Christmas Stuff   3 comments

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Just some miscellaneous bits of information relative to the holiday season.  Found it interesting and thought to share it with y’all.

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Winter Solstice

The Sun is directly overhead of the Tropic of Capricorn in the Southern Hemisphere during the December Solstice.

The December solstice has played an important role in cultures worldwide from ancient times until our day.  Even Christmas celebrations are closely linked to the winter solstice times.

The December Solstice occurs when the Sun reaches its most southerly declination of -23.5 degrees. In other words, when the North Pole is tilted furthest – 23.5 degrees – away from the Sun.

There are also customs linked to the June solstice along with traditions linked to the Spring (vernal) equniox and the Fall (autumnal) equinox.

In the Northern Hemisphere, astronomers and scientists use the December Solstice as the start of the winter season, which ends on the March Equinox. For meteorologists, on the other hand, winter began three weeks ago on December 1.

If you are in the Northern Hemisphere, the increase rate of daylight hours depends on your location’s latitude – in more northern latitudes you will see a rapid increase in daylight hours compared to if you’re in the more southern latitudes.

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Mistletoe

Mistletoe is the common name for most obligate hemiparasitic plants in the order Santalales. Mistletoes attach to and penetrate the branches of a tree or shrub by a structure called the haustorium, through which they absorb water and nutrients from the host plant.

The name mistletoe originally referred to the species Viscum album (European mistletoe, of the family Santalaceae in the order Santalales); it was the only species native to Great Britain and much of Europe. A separate species, Viscum cruciatum, occurs in Southwest Spain and Southern Portugal, as well as North Africa, Australia and Asia.

Over the centuries, the term has been broadened to include many other species of parasitic plants with similar habits, found in other parts of the world, that are classified in different genera and even families — such as the Misodendraceae and the Loranthaceae.

In particular, the Eastern mistletoe native to North America, Phoradendron leucarpum, belongs to a distinct genus of the Santalaceae family. The genus Viscum is not native to North America, but Viscum album has been introduced to California.[1] European mistletoe has smooth-edged, oval, evergreen leaves borne in pairs along the woody stem, and waxy, white berries that it bears in clusters of two to six. The Eastern mistletoe of North America is similar, but has shorter, broader leaves and longer clusters of 10 or more berries.

The best-known ancient mistletoe myths are the Norse and Greek legends. The Norse God Balder was slain by an arrow of mistletoe, soon after everything living or growing in the earth had sworn not to harm him. In Greece, Aeneas was guided to the abode of the dead by plucking the Golden Bough of mistletoe.
The Norse myths give a significant, and deadly, role to mistletoe. There are various versions and variations, but the commonest variation runs along these lines:

Balder was a popular and righteous God, but in a dream he foresaw his own death. After discussing this with the other Gods in Valhalla, the Goddess Frigga offered to make all things living on the earth, or growing in the earth, promise not to harm him.
This was done, and resulted in a new sport for the Gods – ‘slaying’ Balder with whatever weapons they could find. They knew he would always survive.
During one of these sessions the evil God Loki offered to help Hodur, a blind God, who was Balder’s brother, join in.
Knowing that mistletoe, which did not grow ‘in’ the earth, was not covered by the promise Loki gave Hodur an arrow of mistletoe wood and directed his throw.
Balder was killed by the blow, thus fulfilling his dream. A period of significant mourning followed, during which Hel was visited in an effort to resurrect Balder, and mistletoe was designated a plant of peace

In Greek myth, Aeneas, having resisted the charms of Dido at Carthage, went in search of his father Anchises, in the abode of the dead. In order to make his way to and from Avernus, he was advised by the Sibyl that he must first seek and pluck the ‘golden bough’ from a tree in the forest.
He was guided to the bough by doves sent by Venus, his mother, and found the branch. He successfully visited his father, and returned.
 

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The History of Christmas Cards

The custom of sending Christmas cards was started in the UK in 1843 by Sir Henry Cole. He was a civil servant (Government worker) who was very interested in the new ‘Public Post Office’ and wondered how it could be used more by ordinary people.

The First Christmas Card

Sir Henry had the idea of Christmas Cards with his friend John Horsley, who was an artist. They designed the first card and sold them for 1 shilling each. (That is only 5p or 8 cents today(!), but in those days it was worth much much more.) The card had three panels. The outer two panels showed people caring for the poor and in the centre panel was a family having a large Christmas dinner! Some people didn’t like the card because it showed a child being given a glass of wine! About 1000 (or it might have been less!) were printed and sold. They are now very rare and cost thousands of Pounds or Dollars to buy now!

The first postal service that ordinary people could use was started in 1840 when the first ‘Penny Post’ public postal deliveries began. Before that, only very rich people could afford to send anything in the post. The new Post Office was able to offer a Penny stamp because new railways were being built. These could carry much more post than the horse and carriage that had been used before. Also, trains could go a lot faster. Cards became even more popular in the UK when they could be posted in an unsealed envelope for one halfpenny – half the price of an ordinary letter.

As printing methods improved, Christmas cards became much more popular and were produced in large numbers from about 1860. In 1870 the cost of sending a post card, and also Christmas cards, dropped to half a penny. This meant even more people were able to send cards.

An engraved card by the artist William Egley, who illustrated some of Charles Dickens’s books, is on display in the British Museum. By the early 1900s, the custom had spread over Europe and had become especially popular in Germany.

The first cards usually had pictures of the Nativity scene on them. In late Victorian times, robins (an English bird) and snow-scenes became popular. In those times the postmen were nicknamed ‘Robin Postmen’ because of the red uniforms they wore. Snow-scenes were popular because they reminded people of the very bad winter that happened in the UK in 1836.

Christmas Cards appeared in the United States of America in the late 1840s, but were very expensive and most people couldn’t afford them. It 1875, Louis Prang, a printer who was originally from German but who had also worked on early cards in the UK, started mass producing cards so more people could afford to buy them. Mr Prang’s first cards featured flowers, plants, and children. In 1915, John C. Hall and two of his brothers created Hallmark Cards, who are still one of the biggest card makers today!

In the 1910s and 1920s, home made cards became popular. They were often unusual shapes and had things such as foil and ribbon on them. These were usually too delicate to send through the post and were given by hand.

Nowadays, cards have all sorts of pictures on them: jokes, winter pictures, Santa Claus or romantic scenes of life in past times. Charities often sell their own Christmas Cards as a way raising money at Christmas.

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Well….., That’s all folks !!!

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Snow Princess Asleep

Good Night !!!

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Posted December 11, 2015 by PapaBear in Experiences, History, Other Art, Prose

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3 responses to “Christmas Stuff

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  1. OMG Paul! That’s not a post it’s an encyclopedia!
    Fascinating stuff though. Thank you for sharing this gold mine of info.

  2. Great info! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  3. What fascinating facts! Had no idea about the history of Christmas cards. Thanks for posting.

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