Holiday Myths Dispelled


It's December, and you know what that means. For quite a few of us, it's a time to take some time to celebrate with friends and family. In this way, the holidays bring presents, food and all sorts of memorable times. However, along with these things come several myths that seem to have persisted over the years. I'm going to attempt to dispel some of the secular ones; we don't all celebrate the same things, and a list of Christmas-related myths would probably take weeks to write. Here are some of the myths I've personally heard, and the truth behind them. 

-Poinsettia plants are poisonous. While they are certainly not something you want your children and/or pets to eat, they don't have the poison properties they are thought to have. They have a sap that tastes terrible and can make a pet sick, but they would have to eat about 500+ leaves in order for them to have any long-lasting effect. If you're concerned, put the plants out of reach.

-Suicides are higher during the holidays than any other time of the year. This doesn't hold up to statistical scrutiny. It's certainly understandable that someone might be more prone to depression during the colder months when it gets dark early, and people who are alone might feel bad when seeing all the happiness and 'togetherness' others have. However, studies have shown that suicide rates are much more related to mental illness than they are to any other external factor. The 'blues' I mention above are simply not the same thing as the clinical depression or bipolar that are behind many suicides because these disorders have a medical cause-a chemical imbalance in the brain that affects emotions and actions. Even though some of the depressive episodes associated with bipolar may come in the winter (as they do with me), they could come at any time of the year. It's the disorders, not the time of year, that are at work here.

In fact, some studies from the National Center for Health Statistics have shown that suicide rates are actually lower during December, possibly because of all the 'togetherness'! The cause hasn't been verified, though.

-Eating later in the day makes you gain weight. Yes, there are a lot of holiday parties and dinners in the evenings that serve all kinds of decadent food. But will you gain more weight by eating these things at night than you would during the day? The answer is no. While it makes sense to think that daytime might give you more time to 'burn off' the calories, weight gain comes from consuming more calories than you burn. Period. It doesn't matter what time of day.

-If you go outside without a coat or with wet hair, you'll get sick. I must confess I am guilty of this-I don't like coats and will often put my wet hair up in a clip rather than using a hair dryer. I've never gotten sick this way, and neither has anyone else. They'll definitely make you feel cold, but they won't make you catch one. The runny nose you might get from cold air is a completely different condition called 'vasomotor rhinitis'.

-New Years' Eve is the most dangerous time to drive. This is partly true. This myth is understandable when we think of all the drunken ways people bring in the new year, but it's actually not the night with the most fatalities. According to AAA, it's the night with the most deaths related to drunk driving, but not the most deaths total. That 'honor' goes to July 4. Either way, be careful.

I hope I've managed to dispel at least a few of the myths associated with the December holidays. What other urban legends have you heard?

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