Thursday, December 22, 2011

Happy Festivus!

Merry Christmas! A topographically correct Christmas tree ornament! 

OK, couldn’t resist doing a Christmas-themed posting! And I found out that in my soon-to-be-home in Scotland, they call this "the festive season," which of course reminded me of George Constanza's father on the old Seinfeld sitcom who wanted to change the name of the Christmas holiday season to the non-denominational "Festivus," with his catchy slogan "Festivus for the Rest of us!" So, whether you are celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Winter Solstice, or nothing more than "Peace on Earth, Good Will towards All," I wish you a happy and peaceful season. And festive, of course!
Here are some seasonally-appropriate maps, including one from our friends at NOAA depicting the probability of a White Christmas in the U.S.; The one right below is the ACTUAL forecast of a White Christmas for 2011.

Santa’s Special Places Map, showing Christmas-related toponyms;

Map showing the locations of communities who engage in filling up jars of change for the poor (??!!), from a website called;
And of course, don’t forget the ever-popular NORAD Santa-tracker.  If you have small kids who still “believe,” this is a cool activity you can do on the computer or smart phone at the NORAD website on Christmas Eve.  The North American Aerospace Defense Command does this every year, and it is actually pretty fun to watch in real time.  How does he get around the world delivering all those gifts in one night?  Now you can find out!
And, can’t let the holiday season get us all treacle-y and sentimental – Here’s some holiday-themed graffiti to sober us up!  (Thanks, Urban Demographics blog, for posting this photo.)


  1. The town in Florida is called "Donner". The reindeer pulling Santa's sleigh is named "Donder". The second "N" over Vero Beach becomes a sad commentary on American myths and popular culture. We named the reindeer and can't even get their names right.

    The map is well intended but inaccurate without the correct spelling of Donder's name. Since no place or thing in the US is named "Donder" it may have to suffice for the sake of satisfying illiterate children's holiday mapping needs around the country.

    Continuing in the quest to teach humans to spell their own language...


  2. Greetings, Bill, and thanks for your comment. While I agree with you in general about the problem of American illiteracy (and innumeracy, and geographic ignorance, etc.) in this case that you bring up of Donner versus Donder, we might not be too quick to fault the author of the "Santa’s Special Places" map. In fact, in the 1823 poem, A Visit from St. Nicholas (also called ‘Twas the Night before Christmas, which is widely believed to be the popularizing impetus for the tale of Santa’s reindeer), Donder or Donner was actually “Dunder,” and “Blitzen” was “Blixem.” Now-a-days, Donner is usually the preferred spelling. Apparently, it depends whether you want to favor the Dutch or the German spelling, but either way, they mean “Thunder” and “Lightning.” When it comes to given names or surnames, (as opposed to other nouns) oftentimes there is considerable leeway in spelling, as anyone can tell you when they come across Shawn, Sean, Shane, Shayne, Shaine, Shaun, or any of the many variants! And when we go back hundreds of years in time, it gets even more dicey as to what constitutes the “correct” way to spell anything.
    From the Wikipedia entry for “Santa Claus’s reindeer”: “In An American Anthology, 1787–1900, Edmund Clarence Stedman reprints the 1844 Clement Clarke Moore version of the poem, including the German spelling of "Donder and Blitzen," rather than the original 1823 version using the Dutch spelling, "Dunder and Blixem." Both phrases translate as "Thunder and Lightning" in English, though German for thunder is now spelled Donner, and the Dutch words would nowadays be spelled Donder and Bliksem.”