Historical Holiday Fallacies: How much do you know (wrong)?

Staff

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About This Quiz

Do you love celebrating holidays and think you know everything there is to know about jack-o’-lanterns, Santa Claus and St. Patrick? Test your smarts with some tricky questions and some real treats that might surprise you. The holidays will never be the same!

Thanksgiving Day officially started in 1621 when a group of colonists and Native Americans shared a harvest feast together.

Don’t dig in to the turkey yet because this question is half-baked. The first Thanksgiving feast is recognized as having occurred in 1621 between the Plymouth colonists and the Wampanoag tribe, but Thanksgiving didn’t become an official American holiday until 1863, when Abraham Lincoln declared that the final Sunday of November would be celebrated as a day of thanksgiving.

The first, unofficial Thanksgiving meal between the colonists and Native Americans did not feature pumpkin pies or desserts of any kind.

It’s sad but true. Historians believe that the original feast was dessert-free because the Pilgrims' sugar supply had dwindled since arriving in America. On the bright side, they got extra helpings of deer meat thanks to their guests. Mmmm.

Thanksgiving Day parades have been around since the Civil War. From 1861 to 1865, Confederate soldiers marched through Richmond, Va., every November to celebrate Thanksgiving.

Civil War soldiers certainly did a lot of marching, but they didn’t have time to bother with a Thanksgiving Day parade. The most recognized parade in America started in 1924 when Macy’s department store hosted the inaugural event in New York City. Now millions of spectators get up early on Thanksgiving Day to line the streets of the 2.5-mile (4-kilometer) parade route.

Every year, the U.S. Supreme Court spares the lives of a few turkeys by issuing an official pardon.

American Thanksgiving traditions have gotten a little loosey-goosey over the years, and the U.S. has indeed started a new practice of pardoning a few Tom Turkeys every November. The tables turn on this question though, because it’s the U.S. President, not the Supreme Court, who does the pardoning.

After the American Revolution, Christmas wasn’t a very popular holiday because it reminded the American settlers of the English traditions they had fled.

What? No tinsel, cranberries and fir trees? Yes, it’s true. After the American Revolution, Christmas traditions fell out of favor, and Congress was even in session on Dec. 25, 1789. The U.S. didn’t start observing Christmas officially until it was declared a federal holiday on June 26, 1870.

A Christmas tree spends 15 years growing before it’s ready to be cut down and sold.

Is your tree worth the wait? Because it took roughly 15 years for it to grow from a sapling into the beauty you see on the Christmas tree lot. It almost seems a shame to cover it up with tinsel and lights.

Eggnog was a traditional drink created by the Celts to celebrate the winter solstice.

Though the Celts were known for raucous winter solstice celebrations centered around food and drink, not a drop of eggnog was drunk until 1607, when someone in the United States whipped up the first batch in Captain John Smith’s Jamestown settlement.

The character Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer became a popular Christmas icon after the 1949 release of a song by the same name that was written by Johnny Marks.

The song certainly helped popularize this Christmas character. The glaring truth is that Rudolph popped up 10 years earlier, when advertising copywriter Robert L. May wrote a promotional children’s book featuring the odd animal in hopes of driving holiday traffic to his Montgomery Ward store.

The Salvation Army has had an army of Santa-suited bell ringers since the late 1800s.

Christmas giving is a tradition that has been around longer than most people think. In 1890s, the Salvation Army started dressing unemployed men in Santa suits and sending them around to collect donations that would pay for the free meals that the organization offered to needy families.

Boxing Day is a holiday in the United Kingdom during which people box up all of their Christmas decorations and put them back in the attic.

Historians are unclear about the origins of Boxing Day, but everyone agrees the holiday does take place on Dec. 26. Some stories claim it began as a day to gather money for the poor in collection boxes. Others believe the tradition started when employers gave out boxed gifts to their servants and other employees on the day after Christmas. Either way, somebody wins!

Julius Caesar started the tradition of celebrating the new year on Jan. 1.

Caesar is credited with kicking off this annual celebration after the Julian calendar was created. Before that time, many Western cultures celebrated the new year at a variety of times, but it was typically close to the vernal equinox.

Eating pork on New Year’s Day may help you get out of your rut.

Pigging out on pork may indeed get you out of your rut, since this purportedly lucky New Year’s Day food symbolizes progress and prosperity in some cultures. The unsavory notion of a pig rooting his way though the muck to move forward has inspired this delicious tradition that is enjoyed in the United States, Spain, Portugal, Austria and many other countries. (However, some Chinese cultures consider eating any meat on New Year's Day to prevent longevity, and many populations don't eat pork at all, so your luck mileage may vary.)

Valentine’s Day was first celebrated by sweethearts who procrastinated and were trying to make up for not buying their darlings a Christmas gift.

The origins of Valentine’s Day are murky, but it was definitely created to honor at least one of three saints who were martyred. One interesting truth about the holiday is that approximately 50 percent of Valentine’s Day gifts and cards are purchased in the six days prior to Feb. 14, making it the perfect holiday for procrastinators.

The first green river created for Chicago’s St. Patrick’s Day celebration caused a stink.

No one was outraged by the green river, but this tradition developed thanks to a pollution-control tactic that used green dye to detect illegal sewage discharge. The city quickly realized that the green river was something to celebrate, and officials henceforth loaded it up with 100 pounds (45 kilograms) of green vegetable dye that brightened St. Patrick’s Day festivities for a whole week.

Easter eggs represent spring and new birth.

Colorful Easter eggs may seem like a commercial tradition, but they actually tie into both pagan and Christian ideas that Easter represents a time of renewal and resurrection. Still, we’re not sure how the Easter Bunny lays those eggs. Your guess is as good as ours.

The traditional Fourth of July song “Yankee Doodle” was originally sung by British soldiers to mock Americans during the Revolutionary War.

It’s true! One of America’s favorite songs of patriotism was crafted to make fun of the U.S. soldiers. Eventually, the Americans flipped the script on the British by changing the lyrics and creating dozens of versions that taunted their rivals.

Halloween originated in the Catholic Church as a way to honor deceased saints and martyrs.

If truth be told, Pope Gregory III declared Nov. 1 to be All Saints’ Day, a holiday to honor saints and martyrs. Halloween takes place the day before and originated as a Celtic festival called Samhain, during which Celts took to the fields dressed in costumes to light bonfires that would ward off roaming ghosts.

The traditional Halloween jack-o'-lantern was born from an Irish tale about a fellow named Stingy Jack.

The iconic jack-o'-lantern was named after Stingy Jack, who made some bad deals with the Devil and was doomed to roam the afterlife carrying a burning lump of coal in a hollowed-out turnip. These days, we celebrate Halloween in a less stingy way by lighting up our homes with decorative pumpkins and handing out free candy.

Trick-or-treating dates back to early All Saints’ Day parades in England, during which children would roam their neighborhoods asking for sweet treats.

This was more of a trick than a treat. The practice of asking for goodies did originate during All Saints’ Day or All Souls’ Day parades, but it wasn’t neighborhood children searching for candied apples. The tradition began with homeless villagers begging for food from parade participants, who would hand out pastries called soul cakes in exchange for prayers for their deceased loved ones. Eventually, kids got in on the action and banded together in groups to go a-souling, which is now called trick-or-treating.

Black cats are considered a scary sight around Halloween because they are believed to transport souls to the other side.

The only reason to be scared of black cats is if you have allergies. Crossing in front of a black cat isn’t a devilish move. By the 17th century, Europeans commonly thought witches could turn into black cats to escape detection.

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