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Skullcaps: The Pope's vs. a Rabbi's - What's the difference?

Cardinals wear red ones. The Pope wears a white one. Rabbis often wear black ones. What's the difference?

Well, in this case, form does not follow function. Let's start with rabbis. Theirs are called kippot (pronounced keypoat), which is the Hebrew word for skullcap. The singular is kippah (keypah). You might have also heard them called yarmulkes (pronounced yamakas), which is a Yiddish word taken from the Polish word for skullcap. The reason why rabbis and many observant Jews wear them is because the religious book, the Talmud, orders them to: "Cover your head in order that the fear of heaven may be upon you."

So basically, it's a way of showing respect for God.

Cardinals and Popes, on the other hand, wear zucchettos, which is the Italian for a small gourd. (This may be because the panels sewn together to make the cap resemble the dome of a pumpkin or gourd.) The tradition of wearing the skullcap is markedly different from the rabbinic tradition. Catholic clergy originally wore them to address two issues: their short haircuts and the problem of not having a hood on their copes. Monasteries used to insist that men shaved the crown of the head, based on Paul's writing: "Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair, it is degrading to him"¦" (1 Corinthians 11:14) In fact, to this day, when the Orthodox talk about the day on which a priest was ordained or a monk entered a monastery, they refer to the date he was tonsured, which is the fancy word for buzzed.

Combine this, with the fact that copes with hoods went out of fashion in the 13th century, and you begin to see where the tradition comes from. Yes, they were cold in the winter! (What with the lack of modern-day heating and such in our cathedrals.) Of course, today they don't need them to stay warm, but the tradition lives on.

And there are other religions and other similar traditions of covering the head. Zoroastrians wear topis; Druze men sometimes don a doppa and Buddhists often wear a bao-tzu.

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Want Priority Boarding On Your Alaska Airlines Flight This Holiday Season? Wear an Ugly Christmas Sweater
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Between steep fares and crowded terminals, flying during the holidays isn’t fun. But on Friday, December 15, a special Alaska Airlines promotion will ease boarding stress and transform packed planes into mile-high ugly sweater parties, in honor of National Ugly Christmas Sweater Day. As the Los Angeles Times reports, the airline will offer free early boarding to travelers willing to don their holiday worst at the airport.

The promotion is good for all Alaska Airlines flights in the airline’s 115-city network, and for flights offered by Virgin America and Horizon Air (both of which are operated by Alaska Airlines). In addition to escaping the waiting crowds, passengers who share the most festive knitted looks will be featured on Alaska Air's social media pages if they tag their photos and videos using the hashtags #UglySweaterDay and #MostWestCoast. And since no plane aisle-turned-catwalk is complete without a soundtrack, “festive holiday-themed boarding music will play all month long to help get guests into the holiday spirit,” according to a press release.

Worried you’ll be the only person on the plane wearing a sequined Rudolph cardigan? Even if other passengers don’t get the memo, airline crew will also be wearing ugly sweaters—so feel free to unleash your inner Chevy Chase from National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation.

[h/t Los Angeles Times]

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Custom-Design the Ugly Christmas Sweater of Your Dreams (or Nightmares)
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For those of you aspiring to be the worst dressed person at your family's holiday dinner, UglyChristmasSweater.com sells—you guessed it—ugly Christmas sweaters to seasonal revelers possessing a sense of irony. But the Michigan-based online retailer has elevated kitsch to new heights by offering a create-your-own-sweater tool on its website.

Simply visit the site's homepage, and click on the Sweater Customizer link. There, you'll be provided with a basic sweater template, which you can decorate with festive snowflakes, reindeer, and other designs in five different colors. If you're feeling really creative, you can even upload photos, logos, hand-drawn pictures, and/or text. After you approve and purchase a mock-up of the final design, you can purchase the final result (prices start at under $70). But you'd better act quickly: due to high demand, orders will take about two weeks plus shipping time to arrive.

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