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Christmas Around the World

"Merry Old Santa Claus", by Thomas Nast / Image courtesy: www.art.com

“Merry Old Santa Claus”, by Thomas Nast / Image courtesy: http://www.art.com

Christmas as we know it today is a 19th century invention.  The decorated Christmas tree, common in German countries for centuries, was introduced to Britain by Prince Albert, Queen Victoria’s consort.  Carols were revived and many new ones written, often to traditional melodies.  The custom of carol singing, although ancient in origin, dates mainly from the 19th century.  Christmas crackers were invented in the late 19th century by an enterprising English baker, Tom Smith, who, by 1900, was selling 13 million worldwide each year.  And Christmas cards only became commonplace in the 1870’s, although the first one was produced in London in 1846.

The familiar image of Santa Claus, complete with sled, reindeer and sack of toys, is an American invention which first appeared in a drawing by Thomas Nast in Harper’s Magazine in 1868, although the legend of Father Christmas is ancient and complex, being partly derived from St. Nicholas and a jovial medieval figure, the “spirit of Christmas”.  In Russia, the Santa Claus character traditionally carries a pink piglet under his arm.

Today, Christmas is as much a secular festival as a religious one.  It is a time of great commercial activity and for present-giving, family reunions and, in English-speaking countries, a “traditional” Christmas meal of turkey or goose, Christmas pudding, and mince pies.  Midnight mass is celebrated in churches and cathedrals in the West.  In many countries, including Germany, the custom of lighting the tree, singing carols around it, and opening presents is celebrated on December 24th, Christmas Eve.

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Random Peanut Facts*

Courtesy:  www.freedigitalphotos.net

Courtesy: http://www.freedigitalphotos.net

  1. There are enough peanuts in one acre to make 30,000 peanut butter sandwiches.
  2. Two peanut farmers have been elected President of the United States:  Thomas Jefferson and Jimmy Carter.
  3. Peanut butter was the secret behind “Mr. Ed”, TV’s talking horse.
  4. The averge child will eat 1,500 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches before graduating high school.
  5. The average peanut farm is 100 acres.
  6. The peanut is not a nut but a legume related to beans and lentils.
  7. April 2 is National Peanut Butter and Jelly Day.
  8. Dr. George Washington Carver is considered “The Father of the Peanut Industry” because of his extensive research and selfless dedication to promoting peanut production and products.
  9. Tom Miller pushed a peanut to the top of Pike’s Peak (14,100 feet) using his nose in 4 days, 23 hours, 47 minutes and 3 seconds.
  10. Ever wonder where the phrase “peanut gallery” comes from?  The term became popular in the late 19th century and referred to the rear or uppermost seats in a theater, which were also the least expensive seats.  Those seated in such a “gallery” were able to throw peanuts, a common theater food, at those seated below them.
  11. Arachibutyrophobia is the fear of getting peanut butter stick to the roof of your mouth.
  12. Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, a physician wanting to help patients eat more plant-based protein, patented his procedure for making peanut butter in 1895.
  13. Astronaut Allen B. Sheppard took a peanut with him to the moon.
  14. Four types of peanuts are grown in the U.S.: Runner, Virginia, Spanish and Valencia.
  15. Peanuts are planted after the last frost in April or early May.  Heaviest harvesting months are September and October.
  16. It takes about 540 peanuts to make a 12-ounce jar of peanut butter.

*From the National Peanut Board

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Random Car Facts

– If a car is hit by lightning its occupants will generally be safe.  The Faraday Effect (discovered by Michael Faraday in 1845) causes the electricity to dissipate around the car’s metal frame.

– If a car is hit by lightning its occupants will generally be safe.  The Faraday Effect (discovered by Michael Faraday in 1845) causes the electricity to dissipate around the car’s metal frame.

– Ferrari makes a maximum of 14 cars a day.

– The onboard computer in a typical modern car is more powerful than the one used to send astronauts to the moon in the 1960s and 1970s!

– The first traffic lights were installed in Cleveland, Ohio in 1914.

– The world’s longest car is the 100 foot limousine built by Jay Ohrberg of Burbank, California.  The car features a king-size waterbed and a swimming pool complete with diving board and helicopter-landing pad.

Jay Ohrberg’s 100 foot-long limo

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Name That Color!

2013 Ford Mustang Boss 302 in “Schoolbus Yellow”

Quick!  What did the manufacturer name the color of your vehicle?  Was it a name that demands attention like Grabber Orange or Screaming Yellow?  Or was it something more sedate like Aqua Blue or Driftwood Beige?  A person who likes to sport a good suntan may like Golden Bronze instead of Pale Adobe.  If you’re a wine connoisseur you may lean towards Bordeaux Reserve Red instead of Ginger Ale.  Then there are those colors that make you hungry like Blue Candy, Red Candy, Lime Squeeze and Frozen White (for you ice cream lovers).  Speaking of white, there are many:  White Suede, Winter White, Oxford White, White Platinum, White Sand, and Performance White, just to name a few.

Typically, though, when someone asks you the color of your vehicle you most likely say red, white, blue, black, green, etc.  Next time, just for fun, say it’s School Bus Yellow with Omaha Orange interior and a Blue Candy recing stripe.  Then just watch them turn Holly Green with envy!

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