Believe them or not, but passed-down urban legends and myths have been around since the beginning of time… well at least that’s what the legend says anyhow. And Christmas is not off the hook when it comes to the creation and perpetuation of such legends and myths, making the holiday season even more magical and mysterious. Or just downright weird.
From the silly to the uncomfortably scary, these urban legends and myths surrounding Christmas have filled the minds of die-hard believers for decades, if not centuries. Santa Claus may not be the man who you thought he was. The perfect gift may just be a total dud. And all you ever believed about Christmas trees will have you barking up another.
Take a read of these 15 urban legends and myths surrounding Christmas and the holiday season and decide what you want to believe. You may have heard some or all of these before, but they all have the tendency to make a believer out of even the biggest skeptic.
Heck, if you are on board with the fact that reindeer can have a shiny nose and Santa can actually fit his rotund belly down the chimney, you are likely to fall for pretty much anything. Oh, and that missing plate of chocolate chip cookies you placed out for Santa to enjoy with a cold glass of milk on Christmas Eve? Check your dad’s bed for crumbs this year if the milk mustache wasn’t a bold enough clue for ya.
15. Cut It Out! Sharp Gifts
Urban legend holds the theory that it’s bad luck to give a pair of scissors or a knife as a Christmas gift as it would “cut” the friendship apart. How ‘bout the fact that either sharp instruments totally suck as a gift? Same holds true for a wedding gift, as it would cause the marriage to crumble. But how are they going to cut the cake? In any event, this urban myth is more practical than superstitious, but no matter how you “slice” it, a knife or scissor, as sharp as they may be, make for a dull gift. Nowadays, a sharp tool may be of use; who’s to say that fat guy in a red suit coming down the chimney is really Santa and not a burglar? Plus, a nice set of carving knives or crafting scissors is a far better gift than a pair of reindeer socks or worse, a lump of coal. Forget this urban myth and take a “stab” at getting your bestie a Ginzu knife this holiday season.
14. Children, The Other White Meat
While we best know Santa Claus for his insatiable craving for plate after plate of homemade cookies and glass upon glass of whole milk or piping hot cocoa, urban legend says that there was an ominous time when a deranged Santa delighted in a meatier snack of children! He’d wiggle and worm his way down the dusty chimney and kill innocent and unaware little boys and girls on the spot, or if he already had his fill, he’d stick ‘em in his big sack and nosh on a fresh child when he got his appetite back. As legend has it, this cannibalistic practice came to a happy ending when a holy person forced him to deliver presents to the kiddos instead of dining upon them. Good move. A fine upgrade to say the least! Eventually, elves became part of the practice, helping Santa hand out his gifts from house to house. Let’s hope Santa didn’t munch on those little guys once he couldn’t have his favorite treat anymore. Keebler elves, watch your back!
13. Mincemeat – Cannibal Style
Legend has it that the mincemeat pie – a popular Christmas dish, was actually invented by cannibals back in the 16th century. While today’s recipe is made with fruit, herbs, and spices, like cinnamon and nutmeg, the hungry cannibals added bits of meat as well as human remains to their mince meat pies… Perhaps they just needed some extra protein in their diets? And who said Chopped, the 16th Century Version wouldn’t make for engaging Food Network viewing? Rumor has it that this tale is the reason mincemeat pies have no actual meat in them at all these days so that consumers would not need to worry where (or from whom) the meat came from. While the pie could use a more appealing name anyhow, it’s good to know that no meat of any kind is stuffed inside this meal. And take precautions if anyone invites you over for Christmas for some mincemeat pie… you may become the main course!
12. What’s In Your Wallet?
Another superstitious gift-related urban myth is that a wallet is only a proper Christmas present if there is some loot inside, even just a penny, in order to ward off the dangerous demons and other crappy down-on-your-luck spooks and ghouls. While a wad of dough stuffed neatly inside a wallet is better than none at all, a lousy coin plopped inside just to avoid a superstitious fear is tacky and cheap at best. How about writing someone a nice fat personal check instead, or splurge a little more on a nicer, high-quality leather wallet? Surely the recipient won’t mind the effort. Who pays in cash anymore anyway? Alas, the answer to the popular question, “What’s in your wallet?” is finally answered… a five-cent piece! Plus, with the money inside the wallet, you can pay off the devilish demons rather than have them kill you. Seems reasonable, no? A win-win for all!
11. Satan Claus?
There’s a hell-raising urban legend that good ‘ole St. Nick is actually evil Satan in disguise. Why would this heaven-to-hell story come about? Well, the jolly fella has a penchant for wearing red, he’s able to fly, and if you swap around the letters in his name, Santa, you get “Satan.” Plus, “Claus” means “hoof-claws” according to its Olde English definition. That said, the name Santa Claus actually derives from “Sinterklaas,” the Dutch spelling for Saint Nicholas, so those Satan-inspired myths are a coincidence at best. Although, many a “naughty” child who didn’t get what he or she wanted as a Christmas gift may feel that Santa is indeed Satan in the flesh. When you get a lousy 3-pack of tighty-whitey underwear instead of the latest video game under the tree, a pitchfork and horns seem to suddenly appear to replace Santa’s sack of gifts and long white beard. Just don’t poison his cookies and milk, kids!
10. Jesus Take the Candy Cane
While Jesus Christ may have enjoyed the sweet taste of a peppermint candy cane, a Christmastime favorite, the urban myth that the treats are religious symbols and a homage to Jesus Christ is a sugar-coated legend. The old-time legend says that the “J” shape of the candy cane is a representation of Jesus and the white base of the lick-able treat is a symbol of his innocence. And the bold red stripe? His blood! Suddenly, these Christmas favorites aren’t looking quite as appealing as they once did. Most folks think this creative candy claim is basically bogus, but it doesn’t sound all that far-fetched. Now if “Mary Janes” represent the Virgin Mary, then we’ve got major issues, and that means more than a case of diabetes. So for now, consider your candy cane religion-unspecific, but if you are a true believer, then be sure to treat your cane with care… no biting!
9. The Plants Will Kill Ya
You know those big red poinsettias that many-a-folk place around their homes during the holiday season in order to bring in freshness and festive holiday cheer? They look innocent enough, right? Well not so fast. Legend has it that these flowering plants can kill you and your pets if they’re ingested. While most humans don’t tend to nibble on their household plants, pets just might, so is there need to fret? While an upset stomach may occur, hundreds of leaves would have to be eaten in order to make you sick, but death will have to be found someplace else… try a swig of arsenic perhaps (really, don’t though). And pets can become poisoned, but still, unless they ate every poinsettia on the block, they are most likely to simply upchuck or get a case of the runs. So feel free to decorate this season and keep the pets away. No one wants Fido to fart on Christmas Eve!
8. Dearly Departed Dad
Kids think Santa’s real, so sometimes it is dear dad who needs to dress as the jolly fat man and work his way into the home with bags of gifts for his good boys and girls. But when you tell the kids that daddy’s going off on a business trip when his real plans are to come down the chimney a la Santa, an urban legend is born. But that’s not the entire tale. Legend has it that one doofus of a dad got his fat ass stuck on the way down and the family lit the logs in the fireplace on Christmas Eve, not realizing pops was lodged in there. Oh the horror! But alas, this tale is a myth (supposedly) and dad never got fried in the fire. Parents, a friendly suggestion… sneak the gifts under the tree while the kids are asleep. You needn’t slide down the chimney. It’s disgusting in there.
7. Krampus – The Half-Goat, Half-Demon
According to Austro-Bavarian Alpine folklore (in case you’re not fully caught up), Krampus is a devilish half-goat, half-demon figure who is out to punish the badly behaved boys and girls come Christmastime. He has ugly horns and is unnaturally hairy, with ferociously sharp fangs and a pointy, darting tongue. While most would agree that Krampus is a made-up creature, there are still plenty of believers who behave extra well in order to be greeted by Santa rather than this freak of nature come Christmas morning. And what kind of parent threatens their kids with the possibility that a demon will punish them for not putting their underwear and socks in the hamper anyhow? While Krampus may make for a fun Halloween costume, some may think they’re dressed as the latest washed-up former rock-band member. Just to be safe though, I’ll plan to be especially good this year, urban legend or otherwise.
6. Coke Is It!
Legend has it that the fact that Santa Claus is dressed in red to this day has everything to do with Coca-Cola’s innovative marketing techniques. Apparently, the bigwigs at the popular soda pop brand decided that St. Nick would sport a festive red getup in some of their early ad campaigns, and others followed (red) suit thereafter. While many say that stories of Santa Claus in red far outdate the Coca-Cola decision, it’s easy to understand why many would believe that Coke had an impact on Santa’s now-widely accepted appearance. Coke is, after all, one of the most recognizable brands in the world, so if they say Santa Claus wears red, who’s to doubt them? Plus, it nicely matches their bright aluminum cans and slick logo. Nice touch. Although, with Santa’s tendency to lean towards the chunky side, too much sugary cola is no good for his bloated belly, let alone the bathroom scale. Though, some may argue that a glass of Coke with a few chocolate chip cookies makes for a tasty snack!
5. 13 Is a Lucky Number
As legend has it, the “baker’s dozen” phenomenon all began when bakers would toss in one extra roll when anyone purchased 12 rolls as a gift for someone for Christmas in case any of the rolls were smaller than the rest. While some say this was done for superstitious reasons, who the heck cares? More hot-from-the-oven crusty rolls for us! This tradition carries on today – in bakeries, bagel shops, and delis. Maybe people back then were afraid that a hungry Santa Claus would eat their last roll or the baker would come off as cheap if he didn’t follow along with the baker’s dozen game. While this urban legend isn’t exactly mind-blowing, it is interesting to learn where this extra roll practice began. No wonder we’re such a carb-consuming population! Where’s Oprah when you want to praise the loaf? 13 is indeed lucky after all… at least when it comes to baked goods.
4. Walk in Somebody Else’s Shoes
According to legend, giving someone the gift of a pair of shoes for Christmas is bad luck. Why the sole-less sentiment? Because this gift would cause the person to walk away from you. Eh, maybe they just didn’t like the shoes? While this legend may or may not be true, aren’t you supposed to walk in shoes? And if you’ve just been given the gift, the only choice is to walk away from, not towards the person. Personal space anyone? Shoes as a gift is a bad idea anyhow. You’ve really gotta try them on first. Slippers, maybe, but buy shoes for yourself and come up with something other than a one-size-fits-all gift. Unless of course, you’re trying to rid someone from your life with one final Christmas gift. Then they can walk away for good. Although, no gift at all would probably have the same effect and cost you far less money!
3. Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree
Many tales and legends have been told as to the origin of the beloved Christmas tree. One popular legend goes that long ago, a poor woodsman’s family sat down for dinner one winter evening when they heard an unexpected knock upon the door. It was a small, hungry child in weathered and worn clothing. The poor family invited him in for some food and lo and behold, it was the Christ Child! When he left after the meal, he planted a fir tree branch in the family’s yard with the promise that it would grow fruit every Christmas from that year forward. While this is a lovely story, has anyone’s tree ever produced fruit? The only food most people see on a Christmas tree is strings of popcorn and candy canes. Nevertheless, the tradition carries on, with ornaments, tinsel, and shining lights. Seems like this legend will continue on until a tree actually does grow fruit again. Then everyone will really freak out.
2. Suicide on the Rise?
It is a common misconception led by urban myth that the incidence of suicide increases as Christmastime comes ‘round. While many people feel lonely and depressed when they have no family or loved ones to share in their celebration, the fact that there is actually more emotional support during this time of year makes the suicide rate not as high as some would believe it to be. But once the winter cheer dissipates, spring brings despair and the suicide rate to its yearly peak. Sad and sobering to say the least, but it’s not the holidays per se that is bringing these folks to their untimely end. Maybe it’s the cold weather that’s keeping these folks snuggled up and reconsidering their thoughts or perhaps Santa’s mindfully watching over them. No matter the reason, let’s all hope that they can find the help they need once the holiday season is behind them.
1. The Taking Down of the Tree Debate
Many who celebrate Christmas wonder when to take down their lovely Christmas tree, but some are fearful that selecting the wrong day will bring them bad luck, thanks to a pesky urban legend. Some say that the “12th day of Christmas,” which would clock in as January 5th, is the appropriate day to say goodbye to the good old tree. And if it’s not removed by this specific date, then it must be left in place all year to avoid this bout of bad luck everyone’s yakking about. Different people from varied cultures from all over the world have different ideas as to when the “right” day to take down the tree is, but common sense would argue that if the tree is rotting and stinks to the high heavens, it’s time to go. Same goes for a floor-full of fallen pine needles and bare branches. Use your judgement and luck will no doubt be yours. Merry Christmas!