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DECK THE HOLIDAY'S: 02/23/12

Thursday, February 23, 2012

10 THINGS YOU PROBABLY DON'T KNOW ABOUT THE ROCKEFELLER CENTER CHRISTMAS TREE!



1. The First Tree

   The first tree debuted at Rockefeller Center on Christmas Eve, 1931. The tree, erected by construction workers eager to receive a day’s pay in the depths of the Depression, stood only 20 ft. tall — a quarter of the size of this year’s holiday specimen.





  Here's a look at some of the 79-year-old tradition’s most historic moments:


2. The $1.5 Million Star

    In 1931, tin cans and scrap paper were used to adorn the tree — appropriate decorations for Depression-era America. Then came garlands and glass. Colored lights and ornaments in the shape of dogs and sailboats made their appearance in 1934. A 4-ft. plastic star, a white spray-painted tree and 10-ft.-long aluminum icicles were staples of the 1950s. The 1990s took it up a notch with a gold-leaf star. But that was nothing compared to the 550-lb. Swarovski star unveiled in 2009. Created specifically for the tree and standing 10 ft. tall, the estimated $1.5 million star is made of 25,000 crystals and 1 million facets.






3. The Tree Goes Black

   One of the most spectacular features of the tree every year is its nighttime glow. But in 1944, the Christmas trees (yes, three trees, in fact) remained unlit. The backstory is that two years earlier, Rockefeller Center unveiled three small trees dedicated to the U.S. effort in World War II — each one either red, white or blue. The patriotic trees were replanted over the next couple of years, but in 1944, in line with wartime blackout regulations, the trees stayed dark. When the war ended in 1945, the organizers made up for lost time and used six ultraviolet-light projectors to make all 700 fluorescent globes on that year’s tree appear to glow in the dark.






4. A Television Debut

   In 1951, the tree made its first appearance on television when the lighting ceremony was shown on The Kate Smith Show. Two years later, it became a special each year on The Howdy Doody Show until 1955. With the tree’s appearance on television, the 1950s also saw the emergence of more and more elaborate decorations. In 1953, 6,000 icicle lights and giant floodlights illuminated the tree, and just a year later, white angel trumpeters were added.






5. The Search for the Perfect Tree

   On several occasions, the tree has been donated to Rockefeller Center. In 1956, for example, a New Hampshire man gave a white spruce to New York’s governor, who handed it over to the tree’s organizers. Ten years later, the nation of Canada decided to give over one of their trees. But most of the time, it has been purposefully sought out. For a long while, David Murbach, who was the center’s garden manager before he passed away late last year, used to rent a car and take scenic drives through New England in order to find the finest specimen. More recently, though, Rockefeller Center’s crew has taken a helicopter into New England to locate the perfect tree from aloft.






6. Tree Climbing

   Most Rockefeller Center trees endure a largely uneventful Christmas season. Admired from afar, they sometimes serve as the backdrop for tourists’ photos, but that’s pretty much it. However, in 1979 the Rockefeller tree became part of a political protest when a 27-year-old man scaled it and began shouting “Free the 50!” — referring to the Americans who were then being held hostage (see photo) at the U.S. embassy in Iran. He came down when police officers pointed out that climbing a Christmas tree would not help free the hostages. Another man tried to climb the tree in 1980, but he offered no motive for his actions. Apparently he just thought it would be fun.






7. Taking the Trees into the City

   Because they’re so big — and New York City so traffic-jammed — the Rockefeller Center Christmas trees travel into the city at night, when fewer cars are on the road. Each tree’s uppermost branches are decorated before it is raised into a standing position. And the tree doesn’t require watering: because it’s outside, the behemoth doesn’t dry out the way that smaller indoor Christmas trees do.





8. The Tallest Tree

   These days, the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree usually stands no less than 65 ft. tall (this year it’s 74 ft. tall). The 1999 display boasted the tallest tree, a Norway spruce that stood over 100 ft. tall. Because the tree must maneuver through narrow city streets, it most likely won’t ever be much larger than that. The Norway spruce has been New York City’s tree of choice since 1982.






9. Going Greener

   You wouldn’t think that a tree could go more green than it already is. But with environmental concerns gaining traction in the 1960s and 1970s, Rockefeller Center began recycling its tree after Christmas. In 1971, it turned the tree into 30 three-bushel bags of mulch for nature trails in upper Manhattan. In 2005, Habitat for Humanity used wood from that year’s tree to make door frames for its homes. By 2007, the tree’s organizers had switched to all energy-saving LED lights, some 30,000 of them. The new bulbs used 1,200 kilowatt hours less electricity per day — enough to power a 2,000 sq.-ft. home for an entire month.






10. The Newest One

   The 2010 Rockefeller Center Christmas tree stands 74 ft. tall and weighs 12 tons. Before this holiday season, it lived in Mahopac, N.Y. — in the side yard of New York City firefighter Peter Acton, who said he was sorry to see his beloved evergreen go.





PATRAS CARNIVAL FROM GREECE!



   The Patras Carnival, Patrino karnavali is the largest event of its kind in Greece and one of the biggest in Europe. It has more than 160 years of history. The events begin on 17th of January and last up to Clean Monday. The carnival of Patras is not a single event but a variety of events that includes balls, parades, hunting of hidden treasure, kids’ carnival etc. Its apogee is in the last weekend of Carnival with the Saturday evening parade of carnival groups, the extravagant Sunday parade of floats and groups, and finally the ritual burning of king carnival at the St. Nikolaos Street wharf in the harbour of Patras. Its characteristics are spontaneity, improvisation, inspiration and volunteerism.

History

   Most people agree that starting event of the Patras Carnival was a ball given in the residence of the merchant Moretis in 1829. However the carnival, as most carnival events in the Mediterranean and the Balkans, is connected with ancient pagan rituals, as those to honour Dionysus. According to these traditions, in the heart of the winter, the faithful invoke the deity with special feasts and he is reborn in order to bring spring once again. In modern period, French troops of general Maison stationed in the city after its liberation from the Turks. Later on, and as consequence of the prosperity of the





city in the end of 19th century the carnival festivities take a more regular nature. The first carnival floats appeared in the decade of 1870s. Then the floats were exclusively creations of individuals, only later did the Municipality of Patras undertake to construct a large number of them. In the same decade, in 1872, with contributions of rich raisin merchants the celebrated "Apollo" Theatre is built, and it entertains carnival dances, as it does precisely today, because the theatre continues to have a central role in the carnival celebrations. In 1880 on Saint Anthony's day the first "mpoules" appeared (teams disguised that hang around in the neighborhoods and with humorous disposal joke with friends). This custom tends to disappear nowadays. Besides, as the historian of Patras Carnival Nikos Politis testifies, beautiful carnivals were organized during the belle époque as in the years 1900, 1907, 1909 with the attendance for first time of individuals of each social class and origin. This period also gave birth to the egg-war custom, with wax eggs stuffed with confetti (made with special machines) which the carnivalists threw from the balconies. Although this custom has disappeared today, it is considered to be the precursor of the chocolate war.
   The developments of the following decade were not favourable for the carnival; the continuous wars and conflicts (Balkan wars, World War I, Asia Minor campaign) send the men in the war front and brought economic crisis and desolation to the city. In the first postwar years the situation do not improve perceptibly, only some scattered events testify the arrival of Carnival. Obvious exception constitute the imposing and amazing carnivals of the years 1938 and 1939. Nevertheless, the World War II and the consecutive Greek Civil War bring a decennial obligatory interruption. In the beginning of the 1950s the first hesitant thoughts for a resurgence of carnival are expressed. The most pessimistic predict a failure: "nothing will be as before". However, the carnival is indeed reborn. The pioneer musical groups "Orpheus" and "Patraiki' Mantolinata" lead the effort. The Patras Carnival returns in the lives of the citizens of Patras but also all








Greeks, especially those that could afford (mainly affluent Athenians) to travel in Patras in order to participate in the carnival, as in its famous Bourboulia balls. In the same period the Greek cinema depicts snapshots of carnival in its films. Yet more historic scenes can be seen in prewar films. Still in the 1950s, the carnival becomes the object of attacks, as fanatic Christian and other misinformed moralistic organisations roll up to Patras from other regions of Greece during the carnival in order to denounce orgies, corruptness, "Sodom and Gomorrah", but they are prevented from creating trouble by the police. The completely unfounded accusations meet with indifference or a feeling of nuisance by the citizens of Patras and visitors of carnival. It is characteristic that the local church does not sympathise with the troublemakers since it knows that the carnival is a completely innocent recreational event. Yet, in the same period in certain cases censorship is imposed in certain carnival creations which upset the establishment with their humour. Finally in 1964 the year of king Paul's death the Carnival was cancelled.
   Under no circumstances could these limited exceptions shade the magnificence of carnival, which had already known Pan-Hellenic recognition while it also attracted the attention of certain international media. In 1966 the carnival was reorganized. The journalist Nikos Mastorakis introduces the Hidden Treasure Hunt in which 94 citizens of Patras and visitors with their cars take part. The first prize was won by a team led by a friend of the carnival from Thessalonica; his name was Alkis Steas and he presented the game starting from the following year. Thus, the late Steas became for decades the legendary presenter of the carnival, which was broadcasted by ERT and was watched by all Greek TV viewers. The presenter's expressions such as "the Carnival city of Greece", when he referred to Patras and "be happy" and "keep dancing!" when he







referred to the carnival groups, remain historical. In 1974 the modern phase of the carnival begins, as the revelers are convinced to abandon their cars and parade on foot in the streets (until then only floats paraded). Since then each year the spectacle climaxes, the carnival has become gigantic and hundreds of thousands of visitors flock to Patras to witness the proceedings. From the early beginning of 2011, Carnival of Patras has its own Web TV channel, broadcasting live and on-demand videos in www.carnivalpatras.tv.

The Opening Ceremony

   Irrespectively of when the Triodion falls,the three-week period preceding the first Sunday of Lent, it is customary for the Carnival of Patras on start on the day of St. Anthony (17 January). The opening ceremony takes place on George Square and includes pantomimes and patters, dances, endless music and fireworks.


The Childrens carnival

   A spectacular, yet substantial, take on the traditional baby rally. The Children's Carnival includes a parade with the participation of masqueraded children's groups from nurseries, kindergartens, musical schools etc. Over 5000 children participate whereas the festival is completed by numerous game events and constructive activities. Their objective is to introduce the younger generation to the Carnival and to distinguish their abilities in artistic expression related to aesthetic or satirical masquerading. You can watch the parade live in www.carnivalpatras.tv.







The Bourboulia

   The most famous unique Carnival tradition of Patras is also its oldest. Women participate in the Carnival Dance Hall Ball without paying for entry while men must purchase a ticket. All the women are dressed in a dark dress with a mask called a "black domino" while the men will be in regular clothes. During the dance, women select their dance partner. Besides an encouragement for the women to act as the sexual aggressor there is also an equalization of the social classes, particularly among the women whose background as urban or working class cannot be distinguished.
   It is an empowering female event which allowed escape from daily routine defined in narrow social terms. According to Mrs. Ntouli-Dimitropoulou in an interview given in 2006 to Christiana Grigoriou & Christina Metaxioti for their published research paper on "The Social Role and the Cultural Identity of Women in Patra" the special attention given by the women of Patra to their preparation for the Bourboulia " makes them all beautiful and they give-off a sense of self-confidence that they are the most beautiful women in the world. This is something magical.






   For most of its history, no photographs of the Bourboulia were allowed and while it is alleged that every woman in Patra has participated in the Bourboulia at least once, no one will admit it. Mrs Maria Iliopoulou, the first women recognized officially for her Carnival contributions by the Mayor of Patras has also been responsible for many years for the Bourboulia. She cites St. Mark's square in Venice as the source for the original costume design of the domino. While Venice needed heavy material in warmer Patras silk and satin were favored. The mask is very important to create the mystery. In fact, Mrs Iliopoulou believes the Patras Carnival Queen contest should wear masks as every Queen has her own beauty with her carnival uniform and thus her real appearance should not be revealed.



Bouboulina_attacking-Nafplion.jpg
Laskarina Bourboulina


History of the Bourboulia:
   Official Carnival history of Patras usually begins with the first event being ball given in the Carnival season associated with the merchant class which was influenced by French Carnaval Balls and Venetian Carnevale Costumes of St. Marks Square.

The Saturday night parade

   This is also called the "Nihterini Podarati" [Night Parade on foot].In earlier years, only the Treasure Hunt groups could participate, without their floats. However, the last few years every group is free to join. Night, bright lights, an overwhelming stream of people, colors and high spirits combine, create a spectacular scene.


Closing Ceremony

    An extension of the traditional festivities based around the burning of the float of the Carnival King, with concerts, dances, a farewell to the carnival past, announcements about the carnival to come and countless fireworks. It takes place at the port on Sunday night and is also broadcast on TV.







   Following the Grand Parade on Sunday are important final events. This is the last Sunday of the Carnival and the eve of the first day of Lent or Clean Monday. The Carnival King is called upon to bid farewell to his subjects and to arrange a date for next year.
   The customary meeting of all crews will happen at the St. Nikolaos Street wharf the central quay of the Patras harbour. Tradition demands the announcement of the winners of the Treasure Hunt, the farewell of the Carnival King and burning of the float , announcements about the carnival to come, endless dancing and fantastic fireworks.   The show is broadcast nationally on TV as are both the Saturday and Sunday parades.
The mayor declares the closing of this year’s Carnival and officially announces the next year’s theme. All festivities stop at midnight as everyone observes the beginning of Lent.

 

A TRADITIONAL NEW ORLEANS CAKE, BUT REMEMBER NOT TO EAT THE BABY!

   Get in on the fun of the King Cake. Hide a little toy baby in the cake and whoever finds it has one year of good luck!



Traditional New Orleans King Cake Recipe




  • Prep: 40 min. + rising Bake: 25 min. + cooling


  • Yield: 12 Servings

    Ingredients 40 25 65             Ingredients
    • 2 packages (1/4 ounce each) active dry yeast
    • 1/2 cup warm water (110° to 115°)
    • 3/4 cup sugar, divided
    • 1/2 cup butter, softened
    • 1/2 cup warm 2% milk (110° to 115°)
    • 2 egg yolks
    • 1-1/4 teaspoons salt
    • 1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
    • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
    • 3-1/4 to 3-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
    • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    • 1 egg, beaten
    • GLAZE:
    • 1-1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
    • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
    • 2 to 3 tablespoons water
    • Green, purple and yellow sugars

    Directions

    • In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Add 1/2 cup sugar, butter, milk, egg yolks, salt, lemon peel, nutmeg and 2 cups flour. Beat until smooth. Stir in enough remaining flour to form a soft dough (dough will be sticky).
    • Turn onto a floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease the top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.
    • Punch dough down. Turn onto a lightly floured surface. Roll into a 16-in. x 10-in. rectangle. Combine cinnamon and remaining sugar; sprinkle over dough to within 1/2 in. of edges. Roll up jelly-roll style, starting with a long side; pinch seam to seal. Place seam side down on a greased baking sheet; pinch ends together to form a ring. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour. Brush with egg.
    • Bake at 375° for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown. Cool completely on a wire rack. For glaze, combine the confectioners' sugar, lemon juice and enough water to achieve desired consistency. Spread over cake. Sprinkle with colored sugars. Yield: 1 cake