in that country are usually printed in red.

No wonder we defeated the Soviet Union in the Cold War. Ukrainians include an artificial spider in their Christmas tree decorations because it is considered good luck to find a spider on Christmas morning.

2 – Extra stuff:  Each year since 1947, the Christmas tree in London’s Trafalgar Square is given to the city by Norway. The Norwegian spruce is a token of appreciation for the friendship of the British people during World War II.

Speaking of England, Puritan leader Oliver Cromwell played “Grinch” between 1647 and 1660 by banning Christmas because he believed the joyous celebrations were immoral on this holiest day of the year.

Remember Pokemon? That Christmas fad witnessed more than a thousand product licenses from Nintendo et. al, with total sales of $18 billion.

Mattel has done well with Barbie, too, over many decades, with over 22-billion dolls being sold since the blonde supermodel came on the market back in March, 1959.

3 – All about the Bowl games: We’re not talking football here. This is about the actual game of bowling. Some experts believe that bowling, or something similar, was being played by humans as far back as 3200 B.C.E.

There was a time during the Middle Ages however, when the only day in which commoners were allowed to “bowl” was Christmas day. Apparently concerns over gambling caused the German cities of Berlin and Cologne to put this law in place during the 14th century.

Later, in 1361, King Edward III of England banned the sport completely because he believed its popularity was a distraction from the more necessary skill of archery.

Henry VI removed the ban early in the 15th century, but Henry VIII later took time from his mating activities to proclaim that only the wealthy could participate in the game.

The laws on bowling more or less flip-flopped a few more times throughout Europe. But when the Dutch settled in New Amsterdam, now known as New York, they brought their own version of the game, known as “ninepins,” to the New World.

However, here is where the trivia really becomes trivial; for, you see, the earliest Dutch settlers played the game in a location in lower Manhattan that is today known as “Bowling Green.”

There is even a bowling alley in the White House, and the president can play any time he wants, including Christmas.

4 – By the chimney with care: Give the Turks credit for this bit of trivia. According to legend, in the third century in Turkey, a Greek-Christian bishop now known as St. Nicholas of Myra heard about a poor, but extremely devout Christian man who had three daughters.

Being poor, the women had no chance to pay for their dowries without resorting the the illicit profession of prostitution. St. Nicholas just happened to have a stash of gold laying around that he was not using and decided to throw the coins down the chimneys of the poor women.

Fortuitously, the money landed in the lady’s stockings, which had been hung over the fire to dry. From that day forward the legend grew into the tradition we know today.

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Bob Taylor has been traveling the world for more than 30 years as a writer and award winning television producer focusing on international events, people and cultures around the globe.

Taylor is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (

Read more of What in the World and Bob Taylor at Communities Digital News
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