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Articles Categorized Holidays

WASSAIL!

Wassail,( pronounced WAA – sl), comes from Old Norse ves heill, “Be Well”, and is a custom of long-standing. In the 14th century, the term referred to a warm beverage [recipe below] that included alcoholic spirits. The term also described the resulting raucous behavior in which wassailers called upon members of higher classes to wish

Christmas Carols, or, Boar’s Heads, Angels, & Partridges

With Thanksgiving behind us, we are on the cusp of Christmas Carol season. Retailers started playing the melodies weeks ago, but soon there will be a full roster of community, church, and school programs featuring traditional carols. On the left, is a sedate picture of a mother and her daughters singing in the dignified repose

“Cupid, Draw Back Your Bow”

Every February I wonder how a chubby, winged boy-child with less than useful wings became a symbol for Valentine’s Day. The Ancient Greeks called Cupid Eros, and described him as a vengeful youth. The Hellenistic Greeks and the Romans shrank the slender young man into a chubby benign figure. A few hundred years later, English

Gung Hay Fat Choy — Year of the Tiger

The Year of the Tiger begins tomorrow, February 1st , but celebrations for the Lunar New Year take place from January 31st through February 15th. New Year —New Luck Prior to the first day of the new year, people deep clean their homes to remove huiqi [inauspicious breaths] and to appease the gods who will

Yule Tide Festivals

Winter Solstice on December 21 in the Northern Hemisphere is both the shortest day of the year, and the first day of Winter. The word solstice finds its root in the Latin words sol for sun and sistere, meaning “to stand.” The term also refers to new birth, as a new year rises from the

The Miraculous Gifts of St. Nicholas

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care, in hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there. These often over-looked lines from Clement Clarke Moore’s famous poem about the night before Christmas raise at least two pertinent questions: Who was St. Nicholas? And, why does he need stockings? The Real St. Nicholas St. Nicholas

Time to “Deck the Halls”

With December almost upon us, it’s time to think about decorating for the festive season — a custom with long roots in our cultural history. Among the songs of the season, Deck the Halls seems to be about decorating dwellings and shops for Christmas, but, like many customs, the song and its meaning has changed

Pumpkin Spice & All Things Nice

There are many ways we know the season of Autumn has begun. The calendar informs us the official date is September 22. People whose school days ended sometime in the last century associate Autumn with the beginning of school. There’s the turning of the leaves, the nights drawing in, and the nip in the air.

May Day Celebrations

The Celts believed that the time we define as May Day was midway between the Winter and Summer Solstice when darkness turned to light. They celebrated the return of fertility to the world with a festival called Beltane. Rituals protected sprouting crops and livestock returning to summer pastures. As customs changed, May celebrations turned into

White House Easter Egg Rolls from Yesteryear

There are several ways to roll eggs. This Russian postcard shows children placing individual eggs, possibly hard-boiled, on an incline to see which would roll the furthest. In another custom, children roll hardboiled, decorated eggs down grassy hills in a competition to see whose egg rolls the farthest without breaking. The latter competition usually took