By Stephen Knapp
“…about 20,000 Americans per year are sent to the emergency
room by their holiday decorations”
Like everything else in this dreary time of COVID, the Christmas of 2020 is expected to fall somewhere short of normal expectations.
Less feasting, less festing, less family, less fun. Just mamma in her kerchief and you in your cap, both hunkered down for a really long, lonesome, lackluster winter’s nap.
Since you’ll be spending a lot of time sitting around staring at each other, you might as well have something to talk about besides all the things you wish you were doing instead. Herein provided please find a few festive factoids to help edify your idled minds, enrich your run-down repartee and illuminate your joyless isolation.
—As it happens, the term “Xmas” is not just lazy shorthand. In Greek, the letter X is Chi, which is the first letter of the word Christ, and a thousand years ago, the word Christianity was commonly written as “Xianity.” Scribes of the 16th century frequently rendered Christmas as “Xtemmas,” and not too many years later as “Xmas.” It’s not lazy, it’s history!
—The world’s first semi-lifelike artificial Christmas tree was created in the 1930s by the Addis Brush Company, maker of fine toilet brushes. Addis would go on to patent the first aluminum Christmas tree in 1950.
—Applying the principles of multiplication to cookies and milk, researchers have determined that Santa Claus consumes roughly 150 billion calories each Christmas Eve.
—Possibly due to an utter lack of the Hallmark Channel, the Victorians were forced to seek more robust Christmas diversions. A delightful little parlor game called “Snap-dragon” entailed setting a bowlful of brandy-soaked raisins on fire and then taking turns snatching handfuls of the flaming fruit and gulping them down still afire. Another popular Christmas game known as “Hot Cockles” required a player to hold his/her head in another player’s lap while still other players kicked them in the caboose. A player won by identifying the player doing the kicking.
—A thorough study of Facebook status updates lead social media analysts to conclude that your sweetheart is most likely to dump you two weeks before Christmas. On the other hand, they’re least likely to dump you on Dec. 25. Merry Christmas!
—In Europe it was long believed that those born on Christmas Day were more apt to be werewolves.
—According to the U.S. National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (yes, Virginia, there is one), about 20,000 Americans per year are sent to the emergency room by their holiday decorations. About 9,000 of them fall prey to non-electrical decorations, as opposed to 4,000 injured by electrical adornments, which number doesn’t include the 3,500 hapless victims of Christmas tree lights. Some 2,000 people fall afoul of artificial Christmas trees each season, roughly 244 are felled by real ones, and about 310 are laid low by Christmas tree stands. In an average year, about 100 Christmas tree fires kill about 10 people and do about $16 million in property damage. Around 250 people will be damaged by a Christmas present between now and the New Year, and at least 30 children will get hurt falling off of Santa’s lap.
—During World War II, Allied military intelligence agencies joined forces with the United States Playing Card Company to include decks of cards in the Christmas care packages distributed to Allied POWs in Europe by the Red Cross. Specific cards could be peeled apart to reveal maps of established escape routes.
—Christmas scientists calculate that, in order to visit every household in the world within 24 hours, Santa Claus maintains an average speed of 5.083 million miles per hour.
—About 75 percent of Americans don’t like their Christmas presents. This according to surveys conducted by the online retailer Rakuten, which further found that 30 percent of the gifted re-gift their substandard swag, 27 percent donate it to charity, and 14 percent sell it on eBay and/or Craigslist. Ho, ho, ho!
—An upbeat people, we Yanks like our Christmas friendly. In foreign parts, though, Saint Nicholas often has an evil sidekick. In Eastern Europe, the Mr. and Mrs. Anti-Claus are Krampus, a toothy goat/demon hybrid who carries naughty children away to his lair in a stinky sack for his supper, and Frau Perchta, the Christmas Witch who cuts open the tummies of intractable tots and stuffs their guts full of pebbles and straw. Elsewhere, children lie awake on Christmas Eve dreading a visit from Belsnickel, a Santa-esque sadist who forces contrary kids to dance and sing their sins away under mortal threat. South African children are discouraged from nibbling on Santa’s snacks with the terrifying tale of young Danny, a headstrong lad whose grandmother killed him for sampling the jolly old elf’s rightful ration of milk and cookies, and whose vengeful ghost returns each Christmas to bedevil the misbehaving.
—Taxonomically designated Viscum album, mistletoe’s more familiar name refers to the toxic parasite’s primary manner of reproduction. The word derives from the Anglo-Saxon “mistel,” meaning dung, and “tan” meaning twig. Birds eat its berries and excrete the seeds onto tree branches. Translated literally, mistletoe is “poop on a stick.” Pucker up!
—Santa Claus has played the marquee villain in at least 21 horror flicks, almost as many as Jason Voorhees, Freddy Krueger and Michael Myers combined.
—Foodie Alert! Here’s a traditional Christmas dish that graces many a holiday table in Greenland. It’s called Kiviak, and the recipe is simple. Disembowel one seal. Stuff the cavity with the carcasses of 400 auks. Press the air out of the assembly and thickly coat with seal grease. Let sit for between 3 and 18 months, allowing the auks to thoroughly ferment. Slice open the seal and eat the auks. No cooking required, and plenty of leftovers. God bless us, everyone!