Spice Up Your Small Talk For The Holidays

Originally published: 12.01.11 by Terry Tanker


After taking a look at my holiday calendar, I decided to take this column in a little different direction this month. It seems that my party calendar starts the week of Thanksgiving and runs through the very last football game on New Year’s Day. There are some parties you want to go to, some you have to go to, and all the others. Often you’ll find yourself speaking with people you’ve never met before, talking about the weather, because that’s an easy topic for small talkers (that’s you). With that in mind, I thought I’d give you a little ammunition to be “the most interesting man in the room.” (Thank you, Mr. Dos Equis.)

Holiday Trivia

The abbreviation Xmas isn’t irreligious. The letter X is a Greek abbreviation for Christ.

The tradition of putting tangerines in stockings comes from 12th-century French nuns who left socks full of fruit and nuts at the houses of the poor.

The 12 days of Christmas are the days between Christmas Day and Epiphany (Jan. 6) and represent the length of time it took for the wise men from the East to visit the manger of Jesus after his birth.

The poinsettia is a traditional Christmas flower. In Mexico (its origin), the poinsettia is known as the “Flower of the Holy Night.”

Surprising History 

It was the accepted practice in Babylon 4,000 years ago that for a month after the wedding, the bride’s father would supply his son-in-law with all the mead he could drink. Mead is a honey beer and because the ancient calendar was lunar based, this period was called the honey month, which we know today as the honeymoon.

Many years ago in England, pub frequenters had a whistle baked into the rim, or handle, of their ceramic cups. When they needed a refill, they used the whistle to get some service. “Wet your whistle” is the phrase inspired by this practice.

The only two people who signed the Declaration of Independence on July 4 were John Hancock and Charles Thomson.

Bulletproof vests, fire escapes, windshield wipers, and laser printers were all invented by women.

Fun With Numbers

The cost of raising a medium-size dog to the age of 11: $6,400

The likelihood of dying on the way to get lottery tickets is greater than the chances of winning. 

If the population of China walked past you, in single file, the line would never end because of the rate of reproduction.

The Saguaro Cactus, found in the Southwestern U.S. does not grow branches until it is 75-years-old.

The speed of a raindrop is 17 miles-per-hour. 

If you were to spell out numbers, you would have to reach one thousand before you used the letter “a.”

General Knowledge

It is impossible to hum if your nose is plugged.

Each king in a deck of playing cards represents a great king from history: Spades, King David; Hearts, King Charlemagne; Clubs, King Alexander; and the Great Diamonds, Julius Caesar.

Standard paper cannot be folded in half more than seven times.

If a statue in the park of a person on a horse has both front legs in the air, the person died in battle; if the horse has one front leg in the air, the person died as a result of wounds received in battle; if the horse has all four legs on the ground, the person died of natural causes.

The name for Oz in “The Wizard of Oz” was thought up when the creator, Frank Baum, looked at his filing cabinet and saw A-N, and O-Z, hence “Oz.”

Name the five space shuttles: Columbia, Challenger, Discovery, Atlantis, and Endeavour.

Rate of solid fuel consumption during take off: 660,000 pounds-per-minute.

Rate of liquid hydrogen consumption during take off: 45,000 gallons-per-minute.

Rate of liquid oxygen consumption during take off: 17,000 gallons-per-minute

Speed in orbit: 17,500 miles-per-hour.

I could go on, but that should be enough to get you through at least one party, and many more if the guest lists change!


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