December 21st – It’s Going To Be A Short Day

December 21, 2017 at 12:01 am | Posted in Today's Reasons To Celebrate | Leave a comment

Good morning solstice supporters. Today is Thursday, December 21, 2017. Today’s reasons to celebrate are:

Winter Solstice

It’s that time of year again. The solstice marks the official start of winter. The winter solstice occurs when the sun’s position in the sky is at its greatest angular distance from the hemisphere, resulting in the shortest day and longest night of the year. This year, if you live in the Pacific Time Zone and want to actually celebrate the exact moment of the solstice, the exact time the solstice occurs will be 8:28 am Pacific Standard Time (5:28 am Eastern Time, and 4;28 pm Zulu or Greenwich Mean Time). Official sunrise and sunset times vary by longitude, but today, in my area the Official sunrise will occur at 7:19 am – Official sunset at 4:54 pm and there will be 9 hours 34 minutes and 48 seconds of daylight. The sun is 91.453 million miles from Earth.
The word solstice, roughly translated, means “sun stands still”? This seasonal milestone has been celebrated since ancient times. The Romans, for example, honored Saturn, the god of time and harvest, with a week-long feast called Saturnalia. While the traditions surrounding the winter solstice differ from culture to culture, most recognize it as a symbol of rebirth. Various festivals, gatherings, and rituals take place today worldwide. To celebrate the winter solstice, attend a local festival or spend time with your friends and family around a cozy fire.

Yule

In modern times, Yule is celebrated on the day of the winter solstice, but in actuality, Yule was an Anglo-Saxon (Germanic) pagan festival celebrated in midwinter that predates Christmas by thousands of years.
There is some debate about the origin of the word Yule. Some linguists suggest the word is derived from “Iul”, the Anglo-Saxon word for wheel. This makes a connection to a Celtic calendar, the Wheel of the Year. In the Norse culture, “Jul” refers to the god, Odin. Odin was celebrated during Yule as well.
Yule celebrations included bonfires, decorating with holly, mistletoe and the boughs of evergreen trees, ritual sacrifices, feasts and gift giving. Many of the traditions of Yule were carried over into the Christian celebration of Christmas. Do any of these sound familiar?

  • The Yule midwinter feast usually lasted 12 days.
  • Vikings would decorate evergreen trees with gifts such as food, carvings, and food for the tree spirits to encourage them to return in the spring.
  • Mistletoe combined with a mother’s tears resurrected her son, the God of Light and Goodness, in a Viking myth. The Celts believe Mistletoe possessed healing powers as well and would ward off evil spirits.
  • In Norse tradition, Old Man Winter visited homes to join the festivities. The Viking god, Odin was described as a wanderer with a long white beard and is considered the first Father Christmas.
  • Viking children would leave their shoes out by the hearth on the eve of the winter solstice with sugar and hay for Odin’s eight-legged horse, Sleipnir.
  • Children would traipse from house to house with gifts of apples and oranges spiked with cloves and resting in baskets lined with evergreen boughs.
  • The Yule log was a whole tree meant to be burned for 12 days in the hearth. The Celts believed the sun stood still during the winter solstice. They thought by keeping the Yule log burning for these 12 days encouraged the sun to move, making the days longer. The largest end would be fed into the hearth, wine poured over it, and it would be lit with the remains of the previous year’s Yule log. Everyone would take turns feeding the length of timber into the fire as it burned. Letting it burn out would bring bad luck.

While the winter solstice is observed around the world, Yule was celebrated primarily by Germanic cultures of northern and western Europe. The midpoint of winter was a time to celebrate the rebirth of the sun and the light it would bring to the earth.

National Regifting Day

National Regifting Day is celebrated annually on the Thursday before Christmas. It was created by Regiftable.com.  This day was chosen in honor of office parties and the unique Christmas gift exchanges that at them. Not coincidentally I believe, according to my unscientific research, the Thursday before Christmas is also the most common day for office/employee Christmas parties. According to a more scientific research study, 41% of regifters target coworkers as the recipients of their “regifts”.
Regifting is becoming more and more popular. Over 60% of regifters say they regift because they think the item is something the recipient would really like anyway. About 40% say that they regift to save money. Regifting is also becoming more and more accepted by society. About 40% of regift recipients said that they don’t really care that they were given a regift.  Another 18% of regift recipients said they felt happy or amused to receive a regift, and less than 10% of regift recipients said they felt cheated or angry to receive a regift.
Believe it or not, there is proper etiquette to follow when you regift.

  • Re-gift only when you are certain the recipient will enjoy your (unwanted) gift. If at any time you referred to it as junk, clutter or dust collector, it’s probably not regiftable.
  • The gift is brand new (aka unused!) and in its original packaging. No, hand me downs.
  • Don’t hurt anyone’s feelings. If the gift had special meaning to the original giver, don’t re-gift.
  • Don’t re-gift if the item is handmade or personalized. If Uncle Joe spent his spare hours whittling that panic whistle, you should keep it.
  • Be careful not to re-gift something to the original giver. If you aren’t sure who gave it to you, don’t re-gift.
  • On that same note, to avoid embarrassment, re-gift only when you are sure the new recipient won’t tell the original giver what they received from you.
  • Re-wrap all gifts and remove any tags or other evidence that may suggest you didn’t shop for the re-gifted item yourself.
  • Be prepared to answer questions about the gift. Questions such as “Where did you find this? I’ve been looking everywhere for one!” may expose the fact that the item is a regift unless you aren’t able to give a convincing answer.

If at any point you find the above list exhausting, then you probably should reconsider regifting. What are your feelings regarding “regifting”? How do you feel about being the recipient of a “regift”?

Crossword Puzzle Day

Crossword Puzzle Day commemorates the date of the first publishing of a crossword puzzle, in the “New York World” Sunday edition, on December 21, 1913. It was included as an added feature of the “Fun” supplement. This began the tradition of publishing crossword puzzles in newspapers and periodicals.
Tasked by his editor to create a new word game for the newspaper, English-born journalist Arthur Wynne got the idea for crossword puzzles from the game of Magic Squares that he played as a child. Magic Squares is the arrangement of a group of letters to form words which read the same both down and across. Mr. Wynne took it one step further to create a large and more complex replica of that game but with a twist – a clue was provided for each given word.
Today, crossword puzzles are enjoyed by people of all ages and socioeconomic groups. Do you enjoy crossword puzzles? I certainly do…I do about 3 a day.

National Flashlight Day

You never know when you will need a flashlight. National Flashlight Day is a good day to make sure you and your family know where the flashlights are. To help you remember to check your flashlights, this holiday is celebrated on the Winter Solstice…the day with the least amount of sunlight, and thus, the greatest amount of darkness, each year.
Test all of your flashlights, to be sure the batteries are good and they are in working order. When in doubt, replace the batteries with new ones. It is also a good idea to put a flashlight in your car.
The flashlight was invented in 1898 by Joshua Lionel Cowen. However, this wasn’t his greatest invention. He also invented the Lionel train.

National Homeless Persons’ Remembrance Day  

Since 1990, the National Coalition for the Homeless and the National Health Care for the Homeless Council have sponsored National Homeless Persons’ Remembrance Day to bring attention to the plight of the nation’s homeless population and to encourage the public to act on their behalf. It is celebrated annually on the first day of winter to remind us that during this time of year, not everyone has a place to go to out of the cold.
Local groups across the country are encouraged first to determine the number of homeless persons in their community who died in the previous year and then arrange a ceremony to remember them. Candlelight marches, vigils, graveside services, plays and performances, religious services, and public policy advocacy are the suggested ways of remembering. Some groups have read publicly a list of names of the deceased. Because media attention to such issues increases during the holiday season in December, National Homeless Persons’ Remembrance Day was in part created to garner a public forum for this issue.

Short Story Day

Short Story Day is observed annually on the first day of winter and what better day to celebrate short stories than on the shortest day of the year? Short stories became popular in the late 1700’s and early 1800’s. As the name suggests, a short story is a story that can be read in one sitting. While it is hard to determine exactly what the parameters for a short story are, most contemporary definitions say that a short story should contain anywhere between 1,000 and 20,000 words.
To celebrate Short Story Day, try to write a short story. If writing isn’t something you feel comfortable doing, then read a few short stories. Libraries are full of collections of short stories from which you can choose.

National Fried Shrimp Day

National French Fried Shrimp Day is observed annually on December 21st. The word prawn is used loosely to describe any large shrimp, sometimes known as jumbo shrimp. Some countries use the word prawn exclusively for all shrimp. Americans eat more shrimp than any other seafood.
Preparing the shrimp for consumption usually involves the removal of the head, shell, tail and sand vein. There are many ways to cook shrimp. Common methods of preparation include baking, boiling, broiling, sauteing, frying and grilling. Cooking time is delicate for shrimp and they are at their best when not overcooked.
A healthy food, shrimp is low in calories and high in levels of omega-3, calcium, iodine, and protein. Shrimp is considered good for the circulatory system. But, be aware that the method used in the preparation of the shrimp does impact its caloric count and nutritional value.

National Hamburger Day

This seems like an odd time of year to be celebrating National Hamburger Day, but, because hamburgers are so delicious, this holiday is actually celebrated twice a year – on this date and also on July 28th.
Hamburgers are good any time of year. To celebrate National Hamburger Day, take a break from your holiday shopping and enjoy a hamburger for lunch today. Don’t cheat and put cheese on it!

Kiwi Fruit Day

Kiwi Fruit Day is a holiday unique to California, although I assume that if you are an expatriated Californian, you can celebrate it as well. The origins of this holiday are a mystery. Other than being a California holiday, I could find no definitive information regarding the creation of, or reason for, this holiday.
Kiwi Fruit didn’t always have their ‘cutesy’ name. New Zealand farmers actually changed the fruit’s name from “Chinese gooseberries” to Kiwi Fruit when they began exporting them to the United States.
Kiwi Fruit is the “nutritional powerhouse” of fruit. They contain twice the vitamin C of an orange. They are rich in folate, which assists in brain development and cognitive development in children and combats cardiovascular disease. A kiwi fruit has about the same level of potassium as a banana – but only half the calories. They are naturally high in antioxidants and can help improve the function of your immune system.
So, even if you aren’t from California, it sounds like you should celebrate this holiday by including kiwi fruit in your diet today, and the rest of the year too.

More Holidays  

Below is a list of other holidays celebrated on this date that are worthy of mention: 

Historical Events

Below is a list of significant historical events that occurred on this date: 

  • In 1849 – The first ice-skating club in America was formed in Philadelphia, PA.
  • In 1872 – Phileas Fogg won his wager. The fictional character created by French writer Jules Verne for his book, Around the World in Eighty Days, finished circumnavigating the world and reached London to win the wager he had set with his friends. The date also coincides with the publication of the last of the series that ended up becoming the now popular science fiction novel.
  • In 1898 – Scientists Pierre and Marie Curie discovered the radioactive element – radium.
  • In 1909 – McKinley and Washington schools of Berkeley, CA, became the first authorized, junior-high schools in the United States.
  • In 1937 – Walt Disney debuted the first, full-length, animated feature in Hollywood, CA. The movie was “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.” The movie was based on a German fairy tale of the same name by the Brothers Grimm.
  • In 1944 – Horse racing was banned in the United States until after the end of World War II.
  • In 1945 – Gen. George S. Patton died in Heidelberg, Germany, of injuries from a car accident.
  • In 1948 – The state of Eire (formerly the Irish Free State) declared its independence.
  • In 1951 – Joe DiMaggio announced his retirement from major league baseball.
  • In 1958 – Charles de Gaulle was elected to a seven-year term as the first president of the Fifth Republic of France.
  • In 1965 –The  International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination was adopted. The human rights convention was adopted by the United Nations’ member states and was put into force on January 4, 1969. It attempts to eliminate racial discrimination in the world.
  • In 1968 – Apollo 8 was launched on a mission to orbit the moon. The craft landed safely in the Pacific Ocean on December 27.
  • In 1971 – The U.N. Security Council chose Kurt Waldheim to succeed U Thant as secretary-general.
  • In 1978 – Police in Des Plaines, IL, arrested John Wayne Gacy Jr. and began unearthing the remains of 33 men and boys that Gacy was later convicted of killing.
  • In 1981 – Cincinnati defeated Bradley 75-73 in seven overtimes. The game was the longest collegiate basketball game in the history of NCAA Division I competition.
  • In 1988 – 270 people were killed when Pan Am Boeing 747 exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland, due to a terrorist bombing. The bomb exploded on Pan Am Flight number 103 on its way from Frankfurt, Germany, to Detroit Michigan, over the Scottish city of Lockerbie. The terrorist attack killed all the passengers and crew on board and 11 people on the ground.
  • In 1991 – Eleven of the 12 former Soviet republics proclaimed the birth of the Commonwealth of Independent States.
  • In 1995 – The city of Bethlehem passed from Israeli to Palestinian control. Israeli troops withdrew from the city under the Interim Agreement on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip signed in September 1995. The city was under a British mandate from 1920 to 1948, and then it was captured by Jordan during the Arab-Israeli War in 1948. Most recently, it was taken over by Israel during the Six-Day War in 1967
  • In 1996 – After two years of denials, House Speaker Newt Gingrich admitted violating House ethics rules.
  • In 1998 – Israel’s parliament voted overwhelmingly for early elections. It was the signal to the demise of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s hard-line government.
  • In 1998 – The first vaccine for Lyme disease was approved.
  • In 2001 – The Islamic militant group Hamas released a statement that said it was suspending suicide bombings and mortar attacks in Israel.
  • In 2002 – Larry Mayes was released after spending 21 years in prison for a rape that maintained that he never committed. He was the 100th person in the United States to be released after DNA tests were performed.

Noteworthy Birthdays

If you were born on this date, Happy Birthday. You share your birthday with the following list of illustrious individuals – and about 20-million other people.

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