I confess that it wasn’t until recently that I understood the degree to which Love Actually, the 2003 romantic comedy by writer/director Richard Curtis, had been gradually reevaluated and granted the status of a “classic” holiday film. For me, the news came by way of a November Vulture piece that began, “It might be hard to recall, but the film that has now become a beloved holiday classic was one that initially received a flurry of mixed reviews.”
My own review was among several cited. I’ve of course always known that my take on Love Actually was more unforgiving than most. But beloved holiday classic? Really?
Well yes, evidently. Over the course of several conversations with friends and colleagues, some of them conducted with good cheer but at high volume—I refer interested parties to the Twitter feeds of Atlantic employees on the afternoon of November 20th—it was confirmed to me that a considerable number of people not only consider Love Actually a classic, but go so far as to watch the movie annually as a holiday tradition.
Read more. [Image: Universal Pictures]
While Saint Nicholas may bring gifts to good boys and girls, ancient folklore in Europe’s Alpine region also tells of Krampus, a frightening beast-like creature who emerges during the Yule season, looking for naughty children to punish in horrible ways — or possibly to drag back to his lair in a sack. In keeping with pre-Germanic Pagan traditions, men dressed as these demons have been frightening children on Krampusnacht for centuries, chasing them and hitting them with sticks, on an (often alcohol-fueled) run through the dark streets.
To begin December on a humbug note: "The 12 Days of Christmas" plays a dubious role, both as a carol (it takes approximately half an hour to sing) and furthermore as a shopping guideline. Geese are lovely creatures, but there’s no reason to buy somebody six of them for seven consecutive days, no matter how true your love.
To drive home the latter point, the folks at PNC annually calculate the rough cost of each round in the “12 Days of Christmas,” from the partridge in the pear tree ($199.99) to a dozen drumming drummers ($2,854.80). This year, they report the full Christmas Index at $27,393.17.
How does one calculate the cost of a milking maid? A piping piper? A leaping lord? The PNC team explained that the Pennsylvania musicians union shares wage information for its drummers and pipers. Pittsburgh’s National Aviary provides the cost of most of the birds. PHILADANCO, a modern dance company in Philadelphia, shares the cost of one performance with nine lady dancers. The maids, considered unskilled labor, are thought to receive Pennsylvania’s minimum wage.
Read more. [Image: Wikimedia Commons]
[Image: State Library and Archives of Florida]
We’re about halfway through December, a time when many city streets start looking like they’re culled straight from a fairyland. Above, a smattering of sparkly, glistening, holiday decorations from around the world.
For decades these seasonal jewelry commercials have portrayed ladies at Christmas losing their frigidity at the sight of a diamond solitaire. While the O-face remains a constant feature in the ads, the message has somewhat evolved. The ads used to be aimed at men — “Wrap me in gold this Christmas!" a blonde coos in a Zales commercial from the late 80s. Now, the ads are aimed at women. The gift recipients aren’t sexy models, but moms in mom haircuts with babies.
There are just over 526,000,000 Christian kids under the age of 14 in the world who celebrate Christmas on December 25th. In other words, Santa has to deliver presents to almost 22 million kids an hour, every hour, on the night before Christmas. That’s about 365,000 kids a minute; about 6,100 a second. Totally doable.
Especially when you consider the uneven distribution of kids in the world. Santa needs to hit 22 million kids every hour. If Santa starts at the International Date Line and heads west, the first four time zones he passes barely contain that many kids waiting for presents. He’s already got three hours in the bank. Until, you know, he gets to Europe, which kind of breaks his schedule.
Here’s what Santa’s night looks like. Read more.
Alexis Madrigal explores the long history of the Christmas tree:
Old world German protestants had decked their trees since the early 17th-century with “roses cut out of many-coloured paper, apples, wafers, gold foil, sweets, &c.” By the first few decades of the 1800s, the practices had spread throughout western Europe and, according to Penne Restad’s book, Christmas in America, a history, to Pennsylvania, too. By 1821, a Lancaster, Pennsylvania resident named Matthew Zahm could write, “Sally & our Thos. & Wm. Hensel was out for Christmas trees, on the hill at Kendrick’s farm.” In 1832, a German professor at Harvard put “7 dozen wax tapers, gilded egg cups, paper corncucpiae filled with comfits, lozenges and barley sugar.”
Read the full story here.