Archive for the ‘Trivia’ Category

December 30, 2016

December 30, 2016

There is one more day left in 2016.

Today is steeped in history.

On this day: 

1813 – War of 1812: British soldiers burn Buffalo, New York.
1896 – Canadian ice hockey player Ernie McLea scores the first hat-trick in Stanley Cup play, and the Cup-winning goal as the Montreal Victorias defeat the Winnipeg Victorias 6–5.
1903 – A fire at the Iroquois Theater in Chicago, Illinois kills at least 605.
1919 – Lincoln’s Inn in London, England, UK admits its first female bar student.
1922 – The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics is formed.
1936 – The United Auto Workers union stages its first sitdown strike.
1981 – In the 39th game of his third NHL season, Wayne Gretzky scores five goals, giving him 50 on the year and setting a new NHL record previously held by Maurice Richard and Mike Bossy, who earlier had each scored 50 goals in 50 games.
2005 – Tropical Storm Zeta forms in the open Atlantic Ocean, tying the record for the latest tropical cyclone ever to form in the North Atlantic basin.

And if today is your birthday, then you share with these individuals:

1865 – Rudyard Kipling, English author and poet, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1936)
1869 – Stephen Leacock, English-Canadian political scientist and author (d. 1944)
1928 – Bo Diddley, American singer-songwriter and guitarist (d. 2008)
1935 – Sandy Koufax, American baseball player and sportscaster
1940 – James Burrows, American actor, director, producer, and screenwriter
1945 – Davy Jones, English singer-songwriter and actor (d. 2012)
1949 – Jim Flaherty, Canadian lawyer and politician, MP for Oshawa-Whitby, 37th Canadian Minister of Finance (d. 2014)
1953 – Meredith Vieira, American journalist and game show host
1957 – Matt Lauer, American television journalist and anchor
1961 – Douglas Coupland, German-Canadian author and playwright
1975 – Tiger Woods, American golfer
1980 – Eliza Dushku, American actress and producer
1984 – LeBron James, American basketball player and producer
1986 – Ellie Goulding, English singer-songwriter and producer

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Douglas Coupland’s Group Portrait 1957, installed at the Robert McLaughlin Gallery, Oshawa, ON. Coupland celebrates a birthday on December 30!

December 26, 2016

December 26, 2016

Did you know that December 26th is National Candy Cane Day? It took a Church Choirmaster to create candy canes from straight sugar cane candies in order shut the mouths of talkative church going children. The cane shape is said to represent a Sheppard’s staff.  The first candy canes weren’t as colourful as we know them to be, rather they were plain white; the red and white striped candy canes were introduced in 1900.

December 26 is also Boxing Day in Canada, the UK, and other Commonwealth nations.  It isn’t a day reserved for the sport of Boxing (as I naively thought as a child!), but rather Boxing Day originated in England, where the word “boxing” refers to the distribution of small gifts of money.

December 22, 2016

December 22, 2016

Everybody knows a turkey and some mistletoe, help to make the season bright! The word “mistletoe” derives from an Anglo-Saxon phrase meaning dung on a twig.  This stems from the fact that their seeds were often spread through the droppings of birds. The custom of kissing underneath mistletoe started in Victorian England, it traditionally, it was bad luck to refuse such a kiss.

Kissing boughs differ from mistletoe in appearance, but traditionally they had the same superstitions surrounding it. Although popular in England, were not present in Ontario during the 19th century.

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Kissing Bough hanging in the Henry House hallway

December 19, 2016

December 19, 2016

St. Nicholas was a historic 4th-century saint and Greek Bishop of Myra in Lycia. He had a reputation for secret gift-giving, such as putting coins in the shoes of those who left them out for him.

Santa became popular in Christmas tradition when Sinter Klaus, Dutch for “Saint Nicholas,” was brought over by Dutch immigrants and they honored his death.  New York newspapers reported on this and his popularity grew!

St. Nicholas is the patron Saint of the Netherlands, and his feast day is observed every December 6, or December 19 in Eastern Christian countries.

December 14, 2016

December 14, 2016

 

Canada’s oldest Christmas song is Huron Carol, believed to be written around 1642 by the French Jesuit missionary  Jean de Brébeuf at St. Marie Among the Hurons, near current day Midland, Ontario.  It was originally written in the Huron language, and the English version, “‘Twas in the moon of wintertime,” was written by Jesse Edgar Middleton in 1926. The tune is related to a 16th-century French song, “Une jeune pucelle.”

December 11, 2016

December 11, 2016

An Eastern European folk tale explains why tinsel is commonly found on Christmas trees today.

The tale goes as follows:

A poor but hardworking widow once lived in a small hut with her children. One summer day, a pine cone fell on the earthen floor of the hut and took root. The widow’s children cared for the tree, excited at the prospect of having a Christmas tree by winter. The tree grew, but when Christmas Eve arrived, they could not afford to decorate it. The children sadly went to bed and fell asleep. Early the next morning, they woke up and saw the tree covered with cobwebs. When they opened the windows, the first rays of sunlight touched the webs and turned them into gold and silver. The widow and her children were overjoyed. From then on, they never lived in poverty again.¹

This legend of the Christmas Spider has led to many spider inspired ornaments adorning Christmas trees, including tinsel, which resembles spider webs.

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By Erika Smith – MSI Chicago – Christmas Around the World 2007 – Ukraine – spider web ornament, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=37156527


  1. From Wikipedia, Legend of the Christmas Spider

December 10, 2016

December 10, 2016

Do you hang a wreath on your front door this time of year? A popular Christmas decoration, wreaths are often made of evergreens, including holly, mistletoe, pine and fir. Not only do they stay green through the year, but they will often bear fruit in the winter, they are representative of life everlasting and the promise of spring through winter’s dark and cold days.  Their shape of a circle reminds us of life, family, and love.

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December 8, 2016

December 8, 2016

On Christmas Eve, children traditionally leave a treat for Santa and his reindeer. It is a lot of work, after all, flying all around the world in one night, and milk, cookies, and carrots serve as perfect snacks to keep up the stamina!  Did you know that traditionally, children in Ireland will not only leave cookies for Santa, but also a pint of Guinness?

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From the Oshawa Archives collection

December 6, 2016

December 6, 2016

On December 6, 1917, the city of Halifax, Nova Scotia suffered a terrible tragedy.  As explained in the Canadian Encyclopedia:

Halifax was devastated on 6 December 1917 when two ships collided in the city’s harbour, one of them a munitions ship loaded with explosives bound for the battlefields of the First World War. The result was the largest human-made explosion prior to the detonation of the first atomic bombs in 1945. The north end of Halifax was wiped out by the blast and subsequent tsunami. Nearly 2,000 people died, another 9,000 were maimed or blinded, and more than 25,000 were left without adequate shelter.

In the aftermath of the Halifax Explosion, the city of Boston, MA sent support, supplies and medical personnel.  In recognition of this, the province of Nova Scotia sends Boston a Christmas Tree every year, as they did in 1918 and they have done every year since 1971.  The tree from Halifax is Boston’s official tree and is lit in Boston Commons through the holiday season.

December 4, 2016

December 4, 2016

At this time of the year, in the Northern Hemisphere, we’re dreaming of a white Christmas, as Santa prepares to fly his sleigh led by nine reindeer, but how does Santa get around in the Southern Hemisphere, when December brings about the start of Summer?

Many holiday traditions in Australia and New Zealand are the same as those celebrated in North America and Europe, although, quite often Santa is imagined as wearing warm weather clothing, rather than his fur-lined robes, and his sleigh is pulled by kangaroos instead of reindeer!

The Australian Government comments on Christmas traditions on their website, saying many Australians spend Christmas outside by going to the beach for the day or perhaps camping.  As well, if you find yourself in Sydney, many international visitors go to Bondi Beach, which can see up to 40,000 people visit on Christmas Day!

In New Zealand, the pōhutukawa, a plant which produces large crimson flowers in December, is an often used symbol for Christmas, and it has become known as the New Zealand Christmas tree.

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Image from Wikipedia; By Bjankuloski06en – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7405753