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25 Interesting Facts About Christmas

It’s finally December, but it can feel like the holidays are out of reach. At timeanddate.com, we thought we’d help shorten the wait. Here’s our list of what you did and didn’t know about Christmas.

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We’ve made our very own calendar to count down to Christmas.

©iStockphoto.com/Wirestock

Dec 1: Many Different Celebrations

December is here, and the countdown to Christmas has officially started! Did you know that Christmas is celebrated on different dates around the world?

Many people celebrate Christmas and open gifts on the morning of December 25, while other people, like Scandinavians, open their gifts on Christmas Eve.

For hundreds of years, people have been lighting up the darkest time of the year around the December solstice in the Northern Hemisphere—including the ancient celebration of Yule.

Some celebrations even move.

“We’ve started celebrating Christmas on December 25, since we switched from the Julian to the Revised Julian calendar. But we save the gifts for New Year’s Eve,” says our collegue Liuda Drobushenko from Ukraine, explaining that they used to celebrate Orthodox Christmas on January 7 for many years.

Dec 2: Weird Traditions

The holidays are full of traditions—some weirder than others.

For instance, on the evening of December 5, a hairy goat demon called Krampus can be seen in alpine villages throughout southern Germany, Austria, Czechia, Slovenia, and northern Italy.

Three people in Krampus costumes at night in Bad Toelz, Germany.

People in terrifying costumes roam the streets of alpine villages in December, representing the spirits of winter. Pictured here are the Krampus celebrations in Bad Toelz, Germany.

© iStockphoto.com/FooTToo

Dec 3: Special Sunday

This is the first Sunday of Advent in 2023.

Advent counts the last four Sundays before Christmas Day, and is celebrated in countries including Australia, Canada, the UK, Norway, and the USA.

Today is also Make a Gift Day. So take out the glitter, the yarn, and your glue gun, and start on those Christmas gifts!

Dec 4: Moon Far Away

The Moon’s orbit around Earth is elliptical. On December 4 at exactly 18:41 UTC, the Moon is at its farthest point from Earth—its apogee.

To be precise, the Moon is 404,346 km (251,249 miles) from Earth.

Dec 5: Most Illuminated Quarter Moon

Today’s Third Quarter Moon will be 50.137% lit up, making it the most illuminated Quarter Moon of 2023.

timeanddate.com’s resident astrophysicist Graham Jones explains it all.

A Third Quarter Moon with tree branches in the foreground.

At First Quarter or Third Quarter, the Moon is never exactly 50% lit up.

©iStockphoto.com/Alwin Zacharias

Dec 6: Good Old Santa Claus

On this day, San Nicolò comes with his bag of presents in Italy – as does St Nicholas in the USA, Belgium, Ukraine, Hungary, Germany, Switzerland, and the Netherlands.

Children who celebrate St Nicholas’ Day receive treats including candy, cookies, small toys, or fruit in stockings, socks, shoes, or bags.

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Santa like we’re often used to seeing him.

©iStockphoto.com/SeventyFour

There are many variations of Santa. For example, in Iceland, there’s not one but 13 Father Christmases, called the Yule Lads. They have names like Sheep-Cote Clod, Door Slammer, and Meat Hook. And they are not just nice!

Dec 7: Happy (Many) Holidays

Have you thought about how many days off you’ll get this holiday season?

Next year is a leap year, and Christmas Eve falls on a Tuesday.

Dec 8: Celebrating with the Pope

Many Christian communities around the world annually observe the Feast of the Immaculate Conception today, and it is a public holiday in places such as East Timor, Guam, Italy, Malta, Monaco, and Spain.

In Italy, one of the highlights is a celebration led by the Catholic pope in Rome. He kneels in prayer and gives a floral wreath to Roman firefighters who then lay it at the base of the column with a statue of the Madonna at the Piazza Mignanelli.

Dec 9: Venus and Moon Say Hello

The Moon and Venus are cozying up together in the pre-dawn sky.

Technically known as a conjunction, it is when two astronomical objects appear close to each other in the sky. The celestial bodies involved can be the Sun, the Moon, a planet, or a star.

Venus and the Moon say hello in the sky.

Although the objects appear to be close, this is an illusion caused by perspective. In reality, however, the two bodies are separated by vast distances. The image is a screenshot from our Interactive Night Sky Map over New York on December 9 at at around 5 am local time.

©timeanddate.com

It’s also Christmas Card Day! If you haven’t sent out your greeting cards, make sure you do it today!

Dec 10: Still a Few Days Left

It’s the second Sunday of Advent today, and we’re getting closer to Christmas.

How many days are left?

Dec 11: From Ten to Twelve

Our current Gregorian calendar and its predecessor, the Julian calendar, both have 12 months.

However, the month names we use today are derived from the Roman calendar, which initially had only 10 months. “Decem” means ten in Latin, so December was the 10th and last month in the Roman calendar.

Dec 12: A Good Night for Baking and Stargazing

When should you take a gingerbread house to the doctor? When it feels crummy!

Take out all your baking supplies, unleash your imagination, and build a gingerbread house on Gingerbread House Day.

With the New Moon, it is also a perfect night to go stargazing as the sky is dark. Look for planets, meteor showers, and deep sky objects such as star clusters, nebulae, and galaxies.

Dec 13: Golden Buns and Garlands

Today is Santa Lucia Day (Saint Lucy’s Day) throughout the Nordic countries.

Parents are usually invited to kindergarten and school to eat sweet “golden buns” with saffron and watch their children walk in a parade dressed in white clothes and often silver garlands. The kids are holding lights while singing the song Santa Lucia.

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A school group in Liljeholmen performs a traditional Santa Lucia celebration with song on the steps of school in Stockholm.

©iStockphoto.com/Alexander Farnsworth

Did you know the Caribbean island of Saint Lucia is named after Saint Lucy?

Dec 14: Spectacular Show in the Sky

The Geminids Meteor Shower will peak on the night between 14-15 December.

The Geminids are considered to be one of the most spectacular meteor showers of the year, with the possibility of sighting around 120 meteors per hour at its peak, so grab a blanket and get ready for a spectacular show in the sky!

Geminid meteor moving across the sky during the Gemind Meteor Shower in December at Mt.Tsukuba, Ibaragi Prefecture, Japan.

The Geminid Meteor Shower is one of the brighter meteor showers of the year—here from Mt. Tsukuba in Ibaragi Prefecture, Japan.

©iStockphoto.com/Toshihiro Nakajima

Dec 15: Flaunt Those Ugly Sweaters

The third Friday of December is Ugly Sweater Day. Take that ugly sweater out and wear it in public; chances are, you won’t be the only one wearing the Rudolph sweater Grandma made for you ten years ago.

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Who would you vote for in the competition for Ugliest Christmas Sweater at timeanddate.com?

©timeanddate.com

Dec 16: The Closest Moon of December

Do you remember the Moon being in apogee on December 4? Also known as the point farthest from Earth?

Today, the Moon is at its closest point to Earth, known as perigee,—367,901 km (228,603 miles) from Earth.

Dec 17: One Week To Go

The third Sunday of Advent is here, and we’re only a week away from Christmas Eve.

Look up in the sky in the early evening and you might see Saturn hanging out next to the Crescent Moon.The sky is full of movement, and when one astronomical object appears to pass close by another, it produces a conjunction.

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A conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn, for example, only happens about once every 20 years. But Dec 17, you can see Saturn and the Cresent Moon together. The image is a screenshot from our Interactive Night Sky Map over New York on December 17 around 8:45 pm local time.

©timeanddate.com

Dec 18: Get Ready for 2024

Haven’t gotten around to ordering a calendar for 2024 yet? Design and print your own calendar in a second. The calendars can also be shared via email and social media as pdf files.

You can even add your birthdays and other events and appointments to it.

Dec 19: Let it Snow

Will it snow for Christmas so that we can make a snowman? Check the Christmas weather where YOU are.

Dec 20: Total Eclipse of ...

... the Sun. Today, it’s 110 days until the Great North American Eclipse on April 8, 2024. The path of totality for this total solar eclipse runs through Mexico, the USA, and Canada.

Our timeanddate team will (of course) be broadcasting the eclipse LIVE from the US.

Who’s excited? We are!

Dec 21: How Many Meteors Can You See?

Another perfect night for star … I mean, meteorgazing!

The Ursid Meteor Shower is active annually between December 17 and December 24. The shower usually peaks around December 23.

Dec 22: The Longest and Shortest Day

Today is the December solstice, the longest and shortest day of the year. To be precise, the solstice happens at exactly 03:27 UTC on December 22.

According to one definition it marks the start of winter in the Northern Hemisphere and the start of summer in the Southern Hemisphere.

And look up, you might see the Ursids in the night sky.

Dece 23: Carved Radishes

On December 23, the old city of Oaxaca in southern Mexico blooms with life: Thousands of visitors line up to see the displays of radish carvings in all the colors of the rainbow.

Carved radished on display in Oaxaca, Mexico, for the night of the radishes.

Skilled artisans craft beautiful displays from radishes in Oaxaca, Mexico. They only last half a day before the radishes wilt and fall apart.

© iStockphoto.com/vichinterlang

Dec 24: Last Sunday of Advent

Today is the fourth Sunday of Advent and Christmas Eve, and in some cultures, like Scandinavia, this is THE night of celebration.

“My family eats crisp pork belly with red cabbage on Christmas Eve, but because I’m both Norwegian and Australian, we also have turkey on Christmas Day,” says our colleague Anne Buckle.

The fourth Sunday of Advent and Christmas Eve both fall on the same day. This only happens about every six or seven years.

Feeling sentimentally chatty? Convert your time zone before you wake anyone up.

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For many, all the good food is one of the highlights of Christmas.

©iStockphoto.com/knape

Dec 25: Merry Christmas

Christmas Day is one of the most festive Christian holidays in many countries worldwide. Keywords are family, stockings, Christmas tree, presents, and good food.

Did you know that Christmas Island was discovered on this date, hence the name? The Gilbertese name Kiribati is derived from the English word "Christmas”. The combination “ti” is pronounced s, giving KIRR-ih-BASS.

We wish you all a wonderful holiday. Merry Christmas!

PS: We’re now just a week away from 2024. Do you know which location is the first one to celebrate New Year’s?