Hanukkah is a Jewish holiday celebrated in December normally a week or so before the Christian holiday of Christmas. It is not one of the important religious holidays in the Jewish faith but it is a joyous holiday. It is often referred to as the “Festival of Lights”. It commemorates the physical and spiritual victory of the Jews over the Greeks more than 2150 years ago.
Jerusalem was conquered by Alexander the Great. When he died his empire was divided among the Greek rulers who then gained control of the Jewish land. They forced the Jews to adopt Greek dress and customs to establish conformity in religious and political practices. They even changed the Temple in Jerusalem which was the national house of worship to a temple to the Greek god, Zeus.
Mattathias was a Jewish priest who began a revolution when he refused to worship the Greek gods. His sons joined him and later his son Judah Macabee led a small group of soldiers and conquered the temple. They were able to eventually drive the Greeks right out of Jerusalem.
After the temple was conquered it was rededicated and it is said that a miracle occurred at this ceremony. Hanukkah means re-dedication in Hebrew. They had to re-consecrate the temple because of the offensive practices that the Greeks had performed there. They had to relight the eternal flame on the Menorah. The Jews only used sacred olive oil for the eternal flame and were only able to find enough for one day. It took eight days to make more sacred oil. The miracle occurred when the one day supply of oil lasted the entire eight days. This is why Hanukkah or “Festival of Lights” is a Jewish holiday that lasts eight nights and candles are lit every night. Hanukkah is a festive time for gathering and celebrating with friends and family.
The menorah is a candelabrum which is used for Hanukkah celebrations. It has nine candles – one for each of the eight nights and the ninth is called the Shamash which means servant and it is the candle used to light the others. The Shamash is placed in the middle and at a different height from the others. Candles are lit from left to right. Families and friends gather at dusk to light the menorah every night during Hanukkah and sing blessings as the candles are lit. Small gifts are exchanged each night and games are played. The most popular game is played using the dreidel which is a spinning top with four sides. Favorite foods are fried because of the meaning of oil to the holiday. Potato pancakes fried in oil called latkes are typically served.
Some people think the Hanukkah celebration is something like the Jewish Christmas. The blue and white colors of Hanukkah are marketed more heavily each year. Many Christmas wreath companies offer Christmas wreaths with the blue, white and silver colors of Hanukkah. Both Hanukkah and Christmas are joyous celebrations for Christians and Jews and even though they have separate religious meanings it’s nice that mixed families can celebrate their holidays in the same joyous manner.
Christmas stockings are a fun tradition that brings added excitement to the Christmas season. Some families hang stockings as they decorate their homes, waiting for Santa to arrive and fill them on Christmas Eve. Other families choose to hang their stockings at the last minute, just hours before the big guy arrives. No matter how your family tradition allows for the hanging of stockings, those stockings have a big job to do. Their job is to contain the smallest of presents – often those that can bring the biggest of smiles.
Christmas stockings can be really traditional in plush reds and greens, or they can be fun and unique to reflect the personality of the person who receives it. A fun stocking can be a great twist on the Christmas gift basket idea or you can fill a pretty stocking with treats for a hostess gift.
A fun hostess gift might include salsa, a bag of gourmet corn chips, and some spicy cheeses. You could create a stocking hostess gift for nearly any theme. A golf themed gift stocking would be great for that hard-to-buy for person on your list.
Handmade Christmas stockings are available in nearly any theme you can imagine – with hundreds of options available. Sure, you can always find a cheap “Made in China” stocking at any store, but where is the tradition in that? A handmade stocking gives a traditional glow to your holidays while helping to support an American artisan. You can buy a pink Christmas stocking, a baby Christmas stocking, or even a stocking for your pets – such as a cat Christmas stocking.
Stockings can come in a wide variety of fabrics as well. Perhaps a recycled wool Christmas stocking is your style – or even a cashmere stocking.
Of course, there are large Christmas stockings too – for holding those really big or long presents that just don’t look right wrapped in paper under the tree. You can use a large Christmas stocking to hold a golf club, a paintball gun, or a fancy cane. Many big or long presents look great “wrapped” in a fancy stocking. Of course, you can also wrap a lot of really inexpensive items in a large stocking – such as tiny cereal boxes as a gag gift or fill the stocking with balls of recycled office paper – with a special gift right at the toe of the stocking.
No matter your taste in Christmas stockings, you are sure to find one that is perfect for you or the person you are shopping for.
When you hang your stocking with care, consider using stocking holders to help hold up your stockings – you can find them in hundreds of different styles and again, there is sure to be one that is perfect for your needs. Sure, a nail or cup hook in the mantle will hold up your stockings, but a stocking holder has more style – and it won’t damage your mantle piece!
Christmas is on its way – and with the right Christmas stockings at hand, you’ll be ready for the festivities.
A Celtic Advent Wreath is a wonderful home holiday decoration tool that uses traditional advent candles or some use dark and light green tapers in place of the purple and pink. The Celtic Advent and the Easter Orthodox Advent or Nativity fast last for 40 days and starts mid November but most Advent wreaths have a maximum of 5 candles.
In the original tradition, advent was a period of 40 days and not just four weeks. The four week period was introduced in the middle ages. The Celtic tradition has been one that has with stood time and still is celebrated to the present day. The Celtic advent does mimic the Lenten period before Holy Week and the Resurrection. What is most interesting by extending the period of time; it does put more structure in the Christmas season and allows the proper focus on the Lord and not on the commercial pitfalls of Christmas. More interesting still is that this period starts before the traditional start of the shopping season of Thanksgiving.
There are also Celtic Advent wreaths for the more modern four-week period of Advent. The Irish themed wreaths are perfect for the traditional Irish catholic family. The wreath itself is comprised of the four traditional candle holders to hold the 4 Advent Candles. In most cases the wreaths, although apply being made of evergreen, in the true Celtic tradition they are made of medals, often pewter.
They are braided in some cases to show a old Irish braid. The twisted rope design makes the base of the advent wreath. Often the Celtic knot is used to decorate the place where the candle sits. A Celtic knot has roots in the third and fourth century. The Celtic knot first showed up in art as an interlaced knot pattern making one mater pattern. Some are spirals or patterns form complex interwoven cords. In the Advent wreath reproduction of these knots forms the base. There were many of these designs found in early Christian Manuscripts. The knot work and the designs though do seem to have roots in Northern Italy. The design was transported to the Celt lands in the early church and has long been associated with the Irish. There are also biblical references to these knots and rope designs that appeared in some of the reprints of the books of the Gospel from 7th century England and these are some of the earliest representations of the Celtic knot.
Often our Celtic Home decor items and sacramental and seasonal items are very popular among the Irish. The Celtic art Form had become a national identify type identity for the Irish, Welch and Scottish. This provides each of our families to reinforce their family heritage as well as their religious heritage. Whether our families observe the traditional full 40 days and or the more modern four week period, the Celtic advent wreath provides a lasting tradition for families, regardless of their nationality and binds in their faith.
In the early 1990’s, my family and I had the opportunity to live in Germany. During that time, we enjoyed a world of new sights, sounds and most memorable – foods! We loved to wander the quaint little village where we lived, taking in all of the wonderful smells coming from the shops and bakeries near our home. The local brass band would walk along the sidewalks, playing Christmas songs while everyone waved and cheered them on. A wonderful Christmas punch was sold in the market that literally warmed our hearts!
My son, then 8 years old, became fast friends with the neighborhood baker, even though neither one of them spoke each other’s language. It was a time that we’ll never forget, and during holiday time especially, we miss the lifestyle that only life in a small German village offers.
There are a couple of favorite German Christmas Recipes that I make sure to add to our celebrations every year, and I’ve included variations of them here for you and your family to enjoy this holiday season.
Traditional German Christmas Punch
1 cup water
2/3 cup sugar or Splenda
Couple pinches of ground cloves
1 cinnamon stick
3 cups apple juice
1 lemon, sliced
In a 3 quart saucepan, bring water, sugar, cloves and cinnamon to boil. Stir in juice and heat through. Do not boil. Take spices out and pour over lemon slices in serving bowl. Serve warm. Makes 1-1/2 quarts.
German Christmas Stollen
1-1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup sugar or Splenda
3/4 cup butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 egg yolks
5-2/3 cups flour
1 ounce active dry yeast
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup candied citrus peel
1/2 cup candied cherries
Scald milk. Add sugar, butter, and salt, and cool to lukewarm. Add 2 whole eggs, and 2 yolks. Mix and Add to 3 cups flour and yeast in food processor. Process and let double. Add raisins, citron, and cherries, and rest of flour. Process and put on floured board and knead. Let rise in greased bowl. Once raised, cut into 3-4 pieces. Roll each into an oval, butter, and fold in half lengthwise. Put on greased baking sheet, cover, and double. Bake at 375 for 25 minutes. Cool and frost with white butter frosting and decorate with candied cherry halves and sprinkle with colored sugar.
The first lights on Christmas trees were candles that were attached to the tree branches with either melted wax or pins that held them in place. As you can imagine, many trees went up in flames due to this practice. One might guess that at that time, many families would have kept buckets of water nearby to extinguish the impending fire. In the homes of the wealthy, it was often times the job of a servant to watch the tree during the evening hours and be prepared to extinguish a fire, if necessary. As a result of this eminent risk, most trees were decorated on December 24th and promptly removed following Christmas day. This must have been a lot of work for such a short viewing of the tree!
In 1882, the technology of Thomas Edison was used to hand wire 80 red, white, and blue lights onto the first electronically lighted Christmas tree. It took a few years for this idea to catch on. When President Grover Cleveland set up an electronically lighted Christmas tree in the White House in 1895, finally the idea began to get some publicity. The general public realized that there was a better way to light their Christmas trees.
By the close of the 1800’s, General Electric Company began manufacturing and selling hand blown bulbs that were ready to wire into a string to be put on a Christmas tree. Since the average homeowner was not well educated about how electricity worked in those days, a new industry sprung up of “wiremen” who were hired to wire the bulbs together to light the family tree.
In the early 1900’s, some big department stores began setting up large illuminated trees to attract customers. And attract customers it did! Everyone wanted to have a tree at home like the stores were capable of putting on display. In the early 1900’s, the cost of such a tree was in excess of $300. That price included a generator and the wireman’s service. By today’s standard, that cost would be equivalent to more than $2,000.
In 1903, the American Eveready Company developed and marketed the first Christmas light set, which had screw in bulbs and a plug in wall socket, since many homes had been “wired” for electricity by this time. Then in 1908, entrepreneur Ralph Morris came up with the idea of taking the lights from an old telephone switchboard, wiring them on a Christmas tree, and running a battery as a power source.
But the individual who made the biggest difference in electric Christmas tree lights, and who made them affordable to the general public, was Albert Sadacca. Albert’s family manufactured imitation birds in a wicker cage that lit up with electricity. At the age of 15, Albert had the idea of making electric Christmas lights. His parents thought it sounded like a good idea, and the family gave it a go. The first year, they only sold 100 sets of lights. The following year, Albert decided to color the bulbs in red, green, and other colors. This idea really took off. Albert Sadacca went on to become the head of a NOMA Electric Company, a multi-million dollar corporation. Headed up by Albert and his two brothers, Henri and Leon, the trio formed the largest Christmas lighting company in the world prior to 1965.
Today, yet another revolution in Christmas lighting is occurring. The newest offering in holiday lights are LED lights that use significantly less electricity than incandescent bulbs and burn out less frequently. With the trend toward energy conservation and “going green”, LED lights are rapidly gaining in popularity. Though they are more expensive than traditional incandescent light sets, one way to change over all your holiday lights is to buy one new set of LED lights per year until everything is changed over.
Christmas tree lighting technology will continue to change as time goes on. History shows us that we’ve made many improvements in the last few centuries. Only time will tell what’s in store for holiday lights in years to come!
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