How To: Die Laughing

A Sense of Humor
Poor Health

Tip #1: Watch "Seinfeld"
It's not a common problem, to be sure, but there was one person who almost kicked it following repeated exposure to "man hands" and "the soup nazi." Back in 1997, a Massachusetts man started inexplicably passing out every time he watched the show. Naturally, after this happened a couple of times, the man became concerned enough to visit a doctor, which was how he ended up watching his next episode with a neurologist chaperone taking notes. Sure enough, one good joke was enough to knock the man out. But (sadly for the neurologist's professional ambitions) there wasn't some crazy new disorder at work. Instead, the man turned out to have cholesterol-plugged arteries, which when combined with the (relatively) heavy physical labor of laughing, cut off blood flow to his brain.
Tip #2: Go Crazy
What's Laughing Psychosis? Picture the Joker from Batman and you're on the right track. According to Final Exits by Michael Largo, laughing psychosis is a debilitating progressive neurological disorder triggered by an excess of amino acids in the brain. As these amino acids coagulate into a big mass they cause various synapses to start misfiring, leading victims to start laughing for no reason. As the disease progresses, they'll often wake up in the middle of the night caught in fits of laughter. More than mere chuckles, victims begin to see things that aren't there and experience a break with reality not unlike what happens to schizophrenics. Naturally, when you hallucinate like that, you're much more likely to do something that leads to your death. The group most affected by the disorder: Women ages 15 to 30, who have higher levels of estrogen that may help the amino acids to start getting out of control.

Bleat Along to Classic Holiday Tunes With This Goat Christmas Album

Feeling a little Grinchy this month? The Sweden branch of ActionAid, an international charity dedicated to fighting global poverty, wants to goat—errr ... goad—you into the Christmas spirit with their animal-focused holiday album: All I Want for Christmas is a Goat.

Fittingly, it features the shriek-filled vocal stylings of a group of festive farm animals bleating out classics like “Jingle Bells,” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” and “O Come All Ye Faithful.” The recording may sound like a silly novelty release, but there's a serious cause behind it: It’s intended to remind listeners how the animals benefit impoverished communities. Goats can live in arid nations that are too dry for farming, and they provide their owners with milk and wool. In fact, the only thing they can't seem to do is, well, sing. 

You can purchase All I Want for Christmas is a Goat on iTunes and Spotify, or listen to a few songs from its eight-track selection below.

What Are the 12 Days of Christmas?

Everyone knows to expect a partridge in a pear tree from your true love on the first day of Christmas ... But when is the first day of Christmas?

You'd think that the 12 days of Christmas would lead up to the big day—that's how countdowns work, as any year-end list would illustrate—but in Western Christianity, "Christmas" actually begins on December 25th and ends on January 5th. According to liturgy, the 12 days signify the time in between the birth of Christ and the night before Epiphany, which is the day the Magi visited bearing gifts. This is also called "Twelfth Night." (Epiphany is marked in most Western Christian traditions as happening on January 6th, and in some countries, the 12 days begin on December 26th.)

As for the ubiquitous song, it is said to be French in origin and was first printed in England in 1780. Rumors spread that it was a coded guide for Catholics who had to study their faith in secret in 16th-century England when Catholicism was against the law. According to the Christian Resource Institute, the legend is that "The 'true love' mentioned in the song is not an earthly suitor, but refers to God Himself. The 'me' who receives the presents refers to every baptized person who is part of the Christian Faith. Each of the 'days' represents some aspect of the Christian Faith that was important for children to learn."

In debunking that story, Snopes excerpted a 1998 email that lists what each object in the song supposedly symbolizes:

2 Turtle Doves = the Old and New Testaments
3 French Hens = Faith, Hope and Charity, the Theological Virtues
4 Calling Birds = the Four Gospels and/or the Four Evangelists
5 Golden Rings = the first Five Books of the Old Testament, the "Pentateuch", which gives the history of man's fall from grace.
6 Geese A-laying = the six days of creation
7 Swans A-swimming = the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, the seven sacraments
8 Maids A-milking = the eight beatitudes
9 Ladies Dancing = the nine Fruits of the Holy Spirit
10 Lords A-leaping = the ten commandments
11 Pipers Piping = the eleven faithful apostles
12 Drummers Drumming = the twelve points of doctrine in the Apostle's Creed

There is pretty much no historical evidence pointing to the song's secret history, although the arguments for the legend are compelling. In all likelihood, the song's "code" was invented retroactively.

Hidden meaning or not, one thing is definitely certain: You have "The Twelve Days of Christmas" stuck in your head right now.


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