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Holidays, the happiest days of the year! Well, at least for greeting card companies. Days of celebration aren't without their myths. Let's break down some common misconceptions about holidays.

Misconceptions: A curious show where we debunk common myths, mistakes, and misconceptions about the world.


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Elliott: Hi I'm Elliott and this is Mental_Floss Video, today I'm gonna talk about some misconceptions about various holidays and then I'm gonna go have a piña colada. I don't know why I'm wearing this.

[Mental_Floss intro plays]

Misconception number one: St. Patrick's Day is an Irish holiday because St. Patrick was Irish. Believe it or not, Saint Patrick was born in modern day Britain in 390 CE, and he didn't even identify as a Christian until the age of 16 which was around the time that he was sent to Ireland. So why do we celebrate St. Patrick's Day as an Irish holiday? Well, he is the patron saint of Ireland because he converted many Irish people to Christianity when he was a priest and Irish immigrants in America started celebrating the holiday as early as 1762. In fact, the holiday's often associated more with America more than Ireland where the holiday was a pretty minor affair until the 1970's, when I'm assuming they invented green beer.

Misconception number two: Independence Day is the day the Declaration of Independence was signed. John Adams once wrote to his wife, "I am apt to believe that [July 2, 1776], will be celebrated by succeeding generations, as the great anniversary festival." And that was because July second was the day that the Second Continental Congress voted on the declaration, but it was officially approved on the fourth so that's the day we celebrate, despite some founding fathers who preferred to celebrate on the second. If you want to celebrate when it was signed, you have to wait until August 2nd and nobody wants to do that.

Misconception number three: Thanksgiving is in late November because that's when the first Thanksgiving was held. Actually, it was probably celebrated some time between September 21st and November 11th. We know this because it was inspired by English harvest festivals which were typically celebrated in late September. Abraham Lincoln actually suggested the late November Thanksgiving, it officially became the fourth Thursday of November in 1941.

Misconception number four: Christmas is on December 25th because that's the day Jesus was born. Nowadays it's rare to find a scholar who will argue that Jesus was born on December 25th, and many don't even think he was born in the year 1 CE. It wasn't until around 300 years after Jesus's birth that people started celebrating Christmas in mid winter, so it's hard to believe that the date could be accurate. Plus, some scholars have pointed out that since there are shepherds in the story of Jesus's birth in the bible, it would make more sense if he was born in the spring. Even Pope Benedict the sixteenth wrote that Christmas is probably on the wrong date. December 25th might have been chosen because there was a Pagan celebration called Saturnalia that was celebrated around then. Others argue that it was chosen to be 9 months after Easter because there was a legend that there was a legend that Jesus was killed and conceived at the same time of year.

Misconception number five: Suicides increase during the winter holidays. Actually this phenomenon has been studied extensively and the opposite was found to be true. Suicide rates are highest in the spring and summer according to studies conducted by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Center for Health Statistics, and the Annenberg Public Policy Center. Experts aren't sure why this is, but some believe it has something to do with the fact that people tend to interact more with others during the warmer months causing increased stress. Others claim that sunlight itself makes people more suicidal but regardless, suicides do not increase during the winter holidays.

Misconception number six: Black Friday is the biggest shopping day in the US. This is a widely reported statistic, but the biggest shopping day actually changes from year to year. For several years in the late 2000's, Black Friday was the largest, but in 2013, the Saturday before Christmas retook the crown. It varies widely but currently the momentum seems to be with that Saturday.

Misconception number seven: The dreidel was invented for Hanukkah. Toys similar to the dreidel existed in many ancient cultures long before Hanukkah was a holiday. It's been connected to the Babylonian empire, India, and parts of Europe, and many people used it to gamble rather than celebrate religion. The story goes that in the ancient Seleucid empire, Jewish people adapted the toy into a method for secretly studying the Torah, and that's why it's now associated with Hanukkah.

Misconception number eight: Easter is named after Ishtar. There's a popular myth on the internet that Easter is named after Ishtar who was the Babylonian goddess of fertility and sex. People say that the bunny was Ishtar's symbol since they're often associated with sex which is why we have an Easter bunny. Well, if you think about it, this makes no sense. The holiday of Easter has been around a lot longer than the English word Easter has, so really doesn't make any sense at all. Experts claim that the word Easter probably comes from a Germanic goddess named Ostra and yes, the holiday of Easter was inspired by earlier pagan celebrations but there's no evidence that Ishtar had anything to do with this, so stop bringing her into it.

Misconception number nine: Cinco de Mayo is Mexican Independence Day. Cinco de Mayo celebrates the day of the Battle of Puebla which occurred in 1862 when France was occupying part of Mexico. On May 5th of that year the Mexican army defeated the French army in the city of Puebla. Within five years the French no longer occupied Mexico. Mexican Independence Day is on September 16th, by the way. It celebrates the start of the Mexican War of Independence against Spain in 1810.

Misconception number ten: New Year's Day is the most unsafe day to drive. A lot of people in the U.S. think that New Year's is the most risky time to drive because there are more inebriated drivers on the road, and of course you should always be safe on the road and never drink and drive, but roads are typically more dangerous during summer holidays like the 4th of July and Memorial Day.

Thanks for watching Misconceptions on Mental_Floss video. If you have a topic for an upcoming Misconceptions episode that you would like to see, leave it in the comments. Also, apologies to the season of summer for giving it a bad rap in this video. And I'll see you next week. I'm gonna go, uh, I'm gonna go change.