Q: Why is mistletoe hanging over the front door?
A: For Scandinavians, the goddess of love (Frigga) is strongly associated with mistletoe. This link to romance may be where our tradition of kissing under mistletoe comes from.
Q: Who is this reindeer named Rudolf?
A: The whole story of Rudolf appeared, out of nowhere, in 1939. Santas at Montgomery Ward stores gave away 2.4 million copies of a booklet entitled "Rudolf the Red-Nose Reindeer." The story was written by a person in the advertising department named Robert May. The original name of the reindeer was not Rudolf, but according to the book The original name was Rollo, but executives did not like that name, nor Reginald. The name Rudolf came from the author's young daughter! In 1949. The Rudolf song is second only to "White Christmas" in popularity.
Q: Why is Christmas sometimes spelled Xmas?...especially when combined with the word "sale"?
A: According to the book Did you ever Wonder... by Jeff Rovin, the word for Christ in Greek is Xristos. The use of the shortened form "Xmas" became popular in Europe in the 1500s.
The word Xmas is so common in advertising most likely because "Xmas" and "sale" have the same number of letters, and "Xmas" is significantly shorter than Christmas.
Q: What, exactly, are the 12 days of Christmas?
A: The 12 days of Christmas are the 12 days that separate Christmas day on December 25 from Epiphany, which is celebrated January 6. Depending on the church, January 6 may mark Christ's baptism (the Catholic tradition), or it may mark the day that the wise men visited the baby Jesus with their gifts. In the past, there was a tradition of giving gifts throughout the 12 days, rather than stacking them all up on the morning of December 25. That tradition, as you might imagine, has never really caught on in most countries. We just aren't that patient. The song, however, demonstrates that some people once stretched out their gifts (and gave some fairly elaborate gifts...) over the full 12 days.
Q: Why is there a small evergreen tree in your living room?
A: This is a German tradition, started as early as 700 A.D. In the 1800s the tradition of a Christmas tree was widespread in Germany, then moved to England and then to America through Pennsylvanian German immigrants