Inside Our September "Big Questions" Issue, On Sale Now!

There are two types of big questions. There are the really big ones, the kind Plato was always fretting over: What is knowledge? What is experience? What is existence? And so on. And then there are the other ones: the smaller but somehow more insatiable curiosities—the stuff we’re driven to Google to find out.

This might sound crazy, but we keep track of the questions that keep you up at night—we look carefully at the queries that lead you to Your concerns are not so much about the nature of existence as in its details. You’re trying to figure out how to calculate wind chill, how to “catch witches,” how to conquer Ms. Pac-Man, and how to control your libido with cornflakes. You want to know why German words are so long, how camels’ legs work, why bananas are slippery, why Y is only sometimes a vowel, and who named them “flea” markets. “Fancy ketchup, why?” you ask.

This is the stuff we really can’t live without knowing, and it’s to these kinds of inquiries that the September issue of our magazine is dedicated. Although I don’t personally have much light to shed on the mysteries of fancy ketchup, we’re about to present you with answers to many other important things you’ve always wondered—and to questions you hadn’t even thought to ask.

Plus! We reveal:

- Peanut butter’s contribution to personal hygiene
- Why we have “eel soup” to thank for Disney World
- Which First Lady fought in the Boxer Rebellion
- How to pronounce Cthulhu
- Beatrix Potter’s real name
- How many people are eating pizza right now
- Which philosopher most influenced boxing 
- How to properly consume a hot dog in Denmark

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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