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ARCHIVE: DECEMBER IS…2012

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DECEMBER IS…

CHRISTMAS TIME IS HERE!

HISTORY OF CHRISTMAS –

History Channel [ Part 1 of 5 ]

PART II

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.

An Ancient Holiday

The middle of winter has long been a time of celebration around the world. Centuries before the arrival of the man called Jesus, early Europeans celebrated light and birth in the darkest days of winter. Many peoples rejoiced during the winter solstice, when the worst of the winter was behind them and they could look forward to longer days and extended hours of sunlight.

In Scandinavia, the Norse celebrated Yule from December 21, the winter solstice, through January. In recognition of the return of the sun, fathers and sons would bring home large logs, which they would set on fire. The people would feast until the log burned out, which could take as many as 12 days. The Norse believed that each spark from the fire represented a new pig or calf that would be born during the coming year.

The end of December was a perfect time for celebration in most areas of Europe. At that time of year, most cattle were slaughtered so they would not have to be fed during the winter. For many, it was the only time of year when they had a supply of fresh meat. In addition, most wine and beer made during the year was finally fermented and ready for drinking.

In Germany, people honored the pagan god Oden during the mid-winter holiday. Germans were terrified of Oden, as they believed he made nocturnal flights through the sky to observe his people, and then decide who would prosper or perish. Because of his presence, many people chose to stay inside.

Saturnalia

In Rome, where winters were not as harsh as those in the far north, Saturnalia—a holiday in honor of Saturn, the god of agriculture—was celebrated. Beginning in the week leading up to the winter solstice and continuing for a full month, Saturnalia was a hedonistic time, when food and drink were plentiful and the normal Roman social order was turned upside down. For a month, slaves would become masters. Peasants were in command of the city. Business and schools were closed so that everyone could join in the fun.

Also around the time of the winter solstice, Romans observed Juvenalia, a feast honoring the children of Rome. In addition, members of the upper classes often celebrated the birthday of Mithra, the god of the unconquerable sun, on December 25. It was believed that Mithra, an infant god, was born of a rock. For some Romans, Mithra’s birthday was the most sacred day of the year.

In the early years of Christianity, Easter was the main holiday; the birth of Jesus was not celebrated. In the fourth century, church officials decided to institute the birth of Jesus as a holiday. Unfortunately, the Bible does not mention date for his birth (a fact Puritans later pointed out in order to deny the legitimacy of the celebration). Although some evidence suggests that his birth may have occurred in the spring (why would shepherds be herding in the middle of winter?), Pope Julius I chose December 25. It is commonly believed that the church chose this date in an effort to adopt and absorb the traditions of the pagan Saturnalia festival. First called the Feast of the Nativity, the custom spread to Egypt by 432 and to England by the end of the sixth century. By the end of the eighth century, the celebration of Christmas had spread all the way to Scandinavia. Today, in the Greek and Russian orthodox churches, Christmas is celebrated 13 days after the 25th, which is also referred to as the Epiphany or Three Kings Day. This is the day it is believed that the three wise men finally found Jesus in the manger.

By holding Christmas at the same time as traditional winter solstice festivals, church leaders increased the chances that Christmas would be popularly embraced, but gave up the ability to dictate how it was celebrated. By the Middle Ages, Christianity had, for the most part, replaced pagan religion. On Christmas, believers attended church, then celebrated raucously in a drunken, carnival-like atmosphere similar to today’s Mardi Gras. Each year, a beggar or student would be crowned the “lord of misrule” and eager celebrants played the part of his subjects. The poor would go to the houses of the rich and demand their best food and drink. If owners failed to comply, their visitors would most likely terrorize them with mischief. Christmas became the time of year when the upper classes could repay their real or imagined “debt” to society by entertaining less fortunate citizens.

An Outlaw Christmas

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 actually outlawed in Boston. Anyone exhibiting the Christmas spirit was fined five shillings. By contrast, in theJamestown 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, Christmas wasn’t declared a federal holiday until June 26, 1870.

Irving Reinvents Christmas

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. But what about the 1800s peaked American interest in the holiday?

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.

A Christmas Carol

Also around this time, English author Charles Dickens created the classic holiday tale, A Christmas Carol. The story’s message-the importance of charity and good will towards all humankind-struck a powerful chord in the United Statesand England and showed members of Victorian society the benefits of celebrating the holiday.

The family was also becoming less disciplined and more sensitive to the emotional needs of children during the early 1800s. Christmas provided families with a day when they could lavish attention-and gifts-on their children without appearing to “spoil” them.

As Americans began to embrace Christmas as a perfect family holiday, old customs were unearthed. People looked toward recent immigrants and Catholic and Episcopalian churches to see how the day should be celebrated. In the next 100 years, Americans built a Christmas tradition all their own that included pieces of many other customs, including decorating trees, sending holiday cards, and gift-giving.

Although most families quickly bought into the idea that they were celebrating Christmas how it had been done for centuries, Americans had really re-invented a holiday to fill the cultural needs of a growing nation.

Christmas Facts

Each year, 30-35 million real Christmas trees are sold in the United States alone. There are 21,000 Christmas tree growers in the United States, and trees usually grow for about 15 years before they are sold.

Today, in the Greek and Russian orthodox churches, Christmas is celebrated 13 days after the 25th, which is also referred to as the Epiphany or Three Kings Day. This is the day it is believed that the three wise men finally found Jesus in the manger.

In the Middle Ages, Christmas celebrations were rowdy and raucous—a lot like today’s Mardi Gras parties.

From 1659 to 1681, the celebration of Christmas was outlawed in Boston, and law-breakers were fined five shillings.

Christmas was declared a federal holiday in the United States on June 26, 1870.

The first eggnog made in the United States was consumed in Captain John Smith’s 1607 Jamestown settlement.

Poinsettia plants are named after Joel R. Poinsett, an American minister to Mexico, who brought the red-and-green plant from Mexico to America in 1828.

The Salvation Army has been sending Santa Claus-clad donation collectors into the streets since the 1890s.

Rudolph, “the most famous reindeer of all,” was the product of Robert L. May’s imagination in 1939. The copywriter wrote a poem about the reindeer to help lure customers into the Montgomery Ward department store.

Construction workers started the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree tradition in 1931.

PART III

PART IV

=

*******

DECEMBER IS

NATIONAL DRUNK AND DRUGGED DRIVING

PREVENTION MONTH

December has been designated National Drunk and Drugged Driving Prevention Month,

a time to raise awareness about the consequences of driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs.

 Click here to read the proclamation from President Barack Obama.

MADD has these tips to help ensure everyone’s safety this holiday season:

  • Designate a sober driver before celebrations begin.
  • Never serve those under the age of 21 alcohol.
  • Plan safe parties, including providing non-alcoholic drink options to guests and not serving alcohol the last hour of the gathering.
  • Be prepared to get everyone home safe in case your plans or individual circumstances change.

Tie One On for Safety

Show your support for law enforcement and for MADD’s Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving. Tie a red ribbon on your antenna or affix your window decal as a pledge to drive safe, sober and buckled up during the holidays and throughout the year.

Red ribbons and red ribbon window decals are available by contacting your local MADD affiliate.

Give the Gift of a Designated Driver

During this time of year when drunk driving crashes are most prevalent, MADD aims to deter individuals from driving drunk and encourage them to plan ahead and designate a sober driver, or arrange another safe ride home, before embarking on their holiday festivities. MADD’s Give the Gift of a Designated Driver campaign is designed to encourage people to volunteer to be a designated sober driver for their friends and family during the holiday season.

Click here to download a coupon that says

“Tonight, I’ll be DD.”

DID YOU KNOW?

Alcohol impairment among drivers involved in fatal crashes in 2010 was four times higher at night than during the day (37 versus 9 percent).
More Facts »

Drunk Driving:

Learn How Much You Can Really Drink Before Being Illegal

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

December has been designated National Drunk and Drugged Driving Prevention Month.

And what better time to raise awareness about the consequences of driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs

than the holidays when there are more parties than ever.

We all know about the risks of drinking and driving, but do you know how much (or how little) it actually takes for you to reach the legal limit? Find out here.

According to MADD, on average, every 52 minutes someone is killed in a drunk driving crash–that’s more than 10,000 people a year. On top of that, every 90 seconds, someone is injured due to someone getting behind the wheel when they were impaired. What’s sad is the fact that all of these deaths and injuries are entirely preventable.

And yet, our country still doesn’t have adequate enforcement and prevention for drunk drivers getting on the road. In fact, roughly one-third of the drunk driving problems, including arrests, crashes, deaths, and injuries, come from repeat offenders. That means every time we’re on the road, we are potentially sharing it with 2 million people with three or more drunk driving offenses.

To help combat this, this holiday season President Obama has signed a proclamation stating that December is National Impaired Driving Month. The United States Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is also sponsoring the campaign, “Drunk Driving: Over the Limit. Under Arrest.”  And thousands of police departments and law enforcement agencies across the Nation will redouble their efforts to ensure impaired drivers are detected and appropriate action is taken.

Remember, the legal limit of blood alcohol concentration is .08. The more you drink, the greater the effect that alcohol has on your ability to drive. But a person’s weight, gender, speed of drinking and amount of food in their stomach ultimately determines how much they can drink before reaching that .08 limit.

According to MADD, even just a .02 alcohol level can impair someone’s ability to drive (and that’s often reached in less than one drink). And a .05 level can result in a loss of coordination, difficulty steering and a decreased response to emergency situations when behind the wheel. That’s scary.

To find out how much is too much for you, use this handy calculator from the University of Oklahoma Police Department.

And remember, always designate a driver when going out and never get in the car with someone who has been drinking.

Have a safe holiday season!

Read more: http://www.blisstree.com/2012/12/03/live/december-is-national-drunk-driving-month-calculate-when-youre-considered-drunk/#ixzz2E2gs6EpU

 

December:

Safe Toys & Gifts Month

With the holiday season approaching, your thoughts may be turning to shopping for toys and gifts. You’ll want to get the children in your life their favorite toys, and there are thousands of toys to choose from in stores and online.

Before you make those purchases remember to consider the safety and age-range of the toys. In 2007 alone, toymakers recalled over 19 million toys worldwide because of safety concerns such as lead paint and small magnets. In 2005, there were over 200,000 toy-related injuries.

To prevent injuries, choose toys that are safe for the age of the child. Look for labels to help you judge which toys might not be safe, especially for infants and children under age three. For children of all ages, consider if the toys are suited to their skills and abilities.

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