He wants to know everything about everything, this five-year-old genius of yours. And he expects you to have the answers, right now. After all, he figures, you're so old, you must know just about all there is to know, right?
So he's going to pester you, this holiday season, with questions about all that goes on and all that he sees and hears. You need to have a few obscure facts at hand, to dazzle and distract him with, as you rush from mall to mall. You might even catch him off-guard, and zing him before he has a chance to challenge your intellect.
For instance, as he unwraps his umteenth candy cane of the season (no, it's probably not good for him, but it keeps him occupied), you can hit him with this:
The candy cane was invented in the late 1600's, by a German choirmaster, who wanted to keep the children at his Christmas services quiet. Originally, these were straight sticks of sugar candy, but the choirmaster made them in the shape of a shepherd's staff as an homage to the season.
We all hear the music of Tchaikovsky's “Nutcracker" at Christmas, but the only section most of us can name is the “Dance Of The Sugar Plum Fairy". So what is a sugar plum, anyway? Well, in 17th century England, the word “plum" was used to describe just about any dried fruit, which was considered a delicacy. Adding sugar made it an extra special treat for children, and given on rare occasions, such as Christmas.
Speaking of plums, another traditional English Christmas dish still served in many places today is plum pudding. Originally it was a soup made with beef, mutton, and dried plums (or prunes), but later, the meat and the prunes were removed, raisins were added, and it was turned into a cake. Today, plum pudding is really a form of raisin cake.
Another Christmas dish which isn't what it sounds like is mincemeat pie. Again, it was originally a pie made with meat-minced-and spices. But, over time, the meat was replaced with fruit. But the name stuck.
Your son probably doesn't know (yet) that the song, “The Twelve Days Of Christmas" was originally written as a song to teach children to count. But many of us have forgotten why there are twelve days to Christmas. It's a Christian tradition that the Wise Men arrived to worship the baby Jesus, twelve days after his birth-the first “expert" acknowledgement of the Messiah.
While we're on the subject, your son may want to know, at some point, just what swaddling clothes are-and why the baby Jesus was wrapped in them. Since ancient times, most cultures have used some form of swaddling-or long pieces of cloth-to wrap newborn babies, to restrict movement and keep them warm, a way of approximating conditions of the womb, in order to keep newborns comfortable. Today, flannel and receiving blankets have replaced swaddling cloth.
You're on a roll, now, tossing out these Christmas tidbits effortlessly, as you drive to the next store to continue your shopping. Your son is in the back seat, silently amazed at your knowledge of All Things. You glance in the rearview mirror to catch the admiration on his face, and-
He's sound asleep. But he must have nodded off, totally impressed. You almost want him to wake up-there's so much more. And you know it all.
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