Merry Christmas

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Merry Christmas! Today marks Christmas Eve, the day before Christmas Day, when Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, while many non-Christians mark the day with family and friends. We at Minnesota Monitor wish you and yours the best this holiday season, and we’d like to do so by sharing a few Christmas facts.

• In America, Santa Claus traditionally visits homes on Christmas Eve, giving toys and presents to good boys and girls, and coal to bad boys and girls. The tradition of coal being the punishment for bad children originated in Italy, while the tradition of Santa Claus himself comes from a number of historical origins, including the real St. Nicholas of Myra, the Germanic people’s god Odin and the Dutch tradition of Sinterklaas.

• While Santa visits American homes on Dec. 24, he visits homes in most European countries on Dec. 6, the traditional day of the Feast of St. Nicholas.

• 86 percent of American adults say they believed in Santa Claus as children, though there are no statistics readily available on how many adults believe in Santa as adults. The average age at which a child in America stops believing in Santa is 8 years old.

• Santa is not the only jolly elf bringing toys to children. In Russia, Ded Moroz, or Grandfather Frost, brings toys on New Year’s Eve. The Greeks are visited by St. Basil. And in Austria, baby Jesus himself brings presents to good children.

• Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol helped to popularize and broaden the appeal of Christmas. It was an instant hit. He wrote a Christmas-themed novel each year for some time after, but none ever approached the original in popularity.

• Dickens considered other names before hitting on Tiny Tim. Among those considered were Puny Pete, Small Sam and Little Larry.

• Dickens also originally had Scrooge proclaiming, “Bah! Christmas!” before changing it to “Bah! Humbug!”

• During his reign as Lord Protector of the Realm, Oliver Cromwell banned Christmas celebrations in England, in order to cut down on festivals and parties. Cromwell, who was devoutly Christian, believed the day should be recognized solemnly.

• Christmas was also banned in the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

• The first state to declare Christmas a state holiday was Alabama, in 1836. The last was Oklahoma, in 1907.

• The tradition of kissing underneath mistletoe originated in Norse mythology with the death and resurrection of Baldr, a Norse god killed by a spear made of mistletoe. After Baldr’s resurrection, his mother, Frigga, declared that mistletoe would be a celebrated plant that would bring love and life, rather than death, and henceforth any who came upon the plant would kiss to celebrate Baldr’s resurrection.

• The first White House Christmas tree was displayed by President Franklin Pierce.

• In Australia, some priests advise parishioners to say “Happy Christmas” instead of “Merry Christmas,” because making merry is connected with being drunk.

• Charlie Chaplin, W.C. Fields and Alice Cooper were born on Christmas Day. Isaac Newton and Humphrey Bogart died on Christmas Day.

• A popular game played on Christmas from medieval through Victorian times was called Hot Cockles. One player would be blindfolded, and other players would strike the blindfolded player. The blindfolded player would then guess who had struck him.

• The Christmas hymn “Stille Nacht (Silent Night)” was written by Austrian priest Joseph Mohr, after he was told that his church’s organ would not be repaired in time for a Christmas service. He wrote the hymn so that it could be sung with accompaniment by guitar.

• If your true love gave you all of the gifts sung about in “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” you’d get either 364 or 376 gifts, depending on how you count the partridges and pear trees — 12 drummers drumming, 22 pipers piping, 30 Lords a-leaping, 36 ladies dancing, 40 maids a-milking, 42 swans a-swimming, 42 geese a-laying, 40 golden rings, 36 calling birds, 30 French hens, 22 turtle doves, and 12 partridges in 12 pear trees.

• To purchase all those gifts, your true love would spend $19,507.25, up 3.1 percent from last year, according to the PNC Christmas Price Index.

• An estimated 400,000 people will become ill this year from consuming tainted Christmas leftovers

Merry Christmas!