Did You Know? Collected From Our Newsletters

Alaskan Reindeer
Alaskan Reindeer
"Santa Claus in Camp" by Thomas Nast
"Santa Claus in Camp" by Thomas Nast
  • Alaska has over 6,600 miles of coastline, is 2,700 miles from side to side, has 17 of the 20 highest peaks in the country, is the largest state and has the lowest population density in the country. There are 22 different native languages spoken in Alaska!
  • Alaska, home of the town "North Pole" is experiencing a Santa shortage. No joke! Read more at Alaska Daily News. (But don't worry. Santa always visits the Wild Berry Theater!)
  • Bing Crosby once said, “Unless we make Christmas an occasion to share our blessings, all the snow in Alaska won't make it."
  • The earliest representation of Santa Claus on his reindeer-drawn sleigh is a patriotic 1863 Harper's Weekly cover by the great political cartoonist Thomas Nast. "Santa Claus in Camp" shows Santa delivering wooden boxes of gifts including toys and socks to American Civil War soldiers.
  • Reindeer were originally introduced to Alaska by Dr. Sheldon Jackson in the late 1800s as a replacement food source for native people after widespread whale harvests devastated their traditional way of life.
  • One legend says that Valentine's Day dates back to 270 AD. The Roman Emperor Claudius II decreed that his subjects could no longer marry. The emperor wanted the men to fight his wars, not stay home with their families. A priest named Valentine defied the law by performing marriages. Claudius had him executed and every anniversary is celebrated as a monument to love.
  • The earliest known Valentines messages were penned by Charles, Duke of Orleans, who was held captive after the battle of Agincourt in 1415. During 25 comfortable but tedious years he wrote at least 60 love poems to his wife, many referring to "Seynt Valentine" and bemoaning his loneliness.
  • It's thought that the word "Easter" derives from the Anglo-Saxon goddess of spring, Eostre. Or maybe the origin is the Babylonian goddess Ishtar. Between the name, the rabbit, the egg, and even the symbolism of hot cross buns, the mythologies of many ancient religions are wrapped up together in our modern holiday.
  • The 1990s Emmy-winning television series Northern Exposure celebrated life in a small Alaskan town that some think was modeled on Talkeetna a few hours north of Anchorage. For 6 seasons an odd mix of characters explored the unique experience of living far away from the comforts – and constraints – of civilization.
  • The modern Mother's Day dates back to 1870, but worldwide there have been many different special times for honoring mothers. The ancient Romans celebrated a three-day festival for the Egyptian mother goddess Isis. They also revered a Phrygian and Hittite goddess, Cybele who they called "Magna Mater" (The Great Mother). Hindus in India celebrate Durga Puja for 10 days in October. The Japanese celebrate haha no hi and Mexicans celebrate Día de las madres. In 1600s England, a more familiar ritual for everyone's mother was called "Mothering Day." Just remember, everyone has a mother!
  • Father's Day is overshadowed by its more celebrated cousin, Mother's Day. Maybe this is because of deep societal traditions surrounding a mother's importance. Or perhaps we believe the patriarch doesn't need an organized affirmation of gratitude. Nonetheless, whether you recognize your father's contribution through a card, chocolates, or a simple heartfelt phone call, you should know it began when Sonora Dodd, the "Mother of Father's Day", listened to a Mother's Day sermon in 1909 and realized something was missing.
  • Isn't it odd that the fireworks we use to celebrate Independence Day in the U.S. were invented and are mostly manufactured in China?
  • Edward Teller, the father of the hydrogen bomb, was famous for thinking up unusual uses for his invention. In the 1958 he convinced the Atomic Energy Commission to use five thermonuclear bombs to dig a new deep water port at Alaska's North Slope. Nearby Inupiat Eskimos objected and nobody could think of an actual reason to have a port there anyway, so Operation Chariot was eventually cancelled. Experiments with nuclear waste on the site did contaminate the soil however.
  • Oil traveling from Prudhoe Fields along the famous 800-mile Alaskan Pipeline is heated to keep it flowing freely and prevent ice buildup. The oil is kept at approximately 120 degrees fahrenheit. The pipe is 4-feet in diameter and mostly above ground but at many places it's buried under the permafrost. Oil takes almost a week to make the trip and has been traveling nearly continuously since 1977.
  • Wasilla has been in the news a lot lately. Did you know it's Alaska's 4th largest population area? The town was first established in 1916 and was named after a famous Knik Indian, Chief Wasilla. Officially incorporated in 1974, it was also briefly considered as a new state capitol in 1994.
  • The moose has got to be one of the most ridiculous looking animals. The author Doug Evans says, "It's as though God had set off to design a fairly normal looking deer but having found Himself with a bunch of nose and leg material left over ... just threw them in." Moose have such long legs their bodies happen to be at the height of your average windshield. In Alaska hitting a moose on the highway can be a death sentence for driver and the moose as well.
  • The origins of Christmas are murky. Everyone knows it celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ, but did you know that Christmas is probably not his actual birthday? Of course governments didn't keep careful records then as they do now, and no birth certificate exists. Historians disagree what date or even year he was born. It's thought that December 25 was chosen for a ceremonial date to correspond to the Winter Solstice since other religions already had a big holiday then.
  • The luscious chocolate truffle was originally invented by the great french chef Auguste Escoffier in the 1920s. While it looks much like the famed (and ridiculously expensive!) fungus that grows in France, Italy, and Oregon, it's actually a ball of ganache (a blend of cream and chocolate) and often covered in a shell of solid chocolate. Truffles can be flavored and decorated but are sometimes just rolled in plain cocoa the way Escoffier did.
  • Chinese New Year typically falls on the second new moon after the winter solstice. In 2009 that occurs on January 26. In heavily ethnic Chinese areas the 15 day celebration is lively and exciting with parades, family gatherings, and gifts. As well, it's traditional to eat candy and sweets to assure a sweet year. Practice saying "Gong hei fat choi" which means "I wish you happiness and prosperity!"
  • A strange tradition called "Vinegar Valentines" began in the mid-1800s. Humorous cards filled with mild rhyming insults were sold for a penny. These cards could be sent anonymously and because of how the postal service worked in those days, the recipient even had to pay the postage!


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