Friday, July 30, 2010

Send a letter to Santa

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Another World Cup bites the dust!

Been a while since my last post, and in that time the World Cup has been and gone. Being retired now I had the time to watch a few games (all of them actually)...and I must say what a disappointment. There was only a handful of games that were any good, the rest were too boring to believe. I can understand why 'soccer' hasn't really taken off in the States if all they saw were games like that. The passing was 'sideways-sideways-back to the goalie-backwards-sideways' you get the drift. Especially in the opening group games, no one wanted to lose so the games were booooring.
Ah well, there was always England's performances to brighten the day.........I wish!! What a load of over-paid, under achievers. I heard a comment say that it wasn't the managers fault. He just took the wrong players......what!! Didn't he choose the squad then. OK, that's my rant. Oh, and if Sepp Blatter doesn't think we want goal line technology after the couple of awful gaffs in the tournament there's no hope for the game at all.

Anyway, on the gaming front, now the footy's finished I have been playing a few. I have been playing Army of Frogs and San Juan with Tina. She had played Frogs before but not San Juan. In the first game of SJ she was a bit overwhelmed by all the cards, but by the 3rd game she pretty much had it down and we had some enjoyable games then.

St. Wolfgang is pretty busy right now, height of the tourist season. The weather has been very hot, up to 35C on some days. We had an air show over the weekend of 10/11th July with displays by the Red Bull aerobatic champion Hannes Arches. They also had a giant video screen on a float on the lake and showed the World Cup Final on it.

Anyway, happy gaming all!!!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Christmas in July  It's my favorite time of the year to watch QVC's Christmas in July show. They have so many cool things for Christmas. I like the fact that each item is demonstrated for you and if you have a computer you can always check the reviews out for the item you may be interested in. I find that a great help in making my decision in buying things. Bethlehem lighting has some great products. The greenery in the wreaths, trees, centerpieces, and garland is very nice quality. They have improved on their LED lights...they're brighter than before and will last a long time. The battery operated items last through the season. Lots of unique things. Love the Mr. Christmas products and the Thomas Pacconi products. You always have 30 days to return anything you are not satisfied with and no questions asked. Love this!! If you love Christmas in July check them out at Christmas products are showing all day the 24th and 25th. Hope I don't spend to much! Start shopping early!
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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

He Blinded Me with Science!

Sorry for the Thomas Dolby 80s reference but I thought it would get your attention. This week I thought I would talk about Roger Highfield's The Physics of Christmas. Not exactly the first book to come to mind when you think of the holidays, but hear me out. I'm a geek at heart. I love science and channel that through my baking. So imagine my surprise about finding this book.

Taken from the title page: Delight in the physics of snow. A single snowflake might contain on the order of 100,000,000,000,000,000,000 water molecules. Or shopping. Although the lines of people in a supermarket are subject to random delays, on average they tend to move at about the same rate. This is captured in a mathematical form called the Poisson process.

Interesting huh? So, if you have an interest in the more logical and reasoning side of the holidays why not pick up this book. You'll be fascinated at the thermodynamics of turkey, or the aerodynamics of reindeer. Who knows? Maybe this year, as you're trudging through those crowded malls during the holidays, you see everyone as a school of fish. That should add some cheer to your Christmas!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Have a Cool Yule

If you want something for the younger kids to read this summer, why not try out these Christmas comics from George Broderick, Jr. Read a comprehensive interview with George from the folks of Real Christmas here about his comics and his background. George's site, Cool Yule Comics, has a great collection of characters and stories for yound and old.

Follow Christmas Eve and her friends through their adventures to save the North Pole and Christmas!

Photo copyright George Broderick, Jr.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Christmas History: Christianity, the Mystery Cult

There was a new religion gaining ranks in the Roman world: Christianity. This mystery cult had the Romans up at arms. Mystery in a sense that its operation was only available to iniates. Christianity in as much as participation in it's religious life is open only to the baptised is a mystery religion. Worship just one god? Defy the emperor? People following the Christian faith, at that time, were being persecuted by the Emperor and singled out for punishment and torture. Christians had to be secretive and in seclusion. For any religion to gain popularity you need participants. A problem was encountered during the conversion to Christianity, however. No matter how good the new religion sounded to the Roman peoples, they were used to their old ways and unique lifestyle. More importantly, they knew how the Gods reacted to these situations, and they trusted Them. There was no reason to switch sides, so to speak, to a god they didn't know, or a religion they weren't familar with.

Taking that into consideration, Christians thought of a plan to make the new converted feel more at ease. They built churches on old worship sites. Their reasoning: people knew the sites, felt comfortable worshipping there and would continue to frequent them, with a building there or not. They incorporated Pagan symbols within the church decor, and added some revised customs to their rituals. To help smooth matters further, they changed the names to some of the deities, called them saints, and added them to the new Christian pantheon.

Sounds easy, right? Well, not really. The Romans were a little upset about all the changes that were happening. They thought that the Christians were making fun of their gods. As a result, most Christians went into hiding for a little while until they could figure out what to do.

So, time passes and around the fourth century, the Christians had a revelation. Unlike other previous religions, Christianity focused on the workings on their god: Jesus, and his death and resurrection. Not much emphasis was placed on his birth. This presented a problem. Because the birth-death-rebirth cycle had been a major part of the Pagan belief system, ignoring the birth aspect became problematic.

Of course, to have a birth you need a woman. Not focusing on the birth of Jesus meant there was no woman, no mother. In Pagan religions there were many goddesses. The Christians needed a goddess. This goddess couldn't been anyone. They needed someone strong and powerful. Deciding on Mary, the mother of Jesus, the early Christians now placed more focus on the birth of their god and Mary became the "Mother of God."

Then came the question of when Jesus was born. The Christians set his birthday on December 25. This date fell in the middle of the winter holidays, and because some Pagans celebrated other festivals around that time anyway, the Christians believed this festival would be relatively unnoticed. They called this festival the "Birth of the Son" and because "son" and "sun" were pronounced the same, the Pagans would think it was just another addition to their festival. Everyone was happy and Christmas was born unto the world!

Source: The History of Yule: How it all began by Dorothy Morrison

Friday, July 16, 2010


The holidays are coming. We are aware of that mostly when the craft stores start to put out their supplies for the holidays. Granted there are Christmas items in craft stores for most of the year, August seems to be the time when the major push starts. I know what some of you are thinking. "We just got the kids out of school and we're going on vacation. I don't want to be thinking about getting ready for Christmas already!"

But for some of us this is the perfect time to get started on your holiday crafts. The days are longer and you seem to get more done because of it. Also, on days that are rainy, what could be better than staying inside, putting on some holiday music and working on your crafts? Whether it be cross stitch, quilting, beadwork, scrapbooking, or whatever, take some time to get caught up on those crafts that just didn't get finished in time last year.

This is also the perfect time to organize your craft area. Throw out old dated ribbon or fabric. Or re-organise your craft work area to make room for this year's ideas. You don't have to get all high tech on your organising either. Use simple clear boxes to see what's inside, or just label some shoe
boxes. I have a five drawer rolling organiser that holds all of my gift bags, tape, scissors, and smaller items. Whatever you choose, make it easy for you to find things and make it your own.
*Photo courtesy of Rubbermaid

As for the craft ideas, the web is full of sites that can help you make the holidays more colourful and festive. The are sites such as Michaels which have a vast array of choices for any crafting enthusiast. For Canadians, there is Mary Maxim. This company has been around for years and offers a great selection of quilting, stitching, beadwork, and other ideas for the holidays. Whatever you choose let's start a little early this year and make your holidays merry and bright.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Christmas Needs Saving!

This is one of my favourite books to read during the holidays, but it can be read any time of the year for a good laugh. How Murray Saved Christmas by Mike Reiss tells the tale how, on Christmas Eve, poor Santa gets knocked out cold by an errant jack-in-the-boxer. It is up to the local North Pole deli owner Murray Kleiner to save Christmas and deliver the presents on Christmas Eve. Join Murray as he travels the world to each children's house to show each child that there really is a Santa Claus, and give them a little nosh to help sleep through the night.

You'll love Mike Reiss' take on the traditional Christmas story. Illustrated by David Catrow, the book comes alive with images of the rotund Murray filling the Santa suit and the quirkiness of Santa's elves. Find this book at your local library, sit down with a nice pastrami sandwich and coleslaw, and enjoy!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Christmas in July

As I'm going to be away on the 25 of July, I thought I would introduce this a little early. Christmas in July is an event that has been going on for a number of years now and there are many stories about its origin. I've done a little research and found some plausible explanations for this semi-holiday. Here are some ideas:

In Western cultureChristmas occurs in December. Christmas is a Christian holy day that commemorates the birth of Jesus and is, in general, a time of gift-giving and holiday cheer. Christmas in July celebrations may be held in July to provide a second joyful celebration in the year.In the southern hemisphere, Christmas in July is the name given to social events with a winter Christmas theme, as July is generally the coldest month of the year.In the northern hemisphere during the summer months the weather becomes increasingly warm and many people crave the atmosphere of cooler temperatures, gift giving and holiday spirit. To satisfy this, some people throw parties during the month of July that mimic the holiday of Christmas. The features of Christmas in July include Santa Claus,ice cream and other cold foods and gifts. Nightclubs often host parties open to the public.

In many western countries, July has a minor number of marketing opportunities. In the United States and Canada, there are no national holidays between the first week of July (Canada Day on July 1 in Canada and the Fourth of July in the United States) and Labor day, leaving two months with no holidays. Some provinces in Canada have a civic holiday in August, but those holidays are not ones where gifts are exchanged between loved ones. Therefore, to justify sales, shops (such as Leon's in Canada) will sometimes announce a "Christmas in July" sale.

Scandinavian languages such as Swedish, Norwegian and Danish translate the word Christmas as Jul (literally, Yule), which happens to be the abbreviation for July in English. When you translate "Christmas in July" to Swedish you get "Jul i Juli".

Werther, an 1892 opera with libretto by Édouard Blau, Paul Milliet, and Georges Hartmann, had an English translation published in 1894 by Elizabeth Beall Ginty. In the story, a group of children rehearses a Christmas song in July, to which a character responds, "When you sing Christmas in July, you rush the season." It is a translation of the French, "vouz chantez Noël en juillet... c'est s'y prendre à l'avance." This opera is based on Goethe's The Sorrows of Young Werther. Christmas features in the book, but July does not.

The earliest known occasion to make the phrase Christmas in July literal was in July 1933 at Camp Keystone, a girl's summer camp in North Carolina, which celebrated with a Christmas tree, gifts, and a visit by Santa Claus. In 1935, the National Recreation Association's journal Recreation described what a Christmas in July was like at a girl's camp, writing that "all mystery and wonder surround this annual event."

The term, if not the exact concept, was given national attention with the release of the movie comedy Christmas in July in 1940, written and directed by Preston Sturges. In the story, a man is fooled into believing he has won $25,000 in an advertising slogan contest. He buys presents for family, friends and neighbors, and proposes marriage to his girlfriend.

In 1942, the Calvary Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., celebrated Christmas in July with carols and the sermon "Christmas Presents in July". They repeated it in 1943, with a Christmas tree covered with donations. The pastor explained that the special service was patterned after a program held each summer at his former church in Philadelphia, when the congregation would present Christmas gifts early to give ample time for their distribution to missions worldwide. It became an annual event, and in 1946 the service began to be broadcast over local radio.

The U.S. Post Office and U.S. Army and Navy officials, in conjunction with the American advertising and greeting card industries, threw a Christmas in July luncheon in New York in 1944 to promote an Early Christmas Mailing Campaign for service men and women overseas during World War II. The luncheon was repeated in 1945.

American advertisers began using "Christmas in July" themes in print for summertime sales as early as 1950.

From empirical observation in the Midwest of the United States, many times the birthdays of "Christmas kids" (children born around Christmas) are celebrated in July, perhaps to avoid doubling up on gifts from birthdays and Christmas .One thing I've notice as well. During the summer months most television series are in reruns. July seems to be the time the Christmas episodes air, given it's about 8 weeks (or so) after the beginning of the season. That's always a pleasant surprise for me. Regardless of the show I'll watch a Christmas episode.

Regardless of your traditions, celebration the season knowing that the more "traditional" season of Christmas is less than five months away. Happy Holidays!

Source: Wikipedia

Monday, July 12, 2010

Pick a Card

I was checking out the new Hallmark ornaments at my local store today and I got to thinking about cards. Christmas is one of the busiest times for the post office. Not only are people sending out hundreds of cards to various points around the globe, more and more people are sending virtual cards through email. Do you have a preference, paper or electronic? Myself, I prefer the paper kind.

I remember back to all the Christmases I had when I was a kid and all the cards my parents would receive. Mother used to tape them around a doorway, or place them on a side table. Nowadays there are so many different card holders. You can make something personal with fabric and ribbon. You can stick them in a cardboard length of paper with a festive holiday picture printed on it, or you can use a tree made with many branches of wire to artfully display your cards. If there's a way to bend wire around into a Christmas shape, then there's a holder for your cards.

Then there's how you group them. Do you keep all the family ones together? Or all the religious themed? Or all the ones the same shape? Whatever you do, we all have a sense of pride in displaying our cards to the people in our lives. Our collection of cards represent the people in our lives and displaying them for the world to see just shows how much we care about those people.

Then the dilemma about what to do with them at the end of the Christmas season. Do you recycle them to the bin, after recording who sent which card? Or do you save them each year to reminisce about Christmas past? Some of you may be especially crafty and make ornaments or gift tags with last years cards. Each person has their own method, cherishing each moment. So as you sit in the hot sun, enjoying a cool drink, keep those traditions in mind. Your friends are only a (Christmas) card away.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Christmas History: Romans and Greeks

As we continue eastward from our journey, from Egypt and Mesopotamia, we encounter the Romans and the Greeks. Word of the sun-worshipping festivals travels east. In Greece, Zeus defeats his father, Kronos, and the Titans, during the Greek version of Sacaea. But this isn't the main reason for the festivities. There are mischeivous imps, called Kallikantzaroi, roaming the land wreaking havoc on the twelve days of the Sacaea. These imps had a reputation of stealing souls, especially the ones of newly born children. Newborns were wrapped with garlic bundles, and a large log was kept burning for the duration of the festival to keep the imps at bay. The uninvited festive guests are said to sneak into homes through the chimney or, more boldly, by using the front door. And, surprise surprise, Greek families are keen to ward off the gaggles of goblin louts. Some use the legendary precaution of a black-handled knife. Others swear by hanging the lower jaw of a pig behind the front door or inside the chimney. Hanging a tangled strand of flax on the front door tends to flummox the dim-witted Kallikantzaroi, who pause to count the threads, a lengthy task which keeps them busy until sunrise.

Finally, with the Romans. Some Romans followed a sun worshipping religion called Mithraism, after the god Mithras. They combined most of the traditions of their predecessors and added a few new things. First was to adopt the Roman name for Zeus: Jupiter and his father Kronos, became Saturn. To honour Saturn, the festival happening around the winter solistice was called Saturnalia. The festival began at the Romans' temple of Saturn with a ceremony to remove the chain which bound the feet of the god all year long. During this week of festivities all of Rome was practically on holiday. Schools were dismissed and businesses were closed. The Romans decorated their homes with laurel boughs and lit candles to chase away evil spirits. Gifts were exchanged and elaborate parties ensued. The Romans knew how to throw a party and this was the biggest one of the year. As the sun gained power and the days became longer Jupiter's power was regained and Saturn's feet became bound again. The parties died down and things went back to normal. The mystery religion of Mithras only started around the first century C.E., just at the same time another religion was gaining propularity: Christianity.

Next time: Christianity's beginnings

Source: Greek Goblins Run Riot Over Christmas by Danylo Hawaleshka and Yule: A Celebration of Light and Warmth by Dorothy Morrison

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Summer Holiday Reading

Well, the bags are packed, the car is loaded and you're on your way for summer vacation. Whether you're off to the beach, relatives or just relaxing in your back yard, you'll need something to give you a break from all the craziness of the summer vacay. Why not bring along some light Christmas reading to help bring back those memories of frosty nights and Christmas cheer?

This time I've picked The Christmas Bus by Melody Carlson. It's only two weeks before Christmas and Edith Ryan is disappointed that none of her children are coming to visit for the holidays. She and her husband run a small inn, the Shepherd's Inn, in the quaint town of Christmas Valley. She opens the inn to a small group of strangers: the cantankerous older woman by the name of Myrtle Pinkerton and a young couple Lauren and Michael Thomas help Edith celebrate the reason for the season. With a baby on the way, Edith wonders if she's made the right choice about opening up the Inn to these mysterious strangers.

This should be a short and fun read for most. The book barely makes 175 pages, so you don't have to worry about it taking up all your summer vacation. It reads quickly and is full of quirky and lovable characters. So, check it out at your local library and enjoy!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Christmas in the Garden

With the warm weather, we all want to get outside into our gardens. We love to feel that connection with the earth and dig our hands into the ground. Even in the heat of the summer you can have the idea of Christmas around. There are many plants, for indoors and out, that can remind you of the holidays. Here are just a few:

Mint: Peppermint and spearmint are two of the great flavors of the holidays. Whether it reminds you of candy canes, chocolate mint cookies, or those small candies that seem to be everywhere during the holidays, these two herbs are perfect for keeping you in the holiday mood. Make yourself some nice mint iced tea, or add some to your lemonade and you'll have a cool, refreshing drink good for any occasion.

Christmas Cactus:
The Christmas cactus is a special plant in its own right. It is vigorous and tolerates a certain degree of negligence. In the fall its long stems bear magnificent blooms and each bloom lasts six to nine days and blooming continues for a good four to six weeks. In the winter, place it in a south-facing window, then around the end of May, place it outside, sheltered from the direct rays of the sun until the end of August. To get it to bloom it needs to have the temperature controlled to 15ºC (60F) at night and 20ºC (70F) during the day. If the temperature goes above 25ºC (80F) the floral buds will just fall off. To increase the number of blooms, let the plant dry out a bit as the days start to shorten (mid-September). During the fall months, the Christmas Cactus should be placed in a spot where it receives indoor indirect, bright light during the daylight hours but total darkness at night (absolutely no artificial light). The Christmas Cactus requires long, uninterrupted dark periods, about 12 or more hours each night. Begin the dark treatments in about mid-October to have plants in full bloom by the holidays. Place the plants in a dark area from about 12 or more hours each night for 6-8 weeks or until you see buds forming. A closet or unused bathroom are ideal places.

Dahlias: Dahlias are a great addition to any beautiful garden as they provide vibrant colors and attraction to the garden. You can plant dahlias of different colors at different parts of the garden and also there is no need to plant them every year. Dahlias have a hardy stem and the color, size or shape would suit any gardening need. There are a few hybrids of this wonderful plant to remind you of the holiday season. Try these for a injection of Christmas in your garden:

Santa Claus Dahlia
Can you image your garden filled with these beautiful red and white flowers? You can almost hear the Christmas bells.

Peppermint Dahlia

These are just a few of the plants that you can have in your garden to help you keep the holiday spirit year 'round. Happy gardening and happy holidays!

Candy Cane Dahlia

Christmas Specials

We all know the holidays are upon us when we start seeing those Christmas specials. When I was growing up I was fascinated with the specials of Charlie Brown's Christmas, The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, and Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer. I sat in front of the television enraptured with Charlie Brown wondering why the holiday has come so commercial, or the meanness of the Grinch, or Rudolph and his red nose saving the day.

Nowadays, one can watch these shows any time, any where. I personally have them on DVD, or I can take them out of my public library. I can even find complete episodes online with a little searching. What makes me a little sad is that part of the magic of the season slipped away with all this new technology. Don't get me wrong. I love the convenience, the speed and the opportunites new technology presents, but having to wait a whole year to see the Christmas specials again left me filled with anticipation and joy. Of course I knew how everything would turn out, seeing them the previous year. But that's not the point. Like Christmas morning, the feeling of anticipation; that anxiousness all chrildren get when they are waiting for something, is something I remember fondly.

So, the next time that you pull out that movie or book, think back to when you were young. The time when Christmas seemed full of magic, full of hope, and full of anticipation. Watch the movie, or read the book, with a new sense of wonder. It's still there, inside you, waiting to be rediscovered.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Hallmark Ornament Catalog

The Hallmark ornament book is already out for the 2010 Christmas season. I love how they have so many different choices. There's is something for every decor and theme for your tree. Enjoy looking through and starting your Christmas ornament wish list.

We have a Santa theme to our tree at home, so I think I'll pick up this little guy this year.

Holiday weekend

Happy Independance Day to all my American readers!

With everyone taking a long weekend and outside with the barbeque I thought I would talk about food. Food is a central part of any holiday. We all try to get together with friends and family to celebrate the season, Christmas or the fourth of July. With that in mind, I wanted to share a little bread recipe with you. This egg nog bread has a little brandy in the mix, but not to worry, the alcohol gets cooked off in the baking process. You'll just get the flavor.

For your bread machine.

3/4 cup milk (room temp.)

2 egg yolks

1 egg

2 tbsp brandy

1 tsp salt

1/4 cup liquid honey

2 tbsp butter (room temp) (1/4 stick)

2 3/4 cups all purpose flour or bread flour

1 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

1 tsp bread machine or instant yeast

3/4 cup cranberries

Measure all ingredients except cranberries into baking pan in the order listed. Select Sweet Cycle. Add cranberries at the "add ingredient" signal. Note: For a more conventional looking loaf, just use the Dough cycle. Transfer bread to floured surface, knead and place in greased loaf pan. Let rise for 45 - 60 minutes. Bake in 350F oven for 30 minutes. Enjoy the smell and taste of warm bread from your oven!

Source: 300 Best Canadian Bread Machine Recipes by Donna Wasburn and Heather Butt

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Memories of Christmases Past

I'm originally from the east coast, but now I've relocated to the west side of the country. I miss the smell of the sea and the simple, slower pace of life. I grew up in a small(ish) community, about 15,000 people. At the time it was big enough so that you didn't know everyone, but you knew someone who did. It seemed simpler, but history has a way of becoming a bit more rosy colored as it ages.

That being said, there were a few hardships. My parents divorced when I was around 6. I remember the fight and my mother coming in to sleep in my bed. Later my brother and I moved in to a house with the man my mother was seeing. Eventually things settled down, my mother remarried, and we got to see our birth father every other weekend. He would also get us for a few days at Christmas and two weeks in the summer.

I was in my mid-teens and my brother and I went to my father's house for part of the Christmas holidays. He had also remarried and my brother and I got along with his new wife. This year he had waited until we showed up to get the Christmas tree. Usually there were a few people who set up stands selling the trees on the side of the road, but Dad thought it would be good for us to get our own. The town was surrounded by forest and getting a tree wouldn't be that hard to do. So, we drove about 30 minutes out of town, remembering to stay away from anyone's propery.

The day was beautiful. Sunny and crisp. I remember the sound of the snow crunching as we walked through. I still enjoy that sound as I walk in my winter boots over newly fallen snow. We must have walked a ways, looking for the perfect tree. My cheeks were red with the cold, but I didn't feel it. Then we found what we were looking for: the perfect tree. It stood there, not crowded by the other trees and the perfect height. From what I remember, it probably was about seven feet tall. Snow covered the branches and I admired it for a while. My Dad got out his saw and began to saw at the base. We carried the tree back to the car, and drove back to the house.

At home, we set up the tree in the living room. The smell of evergreen filled the house. While it wasn't perfectly symmetrical, we played with it so we had the good side facing the living room. Then we set to work. Popcorn was popped and colored construction paper was taken out. We must have spent the afternoon making strings of popcorn and paper chains for the tree while we sipped on hot chocolate. We looped them around the branches of the tree, trying to make everything look right. We also had a few glass ornaments and hung them on the ends. Lastly we placed a star on the top. To me, everything looked perfect.

That was one of the best Christmas memories of my youth. Yes, I enjoyed opening the gifts on Christmas day. What kid doesn't. But that Christmas made me realized that sometimes the simple things are the best. Try not to get all wrapped up in the hustle and bustle of the season. Take some time, sip some hot chocolate, and relive some warm Christmas memories.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Music all year long

If you don't mind the occasional commercial, this online radio is great for holiday music all year long. You can choose from a variety of genres, and styles. You can even hear the same song in different formats. Have you heard all the different stylings of Rudolph or Greensleeves? Or maybe you want to hear just the crooners, or a hard rock Christmas. Whatever music you like, it's here.

Accuradio has all you need for your year long holiday fix. On the main page just head over to the "More" button and select "Accuholidays." Then just choose what style of music you want to listen to. It's that easy.

Happy Holidays everyone!

Christmas History

While most of us know about the Christian part of the holiday, what about the other contributions have been made to the holiday over the years. I want to talk about the history of this great and wonderous holiday going back centuries before the birth of Christ. We all know that Christmas is a amalgamation of many different traditions, religious and secular. Each part of this history lesson I will try to enlighten you about a specific contribution to the holiday. And don't get me wrong, I'm not an expert, just an enthusiast. The knowledge I've compiled comes from many sources and many media. I will even go so far as to say that I can't guarantee that some of it will even be true. I will try to back up history with sources and reference material if possible, for verification.

History of Christmas: Before Christ

The beginning 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 Egypt, there was the celebration of the rebirth of Horus, the sun god. Because the Egyptians honoured Horus with a twelve month calendar, the festival lasted twelve days with each day symbolizing one month. Buildings were decorated with all sorts of greenery, such a palm branches. Each branch had twelve fronds, making it a small calendar. This was an ideal representation of the birth, death, rebirth cycle of the Sun.

Word of this festival traveled to Egypt's neighbors, the Babylonians, in Mesopotamia. The believed that these rituals were the heart of the Egyptians prosperity and they quickly adopted some similar festivities. Called Zagmuk, this festival incorporated their sun/creator god, Marduk. They believed that Marduk created the world, and made it one of order and peace. This wasn't easy though, to create the world Marduk had to fight the monsters of chaos.

Each year, as the days became shorted and the nights cooler, the monsters regained their strength and challenged Marduk's reign. This battle took place around the dates of the winter solstice, December 21 in our calendar. The Zagmuk festival started five days before the solstice and lasted six days after, with the peak of the festival falling on the day of the solstice itself. On the seventh day after the solstice, the Sun stayed longer in the sky, a sign that Marduk was on his way to victory. This resulted in parades and parties, and the occasional exchange of gifts. The world was renewed for another year and all was right with the Babylonian people.

Next time: Romans and Greeks

Source: and Yule: A Celebration of Light and Warmth by Dorothy Morrison

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Have your cake and eat it too

I picked up this book at the library this week. I love the use of fondant icing. The cover pic is great. Everything is edible except for the berries. I love the simplicity and elegance this cake has. Inside are many different types of cakes, from traditional to informal, from religious to just winter fun. If you can, go to your local library and check it out.

Classic and Contempary Christmas Cakes by Nadene Hurst

Welcome to all. I'm going to try my hand at starting a year round Christmas blog. I've always loved the holiday and think about it all the time, even in the summer. I want to touch on many things about the holidays, secular and religious. Some things may not be for all people, but I hope to entertain, enlighted and express my joy for the holiday.

Who knows? I may even have some guest bloggers in the future. So, may all your days be merry and bright throughout the year.

"He who does not have Christmas in his heart will never find it under the tree." - Roy L. Smith