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Welcome the Year of the Rat

The official date for Chinese New Year is this Saturday, January 25, though preparations began last Thursday. Each year corresponds to an animal in the Chinese zodiac created by the celestial Jade Emperor who invited twelve animals to serve as his guards. The earlier an animal passed through the heavenly gate, the higher rank it

RESOLUTIONS: No. GOALS: Probably.

Last week I suggested everyone should ignore the annual guilt-ridden exercise of making resolutions. But it’s a hard custom to shake, which makes worth spending a little time analyzing the process. In the 17th and 18th centuries, Puritans spent their birthdays and January 1 in an exercise of intense introspection. During the process, they looked

BEING IN THE FLOW IS LIKE CATCHING THE BRASS RING

Welcome to the first week of 2020. Will you be setting goals? Or have you decided the annual ritual of introspection is an exercise in futility? This first year of a new decade, why not try something new, like catching a brass ring or being fully present in a state of flow? THE BRASS RING

Mistletoe Kisses, Roasted Chestnuts & The Christmas Song

A series on Christmas greenery isn’t complete without mistletoe, an Anglo-Saxon word that translates as “dung on a stick.” In many ways, mistletoe is a curious symbol of Christmas. On the one hand, mistletoe is a rootless parasite drawing nutrients from its host tree. On the other, its bright green color contrasts with the leafless

Holly, Ivy & Christmas

Holly, with its dramatic red berries, and ivy are two more evergreen symbols of Christmas that predate the Christian celebration. Romans decorated their homes with holly and ivy during Saturnalia, a year end festival honoring Saturn. Celts used the plants during the winter solstice. Both plants stand out during bleak winter days, with or without

Christmas Trees — Symbols of Hope

It’s December, and almost everywhere you look there are Christmas trees, evergreen boughs, and other symbols of this end-of-the-year “Season.” Long before Santa ever came on the scene, people in the Northern Hemisphere worried about the winter darkness. Some thought winter came because the Sun God was ill, and celebrated the Solstice because at long

Turkey, Football, & Shopping

At its most basic level, the holiday of Thanksgiving is about being grateful and eating a special meal. The menu generally includes a roast turkey, or tofu turkey. Pumpkin pie is a staple dessert choice, but far from the only one. The rest of the menu includes family favorites. Once the meal is over, thoughts

POINSETTIA: AMERICA’S CHRISTMAS FLOWER

Last week I was at our local garden center and couldn’t resist the Poinsettia display. Poinsettias weren’t part of my childhood holiday season, but now I can’t imagine the fall and winter festivities without them. Poinsettias didn’t always have a Christmas association. They were a lowly, yet useful, Mexican shrub the Aztecs called Cuitlaxochitl. The

Whitby: The West Cliff & Beyond

There’s one last sight to see before crossing the Swing Bridge to the West Side of Whitby. If you take a left before crossing the bridge, you’ll be on Grape Lane, a narrow thoroughfare of some interest. Some say Grape Lane was known of Grope Lane, a place where prostitutes plied their trade among the

Whitby: Crossing the River Esk

Just below the Abbey and the last stop before leaving the Eastern Headland, there’s a squat church founded by monks from Whitby Abbey in about 1100. Most of the present interior dates from the 18th century, including heat derived from a cast-iron coal burning stove, and candle light from wall sconces and a bronze chandelier.