10 Strange Things You Never Knew About Christmas

As we career towards the holidays at breakneck speed, we at WhatCulture have been nursing a potent festive spirit this…

Andy Scott



As we career towards the holidays at breakneck speed, we at WhatCulture have been nursing a potent festive spirit this year, thanks to our Movie Images Advent Calendar and some excellently timed Yule-themed Top Tens.

But, as everybody knows, Christmas isn’t really for receiving, or giving, or even wishing – it’s a time for breaking out ‘fun’ facts around the dinner table/down the pub! The aim of this Top Ten Things You Didn’t Know … is to supply you, Dear Reader, with at least one trope with which to inspire a pensive ‘hmm’ from whatever group/person you choose to lay it on! A compendium of the festively weird, wonderful and downright quite interesting!

If there are any you think we’ve missed that definitely deserve a mention in the festive spirit of group discussion, then why not pop it down in the comments box! Everybody loves a ‘fun’ fact really!!

10. Mistletoe: The Guilt-Ridden, Fratricidal Parasite Made Of Dung


With an epithet like that, it’s unsurprising she’s one of the most famous plants in the world but tracing the Mistletoe’s entry into our mongrel culture is a quagmire of hearsay and legend, so let’s just look at some of her incarnations over the years.

First, and most recorded, we have the word itself: ‘Mistletoe’ which Grinches of the season maintain is a compound noun of the old German for ‘Dung’ and ‘Branch’ in the hope it may sicken any would-be romantics from kissing beneath it.

Next, and continuing the ‘gross-out’ there’s the ubiquitous fertility theme which presents itself in berries filled with white gooeyness …

Moving on, we have the more interesting role she takes up in Norse mythology. Tricked by Loki, Höðr brutally killed his own brother Baldr with either an arrow or sword which was either made of or named after our mischievous little twiglet!

Quite the position in society she’s racking up so far.

Finally – and where would we be without a good sense of Catholic guilt – there’s the tradition recorded in Cornwall. Well known for centuries for its sturdiness in cross-building, it was ‘volunteered’ by the Romans as the material of choice from which to build the very cross they’d crucify Jesus on. After that, it was condemned to give up a life in residential contracting to live as a parasite for the rest of eternity. A bit harsh, some might say.

So there we have it, the first of ten facts and we’ve already incorporated poo, sex, and religion. We aim to keep the tone right where it is.