6 Christmas Firsts

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Do you know which president put up the first White House Christmas Tree? Ever wonder which department store hosted the first department store Santa? Here's a look back at a few not-so-famous Christmas firsts.

1. The First Department Store Santa

The first "department store Santa" in the U.S. made his appearance at a Philadelphia dry goods store in 1841. Store owner J.W. Parkinson hired his neighbor to dress as Kris Kringle and make an appearance at his shop on December 18 to lure in holiday shoppers. Santa actually arrived via the chimney bearing a sack that had "My friends shop at Parkinson's" on the side.

2. The First Christmas Song to Top the Billboard Singles Chart

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The first (and to date, the only) Christmas song to hit #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 Pop Singles Chart is "The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don't Be Late)" by David Seville and the Chipmunks. The first-ever Grammy Awards ceremony was held in 1959, and Ross Bagdasarian (aka "David Seville") walked away with three trophies for "The Chipmunk Song"—Best Recording for Children, Best Comedy Performance and Best Engineered Record.

3. The First White House Christmas Tree

Franklin Pierce was the first president to have a decorated Christmas tree in the White House. Frances Cleveland was the first First Lady to decorate the White House tree with electric lights (the Pierce family had used candles), and Jacqueline Kennedy was the first to use a single theme when decorating the presidential tree. That 1961 theme, by the way, was The Nutcracker Suite.

4. The First Christmas Stamp

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The U.S. post office issued the first Christmas postage stamp in 1962. It featured a wreath and two candles and sold for four cents. Two years later, the first religious-themed Madonna and Child stamp was issued. The postal service has issued a new Christmas design every year since then with the exception of 2000, as the postage rate was scheduled to increase on January 7, 2001, and they didn't want to be saddled with a lot of leftover stamps.

5. The First Royal Holiday Message

In the UK, it's a holiday custom to gather in front of the "telly" at 3:00PM on Christmas Day to hear the Queen's annual holiday message. This tradition began in 1932 when Sir John Reith convinced King George V to inaugurate the Empire Service (which eventually became the BBC World Service) with a holiday greeting to his loyal subjects. The King was initially hesitant to use the "wireless" as a means of communication, but he finally agreed to deliver a brief speech written by his friend Rudyard Kipling. The Sovereign's Christmas address continued to be broadcast on the radio exclusively until 1957, when Queen Elizabeth II delivered the first televised Yuletime pep talk. Fifty years later, Buckingham Palace posted the Queen's message on YouTube for the first time.

6. The First Christmas Club Savings Account

The Christmas Club savings account concept originated at Pennsylvania's Carlisle Trust Company in 1909. Bank treasurer Merkel Landis came up with the idea of offering customers 3% interest on money deposited in a special Christmas account. They received coupons each time they put money in the account, and in early December they were able to redeem their accumulated coupons and hit the local stores flush with cash. Three hundred and fifty customers took advantage of the plan, and the average amount in each account on December 1 was $28 (almost $500 in today's dollars).

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December 14, 2009 - 5:44am
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