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Little known Christmas facts

by Minden Press-Herald

Christmas is a very special season. It’s a holiday that combines the solemnity of the birth of Jesus, God’s Son, with the merriment of families and friends celebrating one of the most joyous days of the year for children and those who still have a little bit of child left in them.

There are plenty of well-known Christmas facts, but there’s also plenty of myths associated with our favorite holiday. Yes, Virginia, there’s even a Harris Poll that says Christmas ranks number one in holidays. In fact, the two happiest times of the year for children are said to be Christmas and the last day of school.

To satisfy a slight bit of curiosity about the holiday, consider:

Christmas wasn’t officially declared a holiday in the U.S. until June 1870. Newspapers indicate the first Christmas buying rush occurred that same year when Macy’s and Lord & Taylor kept marking down prices at their New York City stores. Hospitals reported more than 1,000 elbow-related bruises were treated.

Santa Claus is founded on a real person, St. Nikolas of Myra. But, his persona as a jolly ol’elf could be stretching it just a mite. The world’s most popular non-Biblical saint is, among other things, the patron saint of pirating, royalty, thievery and New York City. The Wonderworker’s sled is certainly full.

Speaking of a full sled, to visit every child on Earth, Santa would have to travel 221 million miles, make 842 million stops and travel between houses in two-ten-thousandths of a second. That’s about the same amount of time it takes to max out a credit card during the season.

Although Santa’s reindeer have male names, male deer shed their antlers about the time Christmas rolls around. So, guys, it looks like females might be pulling the sleigh. While Dancer and Prancer are OK and Vixen may want something a little less suggestive, the others may want to petition the C.C. Moore estate for different monikers.

Fifty-two cities and towns in the country are named Christmas, Noel, Santa, Saint Nicholas, North Pole, Mistletoe, Holly, Jolly, Reindeer, Antler, Rudolph, some form of Angel, Bethlehem, Nazareth and Shepherd.

If you don’t like your traditional Christmas meal, take a trip to Armenia and sit down to fried fish, lettuce and spinach. You’ll share a healthy Yule repast with a very slim Popeye.

Decorative wrappings for gifts began after 1659 when the Puritans banned Christmas as “too frivolous” for a holy holiday. Quakers began enclosing their gifts in bright-colored paper, knowing the Puritans wouldn’t touch colored paper even to destroy the gifts while enforcing the Christmas ban. Anglicans added bows and ribbons. The ban was lifted in 1681 when Puritans realized they were the only people not receiving presents.

Love your Christmas tree? There’s some question about which president first placed the iconic symbol in the White House. Some say Franklin Pierce began the tradition in 1856; many believe it was Benjamin Harrison in 1889. It was Calvin Coolidge who began the White House lighting ceremony in 1923.

Ironically, the Christmas tree selection guy is a New Englander named Charlie Brown. Good grief.
Remember, some of these pearls of trivia come to you pre-April. Merry Christmas. May your days be merry and bright even if your Christmas isn’t white.

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