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George Washington University

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Merry Christmahannukwaanzadon

Interesting facts about the holidays

Max Skidelsky

12.11.17

Here at the George Washington University, there are 22 student organizations that promote the beliefs and traditions of numerous faiths. There are an estimated 4,000 religions in the world (way too many for a single article). So instead, I’ve chosen a few well-known religions to do a little holiday research. Here are 20 interesting facts about Christmas, Hannukah, Kwaanza, and Ramadan

CHRISTMAS

Christmas is one of the most popular holidays in the U.S. According to Pew, 9 in 10 Americans celebrate it. Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ but has also become a cultural celebration in addition to a religious one.

  • Voyager 1 was launched in 1977, and the engineers who designed its mission to study our solar system planned out the flight path in such a way that it would not make any planetary encounters during Christmas.
  • It has been estimated that the 1942 classic “White Christmas” by Irving Berlin is the best-selling single in history, with sales reaching in excess of 100 million copies worldwide.
  • Many popular Christmas songs were in fact written by Jewish composers. These include ‘Winter Wonderland,’ ‘Let It Snow,’ ‘White Christmas,’ ‘Chestnuts roasting…,’ ‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,’ and ‘You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch.’
  • Christmas purchases alone typically account for 1/6th of all retail sales in the U.S. annually, about $500 billion.
  • According to one study that analyzed data from Facebook posts, one of the most popular times for couples to break up is two weeks before Christmas. Oddly enough, Christmas day itself is the least favorite day for breakups.
  • The first printed reference of a Christmas tree was in 1531 in Germany.
  • Christmas wasn’t declared an official holiday in the U.S. until June 26, 1870.
  • According to the Guinness World Records, the tallest Christmas tree ever cut was 278-feet tall and was erected in 2007 as an annual tradition for Christmas in Brazil.
  • According to the World Record Academy, the world’s largest Christmas stocking is measured at 139 feet tall and 74 feet wide. It is nearly 8,000-square feet and weighs roughly 1,600 pounds.
  • According to UNICEF, there are 2.2 billion children under age 18 in the world—15 percent of whom are Christian. If there are on average 2.5 children per household, that would be about 132 million Christian households. Santa would have to cover 175 million miles and make roughly 280 million stops. He would visit nearly 1,200 homes a second, traveling more than 21 billion miles per hour.

HANNUKAH

Hannukah has been celebrated for about 2,000 years. It is an eight day celebration commemorating the rededication of the Second Jewish Temple in Jerusalem. The holiday celebrates the how a small band of Jews rose up and defeated the Greeks, who had been robbing and desecrating their place of worship. Following the victory, there was only enough oil to light the temple for one more day but the light miraculously burned for eight days.

  • Spinning the dreidel was once a form of secret studying. Before the Maccabean Revolt, students would pretend to play the game to confuse Greek soldiers.
  • Over the course of eight days, those who celebrate Hanukah will burn through 44 candles.
  • There is no right way to spell Hanukah—the Hebrew word is transliterated in English, so any phonetic spelling is technically correct. There are 16 popular ways to spell it!

KWANZAA

Kwanzaa was created in 1966, and is a seven-day celebration of African family, culture, and heritage. However, it was created in, and is celebrated almost entirely in, the U.S.
  • Kwanzaa was originally created as the first specifically African-American holiday.
  • The name Kwanzaa comes from a Swahili phrase meaning “first fruits” in relation to the first harvest of the new year.


RAMADAN

Second only to Christianity, Islam boasts over one billion followers - most of whom fast during Ramadan

  • Those who observe Ramadan must abstain from food and drink from dawn to dusk (with some exceptions). The idea is that Muslims are supposed to focus the mind on prayer.
  • Islam uses a lunar calendar, meaning that while Ramadan always starts on the same data for Muslim, the days are different on the Gregorian calendar.
  • The end of Ramadan is marked by a large festival to break the fast.
  • During Ramadan, inflation typically rises as people spend more on clothing and food and working less without food and water during shorter hours.
  • Because people who celebrate Ramadan wait to eat until night, they don’t burn off the calories during the day. As such, many people gain weight during this month.