Archive for the ‘Holidays’ Category

December 12, 2017

December 12, 2017

Today at sunset, the Festival of Lights or Hanukkah begins.  Because the Jewish calendar is based on the lunar rather than the solar year, the date of Hanukkah moves about on the calendar and can land anywhere between November 25th and December 26th.

Hanukkah commemorates the Jewish people’s successful rebellion against the Greeks in the Maccabean War in 162 BCE.  After the victory, a ritual re-dedication was to take place in temple.  Oil that was only expected to last one night instead lasted eight nights.  This was seen as miraculous, and to celebrate this miracle, Hanukkah began and has been celebrated for over 1500 years.

Iconic of Hanukkah is the menorah, a nine branched candelabrum; on the first evening of Hanukkah one candle is lit and special prayers are said. On the second evening two candles are lit, and so on. The rest of the evening is spent singing songs, playing games, telling Hanukkah stories, and enjoying special holiday foods.

Children may also celebrate Hanukkah by spinning the dreidel, Each side of the dreidel bears a letter of the Hebrew alphabet: נ (Nun), ג (Gimel), ה (He), ש (Shin), which together form the acronym for “נס גדול היה שם” (Nes Gadol Hayah Sham – “a great miracle happened there”).

Happy Hanukkah!

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December 11, 2017

December 11, 2017

Santa Claus as we know him today is a jolly man adorned in his iconic red suit.  Our depiction of Santa comes from a few sources.  In 1837 Clement C Moore wrote his poem A Visit from St. Nicholas (commonly referred to as Twas the Night Before Christmas), and in it, he describes Father Christmas as such:

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
A bundle of Toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a pedler just opening his pack.
His eyes—how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath;
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly.
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;

Here, we see Santa dressed in fur with his round belly and bright cheeks.  It was in the 20th century when red became solidified as his signature colour.  While he was dressed in red before the 1930s, it was Coca-Cola’s advertising, created by Haddon Sundblom which truly popularized the depiction of Santa that we know today.  

December 10, 2017

December 10, 2017

According to Wikipedia, the earliest theatrical Christmas film was 1930’s The Unholy Three.  In what would be Lon Chaney’s final film, three robbers attempt a jewelry heist on Christmas Eve.

Through the years, many different original or adapted films would be created for the holiday season. Leave a comment sharing your favourite holiday movie.

December 9, 2017

December 9, 2017

Did you know December 9 is Christmas Card Day? A perfect excuse reach out to friends and loved ones and send along holiday cheer.

In 1843, Sir Henry Cole approached John Callcott Horsley with an idea, an idea that is still very popular today.  Cole’s idea was to develop a card that could be sent to family and friends to wish them well during the holiday season.

Horsley designed the first Christmas card, showing a family enjoying a meal together, carrying the simple message of “Merry Christmas And A Happy New Year To You”.  The initial print run was for 1000 cards which were lithographed and hand coloured by a professional colourer.

In total, 2050 cards were produced with this image and started a tradition that continues to be popular today.

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December 8, 2017

December 8, 2017

December 8 is commemorated by Buddhists as Bodhi Day, marking the day that the historical Buddha (Shakyamuni or Siddhartha Gautama) experienced enlightenment.  According to the Huffington Post, “Bodhi Day is an opportunity to acknowledge our dedication to the principles of wisdom, compassion and kindness — the distinguishing features of the Buddhist worldview.”

December 7, 2017

December 7, 2017

From Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol

In came a fiddler with a music-book, and went up to the lofty desk, and made an orchestra of it, and tuned like fifty stomach-aches. In came Mrs. Fezziwig, one vast substantial smile. In came the three Miss Fezziwigs, beaming and lovable. In came the six young followers whose hearts they broke. In came all the young men and women employed in the business. In came the housemaid, with her cousin, the baker. In came the cook, with her brother’s particular friend, the milkman. In came the boy from over the way, who was suspected of not having board enough from his master; trying to hide himself behind the girl from next door but one, who was proved to have had her ears pulled by her mistress. In they all came, one after another; some shyly, some boldly, some gracefully, some awkwardly, some pushing, some pulling; in they all came, anyhow and everyhow. Away they all went, twenty couple at once; hands half round and back again the other way; down the middle and up again; round and round in various stages of affectionate grouping; old top couple always turning up in the wrong place; new top couple starting off again, as soon as they got there; all top couples at last, and not a bottom one to help them! When this result was brought about, old Fezziwig, clapping his hands to stop the dance, cried out, “Well done!” and the fiddler plunged his hot face into a pot of porter, especially provided for that purpose. But scorning rest, upon his reappearance, he instantly began again, though there were no dancers yet, as if the other fiddler had been carried home, exhausted, on a shutter, and he were a bran-new man resolved to beat him out of sight, or perish.

There were more dances, and there were forfeits, and more dances, and there was cake, and there was negus, and there was a great piece of Cold Roast, and there was a great piece of Cold Boiled, and there were mince-pies, and plenty of beer. But the great effect of the evening came after the Roast and Boiled, when the fiddler (an artful dog, mind! The sort of man who knew his business better than you or I could have told it him!) struck up “Sir Roger de Coverley.” Then old Fezziwig stood out to dance with Mrs. Fezziwig. Top couple, too; with a good stiff piece of work cut out for them; three or four and twenty pair of partners; people who were not to be trifled with; people who would dance, and had no notion of walking.

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December 6, 2017

December 6, 2017

Santa Claus parades are held annually in cities and towns all over North America.  These parades often celebrate Christmas, music, culture, and local groups.  One of the largest Santa Claus parades is held closer to home than you may think, being the Toronto Santa Claus Parade.  This parade first began on December 2, 1905 under the name “Eaton’s Santa Claus Parade”, as it was sponsored by the Eaton’s chain of department stores.  This parade consisted of only a single attraction, being Santa Claus arriving at Union Station to meet Mr. and Mrs. Eaton, then travelling together to the Eaton’s Store.  This annual parade soon exploded in popularity, as Canadians from all over would come to watch the parade, or witness it through the many bilingual broadcasts from the 1950s onward.  During these years, Santa has arrived by train, a chariot, a float, and in 1913, Santa travelled through the streets of Toronto in a sleigh drawn by four live reindeer brought in from Labrador.  In 1982, Eaton’s cancelled their sponsorship.  Luckily, a non-profit organization took their place, and the annual Toronto Santa Claus Parade was reborn, still continuing to this day.

Much like Toronto, many smaller cities and towns have taken to the tradition of hosting annual Santa Claus parades.  Today Oshawa hosts Santa’s Parade of Lights every November.  Children and adults alike come every year to watch parades of holiday cheer and local culture pass through their towns, just like they have for over a century.

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December 5, 2017

December 5, 2017

In 1865 the Murdoch Bros. Exhorted people to “Prepare for 1866” with their choice stock of groceries which included “a splendid lot of layer, Bunch, Valencia and Sultana Raisins – also currants, figs, preserved ginger, preserved peaches, candied lemons and oranges.”

Murdoch Brothers

December 4, 2017

December 4, 2017

Whereas most iconic Christmas characters are jolly and helpful – such as Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Frosty the Snowman – there is one that is well known for being not so nice: the Grinch.  Back in 1957, Dr. Seuss published his first book starring the Grinch, being How the Grinch Stole Christmas.  Although this was the Grinch’s first full book, his first appearance was actually in a 1955 poem called The Hoobub and the Grinch.  Yet the popularity of the Grinch’s Christmas book quickly overshadowed the poem.  The story became a worldwide phenomenon, being adapted into various media.  In 1966, the book was adapted into the well-known animated featurette under the same name.  It was in this featurette that the popular song “You’re a Mean One Mr. Grinch” was created.  The song, featurette, and original book have served to solidify Dr. Seuss’s the Grinch as a beloved Christmas character.

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December 3, 2017

December 3, 2017

Did you know December 3 is Make a Gift Day? According to DaysoftheYear.com:

There’s just something amazing about unwrapping a gift, wondering what’s inside. Underneath the wrapping paper could be anything, a CD from your favorite band, a new headset from Best Buy, any one of a million things from a million stores. But what’s really special is when you open up that paper and what’s found inside is a tangible representation of the love and adoration the person giving the gift felt you. Nothing says that like a hand-made gift, and on Make a Gift Day, you get to be the one to share that love with the people you care about.

You can celebrate this day as simply as making a gift! Everyone has skills, put yours to use and make something special. This could also be a great day to try something new and learn a new skill!