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Thursday, December 23, 2010

Trivia, facts, and origins of Christmas

Christmas is celebrated as a major festival and public holiday by a large number of non-Christians worldwide, including many whose populations are mostly non-Christian.

Here are a few interesting facts about the history and origin of everyone's favorite holiday, Christmas.

December 25 was chosen to commemorate the birth of Jesus, the central figure of Christianity, although the date is not known to be the actual birthday of Jesus.

Christmas is an amalgam of the traditions from several cultures, accumulated over centuries.

Dies Natalis Solis Invicti means "the birthday of the unconquered sun". Celebrated on December 25. The Sun God, Mithras was popular among pagan Romans in the first century BC.

Winter festivals were the most popular festivals of the year in many cultures. Roman Saturnalia was in honor of Saturn, god of agriculture. Customs of the winter festivals include gift-giving and merrymaking from Roman Saturnalia, greenery, lights, and charity from the Roman New Year, and Yule logs and various foods from Germanic feasts.

Pagan Scandinavia celebrated a winter festival called Yule, held in the late December to early January period. As Northern Europe was the last part to Christianize, its pagan traditions had a major influence on Christmas.

Many historians believe that the church wanted their own winter festival to compete with the pagan festivals, and chose December 25 to celebrate the birth of Jesus.

The custom of embracing under a sprig of mistletoe (but not actually kissing) was a popular custom among the Druids in Britain in the 2nd century BC.

Father Christmas is the name used in many English-speaking countries for a symbolic figure associated with Christmas. Father Christmas is said to wear (these days) a bright red suit, but in Victorian and Tudor times he wore a bright green suit.

Father Christmas typified the spirit of good cheer at Christmas, but was neither a gift bringer nor particularly associated with children. In the English-speaking world, the character called "Father Christmas" influenced the development in the United States of "Santa Claus." The folklore of "Saint Nicholas," (Sinterklaas), the gift-giver, merged with English character Father Christmas to create the modern Santa Claus character.

The original Saint Nicholas was born in Turkey in the 400s. St. Nick brought gifts to children. He wore red and white bishop's ropes and had a long white beard. He traveled, not by reindeer and sleigh, but on a donkey. But Saint Nick was slender and elegant, not large and round.

In America in the 1860s, Cartoonist Thomas Nast created the modern Santa, with rosy cheeks and a rotund figure.

Marketing concepts at the Montgomery Ward department store in Chicago in 1939 included "Rollo, the red-nosed reindeer" and "Reginald, the red-nosed reindeer." Both were considered, but then changed to "Rudolph."

The earliest Christmas trees were undecorated, and began in Germany in the 700s.

In the 1820s, the US Postal Service complained of homemade Christmas cards that were clogging the mail. Commercially printed Christmas cards originated in London in 1843.

The poinsettia become associated with Christmas in North America in the mid-1800s.

Following the Protestant Reformation in the 1500s, groups such as the Puritans strongly condemned the celebration of Christmas, considering it a Catholic invention and the "trappings of popery" or the "rags of the Beast." The Catholic Church responded by promoting the festival in a more religiously oriented form.

England's Puritan rulers banned Christmas in 1647. The Restoration of King Charles II in 1660 ended the ban, but many clergymen still disapproved of Christmas celebration.

In Colonial America, the Puritans of New England shared radical Protestant disapproval of Christmas. The English Parliament banned the celebration of Christmas entirely, considering it a time of wasteful and immoral behavior.

Christmas celebration was outlawed in Boston from 1659 to 1681. The ban by the Pilgrims was revoked in 1681 by English governor Sir Edmund Andros.

In the mid-19th century, celebrating Christmas became fashionable in the Boston region. At the same time, Christian residents of Virginia and New York observed the holiday freely.

Christmas fell out of favor in the United States after the American Revolution, when it was considered an English custom.

In the 1820s, some writers began to worry that Christmas was dying out. In 1843, Charles Dickens wrote the novel A Christmas Carol, that helped revive the "spirit" of Christmas and seasonal merriment.

The Roman letter X, has been used as an abbreviation for Christ since the mid-16th century. Hence, Xmas is sometimes used as an abbreviation for Christmas.

Christmastide is defined as the period from Christmas Eve to the evening of January 5, the day before Epiphany. This period is also commonly known as the Twelve Days of Christmas, as referred to in the Christmas carol of the same name, or "Yuletide."

Today, in America, Christmas is the most popular holiday of them all.


Panati's Extraordinary Origins of Everyday Things
Charles Panati


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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Scary Swine Flu (Crying Wolf)

Now that the flu season is officially over, what were the results of the scary Swine Flu pandemic? 12,500 total flu deaths. This is about a third the usual number. This was a very mild flu season.

The flu season is officially over. Has the media reported the results of the scary Swine Flu pandemic? We've had about 12,500 total flu deaths. This is about a third the usual number (according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates).

This was one of the mildest flu seasons we've had in a long time, yet hospitals and first-aid clinics had the highest levels of visits for "flu-like illness" of the century. Not to mention all the school closures, work absenteeism, vaccines, ad campaigns, and other costly efforts. The Obama administration declared two national swine flu emergencies and the public swamped emergency rooms with the worried well, delaying access for the truly ill.

There was no excuse for the media induced panic. They knew what they were doing. They were well aware that the threat was grossly overstated. The media deliberately hyped it, despite the evidence. The seasonal flu is responsible for many deaths per year, and the swine flu was no more deadly that the typical flu that we see every year. See Michael Fumento's article, Purveying Pig Flu Panic at the Post.

Writing about the swine flu, Washington Post columnist Anne Applebaum wrote, "Panic is what we want. Panic is good." Some op-eds claimed that U.S. deaths could be in the 89,000 to 207,000 range. Some warned that worldwide, "between 9 million and 10 million could die."

For more good info on the phony flu, see The Phony Flu: Just the Facts, M’am; Just the Facts.

Phony flu fast facts you should know:

Fumento notes that the number of flu deaths in an average season is 36,000. Yet the official estimate of flu deaths that actually occurred this season is 12,500. During the panic, all along there was ample evidence that swine flu was remarkably mild. New York City data from spring: "Seasonal flu is 10 to 40 times deadlier than swine flu."

Health authorities terrified parents, telling them swine flu was cutting a swathe through our youth, in an effort to get them to vaccinate their kids with vaccine that wasn’t even available. But, in fact, the percentage of U.S. childhood deaths caused by swine flu was 0.63 percent.

Has the World Health Organization (WHO) declared an end to the pandemic yet? Nope.

How many health officials have apologized for hyping swine flu? Zero.

How many major U.S. news outlets that have apologized for hyping swine flu? Zero.

Purveying Pig Flu Panic at the Post
By Michael Fumento
Canada Free Press, June 10, 2010

The Phony Flu: Just the Facts, M’am; Just the Facts
By Michael Fumento
Canada Free Press, June 7, 2010


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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Three common misperceptions about eggs.

Are brown eggs better than white eggs? What about "Free-range eggs"? Organic?

Myth: Brown eggs are different than white.

Fact: The only difference between a brown and white egg is the color of the shell, which is merely a reflection of the breed of the hen. One isn’t healthier, more "natural," or more eco-friendly than the other. There aren't any differences in nutritional quality, flavor, or cooking characteristics.

Myth: Free-range eggs come from hens that roam freely outdoors.

Fact: The claims are not regulated for eggs, according to Consumer Reports. The "free range" label doesn't mean anything. The following labels are also meaningless when it comes to eggs: "free roaming," "hormone free," and "raised without antibiotics."

Myth: Organic eggs are healthier.

Fact: Uh, nope. They certainly can be, but it all depends on the chicken’s diet.

See more by reading the entire original article on Yahoo! Green.

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Sunday, May 9, 2010

Mexico's Independence Day: Cinco de Mayo

Does the average U.S. citizen know what Cinco de Mayo is? Is it an official national holiday in Mexico? Is it Mexico's Independence Day? Or is it a day for Americans to get drunk on Margaritas?

Cinco de Mayo marks the defeat of the French army by the Mexican militia at the Battle of Puebla in 1862. It's not Mexico's Independence Day. That date is September 16.

Cinco de Mayo (translates to English as 5th of May) is a Mexican holiday that is celebrated more widely in the United States than in Mexico. Cinco de Mayo is a celebration of the victory over French forces in the Battle of Pubela in Mexico on May 5 in 1862. The day is marked with food, parades, festivals, dancing and music. It is a time to celebrate the achievements and experiences of those of Mexican heritage.

The Battle of Puebla lasted for 4 hours. The Mexican forces were led by General Ignacio Zaragosa and the Mexican forces defeated the French forces. In addition to being a source of national pride for Mexico, the battle is significant because it was the last time any foreign government attacked a territory in North America.

Cinco de Mayo is one of over 300 Mexican festivals. It is not a major holiday, in fact it is not considered an official national holiday. Even though it is not widely observed in Mexico, it is celebrated in Puebla, the site of the 1862 battle. In Puebla, about 100 miles from Mexico City, it is commemorated with a parade, and a re-enactment of the battle; there is also an abundance of food, drink, music, dancing, and games with women wearing colorful traditional dresses.

The Battle of Puebla: Although considerably outnumbered, the Mexicans defeated a much better-equipped French army. This battle was significant in that the 4,000 Mexican soldiers were greatly outnumbered by the well-equipped French army of 8,000 that had not been defeated for almost 50 years. Second, it was significant because since the Battle of Puebla no country in the Americas has been invaded by a European military force.

The holiday has been celebrated in California continuously since 1863, is virtually ignored in Mexico. And many Mexicans living in the U.S. wonder what all the fuss is about.

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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Acid rain indicated by a dark circle around the moon?

Have you noticed dark circles around the moon?

Could it be acid rain? A dark circle appeared around the moon! Oh no. Ignore emails claiming this means acid rain is on the way.

Circles of such nature are nothing special — they take place regularly, and their appearance has nothing to do with acid rain. This optical illusion comes about when there's a combination of very clear skies and fine ice particles in the upper atmosphere.
"Be careful from 20th to 28th of this month (March). There is possibility of an ACID RAIN. The dark circle appeared around the moon on 17th last month is an indication. Apparently this happens once in 750 years. It rains like normal raining. It may cause skin cancer if you expose yourself."
All bunk!

This information is not from NASA.
"From today till the 28th, please be careful not to be caught in the rain. This acid rain is the biggest since 750 years ago and stands a good chance of giving you skin cancer."

"A volcano that erupted in Europe has spewed a large cloud of volcanic ash into the atmosphere to form a highly acidic layer."

April 2010 versions of the acid rain warning tied it to the 15 April 2010 volcanic eruption in Iceland that sent a large ash plume into the skies. Said cloud shut down airports in more than 20 European countries, some for up to five days.

Acid rain does not cause skin cancer, nor did the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) send out this alert.

From Snopes...

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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Shirodhara Baloney (AKA hot oil on the forehead)

In order to cure stress, how about having hot oil poured over your forehead?

Penn & Teller debunk some more new-age BS. "Shirodhara" is ancient and holistic. Oh boy!

Check it out:

Also see Shirodhara on Wikipedia

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The Color Red Makes Bulls go Ballistic

Spanish matadors began using a small red cape, or muleta, in bullfighting around the 1700s. Ever since, it seems, people have perpetuated the color-charged myth that red makes bulls go wild.

According to "MythBusters: Red Rag to a Bull," this myth has been BUSTED.

An 1,800-pound bull can hook a grown man with his horns and toss him 30 feet in the air, so the MythBusters set out to find a way to test this myth—carefully. They decided to put makeshift matadors into an arena, each holding a flag of a different color, and wait for an angry bull to see red.

Bulls don't seem to have any color preference at all. They'll charge whichever object is moving the most, which means this old myth can get tossed out right out of the ring.

Original Article...

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