Betcha Didn’t Know Part Two
Re: Cool Facts About Christmas Traditions
I loved last week’s issue. I did not expect the amount of positive feedback. Ya’ll love history and “fun facts” as much as I do. (Almost) everyone wanted a Part Two!
Without further ado…
Weihnachtsgurke, The Christmas Pickle
Thought to be an old world German tradition, the Christmas Pickle is hidden in the tree on Christmas Eve. The first child to find the pickle, opens the first present - or gets a special gift. This explains why you’ll find pickle ornaments in most shops today. My friend from Germany had never heard of this. He recognized St. Nick growing up rather than Santa, and celebrated The Day of Giving on December 24th by exchanging gifts with family. This sounds beautifully simple.
The First Department Store Santa
James Edgar was born in Edinburg, Scotland in 1843. After coming to the United States at the age of twenty two, he eventually became part owner of The Boston Store in Brockton, MA. After a second devastating fire at The Boston Store, James bought out his partner and re-opened Edgar Department Store (in a fire proof building). A well loved man, employees described him as “generous, jolly, and a world class show off!” He often dressed as a clown, George Washington and Uncle Sam to entertain children of adult shoppers. One year, early in December, James had a Santa Claus suit made. He dressed up and greeted children. When word spread that Santa was at the Edgar Department Store, families traveled by train from other cities to see him. The rest is history.
Elf On The Shelf
This phenomenon began when a stay at home mom wrote a book. Carol Aebersold and daughter, Chanda Bell, penned the Elf On The Shelf: A Christmas Tradition based on a Scandinavian custom their family had celebrated since the 1970s. Aebersold’s daughters had an elf named Fisbee who reported to Santa nightly. I had no idea this dated back to the ‘70s.
After being rejected by every editor and publisher they contacted, the women self-published their book in 2005. Using credit cards and retirement funds, they printed five thousand copies. The writers sold the books and elf figures out of their cars, at state fairs, and trade shows.
In 2007, paparazzi photographed Jennifer Garner holding the book. That picture helped spread the word. If that wasn’t enough - the 2012 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade included an Elf float.
FUN FACT: If an elf is touched by human hands, he/she loses their magic.
My son had this catastrophe happen with his elf, Scout. I wish I could tell you that someone accidentally brushed against Scout, or lightly touched him with their index finger. Truth is, I slung him into the driveway in the pouring rain one night after the kids made me mad. Thankfully, JP was resourceful enough to GOOGLE the antidote (imagine that) for this tragedy. He placed him on a towel and surrounded him with cinnamon. Scout remained inside the ceremonial cinnamon circle for twenty four hours. Once the magic had been restored, JP used tongs to move him to a new spot.
I’ve developed a love/hate relationship with this tradition. Mostly hate. But we can all agree this fictional character has changed Christmas forever.
Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer
You know Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen, but do you recall… Rodney, Rollo, or Romeo? All names once considered for the rejected reindeer with the red nose. Robert Lewis May was a catalogue copywriter for Montgomery Ward in Chicago. The store typically gave away free books to children at Christmas time. In 1939, May was asked to write the book. His daughter, Barbara, begged him to base his story on one he told her each night about Rudolph the Reindeer. May drew off of his childhood experiences being bullied in school. He didn’t fit in either.
The department store printed more than two million copies of what was more like a booklet. Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer was a hit! A decade later, Montgomery Ward gave away the rights. With the help of his songwriter brother in law, the words were turned into the song we all know and love. The tune was made famous by The Singing Cowboy, Gene Autry. Your grandmother knows who he is. I only know him because of this song
El Caganer (Translation: The Pooper)
In Catalonia Spain, people add an extra figure to their nativities. Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus are front and center, but instead of a star, there’s a moon! A small, (strange) figure squats in the corner. Called a Caganer, these bare-bottomed figurines appear to be answering the call of nature. The unwanted, inappropriate guest can be traced back to the eighteenth century. Historians do not know how they came to be or what they mean. Traditionally, the tiny figures are depicted wearing a white shirt and a Catalan hat. Today, you can find them in the likenesses of anyone from Putin to the Pope, including Barack Obama, Michael Jackson, Queen of England, and even Darth Vader.
You can’t make this (literal) crap up!
More Random Fun Facts:
Xmas means Christmas. In Greek, Christ begins with the letter X. Now maybe we can stop with the memes about “keeping Christ in Christmas” when referring to Xmas?
Santa Claus originally wore blue, purple, or green. It wasn’t until Coca-Cola wanted to use him for a campaign that he changed to red.
When Christmas is over, leave your tree in the ditch OR maybe consider donating it to the zoo. Zoos around the world accept evergreens as snacks for their elephants.
How old were you when you learned that the string on the animal cracker box was put there so you could hang the box on your tree? The snack was introduced around Christmas in 1902. I was today years old.