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)



 

Speculaas or Pepernoten

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, when families around the country take to their kitchens to bake cookies galore – (or for those of us not so flour-inclined, swing by the bakery aisle). Whether you prefer gingerbread men, crisp springerles or crunchy biscotti, chances are you’ll enjoy some fresh baked Christmas cookies this holiday season. For me, there is nothing like a plate of cookies (or two or three…), a steamy cup of hot chocolate, and a toasty fire. Like many Christmas traditions, the origin of this delicious custom begins ages ago, in solstice rituals conducted long before Christmas became the huge commercial holiday it is today. Here is a little history to enjoy and share with others and a special recipe from Grandma Kowalski.

Grandma Kowalski’s Cream Cheese Crescents Kolachy Recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups flour
  • ½ pound cream cheese – large pack
  • ½ pound margarine
  • your favorite jam

Directions

  1. Mix flour, cream cheese, and margarine thoroughly.
  2. Roll ¼ inch dough out on powdered sugared board (refrigerate dough if soft).
  3. Cut into 2 inch squares.
  4. Drop a dollop of jam into the center of each square.
  5. Fold corners to center to make pillow shape.
  6. Bake for 20-25 minuets at 350 degrees.

HINT: Add bread crumbs to the jam to prevent it from spilling out while baking. Or use specialty fillings purchased in the produce department of your grocery store., Prune, Apricot, etc.

The sweet history of Christmas Cookies

  • Winter solstice festivals have been held for eons throughout the world. From Norway to West Africa, Ireland to India, groups of people gathered to celebrate the changing of the seasons. Celebrations revolved around food; after all, you had to feast before the famine of the winter.
  • Solstice often meant the arrival of the first frost, so animals could be killed and kept safely to eat through the winter, and fermented beverages like beer and wine that had been brewed in the spring were finally ready to drink. As any modern host knows, a hearty roast and a tasty beverage need just one thing to complete the party: desserts!
  • By the Middle Ages, the Christmas holiday had overtaken solstice rituals throughout much of present-day Europe. However, the old feast traditions remained. And while the roast and drink recipes were probably quite similar to what earlier Europeans had enjoyed, the pastry world was experiencing some amazing changes. Spices like nutmeg, cinnamon and black pepper were just starting to be widely used, and dried exotic fruits like citron, apricots and dates added sweetness and texture to the dessert tray. These items, along with ingredients like sugar, lard and butter, would have been prized as expensive delicacies by medieval cooks.
  • Cookies have been around a long time (they probably originated as drops of grain paste spilled on hot rocks around a fire), but they became associated with Christmas in Europe in the 1500s. Gingerbread was a similar food, but laws restricted its baking to guildsman (think early specialty unions), however at the holidays these regulations were relaxed and people were allowed to bake their own at home, making a very special once a year treat.
  • The original roots of this holiday food tradition go back even further—all the way to ancient Norse mythology. Odin, the most important Norse god, was said to have an eight-legged horse named Sleipner, which he rode with a raven perched on each shoulder. During the Yule season, children would leave food out for Sleipner, in the hopes that Odin would stop by on his travels and leave gifts in return. Such a tradition continues today in countries such as Denmark, Belgium and the Netherlands, where children still believe that horses carry Santa’s sleigh instead of reindeer. On Christmas Eve, they leave carrots and hay—sometimes stuffed into shoes—to feed the exhausted animals. In return, they might hope to receive such holiday treats as chocolate coins, cocoa, mandarin oranges and marzipan.
  • Gingerbread originated in the Crusades and was originally made using breadcrumbs, boiled with honey and seasoned heavily with spices. It was pressed onto cookie boards (carved slabs of wood with religious designs) and dried. Gingerbread evolved to become more secular and to use more modern ingredients. Eventually it became associated with Christmas when speculaas (gingerbread cookies) were made into animal and people shapes and used as holiday decorations. Recipies include ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and mace combine to make a snappy, spicy taste, just like they would have back then. And gingerbread uses molasses as a sweetener, something that medieval cooks would appreciate as refined sugar was so expensive. These cooks would not have made gingerbread men, however. The first person to try that was none other than Queen Elizabeth I of England, who had the cookie molded into the shapes of her favorite courtiers.
  • Germans were responsible for associating Christmas trees with Christmas cookies. As early as 1597, Alsatians hung oblaten (decorated communion wafers) on their tannenbaums. Americans hung Barnum’s Animal Cracker boxes on trees in the 1800s (the boxes were designed for this purpose). Today some people hang faux gingerbread men on their trees, continuing the tradition.
  • In the more recent history of Christmas cookies, cut-out cookies are now almost universally associated with the holidays in the US. We can trace these cookies back to mumming, a Christmas tradition in colonial areas where the Church of England was influential. In mumming, Christmas stories were acted out and food was used to help depict the stories. Yule dows were cut-outs made in this tradition, often in the shape of the baby Jesus.
  • In the 1800s, Pennsylvania Dutch children created large cut out cookies as window decorations. Around this same time, Yule dows became popular again and were called Yule dollies. They were made with tin cutters and shaped like people, elaborately decorated with icing (like today’s gingerbread men). The face was always made out of a scrap of paper cut out of magazines, which had to be removed before the cookie was eaten. For some, the cookies were controversial because some factions felt the cookies were not religious enough (i.e., not depicting Jesus).
  • In the 1840s, Santa became associated with Christmas and dollies representing him, with a scrap face, were made. Some of these cookies were so beautifully decorated that they weren’t actually meant to be eaten (like today’s gingerbread and gum drop houses). Yet another connection to Santa comes from the Dutch, who believed that pepernoten cookies were thrown around on Christmas by Black Peter, Saint Nicholas’s helper.
  • Moravians were a Protestant sect that formed in the 1740s and were known for creating pyramids of cookies as Christmas decorations for their Christmas Eve services. Today, spicy Moravian cookies are part of Christmas for many people.
  • Only on the most important holiday could families afford treats like these, which led to a baking bonanza to prepare for Christmas. And unlike pies or cakes, cookies could be easily shared and given to friends and neighbors. Our modern Christmas cookies date back to these medieval gifts.
  • Today in the United States, leaving out a plate of cookies (Oreos and classic chocolate chip are popular choices) and a glass of milk for Santa Claus on Christmas Eve is a well-established tradition among children. But it hasn’t always been that way. According to one theory, the cookies-and-milk custom is derived from an older tradition, when families would stuff stockings with goodies for Santa and hang them by the chimney, his preferred mode of entrance, as a welcoming gift. Now, however, those stockings are usually chock-full of treats and smaller gifts for the family members themselves.
  • Leaving cookies and milk for Santa—and perhaps a few carrots for his reindeer—took off as an American holiday tradition in the 1930s, during the Great Depression. In that time of great economic hardship, many parents tried to teach their children that it was important to give to others and to show gratitude for the gifts they were lucky enough to receive on Christmas.
  • Over the years, different countries have developed their own versions of the cookies-and-milk tradition. British and Australian children leave out sherry and mince pies, while Swedish kids leave rice porridge. Santa can expect a pint of Guinness along with his cookies when delivering toys in Ireland. French children leave out a glass of wine for Père Noël and fill their shoes with hay, carrots and other treats for his donkey, Gui (French for “mistletoe”).
  • In Germany, children skip the snacks altogether and leave handwritten letters for the Christkind, a symbolic representation of the Christmas spirit who is responsible for bringing presents on Christmas. Though many German kids mail their letters before the holiday—there are six official addresses for letters addressed to the Christkind—others leave them out on Christmas Eve, decorated with sparkly glue or sugar crystals. On Christmas morning, the letters have been collected, and gifts left in their place.

(thanks to: Stephanie Butler at Hungry History for her insights)

 

 

 

“Oh Come All Ye Faithful”

Caroling all around the land. The center image is titled “Evening Carolers” by the remarkable American painter Thomas Kinkade. (January 19, 1958 – April 6, 2012) Prints of his work are available HERE.

 

One of the things I love most about the Christmas season is the carols (oh yea, and the food).  Not one to be blessed with a magnificent voice (think howling dog with a sore paw), I’m not afraid to sign along in church, (as long as those around me are loud enough to drown me out).  I do the same thing in the car when the songs come on the radio – I crank the volume and let ‘er rip.  I’m usually good with the first verse, and then the others become “mmm, mmm”.

These songs bring back wonderful memories of when my daughters were growing up.  When our youngest daughter was 3 years old, my wife started what would become a wonderful tradition for all of us. – A Christmas Caroling party.   Our four daughters would invite a bunch of their friends for an evening of singing Christmas Carols throughout the neighborhood.  We went with the girls, rain or snow no matter what the weather!  After caroling we would return home for hot chocolate (multiple crockpots full!) and Christmas cookies.  Over the years we would have as many as 60 girls from middle school through high school all singing Christmas Carols.  We would have to serve the hot chocolate in shifts!  Then Jackie and I would sit back and watch the different groups just hang out and chat. This tradition lasted until our “baby” was out of high school.

Here is some fun trivia on caroling, (special thanks to James Cooper at whychristmas.com for the info) and the history behind some of my favorites – enjoy!

  • Carols were first sung in Europe thousands of years ago, but these were not Christmas Carols. They were pagan songs, sung at the Winter Solstice celebrations as people danced round stone circles.
  • The word Carol actually means dance or a song of praise and joy! Carols used to be written and sung during all four seasons, but only the tradition of singing them at Christmas has really survived.
  • Early Christians took over the pagan solstice celebrations for Christmas and gave people Christian songs to sing instead of pagan ones.
  • In 129, a Roman Bishop said that a song called “Angel’s Hymn” should be sung at a Christmas service in Rome. Another famous early Christmas Hymn was written in 760, by Comas of Jerusalem, for the Greek Orthodox Church. Soon after this, many composers all over Europe started to write ‘Christmas carols’.
  • Back then, not many people liked the church versions, as they were all written and sung in Latin, a language that the normal people couldn’t understand.
  • By the time of the Middles Ages (the 1200s), most people had lost interest in celebrating Christmas altogether, and the carol songs fell out of fashion.
  • This was changed by St. Francis of Assisi when, in 1223, he started his Nativity Plays in Italy. The people in the plays sang songs or ‘canticles’ that told the story during the plays. Sometimes, the choruses of these new carols were in Latin; but normally they were all in a language that the people watching the play could understand and join in!
  • The new carols spread to France, Spain, Germany and other European countries. Also, at this time, many orchestras and choirs were being set up in the cities of England and people wanted Christmas songs to sing, so carols once again became popular, such as ‘Good King Wenceslas’.
  • The earliest carol was written in 1410. Sadly, only a very small fragment of it still exists. The carol was about Mary and Jesus meeting different people in Bethlehem. Most Carols from this time and the Elizabethan period are untrue stories, very loosely based on the Christmas story, about the holy family and were seen as entertaining rather than religious songs. They were usually sung in homes rather than in churches.
  • Traveling singer or Minstrels started singing these carols and the words were changed for the local people wherever they were traveling. One carols that changed like this is ‘I Saw Three Ships’ (see history below).
  • When Oliver Cromwell and the Puritans came to power in England in 1647, the celebration of Christmas and singing carols was stopped. However, the carols survived as people still sang them in secret. Carols remained mainly unsung until Victorian times, when two men called William Sandys and Davis Gilbert collected lots of old Christmas music from villages in England.
  • Before Carol singing in public became popular, there were sometimes official carol singers called ‘Waits’. These were bands of people led by important local leaders (such as council leaders) who had the only power in the towns and villages to take money from the public (if others did this, they were sometimes charged as beggars!).
  • Christmas Eve (This was sometimes known as ‘watchnight’ or ‘waitnight’ because of the shepherds were watching their sheep when the angels appeared to them.), was when the Christmas celebrations began, along with the carols.
  • Many orchestras and choirs were set up in the cities of England, and people wanted Christmas songs to sing, so carols once again became popular.
  • New carols services were created and became popular, as did the custom of singing carols in the streets. Both of these customs are still popular today! One of the most popular types of Carols services are Carols by Candlelight services. At this service, the church is only lit by candlelight and it feels very Christmassy! Carols by Candlelight services are held in countries all over the world.

The most famous type of Carol Service might be a Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols, where carols and Bible readings tell the Christmas Story.  Here is the history behind three popular carols:

I Saw Three Ships

The tune of this carol is a traditional English folk song and the words of this carol (of which there are several versions) were written by wandering minstrels as they traveled through the country. In the original version of the carol, the Three Ships were the ones taking the supposed skulls of the wise men to Cologne cathedral in Germany. However, since the Middle Ages, when it was first written, there have been many different lyrics with different Bible characters being on the ships. The most common lyrics used today are about Mary and Jesus traveling to Bethlehem.

Good King Wenceslas

This carol was written in Victorian Britain by John Mason Neale to a traditional folk tune. It was written in the town of East Grinstead, in the county of West Sussex, at Sackville College where he was staying at the time. The story in the carol is about the King (or Duke) of Bohemia (an area in Central Europe which is now part of the Czech Republic) from over 1000 years ago, seeing peasants, on Boxing Day, from his castle and taking food and wood to them. The story in the carol was probably completely made up! In fact the real story of King Wenceslas (907-935) is rather unusual.  Wenceslas’ father was the Duke of Bohemia and a Christian but it’s thought that his mother might have been a pagan. His father died when he was 12 and, as he was not old enough to become Duke until he was 18, his mother took control of the land as regent. During this time his grandmother, Ludmilla, took care of Wenceslas and brought him up as a Christian (she smuggled priests into the house to help teach him). It’s thought that His mother had Ludmilla banished to a distant castle where she was murdered by the Queen’s guards!  Wenceslas was still a Christian after this and learned to read and write, something which was unusual for even a King/Duke in those days! He had local Bishops smuggled in at night to teach him the Bible. When he reached 18, Wenceslas took control of his dukedom. He then defended Bohemia from a couple of invasions by Dukes of neighboring regions and legend says that he banished his mother and her pagan followers from his castle.  The (fictitious) story told in the song was written by a Czech poet Václav Alois Svoboda in 1847. He wrote many ‘manuscripts’ that tried to prove that Czech literature was much older and more developed than it really was. The poem was written in three languages, Czech, German, Latin, and was called ‘Sankt Wenceslaw und Podiwin’ (Saint Wenceslas and the Crocheteer). The Poem found its way into the UK in the 19th Century where JM Neale put the translated words to the tune of a 13th century spring carol ‘Tempus Adest Floridum’ (‘It is time for flowering’) that was came from a collection of old religious songs called ‘Piae Cantiones’ that was published in 1582 in Sweden/Finland!

Silent Night

The words of Silent Night were written by a Priest called Fr. Joseph Mohr in Mariapfarr, Austria, in 1816 and the music was added in 1818, by his school teacher friend Franz Xaver Gruber, for the Christmas service at St. Nicholas church in Oberndorf, Austria.  Fr. Mohr asked Franz Gruber to compose the melody with a guitar arrangement. It was several years later that Franz Gruber wrote an arrangement for the organ. Historians who have conducted research in recent years believe that Fr. Mohr wanted a new carol that he could play on his guitar.  There is a legend associated with the carol that says, Fr. Mohr wanted the carol to be sung by the children of the village at the midnight Christmas Eve service, as a surprise for their parents. But in the middle of practising, the organ broke and not a note would come from it! So the children had to learn the carol only accompanied by a guitar. They learnt the carol so well that they could sing it on its own without accompaniment.  However, there are no records to indicate that a children’s choir was involved or that the organ was broken!  At Midnight Mass in 1818, Fr. Mohr and Franz Gruber sang each of the six verses with the church choir repeating the last two lines of each verse. Mohr set down the guitar arrangement on paper around 1820 and that is the earliest manuscript that still exists. It is displayed in the Carolino Augusteum Museum in Salzburg. There are a number of manuscripts of various ‘Stille Nacht’ arrangement that were written by Franz Gruber in later years.  The original words of the song were in German (and it was called ‘Stille Nacht! Heilige Nacht’) and translated in to English went:

Silent night, holy night,

Bethlehem sleeps, yet what light,

Floats around the heavenly pair;

Songs of angels fills the air.

Strains of heavenly peace.

It’s thought that the song might have traveled around the area with an organ repairman, Karl Mauracher, who could have taken an early arrangement with him in about 1820. Then two singing families (like the ‘Von Trappes’ in The Sound of Music) seem to have discovered the song and performed it as part of their concerts. In December 1832, the Strasser family performed it at a concert in Leipzig. It was first performed in the USA in 1839 by the Rainer family, who sang ‘Stille Nacht’ at the Alexander Hamilton Monument outside Trinity Church in New York City. During this time the tune changed to the one we know and sing today!  It was translated into English in 1863 by John Freeman Young. The carol was sung during the Christmas Truce in the First World War in December 1914 as it was a song that soldiers on both sides knew!  By the time that the carol was famous, Fr Mohr had died. Franz Gruber wrote to music authorities in Berlin saying that he had composed the tune, but no one believed him and it was thought that Haydn, Mozart or Beethoven had written it! But then the 1820 manuscript was found and in the top right corner Fr Mohr had written: ‘Melodie von Fr. Xav. Gruber.’.

It’s now one of the most, if the the most, recorded songs in the world!

 

 


 

Merry Christmas Everyone!

KHT Christmas 768 blog

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May the spirit of Christmas and the love of Christ fill your home
and bless your families this holiday season and throughout the year.

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from your friends at

Kowalski Heat Treating

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Steve’s Guide to Enjoy the Season

Christmas-Wallpaper 768 blog

Wishing for a “White Christmas”!

There are so many events going on in town.  With Christmas coming up fast, I thought I’d share with your some of my favorites.  Put down the remote, turn off the cell phone, pack up the kids (or grandkids), hope for a little snow dusting and enjoy how NE Ohio celebrates Christmas and the Holiday season.

Holiday Tours of the Perkins Stone Mansion – Akron
Tour the Perkins Stone Mansion when it is outfitted with holiday decorations and cheer.
When: Friday and Saturday from December 18-19, 2015; 1-4 pm
Where: The Summit County Historical Society, 550 Copley Rd., Akron, OH 44320
Cost: $6 per person ages 6 and older
Contact: (330) 535-1120

FREE 2015 Holiday at Finwood – Elyria
The Elyria Parks & Recreation Department will once again transform the Finwood Estate into a winter wonderland. Enjoy both the inside and outside of the tastefully decorated estate and our very own Shupps Train display, with 10 trains cruising the tracks. Visit with Santa
When: December 2-23, 2015; 6pm-9pm
Where: Finwood Estate, 799 N. Abbe Rd., Elyria, OH 44035
Cost: FREE to the public. Monetary donations and non-perishable canned food donations will be distributed to Elyria Hospitality House.
Contact: (440) 326-1500

Horse-drawn Carriage Rides and Carolers at Gervasi Vineyard – Canton
Step into a vintage white carriage for a ride and enjoy the beautiful Gervasi grounds. While on property enjoy the sounds of carolers outside the Bistro and the Marketplace.
When: Carriage Rides and Carolers: December 18-19, 2015; 6pm-9pm; Vintage Carolers: 7pm-9pm: *Weather Permitting
Where: 1700 55th St. NE, Canton, OH 44721
Cost: $10 per ride (Cash only; up to 4 passengers) *Weather Permitting
Contact: (330) 497-1000

FREE Photos with Santa at All City Candy – Richmond Heights
All City Candy will be offering free photos with Santa Claus at the store on December 20, as well as on Christmas Eve Day. Help fill “Santa Sacks,” for patients at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital on Christmas Day.
When: Friday, Dec. 18: 4-7pm, Saturday, Dec. 19: 10am-7pm, and Sunday, Dec. 20: 12pm-5pm, and Thursday, Dec. 24: 12–5 pm
Where: All City Candy, 746 Richmond Rd., Richmond Heights, OH 44143
Cost: FREE
Contact: (216) 487-7070 or email info@allcitycandy.com

FREE Annual Holiday Model Trains Display at Puritas Nursery – Cleveland
13th Annual Display of Holiday Model Trains – Bigger, better, and more family fun than ever!
When: November 27-December 31, 2015; Weekdays 9am-8pm, weekends 9am-6pm, closing at 3pm on December 24 & 31
Where: 19201 Puritas Ave., Cleveland, OH 441352
Cost: FREE
Contact: (216) 267-5350

Glow at the Cleveland Botanical Garden – Cleveland
Glow transports you to a world full of seasonal cheer, where all-new wonders and returning traditions await you. Whimsical train ride, musicians and carolers, decorate a gingerbread house, decorated trees, holiday shopping, and more.
When: November 27, 2015-January 3, 2016
Where: 11030 East Blvd., Cleveland, OH 44106
Cost: $16/non-member adult, $12/non-member child, FREE for Garden members
Contact: (216) 721-1600, ext. 100

Ohio Station Outlet Santa Express Train Rides – Lodi
When:
 Saturdays & Sundays from Nov. 28-Dec. 26, 2015 (12pm-5pm), Dec. 21-23, 2015 (12pm-5pm), and Thursday, Dec. 24, 2015 (12pm-3pm)
Where: 9911 Avon Lake Rd., Lodi, OH 44214
Cost: $7 per participate age 2 and up, FREE for babies under 12 months
Contact: (330) 948-1239

Sleigh & Carriage Rides at Ma & Pa’s – Burton
Every winter, all winter long, Ma and Pa hitch up the sleighs and take you out through the woods and out in the field and then back to the cabin for a warm fire, Ma’s homemade bakery, hot chocolate and maple coffee. Reservations are required. There is a carriage should there be no snow.
When: Dec. 1 thru mid-March Saturdays: 12pm-10pm, Sundays: 12pm-5pm
Where: 15161 Main Market Rd. (SR 422), Burton, OH 44021
Cost: $20 per adult, 11-16 Yrs. $10 per child ages 11-16, $5 per child ages 5-10, and FREE for children under age 4. (All rides include hot beverage and bakery.)
Contact: (440) 548-5521

Breakfast with Santa at Cornerstone Friends Church – Madison
Cost includes a great breakfast for all, personalized gift for the children, picture with Santa, stories by Mrs. Claus. Children will make a special ornament and reindeer food! Tickets can be purchased online.
When: Saturday December 19, 2015; Two seatings: 8:30am or 11:30am
Where: 2300 Hubbard Rd., Madison OH 44057
Cost: $15 per adult, $11 per child age 2-11, and FREE for children under age 2
Contact: (440) 428-6868

FREE Candlelit Walk and Caroling at Cleveland Metroparks – Bentleyville
Hike on a candlelit trail through the dark forest in near silence. Then gather around a campfire and sing carols into the night to warm our hearts with a warm cup of cocoa. Singing will take place in the Lodge if weather necessitates.
When: Saturday, December 19, 2015; 7pm-8:30pm
Where: South Chagrin Reservation, 37374 Miles Rd., Bentleyville, OH 44022
Cost: FREE
Contact: (440) 473-3370

Winter Solstice Celebration at Lake Erie Nature & Science Center – Bay Village
It’s the longest night of the year and we’ve filled it with all sorts of great family fun – hikes on a wintry trail, visits with nighttime animals and a family holiday activity. Visit the planetarium to learn about what a solstice is and experience the night sky. Be sure to find a few minutes to relax by the crackling fire. Please dress for the weather.
When: Sunday, December 20, 2015; 6:30pm-8:30pm
Where: 28728 Wolf Rd., Cleveland, OH 44140
Cost: $7 per person ages 2 and up, FREE for babies and 1 and under
Contact: (440) 871-2900