December 24th is Christmas Eve, though we suspect you already knew that. So today we take a look at some fun facts surrounding Christmas.
Who the Heck is Saint Nicholas?
We all know who Saint Nicholas is now: A guy who secretly watches children all year, then sneaks down families' chimneys in the middle of the night.
But who was he originally? Saint Nicholas was indeed a real saint, believed to have lived in the 300's as a bishop of Myra. Our data about his life is limited and, at the time, there was a less scientific examination of the miracles attributed to saints, so as a result his backstory is way cooler than modern saints. Our favorite St. Nick factoid: He is believed to have brought back to life three kids who were chopped up by a butcher. Now that's a miracle!
Saint Nicholas has done well for himself through the years. He is now the patron saint of Russia, Greece and Moscow. He is also the saint of sailors and unmarried girls, though if the two ever show up to one of the thousands of St. Nicholas churches now out there, we assume the girls won't be unmarried for long.
What Is Mistletoe?
Ahhh Mistletoe. That lovely plant where two people lean in and kiss each other in an expression of love and holiday spirit. So what exactly is mistletoe? Well, it's actually the result of bird dung. Birds eat the mistletoe berries, the berries go through their digestive tracks, and then the droppings are, um, ya know, released. The fecal matter lodges in trees and grows as mistletoe. Romantic right?
But fun fact number two: Most forms of mistletoe are also parasites, sucking life out of their host tree in order to survive. And if that's not a symbol of love, we don't know what is.
What Was the First Song Performed in Outer Space? In 1965, a week and a half before Christmas, the astronauts aboard Gemini 6 reported seeing "an object, looks like a satellite going from north to south, probably in polar orbit.... Looks like he might be going to re-enter soon.... You just might let me pick up that thing.... I see a command module and eight smaller modules in front. The pilot of the command module is wearing a red suit." The astronauts reported they could hear the command crew getting tense. But then it turned out it was just a prank, a lead up to the first song played in space. That command module was Santa's sleigh, the eight smaller modules were reindeer, and the next sound to come across the airwaves was one of the astronauts playing Jingle Bells on a harmonica. It was the first song performed in space.
Who Created Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer? If you've ever read The Night Before Christmas, you might notice that the most famous reindeer of them all is missing: Rudolph. While the other reindeer were first named in that poem in 1824, Rudolph first appeared in 1939, when major retailer Montgomery Ward was looking to save a bit of money. Every year they bought coloring books to give away to kids in their stores, but, in '39, they decided to make a storybook in-house. They put employee and father-of-a-four-year-old-daughter Robert L. May in charge of it, and he churned out the story we all know today. Things got a bit tough for May after that. His wife passed away, leaving him as a single dad facing large debts from her illness. And legal scholars may realize that the store owned all the rights to Rudolph since he created the character as a work assignment. But apparently someone's heart over at Montgomery Ward grew three sizes, because they decided to give May 100% of the rights. He was able to solve his financial problems and finish his life quite comfortably.