10 facts more entertaining than your Christmas cracker joke

Do you ever find yourself at a cocktail party with nothing to say? We’ve been there. Here’s our list of 10 festive facts. Read on to find out what the world’s most popular Christmas song is and who we have to thank for mulled wine.

We might already have listened to “All I want for Christmas” once or twice this year (ok, more like ten times), but Mariah’s crowning glory actually isn’t the most popular Christmas song in history. That award goes to “Silent Night”, with more than 733 different versions copyrighted since 1978, sung by legends like Elvis Presley, Etta James and Al Green. Sorry Mariah.

We’re sure you’ve been wondering how Santa gets his presents delivered to everyone across the world by Christmas morning. Scientists (presumably with lots of time on their hands) have got it figured out and have calculated that he has to visit 822 homes every second, travelling at a dizzying speed of 39,000 miles a minute. It’s a wonder he has time to drink all that sherry.

The world’s tallest snowman was actually a snow woman and was named Olympia by the residents of Maine, USA, who built her in 2008 to an impressive 122 ft and 1 inch. Olympia was only a few feet shorter than the Statue of Liberty and was beautified with eight pairs of skis for her eyelashes, five red car tyres made up her lips, and her arms were two spruce trees of 30 feet each. That’s one way of getting 13 million pounds of snow off the streets!

The Yule Lads may sound like a name the guys in the office give themselves at the Christmas party when decked out in matching Christmas jumpers, but actually it’s the name of the group of Santa’s kids in Iceland. Look forward to getting presents from all thirteen of them! In the thirteen nights before Christmas, Icelandic children put a shoe in their bedroom windows. If they’ve been more nice than naughty that day, a Yule Lad such as Spoon Licker, Door Sniffer or Meat Hook (Snow White’s 7 Dwarfs eat your heart out) will treat them to sweets and other small gifts. If they’ve been naughty, they’ll get rotting potatoes. Nice.

We all know a good Coca-Cola advert signals the real beginning of the festive season, you just can’t help feeling like a kid again when you hear “Holidays are coming!”. This shaped the image we know of Santa considerably, with his chubby belly, bushy beard and red suit. But this isn’t the only marketing tactic that has shaped a tradition – families in Japan tuck into a KFC for their Christmas dinner, thanks to a campaign 40 years ago by the fast-food brand. Whilst we’re elbowing people out of the way in Waitrose to nab the last turkey, people in Japan are cleverly placing their KFC orders weeks in advance to avoid the Christmas Day queue. Wonder what they put in their Boxing Day sandwiches without the leftover roast hanging around.

We can’t be the only ones who feel a little sad in January when abandoned Christmas trees line the streets, awaiting their fate. Luckily there’s a feel good solution – some zoos accept Christmas tree donations as they make great toys for lions, can be re-planted in enclosures and dried out trees can be used as fuel. The bark also makes a great snack for elephants, camels and goats. (Maybe if we just ate bark in January we’d lose that Christmas weight quicker.)

On Christmas Day in 1886, France was like that over generous friend that turns up at your house with a stack of Selfridges boxes when you only bought them a mug. They gifted the US the Statue of Liberty to celebrate the friendship between the two countries during the American Revolution. Weighing 225 tons, it’s the biggest Christmas gift in the world. It had to be divided into 350 pieces and shipped in 214 wooden crates. If the US were anything like us, they probably vowed to make more effort in 1887 to buy France an amazing gift, then last minute couldn’t be bothered and ordered something from Amazon.

If we think prepping the roast a day in advance is effort, Poland takes the prize for preparation and looking after their Christmas dinner – literally. Instead of turkey, the centre piece of the Christmas meal is fried carp, which is usually bought alive and kept in the bathtub for the kids to play with. The idea being to flush the mud from their natural habitats out of them with fresh water. Polish legend says that carp are a symbol of good luck which is probably why it’s the Christmas dish of choice – sounds like they need it with a live fish in the bath. There’s also the tradition in Poland of leaving an empty seat at the dinner table in case anyone pops by for some of that delicious carp.

Tropical Santa is much cooler than northern hemisphere Santa. Oh, the irony! Papai Noel from Brazil doesn’t have to rely on a sleigh and reindeers, or face squeezing down the chimney like poor Santa Claus. Instead he delivers presents by helicopter and just enters houses through the front door. Quite honestly, if Santa hasn’t thought of that he probably deserves everything he gets.

We’re sure we can all agree that nothing beats that cosy feeling from the haze of twinkly Christmas lights, especially after a mug of mulled wine (or four). However, we’re glad that things moved on and we now have the luxury of electric lights, as Christmas lovers of days gone by used candles. Imagine stumbling in after Christmas drinks and knocking that tree over.

BONUS FACT: And speaking of mulled wine, this delicious (and dangerous) drink was invented by the Romans in the second century, who started heating their vino up to keep warm in the winter. The love for warm wine unsurprisingly spread across their empire but it wasn’t until later that spices, herbs and flowers were added to keep sickness at bay (any excuse). It was also a way to make bad wine taste more palatable – trust the Romans to not waste any booze.

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