More Christmas Trivia Stuffed into My Stocking

By now, as the days approaching Christmas are fast upon us, the Holiday Trivia Elves (better known as librarians) at the Smithsonian Library in Washington, D C, are ready to bounce from wall to wall in an attempt to keep up with all the requests for information, great and trivial, about this popular holiday. Watch out. I just saw a couple of them staggering against the shiny marble walls. They must be going into Trivia Meltdown, a malady seen quite often this time of year. Get them some eggnog and gingerbread, quick!
  • When you think about Christmas and love, the first thought that pops up in your mind is to stand shyly (and hopefully) under the closest doorway with a sprig of mistletoe hung overhead. Such a romantic tradition for so many generations, it has to hold the #1 place in popularity. Guess which one? Yep, that long, lingering kiss. But guess what else? Mistletoe is actually a partial parasite, growing on branches or trunk of a tree or able to grow on its own - take your pick. The common name of mistletoe is drawn from bird droppings. “Mistel” comes from the Anglo-Saxon word for “dung,” as in bird poop and “tan” translates to “twig”. I have your interest now, don’t I?
  • Get your knives and forks out for a feast around the world. Roast goose is on the Christmas platter in England, pigs in Germany, while the people in United States love turkey.
  • Banks used to have a Christmas Club each year. They were first opened in 1905, allowing their patrons to deposit a preset amount of money each month, to be used around Christmas time for gift shopping. I think I had a magnanimous amount of $3 per month stashed away for that special something.
  • There are two schools of thought about which is the busiest shopping day of the year. The majority of shoppers think the Friday after Thanksgiving is the busiest day of shopping yet another faction of the economy thinks that the busiest day is either the 5th day or 10th day after Thanksgiving.
  • When Charles Dickens was writing his famous “A Christmas Carol”, he stopped many times while trying to find the proper name for his little hero. Before settling on Tiny Tim, he considered and discarded Little Larry, Puny Pete, and Small Sam. No great loss there.
  • Charles Dickens originally wanted Scrooge to say “Bah Christmas” instead of the famous phrase “Bah Humbug” known throughout the literate world.
  • Throughout the course of the Christmas buying season in the United States, Visa cards alone are used 5,340 times per minute. Ka-Ching!
  • Turkeys were popular for Christmas dinner in Victorian England. Many of the birds were bred in Norfolk and then needed to be moved to market in London. In order to accomplish this transport, the turkeys were dressed in booties (!) made of leather or sacking and then the turkeys were walked to market. The boots served as a barrier between their feet and the frozen mud of the road. However, geese feet were only protected with a layer of tar. Is this haut couture or what?
  • Talk about one for the record books. There is a written mention of a huge 165-pound game Christmas pie from Medieval England. Nine feet in diameter, its ingredients included 2 bushels of flour, 20 lb. of butter, 4 geese, 2 rabbits, 4 wild ducks, 2 woodcocks, 6 snipes, 4 partridges, 2 neats’ tongues, 2 curlews, 6 pigeons, and 7 blackbirds. Point of culinary curiosity: assuming a diner ate around the bones and pulled off the fur and feathers, was the pie still ridiculously heavy and large for an average group of diners (let’s say 50 or so) to finish the concoction before spoilage set in? And what did really happen to all those inedible accoutrements? Did the Royal Furrier have a workshop set up immediately outside the castle kitchen? Truly, the discarded bits and pieces from the pie were copious enough to set up a system of cottage industries, from furs to wear against the cold to the sinews needed to stitch those furs, from feather-adorned hats to shoes made from the hides. The involvement of various workers had to be astounding.

©2006 Terry Kaufman for
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