Wonder Wednesday: The Origin Of Christmas Elves

Merry Christmas! 😀 I know it’s not Wednesday yet, but I wanted to post this on Christmas, so here it is a day early. 🙂

Image Credit: Pixabay

I had this post in mind for a while, and I couldn’t decide which part of Christmas I wanted to focus on. Last year, I researched holly, mistletoe, wreaths, trees, and yuletide. (I intended to research one, but it turned out they were all related, so I just did one monster post with the info I found.) This year I wanted something different… I had it narrowed down to Santa and the elves but I couldn’t decide which I wanted to do. However, T. R. Noble covered Santa Claus in this post (click to read!) and made my decision for me. (Great job, T. R., I enjoyed that post so much!) So I’m going to focus on elves. 🙂

Forget the little creatures with pointy hats for a moment. The elves of folklore were not like that. They were beautiful and even seductive.

Image Credit – Wikipedia Commons

The picture reminds me more of the Greek nymphs (oreads and dryads specifically) rather than elves… I’ll stop here with that line of thought, I don’t want to digress too much.

Image Credit: Pixabay

They were magical beings credited with helping people or harming them. The good ones were called elves. The bad ones were called gnomes. (Finding this out makes me want to research why it’s common to put gnomes in the yard and such… 🤨) When looking at the research, it seems like they should be associated with Halloween and trick or treat instead of Christmas… 🤪 Anyway. Digressing again.

The small, imp-like beings were made popular by Shakespeare in A Midsummer Nights Dream. The taller ones were made popular by J. R. R. Tolkien in Lord of the Rings.

Image Credit: Pixabay

It seems that the reason elves became associated with Christmas is the same reason for Saint Nicholas becoming Santa Claus – the poem, A Visit from St. Nicholas. One line reads, “He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf…”

I can’t imagine Santa as an elf. But if he was considered an elf at the time of the poem, then his helpers were simply the same as he was I guess. Until someone took Santa and made him more grandfatherly and… human.

The reason that elves now work at the North pole might be because of an old story about elves helping a shoemaker. The Elves and the Shoemaker, a story from Grimm’s Fairytales, also talks about leaving a gift for the elves for their help, sort of how milk and cookies are customarily left out for Santa.

Image Credit: Pixabay

One thing during my research that I found disturbing is that some early accounts of the word were used as a replacement for demon… here, it talked about in 900 when elf was used as a replacement for Satan. Looks like some theorize that good elves were actually angels and bad elves were actually demons. 😲

Didn’t expect to find that in my research. Seems like I almost always find out something surprising in my research lately.

Before I sign off, I want to give a shoutout to  Diana at La Petit Muse: Was Jesus Born On The 25th? and T. R. Noble: Holiday Traditions… An idol? who also wrote about Christmas traditions and such. 🙂

Hope you all had a Merry Christmas! ❤


Wonder Wednesdays: How Does A Fire Extinguisher Work?

Image Credit: Pixabay

Some fire extinguishers work with spraying water under pressure, but I noticed that some seem to spray out some sort of powder. (And if you’ve seen videos of exploding coffee creamer, then you’ll understand my confusion. 🤣) Turns out, many powder substances when blown into the air becomes flammable, such as sawdust, flour, non-dairy coffee creamer, pollen, powdered milk, cocoa, grain, starch, sugar, and even some metals. The worst dust explosion happened in 1942 in China. The coal-dust explosion killed 1,549 people – 34% of the workers in the mine.

Image Credit: Wikipedia

Found this poster from World War I in Wikipedia’s creative commons. It was put out after six dust explosions. 😬

Image Credit: Wikipedia

A dust explosion happens when something ignites a dispersed flammable substance (fuel) in a confined area.

I do realize that not all powders are combustible, but it made me wonder what is inside a fire extinguisher and why the aerated powder doesn’t combust.

Image Credit: Wikipedia

Fires can happen when heat, oxygen, and fuel combine. You get fire as a chain reaction. A fire extinguisher is designed to remove at least one of these three things, which makes the chain reaction stop.

There are three types of fire extinguishers: water-based (removes heat from the fire), dry chemical (usually filled with foam or a mix of monoammonium phosphate and ammonium sulfate powder with a nitrogen propellant – this works by removing oxygen from the fire), and carbon dioxide (a mix of liquid and gaseous carbon dioxide removes oxygen and heat).

It looks like different extinguishers are used for different fires. For example, you don’t want to use a water-based one for an electrical fire because you may get electrocuted, and you don’t want to use the dry chemical extinguisher on a chlorine or oxidizer fire because that could cause it to explode.

So in short… under the right circumstances, a dry chemical extinguisher COULD explode. 😱

Image Credit: Pixabay

Go figure.

Wonder Wednesdays: Who invented the battery?

Image Credit: Unsplash

Answer: Two Italian Scientists, Alessandro Volta (<– yes, this is the guy that volts are named after) and Luigi Galvani, had an argument about why a frog’s leg contracted. (I bet you didn’t expect the answer to this to begin like this… trust me, I didn’t either… 😆) Luigi apparently did a lot of experiments with frog legs. Disgusting. Anyway, moving along…

He discovered that a frog’s leg would contract when forming a circuit with two different metals. Luigi proclaimed that it was “animal electricity” phenomenon that caused this, but Alessandro argued with him and proved that it happened because of the metals and the electrolyte between them – the frog leg.

Man, all I wanted to know was how the battery was invented, I didn’t want to read about dead frogs. I really like frogs…

Okay, after looking at beautiful, living frogs that I have met over the years (and a few toads because why not, they also make my heart happy), I feel better and will continue. 😆

FINALLY abandoning the dead frog parts, Alessandro Volta stacked disks of copper and zinc together, with these stacks separated by salty-water-soaked cloths. He called this the voltaic pile. And by doing so, he invented the battery. This happened in 1800. 😁

…before I finish with my “Who invented the first battery” answer, I had to find out how stacking copper and zinc with brine-soaked fabric would create any form of battery because to me, that sounds just like what says. Metal, salt, and a wet salty towel. How could you power anything with that?

Image Credit: Shutterstock

Looks like it has to do with a chemical reaction between the brine and the metals. Interesting how this made a steady current. Anyway, back on topic…

This answer only applies to electric batteries. There are other mentions of batteries as far back as Benjamin Franklin when he was experimenting with electricity by linking capacitors.

However, 1700’s is nothing… the oldest battery was actually found in Baghdad. They were created somewhere between 200 BC and 225 AD. It consisted of an asphalt stopper, copper cylinder surrounding an iron bar, in an electrolyte solution, all inside a clay pot. o_O (I didn’t find any free images for this, so if you want to see it, click here for one of my sources for this article that has photos.)

And like most people, I wondered what these people needed a battery for – surely they didn’t have anything to power back then. Some use the argument that the Chinese invented gunpowder thousands of years before they used it for combustion, therefore, these “batteries” may not have been used to power anything. There are many theories out there. One likely theory is that they used these batteries for electroplating and gilding. Another is that these things were hidden inside the idols of the day to cause a shock to someone who touched them to give them validity to their “power.”

Whatever the reason for these “batteries,” they seem to be the first batteries known. 😄

Wonder Wednesdays: What attracts cats to catnip?

Answer: The catnip plant has oil by the name of”nepetalactone” in it.  When nepetalactone hit the olfactory receptors – er – the scent hits their noses, the oil stimulates receptors that sense chemicals called “pheromones.”

This causes a chemical reaction which gives a feline a feeling of euphoria or overwhelming glee.

In other words…

They get a safe high.

It looks like the effect that catnip has on cats is compared to a hallucinogen on humans. 😲 Thankfully, the effects don’t last too long.

Some cats have reactions such as growling, drooling, purring, or rolling around on the floor with the catnip like they lost all their senses. Others seem to pay no attention to it at all.

Research shows that only 50% to 75% of cats have a reaction to catnip. It also seems to be in the genes – if a cat who doesn’t react has kittens, it is likely that the kittens won’t react either.

Fun fact: The majority of cats in Australia don’t react to catnip.

Catnip also affects cats besides the housecats – tigers, leopards, lions and other wild cats.

And it repels bugs! Mosquitoes, termites, roaches, and flies hate it. The chemicals are stronger than DEET! Sadly, it loses it’s superpower when applied to the skin. But still, this makes me want to plant catnip all over the place. Arkansas has some serious mosquito problems.

And as for humans… oddly enough, when ingested as a tea, it can act like a sedative.

If you have followed along with Wonder Wednesdays long, you probably noticed that I usually use stock images for them. However, in this edition of Wonder Wednesday, all the photos are mine. These are all lovely cats I’ve had over the years. Some have passed away, and others I gave away as kittens.

The cats (from the top down) are Scout, Bullet, Rabbit, Sissy (the tabby), Skippy (the black one), Lion, and Tux. ❤

Wonder Wednesdays: Oleomargarine Becomes Tickled Pink

Last time, we learned what oleomargarine is and how it’s made, and who made it. Today, we’ll explore the journey of acceptance in America. Because apparently, the American dairy farmers didn’t like having competition; they wanted to keep their monopoly. They wanted to stick it to the oleomargarine makers and went down a slippery slope to do it. (Sorry – you know that butter and margarine puns are going to happen. 😄)

In the 1870’s, oleomargarine came to the United States. A decade later, the dairy industry succeeded in helping make the Margarine Act, forcing margarine makers to get permits and such to make it and taxed it by two cents a pound, and later, ten cents a pound. (And if you were wondering, here is what it would be like if you account for inflation: $0.10 in 1880 → $2.34 in 2018)

Six states decided to simply ban margarine altogether. Not surprisingly, one of them was Wisconson, the dairy state, where senator Joseph Quarles argued that butter should come from the life-giving milk, not the fat of the dead cow.

Some sources mentioned having political cartoons for this agenda, so I did a bit of research and found one:

To be fair, I didn’t really need much convincing – learning how it’s made (it is usually made out of hydrogenated vegetable oil instead of beef fat nowadays but still) is enough to make me choose butter. Surely arsenic didn’t go in it, that’s poison. Hopefully, it was lying about that. Although food coloring can come from disgusting sources. Anyway…

What followed is that dairy farmers wanted to stick it to the margarine producers and accused margarine makers of trying to mislead people by selling it as butter. Margarine is white after it is first made, and then dyed to look more like butter. So legislation was passed that margarine had to tint their product to a color other than yellow.  (Even though corn-fed cows produced white butter which was then dyed yellow. It’s like the pot calling the kettle black, except, the butter was calling the margarine yellow… 😆)

Several states even forced margarine makers to dye it a certain color – pink. These laws were later overturned. (Wisconsin was the last to do so in 1967.)

Thanks to the Great Depression and the butter shortage of World War Two, margarine slipped ahead of butter in popularity, and was no longer colored pink, but was tickled pink. However, around 2004, butter started to become more popular than margarine again, so I’m sure it’s now feeling blue.

And what’s fun is, Parkay actually made pink margarine as recently as 2002 – and blue margarine too!

How weird is that? And this concludes this edition of Wonder Wednesday. 🙂