Category Archives: Holidays

Fun Facts about Our Christmas Traditions

Part 2 of 2

By Lindsay Roseberry, Reference LibrarianArtificial-Christmas-Tree

Christmas Carols – These are songs specifically written and sung to celebrated the events of the Nativity. Carols have been around since the 300s. St. Francis of Assisi and the Franciscans put poems to music and popularized the carols. During the reformation and in Puritan America, they were frowned upon and often illegal.

Christmas trees – No one really knows when this tradition started, but it is generally considered to have begun in Germany. Having Christmas trees spread slowly through Europe, and came to England with the German Hanoverian kings. Trees were truly popularized during Queen Victoria’s reign, with the influence of her husband, Prince Albert.

Christmas Wrapping – Originally, unwrapped presents were put out during Christmas Eve, after the tree was decorated. Nowadays, trees are put up so much earlier and gifts come from other family members. It is generally understood that any unwrapped gifts came from Santa Claus.

Christmas cards – Christmas cards started out as decorative note paper that people used to write to their relative on holidays. They became even more popular after Valentine’s Day cards spread throughout England in the 1830s.

Eggnog – This popular milk or cream based drink gets its name from an old term for ale, which was called nog. The drink was a French tradition, which we Americans promptly added ale (or liquor) to.

2256785187_179f1c297e_zNativity Scene or Crèche – The earliest known Nativity Scene dates back to Rome in the 300s; it was part of the Christ’s Mass, and was said to have come from Bethlehem. St. Francis of Assisi is credited with popularizing it when he placed real animals and people in the scene.

The Nutcracker – This story was written in 1816 by German author E T A Hoffman and was rather a dark grim tale. Alexandre Dumas adapted it in 1845 and made it less scary. In 1891, Tchaikovsky wrote the music for the ballet which opened in St. Petersburg in 1892, and has remained popular ever since.

The Twelve Days of Christmas – This time period starts on December 26 and continues through Epiphany (also known as Three Kings Day.) which is January 6th.  In 567, at the Council of Tours, it was decided that these twelve days would be set aside to honor and observe the birth of Christ.

Wassail – Wassail comes from the Old English words waes hael, which means “be well,” “be hale,” or “good health.” Originally it was a strong, hot drink (usually a mixture of ale, honey, and spices), but over the centuries some non-alcoholic versions of wassail evolved.

How to write Merry Christmas in other languages

Afrikaans Geseënde Kersfees
Czech Velike Vanoce
Danish Glaedelig Jul!
French Joyeux Noël
German Froeliche Weinachten
Italian Bono Natale
Japanese Meri Kurisumasu
Polish Wesolych Swiat Bozego Narodzenia
Spanish Feliz Navidad
Swedish God Jul
Welsh Nadolig Llawen


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Guest Post: Have a Healthy Christmas!

8760623100_c7f6553d6b_bBy Patsy Watkins MPS, CFCS

Family & Consumer Sciences Agent, UT/TSU Extension, Williamson County

Every family has traditional holiday foods. Instead of using the holidays as an excuse for high-fat, high calorie feasting, use these 5 easy tips to remake your holiday favorites with good health in mind.

Holiday Tip #1: Control Portions

Set the holiday table with dinner plates 9 inches or so in diameter. No one will notice a decrease in portion sizes when you use smaller plates and glasses. Cut cake into 18 servings, make 4 dozen smaller cookies instead of 3 dozen larger ones, and use 4-ounce glasses for your favorite sparkling punch.

Holiday Tip #2: Double Up on Vegetables

Serve vitamin-packed, lower carbohydrate vegetables like asparagus, Brussels sprouts, or broccoli in large bowls. Put higher calorie mashed potatoes and winter squashes in smaller bowls and use a smaller serving spoon. Your family will unknowingly serve themselves smaller portions. Instead of meatballs and cheese logs, feature vegetable appetizers like marinated mushrooms, tomato bruschetta, roasted asparagus, etc.

Holiday Tip #3: Give Healthful Gifts

Give homemade gifts that are made with healthful ingredients. Bake breads that feature whole grains, send a basket of fresh fruit instead of a box of candy, or tie a bow around a bag of nuts instead of cookies.

Holiday Tip #4: Lighten Up

Lighten up favorite recipes. Use fat-free evaporated skim milk instead of cream in custard pies and sauces, boost flavor in casseroles with spices instead of butter or salt, and bake foods instead of frying them. No one will notice the changes!

Holiday Tip #5: Make Fruit the Star

Give colorful fruit a starring role. Serve fresh berries for a holiday breakfast, include fresh fruit such as pineapple, mango, kiwi, and red grapes on bamboo skewers for a holiday buffet. Offer dates and grapes instead of cheese and crackers, etc.

The History of Christmas

Part 1 of 2

By Lindsay Roseberry, Reference  Librarian732px-Jonathan_G_Meath_portrays_Santa_Claus

Most church historians have said that although December 25 is the official birth date for Jesus, most believe he was born in March. So why do we celebrate Christmas on December 25?

Because of Mithras. Mithraism spread across Asia Minor from Persia and became very popular with the Roman army. The Roman army was made up of conquered peoples, many of whom worshiped Mithras. He was a sun god; one of his main celebration dates was December 25, to ensure that the sun would be reborn to bring warmth to the world again in the spring and summer.   When Christianity was just starting, Mithraism was one of its main rivals. So the church changed the date of the celebration of Jesus’ birth to December 25.

The other main rival for Christmas was the Roman celebration of Saturnalia. This farming festival included feasting, giving gifts to family and sharing food with the poor lasted a whole week, ending on December 25. The Romans drank to excess and ate to excess, which is what many do today. The early Church considered these celebrations unseemly, so they made giving gifts and food to the poor part of the Christmas festival.

Christmas was a solemn and reflective holy day (holiday) for several centuries for Christians – Christmas was originally Christ’s Mass, a special service.   But the pagan celebrations persisted for so long that the Church adopted them, hoping that the pagans would become Christian.

The way we celebrate Christmas now generally originated in the Middle Ages, mostly from England. The decorations, carols, food, cards and gift giving were brought to the United States from England, Holland and Germany. Santa Claus was originally Saint Nicolas, which in Dutch became Sinter Claus, which became Santa Claus. In Holland, Belgium and Italy, children are left presents in their shoes on December 6, which is St. Nicholas’ Day. The Santa Claus we all know and are used to was created by Thomas Nast for Harper’s Weekly, and first appeared in 1863!

Did you know Christmas was outlawed in the Puritan community of Plymouth. The Puritans associated all the celebrating and carousing with paganism. By the 1870s, Christmas gradually began to become more like what we know now. In the Jamestown Colony, in Virginia, Christmas was celebrated riotously, almost like it was in England.

Fun facts about our Christmas traditions coming in Part II!!


Sources:

Guest Post: The Thanksgiving Turkey

By Patsy Watkins MPS, CFCS

Family & Consumer Sciences Agent, UT/TSU Extension, Williamson County

Thanksgiving is a festival harvest holiday meant to celebrate and be thankful for whatever you feel you’ve been blessed with (good health, family, friends, raises, completing a goal, etc…).  And in its current form, Thanksgiving is filled with wonderful (and delicious!) traditions, such as watching the Macy’s Day Parade, or football games, and cooking a giant feast with cranberries, stuffing, sweet potatoes, pumpkin pie, and the famous Turkey.  4255257070_f1ce2e9dd3_zOne tradition associated with the turkey is the wishbone (which all turkeys and chickens have), where two people each take hold of the ends of the bone, they make a wish, and pull!  Whoever has the larger part of the bone gets their wish. Turkey for Thanksgiving has become such a famous tradition that Thanksgiving is even sometimes called “Turkey Day.”  Each year, the President of the United States pardons a live turkey at a White House ceremony, allowing the turkey to live out the rest of its life on a farm.

Having a cooked turkey is a staple tradition of Thanksgiving but there are some important things to know when cooking your Thanksgiving bird this year.turkey

  • Allow approximately 24 hours for every 4 to 5 pounds when thawing your turkey in the refrigerator.
  • When thawing in cold water, allow approximately 30 minutes per pound and change the water every 30 minutes.
  • When roasting your turkey, set the oven temperature no lower than 325° A whole turkey is safe to eat when cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 165°F measured with a food thermometer.
  • Always wash hands, utensils, the sink, and anything else that comes into contact with the raw turkey and its juices.
  • For fresh turkeys, allow 1 pound of turkey per person, buy your turkey only 1-2 days before you plan to cook it, keep it stored in the refrigerator until you’re ready to cook, and do not buy fresh pre-stuffed turkeys.
  • For frozen turkeys, allow 1 pound of turkey per person and keep frozen until you’re ready to thaw it. Turkeys can be kept frozen in the freezer indefinitely; however cook within a year for best quality!
  • When storing your leftovers, discard any turkey, stuffing, and gravy left out at room temperature longer than 2 hours, 1 hour in temperatures above 90°F. Divide leftovers into smaller portions and refrigerate in shallow containers. Eat refrigerated leftovers within 3 to 4 days after initial cooking.

Sources:

Kids National Geographic

www.fsis.usda.gov

It’s the great TURNIP, Charlie Brown!

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Taken by Rebecca Tischler, Reference Librarian

By Rebecca Tischler, Reference Librarian

We all love It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, but were you aware that the first Jack O’Lanterns were carved out of turnips?

Did you know that the horrifying mask worn by Michael Myers in the Halloween movie was actually a William Shatner Star Trek mask?

Halloween is the second highest grossing commercial holiday after Christmas. The National Retail Federation (NRF) predicts Halloween spending this year—including candy, costumes, and decorations—will hit $7.4 billion.   Candy will account for more than $2 billion of that amount and a quarter of all candy bought in the U.S. is for Halloween.

But what are the origins of this creepy holiday? Here’s what we do know about the history of Halloween: it wasn’t created by the Candy Companies, although they’ve certainly profited, nor was it created by the toilet paper companies (though I do wonder how much money they make with all the teepeeing).

The history of Halloween is a rather vague and confusing tale, mainly because no one can seem to agree on how Halloween evolved from a harvest pagan New Year celebration, to the candy gorging and anything goes costumes of today. One thing that everyone seems to agree on, even though there has never been a proven connection, is that modern Halloween begins with the Celtic festival of Samhain (although, they don’t know much about that either).

samhain_scarecrow_2_by_belisarius2930-d4es8y7Scholars are pretty sure that Samhain was an annual celebration of the end of the harvest months to honor the Celtic deities (as well little green leprechauns and tricky fairies). It was also a time to gather resources and slaughter livestock (or maybe they were sacrifices – who knows) in preparation for the upcoming winter months. Some say it was the Celtic New Year. It was also believed that this was the day that the veil between the dead and living was thinnest, and the dead could cross over. They would celebrate this day with bonfires, food laid out for the dead, and costumes to blend with the spirits. Strangely enough, they’re not sure whether these actions were to honor and welcome the dead or to ward off the visiting spirits. Either way, the dead were a big part of the pagan festival.

The second part of Halloween’s history that seems to be agreed on is the attempted Christianization of a pagan celebration. In the eighth century, Pope Gregory III assigned the Christian feast, All Saints Day, to November 1, as a day was to honor all Christian saints and martyrs. It is generally believed that this edict was meant to cause All Saints Day to replace Samhain. However, instead of killing off the pagan traditions, these two celebrations combined to create All-Hallows Eve. The holiday was no longer about the Celtic deities, or about the Christian Saints. The previously celebrated supernatural creatures were now thought to be evil and the main focus of the holiday was about the wandering dead.

Bonaire_Holloween The third fact that seems to be agreed upon is that trick-or-treating came from another two practices that eventually combined. The first is “mumming”, a medieval practice where people would disguise themselves and go door-to-door asking for food in exchange for “tricks” (basically they were putting on shows and clowning around).  The second is the practice of leaving out food and offerings for the dead in order to gain favor with them, which is believed to be part of the original Samhain tradition. So basically, we give kids candy in exchange for entertainment, and to satisfy the little goblins that knock on our door.

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