Sunday, December 30, 2012

"Year's end is neither an end nor a beginning

but a going on, with all the wisdom that experience can instill in us." ~Hal Borland

As a teacher, I always see this as mid-year...I live on the school year calendar. It was Julius Caesar in 46 B.C. who decreed January 1 as the "new" year; however, medieval Europe banned celebrations as pagan and declared December 25 and the birth of Jesus as the new year. In 1582, the Pope created the Gregorian calendar and restored January 1 as the new year for the Catholic countries. The Brits and other Protestant countries held out, and it was 1752 before England and her colonies (think America) switched from March to January.
The old tin noise makers that celebrate New Year's and Halloween were part of an ancient custom to scare away evil spirits-that accounts for the Halloween ones.  There should be no evil on Times Square!   But our tin noisemakers were made by Kirchhof, U.S. Metal, J. Chein, and T. Cohn.  They were popular during the 1920s-1940s.  The age can be identified by the handles since the earlier handles were wood and the later ones were plastic. These little tin toys though are harmless compared to some of the noise customs around the world.

In Denmark, they bang on doors and throw pieces of broken pottery at houses.  Most of Europe seems to favor fireworks instead of celebration vandalism.  The Japanese go from house to house pounding bamboo sticks and banging on drums.

The French and Spanish customs are different.  The French regard the weather as the prediction for the year; wind blowing east means good fruit yield while blowing west means a bumper crop of fish and livestock.  The south winds mean good weather all year, but the north winds signal crop failure.  The French also toast until January 3 so that the leftover wine will not cause a bad year.

In Spain, you need 12 grapes for the midnight strike.  For each stroke, you eat one grape, and, if you consume all the grapes, it is good luck.  I would think small grapes would work for this!

So, whatever your custom is Monday night, work your magic...make some noise...and even though we will not have Dick Clark to usher in 2013, time marches on~Happy New Year!

"New Year's Day: Now is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions. Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual."~Mark Twain

Sunday, December 23, 2012

"Bayberry candles burned to the socket,

bring health to the home and wealth to the pocket!"

Burning bayberry candles on Christmas Eve or on New Year's Eve is a tradition from colonial days.

Candles made from animal fat smoked and gave off an odor could be rancid.  In their explorations, they discovered the bayberry bush that was abundant along the Atlantic coast (pre coastal mansions).
The berries give off a waxy residue when boiled, and they collected that and realized they could make candles from that that burned longer and cleaner, and they smelled far better than animal tallow.   As you can imagine, the number of berries it would take to make one candle was numerous; therefore, the bayberry candles were burned on special occasions only, and so the Christmas and New Year's holidays were such occasions since they related to a new year of health and wealth.
Bayberry's botanical name is Myrica gale, and its foliage is said to be a natural insect repellent.  The fruit of one variety is an important crop in China, where is it sold fresh, dried, canned, and in juice and alcoholic beverages.  Denmark uses it to spice beer and snaps (schnapps).
So, as we begin the holiday season, remember...no matter what you are celebrating...

Christmas... is not an external event at all, but a piece of one's home that one carries in one's heart.  ~Freya Stark

Sunday, December 16, 2012

"Cold hands...

warm heart." ~ V. S. Lean

This  "proverb" has been traced back to Collectanea by V.S. Lean.  Here is the blurb on this collection: "Lean's Collectanea is a vast collection of proverbs, folklores and superstitions acquired over a lifetime by Vincent Stuckey Lean of Bristol (1820--99). Painstakingly collected and researched during Lean's travels on the Continent and throughout Britain, the 5-volume Collectanea is packed with many thousands of entries, helpfully arranged by theme and fully indexed."

Sadly, many of the sayings that have been passed down over the ages are being lost to the world of texting, and today's feature definitely stifles texting!  It is the "muff"!
The muff was introduced into the fashion world in 1570, and it served as a purse and a hand warmer.
 In the 1600s both men and women used them, but by the 19th century women had taken over the market as an essential winter accessory for elegant dress, and they were done in large down muffs to velvet ones that matched the trim on dresses.
 
The word muff probably comes from the Old French "moufle" which meant thick glove or mitten.  The Dutch have a similar word - "mof" and the Walloon language (Belgium and surroundings) have "mouffe." 
I have a large fur...don't know what fur...muff and a child's muff.  The fashion muff had a revival in the 1940s and 50s...think the child's is probably 1950s, but the large muff is probably Victorian.
 
 
 
I also have some fur collars...all tie in with Anna Karenina...
 
 
But, if you see someone with cold hands and no muff, remember this Japanese proverb...
"One kind word can warm three winter months."
  


Sunday, December 9, 2012

"Lighting one candle

from another -
Winter night"
~   Buson
Beeswax candles offer a honey scent, a golden flame, and the longest, cleanest burn of any candle.

When beeswax candles burn, they clean the air like a great, natural, air purifier, and they are a link to a deep spiritual belief system. For each pound of beeswax provided by a honey bee, the bee visits 33 million flowers. It eats 10 pounds of honey. It secretes the beeswax from its abdomen, and then uses the wax to construct a honeycomb. Beekeepers recover the wax from the comb by heating it in water where the melted wax rises to the surface and can be removed.

Many have written about the wisdom of the beehive, and how burning beeswax puts a person in a special mood of reverence. It is easy to imagine why, given that millions of flowers have been visited and pollinated to make any one beeswax candle. According to my research, healing and spiritual powers have been attributed to all products of the beehive. Honey has always been considered holy, a gift from God, and endowed with esoteric and mystical qualities.

The Path of Pollen, or bee shamanism, is a calling into the secrets of healing, longevity, and spiritual powers of bee products, including honey, wax, and pollen. The Hebrew word for bee is dbure, meaning word, with the message being that the bee brings the Divine word. Specifically beeswax candles are designated for the Christian Roman Mass.

Air contains billions of electrically charged particles called ions. Ions enable us  to absorb and use oxygen. The ions in the air can affect our mood, energy and health. Negative ions actually feel good~a little twist there. Too many positive ions make us feel bad (like too many cookies or drinks at a party this time of the year), and they are loaded down with pollution and allergens that are drawn to them and suspended in the air. Negative ions, on the other hand, remove the pollution and allergens from positive ions, allowing them to drop harmlessly to the ground.

Beeswax candle fuel is the only fuel that actually produces negative ions, which not only helps remove pollution from the air but increases the ratio of negative ions to positive ions, the ideal and necessary scenario for clean air.

And, in the next couple weeks we all shall the next be busy as a bee, to paraphrase Chaucer from the medieval Canterbury Tales...and I am hoping for those positive ions...

"The bee is more honored than other animals, not because she labors, but because she labors for others."
          ~Saint John Chrysostom
 
 

Sunday, December 2, 2012

"All the variety, all the charm

all the beauty of life is made up of light and shadow.”   ~Anna Karenina...Leo Tolstoy

Ah...December...the winter movie scene is decorated with classics...Anna Karenina...


 
Lincoln...
And, Christmas Day...unwrapping...

 
Lincoln a has local connection...from Royal Port...  http://royalportantiques.typepad.com/  in Salem..."If you go to see the Spielberg Movie, Lincoln, you will also be seeing some inventory from our shop! Who would of thought... A little bit of Salem in such a Major Motion Picture! Yes we rock!" 
 
I have commemorative candles by Votivo for Anna Karenina.  It is good to be part of a classic revival...maybe movies like these will create interest in history...not to mention make people realize that the past is not old and dusty...or smelly...the "Anna Karenina" candle is amazingly fragrant...and comes with a bookmark...yes, bookmark...not a digital icon...a real live put-it-in-your-book mark!
 
As the days get shorter, remember...

"Laughter is sunshine; it chases winter from the human face."    Les Miserables ~ Victor Hugo