Christmas Trivia

Whether you celebrate Christmas or some other holiday, it’s always interesting to find out new things.  So, here’s some Christmas trivia (no bashing me please, I’m just passing along information).

  • The Romans and some other early civilizations practiced a pagan festival that began on the winter solstice (21 December) and ended four days later (25 December).  The end of the celebration was marked with feasting and giving gifts.  The Roman Catholic Church capitalized on this very popular winter festival to create Christmas (which translates to the Mass of Christ) when it attempted to wipe out paganism.  The first written account of this winter festival harks back to around 800 BCE.  However, before this, the Ancient Egyptians practiced an appeasement time in the days immediately following the winter solstice in an effort to get blessings from Osiris for a good flood.  It began on the day of the solstice and ended ten days later and much like the Roman and Greek versions was marked with festivals, feasts, and gift giving.
  • Krampus is very popular, even in modern culture, in some areas of Europe.  Krampus comes a few days before Santa Claus to steal children and eat their souls.  Since he was a soul stealer, he prefered to steal the souls of bad children, because they were already tainted and therefore, easier to remove.  Today, there are still Krampus festivals that include masks and running around after dark to scare children.  Despite it being a few days before Christmas, it is almost a Halloween type revelarie.  So, while some legends have Santa handing out coal to naughty children (which we will discuss), others have Krampus coming before Santa to make the trip easier, since the jolly fat man would not have to visit any of the children stolen by Krampus.
  • It wasn’t until the invention and widespread use of gas heat in the 1900’s that Santa began to give coal to bad children.  Before then, a child with a stocking full of coal would have had an amazing Christmas!  Charcoal burns hotter than most firewood (and can dry damp firewood) and assist in keeping a house warm.  However, it was incredibly expensive.  So getting coal was actually a good thing.  Before Santa began handing out coal to naughty children, he actually did nothing.  If you were bad, Santa just didn’t stop by your house.
  • Santa has many names, but the legend is pretty much the same.  The biggest differences involve what he looks like, when he arrives, and what he brings.  In some cultures, he only fills stockings while in others he brings a few small gifts.  Also, some have him arriving sometime during the night of Christmas Eve while others have him delivering the night before Christmas Eve.  He is also not just a European creation.  Similar figures can be found in non-European cultures, including some indigenous tribes in North and South America, before the colonization of the two continents.  Oddly, his personas almost always visit near the winter solstice.
  • Almost all charities in Europe and North America see an increase in donations from the end of November to Christmas.  Even ones that do not have Christmas drives, such as the World Wildlife Foundation, report an increase, sometimes as much as 20% between the last week of November and the last week of December.  However, children’s charities and cancer research have the biggest increases.  Voluntarism also increases during these four weeks.  However, most surprisingly, sites like GoFundMe and Kickstarter have started to release figures that show higher donations in the month of December as well.  GoFundMe accounts for things like “Send me to Spring Break in Cabo” even do better if they run during this time. (So, if you want to raise money for a new car or a spring break trip to Cabo, it appears starting it at the end of November increases your odds of hitting your monetary goal).
  • Crime rates can soar in December.  Burglaries, armed robberies, muggings, domestic violence, and murder all increase during this time.  A few years ago, there was almost a 900% increase in burglaries and armed robberies in one large US city.  And while random crime increases (crimes committed by strangers), targeted crime also increases (crimes committed by people known to the victim).  One scary estimate released almost a decade ago was given by the FBI who said that burglaries and armed robberies not only increase, but are more likely to be committed by people that you have some sort of connection to.  Meaning, you are more likely to be robbed by someone you know during the month of December than any other month.
  • Alcohol sales increase during the holidays (proving that more people have families like Nadine’s than they care to admit).  Alcohol related injuries are the primary reason for ER visits on Christmas Eve.
  • Speaking of ER visits, ER patients are more likely to be fathers of children under 10 on Christmas Day.  A study done by the National Institute of Health and Safety found the majority of those were toy related injuries (either putting toys together or accidental injury during usage of new toys).  The second highest number of patients are children under the age of 10.  The NIHS also found that the removal of Legos and other small toys from noses and ears increases dramatically on Christmas Day.
  • We’ll stick with the NIHS for another piece of information; food poisoning following the days after Christmas also dramatically increases.  For the record, fruit cakes are not the culprit.
  • Now for a piece of weather trivia; while this year is unusually warm in the US for Christmas, it is just unusual, not unheard of.  So while we are in a warming climate cycle (either natural or manmade), there are reports from the 1800’s and 1900’s of kids as far north as Wisconsin playing outdoors because the temperature was a balmy 50 degrees (and some years, even warmer).  The idea of a White Christmas is mostly that.  In the Midwest and Southern US, we are just as likely to have a White Easter as we are a White Christmas.  The majority of snowfall actually happens during January and February.  Alaska and states with large mountain ranges are the only states guaranteed to get snow in December; however, in the states with the mountains, the guarantee is limited to the mountains.
  • Finally, whether you participate in Christmas or believe in Santa Claus or scare children in a Krampus mask, there is no denying that December is and always has been a very special month.  The winter solstice has figured into the history of mankind since, well, someone decided to start recording the history of mankind.  Because of this, there have always been holidays during this time.  Go celebrate whatever you want to celebrate (even if that means dancing nude under the moon as the solstice days pass).  I’m going to play some games, open some presents, fix a big dinner, watch some football, and spend time with my family.  Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are the only days I’m guaranteed not to work… I won’t even check book sales.
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