This Extra-Tall Christmas Tree Will Keep Your Ornaments Out of Reach of Cats and Kids

Big and bushy Christmas trees laden with a bough-bending mass of ornaments may look festive, but if you have kids or animals in the house, they can also be a source of anxiety. Little hands and paws have a tendency to grasp at branches, bat at shiny ornaments, and otherwise wreak havoc on your festive foliage, posing risks to both your decor and themselves.

Enter the half Christmas tree, the extra-lanky cousin of the traditional Yuletide spruce or fir that's designed to be cat- and kid-friendly. The 6-foot-tall artificial tree from the UK retailer Argos looks like a regular tree on top, but it’s placed on an extra-long pole so that it perches high above the floor like the Christmas tree version of a stilt house. It’s made from PVC and is fire-retardant, meaning it’s also a safer option for your family for other reasons. (Dry Christmas trees cause hundreds of fires every year, and those fires tend to be fast and deadly.)

With its lengthy trunk, the tree will keep any hanging ornaments out of reach of young children and curious cats, keeping it and them safe this holiday season. Plus, look how many presents you can fit stacked underneath it!

You can get a half tree from Argos for $42.50 (£33.33). There's also a version that comes topped with fake snow.

Remember, baubles on trees aren’t the only aspect of holiday celebrations that can pose a risk to your animals. Make sure to keep all your holiday cookies and treats high out of reach, too, and even if you have an extra-tall tree, you should probably avoid decorating with tinsel.

Why Are There No Snakes in Ireland?

iStock
iStock

Legend tells of St. Patrick using the power of his faith to drive all of Ireland’s snakes into the sea. It’s an impressive image, but there’s no way it could have happened.

There never were any snakes in Ireland, partly for the same reason that there are no snakes in Hawaii, Iceland, New Zealand, Greenland, or Antarctica: the Emerald Isle is, well, an island.

Eightofnine via Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Once upon a time, Ireland was connected to a larger landmass. But that time was an ice age that kept the land far too chilly for cold-blooded reptiles. As the ice age ended around 10,000 years ago, glaciers melted, pouring even more cold water into the now-impassable expanse between Ireland and its neighbors.

Other animals, like wild boars, lynx, and brown bears, managed to make it across—as did a single reptile: the common lizard. Snakes, however, missed their chance.

The country’s serpent-free reputation has, somewhat perversely, turned snake ownership into a status symbol. There have been numerous reports of large pet snakes escaping or being released. As of yet, no species has managed to take hold in the wild—a small miracle in itself.

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If March 15 Is the Ides of March, What Does That Make March 16?

iStock.com/bycostello
iStock.com/bycostello

Everyone knows that the soothsayer in William Shakespeare's Julius Caesar was talking about March 15 when he warned the Roman emperor to "beware the Ides of March." We also all know Caesar's response: "Nah, I gotta head into the office that day." But if March 15 is the Ides of March, what does that make March 16?

At the time of Caesar's assassination, Romans were using the Julian calendar (introduced by Julius Caesar himself). This was a modified version of the original Roman calendar, and it is very similar to the one we use today (which is called the Gregorian calendar). A major difference, however, was how Romans talked about the days.

Each month had three important dates: the Kalends (first day of the month), the Ides (the middle of the month), and the Nones (ninth day before the Ides, which corresponded with the first phase of the Moon). Instead of counting up (i.e., March 10, March 11, March 12), Romans kept track by counting backwards and inclusively from the Kalends, Ides, or Nones. March 10 was the sixth day before the Ides of March, March 11 was the fifth day before the Ides of March, and so on.

Because it came after the Ides, March 16 would’ve been referred to in the context of April: "The 17th day before the Kalends of April." The abbreviated form of this was a.d. XVII Kal. Apr., with "a.d." standing for ante diem, meaning roughly "the day before."

So, had Julius Caesar been murdered on March 16, the soothsayer's ominous warning would have been, "Beware the 17th day before the Kalends of April." Doesn't have quite the same ring to it.

This story first ran in 2016.

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