The Ho, Ho, Holidays are upon us. It’s that time for lights, and stockings, mistletoe, and so many other Christmas traditions that bring us comfort and joy. But did you know some of the origins of these and other Christmas customs have a strange and, in many cases, a darker origination?
1. December 25 was originally a pagan celebration. Nobody knows when Jesus of Nazareth was born, and nobody celebrated his birthday for hundreds of years. December 25 was co-opted from pagan rites connected with the winter solstice.
2. Mistletoe kissing originated with fertility rites. The hanging sprig is a very ancient symbol of virility, and therefore anybody standing beneath it is signaling that he or she is sexually available.
3. “Jingle Bells” was written for Thanksgiving, not Christmas. The song was written in 1857 by James Lord Pierpont and published under the title “One Horse Open Sleigh.” It was supposed to be played in the composer’s Sunday school class during Thanksgiving as a way to commemorate the famed Medford sleigh races. “Jingle Bells” was also the first song to be broadcast from space.
4. Rudolph’s red nose is probably the result of a parasitic infection. According to Roger Highfield, the author of the book “The Physics of Christmas: From the Aerodynamics of Reindeer to the Thermodynamics of Turkey,” the world’s most famous reindeer has a red nose due to a parasite. However, Rudolf’s relationship with his parasite is symbiotic: after all, the red nose illuminates the path through the winter night for the whole reindeer team.
5. The Lucky Christmas Spider – In Germany, Poland, and Ukraine, finding a spider or a spider’s web on a Christmas tree is believed to be a harbinger of good luck. According to one legend, a spider wove a blanket for Baby Jesus; according to the other – a spider web on the Christmas tree turned silver and gold once the sunlight touched it. One way or another, decorating a Christmas tree with artificial spiders and spider webs will inevitably bring you luck and prosperity!
6. Santa Claus originated in a newspaper ad. Far from being a quaint medieval legend, Santa Claus first appeared as a recognizable entity was in a newspaper ad for toys and “gift books” in the mid-19th century.
7. Christmas is only recently a “family” holiday. Christmas was originally celebrated as an adult form of “trick or treat,” but with the “treat” consisting of booze and debauchery and the threatened “trick” consisting of bodily harm or destruction of property. The original celebrations of “Christmas” looked more like “The Purge,” where rich landowners were often dragged from their homes and beaten by peasants.
8. The Christmas Tree is a manufactured tradition. Related to the above, Victorian intellectuals (like Clement Moore) invented the tradition as part of a social movement to consciously reform Christmas away from its tradition of raucous drinking and wickedness.
9. “The 12 Days of Christmas” costs about $1.3 million. It would cost your “true love” over a million to actually give you all the gifts in the song. Partridges in pear trees don’t come cheap – they are about $300 combined. But what will really set you back are those “seven swans a-swimming” according to most estimates, that will cost you about $14,000!
10. Santa Can Manipulate Space-Time – Santa stretches time like a rubber band in order to deliver all the gifts in one night. Given the current number of kids in the world, Santa would have to make 842 million stops on Christmas Eve, traveling 221 million miles. Given the different time zones, Santa has 36 hours to deliver gifts; therefore, his average speed would be approximately 650 miles per second. That is less than the speed of light; therefore, it’s theoretically possible but still not too easy for a fat old guy. Larry Silverberg, a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at North Carolina State University, suggests that Santa uses “relativity clouds” to get the work done. Relativity clouds, based on relative physics, allow Santa to stretch time like a rubber band which gives him months to deliver gifts, while only a few minutes pass for the rest of us.
Any other weird Christmas stories or legends that you’d like to share?