|Thirteen Things about Semitough:As the holidays draw near there are many myths, pieces of conventional wisdom, and misinformation out there that just beg to be dispelled. Poking around over at Snopes.com, Semitough found a plethora of disinformation about the holidays. Listed there are also some interesting TRUE stories about the holidays that may sound odd.Below are Semitough’s Thirteen myths, rumors, and outright lies surrounding the holidays along with the odd, funny, outrageous but TRUE holiday nuggets. So to help everyone separate the holiday wheat from the chaff, here is today’s Semitough’s Thursday Thirteen:
False or Undetermined
1. The suicide rate increases significantly during the winter holiday season. – Semitough must admit he thought this one was true. As a chronic sufferer of the “Christmas Blues”, inveterate curmudgeon, and a bah-humbugger on a Dickensian scale, it just seemed to make sense. Not according to Snopes research and reports drawn from studies done by none other than the Mayo Clinic. There seems to be no correlation between suicide rates and holidays. So put away that gun and let’s get shopping!
2. Poinsettia plants are poisonous to humans. – Another one Semitough always believed. He is not alone though. A 1995 poll by the Society of American Florists shows that 66% of people surveyed believe this to be so. According to Snopes research, a child in Hawaii died of poisoning in 1919 and the cause of the poisoning was incorrectly diagnosed as eating Poinsettia leaves. A 50 lb. child would have to eat 500-600 leaves to exceed the experimental doses that could theoretically cause serious injury. So don’t be afraid to boil up those poinsettias for Christmas dinner this year and serve them to the in-laws. Just kidding. I love my in-laws. Seriously. I do.
3. The name of Boxing Day comes from the need to rid the house of empty boxes the day after Christmas. – Here’s one for our Canadian readers (or rather our one Canadian reader). Like most Americans, Semitough was blissfully unaware of Boxing Day. Of course we had the occassional fisticuffs between family members on Christmas Day after too many spiked egg nogs, but nothing approaching paid holiday status unless someone made a trip to the ER. Boxing Day origins can be traced to Great Britain where it is also known as St. Stephen’s Day. In it’s simplest form it involves the giving of cash or goods to members of the lower classes. Gifts among equals were exchanged on Christmas Day, distribution to those less fortunate were done the day after. However, as with most holiday things there are alternate versions of the origin, those are documented here.
4. The song The Twelve Days of Christmas was created as a coded reference to important articles of the Christian faith. – This is one that Semitough was not aware of but Snopes does an extremely thourough job of debunking. In short, not a coded catechism of the Christian faith, but a children’s song and game. Imagine that. A simple kids game turned into a nefarious Papal conspiracy. Where are the black helicopters?
5. ‘Xmas’ is a modern, disrespectful abbreviation of the word ‘Christmas’ – Snopes points out that this version of the word is as old as Christianity itself. The first letter in the Greek version of the word Christ is Chi, represented by a symbol similar to the letter X in our modern alphabet. So there you go. Merry Xmas!
6. The day after Thanksgiving is the biggest shopping day of the year in America – Saw this one debunked on the local news this year. While possibly the biggest day in terms of shopping traffic, the biggest day in terms of sales is the Saturday before Christmas. Even Semitough got caught up in the Black Friday frenzy this year, but ended up not spending anything. Snopes has detailed history along with how Black Friday ranks in comparison here.
7. Jesus was born on December 25 – The birth of Jesus has never been determined and biblical narratives are mum on the actual date. Theories abound, but there is no definitive date that can be pointed to as THE one. What is clear however is that 4th century Christian church leaders were looking for a way to compete with rival pagan sects who held their festivals on or around December 25th. I’m sure retailers are thankful for the foresight of these early church leaders. But I’m sure the stores would have found a way to market the Sun God Festival anyway.
8. The modern image of Santa Claus was created by Coca Cola – The evolution of the image of Santa Claus has taken place over time, but as Snopes points out, the version we see today, red suit, whiskers, etc. was pretty well the predominant version well before Coca Cola introduced their Coke swilling Santa in the 1920’s to boost sales during a traditionally slow season. I mean who wants to drink a cold Coca Cola when it’s 20 below outside unless Santa is drinking one. Then it must be OK. Maybe even the cool thing to do. After all, everyone wants to be like Santa.
9. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer was created for Montgomery Ward department stores – Created in 1939 as a children’s book to give away to Montgomery Ward customers, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer was written by a department store copywriter named Robert L. May. Proposed names were Rollo and Reginald before Rudolph edged them out. The story took off and after a short film and a song recorded by famed singing cowboy Gene Autrey, Rudolph was established as a player in modern Christmas lore. A very interesting story along with the significant differences between the original story and what we know as the story of Rudolph here.
10. Two of Santa’s reindeer were originally named ‘Dunder’ and ‘Blixem,’ not ‘Donner’ and ‘Blitzen.’ – Another complicated tale here. But the short of it is that the original poem “A Visit From Saint Nicholas” first published in 1823 and now more commonly known as “The Night Before Christmas” called these two reindeer Dunder and Blixem. Snopes breaks it down here.
11. Toys left with a Wal-Mart to be donated to needy kids were returned to shelves for resale – You always suspected the Walmart folks were Grinches didn’t you? Look no further than here for proof. Apparently in 2002, suspecting that toys placed in a Toys for Tots donation box may not have been paid for, a Walmart employee returned them to the shelves. Of course, Walmart claims it was a mix up, but clearly a public relations nightmare. Before being to hard on the folks in the blue vests it should be noted that as a corporation Walmart gives very generously to education charities and has been a large contributor to Toys for Tots and served as a collection point for various local Christmas charities.
12. In Canada, Santa’s postal code is H0H 0H0. – Confirmed by our Canadian correspondent, bigdino, just today. Snopes reports that H0H 0H0 has been Santa’s personal postal code since 1982. Canada Post (the much more efficient version of our US Postal Service. Never hear of any Canadian postal workers showing up and shooting up the joint) says over 1 million pieces of mail to the postal code each year. In true Canadian form, each letter is answered in the language or form it was written, whether Japanese, Esperanto, or Braille. And of course with the corresponding French translation so as not to anger the Quebecoise Separatists.
13. German and British front-line soldiers sang carols, exchanged gifts, and played soccer during a World War I Christmas truce. – This is a bittersweet story that I can’t give justice to in this small space. Read the full write up at Snopes here. In a nutshell, after leaders on both sides had rejected as impossible a Christmas truce in December 1914, German and British soldiers facing each other in the muddy trenches of Flanders spontaneously laid down their arms on Christmas Eve 1914. The truce lasted until New Year’s Day when commanders on both sides ordered their men to resume hostilities under threat of court martial. The war drug on for three more years with millions of lives lost on both sides.
On December 22nd this year the Semitough family will attend the wedding of Esposa’s nephew. In January he and his brother will be deployed to Afghanistan. Their brother in law, (husband of Esposa’s neice) will be deployed to Iraq in January as well. Here is to the spirit of that Christmas Eve truce on the fields of Flanders and the hope that we can all enjoy Peace on Earth and goodwill toward men sooner rather than later.
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