Do you believe in the magic, er, science of Christmas?
By: Judi Stuart
Port Discover: Visitor Services Manager
Have you ever wondered what was wrong with Rudolph’s nose? Some scientists who have considered the problem proposed that he might have had a severe cold, but others take it a step further.
Reindeer noses actually have an abundance of membranes that warm the air coming into their bodies. Because of the warmth and moisture, parasites and bacteria might have created an infection, which caused the famous red nose. Poor Rudolph!
What about the reindeer antlers? Their names sound male, but real reindeer shed their antlers around Christmas time, so they must have been misrepresented. How shocking!
Although Germans have an abundance of evergreen trees, they invented the first artificial trees by using dyed goose feathers. What a mess that must have been!
The tallest Christmas tree on record was a 222-foot Douglas fir that decorated the Northgate Shopping Center in Seattle, Wash., in 1950. Most Christmas trees grow for 15 years before they are cut.
Another Christmas legend tells that spiders wove a blanket for Baby Jesus, so in Poland, spiders and their webs are used to decorate trees and are considered signs of kindness and wealth.
Evergreens were symbols of eternal life and rebirth, so bringing them in the house during winter was a sign of preservation of life for ancient people. From that belief, grew the Christmas tree tradition. A strong environmentalist, President Teddy Roosevelt would not allow a Christmas tree in the White House.
According to legend, Martin Luther, protestant reformer, was moved by the beauty of stars shinning between branches of a tree. He brought a tree into the house and decorated it with candles to share with his children. Apples were one of the first ornaments to decorate trees.
Because the rooster was thought to be the first animal to announce the birth of Jesus, Bolivians attend the “Mass of the Rooster” on Christmas Eve each year and actually bring roosters to the service.
The name mistletoe comes from the Anglo-Saxon word, which means “little dung twig” because bird droppings are the method of spreading the seeds. Druids thought of the mistletoe plant as sacred because it has berries when other plants seem to die. They believed that it had special powers to cure illnesses and to hold evil at bay.
Aztecs believed that the beautiful poinsettia was a symbol of purity and often used it as medicine to reduce fever. Poinsettias are not poisonous, but holly berries are.
There are several possible explanations for the Christmas Star appearing in the story of Jesus. Some people think it may have been an exploding star or a supernova. Others believe it could have been a planetary alignment of Venus, Jupiter, Mars, and Saturn, which would have produced a noticeable light. Another possible cause of the light could have been a comet.
Christmas traditions and legends often contain a touch of science, and that makes them more interesting for some believers.