This time of year I love to look up weird things about the holiday. Yeah, I know I have too much time on my hands. Nonetheless, here they are for your amusement:
How Do You Say, Merry Christmas?
Glaedelig Jul – Danish
Vrolijike Kerst – Dutch
Hyvvaa Joulua – Finnish
Frohe Weihnachten – German
Kala Christouyenna – Greek
Gledileg Jol – Icelandic
Buon Natale – Italian
God Jul – Norwegian
Feliz Natal – Portuguese
Heri za Krismas – Swahili
God Jul – Swedish
Iyi Noeller – Turkish
And the ever popular “Merry Christmas”
1. Christmas Eve in Japan is a good day to eat fried chicken and strawberry shortcake. (the Colonel will be glad to hear it.)
2. Alabama was the first state to recognize Christmas as an official holiday, and the tradition began in 1836.
3. In 1647, the English parliament passed a law made Christmas illegal. The Puritan leader Oliver Cromwell, who considered feasting and revelry on what was supposed to be a holy day to be immoral, banned the Christmas festivities. The ban was lifted only when Cromwell lost power in 1660. (And it took them 13 years to get rid of the doof? Jeez!)
4. Michigan has no official state song, but one, ‘Michigan, My Michigan,’ is frequently used. The words were written in 1863, and the melody used is that of the Christmas song “O Tannenbaum”. (Leave it to my home state to have no imagination)
5. Franklin Pierce was the first president to decorate an official White House Christmas tree. (Do you think he did it personally? What about all those White House decorator duded?)
6. Electric Christmas lights were first used in 1854. (Which the fire department was very happy about.)
7. One town in Indiana is called Santa Claus. There is also a Santa, Idaho. (Talk about Santa coming to town.)
8. The Puritans forbade the singing of Christmas carols. (I wonder what they thought of beat poetry.)
9. America’s official national Christmas tree is located in King’s Canyon National Park in California. The tree, a giant sequoia called the “General Grant Tree”, is over 90 meters (300 feet) high, and was made the official Christmas tree in 1925. (And no doubt we’re paying that electric bill somehow.)
10. The first department store to feature a visit with Santa was the J. W. Parkinson’s store in Philadelphia in 1841. Astonishingly, no other department stores copied this event until 1890 when a store in Boston repeated it. Before long lines of children formed at stores across America to sit on Santa’s lap and tell him their Christmas wish list. The department store Santa has been immortalized in films such as Miracle on 34th Street and Christmas Story. (You’d think a store that innovative would still be around today.)
11. The most popular Christmas song of all time is Bing Crosby’s version of “White Christmas.” And “Silent Night”-arguably the most recognizable Christmas hymn-was written in 1818, by an Austrian pastor, Joseph Mohr. As Christmas Eve came, that year, the organ in his church was broken, so together with his friend, Franz Gruber, he wrote this new tune for the service that night, and played it on his guitar for his congregation.
12. “Jingle Bells” was originally written for a Thanksgiving celebration, in 1857.
13. The Christmas abbreviation-Xmas-is thought by some to be sacreligious, but in fact the first letter of the Greek word for Christ is chi, which is X. Before the invention of the printing press, “Xmas” was often used, in print, to save time and ink.
14. We celebrate Christmas on December 25th because in the fourth century, Pope Julius I announced that Christ’s official birthday would be December 25th. Prior to his ruling there had been a great deal of confusion. No-one was certain about the year, let alone the month or the day. (So, due to mass Alzheimer’s, the Pope picked a random date?)
Why are there Twelve Days of Christmas? Traditionally, it took the ‘Three Kings’ this number of days to find the baby Jesus. Their arrival on the twelfth day was celebrated in the form of the Feast of Epiphany in medieval France, and later in other countries.
Where did the Candy Cane come from? In a small Indiana town, there was a candymaker who wanted to spread the name of Jesus around the world. He invented the Christmas Candy Cane, incorporating symbols for the birth, ministry, and death of Jesus Christ. He began with a stick of pure white, hard candy to symbolize the Virgin Birth. The candymaker formed the stick into a “J” to represent the name of Jesus. It can also represent the staff of the “Good Shepherd.” He thought the candy was too plain so he stained it with a red stripe to symbolize the blood shed by Christ on the cross.
Christmas Games – Weird Ones
Shoe the Wild Mare
Shoeing the Wild Mare is a traditional Christmas game that goes back to at least the early 17th century.
Get a narrow(a few inches wide),strong wooden beam and suspend it from the roof with two even length ropes. The beam is the ‘mare’ of the title and should be level yet high enough above the floor so that a player’s feet are off-ground. A player ‘the farrier’ then sits on the ‘mare’ in the centre, a leg either side. This player has a hammer and has to give the underside of the beam “four time eight blows” at a designated spot. If he falls off, it is someone else’s turn.
Much hilarity, and the odd broken shoulder ensues. (Odd broken shoulders????)
Apparently this is the best game ever to play on Christmas Eve. Make sure you have the fire department on speed dial though.
Very popular from the 16th to the 19th centuries, Snapdragons (or Flapdragons) has explicably declined in popularity.
Gather everyone around the dining room table, place a large flat dish in the centre. In the dish scatter a good handful of raisins then pour on top a layer of brandy or cognac. Set fire to the brandy and dim the lights. Players take it in turns to pluck a raisin out of the burning liquid and eat it quickly down. For a more competitive edge to the game use larger dried fruit such as apricots, one of which has a lucky sixpence stuffed inside.
Equipment needed: plate, matches, raisins, brandy, address of nearest accident and emergency department