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The History Of Christmas II!
by: Dr. Boogie
 

Last year, I brought to your attention a half dozen of the most commonly-misunderstood traditions of the Christmas season. Well, in the combined spirit of gift-giving and re-gifting, I have compiled an addendum to my list that I think you'll all find to be both informative and informationable. So gather the wee children around the glowing hearth of your computer monitor and prepare your minds for blowing as I bring you the History of Christmas, Part II.

That furby is MINE!!!
Black Friday

Though technically not part of the Christmas season because it falls in November, Black Friday is nonetheless an important tradition. What says "Christmas" more than getting your guts stomped out by rabid parents, as they beat and trample each other in their mad dash to get their hands on the most popular toy of the season to appease their spoiled kids? The day itself originally had little to do with shopping. It arose around the turn of the 11th century in Greenland, of all places. As you undoubtedly know already, one of the first settlements on the island was made by Erik the Red (the Viking, not the comic book hero). He convinced his fellow Vikings to join him by simply calling the island "Greenland," which later led to the development of his second nickname, Erik the F'ing Liar. Anyway, one of the traditions of Erik's settlement was a celebration called TWIF (Thank Woden It's Frey's-day!), and the primary activity of the celebration was getting completely lit up on the cheapest rotgut around to celebrate the end of the work week. Unfortunately, the warming effect that alcohol has on the body led many to spend just a few hours too many outside during the somewhat chilly Greenland winters. As a result, there was a frostbite epidemic in the settlement, which led Erik the Red to coin the term "Black Friday," in reference to the blackened, gangrenous extremities one earned from too much party-heartying on Frey's-day.

Good thing he wore his urine-proof pants.
Santa's Knee

Though letter-writing was once the most popular method of conveying one's Christmas wishes to that jolly old elf, Santa Claus, a recent decline in the quality education our children receive has bumped the practice back to the number two slot, succeeded only by sitting on Santa's knee and giving him your list in person. But how did this seemingly pedophilic tradition blossom into something wholly quaint and innocent? Most historians would have you believe that the practice began after some sex offender offered a child gifts, if only the child would sit in his lap. That's why most historians are jerkbags. The tradition actually began in 1920's Chicago. Therein, the infamous gangster Al Capone routinely made use of less than legal business practices to secure financial success. One such method was to "convince" a business owner to pay for "protection." Of course, business owners would rarely agree to pay a percentage of their income without some show of force, and damaging the store's goods didn't always work (especially in Chicago's legendary wrought-iron anvil district), so Capone's enforcers often had little recourse than to use torture. The trick with torture was to make sure not to leave any marks on the victim's body, or failing that, make sure that the marks could have easily been caused naturally. In other words, no red-hot-poker-in-the-eye. To this end, Capone's men devised an ingenious method of torture: The victim would first be tied to a chair. Then, the thugs would select from their ranks the heaviest man, and said lardo would then drop his posterior upon the victim's knees, often until causing a fracture. The practice became known as the "Chicago Lapdance." Needless to say, when a heavy man is sitting on your knees, you'll give him whatever he wants, just so long as he'll get the hell off you. The FBI was understandably impressed by the effectiveness of this diabolical method of extortion, and when news of the practice spread, the more malignant-minded children of the day attempted to duplicate the practice on mall Santas across the nation. Obviously, they failed in their execution, as all but the most frail of Santas could still let out a hearty, "ho ho ho" while entertaining the demands of the small child bouncing upon their knee.

Blitzen in repose.
Reindeer

Christmas just wouldn't be Christmas without Santa Claus. Well, I guess it technically would be on account of the holiday being a celebration of the birth of Jesus, but still, I'd rather have the perennial sleigh-driving old man deliver presents to me than the Son of Man. After all, it's his birthday. Him giving you gifts would just be weird and awkward. Plus, Jesus was lactose intolerant, so you couldn't very well leave him milk and cookies. Getting back to the matter at hand, Santa's preferred method of globe-trotting was his sleigh, which harnessed the power of flying reindeer. Now I know what you're thinking: "The whole story is ludicrous. Reindeer can't fly." Well, I'm afraid I have shocking news for all of you: reindeer can fly! Well to be accurate, they could fly. Back in the earliest part of the 14th Century, people living in Finland were looking for an animal that was sturdy enough to haul their sleighs through the icy tundra at an acceptable speed. Horses could not survive in the more frigid areas, and so the next best thing was used: reindeer. For a time, a reindeer could be made to pull a sleigh along, but the longer it remained harnessed, the wilder it would become. Once the animal had reached its breaking point, it would reveal that its "antlers" were not antlers at all; they are in fact a system of strong, rapidly-moving wings that fluttered so rapidly as to appear to be thick, furry antlers. The hidden wings gave the reindeer their great land speed, and when pressed, the animal would furiously beat its wings and take off, with sled and rider in tow. The first man to discover this phenomenon was unfortunately lost to history, as the people of the day knew nothing of aerodynamics, and shortly after taking off, his sled careened out of control and smashed into a cliff. Eventually, through domestication, the reindeer were cured of their aerial rebellions, and their antlers became true antlers, but the image of the novice reindeer handler being hauled into the wild blue yonder by his beasts of burden has remained for centuries as a source of wonder for both young and old alike.

The gift of fossil fuel.
Lump of Coal

The reason that we say naughty children will find naught but a lump of coal in their stocking come Christmas morn is a simple story. Past incarnations of Santa Claus have been… somewhat frightening, to say the least. Sure, good little children would find themselves awash in the gifts of their yuletide sugar daddy, but bad children could expect nothing in the best-case scenario, and in the worst-case scenario, they could expect to be beaten or kidnapped by one of Santa's thugs. Of course, back in the day, threats of violence and an uncertain fate at the hands of a menacing fiend barely even fazed children, whereas today, making such statements would almost certainly land a person on some sort of government watch list. Regardless, as Christmas itself began to evolve, so too did the punishments for those children who misbehaved. In the past, a child who misbehaved might expect to receive a stick to warn them that they would be beaten with said stick if they continued to misbehave, but with the advent of the stocking, kids on Santa's naughty list soon found themselves receiving coal instead. The implication: stop misbehaving or you will be burned at the stake. Nowadays, parents tend to downplay the imagery of molten flesh and burning hair, but the main idea is still the same: if you act up, you're gonna burn for it!

Mmm, nog.
Eggnog

Eggnog is arguably the one drink that is most identifiable with the Christmas season. It consists of eggs, milk, cream, sugar, and brandy/rum, with greater percentages of the latter being added as the holiday draws near. However, the exact origin of this noggy beverage has been a subject of debate for years, among those who care about the origins of semi-popular seasons drinks. Luckily, the I-Mockery archives contain the true story of the origin of eggnog. It began centuries ago in Europe during the Dark Ages. As you may have surmised from the name, these were not good times, and so the people of the day sought even the slightest bit of whimsy to distract them from their miserable serfdom. One of the main sources of such distractions (and also one of the main sources of medical knowledge at the time), were wizards. Not all wizards were created equal, however. Case in point: the wizard Nöggen. Whereas other wizards would shock and delight audiences with impressive feats of prestidigitation, Nöggen had only one trick, namely that he had the incredible ability to separate egg whites from egg yolks. It was most impressive, yes, but Nöggen felt that he could do so much more with his trick, if only he knew what to do with it. Then, a stroke of genius led him to discover that adding milk, sugar, and alcohol to his magic byproducts gave him a tasty drink that he sold during his shows to make a little extra money. Unfortunately, the first alcohol that he applied in his new drink was communion wine, and the Church had poor Nöggen burned at the stake for heresy, and for wasting good eggs.

The secret word is "Noel."
Christmas Specials

It's almost a given that everyone has seen a Christmas special at some point in their lives. For some, the very first special they saw was the famous Peanuts special, "It's Christmas, Charlie Brown!" and for others in the older generations, their very first Christmas special may have been slightly less famous Amos n' Andy Christmas special, "Ah Shore Do Love Chrimmus!" which is currently banned by all the states in the union. The story of the very first Christmas special, however, begins all the way back in the year 1 AD (or 1 b.c.e for you heathens out there). As you may or may not know, when Jesus was born, he was visited by three wise men who bestowed upon him the gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Three objects that are of absolutely no interest/use to a child. As such, the race began the following year to outdo the totally lame gifts of the "wise" men. The competition would be fierce, and so the originally three knew that they would need to redeem themselves with the son of the ultimate power of the universe, or else they would almost certainly not be receiving any "Thank You" notes. With that in mind, they decided that they should put on a show full of Christmas carols and yuletide merriment to delight the infant savior. Unfortunately, as this was only the second Christmas, there were no Christmas carols to sing; "Joy to the World" wouldn't be written for centuries, and "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer" wasn't due out for another month. To make matters worse, their skits were a flop with the baby Jesus, as he was far too young to grasp complex ironies and observational comedy. As things looked their bleakest, the three wise men struggled to come up with something that would entertain their divine audience, and so they put a kid with a drum onstage to stall for time. As luck would have it, the noise of the drum did elicit laughter and squeals of delight from the son of God, and even though the drummer couldn't think of any song lyrics and was forced to sing "pa rum pum pum pum," he still killed with that audience. He was so good that the three wise men left him out there for the rest of the show, and at the end of those eight hours, the boy collapsed, dead from the world's first fatal case of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Three wise men wisely told Mary and Joseph that he had just fainted and only needed some bed rest, and the next day, they tossed the body in a cheap wooden coffin and buried it on the outskirts of town. This, oddly enough, is also the true origin of the Canadian tradition of Boxing Day.

And there you have it. I hope that by dispelling the rumors and hearsay about the Christmas season that I have given you the greatest gift of all: knowledge. It's like getting a gift certificate, in that you have to use it by a specific date, or else it will lose all its value. Then again, maybe you buy gift certificates at places that don't have expirations dates on their gift certificates. Regardless, that's what I've learned this Christmas: read the fine print, damnit. I mean, humbug.

*** CLICK HERE TO READ THE HISTORY OF CHRISTMAS PART I! ***
 


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