WTF Fun Fact 12596 – Martin Luther’s Christmas Tree

Christmas trees are a pagan tradition that predates Christianity (and, therefore, Christmas). That might lead someone knowledgeable about theology or Christian history to believe that the Protestant reformer Martin Luther wasn’t a fan since he wasn’t exactly known for going all-out on the holidays.

In the 16th century, so the story goes, Martin Luther was taking a Christmastime walk and was inspired by the twinkling stars above him. That’s when he got the idea to gussy up a Christmas tree. He used candles, of course, since they didn’t have those infuriating strings of lights yet.

It became a wider German tradition after that (since Martin Luther was also known for spreading his ideas around). And when German emigrated all over Europe and North America, they brought that tradition with them.

Decorated trees became an even more visible tradition when Queen Charlotte introduced the practice to her new husband, King George III, and his English court in the mid-18th century. After that, Queen Victoria’s Christmas tree was illustrated in an 1848 edition of Illustrated London News. That immediately made it more fashionable.

The tradition of lighting up Christmas trees probably came to the US around the 18th century as well when Hessian troops came to back up the British during the Revolutionary War. When German immigrants moved over in later decades under more polite circumstances, they reinvigorated the trend that others then found fascinating and decided to copy.

So just remember to blame Martin Luther when you’re untangling those lights next Christmas. – WTF fun facts

Source: “Why do we have Christmas trees? The surprising history behind this holiday tradition” — National Geographic

WTF Fun Fact 12575 – American Bologna

The Italians may have brought bologna to America, but there’s little resemblance to the mortadella meat of Italy. The meat became a household staple for just about everyone during the Great Depression since it was cheap. It continued to reign supreme on shelves after that because it was easy to make into lunch sandwiches.

When Americans think of bologna, we tend to think of those yellow packages and round slices. And that’s because of a German immigrant who began his career beginning at age 14 when he apprenticed with a Chicago butcher.

Oskar Ferdinand Meyer spent six years in Chicago meatpacking until he could afford to lease his own marketspace and put his skills to use. He had learned traditional European sausage-making techniques over the years.

That’s how what we now know as Oscar Meyer bologna began, and success came early because of a growing German-American immigrant population in Chicago. His company later created the technology for vacuum packing sliced meats to make lunch making much more effortless.

So while the Italians brought proto-bologna to America in the 18th and 19th centuries, it was young Oskar who took steps to make it mainstream. – WTF fun facts

Source: “How Lunch Became a Pile of Bologna” — Eater