Blog December 2018

ASSESSING THE NEW YEAR

Posted On: December 27, 2018


Assessing the Approaching the New Year 

Embracing Obstacles In the Way

As we end what best can be described as a tumultuous year, the way we approach the future becomes more and more important.

I’m reminded of an old quote which seems appropriate.

“The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.”

-Marcus Aurelius

This phrase resonates with me when I’m faced with a challenge, “Don’t let the force of an event, a sudden impression knock you off your feet; Hold on a moment; collect your thoughts, see who you are and what you feel.

As we journey into 2019, collect your thoughts, assess your feelings, reset your attitude, and re assess your approach to new obstacles and, ultimately, how you live life.

The future is ours, how we live it is up to us.

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A VISIT FROM ST.NICHOLAS

Posted On: December 24, 2018

'Twas the Night Before Christmas
(or A Visit from St. Nicholas)
by Clement Clarke Moore


'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
in hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there.


The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
while visions of sugar plums danced in their heads.
And Mama in her 'kerchief, and I in my cap,
had just settled our brains for a long winter's nap.


When out on the roof there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
tore open the shutter, and threw up the sash.


The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
gave the lustre of midday to objects below,
when, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
but a miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer.


With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles, his coursers they came,
and he whistled and shouted and called them by name:

"Now Dasher! Now Dancer!
Now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! On, Cupid!
On, Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch!
To the top of the wall!
Now dash away! Dash away!
Dash away all!"


As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
when they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky
so up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
with the sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas too.


And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
the prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head and was turning around,
down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.


He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
and his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot.
A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,
and he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.


His eyes--how they twinkled! His dimples, how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
and the beard on his chin was as white as the snow.
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
and the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
that shook when he laughed, like a bowl full of jelly.


He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
and I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself.
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head
soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.


He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
and filled all the stockings, then turned with a jerk.
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
and giving a nod, up the chimney he rose.


He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, 'ere he drove out of sight,

"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!"


A Brief Note about the Author and the Poem

Clement Clarke Moore's famous poem, which he named "A Visit From St. Nicholas," was published for the first time on December 23, 1823 by a New York newspaper, the Sentinel. Since then, the poem has been reprinted, translated into innumerable languages and circulated throughout the world.

Clement Clarke Moore was born in 1779 to a well-known New York family. His father, Reverend Benjamin Moore, was president of (what is now) Columbia University and was the Episcopal Bishop of New York. Moore's father also participated in George Washington's first inauguration and gave last rites to Alexander Hamilton after Hamilton was mortally wounded in an 1804 duel with Aaron Burr. Moore himself was an author, a noted Hebrew scholar, spoke five languages, and was an early real-estate owner and developer in Manhattan.

Despite his accomplishments, Clement Clarke Moore is remembered only for "'Twas the Night Before Christmas," which legend says he wrote on Christmas Eve in 1822 during a sleigh ride home from Greenwich Village after buying a turkey for his family. Some say the inspiration for Moore's pot-bellied St. Nicholas was the chubby, bewhiskered Dutchman who drove Moore to Greenwich Village to buy his holiday turkey.  Moore never copyrighted his poem, and only claimed as his own over a decade after it was first made public.

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YULE LOG HISTORY

Posted On: December 20, 2018


The History of the Yule Log


The custom of burning the Yule Log goes back to, and before, medieval times. It was originally a Nordic tradition. Yule is the name of the old Winter Solstice festivals in Scandinavia and other parts of northern Europe, such as Germany.

The Yule Log was originally an entire tree, that was carefully chosen and brought into the house with great ceremony. The largest end of the log would be placed into the fire hearth while the rest of the tree stuck out into the room! The log would be lit from the remains of the previous year's log which had been carefully stored away and slowly fed into the fire through the Twelve Days of Christmas. It was considered important that the re-lighting process was carried out by someone with clean hands. Nowadays, of course, most people have central heating so it is very difficult to burn a tree!

In Provence (in France), it is traditional that the whole family helps to cut the log down and that a little bit is burnt each night. If any of the log is left after Twelfth Night, it is kept safe in the house until the next Christmas to protect against lightning! In some parts of Holland, this was also done, but the log had to be stored under a bed! In some eastern European countries, the log was cut down on Christmas Eve morning and lit that evening.

In the UK, the log is called 'The Mock'. The log is dried out and then the bark is taken off it before it comes into the house to be burnt. Also in the UK, barrel makers (or Coopers as barrel makers were traditionally called) gave their customers old logs that they could not use for making barrels for Yule logs.

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HOW THE MISTLETOE TRADITION BEGAN

Posted On: December 18, 2018


Baldur, grandson of the Norse god Thor, woke up one morning certain that each and every plant and animal on earth wanted to kill him. His mother consoled him. His wife consoled him, but all to no avail. As Baldur cowered in his room, half-wild with fear, his mother and wife decided to ask every living thing to leave their poor Baldur in peace. They begged the kindness of the oak tree, the pig, the cow, the crow, the ant and even the worm. Each agreed. Then, as Baldur paused to celebrate his release from torment, he felt a pain in his chest. He had been stabbed and killed by an arrow made from the wood of a mistletoe plant. Mistletoe was the one species on earth his wife and mother had failed to notice.


Baldur died, but a lesson was learned: Never forget about the mistletoe. Mistletoe would come to hang over our doors as a reminder to never forget. We kiss beneath it to remember what Baldur’s wife and mother forgot. At least that is one version of the origin of our relationship with mistletoe.

Another story begins with druids who viewed the mistletoe as magical and hung it above their doors for luck. Others say it is hung for fertility; the seeds of mistletoe are sticky like semen. The modern story of mistletoe is one of kisses. As Washington Irving wrote in the 1800s, “young men have the privilege of kissing the girls under [mistletoe], plucking each time a berry from the bush. When the berries are all plucked the privilege ceases.”

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CHRISTMAS TREE ORIGINS

Posted On: December 13, 2018

In 16th-century Germany fir trees were decorated, both indoors and out, with apples, roses, gilded candies, and colored paper. In the Middle Ages, a popular religious play depicted the story of Adam and Eve’s expulsion from the Garden of Eden.

A fir tree hung with apples was used to symbolize the Garden of Eden — the Paradise Tree. The play ended with the prophecy of a saviour coming, and so was often performed during the Advent season.

It is held that Protestant reformer Martin Luther first adorned trees with light. While coming home one December evening, the beauty of the stars shining through the branches of a fir inspired him to recreate the effect by placing candles on the branches of a small fir tree inside his home

The Christmas Tree was brought to England by Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert from his native Germany. The famous Illustrated News etching in 1848, featuring the Royal Family of Victoria, Albert and their children gathered around a Christmas tree in Windsor Castle, popularized the tree throughout Victorian England. Brought to America by the Pennsylvania Germans, the Christmas tree became by the late 19th century.

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THE HISTORY OF THE YULE LOG

Posted On: December 11, 2018


The History of the Yule Log


The custom of burning the Yule Log goes back to, and before, medieval times. It was originally a Nordic tradition. Yule is the name of the old Winter Solstice festivals in Scandinavia and other parts of northern Europe, such as Germany.

The Yule Log was originally an entire tree, that was carefully chosen and brought into the house with great ceremony. The largest end of the log would be placed into the fire hearth while the rest of the tree stuck out into the room! The log would be lit from the remains of the previous year's log which had been carefully stored away and slowly fed into the fire through the Twelve Days of Christmas. It was considered important that the re-lighting process was carried out by someone with clean hands. Nowadays, of course, most people have central heating so it is very difficult to burn a tree!

In Provence (in France), it is traditional that the whole family helps to cut the log down and that a little bit is burnt each night. If any of the log is left after Twelfth Night, it is kept safe in the house until the next Christmas to protect against lightning! In some parts of Holland, this was also done, but the log had to be stored under a bed! In some eastern European countries, the log was cut down on Christmas Eve morning and lit that evening.

In the UK, the log is called 'The Mock'. The log is dried out and then the bark is taken off it before it comes into the house to be burnt. Also in the UK, barrel makers (or Coopers as barrel makers were traditionally called) gave their customers old logs that they could not use for making barrels for Yule logs.

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THE TRADITION OF THE CHRISTMAS TREE

Posted On: December 06, 2018


The Christmas tree: It’s long been a symbol of the holiday season.

Each year, people around the world cut down an evergreen tree and decorate it with lights and ornaments, but have you ever thought about how this tradition started?

People started putting lights – candles to be more specific – on Christmas trees in the middle of the 17th century. These were attached to the end of tree branches with wax or pins and were adhered to the tree to represent shining stars. This tradition started in Germany and spread to Eastern Europe over the next two centuries. Because this was a serious fire hazard, most people didn’t put their trees up until December 24, ensuring that they would only be up for a brief period of time while the tree was still fresh – and much less flammable.

The custom of putting strings of lights on trees began in 1882 when Edward Johnson – an associate of Thomas Edison – wired red, white and blue bulbs together and placed them on an evergreen tree. In 1895, President Grover Cleveland followed suit and decorated a Christmas tree in the White House with stringed lights. The public took notice, and the tradition started to catch on.

However, it was extremely expensive to have a lit Christmas tree. General Electric sold bulbs for this purpose, but they needed to be wired together by a professional electrician. Additionally, if a homeowner wanted a lit Christmas tree, but didn’t have electricity yet, they’d have to purchase a generator to keep the lights on.

In 1903, the American Eveready Company developed an easier to use light set involving screw-in bulbs and a plug-in for the wall socket. Even with this easier to use equipment, electric tree lights weren’t catching on rapidly. People were still using unsafe candles as a way to light their trees, until Albert Sadacca came up with the idea to make the lights multi-colored in 1917.

He and his two brothers Henri and Leon started NOMA Electric Company, which became the largest Christmas lighting company in the world. Since that time, lights have continued to evolve.

Miniature bulb sets came about in the late 1960s and came in strands of 25 or 50 lights. These were very similar to the standard miniature lights available today. However, there are more options available for size and color today than there were in the past.

The latest advancement in holiday lights is the use of LED (light-emitting diode) technology. These lights are far more efficient than incandescent lights and have a much longer life-span.

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POINSETTIAS MADE THE WAY INTO OUR HOLIDAY TRADITION

Posted On: December 04, 2018


Poinsettias at Christmas

Poinsettia plants are native to Central America, especially an area of southern Mexico known as 'Taxco del Alarcon' where they flower during the winter. The ancient Aztecs called them 'cuetlaxochitl'. The Aztecs had many uses for them including using the flowers (actually special types of leaves known as bracts rather than being flowers) to make a purple dye for clothes and cosmetics and the milky white sap was made into a medicine to treat fevers. (Today we call the sap latex!)

The poinsettia was made widely known because of a man called Joel Roberts Poinsett (that's why we call them Poinsettia!). He was the first Ambassador from the USA to Mexico in 1825. Poinsett had some greenhouses on his plantations in South Carolina, and while visiting the Taco area in 1828, he became very interested in the plants. He immediately sent some of the plants back to South Carolina, where he began growing the plants and sending them to friends and botanical gardens.

One of the friends he sent plants to was John Barroom of Philadelphia, who gave the plant to his friend, Robert Buist, a plants-man from Pennsylvania. Robert Buist was probably the first person to have sold the poinsettias under their botanical, or latin name, name 'Euphorbia pulcherrima' (it means, 'the most beautiful Euphorbia'). It is thought that they became known as Poinsettia in the mid 1830's when people found out who had first brought them to America from Mexico.

There is an old Mexican legend about how Poinsettias and Christmas come together, it goes like this:

There was once a poor Mexican girl called Pepita who had no present to give the the baby Jesus at the Christmas Eve Services. As Pepita walked to the chapel, sadly, her cousin Pedro tried to cheer her up.
'Pepita', he said "I'm sure that even the smallest gift, given by someone who loves him will make Jesus Happy."

Pepita didn't know what she could give, so she picked a small handful of weeds from the roadside and made them into a a small bouquet. She felt embarrassed because she could only give this small present to Jesus. As she walked through the chapel to the altar, she remembered what Pedro had said. She began to feel better, knelt down and put the bouquet at the bottom of the nativity scene. Suddenly, the bouquet of weeds burst into bright red flowers, and everyone who saw them were sure they had seen a miracle. From that day on, the bright red flowers were known as the 'Flores de Noche Buena', or 'Flowers of the Holy Night'.

The shape of the poinsettia flower and leaves are sometimes thought as a symbol of the Star of Bethlehem which led the Wise Men to Jesus. The red colored leaves symbolize the blood of Christ. The white leaves represent his purity.

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