Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Holidays and Observances for December 9 2014

Christmas Card Day

The custom of sending Christmas cards was started in the UK in 1843 by Sir Henry Cole. He was a civil servant (Government worker) who was very interested in the new 'Public Post Office' and wondered how it could be used more by ordinary people.

Sir Henry had the idea of Christmas Cards with his friend John Horsley, who was an artist. They designed the first card and sold them for 1 shilling each. (That is only 5p or 8 cents today(!), but in those days it was worth much much more.) The card had three panels. The outer two panels showed people caring for the poor and in the centre panel was a family having a large Christmas dinner! Some people didn't like the card because it showed a child being given a glass of wine! About 1000 (or it might have been less!) were printed and sold. They are now very rare and cost thousands of Pounds or Dollars to buy now!

The first postal service that ordinary people could use was started in 1840 when the first 'Penny Post' public postal deliveries began. Before that, only very rich people could afford to send anything in the post. The new Post Office was able to offer a Penny stamp because new railways were being built. These could carry much more post than the horse and carriage that had been used before. Also, trains could go a lot faster. Cards became even more popular in the UK when they could be posted in an unsealed envelope for one halfpenny - half the price of an ordinary letter.

As printing methods improved, Christmas cards became much more popular and were produced in large numbers from about 1860. In 1870 the cost of sending a post card, and also Christmas cards, dropped to half a penny. This meant even more people were able to send cards.

An engraved card by the artist William Egley, who illustrated some of Charles Dickens's books, is on display in the British Museum. By the early 1900s, the custom had spread over Europe and had become especially popular in Germany.

The first cards usually had pictures of the Nativity scene on them. In late Victorian times, robins (an English bird) and snow-scenes became popular. In those times the postmen were nicknamed 'Robin Postmen' because of the red uniforms they wore. Snow-scenes were popular because they reminded people of the very bad winter that happened in the UK in 1836.

Christmas Cards appeared in the United States of America in the late 1840s, but were very expensive and most people couldn't afford them. It 1875, Louis Prang, a printer who was originally from German but who had also worked on early cards in the UK, started mass producing cards so more people could afford to buy them. Mr Prang's first cards featured flowers, plants, and children. In 1915, John C. Hall and two of his brothers created Hallmark Cards, who are still one of the biggest card makers today!

In the 1910s and 1920s, home made cards became popular. They were often unusual shapes and had things such as foil and ribbon on them. These were usually too delicate to send through the post and were given by hand.

Nowadays, cards have all sorts of pictures on them: jokes, winter pictures, Santa Claus or romantic scenes of life in past times. Charities often sell their own Christmas Cards as a way raising money at Christmas.

Charities also make money from seals or stickers used to seal the card envelopes. This custom started in Denmark in the early 1900s by a postal worker who thought it would be a good way for charities to raise money, as well as making the cards more decorative. It was a great success: over four million were sold in the first year! Soon Sweden and Norway adopted the custom and then it spread all over Europe and to America.

International Anti-corruption Day

The United Nations’ (UN) International Anti-Corruption Day aims to raise public awareness of corruption and what people can do to fight it. It is observed on December 9 each year.

International Anti-Corruption Day is a time for political leaders, governments, legal bodies and lobby groups to work together against corruption work by promoting the day and the issues that surround this event. On this day anti-corruption advocates organize events to engage the general public to effectively fight against corruption and fraud in communities. Other activities that promote the day include:
  • Musicals and plays to publicize the message of fighting against corruption.
  • Keynote speeches by those who were victims of corruption or fought against it.
  • Essay competitions on issues surrounding the topic of corruption.
  • The dissemination of posters, flyers and other material to increase awareness levels on corruption.
Some organizations hold special recognition ceremonies to pay tribute to people and projects that provide assistance to nations and communities in the battle against corruption.

Corruption is an issue that affects all countries around the world. It can refer to the destruction of one’s honesty or loyalty through undermining moral integrity or acting in a way that shows a lack of integrity or honesty. It also refers to those who use a position of power or trust for dishonest gain. Corruption undermines democracy, creates unstable governments, and sets countries back economically. Corruption comes in various forms such as bribery, law-breaking without dealing with the consequences in a fair manner, unfairly amending election processes and results, and covering mistakes or silencing whistleblowers (those who expose corruption in hope that justice would be served).

By resolution 58/4 of October 31, 2003, the UN General Assembly designated December 9 as International Anti-Corruption Day. This decision aimed to raise people’s awareness of corruption and of the role of the United Nations Convention against Corruption in combating and preventing it. The assembly urged all states and competent regional economic integration organizations to sign and ratify the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) to ensure its rapid entry into force. UNCAC is the first legally binding, international anti-corruption instrument that provides a chance to mount a global response to corruption.

Posters, slogans, and other promotional material on International Anti-Corruption Day have featured a slogan or logo that takes up two lines. The first line reads “CORRUPTION” in capitalized red words, and underneath are the words “Your NO counts”. Most of the second line is written in black text except for the word “NO” which is highlighted in red capital letters within a white speech bubble.

The UN logo is also associated with promotions for this event. It features a projection of a world map (less Antarctica) centered on the North Pole, inscribed in a wreath consisting of crossed conventionalized branches of the olive tree. The olive branches symbolize peace and the world map depicts the area of concern to the UN in achieving its main purpose, peace and security. The projection of the map extends to 60 degrees south latitude, and includes five concentric circles.

National Pastry Day

Now don't get all puffed up - December 9 is National Pastry Day!

From croissants to cream puffs, éclairs to strudel and baklava to brioche, one of these sweet, flaky bites is bound to get your mouth watering.

The European tradition of pastry-making is often traced back to the shortcrust era of flaky doughs that were in use throughout the Mediterranean in ancient times.

In the ancient Mediterranean, the Romans, Greeks and Phoenicians all had filo-style pastries in their culinary traditions. There is also strong evidence that Egyptians produced pastry-like confections. They had professional bakers that surely had the skills to do so, and they also had needed materials like flour, oil, and honey. In the plays of Aristophanes, written in the 5th century BC, there is mention of sweetmeats, including small pastries filled with fruit. The Roman cuisine used flour, oil and water to make pastries that were used to cover meats and fowls during baking in order to keep in the juices, but the pastry was not meant to be eaten. A pastry that was meant to be eaten was a richer pastry that was made into small pastries containing eggs or little birds and that were often served at banquets. Greeks and Roman both struggled in making a good pastry because they used oil in the cooking process, and oil causes the pastry to lose its stiffness.

In the medieval cuisine of Northern Europe, pastry chefs were able to produce nice, stiff pastries because they cooked with shortening and butter. Some incomplete lists of ingredients have been found in medieval cookbooks, but no full, detailed versions. There were stiff, empty pastries called coffins or 'huff paste', that were eaten by servants only and included an egg yolk glaze to help make them more enjoyable to consume. Medieval pastries also included small tarts to add richness.

It was not until about the mid-16th century that actual pastry recipes began appearing. These recipes were adopted and adapted over time in various European countries, resulting in the myriad pastry traditions known to the region, from Portuguese "pastéis de nata" in the west to Russian "pirozhki" in the east. The use of chocolate in pastry-making in the west, so commonplace today, arose only after Spanish and Portuguese traders brought chocolate to Europe from the New World starting in the 16th century. Many culinary historians consider French pastry chef Antonin Carême (1784–1833) to have been the first great master of pastry making in modern times.

Pastry-making also has a strong tradition in many parts of Asia. Chinese pastry is made from rice, or different types of flour, with fruit, sweet bean paste or sesame-based fillings. Beginning in the 19th century, the British brought western-style pastry to the far east, though it would be the French-influenced Maxim in the 1950s that made western pastry popular in Chinese-speaking regions starting with Hong Kong. Still, the term "western cake" is used to differentiate between the automatically assumed Chinese pastry Other Asian countries such as Korea prepare traditional pastry-confections such as tteok, hangwa, and yaksik with flour, rice, fruits, and regional specific ingredients to make unique desserts. Japan also has specialized pastry-confections better known as mochi and manjū. Pastry-confections that originate in Asia are clearly distinct from those that originate in the west, which are generally much sweeter.

What makes pastry so decadently delicious is the high fat content, which puts it on a totally different plane than bread. Butter is the main agent behind pastry's telltale flaky texture. When it's made properly, the pastry has a light, buttery consistency but can support whatever filling you choose to stuff it with.

Whether you choose to go sweet or savory with your fillings, pastry or anything made with puff pastry are the ultimate shining stars at your holiday party - or just a party for yourself. Treat yourself to éclairs and cream puffs, or if you can't handle the sugar coma, throw together a puff pastry cheese tray or spinach-artichoke puff pastry.

And always remember, even though it can be finicky, there's no need to get huffy over puffy pastry.

Weary Willie Day

The enduring image of Emmett Kelly forlornly sweeping his spotlight into a dustpan will long be remembered by Ringling audiences everywhere. A master of pantomime, Kelly's classic tramp clown character "Weary Willie" could elicit huge laughs from enormous audiences with the very slightest raise of an eyebrow.

Emmett Kelly was born in Sedan, Kansas on December 9, 1898. His Irish-immigrant father worked the railroad and his mother ran her family-owned boarding house. Kelly grew up on a small farm in southern Missouri where he soon discovered that he had talent as a cartoonist. In 1920, Kelly sketched a character that would change his life. Kelly drew the adorable, tramp clown character he would later become. It was around this time that Kelly was bitten by the Circus bug and he worked night and day to develop a trapeze act.

Emmett Kelly was offered his first circus job by a booking agent for Howe's Great London Circus. The man offered Kelly the trapeze spot with the understanding that Kelly would double as a clown in the show. Kelly eagerly agreed. His trapeze work left much to be desired with the Howe's show. However, over time, Kelly developed his trapeze routine and became much more skilled. In 1923, Kelly was working his trapeze act with John Robinson's Circus when he met and fell in love with a woman named Eva Moore who worked a double trapeze act with her sister. Emmett and Eva eloped later that year. The newlyweds worked hard together and before long were featured in their own double trapeze act.

The next year, when Eva became pregnant, Kelly tried to increase his salary by developing a new clown character in the show based on his beloved tramp clown drawings, but the boss clown thought Kelly's tramp was "too scruffy and dirty" for the show. Mopingly, Kelly returned to performing his single trapeze act and doubling as a white-faced clown. Shortly after that time, The Great Depression hit and the appearance of tramps and hobos became more acceptable to American audiences, so in 1933, Kelly finally made the transition and "Weary Willie" was born.

Kelly joined Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey® after the United States joined World War II in 1941. Unlike any other clown before or after him, Kelly was given free reign in the Circus. He did not wear shiny, spangled costumes like the other cast members, he did not march in the huge Spectacle numbers, he simply wandered in and out of the arena, through the seating area, improvising wherever he wished. Other performers in the show saw Kelly's genius and asked him to "wander" into their acts. In one case, during an especially dramatic low-wire presentation, Willie wandered in as the performer prepared and hung his laundry on the rope only to be chased off. In another act, Willie came to the aid of a bareback performer who had missed a flip on horseback. Willie took out his ever-present broom and swept the back of the horse to make sure the equestrian had safe footing on his next attempt. And just as quickly as he "wandered" into a scene, Willie wandered out or was chased out -- leaving laughs and smiles in the wake of his solemn gait.

Willie provided comic relief in the Circus through the end of the 1956 season when he left his Circus career to pursue a job as the mascot for the Brooklyn Dodgers. For the next 20 years, Kelly was a regular on television variety shows, commercials, and at nightclubs. But Kelly always loved and cherished his time in the Circus. He wrote, "You can troupe all over the world, and you can listen to applause in faraway places and you can read flattering publicity from hell to breakfast, but when you open with Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey in Madison Square Garden, New York City, you have 'arrived.'"

On March 28, 1979, opening day of The 109th Edition of The Greatest Show On Earth® at Madison Square Garden, 80-year-old Emmett Kelly suffered a heart attack on the lawn of his home in Sarasota, Florida and died.

Emmett Kelly will always be remembered as one of the greatest and most recognizable Circus performers of all time. His genius and ingenuity came in the simplicity of his comedy and the honest heartfelt sentiments he conveyed without ever uttering a single word.