‘Tis The Season To Be Jolly.
Below are some fun holiday facts and stories found in the Encyclopedia of Christmas involving how animals have impacted holiday history.
• The artificial Christmas tree was designed by a few Germans who dyed goose feathers and tied them together.
• Norwegian scientists have hypothesized that Rudolph’s red nose is probably the result of a parasitic infection.
• Bolivians celebrate Misa del Gallo, or “Mass of the Rooster” which involves bringing roosters to midnight mass son Dec. 24 as a gesture that symbolizes the belief that a rooster was the first animal to announce the birth of Jesus.
• In Polish legends, a spider wove a blanket for Baby Jesus. Because of this, Polish people consider spiders to be symbols of goodness and prosperity at Christmas. In Ukraine, a similar story includes a pine cone turned into a Christmas tree with the help of a spider.
• A flying horse named Sleipnir (a precursor to Santa’s reindeer) had eight legs and was owned by the Viking god Odin who was known to fill children’s stockings with gifts or punishments before the arrival of modern day Santa Claus.
• In Germany, Heiligabend, or Christmas Eve, is known to be a magical time when the pure in heart can hear animals, and reindeer, talking.
• Assuming Rudolph is always in front, there are 40,320 ways to rearrange the other reindeer.
• There are over 100 titles of Christmas-themed movies that showcase a dog as one of the main characters.
• From Christmas to January, ancient Celtic rites include the celebration of Mari Lwyd, or a person dressed as a horse with an actual horse skull who accompanies a group of people who sing carols door-to-door in exchange for food and drinks.
• Krampus is a half-goat, half-demon creature in Central Europe folklore that punishes naughty children.
• Equally scary, The Yule Cat is a gigantic, vicious cat from Icelandic folklore that lurks during the season and eats people who do not receive any new clothes to wear before Christmas Eve. It began as a threat by farmers to encourage their workers to finish processing autumn wool before the holiday season.
• In Syria, children receive gifts from the wise men’s camels.
• In Sweden, Yule Goat is a goat made of straw sent to guard the Christmas tree and remind children that Jesus was born in a manger. In the city of Gavle, the community has been building a 43-foot tall straw goat every year since 1966. Unfortunately, pranksters burning the goat has also become part of the tradition. The structure has only lasted through the New Year a dozen times since inception.