March 22, 2018, 4:13 am
Facebook iconTwitter iconYouTube iconGoogle+ icon

All about Christmas

AS the happiest season of the year, religious and secular, comes around, here are some interesting facts about Christmas.

The Philippines, most likely the country with the greatest Christmas spirit, celebrates Christmas the longest and most festive, starting from September where the streets, stores, and some homes, are already decorated in preparation for Christmas.

Of the 102,250,133 population of the Philippines, there are about 90 percent Christians, 80 percent of them Catholics. The tradition is from the influence of the Spanish colonial years, from the 16th to the 19th century.

About 30-35 million real Christmas trees are sold annually in the United States. There are 21,000 Christmas tree growers in the United States, and trees usually grow for about 15 years before they are sold. Obviously, hundreds of millions are sold around the world. Not to mention the artificial trees. 

Did you know that between 1659 to 1681, the celebration of Christmas was illegal in Boston, USA, and law-breakers were fined 5 shillings (about 27? US dollars), a lot of money then.

Christmas is celebrated today in the Greek and Russian orthodox churches 13 days after the 25th, popularly known as the Epiphany or Three Kings Day, the day the three wise men found Jesus in the manger.

Christmas celebrations were rowdy and raucous in the Middle Ages, much like today’s Mardi Gras parties, except that they were destructive, “free from arrests during the season.” Definitely pagan rituals. 

Christmas legally became a federal holiday in the United States on June 26, 1870. There were 69,470,686 registered Catholics in the United States (22% of the US population) as of 2015. The 2016 US population is 324,118,787.

Kris Kringle in the early USA was changed by Dutch settlers in America to “Sinterklass,” (we now know as Santa Claus), actually from St. Nicholas, who was generous with gifts to a lot of people before he died. St Nick was born in Patara (Asia Minor) and went to Myra (now Demre in Turkey), where he became a bishop. He died on the 6th of December between A.D. 326 and 341.

In 1828, Joel R. Poinsett, an American minister to Mexico brought home the red and green plant from Mexico. That festive plant we know today as Poinsettia.

As a gimmick to attract customers to Montgomery Ward department stores, writer Robert L. May invented “Rudolph, the most famous reindeer of all,” in 1939, with a poem about reindeers.

The famous Rockefeller Center Christmas tree lighting tradition was started in 1931. 

The Christmas tree tradition actually started in Germany in the 16th century when Christians decorated pine trees in their homes as a part of the Christmas season. The Vikings in Scandinavia considered evergreens as special plant of the sun god, Balder.

Ever heard of Christmas Disease?
Christmas Diseases has nothing to do with the Christmas season. Christmas Disease is a blood disease, also known as Hemophilia B or factor IX hemophilia. It is a hereditary bleeding disorder due to deficiency in coagulation factor IX. This condition is X-linked recessive inheritance, affecting only males, and occurs in 1 in 100,000 male births. This illness causes spontaneous bleeding in the joints. 

What is Christmas Blues?
Christmas Blues is a form of mild depression (called Seasonal Affective Disorders, or SAD for short) that happens to some of us, normal and healthy people, during the Christmas season or other festive family occasions. Empty nest syndrome, where the grown up or married children have left home, creating an empty and lonely feeling in the parents, especially the mothers, is one such type of emotion that is magnified by family occasions like Christmas, New Year, birthdays, etc. Frequent visits from the children or family reunions during the holidays minimize these “blues” and provide a sense of parental security and happiness, especially among the elderly parents. The other common cause of this extreme sadness is poor financial situation in life, where self-pity, panic, a sense of hopelessness and helplessness prevail especially on a holiday like Christmas. 

How long could food be left safely at room temperature?
Different types of food have different “spoilage time.” Fresh fish, processed meat, cream-filled pastries, custards, fruits salads, noodles (pancit), food cooked with tomatoes provide good media for bacterial growth after more than 6 hours of exposure to room temperature, depending on how warm the ambient temperature is. Common food contaminants are Staphylococcus Aureus, E. Coli, and Amoeba, and water contaminants are (non-typhoidal) Salmonella and Shigella. Staphylococcal Food Poisoning is due to the enterotoxins produced by the Staph bacteria. Some dishes, like adobo or paksiw could last for even a week in room temperature without spoiling, unless contaminated by handlers. The prudent thing to do is to refrigerate the left overs as soon as the meal is completed. Those who do not have a refrigerator should not cover the food airtight, since this will not allow the food “to breathe” and would tend to increase the heat and pressure, leading to a much shorter “spoilage time.” If using a plastic wrap, poke a few holes on it to allow for a better ventilation. Keep the food in the refrigerator, an ice box, or in the coldest part of the house, and eat it within 24 hours.

What is Chinese Food Syndrome?
This condition could sometimes mimic a heart attack. It causes chest pains, facial pressure, and burning sensations throughout the body, sometimes with dizziness or fainting. This phenomenon is a pharmacologic reaction to monosodium glutamate (MSG or vetsin), a popular white powder food seasoning used in cooking. The symptoms are not really due to an allergic reaction and is dose-related. Most people are not bothered by MSG, but some react to it more severely. Although death is very rare with this syndrome, a surgeon classmate of mine, who was attending a meeting in Nice, France, several years ago, had so violent a reaction after ingesting Chinese food with monosodium glutamate that he expired within an hour thereafter.

Those who develop any of the four symptoms enumerated above after eating food cooked with MSG should clearly request chefs or cooks in restaurants, at home, or anywhere else, not to use MSG in preparing their food. Because of this syndrome, most Chinese (and other) restaurants today no longer use MSG. If in doubt, ask the manager or waiters, and instruct them accordingly.


As we prepare to celebrate the birth of Christ, let us remember his teachings and embrace our suffering fellowmen with compassion and care during this sacred season of sharing. That is the best gift we can give ourselves.

Here’s wishing you and your loved ones a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year filled with love, good health, joy, peace, prosperity, and a long life to enjoy them.


For more data, visit 

Average: 5 (1 vote)

Column of the Day

Realities of aging

By PHILIP S. CHUA | March 22,2018
‘We no longer have any excuse not to maximize our health and longevity.’

Opinion of the Day

CenterLaw voids Duterte’s decision

By NESTOR MATA | March 22, 2018
‘The Center for International Law (CenterLaw) voids Duterte’s decision to withdraw from the UNCHR and ICC.’