Lights! Action! Christmas!

Whew! We survived the holidays again. Each year it seems I will never have those pies baked and cards mailed in time, and each year, it all happens somehow. I once again had to scrap my LA Times perusal and 45 minute workout. If it was not Christmas related, it got scrapped.I shopped on-line and hired my coworker to wrap! What a Godsend that was. See? Whining will get you somewhere if you whine around the right person at the right time! I owe this woman! She saved me. And my kids are getting older, so it should be getting easier, right? Wrong! Now that they are older, we have more places to be, and harder homework to complete in less time. The triple soccer practices three times a week, almost did me in. and we lost that Turkey Tournament to my boss's team by one stinkin' goal in the last 15 seconds of the 4th quarter! But AYSO season is officially over, and we just have my one son's high school team to contend with. I still need to leave the house every night at 5 PM to drive about 20 minutes to pick him up Monday thru Friday, but that is child's play compared to doing that anyway, but also factoring in two additional practices afterward, and shopping, baking, letter writing, and party planning to boot! Whatever will we do to fill up the weekends? HA!

But anyway, my hub and I were remarking that the actual preparations have become easier now that the twins are big enough to help him move the furniture etc. I'm just not used to working 30 hours a week and still trying to do all of the stuff I like to do for the holidays. Some of it just had to be omitted. Like homemade cards. I bought these cute little diddys from Costco and slapped in a signature page. Everyone had to write their own greeting next to their photo, and it got folded and placed into the 120 cards. Never mind that it put the weight over the .37¢ postage limit, and I had to go to the post office and stand in a huge line AGAIN to buy the .23¢ stamps to add to the envelopes. My girlie put on all of the stamps and return address labels- bless her little heart. My big boy folded all of the signature pages, so the cards were a pretty smooth experience relatively speaking. I still need to update the address book though! So many people moved this year! Thank God for Christmas Cards.

Don't get me wrong. I love the holidays. It's just nearly impossible to acknowledge everyone within such a short window of time. Ah well. We managed pretty well. So in the midst of all of the hullabaloo, I invited our very dear friend over for dinner on the 16th. She recently turned 90, and she always buys our children wonderful gifts for Christmas in exchange for a delicious dinner prepared by me and scintillating conversation provided by my husband whom she adores. Now he wasn't at all in a lather about the holidays. He refuses to even think about them until after December the 8th for some unfathomable reason. Perhaps it is because he doesn't do near the magnitude of shopping that I do nor the wrapping. But he does buy the tree, put up the lights and pay the bills. He doesn't like to buy the tree too soon either, but I insisted on getting it prior to our planned dinner on the 17th. He obliged and went out and bought a beauty on Sunday, the 11th . But he wouldn't put on the lights!. What good is a Christmas Tree without the lights?!!!

Our eldest boy stepped up to the plate and offered to put the lights on the tree. Wow, what a shocker. We decided to let him have a stab at it. I pulled out the boxes of lights and ornaments, and our youngest was anxious to put the ornaments on the tree. The clock was ticking and bedtime was drawing near. Our son didn't want any tips at all on how to put the lights on the tree. He and our daughter worked together for nearly 20 minutes trying to get those lights on .I could hear hubby trying to give out some pointers, but our son would have no part of that. He wanted to do it his way or no way. Well, when he was done, hubby inspected the job and was not satisfied with it. It simply would not do. I decided to keep it zipped, and continued cleaning the kitchen while my daughter started to wail because she had to go to bed and would not be able to put the ornaments on the tree. How festive.

Weren't we supposed to have an Ozzie and Harriet moment decorating our tree? Shouldn't I have been wearing my Christmas sweater (I don't even own one) and have brewed hot cocoa, or better yet, hot spiced cider, and have the Bing Crosby White Christmas album playing? And we could take turns, one at a time placing all of the ornaments on the tree in an unrushed fashion until it looked perfect? Geez! Our life just isn't like that. However, the lights did go on the tree, and little by little we managed to get it decorated prior to the 17th. Our dinner guests were delighted with the result, and our middle boy even put on his red Christmas suspenders and posed for a photo with them. We had a lovely and very festive evening on the 17th.

We enjoyed the soccer parties, work parties, dinner engagements and school concerts, and now it is done. In the process, I reorganized the tupperware cupboard, lunchbox/roasting pan/school supply/cookie decorating supply cupboard, and hall closet. They were all so bad that I couldn't even get to the needed items. It is not good to be so busy as to never be able to put anything away in its proper place. But now they are decent. And everything was completed on time. But just barely.

I wonder who will put the lights on the tree next year? I wonder how old my hubby was when he first attempeted the job, and if his father was the one who showed him the ropes, or if it was one of his roomates. I'll have to ask him I guess.

Well, here's wishing all of you a peaceful, productive, healthful and joyful 2006! I pray that the war will end, the recession will subside, the weather will be gentle, and for a few moments each day to be able to ponder to miracle of life!

I borrowed this

JAPAN: Japan adopted the solar calendar system in the late Nineteenth Century, abandoning the lunar system that had been used for centuries. Thus, New Year's Day or Gantan arrives on the January 1st, the same day as it does for most countries outside of Asia. Nevertheless, Japan's festivities are no less colorful or steeped in tradition than those of its Eastern neighbors. Buddhist temples ring their bells shortly before Midnight on New Year's Eve and people count along with the 108 pealings, which represent the hardships and sorrows of the past year. When the tolling comes to an end, the New Year has begun and everyone begins to laugh, believing that such an action will bring them good luck in the New Year. On New Year's Day, it is believed that how "firsts" are executed is crucial, including the first visit to the Shinto or Buddhist temples. Tasks performed on New Year's Day must include a trip to the ocean to witness the hatsu hinode, or "first sunrise," which is said to bring good health throughout the entire year. Japanese celebrations begin during the last few days of December and last through the first few days of January...usually five to six days. Most stores and offices close during this period. A proper welcome to the New Year is essential to Japanese culture. So much so, that most people take a few days off prior to the holiday in order to make preparations, including the meticulous cleaning of houses and the hanging of straw ropes across the front of homes to keep out evil spirits and ensure happiness and good luck.

On New Year's Day, children are given otoshi-dama, a cash allowance that is known as the "New Year's Treasure." Red snapper is a popular New Year celebration dish because the Japanese word for "red snapper" rhymes with their word for "happy." Red snapper is also pink, which is considered a lucky color in Japan.

JEWS: To those of the Jewish faith, whose New Year is called Rosh Hashanah, it is a holy time when people ponder on the things they have done wrong in the past and promise to do better in the future. Special services are held in synagogues and an instrument made from the horn of a ram (Shofar) is played at the end of the ceremonies. One hundred separate notes may be blown on the Shofar and this is the most important ritual to those who are too ill to attend the much so, that they are obliged to try and find someone to come to their home and blow the Shofar for them. The time of the Jewish New Year varies since Jews have their own calendar which is lunisolar in character. It is celebrated on the first two days of the seventh month. This was done so that the farmers could visit Jerusalem before the beginning of the Winter rains. The first ten days of this month are considered to be the most holy. Jewish tradition tells of a symbolic book in heaven which was said to have records of those who did good and bad deeds. On Rosh Hashanah, all people must account to God for their behavior during the past year. All are given ten days prior to the New Year and the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) to show regret for any wrongdoings they might have committed. This is done by performing good deeds and by pondering on how to live a better life in the future. If sincere, God forgives them and, on Yom Kippur, sets down and foretells in the book each person's fate for the upcoming year. Jewish people send each other cards with the traditional message: "May you be written down for a good year." The same greeting is exchanged the day before Rosh Hashanah, when the people attend prayers at the synagogue before returning to their homes for a special New Year meal.

New Year's Eve dinner includes festival candles which are lit and a table decorated with fresh fruit of the season, particularly grapes, to remind people of harvest time. Other foods served are a bread known as Chaliah and honey cake. Fish is also usually available since it symbolises fruitfulness and plenty. At the end of the ten-day New Year festival, which culminates with a repentance on Yom Kippur, there is a 24-hour fast which ends at Sunset with a final note on the Shofar, signifying the closing of the Book of Life for another year.

January 2, 2006
Next Post date February 6, 2006
Muslim Toilet (Remind me never to visit!)

I borrowed this from

The celebration of the new year is the oldest of all holidays. It was first observed in ancient Babylon about 4000 years ago. In the years around 2000 BC, the Babylonian New Year began with the first New Moon (actually the first visible crescent) after the Vernal Equinox (first day of spring). The beginning of spring is a logical time to start a new year. After all, it is the season of rebirth, of planting new crops, and of blossoming. The Romans continued to observe the new year in late March, but their calendar was continually tampered with by various emperors so that the calendar soon became out of synchronization with the sun. In order to set the calendar right, the Roman senate, in 153 BC, declared January 1 to be the beginning of the new year. But tampering continued until Julius Caesar, in 46 BC, established what has come to be known as the Julian Calendar. It again established January 1 as the new year. But in order to synchronize the calendar with the sun, Caesar had to let the previous year drag on for 445 days. The first of January was dedicated by the Romans to their God of Gates and Doors, Janus. A very old Italian God, Janus has a distinctive artistic appearance in that he is commonly depicted with two faces ... one regarding what is behind and the other looking toward what lies ahead. Thus, Janus is representative of contemplation on the happenings of an old year while looking forward to the new.

Ancient Egyptians originally celebrated the New Year with the Feast of Opet around the middle of June, which was when the Nile River usually overflowed its banks. Consequently, people were unable to work and would be free to take part in the festivities. Statues of the God, Amon, together with effigies of his wife and son, would be taken by boat down the Nile from Karnak to Luxor, where the people would sing, dance and feast for a 24 days before transporting the statues back to the temple. Phoenicians and Persians proclaimed the beginning of the New Year on the Autumnal Equinox (September 22nd).

The first rooftop celebration atop One Times Square, complete with a fireworks display, took place in 1904. The New York Times produced this event to inaugurate its new headquarters in Times Square and celebrate the renaming of Longacre Square to Times Square. The first Ball Lowering celebration atop One Times Square was held on December 31, 1907 and is now a worldwide symbol of the turn of the New Year, seen via satellite by more than one billion people each year. The original New Year's Eve Ball weighed 700 pounds and was 5 feet in diameter. It was made of iron and wood and was decorated with 100 25-watt light bulbs.

It was thought that one could affect the luck they would have throughout the coming year by what they did or ate on the first day of the year. For that reason, it has become common for folks to celebrate the first few minutes of a brand new year in the company of family and friends. Parties often last into the middle of the night after the ringing in of a new year. It was once believed that the first visitor on New Year's Day would bring either good luck or bad luck the rest of the year. Special New Year foods are also thought to bring luck. Many cultures believe that anything in the shape of a ring is good luck, because it symbolizes "coming full circle," completing a year's cycle. For that reason, the Dutch believe that eating donuts on New Year's Day will bring good fortune.

Many parts of the U.S. celebrate the new year by consuming black-eyed peas. These legumes are typically accompanied by either hog jowls or ham. Black-eyed peas and other legumes have been considered good luck in many cultures. The hog, and thus its meat, is considered lucky because it symbolizes prosperity. Cabbage is another "good luck" vegetable that is consumed on New Year's Day by many. Cabbage leaves are also considered a sign of prosperity, being representative of paper currency. In some regions, rice is a lucky food that is eaten on New Year's Day.

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