Why We Kiss Under the Mistletoe

If you’ve ever wondered why we kiss under the mistletoe and how the plant got that strange name, well, wonder no more.

The name for mistletoe derives the fact that mistletoe tends to spring from bird droppings that have fallen on trees, with the seeds having passed through the digestive tract of the birds. Thus, the plant was given the name “misteltan” in Old English from “mistel”, meaning “dung”, and “tan”, the plural of “ta”, meaning “twig”. Hence, “mistletoe” is another way to essentially say “dung twig”.

Not only is mistletoe a dung twig, but most varieties of this plant are partial parasites, being unable to sustain themselves on their own photosynthesis, so they leach what they need from the particular tree they are growing on. Some varieties of mistletoe, such as the North America Arceuthobium pussilum, are full parasites in that they get all their resources from the tree they are growing on and have no leaves.

So where did the tradition of kissing under a parasitic poop twig come from? The mistletoe has been considered a prized plant throughout history going all the way back to the Ancient Greeks, Celts, the Babylonians, and Scandinavians. For instance, the Ancient Greeks considered the plant an aphrodisiac; believed it aided in fertility; and could be used to achieve eternal life.

According to Ancient Babylonian legend, they had the closest thing to our current tradition of kissing under the mistletoe. At that time, single women looking for a mate supposedly would stand outside of the temple of the goddess of love. Mistletoe was hung over the entrance to the temple and when a potential suitor would approach one of the ladies, they were supposed to bond with him. They did not kiss, however, as kissing wasn’t a way to show affection at that time in the Babylonian empire.

As for a more direct root of our kissing tradition, Norseman had many traditions and legends concerning the mistletoe. One tradition was that mistletoe was a plant of peace and so that when enemies met under the mistletoe they were obliged to stop fighting for at least a day. Eventually, this spawned a tradition to hang mistletoe over the doorway of one’s home for peace and good luck.

Mistletoe became associated with Christmas from this tradition of hanging mistletoe in one’s home to bring good luck and peace to those within the house. The mistletoe would be hung around the New Year and the previous year’s mistletoe would be taken down, with its powers apparently tapped. The new plant would then provide this luck throughout the year.

By the 18th century in Britain, this evolved into the kissing tradition we have today. At this time, it became popular to create a ball of mistletoe that would be hung as a Christmas decoration. If a couple was found standing under the mistletoe, they were then obliged to kiss if the mistletoe ball still had berries. For each kiss, one berry would be taken from the ball. Once all the berries were gone, all the “luck” in love and marriage was considered to be drained out of the mistletoe and it was now considered bad luck to kiss beneath it, instead of good luck as before.

7 Things You Can Guarantee Will Happen On Christmas Day

1. Getting an unexpected gift and being forced to feign joy and excitement.

Maybe you get something you already have? Maybe you get given yet another generic shower gel package? Maybe you get given some piece of tat that there is no way in hell you would ever use? Whatever the case, this happens every year and let’s face it, you’ve become a bit of an expert at faking Christmas cheer at this point. The last thing you want to do is offend someone’s gift taste.

2. Eating yourself one roast potato away from a heart attack.

A loved relative knocks up a Christmas dinner of titanic proportions and you soldier through and eat every morsel you possibly can. You think you are going to combust but know that seconds are already on their way. You take a deep breath and prepare yourself. Refusing extra food is not an option. You can’t face seeing the look of disappointment on the cook’s face as you decline the festive dinner they slaved for hours over. By the time thirds are offered you have to accept defeat, justifying it by saying you are “saving yourself for dessert”; thereby reluctantly committing yourself to even…more…food…

3. Getting at least one gift that you can’t use because it doesn’t come with batteries.

This should be a criminal offence. Is there actually anything more disappointing? Your childhood is already scarred with memories of opening toys that didn’t come with batteries; yet you never learn.

4. A family feud over *insert trial reason here*

This could be about anything. What channel to put the TV on? What time to open presents? What flavour gateaux to have for dessert? Take your bets. Either way, brace yourself for a tense moment or two on this fine day.

5. Watching the same Christmas films you do every year.

Die Hard, check. Home Alone, check. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, check. Love Actually, check. You know these films like the back of your hand and Christmas just wouldn’t be the same without them. But there’s always that one person who insists on talking through the film; who you will sit and internally rage against for the entirety of the movie.

6. Taking board games a bit too seriously.

Bitch please, no one knows Monopoly like you do. You are the Monopoly Grandmaster and no one will stand in your way – that includes your blood relatives and closest, longest friends. You will happily disown a loved if they lose your Pictionary team a point and you have no qualms about bending the rules slightly to keep your title.

7. Being hounded by personal questions from your loved ones.

Is any subject deemed too personal? No. Your love life, career plans and past mistakes could be brought up at any point. It is likely to hit you when you least expect it; but in the same way you have mastered the art of feigning joy, you’ve mastered the art of talking about your life as if you actually know where it’s going and what you’re doing.

Thirsty Thursday: The Latest Holiday Craze… Pop-Up Bars

Now you see it. Now you don’t.

That’s how it is for pop-up stores, which fill a space for a short time and then pack up and close for good or move to another location. This holiday’s biggest pop-up trend is the pop-up cocktail bar, complete with winter themed drinks. Many of them have a charitable component, making doing good as easy as drinking something good.

A Midwinter’s Night Dream, New York City

The regular hotel bar inside NYC’s NYLO hotel on the Upper West Side is popping up as a Shakespearian/holiday themed bar with drinks like Puck’s Shadow and the Nymph’s Nectar made with gin, passionfruit, grapefruit and lime. The dream ends on Jan. 1 and when hotel guests wake up on Jan. 2, the hotel bar will go back to being just a hotel bar.

Miracle on Liberty Avenue, Pittsburgh

This little Miracle is part of the franchise of Miracle pop-up cocktail holiday bars with locations in Paris, Athens, New York City, Atlanta, Seattle, and of course Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Some of the proceeds from Miracle go to charity, according to CBS Local. Festive drink’s like this Snowball Old Fashioned made with bourbon, Becherovka, spiced syrup and Angostura bitters are accompanied by simple foods like bologna sandwiches and fries. The pop-up holiday cocktail bar closes New Year’s Eve.

Sippin’ Santa’s Surf Shack, New York City

Warmer weather is what patrons of Sippin’ Santa’s Surf Shop in the East Village in New York City want for the holidays. Through Dec. 24, drinks like Hawaiian Milk Punch made with bourbon set a tropical mood. You can even watch beach movies from the ’60s.

Christmas Village, Philadelphia

And some pop-ups go the more traditional route. The pop-up Christmas Village at City Hall in Philadelphia features authentic European food, ornaments and arts & crafts from all over the world. This temporary village also serves mulled wines from the local Chaddsford Winery served in Christmas Village collectors mugs. The Christmas Village runs through Dec. 24.

An Interesting United States Map That Plots the Most Popular Holiday Movie in Each State

CableTV.com has created an interesting map of the United States that features the most popular holiday movie in each state.

As you can see, there are some titles that come up consistently across large parts of the United States. Elf (2003), the story of Buddy and his quest to find his father, dwarfs the competition. Many households are also tuning into Home Alone (1990), finding cheer in this charming holiday comedy about a boy accidentally left behind on Christmas. But beyond the widely popular titles, there’s a story in our states’ seasonal favorites that says something about our regional differences. Let’s take a look at our fa-la-la fodder to see how it might help us better understand our neighbors and promote peace on earth, goodwill toward all. (read more)

Recipe of the Week: Slow Cooker Christmas Ham

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 small onions, peeled and halved
  • 10 black peppercorns
  • 2 whole star anise
  • 2 bay leaves
  • big pinch of ground cloves
  • 1 (6-7 pound) smoked pork picnic shoulder (ham)
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup apple cider

For the glaze:

  • 1/4 cup lingonberry jam (often labeled as wild natural lingonberries – but you can tell it’s jam by looking)
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Place the onion halves in the bottom of a 6-quart slow cooker, cut side down. Scatter peppercorns, star anise, bay leaves, and ground cloves around them. Using them as a stand, set the pork shoulder on top of the onions, skin side facing up. Pour the apple cider and water over the pork. Cover and cook on LOW for 6-8 hours or on HIGH for 4 hours (until ham registers at least 160° F in center.
  2. When ham is done, preheat oven to 425° F.
  3. Thoroughly line a 9″x13″ baking dish with heavy duty foil (or a couple of layers of regular foil). Carefully lift the ham out of the slow cooker and set carefully into the pan.
  4. Use a sharp knife and some tongs to remove the skin and all but a thin layer of fat. Use a knife to score the fat (diamonds, squares, lines – whatever you like).
  5. Stir all of the glaze ingredients together until well combined, then spread the glaze over the scored fat and slide into preheated oven for 25 minutes.
  6. Remove ham from oven and let rest for at least 15 minutes before slicing.

How To Track Santa This Christmas

Santa Claus is coming to town. But when, and where is he now?

Everyone knows that Santa will eventually end up on our doorsteps this year, but sometimes the anticipation of exactly when that might occur is too much to bear.

Need to know precisely where Santa is on Christmas Eve? Excited kids all over the world have a number of high-tech options for keeping tabs on jolly old St. Nick this year. For more than 50 years, the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) has been helping kids track Santa via a hotline (1-877-HI-NORAD) and now also on on its website, on Facebook and on Twitter. Kids with smartphone access can also track Santa via Google Maps or the Santa Tracker app.

The tradition started by accident

So how did this Santa tracking get started? It all started in 1955, when a Sears Roebuck & Co. ad in a Colorado newspaper printed a phone number that kids could call to connect with Santa — only the number was off by a digit and instead directed them to NORAD’s emergency hotline. NORAD’s director of operations at the time, Col. Harry Shoup, didn’t want to disappoint the kids, so he ordered his staff to check the radar and let the kids know where Santa might be. And thus Santa tracking was born.

Since that time, NORAD volunteers have staffed the phones on Christmas Eve to keep kids posted on Santa’s whereabouts. First lady Michelle Obama even surprised kids last year by personally answering Santa tracker calls.

How does NORAD know how track Santa? According to the website, NORAD uses four high-tech systems to track Santa: radar, satellites, Santa cams and fighter jets. “Amazingly, Rudolph’s bright red nose gives off an infrared signature, which allows our satellites to detect Rudolph and Santa,” it says.

Happy tracking!

’Tis The Season: We Want Photos Of Your Kid’s Mall Santa Claus Nightmare

It’s that time of year again, when parents inform their offspring that they’re being taken to meet a mystical bearded stranger who, if they’ve been good, has the potential to make all their dreams come true. Instead, these children find themselves face-to-face with a red-suited nightmare from which they want desperately to escape.

And when the often hilarious result is caught on camera, we want to give you the opportunity to share those moments with the world.

• Do your folks have great pics of that time you tried to rip the Big Guy’s beard off during a screaming fit?

• Did your child try to flee the premises immediately upon seeing jolly old St. Nick?

To send us your photos:

1. Send the pic as an email attachment to 727mag@gmail.com with the subject line SCARY SANTA 2016.
2. Include your child’s first name & age in the email. If it’s an old photo, tell us the age at the time the pic was taken. You must be the parent or guardian of the child in the photo (or it must be a photo of you as a child).
3. Be sure to include any fun anecdotes about the experience.

When Does Christmas Start At Your House?

Most of us have one of those neighbors — the ones who have their outdoor Christmas decorations up the weekend of Thanksgiving, with every piece of greenery, red bow and twinkly light neatly in place. And most of us have that friend or relative — the one who boasts about having all their holiday shopping done with weeks left to go. And not only are they done, but their packages are topped with homemade bows and their freezer is already stocked with dozens of Christmas cookies just waiting for holiday guests to arrive.

There’s no right or wrong way to handle Christmas, of course. But the pressure to have a Pinterest-worthy holiday seems to come from every direction about every aspect of the celebration, whether it’s feeling like you put up your tree too late or worrying that you haven’t taken a family portrait yet to put on your holiday cards. (Oh how I dread the annual chore of creating these photo cards.)

Such expectations load the holidays with too much stress, so I say we stop trying to keep up with the Joneses and stick to our own “Christmas timelines,” whatever they may be. We all have our traditions, and sticking to those traditions may mean ignoring social trends.

The tree timeline

My family puts up our tree in the first week of December. We do this because we like real trees, and getting them any earlier means it may turn brown by Christmas morning. (I should note that I’m terrible at keeping plants alive.) Also, we host a dozen people for Thanksgiving; with six children under the age of 10 stampeding through my house, a tree adorned with treasured ornaments would most certainly not survive. Plus, I have a toddler who will either try to climb the tree or pull everything off it, so the later it goes up, the less time I’ll spend keeping her away from it. In short, my tree timeline means I’m tree-shamed the day after Thanksgiving when, it seems, everyone else puts up their Douglas fir.

The stage of life we occupy also plays a role in our timelines. I was chatting with a twenty-something woman recently who is single and doesn’t have kids, and she was saying that she decorates for Christmas on the day after Halloween because her Halloween decorations are in the same storage box as her Christmas ones. Not only was I floored by the thought of red-and-green going up so soon after black-and-orange comes down, but I couldn’t believe her supplies for both holidays fit in ONE box?! I have like seven, but then again I’m storing 12 years of accumulated holiday memories with my husband and two kids.

When do you put up your tree, and why do you do it that way? (Jump in with your comments.)

The shopping timeline

Now, let’s address the pace of shopping for a moment. There are just so many different ways to handle the shopping, and everyone has their reasons for doing it their way. I have a mom friend who finishes her Christmas shopping in October because she shops all year long as she finds deals, and she says this method makes less of an impact on her monthly budget. She doesn’t finish early to brag about it; she does it to be frugal because she has three kids and a huge extended family to buy for. (And speaking of the kids, this is another area where your life stage or circumstances may impact when you start shopping.)

I remember hitting the local grocery store for a few supplies on the day after Thanksgiving. There was a man in front of me in line buying a large pile of gift cards, each with $50 or $100 on them. As he counted hundreds from a wad of cash in his hand, I envied the simplicity of this shopping strategy. But while grocery store gift cards are practical, they sure aren’t personal. I’d prefer to spend more time shopping or working on a gift if it means a more personal present. What about you?

Personally, I have a few people I’m able to shop for early. I can schedule floral arrangements or gourmet food gift deliveries weeks in advance for far-away relatives while saving the month of December to find items on my kids’ wish lists.

The decorating timeline

The practice of showing up your neighbors when it comes to holiday light displays is nothing new, of course. Maybe your neighborhood is even part of a competition, though hopefully it’s more good-natured than the 2006 movie “Deck the Halls,”where neighbors Danny DeVito and Matthew Broderick go to war over who can make the biggest, brightest Christmas display.

Bravo to all the people who make their homes more beautiful this time of year, whether inside or out. But I have to admit this is where I cut calories from my Christmas to-do list. I live in a cold, snowy part of the country, and the exterior of our home takes a beating from the weather. We’ve tried putting up strands of lights, but they usually freeze to our home and plants. And we have indoor and outdoor cats, so you won’t find poinsettias around our house. Our decorating strategy is simple: LED candles in our windows, wreaths on the doors and decorations on our tree. No inflatable Santas, no plastic candy canes, no animated reindeer. Though this year we did try one of these Christmas light projectors, which is nice but not as elegant as a house outlined in miniature lights.

When do you start decorating for Christmas, and why? Jump in with your comments.

Should Santa Be Allowed in School?

A school district in Oregon recently came under fire for circulating a memo banning Santa Claus — as well as any religious imagery — in classroom decorations. As you can imagine, parents are voicing their opinions on both sides of the issue, causing many to ask: Should Santa Claus be allowed in public schools?

Oregon’s Hillsboro school district is at the center of the recent controversy regarding Santa Claus in the classroom. It started when school administrators distributed a memo asking employees to refrain from using religious imagery, or Santa, in their classroom decorations.

“We will not be holding a door decorating contest this year,” read the memo. “You may still decorate your door or office if you like, but we ask that you be respectful and sensitive to the diverse perspectives and beliefs of our community and refrain from using religious-themed decorations or images like Santa Claus.”

The memo was sent to teachers and school staff, not to parents, but it did not take long for parents throughout Oregon — and throughout the country — to weigh in on the issue.

In a year when tempers are already at an all-time high and Americans are divided over issues small and large, it’s no surprise to learn that opinions vary widely on the topic of including Old St. Nick in the classroom.

Jason Ramirez, the parent of a child in the Hillsboro school district noted, “If you’re going to put a giant cross on the window that’s one thing, but I think Santa Claus is more folklore and American history than a religious symbol at this point.”

Cindy Jencks commented commented on the story with a different opinion, “Celebrate diversity by letting everyone decorate the way they want to for the holiday season. Encourage acceptance of people’s differences. Don’t ban religious themes. We are all different and there lies the beauty of it all.”

A 1984 Supreme Court ruling (Lynch vs. Donnelly) found that many of the symbols of Christmas — such as the tree, Santa Claus and even the nativity scene — are secular images that do not advocate a particular religious view. By that standard, images of Santa would be no different than say a shamrock in March or a red leaf in autumn.

But the winter holidays have always hit a special nerve for Americans. And Santa Claus is undeniably a symbol of Christmas, a holiday that is both secular and nonsecular, with roots in both religion and over commercialization.

Personally, I tend to lean toward Jencks’ point of view. Don’t ban Santa from the classroom, bring him on in. But also bring in the menorahs and dreidels and the symbols of Kwanzaa. Teach children about all of the various holidays that people celebrate throughout the year so that everyone feels welcome and included.

Now that would be something to celebrate.

It’s That Time Of Year Again: We Want Photos Of Your Mall Visit To Meet Santa Claus

‘Tis the season when parents pack their kids into the car, drive to the mall and deposit their offspring on the laps of mall Santas all around this great nation, which means it’s the right time for another of our favorite holiday traditions: seeing our readers’ photos of kids reacting hilariously to the bearded stranger their parents have forced them to hang out with.

Yes, we want to see photographic evidence of children freaking out with costumed mall characters, and we want you to send them to us to share with the world. Do your parents have great pics of that time you tried to rip the Big Guy’s beard off during a screaming fit? Did your child burst into instant tears when faced with that red, velvety expanse of lap?

To send in your photos (the larger the better!), here’s how you go about it:
1. Attach it in email with the subject line 727 SANTA 2015
2. Include your child’s name and age in the body of the email (or if it was you way back when, your name, age at the time, and the year the photo was taken) along with any fun anecdotes about the experience.
3. Send it to social@727magazine.com for us to enjoy, watermark and share on the site on Christmas Day.

Please note, you need to be the child’s parent or the subject of the photo for your photo submission to be published, or we’ll have to get permission directly from the parents if you’re someone’s uncle or aunt. Gotta prove that stuff.