Merry Oddmas: Five Christmasy Oddities

God babies, dying trees in your living room, a fat man in your chimneyChristmas might be the oddest holiday we’ve got. And if it’s odd, that means there are oddities to seek out. And there are. All over this Christmas-celebrating world. Here’s a few that I’ve seen in my strange days of Christmas.

Jingle Bells Plaque (Medford, Massachusetts)

According to a small black plaque set at ankle level on a building at 21 High Street in Medford, Massachusetts, the song Jingle Bells was written in 1850 at the Simpson Tavern that once stood there. It was inked into existence by James Pierpont, who was inspired by the sleigh races whipping by on nearby Salem Street. It’s enough of a connection to the holiday to theme your town around it, honestly. But all Medford has is that easily overlooked plaque at dachshund-eye level. Dachshund through the snow.

And that might be because it’s totally probably not true. Pierpont did live in Medford for a while, and he did write the song, and he was more than likely inspired by his life in Massachusetts, but it was written in Savannah, Georgia, where it was copyrighted, about seven years later (there’s an historical marker there, too, attesting). And if that’s a bummer for Medford-folk, just look into the possibly plagiaristic and racist origins of the song, and you won’t feel so bad.

Danny Kaye’s Grave (Valhalla, New York)

I’ve said this so many times, I just cut and paste it from other articles now, but if you want immortality tie yourself to a holiday. Take Danny Kaye, famous in his day as an actor and singer and comedian and all-around entertainer, and these days, not so much. However, wear drag and dance with Bing Crosby in a movie like White Christmas and people will see you every year for the next century. Also, you’ll get referenced in other holiday fare that will elongate that immortality. Take it away, Clark:


Also, I guess I’ll visit your grave, which is in Kensico Cemetery, in Valhalla, New York. His ashes, along with his wife Sylvia’s, are interred in the foundation of a concrete bench that features a bronze relief of planes and plants and music notes and teapots and baseball bats and other things that I guess are related to the couple’s life. No White Christmas references that I can discern, unfortunately.

He died in March 1987, less than two years before National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation and that famous Danny F’n Kaye line.

National Lampoon’s Vacation Bridge (Conway, New Hampshire)

Okay, this one’s a few degrees away from Christmas, but I’ve never really had a chance to bring it up on OTIS before. This is the time. I’ve already referenced National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation in this article, which was inevitable because it’s my favorite purely Christmas movie. In fact, I probably like the other National Lampoon vacation movies as much as I do only because of this one.

In the original National Lampoon’s [not Christmas] Vacation, they feature a postcard montage in the opening credits beneath Lindsey Buckingham’s Holiday Roooooooooooooooooooooooooooooad. One of those postcards, the one backdropping the credits for Anthony Michael Hall and Dana Barron, is of a covered bridge that could be from anywhere in the country. However, the top edge of the card says “Covered Bridge – New Hampshire,” so as a New Hamster, I spent one evening years ago devoted to figuring out which bridge it was so that I could go see it. I party, guys.

After a lot of looking at historical images online and talking to an OTIS reader (Thanks, Leighton!), it looks like it's the Saco River Bridge in Conway, New Hampshire (only four miles south of The Christmas Loft). The bridge was built in 1890, featured in that movie montage in 1983, and put on OTIS in 2019. Those are its highlights. Here's an odd side-note, though. A previous covered bridge that spanned this spot was destroyed when another covered bridge left its moorings, floated down the river and crashed into it, yielding what has to be the only ever covered bridge collision. Hyperbole. I didn't dig into that. Too busy celebrating Christmas.

Jim Varney’s Grave (Lexington, Kentucky)

I mean, how could I not put the grave of the man who saved Christmas on this list? And who inspired me personally, for a span of like five years after seeing Ernest Saves Christmas, to say “air brakes” every time I got in a close call.

Ernest Saves Christmas is Jim Varney’s Ernest character at his best. Well, it’s between that and Ernest Goes to Jail, the first two words of which I just accidentally typed as “Ernest’s Ghost,” and now I want to see that movie.

Jim Varney is planted in his home city of Lexington, Kentucky, in Lexington Cemetery. He died in 2000 at age 51 of lung cancer, a short life packed full of hilarious performances. Judging by all the mementos on his stone on my visit earlier this year, he’s well-remembered. To me, he’ll always be Ernest P. Worrell (with a story and a moral).

Christmas, Florida

I spent a few years of my life in Florida, but not a single Christmas. I always broke north for Christmas. I assume you get used to tropical Christmases. I’ve seen with my own eyes the lighted palms trees and Santa wearing a Hawaiian shirt and getting pulled by eight tiny dolphins that show an admirably courageous adaption to the holiday.

And I’ll also say as hardcore as New England is about Christmas, not a single town is named after the holiday (well, almost not a single town—Maine has Christmas Cove. That state can’t get anymore darling). But Florida…Florida has Christmas itself…Christmas, Florida. That sentence, man.

It’s just west of Orlando and not much of a town, honestly. Maybe 1,000 people, no downtown. Not much more than an intersection, I guess. But, man, what an intersection. Year-round, it has a giant Christmas tree and a nativity scene and a Santa statue and sleigh. It’s a welcome sight for the sunburnt and eye-seared who just want to know what it feels like to wear a wool sweater.


If you need more Christmas oddity in your life, Check out these OTIS Christmas visits.