Saturday, January 29, 2011
They arrived in Burkina Faso (in Africa) and Georgia for Christmas! How cool is that?
Thanks to everyone who supports An Enchanted Letter TM, and kudos to Operation Christmas Child for all the hard they do. And a belated Happy New Year! (I've been digging out from under mounds of snow all month, can you believe it? And there's more coming.)
Thank goodness spring will be coming up soon. Can't wait to see what the groundhog says February 2nd!
Friday, July 2, 2010
This weekend you will be watching fireworks and eating hotdogs and toasted marshmallows, but when did Independence Day become the 4th of July celebration it is today?
It all started when Britain taxed the colonies without giving them any say how those taxes were spent. Britain levied a tax on items such as tea, glass, paper, and molasses. Also, the colonists were not allowed to compete with British manufacturers. In 1765, Britain passed the Stamp Act--a tax on all documents, newspapers, and pamphlets--that infuriated the colonists. Even though the tax was repealed, bad feelings remained, especially when the Americans learned they had representation in the British Parliament. Hence, the term "No taxation without representation."
In 1771, a fresh tax on tea triggered the Boston Tea Party, wherein colonists dumped the sea into Boston Harbor. Britain then closed Boston Harbor and removed the city's charter. The Americans issued a Declaration of Rights, which banned the import of goods from Britain until Boston's rights were restored. In 1774 the 13 colonies sent delegates to Philadelphia to the First Continental Congress, but they weren't ready to declare war on Britain yet.
But in 1775, when the British government tried to arrest two American leaders at Lexington, things turned sour. The Americans tried to resolve their anger with the British, but with no luck. On June 7, 1776, Richard Henry Lee of Virginia called for the Continental Congress to declare the colonies free from British rule. During the Second Continental Congress, Thomas Jefferson drafted what would become--after revision from the committee consisting of John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman and William Livingston--the Declaration, which was finished on July 4th, 1776.
One year later, Philadelphia celebrated bonfires, bells and fireworks.The custom spread over the years, and became even more common after the War of 1812--and less political and more popular. In 1941, Congress declared the 4th of July a Federal holiday.
Have a wonderful 4th of July!
Library of Congress--links to historical documents about the 4th of July
History Channel--history of Independence Day
History of 4th of July
More history of 4th of July and the events leading up to it
Independence Day Crafts
Clipart for Independence Day
4th of July coloring pages and word searches
4th of July crafts
More 4th of July crafts for kids
4th of July activities and printables for kids
Sunday, February 21, 2010
The prize is a gorgeous oversized--12" by 11"--hardcover edition of Peter Rabbit's Giant Storybook, plus a paperback edition of It's the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown.
The contest, open to US and Canadian residents, 18+, ends March 18, 2010. Enter daily at An Enchanted Letter.
And Think Spring!
Here's the pic:
Sunday, February 14, 2010
Who says Valentine's Day is just for adults? I remember when I was a kid and my mom would buy those heart-shaped boxes with all the lace and ruffles, in pink. And there was always at least one bag of the candy hearts with the messages of love on them. She would stick the Valentine's Day cutouts on all the windows, and we'd happily chomp chocolate all day long.
My Mom was a hopeless "romantic" when it came to us kids. And that's what I remember the most about Valentine's Day. No, not the chocolate! My mom standing in the kitchen, doling out those candy hearts. That was her way of saying "I love you." Picking out the right messages and handing them out to us, because she wasn't raised to say the words aloud.
That's what I think is so special about Valentine's Day. Not the fancy chocolates or the roses or the jewelry--the message. "I love you." What a simple thing, but the most important thing a child can hear.
Yes, I think Valentine's Day is for kids. So tell a kid today how much you love them. Even if you have to use a bag of candy. They'll remember. I swear.
Better yet, write them a letter. A love letter for children. Or a silly poem in a handmade card. These are the true treasures of childhood.
Trust me, it's the thought, not the quality of the writing.
Grand Prize: A POM Gift Basket including a Flip Video, a $100.00 American Express gift card, a $250.00 donation to The American Heart Association in your name and more.
Community Prize: A Wonderful POM Pack of POM Products including 100% POM Juice, POMx Coffee, POMx Bars and a POM Backpack.
Hurry--the deadline is February 28, 2010!
And of course, since it's Valentine's Day, you also wish your child love. Enter the Earth's Best Wishes Contest for a chance at a $25,000 savings bond! (Open to relatives of a 5-year-old or younger child). Just make a wish for your child to enter, and you can print it (for free) and give that this Valentine's Day. Makes a beautiful keepsake. (Deadline is March 31, 2010)
Tuesday, February 2, 2010
Groundhog Day originates from the European Candlemas.
Candlemas came at the mid-point between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox. On Candlemas Day, it was the custom for clergy to bless candles and distribute them to the people in the dark of Winter. A lighted candle was placed in each window of the home. The superstition held that a sunny Candlemas Day, February 2nd, foretold that the second half of winter would be stormy and cold. In other words, six more weeks of winter.
But where does Groundhog Day--and Punxsutawney Phil--fit in?
The European Germans believed an animal, initially a hedgehog, frightened by his shadow on Candlemas foretold that winter would last another six weeks. So when the the German settlers came to America in the 18th century, they adopted the groundhog as their weather predictor.
Combined with this, the Delaware Indians settled Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania in 1723. According to the Delaware Indians' creation myth, their ancestors began life as animals in "Mother Earth," and emerged centuries later as men. Groundhogs were considered their ancestral "grandfather."
And so the tradition of Groundhog Day came to be!
February 2nd, 1886, Clymer H. Freas, editor of The Punxsutawney Spirit, the local newspaper, proclaimed Punxsutawney Phil "Seer of Seers, Sage of Sages, Prognosticator of Prognosticators, and Weather Prophet Extraordinary," thereby creating the "official" Groundhog Day, as we celebrate it today.
And so it is every February 2, people gather at Gobbler's Knob, a wooded knoll just outside of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania.
According to the old English saying:
If Candlemas be fair and bright,
Winter has another flight.
If Candlemas brings clouds and rain,
Winter will not come again.
If Candlemas Day is bright and clear,
There'll be two winters in the year.
For as the sun shines on Candlemas Day,
So far will the snow swirl until May.
For as the snow blows on Candlemas Day,
So far will the sun shine before May.
And from America:
If the sun shines on Groundhog Day;
Half the fuel and half the hay.
THIS JUST IN!
Phil has apparently seen his shadow, and that means six more weeks of winter.
Oh, well, spring is just around the corner!
Groundhog Day History
Origins of Groundhog Day
Groundhog Day Coloring Pages
Groundhog Day Activities and Crafts
Groundhog Day Greeting Cards
Groundhog Day Crafts and printables
Groundhog Coloring Pages
Thursday, December 24, 2009
Santa makes his way around the world tonight, but the shoeboxes An Enchanted Letter (TM) sent to Samaritan's Purse's "Operation Christmas Child" campaign have landed--in Lebanon and Botswana! How cool is that? I just found out from Samaritan's Purse, and wanted to post an update--and a great big THANK YOU to everyone who has ordered from An Enchanted Letter (TM) this year. A portion of profits go to Christmas presents and for gift-filled shoeboxes for needy kids around the world, and I am so grateful for your support.
The holidays are always tough for me, since losing my dad quite a few years ago, so playing "Santa's elf" I think is what gets me through. I get so much joy from shopping for these kids, all year-long. I love to shop! (The only thing I enjoy more than shopping is finding a bargain! Can you say "Sale?") And I love to write, so writing the letters is truly a labor of love. I can't think of a better way to "get through" the holidays.
And what better way to spend Christmas Eve than tracking Santa's journey? Check out the Official Norad Santa Tracker at www.noradsanta.org. Follow Santa around the world as he travels on his magic sleigh delivering goodies!
Have a very Merry Christmas and a joyous New Year!
Christmas as we know it grew out of both winter solstice and New Year celebrations.
For example, the Mesopotamians believed in many gods, their chief god being Marduk, whom they believed, as winter arrived each year, would do battle with the monsters of chaos. To assist him, they held a New Year's festival called Zagmuk, which lasted for 12 days. The Persians and the Babylonians celebrated a similar festival called the Sacaea.
The early Europeans, who believed in ghosts and evil spirits, feared as the winter solstice approached--bringing long dark nights and short days--that the sun would not return. So, they devised special rituals and celebrations to welcome back the sun. This was also a good time of the year for a feast because around this time they had a fresh supply of meat, and the wine and beer made throughout the year had fermented and was ready to drink.
In Germany, the god Oden, according to superstition, made nocturnal flights through the sky to observe the people, to decide who would prosper and who wouldn't.
The Scandinavians held a festival called Yuletide, with a special feast served around a fire burning with the Yule log. This feast lasted until the log burned out, often as long as 12 days. They also lit bonfires to celebrate the return of the sun. In some areas people would tie apples to branches of trees to remind themselves that spring and summer would return.
The ancient Greeks held a festival similar to that of the Zagmuk/Sacaea festivals to assist their god Kronos who would battle the god Zeus and his Titans.
The Romans celebrated their god Saturn with a festival called Saturnalia. Saturnalia lasted from the middle of December to January 1st, and included masquerades in the streets, feasting, visiting friends, and the exchange of good-luck gifts called Strenae (lucky fruits). They decked their halls with garlands of laurel and green trees lit with candles.
The Romans also celebrated Juvenalia in December, a feast honoring the children of Rome. They also celebrated the birthday of Mithra, the god of the unconquerable sun, on December 25. It was believed that Mithra, an infant god, was born of a rock. For some Romans, Mithra's birthday was the most sacred day of the year.
At first, the birth of Christ was not celebrated, perhaps because the day of the Christ child's birth has never been pinpointed. It has even been suggested Christ may have been born in the spring.
Traditions say that it has been celebrated since the year 98 AD. In 137 AD the Bishop of Rome ordered the birthday of the Christ Child celebrated as a solemn feast. In 350 AD another Bishop of Rome, Julius I, choose December 25th as the observance of Christmas, in an attempt to fold in the popular pagan traditions with the Christian. First called the Feast of the Nativity, the custom spread to Egypt by 432 and to England by the end of the sixth century. By the end of the eighth century, the celebration of Christmas had spread all the way to Scandinavia.
By the Middle Ages, Christianity had, for the most part, replaced pagan religion. After church, the poor would go to the houses of the rich and demand their best food and drink, a tradition that arose out of the ancient custom of slaves and masters changing places for the December holidays. Christmas became the time of year when the upper classes could repay their real or imagined "debt" to society by entertaining the less fortunate.
Today, in the Greek and Russian orthodox churches, Christmas is celebrated 13 days after the 25th, which is also referred to as the Epiphany or Three Kings Day. This is the day it is believed that the three wise men finally found Jesus in the manger.
And so it is today we go caroling and light the yule logs in the fireplace--or watch the yule log on TV :) We decorate the Christmas tree with lights and ornaments, give presents, eat, and look forward to what the new year will bring.
So you see, there's no need to cram everything into a single day. Sit back, relax, and enjoy all the holiday season has to offer. Spread the joy and fun over a week or two. Personally, I think Christmas should last all year-long. Or at least till Epiphany. Okay, maybe till Easter :)
The History of Christmas
Christmas History from the History Channel
Christmas crafts for kids
More Christmas crafts for kids
Last-minute homemade gifts
Christmas recipes, coloring pages, more
Last-minute kid-friendly recipes for the holidays
Sunday, December 13, 2009
This year Hanukkah runs from December 11th-December 19th.
More than 2000 years ago, Israel was annexed by Antiochus, the king of Syria, to the Syrian-Greek empire. At first, life wasn't so bad under Antiochus, but things got worse when his son Seleucus IV took over.
Compounding the problem was the growing rift within the Jewish population: the influence of the Hellenists (people who accepted idol-worship and the Syrian way of life) was increasing, leading to two factions.
When Seleucus was killed, his brother Antiochus IV--a tyrant--assumed the throne. In an attempt to unify his kingdom through a common religion and culture, Antiochus suppressed the Jewish Laws. He removed the righteous High Priest, Yochanan, from the Temple in Jerusalem, and replaced him with Yochanan’s brother Joshua, who called himself by the Greek name of Jason. Joshua/Jason, a member of the Hellenist party, used his high office to spread more and more of the Greek customs among the priesthood. He was replaced by Menelaus.
Antiochus was away at war in Egypt when a rumor spread he was dead, prompting a rebellion against Menelaus, who fled. Upon his return, Antiochus set his army on the Jewish people, and enacted a series of harsh decrees against the Jews. Jewish worship was forbidden; the scrolls of the Law were confiscated and burned.
A group of rebels--called the Maccabees--grew. They set out to destroy the pagan temples and eventually defeated the Syrians. Antiochus realized he must send a powerful army to defeat Judah and his brave fighting men. But still, the Maccabees were victorious.
After they won the war, the Maccabees returned to Jerusalem to liberate it. They entered the Temple and cleared it of the idols placed there by the Syrians. Judah and his followers built a new altar. Since the golden Menorah had been stolen by the Syrians, the Maccabees now made one of cheaper metal. They found only enough oil to light it for one day. But by a miracle of G-d, it continued to burn for eight days, until new oil was made available. That miracle proved that G-d had again taken His people under His protection.
In honor of this miracle Hanukkah is celebrated for eight days.
Every night the menorah is lit: a single flame on the first night, two on the second evening, and so on till the eighth night of Hanukkah, when all eight lights are kindled.
Hanukkah in a Nutshell
The Story of Chanukah
Hanukkah for Kids--Traditions, Crafts, more
Hanukkah for Kids Links--list of kid-friendly sites
Billy Bear's Hanukkah for Kids -- activities and crafts
All About Hanukkah from Kaboose
Hanukkah clipart at An Enchanted Letter