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Most of us think of Santa Claus as the jolly fat man in the red suit, but around the world, this holiday character has a different name and appearance. This week, Tidbits travels the globe to examine diverse and unique names for Santa.

• The name of St. Nicholas is a familiar one, and is thought to be beginning of the gift-giv1301900 ing legends. Born around 280 A.D. in what State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company 1301900 State Farm Indemnity Company, Bloomington, IL is now Turkey, this monk had a reputation for his kindness, giving away his inherited wealth, and helping the sick and poor around the countryside. The best-known tale is of St. Carpet Cleaning Nicholas rescuing three poor sisters from bewww.elitecarpetsgf.com ing sold into slavery, providing each of them Carpet Cleaning • Carpet with a dowry for a suitable marriage. Because Cleaning SPECIAL! St. Nicholas died on December 6th, that beUpholstery $199 •Cleaning came his feast day. On the night of December 5 Rooms, Hallway 5th, German and Dutch children put a boot or & 1 Stairway • Water Not valid with any other offer. shoe outside the front door, hoping for gifts Extraction Expires 1-15-18 Residential & and sweets to be delivered during the night. 1601490

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• Bavarian folklore depicts a companion for St. Nicholas, Knecht Ruprecht, who determines if children have been behaving and saying their prayers. If not, he shakes ashes at them, or leaves a stick in their boots instead of treats.

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NAMES OF SANTA (cont.)

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• Christkind, the German word for “Christ Child,” referred to an angel who accompanied St. Nicholas on his travels, bringing presents to children in Switzerland and Germany. He was similar to a sprite or fairy, with blond hair and angel wings. • Finland’s Christmas figure is named Joulupukki, which literally translates “Yule Goat.” His origins are in Norse mythology, where he drives a wagon drawn by goats. His garb is red leather pants and a tight, fur-trimmed red leather coat. According to Finnish legend, Joulupukki and his wife live in Lapland, the northernmost region of Finland, where they are assisted by tonttu, which are not elves, but rather dwarflike humans. • Jultomten bears gifts in Sweden, riding in a sleigh led by the Julbocker, the goats of the god of thunder. He’s a gnome who dresses in red, lugging a sack loaded with goodies. In Denmark, he is known as Julemanden, and his sleigh is pulled by reindeer. • Pere Noel delivers gifts to French children, treats small enough to fit in the shoes they have left out for him, typically candy, money, or small toys. The children place their wooden shoes by the fireplace, filled with carrots for Pere Noel’s donkey, Gui, the French word for Mistletoe. Pere Noel is accompanied by Pere Fouettard, who delivers spankings to naughty children. Pere Noel visits on December 5th, St. Nicholas Eve in France, and then returns on Christmas Day. • In Louisiana’s French Cajun culture, Papa Noel is modeled after Santa Claus, but is transported in a small boat drawn by eight alligators.

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NAMES OF SANTA (cont.)

• Russia’s fabled gift-giver is a woman named Babouschka, a name that means “grandmother” or “old woman” in Russian. She is said to have turned down a trip with the Wise Men to see the Baby Jesus. Another version is that she misled the Wise Men on purpose, giving them wrong directions. She very quickly realized her sin, and spent many years trying to find Baby Jesus and give her gifts to Him. When her search was fruitless, she began giving the gifts to children found along the way, hoping one of them might be Jesus. • Italy’s Babbo Natale is a skinnier version of the North American Santa Claus, who commands his reindeer Cometa, Ballerina, Fulmine, Donnola, Freccia, Saltarello, Donato, and Cupido. However, the true gift giver in Italy is Le Befana, the old woman who delivers gifts on Epiphany, January 6. Similar to Russia’s legend of Babouschka, Le Befana lived on the road taken by the Wise Men to locate the Christ Child. She was invited on the journey, but declined, later realizing her mistake. La Befana flies on her broomstick and drops down Italian chimneys on the Eve of the Epiphany, leaving gifts. • The Dutch were strong celebrators of St. Nicholas Day, giving him the name of Sinter Klaas, derived from Saint Nikolaos, or Sint Nikolaas. He dressed as a bishop and rode a white horse over the rooftops distributing gifts. Dutch immigrants brought the tradition to America, and the name was modified to Santa Claus. In 1809, author Washington Irving published “The History of New York,” which contained a collection of Dutch stories, many of which featured Sinter Klaas, described as large man wearing a red waistcoat, blue tri-cornered hat, and yellow stockings. Irving jokingly referred to him as the patron saint of the city. ...continued

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• On Dec. 19, 1732, Benjamin Franklin of Philadelphia first publishes "Poor Richard's Almanack," a book filled with proverbs preaching industry and prudence. It became one of the most popular publications in Colonial America and was published continuously for 25 years. • On Dec. 18, 1912, two skulls that appear to belong to a primitive hominid and ancestor of man are discovered in England. In 1953, the fraud was exposed after the remains were found to be only 600 years old, not up to a million years old as claimed. • On Dec. 21, 1967, "The Graduate" opens. The film was an uneasy exploration of what it meant to be young and adrift at a time of extraordinary upheaval. It made a star out of Dustin Hoffman, as well as his car, an Alfa Romeo Duetto Spider. • On Dec. 22, 1956, a baby gorilla named Colo is born at the Columbus Zoo in Ohio, becoming the first-ever gorilla born in captivity. Colo went on to become a mother, grandmother and in 1996, a great-grandmother. She died at age 60 in January 2017. • On Dec. 24, 1979, the Soviet Union invades Afghanistan with three divisions of 8,500 men each. The tide of the war turned with the 1987 introduction of U.S. shoulder-launched antiaircraft missiles. The last Soviet soldier left in 1989. • On Dec. 20, 1989, Michael Moore's documentary "Roger & Me" opens in theaters. The film chronicled Moore's unsuccessful attempts to meet Roger B. Smith, the head of General Motors, which had closed 11 factories in Flint, Michigan. • On Dec. 23, 2009, Richard Heene, who told authorities his 6-year-old son Falcon had floated off in a helium balloon, is sentenced to 90 days in jail. The boy was found hiding at home. The hoax had been staged to help the family get a reality TV show.

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NAMES OF SANTA (cont.)

• It’s believed that the name Kris Kringle was initially Krishkinkle or Belsnickel among America’s Pennsylvania Dutch in the 1820s. The name translates from the German “Nicholas dressed in fur.” According to legend, the stern-faced Belsnickel showed up unannounced at children’s homes, ringing a bell and carrying a bag of cakes, nuts, and candies, along with a stick. Children recited a verse to the gift-giver, and if they had been good throughout all the year, Belsnickel would toss treats on the floor and depart. However, naughty children received a spanking with his switch. • England’s Father Christmas dates back to the 1500s during Henry VIII’s reign. He was a giant of a man dressed in green or scarlet fur-lined robes, and was greeted during his visits with mince pies and milk or brandy, left out for him by English children. His visits were on December 6, but when England abandoned keeping the Feast Day of St. Nicholas, Father Christmas began coming down the chimney on Christmas Eve, similar to the tradition of Santa Claus. • It was Clement Clarke Moore’s 1822 poem “An Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas,” what we know today as “The Night Before Christmas” that changed our perspective of Santa Claus. Moore’s poem gave Santa his sleigh led by reindeer, his jolly laughter, and his skill of navigating up and down chimneys. In 1863, political cartoonist Thomas Nast drew a cartoon of Santa for “Harper’s Weekly” magazine that started the modern Santa image. Over the years, Nast updated his illustrations until his 1881 drawing that depicted Santa with his round belly, white, beard, red-and-white suit, and sack of toys, along with a North Pole workshop and elves.

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Unusual Plants:

POINSETTIAS

It’s the holiday season and time for the display of poinsettias! Here are the facts on the best-selling potted plant in North America. • American diplomat Joel Roberts Poinsett was a South Carolina legislator and a member of the U.S. House of Representatives before being appointed the first Ambassador to the new Republic of Mexico in 1828. While touring Mexico’s southern Taxco region, Roberts, an amateur botanist, discovered a beautiful flamered blooming shrub growing by the side of the road. He was so fond of the plant that Poinsett sent home clippings to his plantation near Charleston. He continued to breed the plant in his greenhouse, sharing plants with others, and the plant was given his name in the United States. However, for all his efforts, Poinsett couldn’t extend the bloom time of just a few days. It wasn’t until the 1960s that horticulturists were able to breed plants that extended that time. • Growing wild in Mexico, the perennial shrub, botanically known as Euphorbia Pulherrima, can reach heights of 15 feet. Prior to Poinsett’s visit, the plant, which blooms in December, had been used by the Mexicans to decorate their churches, calling it the “Flower of the Holy Night,” referring to Christmas Eve. The Since the 14th century, the Aztecs had used the poinsettia leaves to dye fabric, as well as using the milky sap for medicinal purposes, such as controlling fevers. • The bright red parts of the plant are not the flowers, but rather the leaves that change color as a reaction to the plant forming flowers. The true flowers are the yellow clustered buds in the center, known as cyathia. When choosing a poinsettia plant, those with flowers showing little or no yellow pollen will stay in bloom longer.

• Poinsettias have long had the reputation of being poisonous. A university study indicated that a 50lb. child would have to consume in excess of 500 leaves to have a harmful effect. However, while not technically poisonous or fatal, it still isn’t a good idea to eat the leaves. Eating leaves can lead to stomach irritation, including vomiting and diarrhea. The sap can also cause a skin reaction to those with a latex allergy. • Today, in addition to the bright red plants, there are more than 100 varieties of Poinsettias, including pink, white, yellow, purple, salmon, and speckled. The plants contribute over $250 million to the U.S. economy. • Most folks choose to purchase a new poinsettia each year, but devoted horticulturists can get their plants to bloom again the following year. Continue to water the plant until March, then cut the stems to 6 inches. In June, repot the plant in a larger container, and keep it in a sunny window. The poinsettia can be kept outside as long as the temperature doesn’t dip below 50 degrees F. Beginning in September, the plant requires 14 hours of uninterrupted darkness every day for eight to ten weeks, and can be kept in light only from 8 AM to 5 PM. Even turning on a light briefly during the dark hours will delay the flowering. • Since the mid-1800s, the United States has observed December 12 as National Poinsettia Day. This is to commemorate the day that Joel Poinsett died in 1851. Following his stint as the Ambassador to Mexico, Poinsett served as Secretary of War, and was a co-founder of the National Institute for the Promotion of Science, a predecessor of the Smithsonian Institute.

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• It was 20th-century American author and journalist Emily Kimbrough who made the following sage observation: "Remember, we all stumble, every one of us. That's why it's a comfort to go hand in hand." • In Finland, it is traditional to pay a visit to the steam baths on Christmas Day. Nice and clean, Finns then put on new clothes before enjoying their Christmas dinner, which is served in the evening. • The nation of Canada has the longest coastline in the world. • Lots of people dislike lawyers, right? You might be surprised to learn, though, that it isn't a new phenomenon. In fact, in 1641 the Massachusetts Bay colony made it illegal for anyone to earn money by representing another in court, and in 1658, the legislature of Virginia passed legislation expelling all lawyers. • Most people -- even word nerds like yours truly! -- aren't aware that the plural form of Sphinx is Sphinges. • You might not be surprised to learn that the only bones to be found in a shark's body are in its jaws and teeth. • Hardly anyone in Greece has a Christmas tree. Instead, most homes have a wire suspended across a shallow wooden bowl with water in the bottom. A cross wrapped in a sprig of basil is suspended from the wire, and the water keeps the basil fresh. Every day during the holiday season, a family member dips the cross and basil into some holy water and sprinkles each room of the house. In addition to the religious significance, this ritual is said to keep away the kallikantzeri, mischievous goblins that appear during the 12 days of Christmas. *** Thought for the Day: "What is freedom of expression? Without the freedom to offend, it ceases to exist." -- Salman Rushdie © 2017 King Features Synd., Inc.

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(Answers located on next page)

December 4, 2017

• Trying to open a stuck jar? Tap the sides of the lid on the counter or floor on all sides, and the jar will magically open. Try it! • “Every year, we host a Christmas party. To make the house more accessible, and to make guests more comfortable, we put little tags on the door to the bathroom and whichever room we are using to hold coats, etc. I close all the other doors, so when a guest walks down the hall, they can easily figure out what door leads where. No more confused people looking for the restroom.” — Arianna B. in Michigan • Invest in a meat thermometer this gift-giving season. Food safety is important, but really, why guess when the technology is so easy and accurate? • “Since we start cooking Christmas dinner almost as soon as we get up on Christmas morning, I noticed that the kids seemed to be breakfasting on cookies exclusively. Last year, while we were waiting for Santa to arrive on Christmas Eve, I put out boxes of cereal, bowls, spoons and a pitcher for milk. I also bought a fruit tray, which I just put out in the morning. The kids ate a proper breakfast, and I still had the kitchen to myself to start preparations. It worked great!” — Sharon L. in Florida • To keep beverages ice-cold for your party, just save a 2-liter soda bottle or a rinsed half-gallons milk jug. Fill most of the way with water and freeze. At party time, nestle sodas, beers or water bottles around these mega ice blocks to chill drinks. • For fun-and-colorful cloth napkins, try using bandanas. They add a bright and fancy touch to your table setting. Send your tips to Now Here’s a Tip, 628 Virginia Drive, Orlando, FL 32803.


JACK FROST

These days, our toes and nose are definitely cold! Is it the work of Jack Frost, the one described in “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire” as “nipping” at our nose? Follow and along and see! • According to Norse mythology, Jack Frost is the embodiment of frost, ice, snow, sleet, winter, and freezing cold. He’s responsible for sneaking around at night, painting elegant, fernlike frosty designs on windows, leaves, and grass. Legend says his mother was Kari, the Norse god of the winds, who named her son Jokul Frosti, which translates “frosty icicle.”

NUGGET OF KNOWLEDGE In 1890, the Salvation Army began their holiday campaign of soliciting donations to provide meals to needy families. They dressed unemployed men in Santa Claus suits and sent them into the streets of New York.

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• Another Norse character was Ullr, the god of winter and son of a frost giant. Ullr is credited with creating the Aurora Borealis (Northern lights) to help balance out the shortened daylight of the winter season. • Jack Frost is usually depicted as a jolly, carefree, sprite-like youth, full of mischief, who bites the noses of people to give them a chill. In some myths, he is an old man known as Father Winter, who rode across the lands on icy winds. The Russians call him Grandfather Frost, who was a blacksmith who forged the chains to bind the Earth and its waters together. German folklore has Old Mother Frost, an ancient white-haired woman, who shakes out her feather blanket to create snow. • Jack not only creates the intricate frosty patterns, he is also depicted with a paint brush and bucket giving the autumn foliage their vibrant colors of red, yellow, brown, and orange. ...continued

Q. Why does Santa always go down the chimney? A: Because it soots him.

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• In 1902, L. Frank Baum, author of The Wizard of Oz series of books, published the children’s book TheDell. Life and Adventures of Santa Claus. Answer: The book chronicles the life of Santa, found A VERY LARGE NUMBER as a baby in the Forest of Burzee by the Mas•terEdward Kasner mathematician. In 1938 Woodsman ofwas the aWorld. Baum introduces he was asked to come up with a name for a Jack Frost as someone described by Santa as very large number: the numeral one, followed a by “jolly rogue,”zeros. although doesn’t trustyoung him. a hundred He he asked his two Jack takes what pleasure in they nipping “scores of noses nephews name would suggest. and ears and toes,” and is asked by Santa to • Nine-year-old Milton suggested a name spare thethe children from his antics. Frost out of funnies. A cartoon stripJack character also appears in a short story by Baum entitled named Barney was very popular. Milton chose “The Runaway Shadows,” in which Jack has Barney’s last name for the number. the power to freeze shadows, separating • Kasner announced the new name for thethem big from theirinowners, them to the livespelling. apart in number his nextforcing book, altering their own being. • Sixty years later, Larry Page and Sergey Brin • Jack Frost has been mentioned storiesOther and developed a new internet searchin engine. songs since at least the 18theach century. Although search engines searched webpage and ranked them accordinga friendly, to how many times Jack Frost is basically cheery char-a specific term appeared but Page acter, in some media, heonis them, presented as a and vilBrin designed their search engine to search for lain who can kill his victims by covering them the specific term and then find out how many with snow. links there were that led back to that page, • Inwhich modern culture, beenengine. featured in resulted in a Jack betterhas search several movies, video games, and comic books. • They decided they needed a name that Inreflected the 1998how movie, Jackwebsites Frost, a the fathersearch who many died young returned to Earth as a snowman in engine was searching. They took the name order to spendKasner’s time with his son. equallyonly unof Edward very largeAn number, usual film Revenge of the Mutant Killer Snowthey misspelled it slightly, so it ended up being man, focuses on athe serial killer whotheturns into spelled exactly same way cartoon spelled his What’s a character snowmanBarney but continues tolast kill.name. Nominated it acalled? (Answer at bottom of page) for Golden Globe Award, Dreamworks’ 2012 3D computer-animated fantasy film Rise of the COMPUTER FACTS features his •Guardians In 1981 Bill GatesJack said,Frost “640 along kb of with memory friends Claus, the Tooth Fairy, the Sandought Santa to be enough for anybody.” and Law the Easter Bunny, all trying to keep •man, Moore’s states that computer performance villain Pitch Black immersing the Earth doubles every 18 tofrom 24 months, and ever since in1971, darkness. this has been true. • HP, Google, Microsoft, and Apple were all started in garages. Answer: Google, from googol.

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Tidbits Grand Forks - December 14 , 2017  

"Names of Santa," "Poinsettias" and "Jack Frost"

Tidbits Grand Forks - December 14 , 2017  

"Names of Santa," "Poinsettias" and "Jack Frost"

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