10 Misconceptions About Christmas

Christmas is a time for friends, family, cheer, giving, and general annoyance. After centuries of history, a lot of traditions have grown up around Christmas, and a lot of misconceptions have, too. They’re repeated year after year, and we’re going to clear some of them up.

1. Christmas Spread Along With Christianity.

The oft-repeated story is that as Christianity spread, it engulfed the ancient pagan ways and holidays, converting but letting people keep their celebrations and their holidays. The winter solstice became a celebration of the birth of Christ.

That’s only half true. Christianity existed for hundreds of years before the idea of celebrating Christ’s birth occurred to anyone. Early Christian writers in Rome made their stance on celebrating birthdays quite clear—it was a disgusting, despicable, pagan thing to do. It was considered much more important to celebrate a person’s death rather than their birth. That’s one reason that Easter and Good Friday came first, along with the feasts of the saints.

The first reference to the date of the birth of Christ came in the year 200. An Egyptian text listed it as May 20. Other contemporary texts give other dates, but they agree that it was sometime in April or May. Only in the middle of the fourth century did a Roman almanac give Christ a December 25 birthday based on interpretation of a gospel, and the celebration took a bit longer than that to catch on.

By the 17th century, Christmas was in a form that would at least be of passing familiarity today. There were presents, carols, plays, and mummers, and lords would open their doors to the poor in a show of generosity. But this was all absolutely forbidden by the most religious Christians. The Puritans didn’t just forbid the celebration because it wasn’t as somber and religious as they hoped—they called it downright heretical, citing (correctly) that there was no biblical precedent for it. And they even won. Christmas was canceled in 1647.

2. Christmas Replaced A Pagan Holiday.

As we said, the popular story is that Christmas is December 25 because it replaced the winter solstice and allowed pagan worshipers to keep their celebrations. But intriguing evidence refutes this idea.

One theory connects the date with a declaration from the Roman emperor Aurelian, which established a feast day for Sol Invictus, or the Unconquered Son. However, Aurelian was definitely anti-Christian, and his declaration happened after Christmas had already been established

Also, when Christmas began, Christianity wasn’t gently stepping into the pagan realm that it was trying to replace. In fact, it was trying to distance itself from pagan worship as much as possible. The two wanted nothing to do with each other, and Christianity wasn’t catering to or accepting anything of the pagans, who were conducting sacrifices and violently persecuting them. Gradually, pagan traditions were accepted into Christmas celebrations, but not till the 12th century was that put forward that the reason Christmas falls on December 25.

So where’d the date come from? Christ was said to have been conceived and crucified on the same date. That was on March 25 in the Roman calendar. Nine months after March 25 is December 25.

3. The North Pole is an Icey Fortress.

According to the US Navy and their research on the Arctic, the North Pole could be completely ice-free as early as 2016. That’s 84 years sooner than other estimates have projected, and that means Santa’s toy factory and summer home is going to make even less sense than it currently does.

The Navy’s estimates are based on the average temperature of the Arctic warming much faster than the temperature around the rest of the world. Other organizations, like the Ocean Institute at the University of Western Australia, agree.

The massive jump in melting at Santa’s lair is partially because of methane released into the atmosphere due to further ice melting at the East Siberia Arctic shelf. The methane was once sealed in by the permafrost there, but with its release, the temperature at even the deepest depths we’re measuring is significantly rising.

The numbers are pretty staggering. Since 1980, the Arctic has lost about 40 percent of its sea ice. Pretty soon, we’ll have to come up with a new story for where Santa lives—along with having to deal with some rather more serious consequences of the melting ice cap.

4. The Poinsettia Is Extremely Dangerous.

The poinsettia is almost as common a Christmas decoration as a tree in the family room. If you have pets or small children, you’ve likely heard that they’re at risk just by having the plant in the house. The poinsettia is highly toxic and extremely poisonous, according to common belief. Any curious explorers can end up in the emergency room after ingesting the plant.

That’s not true. The poinsettia has only a mild toxicity to pets, and ingesting the white sap of the plant won’t be deadly or poisonous. It might result in a little drooling, some discomfort around the mouth, or (in extreme cases) vomiting and diarrhea—but it’s not deadly.

The rumor goes back to a single unproven story from 1919. According to the urban legend, a two-year-old child of an Army officer died after eating a leaf from the poinsettia. The story has never been established as real, and organizations like the US Consumer Product Safety Commission have found no reason for the plants to even carry warning labels. Yet the myth has persisted.

It also overshadows another Christmas plant that can be more dangerous—mistletoe. Both American and European mistletoe can cause anything from mild poisoning symptoms (vomiting and abdominal pain) to low blood pressure, cardiac issues, and collapse. Pet deaths from eating mistletoe have also been confirmed.

5. Everything About The Three Kings.

One of the most popular images of Christmas is the Three Wise Men, riding camels, following the Star of Bethlehem on their way to the baby Jesus. That image is absolutely not supported by the Bible.

The story of the wise men appears only in Matthew 2:1–12. According to Matthew, wise men visit King Herod, ask for the King of the Jews, and find him in a home with his mother, where they give him gold, incense, and myrrh. And that’s about all Matthew says.

He doesn’t say that there were three of them, that they were kings, or that they rode camels—all things that we repeat every Christmas. They’re referred to as magoi, the Latin word from which we get “magic.” Far from being kings, they might have been astrologers.

Original depictions of the magoi began in the second century, but not until the third century did they take on the trappings of royalty. They’ve also been variously assigned the roles of representing the three races created by Noah’s three sons, but the idea of three kings likely just came from the mention of three gifts.

They’re also not mentioned as being at the birth of Christ, though we always see them popping up at Nativity scenes. According to Matthew, they found the baby and his mother in a house. Based on Herod’s genocide of male children less than two years old, they likely showed up in the spring or summer after the birth.

6. Suicide Rates Go Up. 

Christmas might be a time for families, holiday cheer, and excitement, but we’ve all heard that suicide rates go up during the season. The statistic sounds believable. Plenty of sadness surrounds the holiday, from those who can’t have the holiday they want to people going through it for the first time after a loss.

The University of Pennsylvania and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have found that, actually, the opposite is true. Suicide patterns based on three decades of data show that the months with the lowest rates are November, December, and January. The peak is in spring and summer.

The pattern may be due to feelings of community and family during the holiday season. We see friends and family whom we might not see at any other time during the year, so many people with suicidal thoughts have an emotional support group during the season.

That said, a person has a higher chance of dying on Christmas or on New Year’s Day than on any other day—but not from suicide. Many deaths on these days are due to respiratory diseases, digestive diseases, and cardiac distress. University of California researchers suggest several reasons for this. Holidays put extra stress on the body. Hospitals, emergency care clinics, and emergency rooms are generally understaffed during the holidays. Plus, people often skip hospital visits on these days, reluctant to interrupt family gatherings with their emergency.

7. Christmas Trees Are An Enviormental Issue.

Should you buy an artificial tree or a real one? Proponents of the artificial tree point to saving a real tree’s life, reusability, and the lower carbon footprint. Those who swear by real trees say that farm-raised trees are destined to end their lives decorated with tinsel and ornaments, and a real tree’s environmental contributions while growing are greater than the costs of manufacture.

Both camps are wrong. Or, depending on your point of view, both camps are right.

There are pros and cons to the use of each. Real trees provide a whole host of benefits while they’re growing, absorbing carbon dioxide and such, while the manufacture of artificial trees dumps a whole host of chemicals into the atmosphere. But, if you have to drive miles and miles to find the right real tree, that negates much of the good it’s been producing. If you use an artificial tree for years and years, that’s good . . . but buying a new artificial tree every few years means that you’re not doing the environment any favors.

Because most trees cut for Christmas are from farms that grow them just for that purpose, it’s not like you’re adding to a deforestation problem. Then, factor in that Christmas tree farms add to green space and provide homes for small animals and birds—but also often require the use of pesticides and other chemicals.

Ask experts, and even if they’re the executive director of the pro–artificial tree American Christmas Tree Association with good reason to be biased, they’ll likely shrug and say it doesn’t really matter. Either might be a tiny bit worse environmentally depending on your specific circumstances. In the end, ride your bike to work for a couple of days, and you’ll make up any difference one way or the other.

8. The Moons In Christmas Scenes.

Take a look at your Christmas cards. They’re probably scenes of children out caroling, riding in a sleigh, or unwrapping their gifts. Now look at the Moon in them.

Any card or image with a waxing or waning moon is probably wrong. That moon isn’t high in the sky until about 3:00 AM, so unless the fun-loving Christmas scene happens at that ungodly hour, it’s wrong.

Dutch astronomers examined cards in 2011 and noted that America tends to get it the most right, but only because American images tend to depict full moons that are in the sky throughout the night. Overall, 40–65 percent of images were incorrect.

The Moon isn’t the only common Christmas sight that’s often wrong. Christmas is a bad time for the snowflake, which is often depicted as going against one of the fundamental laws of nature. Snowflakes can only be hexagonal, but many flakes seen on everything from Christmas cards to wrapping paper are depicted with the wrong number of sides. We’ve had photographs of snowflakes since 1885, so we don’t have much excuse for getting this one wrong.

9. The Classic Nativity  Scene. 

For something so closely linked to the religious meaning of Christmas, the Nativity scene isn’t at all biblically accurate.

Two gospels talk about the famous scene: Luke and Matthew. Matthew, as we mentioned, describes the wise men. Luke mentions shepherds going to see the newborn baby. But the two groups were never together at the same time, there’s no specific mention of animals, and the gospels say nothing about an angel witnessing the birth.

The images of the nativity scene come from early art that took some liberties. Live nativities only began in 1223, when St. Francis of Assisi staged the first one. At the time, masses were Latin and inaccessible to most people. Instead of learning about the Bible in church, they learned about it through plays like the nativity.

Two animals, in particular, are almost always included in the nativity scenes—the donkey and the ox, neither of which are mentioned in the Bible. In early depictions, they warmed the baby with their breath and their body heat. But in other paintings, they seem to be acting a little less respectful—especially well into the Renaissance period. In some manuscript illuminations, they try to eat the clothes and blankets of the baby, and on the roof of Nantwich church in England, they’re wholeheartedly fighting over the blankets. It’s thought that the donkey came to represent the Jews—doubters of the divinity of Christ.

10. Santas Reindeer.

Santa Claus, or so we’re told, was based on the original figure of Saint Nicholas. But flying reindeer don’t quite fit with the idea of a kindly saint. According to Sierra College professor John Rush, that’s because the reindeer weren’t added as part of a Christmas story or in relation to Saint Nicholas. Instead, they were a product of magic mushrooms.

Throughout Siberia—reindeer’s natural stomping grounds—one of the most ancient of shamanic traditions included the gathering, drying, and distribution of the Amanita muscaria mushroom. The distinctive mushroom, which grows at the base of trees, is red with white flecks (which is said to explain the traditional depiction of Santa as wearing a red suit with white lining). Rush says that the distribution of the dried shrooms led to some fanciful hallucinations, including some that involved one of the most common animals in the area—the reindeer. Tripping tribes began telling stories about flying reindeer that showed up with their presents.

Others point to a much more sobering source for the flying reindeer myth—the mind of Clement Clarke Moore, who wrote “The Night Before Christmas” in 1822. The first compilation of all things that make Santa Claus who Santa Claus is, the poem was originally titled “A Visit from St. Nicholas” and is considered by many to be the definitive source for Santa Claus lore.

But he had to get the idea from somewhere, right?
Source: Listverse

 

10 Insanely Simple Two-Ingredient Recipes

Cooking doesn’t get much easier than this.

1. Nutella+Eggs= Flourless Nutella Cake.


The batter takes less than 10 minutes to make. The cake bakes for 25 minutes. Get the full recipe here.

2. Pitted Dates+Coconut Butter= No Bake Coconut Cookie Dough Balls.


Pinch of salt, coconut flakes, and chocolate chips are optional. Get the full directions here.

3. White Chocolate Chips+Oreos= Cookies N’ Cream Oreo Bark.

Full details here.

4. Can of Strawberry Frosting+White Chocolate Chips= Strawberry Fudge.

Get the recipe here. You could also use chocolate frosting and chocolate chips for regular fudge.

5. 1 Part Balsamic Vinager+1 Part Whiskey= Steak Marinade.

 6. Chocolate Chips+Coconut Oil= Magic Shell.

Scientifically, it works because coconut oil is a liquid when warmed, but a solid at room temperature. See the full recipe here.

7. Self Rising Flour+Greek Yogurt= Pizza Dough.

A little olive oil and Italian seasoning are optional. Get the recipe here.
You can also make an easy flatbread using these same ingredients.

8. Peanut Butter+Ripe Banana= Peanut Butter Banana Ice Cream.

Get the recipe here. You could also use Nutella instead of peanut butter.

9. Soy Yogurt+Sweetener= Vegan Pinkberry.

Get more info here.

10. Chicken Breasts+Italian Dressing= Easy Italian Chicken.

Here’s a no-fail, no-brainer of a recipe.
Source: Buzzfeed

 

Top 10 Horrifying Urban Legends From Around The Globe

Halloween is approaching, and this October includes a potentially ominous Friday the 13th. So what better way to get your chill on than reading about some creepy urban legends that have freaked people out for many years.

10 El Silbon

As told in Venezuela and Colombia, El Silbon is a tale about a creature that has been damned to roam the Earth carrying a bag of bones.

The creature was once a little boy who lived with his parents in Venezuela. Being an only child, he was spoiled to no end by his parents. Unfortunately, this turned him into a picky and demanding brat.

After insisting on deer meat for dinner one night and becoming extremely angry when his father failed to produce it, the boy stabbed his father in the stomach, pulled out his intestines, and took them to his mother to cook.[1]

Although the mother cooked the entrails, she eventually became suspicious at the look of the meat. Realizing what the boy had done, the mother was overcome with grief and let the boy’s grandfather deal with the evil child.

The grandfather whipped the boy within an inch of his life and then rubbed chilies and lemon juice in his wounds. Then the grandfather handed the boy a bag full of his father’s bones and set a pack of dogs loose on him as the boy ran away. Just before the dogs killed the boy, the grandfather cursed him. And that was the origin of the creature known as El Silbon.

It is said that El Silbon still roams around, whistling and entering homes without anyone noticing. He puts the bag of bones on the floor and counts them inside the home. If he goes unnoticed, a member of the family in that house will die. However, if the family does notice him, the boy turns their bad fortune into good luck.

9 Japanese Suicide Drawing

The most disturbing urban legends in the world often originate in Asia, with some turned into even creepier horror movies. In one such legend, a teenage Japanese girl drew a beautiful color picture of a young girl who seemingly stares directly at you. The teen posted the picture online and, for some unknown reason, committed suicide shortly afterward.[2]

Soon, people started commenting online that they could see the sadness and even anger in the eyes of the drawn girl. Others said that her lips would start curling into a smirk the longer you looked at her and a ring would form around her. Some people took it even further, saying that there were unfortunate souls who stared at the picture for more than five minutes and ended up taking their own lives.

8 Nykur

As depicted in pictures and movies throughout the years, horses are beautiful creatures. However, if you visit Iceland and spot a gray horse standing next to a massive body of water such as the sea or even a lake, do yourself a favor and look at the horse’s hooves. If they face backward, you have a little problem.

It is said that this horse, named Nykur, is a water-dwelling beast[3] that sometimes surfaces to lure unsuspecting humans to a watery death. His skin is sticky. So if a person is enchanted by the horse and mounts it, he will not be able to get off again. Instead, he will be dragged along to Nykur’s underwater home and drowned.

Yelling its name at the horse is said to scare it into running back into the water alone.

7 The Baby In The High Chair

This urban legend is told all over the world but seems to have some of its roots in Norway. For many years, a Norwegian couple didn’t go on a proper holiday. Finally, when everything fell into place one year, they found a trustworthy nanny for their baby boy and planned a long holiday.

When the day came for them to depart, the nanny was late. She eventually called to tell them that her car was giving her trouble. However, she said that she could call a mechanic and then walk to their home as she was only about 15 minutes away.

Reassured by this, the couple strapped their baby to his high chair, kissed him goodbye, and then left for their holiday as they were already late for the airport. They left the back door open for the nanny.

One version of the tale has it that the nanny arrived to find the door locked (blown shut by the wind), so she assumed the couple had the baby with them. She then left.

Another version says that the nanny was killed after being hit by a truck on her way to the house. Yet another says that the nanny was an elderly relative of the couple and she died of a heart attack before she could get to their home.

In every version, the couple returned home to find their son dead and bloated, still strapped to his high chair.

6 The Studley Girl

The scariest urban legends are the ones that hit close to home. Three years ago, a Reddit user recounted the tale that scared him throughout his childhood and teenage years. He lives in the town of Mechanicsville, Virginia, which has a winding road called Studley Road.

Years ago, a little girl lived in a small house on this road with her mother and alcoholic father. Flying into a rage one night, the man beat his wife and child to death and then shot himself.

With her broken jaw hanging from her face, the little girl didn’t die immediately. Instead, she made her way down Studley Road looking for help before eventually collapsing, blood staining the front of her pajamas.[5]

Now, when you take one of Studley Road’s winding turns that lead into the woods, you can see the specter of the little girl slowly moving down the road with her back turned to you.

Unsuspecting drivers who don’t know about the legend have pulled over to help her, only for her to turn around and let out an unearthly scream from her loose-hanging jaw. Sometimes, she also gurgles through the blood still streaming from her mouth.

5 Ghost Wagon

South Africa has its fair share of urban legends, which include the hitchhiker of Uniondale and The Flying Dutchman. However, a creepier one goes all the way back to 1887. Major Alfred Ellis contributed this tale, which is still told today, to South African Sketches.

Four men—Lutterodt, Serrurier, Anthony de Heer, and an unnamed visitor from Cape Town—undertook a journey from Ceres to Beaufort West by wagon. This area was known as the spokeveld (“ghost region”) and was even indicated as such on old South Africa maps.

During their trip, one of the wagon wheels suddenly gave out and it took them until 3:00 AM to get it fixed. They were hardly on the road again when their horses became agitated and eventually froze in place, unwilling to move any farther.

From out of nowhere, the men heard the sound of a wagon coming toward them at high speed. When they finally caught sight of it, they witnessed a driver cracking a whip at 14 horses as the wagon headed directly for them.[6]

The unnamed visitor, Serrurier, and Lutterodt jumped from the wagon, but de Heer grabbed the reins and successfully moved his wagon out of the path of the other speeding wagon.

Annoyed, de Heer yelled after the other driver: “Where do you think you are going?” To which the other driver replied, “To hell.” Then he and his wagon disappeared into thin air.

Later, Lutterodt said that they only realized afterward that anyone who dared to challenge the spooky driver of the disappearing wagon would be doomed. A week after the incident, they found de Heer’s body at the bottom of a cliff. The remains of his wagon and the carcasses of his dead horses surrounded him.

4 Baby Blue

In the same vein as Bloody Mary, Baby Blue is a legend that originated from a tale in which a psychotic mother killed her baby boy with a shard of mirror glass. Naturally, there are those who would like to conjure up the spirit of Baby Blue (which is what the unnamed baby was dubbed).

The ritual to do this includes going into a bathroom at night, fogging up the mirror, and writing “Baby Blue” on it. Then the light must be turned off, and the person who wrote the name on the mirror should hold out his arms as if a baby were in them. The spirit of the baby will then appear in his open arms. If the person drops the baby, the mirror will shatter and the person will die.

Another version of the tale says that if you go into a dark bathroom and chant “Baby Blue” 13 times while rocking your arms back and forth, the baby will appear and scratch you. However, dropping the baby and running away is the best idea this time as his psychotic mother will appear in the mirror and kill you otherwise.

3 Poinciana Woman

One of the most unsettling urban myths to come out of Australia tells the story of a young woman who was raped by Japanese fishermen at Darwin’s East Point. When she realized she was pregnant, she was horrified and hanged herself from a poinciana tree.

Her restless spirit started stalking men in East Point, appearing to them as a beautiful vision in white. However, as soon as the men are entranced by her, she turns into a fearful hag with long claws, eviscerates them, and eats their intestines.

For those who are brave, the Poinciana woman can be summoned by spinning around three times on a dark, moonless night and calling out her name. Her distinctive scream will let you know that she has been successfully summoned.

2 The Devil’s Toy Box

The Hellraiser movies are said to have inspired a terrifying legend making the rounds in America. It is alleged that there is a one-room cabin called the Devil’s Toy Box in Louisiana that contains a bunch of mirrors from the floor to the roof. According to the tale, if a person goes into the cabin and stays too long, the Devil will appear and take that person’s soul.

During their investigations, paranormal researchers found that the mirrors make up the six sides of the cabin but they face inward. It is said that no one can stay in there longer than five minutes.

One man stayed over four minutes, came out mute, and never spoke again. A woman allegedly suffered cardiac arrest while inside the cabin, and a teenage boy had to be forcibly removed while kicking and screaming. He killed himself two weeks later.

1 Teke Teke

According to an especially frightening legend from Japan, a female office worker was raped and beaten by American military men in Hokkaido a few years after World War II. The young woman jumped off a bridge that evening and was hit by a train on the railroad tracks below.

Her body was severed in half at the waist. As the extremely cold weather prevented her from bleeding out immediately, she managed to drag her upper half to a train station where a shocked attendant threw a plastic tarp over her. She eventually died in extreme agony.

Urban legend now has it that three days after you hear or read about this tale, the ghost of the young woman will appear to you, making a teke teke sound as she crawls toward you on her arms. You cannot outrun her as she can reach speeds of up to 150 kilometers per hour (93 mph).

Her mission is to catch as many people as she can. Then she will cut off and steal the lower halves of their bodies. The only way to escape certain death is to answer her questions. If she asks whether you need your legs, you must reply that you need them right now. And if she asks who told you her story, you must answer, “Kashima Reiko.”
Source: listverse