Why We Kiss Under the Mistletoe

If you’ve ever wondered why we kiss under the mistletoe and how the plant got that strange name, well, wonder no more.

The name for mistletoe derives the fact that mistletoe tends to spring from bird droppings that have fallen on trees, with the seeds having passed through the digestive tract of the birds. Thus, the plant was given the name “misteltan” in Old English from “mistel”, meaning “dung”, and “tan”, the plural of “ta”, meaning “twig”. Hence, “mistletoe” is another way to essentially say “dung twig”.

Not only is mistletoe a dung twig, but most varieties of this plant are partial parasites, being unable to sustain themselves on their own photosynthesis, so they leach what they need from the particular tree they are growing on. Some varieties of mistletoe, such as the North America Arceuthobium pussilum, are full parasites in that they get all their resources from the tree they are growing on and have no leaves.

So where did the tradition of kissing under a parasitic poop twig come from? The mistletoe has been considered a prized plant throughout history going all the way back to the Ancient Greeks, Celts, the Babylonians, and Scandinavians. For instance, the Ancient Greeks considered the plant an aphrodisiac; believed it aided in fertility; and could be used to achieve eternal life.

According to Ancient Babylonian legend, they had the closest thing to our current tradition of kissing under the mistletoe. At that time, single women looking for a mate supposedly would stand outside of the temple of the goddess of love. Mistletoe was hung over the entrance to the temple and when a potential suitor would approach one of the ladies, they were supposed to bond with him. They did not kiss, however, as kissing wasn’t a way to show affection at that time in the Babylonian empire.

As for a more direct root of our kissing tradition, Norseman had many traditions and legends concerning the mistletoe. One tradition was that mistletoe was a plant of peace and so that when enemies met under the mistletoe they were obliged to stop fighting for at least a day. Eventually, this spawned a tradition to hang mistletoe over the doorway of one’s home for peace and good luck.

Mistletoe became associated with Christmas from this tradition of hanging mistletoe in one’s home to bring good luck and peace to those within the house. The mistletoe would be hung around the New Year and the previous year’s mistletoe would be taken down, with its powers apparently tapped. The new plant would then provide this luck throughout the year.

By the 18th century in Britain, this evolved into the kissing tradition we have today. At this time, it became popular to create a ball of mistletoe that would be hung as a Christmas decoration. If a couple was found standing under the mistletoe, they were then obliged to kiss if the mistletoe ball still had berries. For each kiss, one berry would be taken from the ball. Once all the berries were gone, all the “luck” in love and marriage was considered to be drained out of the mistletoe and it was now considered bad luck to kiss beneath it, instead of good luck as before.

The Best Oktoberfest Celebrations in the U.S.

Oktoberfest is one of the world’s most famous celebrations. Most people focus on the drinking aspect, but this Bavarian party is a folk festival and carnival as much as an excuse to hoist a few beer steins. The most famous version of Oktoberfest is in Munich, where 5 to 7 million people attend the 16- to 18-day event, including visiting the Hippodrom (pictured). Going to Munich in autumn is not always possible, and even if a trip to Central Europe is financially doable, you might want to celebrate a little closer to home.

Luckily, Munich isn’t the only place to do it. A number of places have authentic celebrations, especially towns founded by German immigrants. While American versions of Oktoberfest don’t draw as many revelers, you’ll be able to find good beer, authentic food, enthusiastic polka bands and, most importantly, a celebratory atmosphere.

All-new Epcot International Festival of the Arts coming in January

Walt Disney World announced today that another festival is coming to Epcot, called the International Festival of the Arts.

The event will run six weekends at the park and will feature a variety of art, including visual, culinary and performing arts.

The festival will also bring Disney Theatrical bringing a variety of musical and Broadway performances to the America Gardens Theatre stage.  Guests will even experience segments from Disney Broadway hits like The Lion King?, Newsies, and Aladdin.

And what would a festival at Epcot be without food?  During the International Festival of the Arts, guests will have a variety of food to choose from.

The event will run Friday – Monday in January at Epcot.

The 2016 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade Will Live-Stream in 360-Degree Video

This year’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade will be available for broadcast via live, 360-degree stream on YouTube. For the legendary gathering’s 90th event, viewers will be able to watch the 360-degree feed thanks to cameras placed strategically in five different locations along the parade’s path. To support and promote the effort, Macy’s will also publish 360-degree visuals documenting what goes on behind the scenes at the studios that bring the parade’s creations to life.

The 2016 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade festivities will begin on November 24 at 9 A.M. EST; you will be able to watch it from desktop screens, laptops, phones and pretty much any device that can access YouTube. For this year’s event, Marlon Wayans and Olivia Culpo will serve as the show’s hosts. Tune into Macy’s YouTube account on Thanksgiving here.

FloGrown Festival Announces Reggae Act Stick Figure as Headliner for Inaugural Event

Chart-topping reggae act Stick Figure will be headlining the 1st Annual FloGrown Festival as it kicks off at the Central Florida Fairgrounds on October 1, 2016. The band’s signature sound and addictive, hypnotic rhythms will provide the perfect highlight to a festival that is essentially a one-day celebration of the Florida lifestyle. Other reggae acts set to perform include New Kingston, Florida natives SOWFLO and more.

Dual main stages, an expansive festival fairground and a beautiful lake will serve as the setting for a day filled with music, food, drink, water sports and outdoor activities that make Florida unique. ‘The Beach‘ main stage will feature the reggae/ska sounds of the coastal sandy beaches, while ‘The Swamp’ main stage will rock Florida’s country roots. Festival organizers will be announcing their country stage headliner on August 28th.

Additionally, the ‘Festival Fairgrounds’ will feature the FloGrown Wake Invitational on Lake Lawne, Ultimate FloGrown Truck Meet, Tailgate Nation, Miss FloGrown Contest, BBQ Smoke Off, Yuengling Beachside VIP Party area and more.

Kicking off at 11:00am, tricked out trucks from across the state will roll in to showcase and compete in the 1st Annual FloGrown Truck Meet, sponsored by FloGrown and Truck Fever. The top 3 trucks will be crowned FloGrown Truck Meet Winners 2016 at 1:30pm on the ‘The Swamp’ main stage. A crowning of another sort will be taking place over at the ‘The Beach’ main stage as ladies compete for the title of Miss FloGrown 2016. Lake Lawne will play host to the first annual FloGrown Wake Invitational, as a backdrop to ‘The Beach’ main stage. Five of the world’s top wakeboarders will hit the water and the air as live music rocks the beach.

“Florida is very unique in that it offers the ability to spend the day at the beach surfing and fishing, and by nightfall you can be sitting on the tailgate of your lifted truck in the woods by a campfire. By bringing country and reggae together on one day we’ve harmonized this true FloGrown Floridian lifestyle” says Flogrown founder Jesse Welch.

Tickets for the event are $25 general admission and $75 for VIP. For more information on the FloGrown Festival or how to participate in any of the events listed, please visit http://www.flogrownfestival.com .

Grab Your Cape, Tampa Bay Comic-Con Begins Tomorrow!

In the realm of comic book conventions, Tampa Bay Comic Con is something else. Known both for its amazing lineup of celebrity guests and stifling crowds and lines, the convention continues to grow year by year, making it one that fans around the Bay Area can’t avoid even if they want to. Like flies to a light, fans will flock to the Tampa Bay Convention Center for this year’s comic con Friday through Sunday.

This year’s lineup is drool worthy. Ian McDiarmid (Emperor Palpatine) and Ray Park (Darth Maul) represent the “Star Wars” lineup; Jack Gleeson (Prince Joffrey) will join from “Game of Thrones”; Charlie Cox (Matt Murdock) and Elodie Yung (Elektra) of Netflix’s “Daredevil” will appear, too. Throw in “The Walking Dead” star Norman Reedus, “Doctor Who” companion Jenna Coleman, and “Lord of the Rings” buddy Sean Astin, and then imagine the crowds and security surrounding each fanbase. It’s a lot to handle.

It’s best to go into a convention like this with a game plan. If you’re obsessed with one of these guest stars, prioritize their events. Each actor will have photo opportunities, panels and autograph sessions. Prepare to spend up to three hours waiting in line for some of the most popular ones. Last year’s Tampa Bay Comic Con hosted Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia), and waiting for her photo ops ate up five hours of my Saturday.

Here’s an example: Saturday’s “Star Wars” Q&A is set for 10 a.m. It’s immediately followed by Coleman’s Q&A at 11 a.m., which is immediately followed by the “Daredevil” team Q&A at noon. But McDiarmid’s photo ops are also set for noon, and the “Daredevil” photos are set for 12:50 p.m. When you factor in the hundreds of people also in line for these photos and panels, you simply can’t do them all. As a fan of both “Star Wars” and “Daredevil,” I will have some tough choices to make.

If you’re going for the whole weekend, I’d recommend spacing out activities and panels you want to attend. Focus on a panel one day, and a photo op or autograph the next. The full Tampa Bay Comic Con schedule is available online, along with guides on where to park (come very, very early if you want a spot in the convention center’s parking garage) links to buy tickets online, and a list of policies and rules. Photo ops and autographs are cash only, so hit up an ATM beforehand.

Celebrity panels aren’t the only thing you’ll want to check out. Tampa Bay Comic Con also has a massive dealers room, which sells a bunch of fan merchandise, both commercial and handmade fan items. The Tampa chapter of the professional “Star Wars” cosplay group, the 501st Legion, will be present on Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. in Room 4. They always have some great replicas on display, as well as hosts in full “Star Wars” cosplay regalia. When celebrities aren’t at photos or panels, they’re usually hanging around their autograph tables, which is the best way to have more than a 30-second conversation with someone you admire.

This con is meant to be family-friendly and meant to be fun, but it can be a disaster if not planned correctly. It would be a shame to miss out on some of the improv events, movie screenings and discussion panels that are hosted in the evenings. Tampa Bay Comic Con definitely promises an action-packed weekend. Make sure you don’t get burned out early so you can enjoy it all.

Science Confirms It: Your Boss Is Making You Unhappy

There’s plenty of evidence out there to confirm the old adage that a happy worker is a productive worker. In a striking example from a 2012 study, American companies that made a list of the 100 best places to work generated between 2.3% and 3.8% higher stock returns, compared to competitors, between 1984 and 2011. What social science has been missing is equally strong evidence behind a common related belief: that behind each happy worker is a competent boss.

No more. A research group led by the labor economist Benjamin Artz of University of Wisconsin at Oshkosh claims to have compiled the first empirical support that a boss’s competence has a significant, measurable influence on a worker’s job satisfaction and overall well-being. In a new working paper, the researchers document their uncomfortably strong case by analyzing survey data from thousands of workers in the United States and Great Britain going back several decades.

“Bosses are ubiquitous in working life,” write Artz and company. “This paper offers evidence consistent with the belief that the qualities of bosses—in particular their technical competence—can have powerful and little-appreciated consequences for workers’ well-being.”

We’ve highlighted the key findings that, put together, confirm your gut instinct that it’s easier to be happy with your job when you have supervisors who are good at their own.

1. Competent bosses matter to American workers. Artz’s team crunched numbers from a random, nationally representative sample of about 6,000 young U.S. workers who responded to a survey in 1990. The workers were asked to rate the following statement on a four-point scale: “Overall, how satisfied are you with your job?” The researchers then correlated these answers with two general signs of competence: whether the workers’ bosses had worked their way up through the company or started the company. The link between job satisfaction and supervisor competence was “substantial.”

2. And to Brits, too. The researchers then analyzed similar data from a 2000 survey of 1,600 British workers. This time they linked job satisfaction with two different measures of supervisor competence: whether the boss could step in to do the worker’s job, and whether the boss is extremely good at his or her own job. In both cases, there was a strong connection. A boss who could fill in for an absent worker was worth almost half an extra point on a seven-point scale of job satisfaction. Meanwhile, bosses who did their own jobs well were worth a full extra point.

3. This “supervisor effect” has held true for years. To expand their data pool, the researchers next examined survey responses for American workers for five different years between 1979 and 1988. This amounted to roughly 27,000 employees in all. In this widened sample, the link between job satisfaction and supervisor competence became “very substantial”—with the savviest bosses worth a full point to worker well-being on a four-point scale.

4. And it “dominates” other potential job satisfaction factors. While it may be intuitive that a boss’s competence can influence a worker’s happiness, the same can be said for any number of other factors, including education, earnings, job tenure, and the type of work done (e.g. public versus private sector). What the researchers found, comparing the strength of all these variables, was that supervisor competence was the “single strongest predictor” of employee well-being (below). “It dominates any of the more conventional influences upon people’s job satisfaction, including the role of worker remuneration,” they write.


5. A worker’s personality has little to do with it. One objection to the aforementioned findings is that naturally cheerful workers might be more inclined to give higher job satisfaction or supervisor competence ratings, skewing the data toward the sunnier end of the spectrum. Artz and company tried to control for this sort of optimism. Though they didn’t have personality information, they found a survey response that might serve as a proxy for an upbeat nature: ratings of co-worker friendliness. With this factor out of the way, the link between worker well-being and boss competence did dampen slightly, but it remained significant—a result that the researchers find “consistent with the existence of a genuine role for supervisor competence.”

6. Nor does self-selection. Another potential objection to the findings is that workers often change jobs when they’re unhappy with their boss. In that sense, the survey data might show an artificially strong connection between job satisfaction and boss competence, because some employees might have chosen to work at places they know will make them happy. So the researchers removed any job switchers from the sample pool. That left only employees who’d stayed in the same job over time, and held a supervisor’s personal nature—rather than the nature of the work environment—as a constant. Once again, the competent supervisor effect held true.

7. Competent bosses matter more to older workers. Finally, Artz and company found that the effect of supervisor competence on job satisfaction varied a bit with a worker’s age. The well-being of older workers, in particular, seemed to rely more strongly on their boss. There are a couple reasons this might be the case. First, it’s tougher to change jobs as you get older, which means older workers may be stuck with whatever supervisor they have. Second, older workers tend to be more senior, meaning their direct supervisors might have more power within the company, and thus more influence in general over employee well-being.

Like all studies, this research has its limitations. It links supervisor competence with job satisfaction, but can’t show that the former directly caused the latter; it also tends to conflate “well-being” with “job satisfaction,” though the two concepts aren’t completely analogous. And, of course, the findings aren’t terribly surprising. But at least now when you complain about your boss, you have some evidence on your side.