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the christmas pickle

by Super User
The tradition of the Christmas Pickle has got to be one of the strangest modern Christmas customs in that no one is quite sure why it exists at all! In the 1880s Woolworth stores started selling glass ornaments imported from Germany and some were in the shape of various fruit and vegetables. It seems that pickles must have been among the selection! Around the same time it was claimed that the Christmas Pickle was a very old German tradition and that the pickle was the last ornament hung on the Christmas tree and then the first child to find the pickle got an extra present. However, the claim that it's an old German tradition seems to be a total myth! Not many people in Germany have even heard of the Christmas Pickle! (Similarly in Russia virtually no one knows the supposedly Russian story of Babushka!) Some families now have the tradition of hanging the pickle on the tree, with the first person/child to find it getting a present. But it probably didn't start in Germany! There are two other rather far-fetched stories linking the pickle to Christmas. One features a fighter in the American Civil War who was born in Bavaria (an area of what is now Germany). He was a prisoner, and starving, he begged a guard for one last pickle before he died. The guard took pity on him and gave a pickle to him. The pickle gave him the mental and physical strength to live on! The other story is linked to St. Nicholas. It's a medieval tale of two Spanish boys traveling home from a boarding school for the holidays. When they stopped at an inn for the night, the evil innkeeper, killed the boys and put them in a pickle barrel. That evening, St. Nicholas stopped at the same inn, and found the boys in the barrel and miraculously bought them back to life! There is an old legend about St. Nicholas rescuing boys from a barrel but the barrel was originally holding meat for pies - not pickles! So it's most likely that an ornament salesmen, with a lot of spare pickles to sell, invented the legend of the Christmas Pickle! The American city of Berrien Springs, MI (also known as the Christmas Pickle Capital of the World) has an annual pickle festival held during the early part of December.

Proof that Santa exists

by Super User
How does Father Christmas get everywhere in one night? Henry Gee explains In his book, Unweaving The Rainbow, Richard Dawkins boasts that he tried to tell a six-year-old child that Father Christmas didn't exist. His argument was that Father Christmas would not be able to climb down all those chimneys and tiptoe noiselessly to the bedsides of hundreds of millions of children, all in one night. There simply wouldn't be enough time, even if reindeer were hypersonic. Well, apart from being a somewhat cruel thing to do to a small child (the distinguished professor for the public understanding of science should pick on someone his own size), the argument is, to be charitable, an incomplete explanation. Dawkins may be no slouch when it comes to evolution, but he knows (by his own admission) rather less about physics. Of course Father Christmas exists, and he can visit arbitrarily as many children has he pleases in as short a time as is convenient, barring mid-air reindeer pile- ups. The reason is that Father Christmas is a Macroscopic Quantum Object. Let me explain. It is a feature of the quantum world that particles - such as electrons - can be in more than one place at a time, provided that nobody is watching. In a famous experiment known as the "two-slit" test, physicists have been able to fire a single particle at an opaque plate with two separate slits in it. The diffraction pattern seen on the other side of the slits suggests that the particle passes through both holes at once and interacts with itself. However, if detectors are placed at the slits, to see which slit the particle passes through, the diffraction pattern disappears, and the particle can be seen to pass through either one slit or the other, but not both. The key lies in the fact of observation. Provided that nobody seeks to measure the effect with more than a certain amount of precision, the particle keeps all its options open. But if someone looks too closely, the particle makes its choice. In the language of physics, its quantum wavefunction collapses. Now, let's think of Father Christmas as a particle, obeying the rules of the quantum world. Following the logic of the two-slit experiment, it is perfectly possible for him to visit all the good children of the world simultaneously, provided that he does so unseen. If he is spotted, his wavefunction will collapse and he will be revealed as your Dad with a comedy beard after all. The quantum nature of Father Christmas explains the taboo against seeing him do his job - which Dawkins does not explain. But there's more. It is possible to object that Father Christmas is far too large, rubicund and jolly to be a particle. In the real-life, macroscopic world of people, elves and flying reindeer, the quantum behaviour of each of the squillions of particles from which we are made averages out, so what we see is the everyday phenomenon of causes preceding effects, and people who can never be in two places at once. Cynics might attribute this last consequence to the deficiencies of Railtrack, but it is a fact that real people, even bearded men with red hats and big boots, tend to be found in discrete locations, irrespective of whether they are being watched or not. This objection doesn't wash, however, because it is possible to have macroscopic quantum objects that are larger than single particles. Scientists have managed to choreograph large clusters of atoms to behave as if they were just one particle, in a kind of nanoscopic Busby Berkeley routine. Admittedly, these clusters are too small to see with the naked eye, let alone qualify as cheerful red- faced men with sacks full of gifts, but the point is made. Importantly, these macroscopic quantum objects observe the rules of the quantum world when cooled to within a whisker of absolute zero - minus 273 C. Any warmer than this, and the choreography breaks down and the clusters behave like any old bunch of atoms. Nevertheless, in this frigidity might lie an explanation for another feature of Father Christmas that Dawkins neglects to explain - the undeniable fact that Father Christmas traditionally inhabits cold places, such as Lapland or the North Pole. OK, so neither of these places gets as chilly as absolute zero, but it must count for something that no deserving child would address their wish list to hot places such as, say, Borneo or Brazil. The very idea is quite ridiculous. QED (which stands for Quantum Electrodynamics, as any fule kno.) • Henry Gee is a senior editor of Nature.

history of the christmas tree

by Super User
The evergreen fir tree has traditionally been used to celebrate winter festivals (pagan and Christian) for thousands of years. Pagans used branches of it to decorate their homes during the winter solstice, as it made them think of the spring to come. The Romans used Fir Trees to decorate their temples at the festival of Saturnalia. Christians use it as a sign of everlasting life with God. Nobody is really sure when Fir trees were first used as Christmas trees. It probably began about 1000 years ago in Northern Europe. Many early Christmas Trees seem to have been hung upside down from the ceiling using chains (hung from chandeliers/lighting hooks). Other early Christmas Trees, across many parts of northern Europe, were cherry or hawthorn plants (or a branch of the plant) that were put into pots and brought inside so they would hopefully flower at Christmas time. If you couldn't afford a real plant, people made pyramids of woods and they were decorated to look like a tree with paper, apples and candles. Sometimes they were carried around from house to house, rather than being displayed in a home. It's possible that the wooden pyramid trees were meant to be like Paradise Trees. These were used in medieval German Mystery or Miracle Plays that were acted out in front of Churches on Christmas Eve. In early church calendars of saints, 24th December was Adam and Eve's day. The Paradise Tree represented the Garden of Eden. It was often paraded around the town before the play started, as a way of advertising the play. The plays told Bible stories to people who could not read. The first documented use of a tree at Christmas and New Year celebrations is argued between the cities of Tallinn in Estonia and Riga in Latvia! Both claim that they had the first trees; Tallinn in 1441 and Riga in 1510. Both trees were put up by the 'Brotherhood of Blackheads' which was an association of local unmarried merchants, ship owners, and foreigners in Livonia (what is now Estonia and Latvia). Little is known about either tree apart from that they were put in the town square, were dance around by the Brotherhood of Blackheads and were then set on fire. This is like the custom of the Yule Log. The word used for the 'tree' could also mean a mast or pole, tree might have been like a 'Paradise Tree' or a tree-shaped wooden candelabra rather than a 'real' tree. In the town square of Riga, the capital of Latvia, there is a plaque which is engraved with "The First New Year's Tree in Riga in 1510", in eight languages. You can find out more about the Riga Tree from this website: www.firstchristmastree.com A picture from Germany in 1521 which shows a tree being paraded through the streets with a man riding a horse behind it. The man is dressed a bishop, possibly representing St. Nicholas. In 1584, the historian Balthasar Russow wrote about a tradition, in Riga, of a decorated fir tree in the market square where the young men “went with a flock of maidens and women, first sang and danced there and then set the tree aflame”. There's a record of a small tree in Breman, Germany from 1570. It is described as a tree decorated with "apples, nuts, dates, pretzels and paper flowers". It was displayed in a 'guild-house' (the meeting place for a society of business men in the city). The first person to bring a Christmas Tree into a house, in the way we know it today, may have been the 16th century German preacher Martin Luther. A story is told that, one night before Christmas, he was walking through the forest and looked up to see the stars shining through the tree branches. It was so beautiful, that he went home and told his children that it reminded him of Jesus, who left the stars of heaven to come to earth at Christmas. Some people say this is the same tree as the 'Riga' tree, but it isn't! The Riga tree originally took place a few decades earlier. The custom of having Christmas trees could well have travelled along the Baltic sea, from Latvia to Germany. In the 1400s and 1500s, the countries which are now Germany and Latvia were them part of two larger empires which were neighbors. Another story says that St. Boniface of Crediton (a village in Devon, UK) left England and traveled to Germany to preach to the pagan German tribes and convert them to Christianity. He is said to have come across a group of pagans about to sacrifice a young boy while worshipping an oak tree. In anger, and to stop the sacrifice, St. Boniface is said to have cut down the oak tree and, to his amazement, a young fir tree sprang up from the roots of the oak tree. St. Boniface took this as a sign of the Christian faith and his followers decorated the tree with candles so that St. Boniface could preach to the pagans at night. There is another legend, from Germany, about how the Christmas Tree came into being, it goes: Once on a cold Christmas Eve night, a forester and his family were in their cottage gathered round the fire to keep warm. Suddenly there was a knock on the door. When the forester opened the door, he found a poor little boy standing on the door step, lost and alone. The forester welcomed him into his house and the family fed and washed him and put him to bed in the youngest sons own bed (he had to share with his brother that night!). The next morning, Christmas Morning, the family were woken up by a choir of angels, and the poor little boy had turned into Jesus, the Christ Child. The Christ Child went into the front garden of the cottage and broke a branch off a Fir tree and gave it to the family as a present to say thank you for looking after him. So ever since them, people have remembered that night by bringing a Christmas Tree into their homes! In Germany, the first Christmas Trees were decorated with edible things, such as gingerbread and gold covered apples. Then glass makers made special small ornaments similar to some of the decorations used today. In 1605 an unknown German wrote: "At Christmas they set up fir trees in the parlours of Strasbourg and hang thereon roses cut out of many-colored paper, apples, wafers, gold foil, sweets, etc." At first, a figure of the Baby Jesus was put on the top of the tree. Over time it changed to an angel/fairy that told the shepherds about Jesus, or a star like the Wise Men saw. The first Christmas Trees came to Britain sometime in the 1830s. They became very popular in 1841, when Prince Albert (Queen Victoria's German husband) had a Christmas Tree set up in Windsor Castle. In 1848, drawing of "The Queen's Christmas tree at Windsor Castle" was published in the Illustrated London News. The drawing was republished in Godey's Lady's Book, Philadelphia in December 1850 (but they removed the Queen's crown and Prince Albert's moustache to make it look 'American'!). The publication of the drawing helped Christmas Trees become popular in the UK and USA. In Victorian times, the tree would have been decorated with candles to represent stars. In many parts of Europe, candles are still used to decorate Christmas trees. Tinsel and The Legend of the Christmas Spider Tinsel was also created in Germany, were it was originally made from thin strips of beaten silver. But when plastic/man made tinsel was invented, it became very popular as it was much cheaper than real silver and also lighter to go on the tree! There are also folk stories about how tinsel was created - by The Christmas Spider! These tales seem to have started in Eastern Germany or Ukraine but are also told in parts of Finland and Scandinavia. The stories are now also popular in other countries such as the USA; although I live in the UK and most people in my country have never heard of the story/legend! All the versions of the story involve a poor family who can't afford to decorate a Tree for Christmas (in some versions the tree grew from a pine cone in their house, in others the family have bought a tree into the house). When the children go to sleep on Christmas Eve a spider covers the tree in cobwebs. Then on Christmas morning the cobwebs are magically turned into silver and gold strands which decorate the tree! Some versions of the story say that it's the light of the sun which changed the cobwebs into silver and gold but other versions say it's St Nicholas / Santa Claus / Father Christmas / das Christkind which made the magic happen. In parts of Germany, Poland, and Ukraine it's meant to be good luck to find a spider or a spider's web on your Christmas Tree. Spider's web Christmas Tree decorations are also popular in Ukraine. They're called 'pavuchky' (which means 'little spider') and the decorations are normally made of paper and silver wire. You might even put an artificial spider's web on your tree! Christmas Tree Lights Because of the danger of fire, in 1895 Ralph Morris, an American telephonist, invented the first electric Christmas lights, similar to the ones we use today. In 1885 a hospital in Chicago burned down because of candles on a Christmas Tree! And in 1908 insurance companies in the USA tried to get a law made that would ban candles from being used on Christmas Trees because of the many fires they had caused! So we have to say a big thank you to Ralph Morris for making Christmas safer! The most lights lit at the same time on a Christmas tree is 194,672 and was done by Kiwanis Malmedy / Haute Fagnes Belgium in Malmedy, Belgium, on 10 December 2010! Many towns and villages have their own Christmas Trees. One of the most famous is the tree in Trafalgar Square in London, England, which is given to the UK by Norway every year as a 'thank you' present for the help the UK gave Norway in World War II. The White House in the USA has had a big tree on the front lawn since the 1920s. #111717923 / gettyimages.com The record for the most Christmas trees chopped down in two minutes is 27 and belongs to Erin Lavoie from the USA. She set the record on 19th December 2008 on the set of Guinness World Records: Die GroBten Weltrekorde in Germany. Artificial Christmas Trees really started becoming popular in the early 20th century. In the Edwardian period Christmas Trees made from colored ostrich feathers were popular at 'fashionable' parties. Around 1900 there was even a short fashion for white trees - so if you thought colored trees are a new invention they're not! Over the years artificial tress have been made from feathers, papier mâché, metal, glass, and many different types of plastic (I've got a couple of inflatable trees!). View image | gettyimages.com The tallest artificial Christmas tree was 52m (170.6ft) high and was covered in green PVC leaves!. It was called the 'Peace Tree' and was designed by Grupo Sonae Distribuição Brasil and was displayed in Moinhos de Vento Park, Porto Alegre, Brazil from 1st December 2001 until 6th January 2002. In many countries, different trees are used as Christmas trees. In New Zealand a tree called the 'Pohutakawa' that has red flowers is sometimes used and in India, Banana or Mango trees are sometimes decorated. You can decorate an online Christmas Tree in the fun section of the site! Contact Facebook Twitter Youtube © 2000 - 2017 James Cooper | About | Cookies & Privacy | Site Map | Other Links | Support | Website logistics by LetterBlock | Proud

Yule Log

by Super User
The custom of burning the Yule Log goes back to, and before, medieval times. It was originally a Nordic tradition. Yule is the name of the old Winter Solstice festivals in Scandinavia and other parts of northern Europe, such as Germany. The Yule Log was originally an entire tree, that was carefully chosen and brought into the house with great ceremony. The largest end of the log would be placed into the fire hearth while the rest of the tree stuck out into the room! The log would be lit from the remains of the previous year's log which had been carefully stored away and slowly fed into the fire through the Twelve Days of Christmas. It was considered important that the re-lighting process was carried out by someone with clean hands. Nowadays, of course, most people have central heating so it is very difficult to burn a tree! In Provence (in France), it is traditional that the whole family helps to cut the log down and that a little bit is burnt each night. If any of the log is left after Twelfth Night, it is kept safe in the house until the next Christmas to protect against lightning! In some parts of Holland, this was also done, but the log had to be stored under a bed! In some eastern European countries, the log was cut down on Christmas Eve morning and lit that evening. In Cornwall (in the UK), the log is called 'The Mock'. The log is dried out and then the bark is taken off it before it comes into the house to be burnt. Also in the UK, barrel makers (or Coopers as barrel makers were traditionally called) gave their customers old logs that they could not use for making barrels for Yule logs. (My surname is Cooper, but I don't make barrels! My Great Grandfather did own a walking stick factory though!) The custom of the Yule Log spread all over Europe and different kids of wood are used in different countries. In England, Oak is traditional; in Scotland, it is Birch; while in France, it's Cherry. Also, in France, the log is sprinkled with wine, before it is burnt, so that it smells nice when it is lit. In Devon and Somerset in the UK, some people have a very large bunch of Ash twigs instead of the log. This comes from a local legend that Joseph, Mary and Jesus were very cold when the shepherds found them on Christmas Night. So the shepherds got some bunches of twigs to burn to keep them warm. In some parts of Ireland, people have a large candle instead of a log and this is only lit on New Year's Eve and Twelfth Night. Different chemicals can be sprinkled on the log like wine to make the log burn with different colored flames!

Santa Claus has left Lapland on his Christmas journey

by Super User
Santa Claus has left his Lapland home to begin his Christmas journey. The veteran traveller - who has astounded scientists over the years with his ability to travel to the home of every single child around the world in just 24 hours - set off from his Lapland home last night. Santa and his wife, Mrs Claus, reside in the Arctic Circle in Rovaniemi, Finnish Lapland​. The devoted couple work all year round to get gifts ready for children around the world, along with their team of hardworking elves. Santa is expected to hit New Zealand and Australia first, before working his way across Asia and into Europe later tonight. It's thought Santa will hit the south east of Ireland just after 8.30pm. It's believed he will hit homes in the south east, the midlands, the east coast and the north before travelling down the north west coast and finishing in Cork. It's thought Santa wanted to experience the Wild Atlantic WAy this year. Ireland is his last stop in Europe before he travels across the Atlantic Ocean to the US, Canada, Greenland and South America. Shannon Airport have set up a special fuel stop for him before his big trek across the Atlantic. Met Eireann say that weather conditions are favourable for Santa visiting Ireland tonight - indeed they are so favourable, it's quite possible he will be over Irish skies at 8pm. Independent.ie will be chatting to Santa later - and he will have a special message for Irish children. He made a specific request that Irish children leave out some carrots for his reindeer, and milk and chocolate chip cookies for himself, ahead of his big journey across the Atlantic. America's North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) have set up their Santa Tracker You can visit the site here: http://www.noradsanta.org/​

Air traffic control warns of ‘sleigh powered by eight reindeer’

by Super User
Good weather conditions for Santa Claus’s arrival in Ireland to be tracked by Norad UK air traffic control organisation Nats has issued an aviation warning for a “sleigh powered by eight reindeer” transiting across the skies. Nats warned pilots to also be alert for a possible ninth reindeer “with a special red air navigation light in the case of heavy snow fall”. Craft should be particularly “vigilant” when transiting areas with high concentration of chimneys, it said in the “Christmas present delivery” alert issued to pilots and airlines. Aeroplanes flying later in the night should be aware there may be erratic movements as “festive drink is undertaken by the pilot of the sleigh”, it said. Read the note at nats.aero It has published a video showing radar footage of the path taken by Santa Claus last year. Nats radar of Santa's 2013 journey Conditions for Santa’s arrival in Ireland at about 8pm tonight are forecast to be good. Met Éireann has forecast a cold, dry night with fresh westerly winds and lowest temperatures of -1 degrees. However there is a sharp frost and icy stretches forecast, so the reindeer should take care. Santa Claus has already begun his long journey around the world with every move being tracked by the North American Aerospace Defense Command (Norad) Santa tracker. By 4pm Irish Time the bearded one and his team of reindeer had delivered parcels to children in much of Asia including Cambodia and North Korea. Rudolph’s red nose was spotted somewhere over the Great Wall of China at about 2pm Irish Time Norad has been following St Nicholas’s annual pilgrimage from the North Pole for more than 50 years. According to Norad, its tradition began in 1955 after an advertisement misprinted the phone number to call Santa and put them through to Norad instead. Children who called were given updates on his location, it said. In recent years Norad’s advanced technology has been relied upon by parents, children and members of the media to track the journey around the world. See Noradsanta.org.