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How Charles Dickens became 'Mr. Christmas'

Cash for Christmas

"In 1844, Charles Dickens published a Christmas story that became a smash hit, selling 20,000 copies and inspiring five stage adaptations within three months," writes Andrea Mullaney in The Scotsman. "No, not A Christmas Carol, but The Chimes, the tale of a ticket porter taught a lesson by the spirits of the bell tower and their goblin assistants, who show him a dreadful vision of how his daughter's future will turn out if he doesn't learn not to be so cynical about human nature. … Charles Dickens didn't become 'Mr. Christmas' by accident: He practically trademarked the holiday. And today's confused modern Christmas, which mixes idealized sentimentality with cold hard avarice … is not a corruption of the 'perfect' Dickensian Christmas but its direct descendant. It's ironic that A Christmas Carol, which famously condemns Ebenezer Scrooge's miserliness, was written for cash. In 1843, Dickens was worried about money. …"

Christmas tree syndrome

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"Don't be too quick to judge those who feel under the weather over the festive period – rather than seasonal overindulgence, it could be their Christmas tree making them ill," reports The Daily Telegraph. "… The condition – 'Christmas tree syndrome' – is caused by mould growing on the trees, whose spores lead to problems when breathed in. It has been discovered by scientists from Upstate Medical University, part of the State University of New York, who carried out research after observing a peak in respiratory illnesses in the weeks either side of Dec. 25. The team analyzed clippings from 28 Christmas trees including needles and bark, from a range of species, and found 53 cases of mould. Of these, 70 per cent can cause symptoms including itchy noses, watery eyes, coughing, shortness of breath, chest pains, sinus congestion, feelings of fatigue and problems sleeping."

Me, naughty?

From The Case Against Santa at "To start, the Christmas mythology has it that Santa is a being who is morally omniscient – he knows whether we are bad or good, and in fact keeps a record of our acts. Additionally, he is somnically omniscient – he sees us when we're sleeping, he knows when we're awake. Santa has unacceptable capacities for monitoring our actions, and he exercises them! In a similar vein, Santa takes himself to be entitled to enter our homes, in the night and when we're not looking, despite the fact that we have locked the doors. In other words, Santa does not respect our privacy. He watches us constantly."

When the drinking is sweet

"Loud music and noisy environments have been shown to make alcohol taste sweeter and impair judgment, says a new study," reports Agence France-Presse. "At a bar where the music is so loud you can't hear yourself think? Be mindful of the number of drinks you tip back. … According to a British study out of the University of Portsmouth … the volume of music and noise in a drinking environment could alter the taste of alcohol and have a significant impact on consumption."

Bothered by carols?

Some tips for silencing carolers, from The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook: Holidays:

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– "Answer the door in a robe or towel. Embarrassed, the carolers may simply leave. Nudity (even partial) may offend them and make them unable to sing. Call to another person inside the house (real or imaginary), 'I'll be right back.'"

– "Send them to someone else. Smile and point to the house of a stranger or a neighbour you dislike, and say, 'My friend over there really loves carols!' A house that is lavishly decorated for the season will prove irresistible to them."

Born to shop?

"Scientists say we are to some extent wired for shopping," reports Associated Press. "It seems to tap into circuits that originally spurred our ancestors to go out looking for food, says Brian Knutson, an associate professor of psychology and neuroscience at Stanford University. 'We are built to forage, just like rats, just like dogs,' Prof. Knutson said. So we have brain circuitry that 'compels us to go out there … to get good stuff, even if we don't know what that good stuff is.' … When you're surrounded by attractive goods and crowds of people buying them, 'natural human desires can trigger off intense cravings' to buy,' says George Loewenstein, a professor of economics and psychology at Carnegie Mellon University. 'Not spending when you're tempted to spend is exhausting and miserable,' like not eating when you're hungry, he says."

Thought du Jour

"He who sings scares away his woes."

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– Miguel de Cervantes (1547-1616), Spanish novelist, poet

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