RLM Holiday Blog: Christmas Stuff We No Longer Grasp

By Mike Turner | December 7, 2016

For this year’s holiday blog, we present our observations on yuletide traditions that are mildly confusing.

All of us at Red Letter Marketing adore holiday customs and lore—even when we’re not really sure what they mean. Some traditions have been around so long that we in the 21st century find ourselves befuddled by them. For this year’s holiday blog, we’ve crafted a review of some of the odder Christmas customs, which we still love despite our befuddlement.

Father Christmas

You’ve heard of Father Christmas. And you have no idea who he is. You run through the options: Maybe Santa? But there is already a name for Santa and it goes like this: “Santa.” So, clearly that’s not it. Could Father Christmas be Jesus? Somehow calling our Lord and Savior “Father Christmas” seems vaguely sacrilegious. So who is this enigmatic paternal figure? Of course you could spend less than one minute on Google and dispel the mystery—but where’s the fun in that?

Smoking Bishop

You may think we’re making this up but no, this holiday-related term shows up in A Christmas Carol. “Smoking Bishop” sounds both hilarious and vaguely disturbing. While we here at Red Letter always strive to provoke laughter tinged with discomfort, we cannot claim this one as our own invention. Is the term a metaphor? If it is not metaphorical but literal—why would a bishop smoke? Everyone knows the habit is not healthy and sets a bad example for the kids. We’d tell you what a smoking bishop is but we just ran out of space.

Tiny Tim’s Crutch

We’re overjoyed when we learn, at the end of A Christmas Carol, that Tiny Tim did NOT die, thanks to the generosity of All-New Scrooge. But what, exactly, did Tiny Tim suffer from? Dickens did not specify—perhaps because Victorian London was so thick with sickly children that his readers didn’t need details. It was enough to know that Tiny Tim was the youngest child of a poor family; he had a crutch; and he was doomed. Sadly, Tiny’s bleak situation was totally normal at the time. Modern readers are truly blessed to be clueless about all this.

Vixen and Blitzen

We’ve all heard “’Twas the Night Before Christmas” so many times that we don’t even notice the weird stuff, such as the borderline-disturbing names of a few of the reindeer. Everybody’s fine with Dancer and Prancer—it is plausible that reindeer can prance and dance, especially if they are the special breed of reindeer that can also fly. But what is up with the name Vixen? Let’s just put it on the table: the name “Vixen” is not kid-appropriate. And then there’s this: Blitzen! This is the German word for lightning. If we’re going to name a reindeer using a foreign word for lethal electricity, could we at least consider French or Italian? The word “Blitzen” actually sounds like you’re getting zapped with 10,000 volts.

Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire

This holiday treat sure sounds toasty ’n’ delicious! Wouldn’t it be great if the world we actually live in featured chestnuts roasting on an open fire? Why, yes! Yes it would. But open-fire chestnuts are the Sasquatch of holiday treats. We kind of want them to exist, but we’re pretty sure we’ll never see them. But hang on, people—let’s not just passively accept this fate. The modern world makes almost anything possible. Perhaps we can mount a campaign to persuade Williams & Sonoma to offer an “Open Fire Chestnut Roaster” for a reasonable price.

A One-Horse Open Sleigh

The whole premise here is an engineering fraud. We’re asked to imagine a vehicle going over fields—(sorry, “o’er” fields)—carrying a passel of passengers, and the ride is so sweet that everybody aboard is supposedly laughing all the way. Reality check: nobody’s going to be laughing in a vehicle propelled by a horsepower of one! There will be no “dashing.” That ride is going to be a stop-and-start affair the whole time. Will the bells on bobtails ring? Possibly—but only in the short stretches where the sleigh is jolting forward, before stopping again to let that poor horse take a breather.

Thanks for checking out our holiday blog.

Wishing you and yours a merry Christmas,

Your friends at Red Letter Marketing