Merry Christmas

 

The Nativity at Night, 1640 (oil on canvas), Guido Reni.

Merry Christmas!
From the whole Kowalski Heat Treating family to yours. 

 

 

A Christmas Star?

 

Yep, this is a special Monday post for all that I think you will really enjoy!  As the story in the Christian Gospel of Matthew goes, a bright star rose after the birth of Jesus Christ that the wise men then followed to find him. Was it a comet? A supernova? Could it have been something special with the planets?  Beginning tonight, just after sundown there will be a “great conjunction” (a conjunction is an apparent passing of two or more celestial bodies while a great conjunction refers only to Jupiter and Saturn converging). Be sure to find someplace to view this special once in a lifetime event – we think it’s worth watching!

  • Jupiter and Saturn tangle in a great conjunction—as seen from Earth—every 19.85 Earth years. It’s a natural symptom of Jupiter (taking 11.86 years to orbit the Sun) and Saturn (29.4 years to orbit the Sun), which naturally means they will sometimes appear to pass each other in our night sky from our point of view (despite actually being many millions of miles distant from each other).  Amazingly, the event occurs in the same part of the sky every 800 years or so.
  • The two planets will appear to be a mere 0.1º from each other. That’s about the width of a toothpick held at arm’s length according to Sky & Telescope magazine.
  • It will be the closest great conjunction since July 16, 1623 and the first to be easily observable since March 4, 1226.
  • One of the longest-running theories about the Bethlehem Star goes all the way back to Johannes Kepler, a key figure of the scientific revolution in the 17th century and the first to correctly explain the motion of the planets.
  • “Kepler thought that the star of Bethlehem was a triple conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn,” said Nigel Henbest, author of Philip’s 2021 Stargazing Month-by-Month Guide to the Night Sky in Britain & Ireland. “Here we are two millennia later, and a similar conjunction is about to happen within four days of Christmas Day … maybe a new Messiah is about to be born!”
  • According to Kepler’s calculations made in 1603 (during a year he observed a great conjunction), a triple conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn occurred in the year 7 BC. Why “triple?” As Jupiter laps Saturn in the Solar System the two planets align with the Sun for a moment, but from our faster-moving planet’s point of view the planets actually appear to go backwards for some weeks. It’s purely about perspective, but this retrograde motion can cause two or, in the case of the year 7 BC, three conjunctions in the same year. The last triple great conjunction occurred in 1980 and the next one is in 2239.
  • Were Jupiter and Saturn mistaken for a single star? Perhaps great conjunctions were considered omens, like comets. Either way, this week’s closest approach of Jupiter and Saturn in the telescopic age is a historic event that you must take a look at. All this week and next—but particularly TONIGHT —cast your eyes to the southwestern skies 45 minutes after sunset wherever you are and you’ll see two distant worlds become one.

Perhaps it’s a blessing to us all in these most difficult times.
Wishing you good tidings, clear skies and wide eyes always.

Now That’s Ugly! Congratulations.

Ugly Christmas sweaters are a real thing! They can be bought at the store and online. Or you can make your own. Above are some inspirational ugly sweaters to start you off. Oh, and look, there I am in my ugly Christmas sweater! If you can spot me let me know what’s on my sweater in an email for bonus points. And email a picture of you in your ugly sweater for even more bonus points. Above all, have fun and a very Merry Christmas!!!

What likely started out as a joke, has transformed itself into another holiday tradition I’ve come to enjoy – wearing god-awful sweaters. I have an especially lovely seater that I bring out each year.  It provides a unique experience for all who are “blessed” to see it!  Today marks National Ugly Christmas Sweater Day – celebrated around the world in offices and establishments aplenty.  Here are some wonderful examples to spark your creativity for next year – get the sewing needles out and get started – the competition is fierce – and FUN!  Thanks to Wikipedia, brittania.com and all those brave enough to wear these silly things.  Enjoy!

  • Every third Friday of December people all over the nation trade their casual garments for something more festive for National Ugly Sweater Day. An ugly Christmas sweater is any Christmas-themed sweater that could be considered in bad taste, tacky, or gaudy. The general consensus is that the more embellishments—tinsel, reindeer, Santa Clauses, candy canes, elves, presents, etc.—the uglier the sweater.
  • Ugly sweaters have been around for as long as people created a concept of fashion. They weren’t always made purposefully — maybe someone made a mistake in their knitting or tried a new design that didn’t turn out as cool as they thought it would. However, it wasn’t long before grandmas everywhere were knowingly (maybe while chuckling to themselves) knitting their grandchildren ugly Christmas sweaters.
  • It’s hard to say who invented the first ugly Christmas sweater (I think it was one of those beauties I wore back in the ’70s!).  As a matter of fact, we can presume that ugly sweaters were designed with the original intention of being fashionable. It’s only because of ever-changing fashion trends that sweaters once deemed acceptable are now considered ugly.
  • As a clothing item, ugly sweaters were often featured on situation comedies in the 1980s. They were mostly cardigans, buttoned down the front. The Christmas theme entered around the same time, with the first mass-produced Christmas garments being made under the name of “jingle bell sweaters” during the 1980s as well.
  • The city of Vancouver claims to be the birthplace of the ugly sweater party after hosting an event in 2002. (although I distinctly remember wearing ugly sweaters back in the ’80s!) Every year since, the Original Ugly Christmas Sweater party has been held at the Commodore Ballroom, where the dress code ensures an ugly sweater affair. Chris Boyd and Jordan Birch, the co-founders of the Commodore’s annual ugly sweater party, have even trademarked the word phrase “ugly Christmas sweater” and “ugly Christmas sweater party.”
  • To really get into the holiday spirit, the party is also a benefit that raises money for the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Canada, which grants wishes for children with life-threatening illnesses.
  • A sweater, or jumper, is a kind of knitted top, and knitted garments have been around much longer than the infamous Christmas sweater. Knitted clothing is created through the process of using needles to loop or knot yarn together to form a piece of fabric. Unfortunately, since knitting does not require a large piece of equipment like a loom, it is hard to trace the exact history of non-Christmas-sweater knitted garments. Instead, historians have had to rely on the remnants of the knitted clothes that have remained.
  • The earliest examples of the “two-needle” form of knitting we are familiar with today are the fragments of and whole Egyptian “Coptic socks,” which date back to 1000 CE. They were made from white and blue-dyed cotton and featured symbolic patterns called Khufic woven into them.
  • Fast forward to the 17th century and we see another development in knitted garments. The Cardigan sweater was named after James Thomas Brudenell, the seventh Earl of Cardigan and military captain who led his troops at The Charge of the Light Brigade into the Valley of Death. Brudenell’s troops were outfitted in knitted military jackets, which were nicknamed cardigans.
  • Popular character Bill Huxtable on The Cosby Show constantly made fashionistas gasp when he’d come into the scene in a gaudy, ugly, yet slightly endearing sweater that he knew was completely outrageous. In 1989, Chevy Chase added his own twist to the theme as Clark Griswold in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation movie. (be sure to notice Eddie’s sweater over short turtleneck look in the eggnog drinking scene – hilarious!).
  • Today, ugly sweater parties and competitions are one of the highlights of the season, with everyone trying to one-up each other in searching for the most appalling outerwear they can find. The sweaters have gone from accidentally tacky to purposefully shameless. The only way this celebration can be more extra was if there was a holiday dedicated to it…oh wait! There is!
  • 23% of people will buy an ugly sweater, whether it’s for a house party, an office event, or for family photos.  The joy that comes with purposefully wearing an ugly sweater (without your fashion senses coming into question) is pure and unbeatable.
  • Uglychristmassweaters.com made $5 million – This company knows their ugly sweaters. In only three years, their profit has skyrocketed into being a multimillion-dollar company. This company allows you to customize your own ugly sweater and even has sweaters created by popular influencers. Some of their sweaters are so ugly that they’re 3D!
  • Many retailers (have you been to Kohl’s or Walmart lately?) have seen a good amount of profit coming in during the holiday season specifically from their stock of ugly sweaters, which goes to show just how seriously people take their decorative holiday-wear.

Companies this year are holding “virtual ugly sweater” photo and video contests, due to in-person restrictions.  We’ll likely see some giant coronavirus getups.

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DO YOU LIKE CONTESTS?
Me, too.

As you may know the Kowalski Heat Treating logo finds its way
into the visuals of my Friday posts.
I.  Love.  My.  Logo.
One week there could be three logos.
The next week there could be 15 logos.
And sometimes the logo is very small or just a partial logo showing.
But there are always logos in some of the pictures.
So, I challenge you, my beloved readers, to count them and send me a
quick email with the total number of logos in the Friday post.
On the following Tuesday I’ll pick a winner from the correct answers
and send that lucky person some great KHT swag.
So, start counting and good luck!  
Oh, and the logos at the very top header don’t count.
Got it? Good.  :-))))
Have fun!!

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First You Get the Ladder…

The fun of the season. Getting the house all lit up and glowing. It can be hazardous as those few pictures suggest so be careful out there. Below those images are a couple of really old ads for lights. That black & white ad is selling the safety of electric lights vs candles which may burn down your house. I’m sold. And a couple of old boxes of lights. Remember those bubble lights? I thought those were the greatest. Still do. Then there are the photos of some way over the top lighting displays. Love it!!!

Yep – it’s that time of year, my annual ritual of lighting up the house for the holidays.  Like you, I’m torn – my logical brain says I should take advantage of the warmer weather and hang the lights before Thanksgiving, cleaning out the gutters and avoiding the cold.  But my “do other chores or just watch football” brain says – oh, you can wait – and then I find myself outside in the freezing wind, shaking on the ladder as I hang half frozen bulbs across the gutters …  To be honest, my lovely wife Jackie helps me decide … 🙂  Now, although I love how our home looks all lit up,  I have reached a point where Jackie and I have agreed that I am not allowed to be climbing, crawling, kneeling, hanging on the roof any longer.  For some reason the downsides of falling off outweigh the upsides of hanging lights all over the roof-windows, etc!  With this in mind, I started to think about the design and manufacturing marvel those tiny little bulbs are.  Talk about a PIA (Pain in the @%$) Job – figuring out an efficient, low cost way to manufacture billions of bulbs to meet our ongoing desire to light up our homes both inside and out.  Here’s some cool history and info on the manufacturing of holiday lights. Thanks to the genius of Edison, and all those engineers who machined, (heat treated YEA!!) built the machines and make them go. Enjoy.  And special thanks to howmade.com and Business Insider for the videos.

  • Festivals in a number of ancient civilizations were celebrated with lights; any and all of these may have been the inspiration for the lights we use to decorate Christmas trees and the exteriors of homes.
  • The Druids in both France and England believed that oak trees were sacred, and they ornamented them with candles and fruit in honor of their gods of light and harvest. The ancient Roman festival of Saturnalia included trees decorated with candles and small gifts. The worship of trees as the homes of spirits and gods may have led to the Christmas tree tradition and that tradition has long been accompanied by the companion custom of decking the tree with brilliant lights evoking stars, jewels, sparkling ice, and holiday cheer.
  • From the beginnings of Christianity to about 1500, trees were sometimes decorated outdoors, but they were not brought into homes. One legend has it that Martin Luther (1483-1546), the father of Protestantism, was walking through an evergreen forest on Christmas Eve. The beauty of the stars sparkling through the trees touched him, and he took a small tree home and put candles on its branches to recreate the effect for his family.
  • Similarly, German settlers brought the Christmas tree to America where the first tree was displayed in Pennsylvania in 1851. Candles were attached to the boughs of the trees with increasingly extravagant candle-holders, some with colored glass that made the lights appear colored. Of course, the practice of using candles was hazardous; many fire brigades were called to extinguish fires started by candles that had ignited the trees or the long hair or dresses of the ladies. Candles on trees were lit for several minutes only and sometimes only on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day; the custom of lighting trees for extended periods of time had to wait until the invention of the electric light bulb.
  • The first electric lights for Christmas debuted only three years after Thomas Alva Edison invented the lightbulb in 1879. Edward Johnson, a resident of New York and a colleague of Edison’s, was the first to have an electrically lighted Christmas tree in his home in 1882.
  • The tiny bulbs were hand blown and the lights were hand-wired to make this event possible, but it opened an avenue for Edison’s electric company that produced miniature, decorative bulbs for chandeliers and other uses from its earliest days. Electric lights appeared on the White House Christmas tree in 1895 when Grover Cleveland was President.
  • General Electric (GE) bought the rights to light-bulb production from Edison in 1890, but GE initially only made porcelain light bulbs. To light a tree, the family had to hire a “wireman” who cut lengths of rubber-coated wire, stripped the ends of the wires, fastened them to sockets with brass screws, fitted a larger socket to a power outlet or light fixture, and completed assembly of a string of lights. This was too expensive and impractical for the average family. This was a major PIA (Pain in the @%$) job!
  • In 1903, the Ever-Ready Company of New York recognized an opportunity and began manufacturing festoons of 28 lights. By 1907, Ever-Ready was making standard sets of eight series-wired lights; by connecting the sets or outfits, longer strings of lights could be made.
  • Ever-Ready did not have a patent on its series-wired strings of lights, and this basic wiring system was adapted by many other small companies. These sets were not always safe, and episodes of tree fires raised public alarm.
  • In 1921, Underwriters’ Laboratories (UL) established the first safety requirements for Christmas lights. A number of light manufacturers merged in 1927 to form the National Outfit Manufacturers Association (NOMA), which went on to dominate the Christmas light business, with GE and Westinghouse as the leading bulb makers. Also in 1927, GE introduced parallel wiring that permitted light bulbs to keep glowing when one on the string burned out.
  • Bulb shapes also evolved. In 1909, the Kremenetzky Electric Company of Vienna, Austria, began making miniature bulbs in the shapes of animals, birds, flowers, and fruit. Companies in the United States, Japan, and Germany also made figurative bulbs, but Kremenetzky consistently made the most beautiful glass that was hand-painted.
  • World War I ended the influx of Austrian lights. GE made machine-blown shapes beginning in 1919, and the Japanese light-bulb industry, then in its infancy, began filling the void left by the Austrians. The Japanese techniques continued to improve and were quite sophisticated by 1930, but this trade ended with World War II.
  • NOMA started to make tiny lampshades with Disney figures on them to fit over standard miniature bulbs in 1936. The most spectacular miniature bulb success was the bubble light. Carl Otis invented it in the late 1930s, but World War II also interrupted this development. Bubble lights were finally introduced in 1945, peaked in popularity in the mid-1950s, and declined by the mid 1960s. So-called midget lights, midget twinkle lights, or miniature Italian lights began arriving from Europe in the 1970s and became the best sellers of all time in the Christmas tree light business.
  • Today, holiday lights are made of three sets of materials. The strings are composed of 22-gauge copper wire that is coated in green or white polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic. Specialized manufacturers supply the wire on spools that hold 10,000 ft of wire. Two plugs begin and end each set of lights, and they are made of injection-molded plastic. The lights are held in lamp holders that are also injection-molded plastic and contain copper metal contacts.
  • The second set of materials goes into the making of light bulbs. The bulbs are made of blown glass, metal filaments, metal contact wires, and plastic bases. Bulbs are made in clear glass to produce white light, or they are painted to shine in assorted colors.
  • Finally, the finished sets of lights require packing materials. These include a molded plastic tray, a folded cardboard display box, and shipping cartons that hold multiple sets of boxed lights. The shipping cartons are made of corrugated cardboard. Each set is also packed with adhesive-backed safety labels and paper instruction and information sheets. All of the paper goods are made by outside suppliers and are produced from recyclable materials.
  • The basic design for holiday lights consists of a tried-and-true string of green plastic-covered wires with clear or colored light bulbs. Design aspects include the number of lights on the string (in multiples of 25 with 25, 50, 100, or 125 bulbs) and whether the string contains only clear bulbs, bulbs of a single color, or assorted colors of lights.
  • Green wires were made originally to blend in with the green branches of evergreens, either as indoor Christmas trees or outdoor shrubs. The tiny lights are used for many other holidays and for garden displays, so strings with white wires are made for other decorating uses. Plastic covers for the lights are also designed with Christmas and childhood themes as well as an extraordinary range for party decorating from aquarium fish to chili peppers.
  • The newest designs to take the decorating market by storm are nets of lights that can be spread over shrubs to save time in decorating, and icicle lights that look like long white icicles hanging from house eaves. Fiber-optic lights also became available in the 1990s; they are basic strings of wire and light bulbs, but each bulb is the source of light that passes through clusters of fiber-optic wire held in plastic covers that clip onto the bulb. Usually, they resemble flowers or other designs that take advantage of the cluster-like display of optic wires.

The Manufacturing Process – watch video or read the steps HERE

 

 


 

Understanding Ho Ho Ho

How DOES he do it??

It used to be that people took it on faith that Santa Claus and his reindeer could fly. Long before we became the skeptics we are today, no one really cared how the big guy accomplished his seemingly impossible trek through the atmosphere every Christmas Eve.  We just believed.  But, alas, times have changed.  Now people want to know exactly how – or even if – Santa does it each year. And the only way to keep them happy is to demonstrate through reason, logic, and pure, hard science that maybe, just maybe, old St. Nick can actually get in the air with his sleigh and reindeer, zip around the globe and deliver his toys of joy.  So, I decided to look at what Santa purports to do each year, and realized he’s harnessed some basic rules of physics, aerodynamics, thermal dynamics (my favorite), a little reindeer biology. Let’s just say it’s a combination of air speed, lift, fairy dust and the magic Christmas spirit.  (the exact combination is a trade secret that Santa does not even share completely).

His Sleigh
It all starts with the sleigh.  While most contemporary artists draw Santa’s sleigh as the classic 19th century wooden carriage, that can’t be accurate. It just doesn’t fly, you might say.  In order to get airborne, I found out the sleigh is constructed of super-thin aluminum alloys (Santa calls it “elfluminum”) that cuts down on weight (and when Santa’s inside, reducing weight is very important).

Very important is the curved front end, that creates lift – putting more pressure under the sleigh than over the top.  To make sure the wind beneath his sleigh exerts more pressure than the wind above it, Santa has designed it much like the folks at the airlines – curved on top and flat on the bottom. That design increases the air speed above the wings, which is vital since, faster air speed results in lower air pressure and contributes to that much-desired lift.

It’s called Bernoulli’s Theorem https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bernoulli%27s_principle, discovered by 16th century Swiss mathematician Daniel Bernoulli. His observations of fluid dynamics are at the heart of flight lift.  But let’s just say someone else a little further to the north might have known about it centuries earlier.

With the properly designed sleigh underneath his jelly belly and bag of endless toys, Santa then has to generate enough speed to get the lift needed to take off. Airplanes do it with powerful engines. But engines, of course, are very loud and would wake the children of the world as Santa makes his rounds.  That’s where his reindeer come in.

The Reindeer
Reindeer are hearty enough to survive conditions at the North Pole but quiet enough so as not to disturb his young customers as the big guy flies over their homes and lands on their rooftops.  Normal reindeer can run fast – by animal standards, at least – about 35 mph. That’s a lot slower than the 150 mph threshold when most jumbo jets take off but, of course, the reindeer have something else helping them out – their antlers.  These appendages also create lift.  With the air rushing underneath those antlers at a higher pressure than the air above, the nine reindeer can generate lift of their own and get airborne at lower speeds than otherwise needed.

Once in the air, some other parts of the reindeer’s anatomy help Santa stay up without crashing or destroying all those toys. On the ground, the reindeer generate the force needed to move forward by stomping their extra-wide hooves as they run. Normally, that force only sticks around for as long as there is something – like the ground – to react to the force of the reindeer’s kicking.  But this is Christmas, so, once in the air, to help keep them airborne, some scientists observe “good for kicking and paddling through the air.”  Scientists also think that the reindeer’s hollow hair is something special – which helps insulate their bodies in winter time – and allows the wind to blow right through the animals’ fur without creating that dreaded drag or slowing Santa down.

The Delivery
Based on census data, there are about 2 billion children (persons under 18) in the world. But, since Santa doesn’t visit all the children, that reduces his workload to about 15% of the total – 378 million according to Population Reference Bureau. At an average census rate of 3.5 children per household, that’s 91.8 million homes – assuming of course there is at least “one” good child in each home.

Santa has 31 hours of Christmas to work with, thanks to the different time zones and the rotation of the earth (he travels east to west which seems logical). This works out to 822.6 visits per second. This is to say that for each household with good children, Santa has 1/1000th of a second to park, hop out of the sleigh, jump down the chimney, fill the stockings, distribute the remaining presents under the tree, eat whatever snacks have been left, get back up the chimney, get back into the sleigh and move on to the next house. Makes perfect sense to me.  Assuming that each of these 91.8 million stops are evenly distributed around the earth (which, of for the purposes of our calculations we will accept), we are now talking about .78 miles per household, a total trip of 75-1/2 million miles, (not counting “necessary” stops to do what most of us must do at least once every 31 hours), plus feeding the reindeer.

This means that Santa’s sleigh is moving at 650 miles per second, 3,000 times the speed of sound. (For purposes of comparison, the fastest man- made vehicle on earth, the Ulysses space probe, moves at a poky 27.4 miles per second) but hey, he’s Santa.

The payload on the sleigh adds another interesting element. Assuming that each child gets one small gift (2 pounds), the sleigh is carrying about 321,300 tons, not counting the reindeer or Santa, who is invariably described as “overweight”. On land, conventional reindeer can pull no more than 300 pounds (we’d need 214,200 reindeer).  This is precisely why Santa sprinkles them with magic Santa dust.

Basic Science Proves it All
So, let’s see – over 300,000 tons traveling at 650 miles per second creates enormous air resistance – this will heat the reindeer up in the same fashion as spacecrafts re-entering the earth’s atmosphere. A lead pair of reindeer would absorb 14.3 QUINTILLION joules of energy. Per second. Now, of course normal reindeer could not withstand this amount of heat (the entire reindeer team would be vaporized within 4.26 thousandths of a second) – that’s why Santa put Rudolf and his shiny red nose at the lead. (Duh!)

And, if Santa didn’t have his special red suit that Mrs. Claus made for him, he would be subjected to centrifugal forces 17,500.06 times greater than gravity. A 250-pound Santa (which seems ludicrously slim) would be pinned to the back of his sleigh by 4,315,015 pounds of force. But of course, he’s protected by his magic suit, and the air barrier around him (second duh!)

According to Arnold Pompos, a really smart guy at Purdue University, Santa would have to travel a total of 160,000,000km – further than the distance from the Earth to the Sun –  at a speed of 4,705,882km/h, far slower than the speed of light, but still fast enough that the air resistance would likely to vaporize Santa, along with all the children’s gifts… if he wasn’t riding a magic sleigh of course – (third duh!)

All in all, I still enjoy the love and joy and magic of Santa and his reindeer – on behalf of all the KHT Elves, loving every minute of your PIA (Pain in the @%$) Jobs, Merry Christmas to All and to all a good “flight”

To track Santa, go to www.noradsanta.org .

 

 


 

A Shopping We Will Go

Christmas shopping is so much fun…totally worth being exhausted at the end. 

It’s that time of year – when we head out into cyberspace, or parking space, to find that “special” gift for each of our loved ones.  With only 25 shopping days left, now’s the time to get your lists completed, and hit the road.  Even though this can be the ultimate PIA (pain in the @%$) Job!, I’ve always enjoyed this tradition – I get together with Jackie and each of the girls, and we make a day of it – walking, talking, drifting from store to store in search of the “one” item that will delight Although I have to admit,  we usually end up at one of our favorite restaurants – a wonderful means to an end!  To get your juices flowing, here’s a whole bunch of random link ideas – some traditional, some new, some just “techy”, and some worldly – Enjoy, and thanks to Smart Gadgets, Uncommon Goods, House Beautiful, Target, Esquire and Elle Décor.

My Smart Gadgets

Uncommon Goods

House Beautiful Shopping

Target – Toys

Esquire – Gifts for Men

Elle Décor – worldly

 

 

 


 

“What’s in Your Stocking?”

Stockings through the ages… They not only hold Santa Claus intrigue and fun for kids, now they’re totally part of our holiday decorating schemes. Even our fur babies get their own stockings now.

 

In the Kowalski households, one of my favorite childhood (and parenthood) traditions is hanging the Christmas stockings on the mantel over the fireplace.  I remember as a kid, racing down the stairs on Christmas morning to find my stocking filled with gifts, candy and special treats from Old Saint Nick.  When we were kids, Mom and Dad used to hang our stockings over the fire place in the living room, of course it was a really long line of stockings!  When we had our own children, the tradition continued.  Jackie and I were very careful to be sure the exact amount of goodies were in each stocking (the girls counted of course).  We included candy, little toys, and misc. things that would delight the kids.  A friend of mine said his Mom used to put an orange/tangerine in each toe, along with candy and small gifts, and always included a pretzel rod/stick poking out the top (the first thing to eat).  As the kids got older, the contents shifted from candy to more useful items (DVD’s, make-up, nail polish, socks, candy, various hair products-many that still leave me slightly bewildered! Always keeping the “fun” in Christmas morning, Jackie and I love watching the girls (ladies) still go for the stockings first!!!)  Here’s a little stocking and holiday trivia, along with some fun 2018 “stocking stuffer” links to ideas.  And, if you have family stocking traditions, be sure to email me and share them.

  1. While there are no written records of the origin of the Christmas stocking, there are popular legends that attempt to tell the history of this Christmas tradition. One such legend has several variations, but the following is a good example:

Very long ago, there lived a poor man and his three very beautiful daughters. He had no money to get his daughters married, and he was worried what would happen to them after his death. Saint Nicholas was passing through when he heard the villagers talking about the girls and wanted to help, but knew that the old man wouldn’t accept charity. He decided to help in secret. After dark, he threw three bags of gold through an open window. When the girls and their father woke up the next morning, they found the bags of gold and were, of course, overjoyed. The girls were able to get married and live happily ever after.

  1. Other versions of the story say that Saint Nicholas threw the three bags of gold directly into the stockings which were hung by the fireplace to dry. This led to the custom of children hanging stockings or putting out shoes, eagerly awaiting gifts from Saint Nicholas.
  2. Sometimes the story is told with gold balls instead of bags of gold. That is why three gold balls, sometimes represented as oranges, are one of the symbols for St. Nicholas. And so, St. Nicholas is a gift-giver. In the US, oranges/tangerines were popular during the “war”, when fresh fruit was considered a luxury in households, and a sign of health/encouragement.
  3. A tradition that began in a European country originally, children simply used one of their everyday socks, but eventually special Christmas stockings were created for this purpose. The Christmas stocking custom is derived from the Germanic/Scandinavian figure Odin. According writings, children would place their boots, filled with carrots, straw, or sugar, near the chimney for Odin’s flying horse, Sleipnir, to eat. Odin would reward those children for their kindness by replacing Sleipnir’s food with gifts or candy. Today of course, the kids put out cookies for Santa, and carrots for his reindeer to eat.
  4. Nicholas had an earlier merging with the Grandmother cult in Bari, Italy where the grandmother would put gifts in stockings. This Italian St. Nicholas would later travel north and merge with the Odin cults.
  5. As far back as 1823, when Clement Clarke Moore wrote “A Visit From Saint Nicholas,” the poem begins, “The stockings were hung by the chimney with care, In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there.” At the end of the poem, St. Nick “fill’d all the stockings; then turn’d with a jerk, And laying his finger aside of his nose / And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose.”
  6. Each year, something peculiar happens on the eve of December 5 (St Nicholas Day Dec 6th) Children across Germany each leave a single boot outside their doorsteps, which is then magically filled overnight with chocolate and sweets. Other cultures in Europe and beyond have also taken to celebrating similar traditions either on the same date or stretched out throughout the holiday season.  Unlike so many Christian saints who are revered and remembered by the pious few, Nicholas is celebrated by religious and non-religious alike. His reach goes beyond the walls of the church and the pages of church history to the hearts of children and the imaginations of parents.
  7. Many families create their own Christmas stockings, with each family member’s name applied to the stocking so that Santa will know which stocking belongs to which family member. As the tradition in America grew, so did the retail and commercial representation of named stockings.  Many a household would embroider the names on to the tops of stockings.
  8. When it comes to the fabric options for Christmas stockings, the most common types are wool, velvet, felt, quilted soft cotton, cozy cable knit and burlap. Velvet stockings are the perfect addition to a classic Christmas theme, while burlap stockings are a trendy statement in a modern or rustic theme.
  9. According to the Guinness World Records, the long standing “largest” recorded Christmas stocking measured 168 ft. 5.65 in in length and 70 ft. 11.57 in. in width (heel to toe), produced by a volunteer emergency services organization in Carrara, Tuscany, Italy, in January 2011. To fulfill the Guinness guideline that the stocking contain presents, volunteers filled it with balloons containing sweets.
  10. The world’s “newest” largest Christmas stocking – a 1,600-pound, 7,700-square-foot behemoth that took more than a year to create, was unveiled at Fayetteville’s Arnette Park; the stocking, which is 139 feet tall and 74 feet wide, was created with yarn from Caron United, a Washington, N.C.-based company. Knitters from all 50 states, four Canadian provinces and Ireland helped create the record-setting stocking by donating 3-foot by 3-foot swatches of knitted yard that were later sewn together.  Caron donated part of the proceeds from yarn sales to provide more than $100,000 for scholarships for children of fallen U.S. troops.
  11. Normal Rockwell, a world-famous illustrator for The Saturday Evening Post, made hundreds of fantastic images of the holidays, including Santa Claus, families, and children, with stockings hung by the chimney in the background. At KHT, we’ve enjoy them so much, we continue to feature his work in our yearly client calendar.

“Honey, can you get the boxes from the attic”

 

Decorating the house inside and out is so much fun. Sharing in this season gives me a warm feeling, too. (and I do like warm) So whether you go all out or keep it manageable, be sure to enjoy your family, friends and maybe make a donation to folks & organizations who need our help.

 

Around my neighborhood, it starts slowly, sometimes before Thanksgiving.  We see decorations and lights pop up at different houses. Of course, the stores have been at it for months, and the need to decorate the house arrives.  With us, we always start after December 2nd no exceptions!  This is one of my daughter’s birthday – Our tradition is no decorations until after her B’Day.. Before the nasty weather really hits, I like to take my cue from Jackie, who sets aside some time, usually on the weekend, and asks ( innocently of course!) if I am going to get down the boxes and plan our decorating. (Subtle!)  Like you, I struggle untangling the lights in the garage, spreading them all over the floor, trying to see which strings of lights made it through to the next season.  In years gone by I would climb onto the garage roof, hang off the side and run the lights.   For whatever reason, I am no longer allowed to do that! Once safely done on the outside we move indoors and decorate.  Jackie is always amazing with her vision for the house – me not so much.  When we decorate the trees I have to now follow the rules,  although my ornaments still tend to be found in “special “ spots!  Once all of the decorating is complete there is nothing quite like sitting back enjoying a beautiful fire with a hot cup of my favorite beverage and plate of fresh baked Christmas cookies.

Here’s a little Christmas history and some fun facts to share with family and friends – thanks to Wikipedia and thehistoryofchristmas.com.

A Christmas decoration is any of several types of ornamentation used at Christmas time. The traditional colors of Christmas are pine green (evergreen), snow white, and heart red. Blue and white are often used to represent winter, or sometimes Hanukkah, which occurs around the same time. Gold and silver are also very common – this year metallic green and light blue, with silver is popular.

In many countries, such as Sweden, people start to set up their Advent and Christmas decorations on the first day of Advent. Liturgically, this is done in some parishes through a Hanging of the Greens ceremony.  In the Western Christian world, the two traditional days when Christmas decorations are removed are Twelfth Night and if they are not taken down on that day, Candlemas, the latter of which ends the Christmas-Epiphany season in some denominations.

The English-language phrase “Christmas tree” is first recorded in 1835 and represents an importation from the German language. The modern Christmas tree tradition, though, is believed to have begun in Germany in the 18th century though many argue that Martin Luther began the tradition in the 16th century. From Germany the custom was introduced to England, first via Queen Charlotte, wife of George III, and then more successfully by Prince Albert during the early reign of Queen Victoria. The influential 1840s image of the Queen’s decorated evergreen was republished in the U.S, and as the first widely circulated picture of a decorated Christmas tree in America, the custom there spread.

Popular Christmas plants include holly, mistletoe, ivy, poinsettias and Christmas trees. The interior of a home may be decorated with these plants, along with garlands and evergreen foliage. These often come with small ornaments tied to the delicate branches, and sometimes with a small light set.  Wreaths are made from real or artificial conifer branches, or sometimes other broadleaf evergreens or holly. Several types of evergreen or even deciduous branches may be used in the same wreath, along with pinecones and sprays of berries, and Christmas ornaments including jingle bells. A bow is usually used at the top or bottom, and an electric or unlit candle may be placed in the middle.

Christmas lights are often used, and they may be hung from door or windows, and sometimes walls, lampposts and light fixtures, or even statuary. In North and South America, Australia, and Europe, it is traditional to decorate the outside of houses with lights and sometimes with illuminated sleighs, snowmen, and other Christmas figures. Municipalities often sponsor decorations as well. Christmas banners may be hung from street lights and Christmas trees placed in the town square.

In the Western world, rolls of brightly colored paper with secular or religious motifs are manufactured for the purpose of giftwrapping presents. The display of Christmas villages has also become a tradition in many homes during this season. Other traditional decorations include bells, candles, candy canes, garland, stockings, wreaths, snow globes, and angels. Snow sheets are made specifically for simulating snow under a tree or village.

One of the most popular items of Christmas decorations are stockings. According to legend, Saint Nicolas would creep in through the chimney and slip gold into stockings hanging by the fireplace. Various forms of stockings are available; from simple velvet ones, to sock-shaped bags to animated ones.

In some places, Christmas decorations are traditionally taken down on Twelfth Night, the evening of January 5 or January 6. In Hispanic and other cultures, this is more like Christmas Eve, as the Three Wise Men bring gifts that night, and therefore decorations are left up longer. The same is true in Eastern Churches which often observe Christmas according to the Julian Calendar, thus making it fall 13 days later.

In England, it was customary to burn the decorations in the hearth, however this tradition has fallen out of favor as reusable and imperishable decorations made of plastics, wood, glass and metal became more popular. If a Yule Log has been kept alight since Christmas Day, it is put out and the ashes kept to include in the fire on the following Christmas Day.

A superstition exists which suggests that if decorations are kept up after Twelfth Night, they must be kept up until the following Twelfth Night, but also that if the decorations for the current Christmas are taken down before the New Year begins, bad luck shall befall the house for a whole year.

In the United States, most stores immediately remove decorations the day after Christmas, as if the holiday season were over once the gifts are bought. Nearly all Americans leave their home decorations up and lit until at least New Year’s Day, and inside decorations can often be seen in windows for several days afterward.

So, How Did We Get to Today … American Christmas History:

In the early 17th century, a wave of religious reform changed the way Christmas was celebrated.  in Europe. When Oliver Cromwell and his Puritan forces took over England in 1645, they vowed to rid England of decadence and, as part of their effort, cancelled Christmas. By popular demand, Charles II was restored to the throne and, with him, came the return of the popular holiday.

The pilgrims, English separatists that came to America in 1620, were even more orthodox in their Puritan beliefs than Cromwell. As a result, Christmas was not a holiday in early America. From 1659 to 1681, the celebration of Christmas was outlawed in Boston. Anyone exhibiting the Christmas spirit was fined five shillings. By contrast, in the Jamestown settlement, Captain John Smith reported that Christmas was enjoyed by all and passed without incident.

After the American Revolution, English customs fell out of favor, including Christmas. In fact, Congress was in session on December 25, 1789, the first Christmas under America’s new constitution. Christmas wasn’t declared a federal holiday until June 26, 1870.

It wasn’t until the 19th century that Americans began to embrace Christmas. Americans re-invented Christmas, and changed it from a raucous carnival holiday into a family-centered day of peace and nostalgia.

The early 19th century was a period of class conflict and turmoil. During this time, unemployment was high and gang rioting by the disenchanted classes often occurred during the Christmas season. In 1828, the New York city council instituted the city’s first police force in response to a Christmas riot. This catalyzed certain members of the upper classes to begin to change the way Christmas was celebrated in America.

In 1819, best-selling author Washington Irving wrote The Sketchbook of Geoffrey Crayon, gent., a series of stories about the celebration of Christmas in an English manor house. The sketches feature a squire who invited the peasants into his home for the holiday. In contrast to the problems faced in American society, the two groups mingled effortlessly. In Irving’s mind, Christmas should be a peaceful, warm-hearted holiday bringing groups together across lines of wealth or social status.

Irving’s fictitious celebrants enjoyed “ancient customs,” including the crowning of a Lord of Misrule. Irving’s book, however, was not based on any holiday celebration he had attended—in fact, many historians say that Irving’s account actually “invented” tradition by implying that it described the true customs of the season.

Before the Civil War, The North and South were divided on the issue of Christmas, as well as on the question of slavery. Many Northerners saw sin in the celebration of Christmas; to these people the celebration of Thanksgiving was more appropriate. But in the South, Christmas was an important part of the social season. Not surprisingly, the first three states to make Christmas a legal holiday were in the South: Alabama in 1836, Louisiana and Arkansas in 1838.

In the years after the Civil War, Christmas traditions spread across the country. Children’s books played an important role in spreading the customs of celebrating Christmas, especially the tradition of trimmed trees and gifts delivered by Santa Claus. Sunday school classes encouraged the celebration of Christmas.

Women’s magazines were also very important in suggesting ways to decorate for the holidays, as well as how to make these decorations.

By the last quarter of the nineteenth century, America eagerly decorated trees, caroled, baked, and shopped for the Christmas season.

Some interesting milestones include:

  • 1600’s: The Puritans made it illegal to mention St. Nicolas’ name. People were not allowed to exchange gifts, light a candle, or sing Christmas carols.
Dutch immigrants brought with them the legend of Sinter Klaas.
  • 1773: Santa first appeared in the media as St. A Claus.
  • 1804: The New York Historical Society was founded with St. Nicolas as its patron saint. Its members engaged in the Dutch practice of gift-giving at Christmas.
  • 1809: Washington Irving, writing under the pseudonym Diedrich Knickerbocker, included Saint Nicolas in his book “A History of New York.” Nicolas is described as riding into town on a horse. Later, Irving, revised his book to include Nicolas riding over the trees in a wagon.
  • 1821: William Gilley printed a poem about “Santeclaus” who was dressed in fur and drove a sleigh drawn by a single reindeer.
  • 1822: Dentist Clement Clarke Moore is believed by many to have written a poem “An Account of a Visit from Saint Nicolas,” which became better known as “The Night before Christmas.” Santa is portrayed as an elf with a miniature sleigh equipped with eight reindeer which are named in the poem as Blitzem, Comet, Cupid, Dancer, Dasher, Donder, Prancer, and Vixen. Others attribute the poem to a contemporary, Henry Livingston, Jr. Two have since been renamed Donner and Blitzen.
  • 1841: J.W. Parkinson, a Philadelphia merchant, hired a man to dress up in a “Criscringle” outfit and climb the chimney of his store.
  • 1863: Illustrator Thomas Nast created images of Santa for the Christmas editions of Harper’s Magazine. These continued through the 1890’s.
  • 1860s: President Abraham Lincoln asked Nast to create a drawing of Santa with some Union soldiers. This image of Santa supporting the enemy had a demoralizing influence on the Confederate army — an early example of psychological warfare.
  • 1897: Francis P Church, Editor of the New York Sun, wrote an editorial in response to a letter from an eight year-old girl, Virginia O’Hanlon. She had written the paper asking whether there really was a Santa Claus. It has become known as the “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus” letter.
  • 1920’s: The image of Santa had been standardized to portray a bearded, over-weight, jolly man dressed in a red suit with white trim.
  • 1931: Haddon Sundblom, illustrator for The Coca-Cola™ company drew a series of Santa images in their Christmas advertisements until 1964. The company holds the trademark for the Coca-Cola Santa design. Christmas ads including Santa continue today.
  • 1939 Copywriter Robert L. May of the Montgomery Ward Company created a poem about Rudolph, the ninth reindeer. May had been “often taunted as a child for being shy, small and slight.” He created an ostracized reindeer with a shiny red nose who became a hero one foggy Christmas eve. Santa was part-way through deliveries when the visibility started to degenerate. Santa added Rudolph to his team of reindeer to help illuminate the path and a copy of the poem was given free to Montgomery Ward customers.
  • 1949: Johnny Marks wrote the song “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” Rudolph was relocated to the North Pole where he was initially rejected by the other reindeer who wouldn’t let him play in their reindeer games because of his strange looking nose. The song was recorded by Gene Autry and became his all-time best seller. Next to “White Christmas” it is the most popular song of all time.

Christmas is both a sacred religious holiday and a worldwide cultural and commercial phenomenon. For two millennia, people around the world have been observing it with traditions and practices that are both religious and secular in nature. Christians celebrate Christmas Day as the anniversary of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, a spiritual leader whose teachings form the basis of their religion. Popular customs include exchanging gifts, decorating Christmas trees, attending church, sharing meals with family and friends and, of course, waiting for Santa Claus to arrive. December 25–Christmas Day–has been a federal holiday in the United States since 1870.  Whatever your traditions include, let your decorating express yours and share the spirit of the season.

 

 


 

May The Warmth of the Holidays Be With You and Your Families

John 3:16
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son,
that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Psalms 72:11
May all kings fall down before him, all nations serve him!

 

 

 

 

 
Painting: Adoration of the Child, 1620 by Dutch Master Gerard Van Honthorst (1590–1656)