CHARLOTTE, N.C., December 13, 2016 – With Christmas just around the corner, it’s time to explore some interesting holiday trivia that may have escaped your knowledge of the holiday traditions.
We begin with two well known authors who have added immensely to the spirit of the season. In the Netherlands, Dutch children have eagerly awaited the arrival of Sinterklaas, also known as St. Nicholas, at this time each year.
Because so much of Holland is below sea-level, the jolly white-bearded philanthropist arrives in mid-November in a boat filled with presents. He then distributes his gifts on horseback by riding his loyal white steed named Amerigo.
By 1773, American writer Washington Irving transformed the Dutch Sinterklaas into “Santa Claus in his book titled “The History of New York.” Instead of being described as an “elf”, despite his ample girth, Irving described his character as a pipe-smoking sailor in a green coat.
Enter Clement Clarke Moore in 1823 who published a poem in a New York newspaper called the “Sentinel.” In its original form the poem was titled “A Visit from St. Nicholas” but today it is better known as “The Night Before Christmas.”
The remarkable thing about Moore’s version is that Amerigo the horse changed to flying reindeer, Santa became a rotund figure in a red suit and he was given a hearty jolly laugh.
Moore described his poetic contribution to Christmas lore and legend as a “mere trifle” and never copyrighted the work though he virtually created the American version of Santa Claus as we know him today almost single-handedly.
Certainly no Christmas should pass without mention of a third noted author, Charles Dickens, who published “A Christmas Carol” in 1843. Though the words “Bah Humbug” of Ebenezer Scrooge are all to familiar today, Dickens’ original choice of phrases for his miserly character was “Bah Christmas.”
As a side-note, Dickens wrote a new Christmas story every year after “A Christmas Carol” but none was ever as well received as his original contribution.
In the earliest days in England, a traditional Christmas dinner consisted of the head of a pig that had been prepared with mustard.
Speaking of eating, here’s a bit more food for thought, some parts of Christmas trees are edible. Many parts of pines, spruces and firs can be eaten with the needles providing a good source of vitamin C. Pine nuts are also a good source of nutrition.
The Brits are a strange breed of cat. According to a survey taken about 20 years ago, 7 out of 10 British dogs get Christmas presents from their owners each year.
The Holy Days and Fasting Days Act of 1551 in Great Britain is still on the books. That law states that every citizen must attend a Christian church service on Christmas Day and must not use any type of vehicle to get to the service.
And what about shopping? Many of us believe that Black Friday, the Friday following Thanksgiving is the busiest shopping day of the year. Actually, depending upon the rating service you believe it ranks anywhere from fifth to tenth. According to one source, the two busiest shopping days are the Friday and Saturday before Christmas. With Christmas falling on Sunday this year, that will almost certainly be true.
Finally, do you want to take a guess at the most popular name for a baby born on Christmas? If you said “Joseph” you would be the winner. Number 2 goes to “Holly” and in third place comes “Faith.”
Believe it or not, “Mary” is all the way down at ninth spot, and yes, “Santa” even made that ranks at number 23.
Enough Christmas spirit for this week. We will return next Wednesday with more unique Christmas facts.
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Bob Taylor has been traveling the world for more than 30 years as a writer and award winning television producer focusing on international events, people and cultures around the globe.
Taylor is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)
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