Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Holidays and Observances for December 31 2014

New Year's Eve


New Year's Eve, which is on December 31, is the last day of the year in the United States. It is a major social observance and many parties are held, particularly in the evening.

New Year's Eve is a major social holiday for many people in the United States. Many people hold parties at home or attend special celebrations to celebrate the upcoming New Year. In many cities, large scale public events are held. These often attract thousands of people.

A particularly striking aspect of the New Year's Eve festivities is the ball drop in Times Square in Manhattan, New York City. The ball is made of crystal and electric lights and is placed on top of a pole, which is 77 feet, or 23 meters, high. At one minute before midnight on December 31, the ball is lowered slowly down the pole. It comes to rest at the bottom of the pole at exactly midnight. The event is shown on television across the United States and around the world. The event has been held every year since 1907, except during World War II.

Across the United States a range of cities and towns hold their own versions of the ball drop. A variety of objects are lowered or raised during the last minute of the year. The objects are usually linked to an aspect of local history or industry. Examples of objects 'dropped' or raised in this way include a variety of live and modeled domestic and wild animals, fruit, vegetables, automobiles, industrial machinery, a giant replica of a peach (Atlanta, Georgia), an acorn made of brass and weighing 900 pounds (Raleigh, North Carolina) and ping pong balls (Strasburg, Pennsylvania).

December 31 is not a federal holiday, but it does fall in the holiday season at the end of the year. It is a holiday in some states like Kentucky, Michigan, and Wisconsin. Most schools and other educational institutions throughout the United States are closed. Some organizations are closed and others are open but offer limited services. Many stores are open on New Year's Eve, but may close early. Many theaters, clubs and other entertainment venues have special programs. It may be necessary to reserve tickets many weeks in advance.

Public transit systems may operate normal or reduced services. Some companies extend their schedules into the early hours of January 1 to enable people who have attended New Year's Eve parties to return home safely. If you need to use public transit on December 31, it is wise to check the appropriate timetables carefully before you travel.

There may be some congestion to traffic or diversions around large scale events. Diversions may be in effect in the days before New Year's Eve so that stands can be built. It is wise to check the local media if you wish to drive to or near large scale events.

In both the Gregorian calendar, currently used in the United States, and the Julian calendar, which was used until 1752 in the British colonies, the last day of the year is December 31. In Europe, the mid-winter period was traditionally associated with feasting and parties. In the early years of the American colonies and within the United States, this type of celebration was often frowned upon, particularly by religious communities.

Around the start of the 1900s, New Year's Eve celebrations in America started to appear. The first Ball drop in Times Square was held in 1907. Around the same time, special events to welcome the New Year started to be organized on January 1.

New Year's resolution


A New Year's resolution is a secular tradition, most common in the West but found around the world, in which a person makes a promise to do an act of self-improvement starting on New Year's Day.

The ancient Babylonians made promises to their gods at the start of each year that they would return borrowed objects and pay their debts. The Romans began each year by making promises to the god Janus, for whom the month of January is named. In the Medieval era, the knights took the "peacock vow" at the end of the Christmas season each year to reaffirm their commitment to chivalry. At watchnight services, many Christians prepare for the year ahead by praying and making these resolutions. There are other religious parallels to this tradition. During Judaism's New Year, Rosh Hashanah, through the High Holidays and culminating in Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement), one is to reflect upon one's wrongdoings over the year and both seek and offer forgiveness. People may act similarly during the Catholic fasting period of Lent, though the motive behind this holiday is more of sacrifice than of responsibility, in fact the practice of New Year's resolutions partially came from the Lenten sacrifices. The concept, regardless of creed, is to reflect upon self-improvement annually.

At the end of the Great Depression, about a quarter of American adults formed New Year's resolutions. At the start of the 21st century, about 40% did.

Some examples include resolutions to donate to the poor more often, to become more assertive, or to become more environmentally responsible.

Popular goals include resolutions to:
  • Improve physical well-being: eat healthy food, lose weight, exercise more, eat better, drink less alcohol, quit smoking, stop biting nails, get rid of old bad habits
  • Improve mental well-being; think positive, laugh more often, enjoy life
  • Improve finances: get out of debt, save money, make small investments
  • Improve career: perform better at current job, get a better job, establish own business
  • Improve education: improve grades, get a better education, learn something new (such as a foreign language or music), study often, read more books, improve talents
  • Improve self: become more organized, reduce stress, be less grumpy, manage time, be more independent, perhaps watch less television, play fewer sitting-down video games
  • Take a trip
  • Volunteer to help others, practice life skills, use civic virtue, give to charity, volunteer to work part-time in a charity organization (NGO)
  • Get along better with people, improve social skills, enhance social intelligence
  • Make new friends
  • Spend quality time with family members
  • Settle down, get engaged/get married, have kids
  • Try foreign foods, discovering new cultures
  • Pray more, be closer to God, be more spiritual
A 2007 study by Richard Wiseman from the University of Bristol involving 3,000 people showed that 88% of those who set New Year resolutions fail, despite the fact that 52% of the study's participants were confident of success at the beginning. Men achieved their goal 22% more often when they engaged in goal setting, (a system where small measurable goals are being set; such as, a pound a week, instead of saying "lose weight"), while women succeeded 10% more when they made their goals public and got support from their friends.

Quoting Frank Ra (author of the new year's resolution book "A course in happiness"): "Resolutions are more sustainable when shared, both in terms of with whom you share the benefits of your resolution, and with whom you share the path of maintaining your resolution. Peer-support makes a difference in success rate with new year's resolutions". It is also noted that talking with a counselor about setting goals and new year resolutions can help you keep those resolutions.

Make Up Your Mind Day


This holiday is observed and celebrated on December 31 every year.

It's about making up your mind and sticking to it. It's time to stop being indecisive and make up your mind. No more putting off your decision, todays the day to finalize your thoughts and take a stand! Just remember- making up your mind makes life easier.

I wonder why the month of December was picked to celebrate make up your mind day and why the 31st day?? That's the question. But unfortunately… our research did not find the creator, or the origin of this day. This holiday is referred to as a "National" day. However, we did not find any congressional records or presidential proclamations for this day. Even though we didn't, this is still a holiday that is publicized to celebrate. So have fun with it and celebrate it!

Mind collectively refers to the aspects of intellect and consciousness manifested as combinations of thought, perception, memory, emotion, will and imagination; mind is the stream of consciousness. It includes all of the brain's conscious processes. This denotation sometimes includes, in certain contexts, the working of the human unconscious or the conscious thoughts of animals. "Mind" is often used to refer especially to the thought processes of reason.

National Champagne Day


There's a bit of confusion as to when National Champagne Day is. Some calendars say it's December 31st where others say it's August 4. We think the reason everyone thinks December 31st is National Champagne Day is because of the New Years Eve saying- "It's Champagne Day!" It is champagne day as far as the New Years celebration goes but as far as the National Holiday, we think the actual National holiday is August 4.

This holiday is celebrated by breaking open a bottle of bubbly! Yep that's what everyone does on this holiday. What's the most popular way to open the bubbly you ask? Well it looks like it's traditional to celebrate this holiday by hosting a champagne breakfast, brunch or lunch. I've read some posts that say they like to have a champagne picnic if the weather is good too.

Most people need a good reason to drink champagne because it's more of a celebration drink but National Champagne Day is a holiday in itself which gives everyone an excuse to drink the bubbley!

What is a Champagne Breakfast?
"A champagne breakfast is a breakfast served with champagne or sparkling wine. The accompanying breakfast is sometimes of a similarly high standard and include rich foods such as salmon, caviar, chocolate or pastries, which would not ordinarily be eaten at breakfast."

"Champagne is a sparkling wine produced by inducing the in-bottle secondary fermentation of the wine to effect carbonation. It is produced exclusively within the Champagne region of France, from which it takes its name. Through international treaty, national law or quality-control/consumer protection related local regulations, most countries limit the use of the term to only those wines that come from the Champagne appellation. In Europe, this principle is enshrined in the European Union by Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) status. Other countries, such as the United States, have recognized the exclusive nature of this name, yet maintain a legal structure that allows longtime domestic producers of sparkling wine to continue to use the term "champagne" under specific circumstances. The majority of US produced sparkling wines do not use the term "champagne" on their labels and some states, such as Oregon, ban producers in their states from using the term."

"Champagne first gained world renown because of its association with the anointment of French kings. Royalty from throughout Europe spread the message of the unique sparkling wine from Champagne and its association with luxury and power. The leading manufacturers devoted considerable energy to creating a history and identity for their wine, associating it and themselves with nobility and royalty. Through advertising and packaging they sought to associate champagne with high luxury, festivities and rites of passage. Their efforts coincided with an emerging middle class that was looking for ways to spend its money on symbols of upward mobility."

"The Romans were the first to plant vineyards in this area of northeast France with the region being cultivated by at least the 5th century, possibly earlier. Wines from the Champagne region were known before medieval times. Churches owned vineyards and monks produced wine for use in the sacrament of Eucharist. French kings were traditionally anointed in Reims and champagne wine was served as part of coronation festivities. The Champenois were envious of the reputation of the wines made by their Burgundian neighbors to the south and sought to produce wines of equal acclaim. However the northerly climate of the region gave the Champenois a unique set of challenges in making red wine. At the far extremes of sustainable viticulture, the grapes would struggle to ripen fully and often would have bracing levels of acidity and low sugar levels. The wines would be lighter bodied and thinner than the Burgundy wines they were seeking to outdo."

"The English scientist and physician Christopher Merret documented the addition of sugar to a finished wine to create a second fermentation six years before Dom Perignon set foot in the Abbey of Hautvillers and almost 40 years before it was claimed that the famed Benedictine monk invented champagne. Contrary to legend and popular belief, Dom Perignon did not invent sparkling wine. Merrett presented the Royal Society with a paper in which he detailed what is now called méthode champenoise in 1662."

"Although the French monk Dom Perignon (1638-1715) did not invent champagne, it is true he developed many advances in the production of this beverage, including holding the cork in place with a wire collar (muselet) to withstand the fermentation pressure. In France, the first sparkling champagne was created accidentally; its pressure led it to be called "the devil's wine" (le vin du diable) as bottles exploded or the cork jolted away. Even when it was deliberately produced as a sparkling wine, champagne was for a very long time made by the méthode rurale, where the wine was bottled before the only fermentation had finished. Champagne did not utilize the méthode champenoise until the 19th century, approximately 200 years after Christopher Merret documented the process. The nineteenth century saw an explosive growth in champagne production going from a regional production of 300,000 bottles a year in 1800 to 20 million bottles in 1850."

"In the 1800s champagne was noticeably sweeter than the champagne of today. The trend towards drier champagne began when Perrier-Jouët decided not to sweeten his 1846 vintage prior to exporting it to London. The designation Brut champagne, the modern champagne, was created for the British in 1876."

Universal Hour of Peace Day


“Living peaceably begins by thinking peacefully” is the motto of the Universal Hour of Peace, held each year from 11:30pm on December 31st to 12:30am on January 1st. (I believe many who wish to do this on a global, not local level, celebrate this at noon GMT.)

What started in 1995 as an hour of peace soon grew into a yearly event now held as we transition into each New Year. What is the vision? For everyone to spend this one hour—the same hour— in a state of peace.

The idea of large groups of people engaging in an activity at the same time is a powerful one. There is an energetic coherence which happens when we get on the same thought frequency.

The folks at the Global Coherence Initiative tell us that, “large numbers of people intentionally creating heart-coherent states of care, love, compassion and appreciation will generate a coherent standing wave that can help offset the current planetary-wide wave of stress, discord and incoherence.”

In fact, they’re studying the effects of groups of people engaging in heart centered meditation. Groups of people are coming together to intentionally send out thoughts of peace and compassion. And as more and more groups come together to do this, we have an opportunity to re-shape our collective consciousness…through heart-centered thought.

It’s been estimated that an idea put out there is virtually unstoppable once 20% of the population adopts it.

Just think if 20% of the world’s population spent this Universal Hour of Peace doing something peaceful…what change might that spark?

And if this one hour of thinking peacefully ignited within us a more peaceful day to day life…what might that do to the world we live in.

This New Years Eve, take a moment, an hour even, and sit for peace. Let your thoughts join with others this year, in a time where peaceful living is so in need.

World Peace Meditation Day


World Peace Meditation Day is a time in which we all come together and live harmoniously as one. Since December 31, 1986, spiritual communities around the world have come together in hope for world peace through the calmness and serenity of meditation. The day was created in order to unite people under the common bond of love and peace. People all over the world came together through prayer and meditation in hopes of spreading their own thoughts and feelings towards world peace.

"Meditation is a mental discipline by which one attempts to get beyond the conditioned, "thinking" mind into a deeper state of relaxation or awareness. Meditation often involves turning attention to a single point of reference." "It is recognized as a component of almost all religions, and has been practiced for over 5,000 years." "It is also practiced outside religious traditions. Different meditative disciplines encompass a wide range of spiritual and/or psychophysical practices which may emphasize different goals -- from achievement of a higher state of consciousness, to greater focus, creativity or self-awareness, or simply a more relaxed and peaceful frame of mind."

The word meditation originally comes from the Indo-European root med-, meaning "to measure." From the root med- are also derived the English words mete, medicine, modest, and moderate." "It entered English as meditation through the Latin meditatio, which originally indicated every type of physical or intellectual exercise, then later evolved into the more specific meaning "contemplation."

"Eastern meditation techniques have been adapted and increasingly practiced in Western culture."

No Interruptions Day


Does it seem like your child has radar from across the house the moment you pick up the phone to have a conversation?

Inevitably, there suddenly is an urgent question that must be answered -- right NOW! Most parents will admit that their child is a "work-in-progress."

One of the more challenging lessons involves patience and not to interrupt "unless there's blood involved" according to my mom! Breaking free of this cycle may not happen overnight. Still, use "No Interruptions Day" as a stepping stone in the right direction.

Talk about it
Explain why it's important not to interrupt, except for worthy cause. In addition to being disruptive, at times it may be considered just plain rude.

As your child grows and interacts more with others, interrupting can actually become a habit that -- once entrenched to adulthood can be even more impossible to break. Think of your child's future employer and colleagues, not to mention spouse (if they choose). All will frown upon this characteristic.

Give examples
Kids need some guidance to help them determine when it is and is not ok to interrupt. Help them differentiate between "Mom, Jason jumped out the second story window!" (PLEASE interrupt!) and "Jason looked at me -- through the wall -- on the other side of the house! I can feel him looking!" (Um… No interrupting!)

Offer several scenarios. Keep them relevant to your child! Teach good manners for when they must interrupt with phrases such as "excuse me" and "sorry for the interruption."

Role play
Practice makes perfect isn't just an old adage. Take turns with your child acting out various scenarios. Allow them time in your shoes as well. Practice at home, in the car, at the store...anywhere at all is perfect.

Enlist others to help. Draft grandparents, siblings and even the next door neighbor. If possible, videotape your exchanges and play them back. Seeing good manners in action -- particularly when it's their own -- is more likely to stick.

Practice what your preach
As adults we need to strive to insure that we're modeling good behavior. Be a good listener, especially within conversations with your child. Don't walk over them before they can complete a thought to share.

Wait for complete instructions from your boss before you let him or her know what your objections may be. Take note when your significant other has something to say.

Displaying the positive give and take will stress the importance of not interrupting for your child.

Plan ahead
It really isn't fair to go start a long phone call or work on a project, and leave your child "hanging" so to speak. When possible, prepare your child with something to do.

Get that glass of water as you wouldn't want them to die of thirst! Do the potty break before dialing in. Gather a healthy snack to keep starvation at bay! The more you can predict, the more successful you will be in having a somewhat complete conversation – sans disturbances!

In case of emergency, dial M-O-M
While you do want to teach your child about having good manners and no interrupting, at the same time it's vital to teach when it is ok to butt in!

In a true emergency, you do want to be informed. Remember that blood reference from my mother? Your child should tell you about things like fire, life, limbs at risk -- or one off your personal list (the DVR failed to kick on to record the final episode of your favorite show, perhaps).

Have you experienced a "most embarrassing moment" from a small youth interrupter? How have you worked to meet this challenge?

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Holidays and Observances for December 30 2014

Bacon Day


If you are a bacon lover, and who isn't, go grab your fork! Hip hip hooray, Dec. 30 is Bacon Day! It's the perfect day to go hog wild! The annual food holiday, created by Danya Goodman and Meff Leonard, celebrates bacon in all its tasty glory! Bacon is so popular, it is celebrated several times a year.

A day in which millions of people around the world will celebrate a gift from Above. The poor man’s caviar. The delicacy of the disadvantaged. Today is Bacon Day, an event that brings together men and women from all backgrounds, nationalities, creeds and colors, as only bacon can do —Bacon Day, started in 2004 by some students at the University of Colorado, is celebrated annually on the Saturday before Labor Day around the globe. Some countries recognize Bacon Day on December 30, while others do Bacon Day on the first Saturday in January after the New Year. No matter the date, Bacon Day is a time to pig out on pig. The creative use of bacon on this day truly boggles the mind – bacon beer mugs full of melted cheese, bacon roses, bacon turtles, you name it. Some enterprising people have even used bacon to make clothing.

Now go! Get out and celebrate, nay, sing the praises of, bacon! It’s your chance to show the world that if we all ate bacon every day, war, famine, disease and skinny people will be no more! Kiss a pig today in honor of Bacon Day. Hug a butcher. Take a pig to a butcher. We couldn't do it without either of them. Then go make yourself a BLT. I really like Bacon!

Whether you prefer yours chewy or crispy, this popular meat product can be smoked, fried, baked, boiled or grilled. In honor of Bacon Day, why not whip up one or two of the bacon-inspired dishes, drinks and cocktail recipes listed below? It's time to make some bacon!

Falling Needles Family Fest Day


If you have had a real “evergreen” tree slowly dying in your living room for almost a month, as I have, you may have noticed the soft sounds of needles falling onto your carpet and your tree skirt of fake snow. Perhaps the people who invented this wacky holiday intend celebrants to put away the ornaments and lights, carry out the dried carcass of the former tree, and vacuum.

Nothing says family festivities like un-decorating a Christmas tree, unless it's vacuuming!

Festival of Enormous Changes at the Last Minute


New Year's Day is just two days away. Do you have your resolutions ready? If not, then the Festival Of Enormous Changes At The Last Minute could be the perfect holiday. How many years have we made our New Year's resolutions on the spot during the heat of the New Year's Eve moment while under the spell of the bubbly? Or, the next morning while recovering from its spell? This is the holiday that encourages us to plan ahead. To review the past year(s) unrushed with a clear mind to think about the life changes we'd like to make with the clean start of the coming year.

It's curious that this holiday refers to itself as a festival. Does this imply that we should invite a few friends and family to help us in our brainstorming of the enormous changes that we should make? Might be a little too much honesty going on for that to work out well. Perhaps, the festival meaning is that many of us will be simultaneously performing this activity on our own. We think we'll go with the latter interpretation.

National Bicarbonate of Soda Day


It’s National Bicarbonate of Soda Day! Sodium bicarbonate (commonly known as baking soda) is used in baking, cooking, deodorizing, cleaning, polishing, and countless other applications.

Baking soda, also known as bicarbonate of soda, sodium bicarbonate, sodium bicarb, and soda ash, is a non-toxic substance with limitless potential for use around the home. Baking soda's chemical name is NaHCO3, and can be made by a reaction known as the Solvay process, which is the combination of calcium carbonate, sodium chloride, ammonia, and carbon dioxide in water.

The ancient Egyptians were the first to utilize the salty deposit they found in the bottom of dried river beds for making glassware and ornaments. Even still today, baking soda makes up roughly 15% of glass.

The Romans were responsible for first using baking soda in cooking, using it as a leavening agent in bread. Today, baking soda is still used widely in cooking and baking, as it releases carbon dioxide when heated, causing the dough or mixture to rise. In Africa it has been used over the ages as a vital ingredient for preserving food and improving the quality of meat.

The Solvay process (the second artificial process for producing baking soda) was developed by the chemist Ernest Solvay in the 1860's which was a more environmentally friendly process for creating baking soda, for which there was a considerable demand.

The second method for sourcing baking soda is to mine Trona ore, which is an accumulation of mineral deposits found on lake beds. This ore is treated by heating then cleaning, and finally it is sent through a carbon dioxide solution before it is ready to be packaged.

It is also interesting to know that baking soda is a chemical which is created by our bodies, and is used by our bodies to regulate acidity, for example it is produced in saliva to neutralise plaque on teeth. It also helps to neutralise excess stomach acids which can cause stomach ulcers, and it is important to transport carbon dioxide from body tissues back into the bloodstream where it can be expelled by the body.

Baking soda is so useful and versatile because of it's chemical properties. It has a flexible molecular structure which allows it to be used as a mild abrasive. It is also an attractant, which makes it most useful when cleaning as it picks up the dirt. Because baking soda is an alkali, is can be used to neutralise acidic substances, and deodorize. When mixed with vinegar, baking soda reacts and fizzes (entertaining for children!) which can be used when cleaning.

Because of baking soda's non-toxic biodegradable properties, it can be used safely in almost every room in the house as a pest control method, as a cleaner, cooking agent, and a first aid box component.

Baking soda is a white, odorless, crystalline solid that is completely soluble in water. It is very useful around the home, the kitchen, and for medical purposes. Did you know that baking soda can even be used as an antacid to treat indigestion and heartburn? Sodium bicarbonate certainly deserves a whole day of celebration!

Monday, December 29, 2014

Holidays and Observances for December 29 2014

National Pepper Pot Day


Today is National Pepper Pot Day! On 29 December 1777, so the story goes, George Washington had spent 10 days at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, camped with his army and assorted women and children. The winter had been unremittingly bleak: up to a third of his forces were bootless – some had left bloody footprints in the snow as they marched into camp – and all were hungry. Local farmers were spurning the unreliable revolutionary currency and selling their crops to the British.

"Unless some great and capital change suddenly takes place," he wrote, "this Army must inevitably ... Starve, dissolve, or disperse, in order to obtain subsistence in the best manner they can."

This desolate scene was supposedly improved when the commander's baker general, Christopher Ludwick or Ludwig, improvised a stew using tripe, vegetable scraps and whatever meagre spices he had to hand. His brief was to "warm and strengthen the body of a soldier and inspire his flagging spirit," in Washington's words. Legend maintains that this brew revived the beleaguered army, sustaining it through its darkest months, and helped lead to its eventual victory.

The story, though stirring, is almost certainly untrue. Pepper pot is a Caribbean dish, and it may well be that slaves and freedmen brought a taste for spicy broth to Philadelphia. But Caribbean cuisine makes little use of tripe. The French and (ironically) the English are more partial to the cratered stomach lining of the cow, with its elastic texture and distinctive – not to say unpleasant – taste and smell, this last resembling ripe manure. (Readers who have yet to try the delicacy may now be suspecting it was yet another hardship to befall the Continental army.)

Nonetheless, pepper pot became as emblematic a Philly dish as cheesesteak, scrapple, hoagies and water ice. By 1811 the popular artist John Lewis Krimmel was exhibiting Pepper Pot: A Scene in the Philadelphia Market, in which a barefoot African American woman ladles out evidently popular stew.

Andy Warhol used Campbell's canned version in a famous 1962 painting, sold five years ago for almost $12m. The Philadelphia chapter of the Public Relations Society of America even began using the pepper pot as the symbol for its annual awards in 1968.

But true, tripey pepper pot has dwindled in popularity, and is now merely a curio in a few Philadelphia restaurants. The famous City Tavern sells a West Indian version on its lunch menu which reportedly does neglects tripe altogether. But whether or not pepper pot was served at Valley Forge, the dish does retain something of the frugality and hardship that the war entailed.

To celebrate this historic dish, try making your own pepper pot soup today! It’s the perfect way to warm up on a chilly December day.

Tick Tock Day


And so another year is almost done and dusted; it’s 29 December – after today there will be only 2 more days to go before 2014 arrives. That time of year when you start seriously contemplating everything you thought you were going to do and achieve this year. And of course with this comes the regrets of all the opportunities missed, all the targets not achieved…

Well, today is Tick Tock Day – especially created to give you one last chance to pick some of those goals that have not been realised; to see if you cannot cram one or two more achievements into the year before everything starts over again with a new set of resolutions.

Today is a day to review your dreams and goals and start making them into a reality! The end of December is a popular time for looking back on the year’s accomplishments — a helpful process when it comes to shaping your resolutions for the coming year. So now is the time to make your list, check it twice (no, wait — that’s Christmas), and see which boxes you haven't been able to check off for 2014. Use the remaining days of the year to complete your goal or come up with a fool-proof plan to get it done in 2015!

Think about it this way – after today you have 2 more days to your disposal. That’s 48 hours. Or 2880 minutes. Or if you prefer, 172 800 seconds. That’s hundreds of thousands of seconds! Imagine how much you can achieve in that time!

But you better hurry – time is ticking… Tick tock, tick tock…

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Holidays and Observances for December 28 2014

National Card Playing Day


Pull up a chair and get ready to shuffle, friends! National Card Playing Day, a day dedicated to playing card games, is December 28th.

Card games, around since the ninth century – the first playing cards were invented in China during the Tang Dynasty – have survived for centuries as a form of entertainment. In today’s technology-saturated climate, however, it’s easy to forget this old tradition.

National Card Playing Day is an effort to ensure this doesn't happen. The benefits of playing card games along with other strategy and board games are many, and they qualify as brain fitness exercises.

According to the National Institute on Aging, engaging in these types of activities helps seniors maintain brainpower as they age.

A 2012 study conducted by Rush University Medical Center and the Illinois Institute of Technology also found that playing cards may contribute to a healthier brain and fight brain aging.

The best card games for maintaining mental health are ones that incorporate memory, concentration, strategy and problem solving, so skip those endless games of solitaire in favor of bridge, gin rummy or poker.

Card games such as these require paying careful attention to what cards have been played as well as the subtle body language signs of other players.

Short-term memory games have also been shown to improve long-term memory functions, as well as other cognitive skills.

Children also benefit from playing card games, as they provide a fun way to mentally stimulate their brains. Many card games for children are also educational, helping them detect patterns, predict the outcome of alternative moves, and learn basic mathematical skills.

Along with boosting mental health, playing card games with adults or older children can teach kids other valuable skills such as how to win and lose with grace and how to interact with others in competitive situations.

When choosing a card games, pick one that is challenging, and make an effort to switch games or learn a new one every so often. This stimulates the brain and keeps neural pathways functioning.

National Chocolate Candy Day


We're milking today for all it's worth - December 28 is National Chocolate Candy Day!

It's impossible to have a bad day when chocolate is on the menu, especially melt-in-your-mouth candy that comes in oh so many flavors and forms.

Chocolate has been prepared as a drink for nearly all of its history. For example, one vessel found at an Olmec archaeological site on the Gulf Coast of Veracruz, Mexico, dates chocolate's preparation by pre-Olmec peoples as early as 1750 BC. On the Pacific coast of Chiapas, Mexico, a Mokaya archaeological site provides evidence of cacao beverages dating even earlier, to 1900 BC. The residues and the kind of vessel in which they were found indicate the initial use of cacao was not simply as a beverage, but the white pulp around the cacao beans was likely used as a source of fermentable sugars for an alcoholic drink.

An early Classic-period (460–480 AD) Mayan tomb from the site in Rio Azul had vessels with the Maya glyph for cacao on them with residue of a chocolate drink, suggests the Maya were drinking chocolate around 400 AD. Documents in Maya hieroglyphs stated chocolate was used for ceremonial purposes, in addition to everyday life. Mayans grew cacao trees in their backyards, and used the cacao seeds the trees produced to make a frothy, bitter drink.

By the 15th century, the Aztecs gained control of a large part of Mesoamerica and adopted cacao into their culture. They associated chocolate with Quetzalcoatl, who, according to one legend, was cast away by the other gods for sharing chocolate with humans, and identified its extrication from the pod with the removal of the human heart in sacrifice. In contrast to the Mayans, who liked their chocolate warm, the Aztecs drank it cold, seasoning it with a broad variety of additives, including the petals of the Cymbopetalum penduliflorum tree, chile pepper, allspice, vanilla, and honey.

The Aztecs were not able to grow cacao themselves, as their home in the Mexican highlands was unsuitable for it, so chocolate was a luxury imported into the empire. Those who lived in areas ruled by the Aztecs were required to offer cacao seeds in payment of the tax they deemed "tribute". Cocoa beans were often used as currency. For example, the Aztecs used a system in which one turkey cost 100 cacao beans and one fresh avocado was worth three beans.

Until the 16th century, no European had ever heard of the popular drink from the Central and South American peoples. Christopher Columbus and his son Ferdinand encountered the cacao bean on Columbus's fourth mission to the Americas on 15 August 1502, when he and his crew seized a large native canoe that proved to contain cacao beans among other goods for trade. Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés may have been the first European to encounter it, as the frothy drink was part of the after-dinner routine of Montezuma. Jose de Acosta, a Spanish Jesuit missionary who lived in Peru and then Mexico in the later 16th century, wrote of its growing influence on the Spaniards:
Loathsome to such as are not acquainted with it, having a scum or froth that is very unpleasant taste. Yet it is a drink very much esteemed among the Indians, where with they feast noble men who pass through their country. The Spaniards, both men and women that are accustomed to the country are very greedy of this Chocolate. They say they make diverse sorts of it, some hot, some cold, and some temperate, and put therein much of that "chili"; yea, they make paste thereof, the which they say is good for the stomach and against the catarrh.
While Columbus had taken cacao beans with him back to Spain, chocolate made no impact until Spanish friars introduced it to the Spanish court. After the Spanish conquest of the Aztecs, chocolate was imported to Europe. There, it quickly became a court favorite. It was still served as a beverage, but the Spanish added sugar, as well as honey, to counteract the natural bitterness. By 1602, chocolate had made its way from Spain to Austria. By 1662, the bishop of Rome had declared that religious fasts were not broken by consuming chocolate drinks. Within about a hundred years, chocolate established a foothold throughout Europe.

The new craze for chocolate brought with it a thriving slave market, as between the early 1600s and late 1800s, the laborious and slow processing of the cacao bean was manual. Cacao plantations spread, as the English, Dutch, and French colonized and planted. With the depletion of Mesoamerican workers, largely to disease, cacao production was often the work of poor wage laborers and African slaves. Wind-powered and horse-drawn mills were used to speed production, but chocolate would remain a treat for the elite and the wealthy until the arrival of the Industrial Revolution brought steam-powered engines to speed the processing of the bean. The first steam-driven chocolate mill was created by a French inventor named Debuisson in the early 1700s.

As the processes for chocolate making sped the production, new techniques and approaches revolutionized the texture and taste. In 1815, Dutch chemist Coenraad Van Houten introduced alkaline salts to chocolate, which reduced its bitterness. A few years thereafter, in 1828, he created a press to remove about half the natural fat (cocoa butter or cacao butter) from chocolate liquor, which made chocolate both cheaper to produce and more consistent in quality. This innovation introduced the modern era of chocolate. Known as "Dutch cocoa", this machine-pressed chocolate was instrumental in the transformation of chocolate to its solid form when, in 1847, Joseph Fry learned to make chocolate moldable by adding back melted cacao butter. Milk had sometimes been used as an addition to chocolate beverages since the mid-17th century, but in 1875 Daniel Peter invented milk chocolate by mixing a powdered milk developed by Henri Nestlé with the liquor. In 1879, the texture and taste of chocolate was further improved when Rudolphe Lindt invented the conching machine.

Besides Nestlé, a number of notable chocolate companies had their start in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Cadbury was manufacturing boxed chocolates in England by 1868. In 1893, Milton S. Hershey purchased chocolate processing equipment at the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago, and soon began the career of Hershey's chocolates with chocolate-coated caramels.

And if bars aren't your fancy, it's not too early to buy yourself a big box of fondant and cream-filled chocolates in a heart-shaped box, or a big-box-store bag of your favorite chocolate candy. Indulge yourself today, and we're sure you'll be melting with chocolate happiness.

Pledge of Allegiance Day


The Pledge of Allegiance of the United States is an expression of fealty to the Flag of the United States and the republic of the United States of America, originally composed by Francis Bellamy in 1892 and formally adopted by Congress as the pledge in 1942. The official name of The Pledge of Allegiance was adopted in 1945. The last change in language came on Flag Day 1954 when the words "under God" were added.

Congressional sessions open with the recital of the Pledge, as do many government meetings at local levels, and meetings held by many private organizations. It is also commonly recited in school at the beginning of every school day, although the Supreme Court has ruled on several occasions that students cannot be compelled to recite the Pledge, nor can they be punished for not doing so.

According to the United States Flag Code, the Pledge of Allegiance reads:
I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
According to the Flag Code, the Pledge "should be rendered by standing at attention facing the flag with the right hand over the heart. When not in uniform, men should remove any non-religious headdress with their right hand and hold it at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart. Persons in uniform should remain silent, face the flag, and render the military salute."

A number of states, including Ohio and Texas, have adopted state pledges of allegiance to be recited after the national pledge.

The Pledge of Allegiance was written in August 1892 by Francis Bellamy (1855–1931), who was a Baptist minister, a Christian socialist, and the cousin of socialist utopian novelist Edward Bellamy (1850–1898). Bellamy's grave site is located at the Rome Cemetery in Rome, New York. The original "Pledge of Allegiance" was published in the September 8 issue of the popular children's magazine The Youth's Companion as part of the National Public-School Celebration of Columbus Day, a celebration of the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus's arrival in the Americas. The event was conceived and promoted by James B. Upham, a marketer for the magazine, as a campaign to instill the idea of American nationalism in students and sell flags to public schools. According to author Margarette S. Miller this was in line with Upham's vision which he "would often say to his wife: 'Mary, if I can instill into the minds of our American youth a love for their country and the principles on which it was founded, and create in them an ambition to carry on with the ideals which the early founders wrote into The Constitution, I shall not have lived in vain.'"

Bellamy's original Pledge read as follows:
I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
The Pledge was supposed to be quick and to the point. Bellamy designed it to be recited in 15 seconds. As a socialist, he had initially also considered using the words equality and fraternity but decided against it – knowing that the state superintendents of education on his committee were against equality for women and African Americans.

Francis Bellamy and Upham had lined up the National Education Association to support the "Youth's Companion" as a sponsor of the Columbus Day observance along with the use of the American flag. By June 29, 1892, Bellamy and Upham had arranged for Congress and President Benjamin Harrison to announce a proclamation making the public school flag ceremony the center of the Columbus Day celebrations (this was issued as Presidential Proclamation 335). Subsequently, the Pledge was first used in public schools on October 12, 1892, during Columbus Day observances organized to coincide with the opening of the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago, Illinois.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Holidays and Observances for December 27 2014

Howdy Doody Day


Howdy Doody is an American children's television program (with circus and Western frontier themes) that was created and produced by E. Roger Muir and telecast on the NBC network in the United States from December 27, 1947 until September 24, 1960. It was a pioneer in children's television programming and set the pattern for many similar shows. One of the first television series produced at NBC in Rockefeller Center, in Studio 3A, it was also a pioneer in early color production as NBC (at the time owned by TV maker RCA) used the show in part to sell color television sets in the 1950s.

The character first came to life from the creative mind of Bob Smith, who created Howdy Doody during his days as a radio announcer on WNBC (AM). At that time, Howdy Doody was only a voice Smith performed on the radio. When Smith made an appearance on NBC's television program Puppet Playhouse on December 27, 1947, the reception for the character was great enough to begin a demand for a visual character for television. Frank Paris, a puppeteer whose puppets appeared on the program, was asked to create a Howdy Doody puppet.

Bob Smith, the show's host, was dubbed "Buffalo Bob" early in the show's run (a reference to the historical Buffalo Bill and Smith's hometown of Buffalo, New York). Smith wore cowboy garb, and the name of the puppet "star" was derived from the American expression "howdy doody"/"howdy do", a commonplace corruption of the phrase "How do you do?" used in the western United States (The straightforward use of that expression was also in the theme song's lyrics.) Smith, who had gotten his start as a singing radio personality in Buffalo, used music frequently in the program. Cast members Lew Anderson and Robert "Nick" Nicholson were both experienced jazz musicians.

As both the character and television program grew in popularity, demand for Howdy Doody related merchandise began to surface. By 1948, toymakers and department stores had been approached with requests for Howdy Doody dolls and similar items. Macy's department store contacted Frank Paris, the creator of the puppet, to ask about rights for a Howdy Doody doll. While Paris had created the puppet, it was Bob Smith who owned the rights to the Howdy Doody character; an argument ensued between the two men, as Paris felt he was being cheated out of any financial benefits from having made the puppet. After one such disagreement, Paris took the Howdy Doody puppet and angrily left the NBC studios with it about four hours before the show was to air live; it was not the first time Paris had taken his puppet and left, leaving the live television program with no "star".

With Paris' past disappearances, impromptu excuses regarding the whereabouts of Howdy Doody had been hastily concocted. This time, an elaborate explanation was offered—that Howdy was busy with the elections on the campaign trail. NBC hurriedly constructed a map of the United States, which allowed viewers, with the help of Smith, to learn where Howdy was on the road. The explanation continued that while on the campaign trail, Howdy decided to improve his appearance with some plastic surgery. This made it possible for the network to hire Velma Dawson to create a more handsome and appealing visual character than Paris' original, which had been called "the ugliest puppet imaginable" by Bob Smith. Since Paris did not provide the voice of the character, Howdy's voice would stay the same after his appearance changed. The puppet which is remembered as the "original" Howdy Doody replaced the actual original made by Frank Paris.

Howdy Doody himself is a freckle-faced boy marionette with 48 freckles, one for each state of the union (up until January 3, 1959, when Alaska was admitted as the 49th state), and was originally voiced by Buffalo Bob Smith. The Howdy Doody show's various marionettes were created and built by puppeteers Velma Wayne Dawson, Scott Brinker (the show's prop man) and Rufus Rose throughout the show's run. The redheaded Howdy marionette on the original show was operated with 11 strings: two heads, one mouth, one eye, two shoulders, one back, two hands and two knees. Three strings were added when the show returned—two elbows and one nose.

The original Howdy Doody marionette now resides at the Detroit Institute of Arts. There were duplicate Howdy Doody puppets, designed to be used expressly for off-the-air purposes (lighting rehearsals, personal appearances, etc.), although surviving kinescope recordings clearly show that these duplicate puppets were indeed used on the air occasionally. Double Doody, the Howdy stand-in puppet, is now in the collection of the Division of Culture and the Arts at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.[ Photo Doody is the near-stringless marionette that was used in personal appearances, photos, parades, and the famed NBC test pattern. He was sold by Leland's Sports Auction House in 1997 for more than $113,000 to a private art collector, TJ Fisher.

Make Cut Out Snowflakes Day


Make Cut Out Snowflakes Day is observed on December 27th. The snowflake is often a traditional seasonal image or motif used around the Christmas period, especially in Europe and the United States. It represents the traditional White Christmas. During this period it is quite popular to make paper snowflakes by folding a piece of paper several times, cutting out a pattern with scissors and then unfolding it.

A snowflake is either a single ice crystal or an aggregation of ice crystals which falls through the Earth's atmosphere. They begin as snow crystals which develop when microscopic supercooled cloud droplets freeze. Snowflakes come in a variety of sizes and shapes. Complex shapes emerge as the flake moves through differing temperature and humidity regimes, such that individual snowflakes are nearly unique in structure.

National Fruitcake Day


Today is National Fruitcake Day! Although fruit cakes are certainly a delicious treat to enjoy around the holidays, they are quite possibly the most popular item for re-gifting. A whopping 38% of people say they give fruitcakes away when they receive them!

Culinary lore claims that ancient Egyptians placed an early version of the fruitcake on the tombs of loved ones, perhaps as food for the afterlife. But fruitcakes were not common until Roman times, when pomegranate seeds, pine nuts and barley mash were mixed together to form a ring-shaped dessert. Prized for its portability and shelf life, Roman soldiers often brought fruitcake with them to the battlefields. Later, in the Middle Ages, preserved fruit, spices and honey were added to the mix and fruitcakes gained popularity with crusaders.

With the colonies providing a boon in cheap, raw materials, 16th-century fruitcakes contained cupfuls of sugar, which added another density booster to the cake. In addition, fruits from the Mediterranean were candied and added to the mixture, along with nuts. Each successive century seemed to contribute yet another element to the cake, like alcohol during the Victorian era, until it became weighty with the cumulative harvests of the seasons.

In fact, by the early 18th century, fruitcake became synonymous with decadence and was outlawed inEurope, where it was proclaimed "sinfully rich" [source: Associated Content]. The law was eventually repealed since fruitcake had become an important part of the tea hour, particularly in England.

Recent centuries have seen fruitcake continue as a popular item to send to soldiers. One former soldier, Lance Nesta, rediscovered a fruitcake gifted to him in 1962 when he was stationed in Alaska. He had forgotten about the loaf, and it ended up in his mother's attic, where he found it 40 years later, claiming that at the time of receiving the present, "I opened it up and didn't know what to do with it. I sure wasn't going to eat it, and I liked my fellow soldiers too much to share it with them".

The humble loaf has also appeared in popular culture like Truman Capote's "A Christmas Memory," which recounts young Capote's time spent with his eccentric cousin, who would commence to fruitcake-making when she deemed it proper "fruitcake weather."

But it's perhaps the former host of "The Tonight Show," Johnny Carson, who best determined fruitcake's place in the modern psyche. Deriding the loaf as a holiday reject, he once claimed that, "The worst gift is fruitcake. There is only one fruitcake in the entire world, and people keep sending it to each other".

In the next section, we'll look at the physical qualities of fruitcakes and find out why some people begin "feeding" their fruitcakes a year in advance of their gifting or consumption.

To celebrate National Fruitcake Day, buy one of these holiday treats at your local grocery store to share with friends!

Visit The Zoo Day


December 27 is Visit the Zoo Day! Don't miss the fantastic family fun…Everybody loves a trip to the zoo!The animals never cease to entertain, and there aren't any TV’s or games to distract the youngsters. Why not take advantage of these National Treasures and celebrate “Visit the Zoo Day” as a family!

If animals are your passion then Visit the Zoo Day gives you a great opportunity to really get close to some of the most intriguing and engaging species on the planet. No matter where you live, your usually not far from a Zoo, so why not go for a visit and find out more?

These days Zoos are at the forefront of much of the research which goes on into animal behaviour and how best to protect vulnerable animals from extinction. Many Zoos have breeding programmes running, where they work with other facilities around the world to increase the numbers of endangered populations. Zoo enclosures are roomy and mirror an animal’s natural environment closely. Some Zoos house indigenous species rather than those from further afield.

People of all ages are fascinated by Zoo animals, so a trip on Visit the Zoo Day is a superb idea for a family treat.

The zoo can find its earliest origins as far back as 3000 years ago in Ancient Egypt. The pharaohs would upon occasion demand that wild animals be captured and retained for the amusement of the ruler, intimidation of enemies, or to hunt as sport in a controlled setting. No matter what the surface reason, the root cause of keeping wild animals in this fashion was to exhibit the wealth and power of the ruler. This model continued on a very limited scale until the age of exploration, when explorers would collect exotic specimens from their travels around the world, particularly in the tropical regions. This led to zoos springing up in capitol cities around the western world, once again to demonstrate the city’s status through the size and grandeur of its zoo. Competitions sprang up between zoos to exhibit the greatest variety of species in “splendid isolation.”

This resulted in many small and inadequate exhibits that by today’s standards seem inherently cruel to the animals, but it’s not fair to judge past generations by today’s standards. These zoos also had no concept of conservation as we do today as people then viewed the natural world as inexhaustible. At the same time however, natural history museums were being founded. Couple the studious nature of the museum with access to new exotic subject matter through the age of exploration, and studies were done, possibly leading to a change in zoological thinking.

After World War Two, zoological thinking began to take it’s modern form. They began to take the roles of conservation facilities and everything that comes along with that role. Zoos began establishing research departments and hiring educational staff to share their new message with the public. This new found knowledge and attitude toward zoo management has resulted in more suitable habitats for the animals in the zoo. Through research, mixed species exhibits are formed creating a more natural experience for both the animals and visitors.

As we continue to study and learn from the animals we have in zoos, we can continue to provide more and more appropriate habitats and experiences in zoos. We have come a long way in how zoos are run and organized, each new role changing with the times. Today zoos serve a very important role in global conservation and sustainability.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Holidays and Observances for December 26 2014

Boxing Day


Boxing Day is a holiday traditionally celebrated the day following Christmas Day, when servants and tradespeople would receive gifts, known as a "Christmas box", from their bosses or employers, in the United Kingdom, Canada, Hong Kong, Australia, New Zealand, Kenya, South Africa, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica and other Commonwealth nations, as well as Norway and Sweden. Today, Boxing Day is the bank holiday that generally takes place on 26 December.

In South Africa, Boxing Day was renamed Day of Goodwill in 1994. Due to the Roman Catholic Church's liturgical calendar, the day is known as St. Stephen's Day to Catholics, and in Italy, Finland, and Alsace and Moselle in France. It is also known as both St. Stephen's Day and the Day of the Wren or Wren's Day in the Republic of Ireland. In many European countries, including notably Germany, Poland, the Netherlands and those in Scandinavia, 26 December is celebrated as the Second Christmas Day.

The exact etymology of the term "boxing day" is unclear. There are several competing theories, none of which is definitive. The European tradition, which has long included giving money and other gifts to those who were needy and in service positions, has been dated to the Middle Ages, but the exact origin is unknown. It is believed to be in reference to the Alms Box placed in places of worship to collect donations to the poor. Also, it may come from a custom in the late Roman/early Christian era, wherein metal boxes placed outside churches were used to collect special offerings tied to the Feast of Saint Stephen, which in the Western Church falls on the same day as Boxing Day.

In Britain, it was a custom for tradespeople to collect "Christmas boxes" of money or presents on the first weekday after Christmas as thanks for good service throughout the year. This is mentioned in Samuel Pepys' diary entry for 19 December 1663. This custom is linked to an older English tradition: since they would have to wait on their masters on Christmas Day, the servants of the wealthy were allowed the next day to visit their families. The employers would give each servant a box to take home containing gifts and bonuses, and sometimes leftover food.

National Candy Cane Day


Christmas traditions use various symbols which invoke a feeling of warmth and joy. From the Christmas tree, stockings and star; to mistletoe, ham and holiday treats; you can almost smell the festivity in the air. For the less fortunate, a candy as a gift can ring on a glow on the child’s face. The National Candy Cane Day is always celebrated on December 26, the day after Christmas, of each year.

The origin of the candy cane goes back over 350 years, when candy-makers both professional and amateur were making hard sugar sticks. The original candy was straight and completely white in color.
 
Around the seventeenth century, European-Christians began to adopt the use of Christmas trees as part of their Christmas celebrations. They made special decorations for their trees from foods like cookies and sugar-stick candy. The first historical reference to the familiar cane shape goes back to 1670, when the choirmaster at the Cologne Cathedral in Germany, bent the sugar-sticks into canes to represent a shepherd's staff. The all-white candy canes were given out to children during the long-winded nativity services.

The clergymen's custom of handing out candy canes during Christmas services spread throughout Europe and later to America. The canes were still white, but sometimes the candy-makers would add sugar-roses to decorate the canes further.

The first historical reference to the candy cane being in America goes back to 1847, when a German immigrant called August Imgard decorated the Christmas tree in his Wooster, Ohio home with candy canes.

About fifty years later the first red-and-white striped candy canes appeared. No one knows who exactly invented the stripes, but Christmas cards prior to the year 1900 showed only all-white candy canes. Christmas cards after 1900 showed illustrations of striped candy canes. Around the same time, candy-makers added peppermint and wintergreen flavors to their candy canes and those flavors then became the traditional favorites.
 
There are many other legends and beliefs surrounding the humble candy cane. Many of them depict the candy cane as a secret symbol for Christianity used during the times when Christian were living under more oppressive circumstances. It was said that the cane was shaped like a "J" for Jesus. The red-and-white stripes represented Christ's blood and purity. The three red stripes symbolized the Holy Trinity. The hardness of the candy represented the Church's foundation on solid rock and the peppermint flavor represented the use of hyssop, an herb referred to in the Old Testament. There is no historical evidence to support these claims, quite the contrary, but they are lovely thoughts.

A Catholic priest called Gregory Keller invented a machine to automate candy cane production during the 1950's.

The National Candy Cane Day is a day to appreciate the candy cane’s history and flavour. Peppermint is the traditional flavour of the candy cane which is now being challenged by the chocolate fillings. It is used, aside from being a Christmas tree décor and giveaway treat to children, as topping for ice cream, garnishing for cookies and cakes, and as an additive to hot cocoa and other drinks.

Celebrating this day is in line with the celebration of the Boxing Day and National Thank-You Day where candy canes may be given as gifts to children and friends. As this day also remembers Elizabeth David, the day may be spent concocting creative ways to use candy cane in food preparations. It can also be spent bonding with family and friends over a hot candy cane flavoured coffee in line with the celebration of the National Coffee Percolator Day.

National Coffee Percolator Day


National Coffee Percolator Day is celebrated annually on December 26 every year. This is a holiday in remembrance for the humble coffee percolator celebrated by coffee lovers worldwide.

A coffee percolator is a type of pot used to brew coffee by continually cycling the boiling or nearly-boiling brew through the grounds using gravity until the required strength is reached.

Coffee percolators once enjoyed great popularity but were supplanted in the early 1970s by automatic drip coffee makers. Percolators often expose the grounds to higher temperatures than other brewing methods, and may recirculate already brewed coffee through the beans. As a result, coffee brewed with a percolator is susceptible to over-extraction. Percolation may remove some of the volatile compounds in the beans, resulting in a pleasant aroma during brewing, but a less flavoursome cup. However, percolator enthusiasts praise the percolator's hotter, more 'robust' coffee, and maintain that the potential pitfalls of this brewing method can be eliminated by careful control of the brewing process.

The percolating coffee pot was invented by the American-born British physicist and soldier Count Rumford, otherwise known as Sir Benjamin Thompson (1753–1814). He invented a percolating coffee pot between 1810 and 1814 following his pioneering work with the Bavarian Army, where he improved the soldiers' diet as well as their clothing. It was his abhorrence of alcohol and his dislike for tea that led him to promote the use of coffee for its stimulating benefits. For his efforts, in 1791, he was named a Count of the Holy Roman Empire, and granted the formal title of Reichsgraf von Rumford. His pot did not use the rising of boiling water through a tube to form a continuous cycle.

The first modern percolator incorporating these features and capable of being heated on a kitchen stove was already invented a few years later, in 1819, by the Parisian tinsmith Laurens. Its principle was then often copied and modified. There were also attempts to produce closed systems, in other words "pressure cookers".

The first US patent for a coffee percolator, which however still used a downflow method without rising steam and water, was issued to James Nason of Franklin, Massachusetts, in 1865.

Finally, an Illinois farmer named Hanson Goodrich patented the modern U.S. stove-top percolator as it is known today, and he was granted patent 408707 on August 16, 1889. It has the key elements, the broad base for boiling, the upflow central tube and a perforated basket hanging on it. He still describes the downflow as being the "percolating." Goodrich's design could transform any standard coffee pot of the day into a stove-top percolator. Subsequent patents have added very little.

With the introduction of the electric drip coffee maker in the early 1970s, the popularity of percolators plummeted, and so did the market for the self-contained ground coffee filters. In 1976, General Foods discontinued the manufacture of Max Pax, and by the end of the decade, even generic ground coffee filter rings were no longer available on U.S. supermarket shelves.

National Thank You Note Day


December 26 annually recognizes National Thank You Note Day. The day after Christmas is a perfect opportunity to give thanks by sending thank you notes. Celebrate Thank You Note Day by writing to friends and relatives to show your appreciation and gratitude for their festive gifts and to tell them how much you value them.

The history of the thank-you note is as long and varied as the letter itself. Ancient Egyptians and Chinese cultures wrote notes of goodwill to one another on pieces of papyrus. Years later, in the 1400s, Europeans delivered notes to others within their communities.

However, it was the invention of the stamp in 1840 that finally made sending notes practical on a larger scale. Stores began selling printed notes adorned with artwork, while etiquette books recommended the best practices for writing and sending thank-you notes.

As email replaces letters as our primary means of written communication, thank-you notes have become all the more valued. Taking time out of one’s day to physically write a thank-you note and send it in the mail is an effort that truly stands out and makes any gesture of generosity come full circle. Who doesn't love receiving a handwritten letter?

National Whiner's Day


National Whiners Day was founded in 1986 and is dedicated to those who like to whine. Especially, those who are returning or exchanging Christmas gifts. Actually, this day is to encourage everyone to appreciate what they have.

Suggestions for celebrating National Whiner’s Day include visiting a mall or store to watch people whine as they return or exchange unwanted gifts, inviting friends over for a “Whine and Geeze” party, and holding a whining contest with family and friends.

To add even more fun to this holiday here are past winners of National Whiners Day,

The Most Famous Whiner Of 2013 Was:
  • Toronto Mayor Rob Ford
Known for this Fall's high-jinks, alleged drug use, fumbles and foibles, Mayor Ford spent more time whining about having to apologize to others for his poor decisions and lack of coordination than addressing his behaviors. Those elected or appointed to political leadership positions in many places around the world appear to be failing their constituents.  Rather than whining about poor personal and professional choices, improve the decisions being made.

The Most Famous Whiner Of 2012 Was: 
  • Social Media Whiners!!!
Social Media Websites such as Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Linkedin, and myLife as just a few examples have brought out the whiners in many of us. Take a moment and check out what our "friends" are posting, and how they are posting it.  How often does one find people "whining" about their kids, spouses, pets, neighbors, boyfriends and girlfriends, cashiers, waitresses and waiters, and on and on and on?  These sites are a fantastic way to meet up with old friends and aquaintences, and establish new friends which I have even done.  "I'm soooo tired!" or "I can't belieeeeve what myyyy bosssss did today!" or "Why don't my kidssss just listen to meeee?" 

Lets try to be better users of social media sites and accept this challenge... post Positive and Uplifting messages and leave out the negative, berating and hurtful whining.  Lets be better stewards of social media posts and provide messages that when read, build up everyone all the time!"

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Holidays and Observances for December 25 2014

Christmas Day


Many people in the United States celebrate Christmas Day on December 25. The day celebrates Jesus Christ's birth. It is often combined with customs from pre-Christian winter celebrations. Many people erect Christmas trees, decorate their homes, visit family or friends and exchange gifts.

Christmas is both a sacred religious holiday and a worldwide cultural and commercial phenomenon. For two millennia, people around the world have been observing it with traditions and practices that are both religious and secular in nature. Christians celebrate Christmas Day as the anniversary of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, a spiritual leader whose teachings form the basis of their religion. Popular customs include exchanging gifts, decorating Christmas trees, attending church, sharing meals with family and friends and, of course, waiting for Santa Claus to arrive. December 25–Christmas Day–has been a federal holiday in the United States since 1870.

The middle of winter has long been a time of celebration around the world. Centuries before the arrival of the man called Jesus, early Europeans celebrated light and birth in the darkest days of winter. Many peoples rejoiced during the winter solstice, when the worst of the winter was behind them and they could look forward to longer days and extended hours of sunlight.

In Scandinavia, the Norse celebrated Yule from December 21, the winter solstice, through January. In recognition of the return of the sun, fathers and sons would bring home large logs, which they would set on fire. The people would feast until the log burned out, which could take as many as 12 days. The Norse believed that each spark from the fire represented a new pig or calf that would be born during the coming year.

The end of December was a perfect time for celebration in most areas of Europe. At that time of year, most cattle were slaughtered so they would not have to be fed during the winter. For many, it was the only time of year when they had a supply of fresh meat. In addition, most wine and beer made during the year was finally fermented and ready for drinking.

In Germany, people honored the pagan god Odin during the mid-winter holiday. Germans were terrified of Odin, as they believed he made nocturnal flights through the sky to observe his people, and then decide who would prosper or perish. Because of his presence, many people chose to stay inside.

Saturnalia - In Rome, where winters were not as harsh as those in the far north, Saturnalia—a holiday in honor of Saturn, the god of agriculture—was celebrated. Beginning in the week leading up to the winter solstice and continuing for a full month, Saturnalia was a hedonistic time, when food and drink were plentiful and the normal Roman social order was turned upside down. For a month, slaves would become masters. Peasants were in command of the city. Business and schools were closed so that everyone could join in the fun.

Also around the time of the winter solstice, Romans observed Juvenalia, a feast honoring the children of Rome. In addition, members of the upper classes often celebrated the birthday of Mithra, the god of the unconquerable sun, on December 25. It was believed that Mithra, an infant god, was born of a rock. For some Romans, Mithra’s birthday was the most sacred day of the year.

In the early years of Christianity, Easter was the main holiday; the birth of Jesus was not celebrated. In the fourth century, church officials decided to institute the birth of Jesus as a holiday. Unfortunately, the Bible does not mention date for his birth (a fact Puritans later pointed out in order to deny the legitimacy of the celebration). Although some evidence suggests that his birth may have occurred in the spring (why would shepherds be herding in the middle of winter?), Pope Julius I chose December 25. It is commonly believed that the church chose this date in an effort to adopt and absorb the traditions of the pagan Saturnalia festival. First called the Feast of the Nativity, the custom spread to Egypt by 432 and to England by the end of the sixth century. By the end of the eighth century, the celebration of Christmas had spread all the way to Scandinavia. Today, in the Greek and Russian orthodox churches, Christmas is celebrated 13 days after the 25th, which is also referred to as the Epiphany or Three Kings Day. This is the day it is believed that the three wise men finally found Jesus in the manger.

By holding Christmas at the same time as traditional winter solstice festivals, church leaders increased the chances that Christmas would be popularly embraced, but gave up the ability to dictate how it was celebrated. By the Middle Ages, Christianity had, for the most part, replaced pagan religion. On Christmas, believers attended church, then celebrated raucously in a drunken, carnival-like atmosphere similar to today’s Mardi Gras. Each year, a beggar or student would be crowned the “lord of misrule” and eager celebrants played the part of his subjects. The poor would go to the houses of the rich and demand their best food and drink. If owners failed to comply, their visitors would most likely terrorize them with mischief. Christmas became the time of year when the upper classes could repay their real or imagined “debt” to society by entertaining less fortunate citizens.

An Outlaw Christmas - In the early 17th century, a wave of religious reform changed the way Christmas was celebrated in Europe. When Oliver Cromwell and his Puritan forces took over England in 1645, they vowed to rid England of decadence and, as part of their effort, cancelled Christmas. By popular demand, Charles II was restored to the throne and, with him, came the return of the popular holiday.

The pilgrims, English separatists that came to America in 1620, were even more orthodox in their Puritan beliefs than Cromwell. As a result, Christmas was not a holiday in early America. From 1659 to 1681, the celebration of Christmas was actually outlawed in Boston. Anyone exhibiting the Christmas spirit was fined five shillings. By contrast, in the Jamestown settlement, Captain John Smith reported that Christmas was enjoyed by all and passed without incident.

After the American Revolution, English customs fell out of favor, including Christmas. In fact, Christmas wasn't declared a federal holiday until June 26, 1870.

Irving Reinvents Christmas - It wasn't until the 19th century that Americans began to embrace Christmas. Americans re-invented Christmas, and changed it from a raucous carnival holiday into a family-centered day of peace and nostalgia. But what about the 1800s peaked American interest in the holiday?

The early 19th century was a period of class conflict and turmoil. During this time, unemployment was high and gang rioting by the disenchanted classes often occurred during the Christmas season. In 1828, the New York city council instituted the city’s first police force in response to a Christmas riot. This catalyzed certain members of the upper classes to begin to change the way Christmas was celebrated in America.

In 1819, best-selling author Washington Irving wrote The Sketchbook of Geoffrey Crayon, gent., a series of stories about the celebration of Christmas in an English manor house. The sketches feature a squire who invited the peasants into his home for the holiday. In contrast to the problems faced in American society, the two groups mingled effortlessly. In Irving’s mind, Christmas should be a peaceful, warm-hearted holiday bringing groups together across lines of wealth or social status. Irving’s fictitious celebrants enjoyed “ancient customs,” including the crowning of a Lord of Misrule. Irving’s book, however, was not based on any holiday celebration he had attended – in fact, many historians say that Irving’s account actually “invented” tradition by implying that it described the true customs of the season.

A Christmas Carol - Also around this time, English author Charles Dickens created the classic holiday tale, A Christmas Carol. The story’s message-the importance of charity and good will towards all humankind-struck a powerful chord in the United States and England and showed members of Victorian society the benefits of celebrating the holiday.

The family was also becoming less disciplined and more sensitive to the emotional needs of children during the early 1800s. Christmas provided families with a day when they could lavish attention-and gifts-on their children without appearing to “spoil” them.

As Americans began to embrace Christmas as a perfect family holiday, old customs were unearthed. People looked toward recent immigrants and Catholic and Episcopalian churches to see how the day should be celebrated. In the next 100 years, Americans built a Christmas tradition all their own that included pieces of many other customs, including decorating trees, sending holiday cards, and gift-giving.

Although most families quickly bought into the idea that they were celebrating Christmas how it had been done for centuries, Americans had really re-invented a holiday to fill the cultural needs of a growing nation.

Christmas Facts:
  • Each year, 30-35 million real Christmas trees are sold in the United States alone. There are 21,000 Christmas tree growers in the United States, and trees usually grow for about 15 years before they are sold.
  • Today, in the Greek and Russian orthodox churches, Christmas is celebrated 13 days after the 25th, which is also referred to as the Epiphany or Three Kings Day. This is the day it is believed that the three wise men finally found Jesus in the manger.
  • In the Middle Ages, Christmas celebrations were rowdy and raucous—a lot like today’s Mardi Gras parties.
  • From 1659 to 1681, the celebration of Christmas was outlawed in Boston, and law-breakers were fined five shillings.
  • Christmas was declared a federal holiday in the United States on June 26, 1870.
  • The first eggnog made in the United States was consumed in Captain John Smith’s 1607 Jamestown settlement.
  • Poinsettia plants are named after Joel R. Poinsett, an American minister to Mexico, who brought the red-and-green plant from Mexico to America in 1828.
  • The Salvation Army has been sending Santa Claus-clad donation collectors into the streets since the 1890s.
  • Rudolph, “the most famous reindeer of all,” was the product of Robert L. May’s imagination in 1939. The copywriter wrote a poem about the reindeer to help lure customers into the Montgomery Ward department store.
  • Construction workers started the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree tradition in 1931.
Merry Christmas From Us Here At "Our Nation's Haligdaeg"!!!

Christmas Pudding Day


Christmas (or Plum) Pudding is the traditional end to the British Christmas dinner. But what we think of as Christmas Pudding, is not what it was originally like!

Christmas pudding originated as a 14th century porridge called 'frumenty' that was made of beef and mutton with raisins, currants, prunes, wines and spices. This would often be more like soup and was eaten as a fasting meal in preparation for the Christmas festivities.

By 1595, frumenty was slowly changing into a plum pudding, having been thickened with eggs, bread crumbs, dried fruit and given more flavour with the addition of beer and spirits. It became the customary Christmas dessert around 1650, but in 1664 the Puritans banned it as a bad custom.

In 1714, King George I re-established it as part of the Christmas meal, having tasted and enjoyed Plum Pudding. By Victorian times, Christmas Puddings had changed into something similar to the ones that are eaten today.

Over the years, many superstitions have surrounded Christmas Puddings. One superstition says that the pudding should be made with 13 ingredients to represent Jesus and His Disciples and that every member of the family should take turns to stir the pudding with a wooden spoon from east to west, in honour of the Wise Men.

The Sunday before Advent Sunday (which is also the last Sunday in the Church Year), is sometimes known as 'Stir-up Sunday'. This is because opening words of the Collect for the day (the main prayer) in the Book of Common Prayer of 1549 (used in Anglican Churches) says:

"Stir-up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people; that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may of thee be plenteously rewarded; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."

Although Christmas Puddings are eaten at Christmas, some customs associated with the pudding are about Easter! The decorative sprig of holly on the top of the pudding is a reminder of Jesus' Crown of Thorns that he wore when he was killed. Brandy or another alcoholic drink is sometimes poured over the pudding and lit at the table to make a spectacular display. This is said to represent Jesus' love and power.

In the Middle Ages, holly was also thought to bring good luck and to have healing powers. It was often planted near houses in the belief that it protected the inhabitants.

During Victorian times, puddings in big and rich houses were often cooked in fancy moulds (like jelly ones). These were often in the shapes of towers or castles. Normal people just had puddings in the shape of balls. If the pudding was a bit heavy, they were called cannonballs!

Putting a silver coin in the pudding is another age-old custom that is said to bring luck to the person that finds it. In the UK the coin traditionally used was a silver 'six pence'. The closest coin to that now is a five pence piece!

The tradition seems to date back to the Twelfth Night Cake which was eaten during the festivities on the 'Twelfth Night' of Christmas (the official end of the Christmas celebrations). Originally a dried pea or bean was baked in the cake and whoever got it, was 'king or queen' for the night. There are records of this practice going back to the court of Edward II (early 1300s). The bean was also sometimes a silver ring of small crown. The first coins used were a Silver Farthing or penny. After WW1 it became a threepenny bit and then a sixpence.

You might also get other items (sometimes called 'tokens' or 'favours') placed in the Christmas Pudding which also meant to have special meanings:
  • Bachelor's Button: If a single man found it, they would be a bachelor for the following year.
  • Spinster's/Old Maid's Thimble: If a single woman found it, they would be a bachelor for the following year.
  • A Ring: If a single person found this, it meant you will get married in the following year! It can also mean you will be rich for the following year
Here's a recipe for Christmas Pudding.

A'phabet ("No-L") Day


A’phabet Day – This day which takes place on December 25 is for those who don't want to send Christmas cards to their friends and family, but they still want to send a written message to them through the mail. They send out cards that list all of the letters of the alphabet except for “L”. Why no “L”? This day is also known as No-L Day. Still don't get it? Then say No-L Day several times, and you should understand why.

Bob Birch of The Puns Corps is the one we can thank for this intriguing holiday. Why not create a character who loves puns and celebrates this holiday in an outlandish fashion?

National Pumpkin Pie Day


Do you know that the National Pumpkin Pie Day is celebrated on Christmas Day? Fascinating, is it not? Well, Christmas Day is one day in a year, aside from Thanksgiving Day, where food is of abundance. It is quite interesting to know that on both occasions, the pumpkin pie is always in the holiday menu. So, let us join in the celebration of this tradition which had been ongoing for the last 400 years! National Pumpkin Pie Day is always observed, in the United States of America, on the 25 day of December each year.

It’s hard to imagine an American Thanksgiving table without the ubiquitous orange-crusted custard made from strained, spiced and twice-cooked squash.

Few of our festival foods can claim deeper American roots than pumpkins, which were first cultivated in Central America around 5,500 B.C. and were one of the earliest foods the first European explorers brought back from the New World. The orange gourds’ first mention in Europe dates to 1536, and within a few decades they were grown regularly in England, where they were called “pumpions,” after the French “pompon,” a reference to their rounded form.

Pumpkins, as the Americans grew to call them, quickly became part of England’s highly developed pie-making culture, which had for centuries been producing complex stuffed pastries in sweet and savory varieties. When the Pilgrims sailed for America on the Mayflower in 1620, it’s likely some of them were as familiar with pumpkins as the Wampanoag, who helped them survive their first year at Plymouth Colony, were. A year later, when the 50 surviving colonists were joined by a group of 90 Wampanoag for a three-day harvest celebration, it’s likely that pumpkin was on the table in some form. As useful as the orange squash were (especially as a way to make bread without much flour), they weren't always popular. In 1654, Massachusetts ship captain Edward Johnson wrote that as New England prospered, people prepared “apples, pears, and quince tarts instead of their former Pumpkin Pies.”

What were these “former Pumpkin Pies” like? At the time, pumpkin pie existed in many forms, only a few of which would be familiar to us today. A 1653 French cookbook instructed chefs to boil the pumpkin in milk and strain it before putting it in a crust. English writer Hannah Woolley’s 1670 “Gentlewoman’s Companion” advocated a pie filled with alternating layers of pumpkin and apple, spiced rosemary, sweet marjoram and handful of thyme. Sometimes a crust was unnecessary; an early New England recipe involved filling a hollowed-out pumpkin with spiced, sweetened milk and cooking it directly in a fire (an English version of the same preparation had the pumpkin stuffed with sliced apples).

By the early 18th century pumpkin pie had earned a place at the table, as Thanksgiving became an important New England regional holiday. In 1705 the Connecticut town of Colchester famously postponed its Thanksgiving for a week because there wasn't enough molasses available to make pumpkin pie. Amelia Simmons’ pioneering 1796 “American Cookery” contained a pair of pumpkin pie recipes, one of which similar to today’s custard version.

It wasn't until the mid-19th century, though, that pumpkin pie rose to political significance in the United States as it was injected into the country’s tumultuous debate over slavery. Many of the staunchest abolitionists were from New England, and their favorite dessert soon found mention in novels, poems and broadsides. Sarah Josepha Hale, an abolitionist who worked for decades to have Thanksgiving proclaimed a national holiday, featured the pie in her 1827 anti-slavery novel “Northwood,” describing a Thanksgiving table laden with desserts of every name and description—“yet the pumpkin pie occupied the most distinguished niche.” In 1842 another abolitionist, Lydia Maria Child, wrote her famous poem about a New England Thanksgiving that began, “Over the river, and through the wood” and ended with a shout, “Hurra for the pumpkin pie!”

It’s no wonder that, when Abraham Lincoln made Thanksgiving a national holiday in 1863, observers in the Confederacy saw it as a move to impose Yankee traditions on the South. An editorialist in Richmond, Virginia, offered a sardonic explanation of the Yankee Thanksgiving: “This is an annual custom of that people, heretofore celebrated with devout oblations to themselves of pumpkin pie and roast turkey.”

After the Civil War, Thanksgiving—and with it, pumpkin pie—extended its national reach, bolstered by write-ups in women’s magazines like the one that Hale edited. In 1929 Libby’s meat-canning company of Chicago introduced a line of canned pumpkin that soon became a Thanksgiving fixture in its own right, replacing the need for roasting and straining one’s own squash. Next time you open a can, consider the past: the centuries of industrialists, editors, housewives, anti-slavery firebrands, culinary experimenters and Mesoamerican agriculturalists whose combined labors made your pumpkin pie possible.