A Christmas list, from A to Z

-A A +A
By Ron Drinkhouse

For Christmas, I thought it would be fitting to depart from a wine story to share with gentle readers some amusing Christmas trivia from A to Z.

A — Alabama was the first state to recognize Christmas as an official holiday. The date was 1836. In 1907 Oklahoma became the last state to do so.

B — During the Christmas season, more than three billion candy canes will be created.

C — Christmas Clubs savings accounts began in 1905. Carols date back to 1521. Cards were first created in England in 1842.

D — Charles Dickens considered using three other names for Tiny Tim, his little boy character in “A Christmas Carol.” They were Little Larry, Puny Pete, and Small Sam. By the way, of all the “Carol” movies, my favorite is the one with George C. Scott as Scrooge.

E — Christmas trees are edible. The evergreen needles contain vitamin C; pine nuts and pine cones are also a good source of nutrition.

F — The Friday and Saturday before Christmas are the two busiest shopping days of the year, not Black Friday after Thanksgiving, as many suppose.

G — George Washington spent Christmas night 1776 crossing the Delaware in miserable conditions.

H — An average household will mail out and receive about 28 cards at Christmas every year. These days, many will be electronic.

I — In the city of Pensacola in 1996, Christmas caroling was actually banned at two malls. It seems shoppers and merchants complained the singers were too loud and took up too much space.

J — The popular song “Jingle Bells” was composed in 1857 and was originally titled “One Horse Open Sleigh.”

K — Santa Claus was first introduced in America by the Pennsylvania Dutch, who called him Kris Kringle or “Chriskind.”

L — Electric Christmas-tree lights were introduced in America in 1895 by Ralph Morris, an American scientist, This cut down on the number of homes burning down.

M — Mistletoe, the kiss encourager, had long been considered to have magic powers by Celtic peoples, who believed it brought good luck and warded off evil spirits.

N — The bona fide St. Nicholas lived in Turkey, where he was a bishop, in the early 4th century.

O — America’s official Christmas tree, located in King’s Canyon National Park in California, was so designated in 1925.

P — Per a recent Gallup poll, about half of Americans thought they might spend around $500 on gifts this year.

Q — To keep children quiet during church services, a choir master invented the curved candy cane (originally straight) to depict a shepherd’s crook. He passed these out and children were now able to hang them on trees.

R — Retailers in the USA make up to 70 percent of their annual revenue in the month preceding Christmas.

S — “Silent Night” was written in 1818 by an Austrian priest. It seems the church organ was broken and he could not think of Christmas without music. So he wrote the beautiful carol (my personal favorite) to be sung by a choir accompanied by guitar music just a few hours before services were to begin.

T — Americans buy more than 37 million Christmas Trees every year. As an aside, the Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center in New York City is a Norway spruce, about 85 feet high and proportionately wide. It is decorated with over five miles of lights. After Christmas it is recycled and 3 tons of mulch are donated to the Boy Scouts. When I lived in the city, I never failed to visit the tree and ice skate in the rink below.

U — In the Ukraine, in what was once the Soviet Union, special bread is placed in the center of the table at Christmas. It is shaped in the form of a ring with three layers to symbolize the Trinity.

V — In England during the Victorian period, turkeys were walked to market wearing little shoes to protect their feet from the frozen mud of the roads.

W — A wreath is a modern Christmas custom with origins dating back to the ancient Romans, who wished one another “good health” by exchanging branches of evergreens. It later became a custom to bend the branches into a ring hung on a door.

X — The abbreviation of Xmas for Christmas is not a shortcut or irreligious. The first letter of the word Christ in Greek is chi, which is identical to our X. Xmas was originally an ecclesiastical abbreviation used in tables and charts.

Y — During the ancient 12-day celebration of Christmas, the big log burned was called a “Yule log”. It was kept lighted throughout the period to ensure good luck. The custom dates back to the Druids of England.

Z — And in the Netherlands, home to the well-known Zuyder-Zee, children leave out their shoes before going to bed, hoping to find them filled with candy in the morning. What’s that you say? Zuyder-Zee is stretching it. OK. How about joining me in a glass of California Zinfandel to go with the Christmas feast?

Have a great day, drink good wine and love one another.

Oak Ridge resident Ron Drinkhouse was a buyer and seller of wines in his native Connecticut. He welcomes inquiries, and can be reached via email at ronoct9@aol.com or via telephone at (352) 445-0328.