Friday, December 31, 2010


    There are many traditions on New Year's.  One of the most famous is the singing of "Auld Lang Syne" at the stroke of midnight.  But who wrote this song and why do we sing it?  This is a question many people do not know it, it has just become part of tradition.  The song was originally written in 1790 by a Scottish poet by the name of Robert Burns.  Many of the lyrics from the first verse and the chorus are strikingly similar to a 1711 poem by James Watson.  The song really took off in 1929 when bandleader Guy Lombardo began broadcasting this song on his radio broadcast on New Years Eve.  The song quickly spread throughout the British Isles.  As people emigrated to the United States and other countries, they took with them the song as a custom of singing "Auld Lang Syne" with them.
   Here are the lyrics to Robert Burns' song with translation to some words you may not know.

Should auld acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot, and auld lang syne?


For auld lang syne, my dear, for auld lang syne!
We'll take a cup of kindness yet, for auld lang syne!
And surely ye'll be your pint-stowp, and surely I'll be mine,
And we'll take a cup o kindness yet, for auld lang syne!
We twa hae run about the braes, and pou'd the gowans fine,
But we've wander'd monie a weary fit, sin auld lang syne.
We twa hae paidl'd in the burn frae morning sun till dine,
But seas between us braid hae roar'd sin auld lang syne.
And there's a hand my trusty fiere, and gie's a hand o thine,
And we'll tak a right guid-willie waught, for auld lang syne.


auld lange syne-times gone by
be-pay for
dine-dinner time
guid-willie waught-goodwill drink
morning sun-noon
pint-stowp-pint tankard

Thursday, December 30, 2010


    As the old year ends and the New Year approaches, it's fun to recall all your wonderful memories!  Some people capture them with photos.  Other families capture them in scrapbooks.  But, there is another fun way to save those memories!  Celebrate the New Year and preserve a record of your particular time in history by making a time capsule.  You, your family and friends, can make this part of your New Year's Eve celebration.

   The History of the Time Capsule

   Oral histories and paintings are ways that we preserve some visual record of our pasts.  However, the art of making time capsules dates back to ancient times.  Consider the Pyramids, the Terra Cotta Warriors of China, and the temples of ancient Babylon.  These ancient wonders were intentional preservation's which show the world the wonders of these ancient civilizations.
   In our more modern times, time capsules, serve as messages to future generations about our governments, technology, and humanity.  For the 1939 World's Fair, Westinghouse Electric wanted to create a time capsule that would preserve its contents for 5,000 years.  In that time capsule, Westinghouse placed a deck of cards, alarm clock and toothbrush.  Nearly thirty years later, in the 1964 World's Fair, another time capsule was buried, and it contained contact lenses, a ball point pen and a plastic heart valve.  Today, civic groups, religious communities and scientists used time capsules.  It's not uncommon to place time capsules signifying important events or the construction of buildings.

Making Your Time Capsule 

   For your time capsule, you will need something that is sturdy, and non-biodegradable.  Plastic, metal or even heavy duty rubbers will serve you purposes.  You can find these items around your home, at your local thrift or office supply store.  If you want something large, think metal safes with combinations locks or even this plastic jars with metal lids.  An old metal coffee can works for most.  If you want something small, thin craft eggs used for Easter or Plastic pencil cases.

Time Capsule Items

   Once you pick your capsule, its time to decide what you want to put in it.  You may want to remember specific events in history.  For these things, put newspaper or Internet articles sealed in plastic baggies.  For more personal events, like births and weddings, put a memento from the event.  A knitted bootie or garter will serve nicely.  For memorable parties or milestone events, you can place photographs, movie tickets, programs, toys and even receipt.  You can even let your inner geek free by placing technology in your time capsule.  Think of Cd's, DVDs, and old cell phones.
   Don't put anything in your time capsule that could damage the other items or decay over time.  While you might think Aunt Ruth's fruit cake could survive the nuclear holocaust, it might not be an appropriate item for your time capsule.  Avoid foods, wood, wool or other perishables.

   Also, you, your family and friends can add personal notes about what makes them thankful or what's important to them today and what their hopes are for the future.  Bigger than resolutions, you may want to offer a special prayer for those who may find and open your capsule in the years to come.

Filling and storing your Time Capsule

   Whether it's part of a family activity or a party, set a time to fill and put away your time capsule.  Have everyone add an item.  Once filled, seal your capsule with glue, tape or other method of keeping air out of the container.
   Once sealed, either store your capsule in an out of the way place or bury it.  If you opt for burying your time capsule, make sure you create a map showing where you have buried your time treasures.


Opening the Capsule

   Depending on what time you have set to open your capsule, 1 year, 5 years, 10 years or 20 years, make plans to remember the date.  And, when that time comes, be ready to share and remember all the wonderful ways the world and you have changed.
   So, that old acquaintances, or events for that matter, creating a time capsule is a wonderful way to ring in a new year or decade.  For your next New Year's celebration, consider having fun by preserving a bit of your personal history.


   If you have ever seen the elaborate floats in the Tournament of Roses Parade, chances are you have wondered where all those flowers come from and how the floats are made.  The building of a Tournament of Roses Float involves hundreds of people over a year long process that begins in February.  The main structure, including elaborate hydraulic systems to operate the mechanical features of the float, is created by professional float builders, but the final application of flowers is completed primarily by volunteers just like you and me.

Float Design Begins in February

   The process begins with a meeting between the sponsor who commission the float and the people in charge of building it.  Float building companies generally design and build several floats for different clients.  Designers develop a detailed sketch that incorporates the client's wishes with the parades theme.  Once approved by the sponsor, the sketch is refined and hand colored.  The floral director then chooses the floral material to represent the overall design.  Flowers and other natural materials are chosen for both color and texture to create the illusion of living people and props.


Flowers Cover Every Square inch of Rose Parade Floats

   The rules of the Rose Parade stipulate that flowers or other natural plant materials (that have grown, are growing, or will grow) cover the entire surface of the float.  Flower blooms, moss, seeds and pods, bark, live or dried leaves, grains and vegetables selected to cover the float must be used in their natural state and cannot be dyed.

Floral Directors Calculate How Many Flowers Are Needed

 m  Experienced floral directors easily calculate the needed amount of each material by using coverage formulas for the individual plants or organic material used.  These amazing directors can quote from heart the number of roses or Gerber daisies it takes to fill one square foot of area on a parade float.

Ordering Begins in April

   Beginning in April, vendors from around the world begin receiving orders for flowers to be delivered prior to the completion of the float in late December.  One float may require between 400 and 500 varieties of flowers and millions of individual blooms.  Many are specially grown to meet the needs of the float they will be used on. Flowers must be ready to go and delivered within a one-week window prior to the parade, with some arriving the morning of the parade.

Flowers Arrive in Refrigerated Trucks in December

   Refrigerated trucks begin arriving in Pasadena the week of Christmas and place the flowers in refrigerated tents that may cover half of a football field.  Each float-building company operates one or two of these tents and stores flowers in buckets or on racks, with the flowers for each float sectioned and marked ready to go to the individual floats.  About 10 days prior to the parade, flowers are moved to float-building barns.


Giant Paint by Number Picture Directs Float Assembly

   The base of the float is sprayed with a polyvinyl shell and painted to resemble a paint by number picture to indicate which plant material should be placed in each area.  Builders follow the pattern to fill in areas with the appropriate material.

Volunteers Get to Work Completing the Float

   Volunteers from all across the nation do much of the manual work of assembling the floats.  Volunteers are assigned specific jobs to match their skill level.  First time volunteers may spend the day cutting flowers or removing individual petals.  More experienced volunteers work on more intricate details of the float.  Volunteers begin at the top and work their way to the bottom.  The most intricate details are left to last, often completed within hours of the parade.  Volunteers complete the base last to avoid damage from workers as they work on other areas.  Roses and blooms that require water rest in vials of water, attached to the base.  Other less fragile flowers are attached to wire stems and inserted into floral foam.  Some materials, like individual flower petals are glued in place to create the desired effect.  Dried flowers may be blended to a fine powder and used for shading.

Long Hours Complete the Work on Floats

   The work of assembling the float is long and difficult.  It take 60 volunteers working 10-hour days, 10 days to complete a float.  Once completed the float leader inspects the float for any errors and gives the final word that the float is ready to go.

Floats Take a 12 Mile Journey to the Parade Site

   Floats are then towed to the parade route in Pasadena.  The journey is a mere 12 miles long, but it takes anywhere from 5 to 8 hours to transport the floats to the parade site.  Float leaders generally pack an assortment of each material used on the float in the event that damage occurs on the way and make last minute repairs prior to parade time.

Beginning Again

   After the parade and the announcement of next year's theme, sponsors commission new floats for the upcoming year.  Old floats are stripped to the chassis and the process begins again as new visions are put to paper and designs of elaborate creations are set in motion for the year long journey to the next Tournament of Roses Parade.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010


Float from the early years

Float from recent years

   This uniquely American event began as a promotional effort by Pasadena's distinguished Vally Hunt Club.  In the winter of 1890, the club members brainstormed ways to promote the "Mediterranean of the West".  They invited their former East Coast neighbors to a mid-winter holiday, where they could watch games such as chariot races, jousting, foot races, polo and tug-of-war under the warm California sun.  The abundance of fresh flowers, even in the midst of winter, prompted the club to add another showcase for Pasadena's charm; a parade would precede the competition, where entrants would decorate their carriages with hundreds of blooms.  The Tournament of Roses was born.
   "In New York, people are buried in snow", announced Professor Charles F. Holder at a Club meeting.  "Here our flowers are blooming and our oranges are about to bear fruit.  Let's hold a festival to tell the world about our paradise"!

Queen and her court today

Queen and her court from years gone by

    During the next few years, the festival expanded to include marching bands and motorized floats.  The games on the town lot (which was re-named Tournament Park in 1900) included ostrich races, bronco busting demonstrations and a race between a camel and an elephant (the elephant won).  Reviewing stands were built along the Parade route, and Eastern newspapers began to take notice of the event in 1895, the Tournament of Roses Association was formed to take charge of the festival, which had grown too large for the Valley Hunt Club to handle.

Band picture from recent years

Band picture from years past

  The Tournament of Roses has come a long way since its early days.  The Rose Parade's elaborate floats now feature high-tech computerized animation and exotic natural materials from around the world.  Although a few floats are still built exclusively by volunteers from their sponsoring communities, most are build by professional float building companies and take nearly a year to construct.  The year-long effort pays off on New Year's morning, when millions of viewers around the world enjoy the Rose Parade.

Grand Marshall, Bill Cosby

Grand Marshall of Parade, Richard Nixon


    The most famous ball in America will make it's decent into Times Square this December, ringing in more than just another "Happy New Year"! among fellow Americans.  While it may be the largest New Year's Eve Ball ever to grace New York City.  It may also be the most eco-friendly ball as well.  The new ball is 20% more energy efficient than the previous one, which will make it a sure crowd pleaser for the many Americans who are becoming more eco-conscious.  At 12 feet across and 11,875 pounds, the ball will be the largest ball to drop in Times Square since the beginning of the tradition.  It also contains 2,668 Waterford Crystals and 32,256 LED's, which make the ball capable of producing more than 16 million colors and several billion patterns.  It will be the most beautiful and breathtaking New Year's Eve Ball to date.  But where did the idea for the ball come from?  Who started this tradition, and when was the Waterford Crystal introduced into this famous past time?

the ball from 1978

The History of the New Year's Eve Ball and the Waterford Crystal

   In 1907, Jacob Starr created a giant ball combining wood, iron, and one hundred 25 watt light bulbs.  The New Year's Eve Ball would become known as one of the most famous tributes tot he New Year in American history.  Weighing in at 700 pounds and stretching 5 feet across, the new tradition was born.  The first ball was used every year until 1920, when it was replaced with a 400 pound wrought iron ball.  From the twenties to the mid fifties the ball remained unchanged.
   Unfortunately, during World War II, the New Year's Eve Ball did not make its usual descent to earth.  In 1942 and 1943, the ball remained unlit in fear of war time enemies attacking.  However, in 1944, the famous New Yorker returned to it's beloved place high atop Times Square.

2000-2007 ball

   In 1955, the ball was replaced yet again for a third time to a smaller, 200 pound aluminum ball.  While the ball was lighter in weight, it was no less famous and no less elegant, and this ball reigned until the 1980's.
   1981 brought a new decade for the ball, while the original ball itself was not actually replaced, the light bulbs, were replaced with red ones.  The pole from which the famous ball dropped was painted green-all of this was done to simulate a "Big Apple".  This was being done to promote the "I Love New York" campaign-more famously known today as the "I heart NY T-shirts, coffee mugs and so forth that we see today.  The ball was returned to its famous bright white bulbs in 1989, at the end of the campaign.

    Aside from a few colored light bulbs and a new paint job, the New Year's Eve Ball remained the same for 40 years.  In 1995, the ball was all but brought into the new century.  It was updated to an aluminum skin with strobe lights, rhinestone gems and more-all generated by computers.  This was also the beginning of the true Waterford Crystal that we know and love today.
   For the millennium, the ball was completely designed.  Aside from the ball that will grace New York's Time Square this December, the ball form weighed in at over 1,000 pounds-making it the largest in both weight and width (at 6 feet across).  It contained a mixture of 168 halogen bulbs and 432 light bulbs of red, green, blue, yellow and white-which were all used in different "Hope" campaign themes.
   This famous New Yorker has been around for over 100 years and will be making its drop from 475 feet above Times Square.

Sunday, December 26, 2010


     If you're considering a trip to China for the holidays, you'll find that some of their Christmas traditions are similar to ours, but many are very different.  You'll see decorated trees, beautiful lights, and many scenes similar to the ones you would see at Christmas in the United States, but in China, most of the decorations are intricate paper folding that form flowers, lanterns and chains on the tree.
   Yes, they have Santa in China, but they don't call him by the name Americans do, he's referred to as Dun Che Lao Ren (dwyn-chuh-lau-oh-run), which means Christmas Old Man.  Another name for Santa is Lan Khoong.  Although most citizens of China are not of the Christian faith there are still plenty of celebrations.
   The festival where everyone celebrates the most, occurs at the end of January, call the Spring Festival or Chinese New Year.  This is the time when children receive gifts of toys and clothing, every one feasts and, unlike in America, there are huge fireworks shows around the country.

Chrildren putting wishes on wall

     Whereas Americans are busy with worship, wrapping gifts, singing carols and awaiting Santa's arrival, most Chinese are remembering their ancestors.  Christmas in China is a time of remembrance for those already passed and photos are hung out of respect for them.  It's not a time of sadness, though, it's a time of celebration.
   While sightseeing in the major cities, you'll see plenty of Christmas trees and other decorations, including Nativity scenes which show Jesus.  Mary and Joseph as Chinese, with full Chinese costumes.  Christmas cards are often exchanged, but the cards look much different than they do in America, with the card depicting fish and lotuses, little Chinese kids standing by a tree, or even a Chinese Santa.


   There's lots of places to shop, where you'll find goodies for everyone on your list, but you won't see the mad rush for certain gifts that you'll experience  when shopping during the holidays in America.  If you're trying to avoid the whole holiday scene, though, there are many great things to see in China.  Check out the Beijing Zoo, or the entire city of Beijing, where you'll find much history and architecture.
   The Forbidden City is another must-see while visiting China.  With over 720,000 square meters, the place is massive.  Nearby, the Fragrant Hills Park should be on your itinerary.  And, of course, the Great Wall of China, must be seen before leaving.  Also check out the Lama Temple, Summer Palace, Temple of Heaven, Tiananmen Square, and Wo Fo Si (Temple of Reclining Buddha).

   Whether you're traveling to China to enjoy Christmas there, or you're going to avoid the commercialization of an American Christmas, you'll find exactly what you're looking for...and then some.  China is one of the most beautiful countries...holiday or not...and you'll really enjoy yourself.


    Christmas parades can be seen in cities and towns nationwide.  The parades help usher in Christmas.
   Christmas parades can be small with just a few floats, and a couple of bands, or very large with a lot of floats, several bands, clowns, assorted groups, and cars carrying important people from the community.  But whether the Christmas parades are small or large in size doesn't matter, it's what is at the end of the parade that makes all the difference and that would be Santa Claus!  Seeing Santa Claus means the Christmas season is here!
   Christmas parades have been going strong for 90+ years.  When Christmas parades first started it was more of a way for people who lived in small towns to get together and socialize with each other while watching a very short parade.  The parades were something the communities looked forward to every year.
   One such Christmas parade in California started in 1928.  It was one of the smallest parades ever.  There was only one actress and Santa Claus with his live reindeer.  This Christmas parade was named "The Santa Claus Lane Parade", and it kept that name for many years.

Early years when it was Santa Claus Lane Parade

   The Santa Claus Lane Parade was and is a located in Hollywood, California.  The parade went down Hollywood Boulevard.  This street was decided on because the city wanted to attract families and shoppers to this area during the holiday season.  That idea worked out very well and is still the route for the Christmas parade today, which is 81 years later.
   During the 1930's, 40's, and 50's, the Santa Claus Lane Parade really grew.  There started to be a number of Hollywood movie stars that were part of the Christmas parade and helped support it.  Some of the early stars to be in the parade were Bette Davis, Gene Autry, Mary Pickford, and Angie Dickinson, just to name a few.
   By the 1960's and into the late 70's, the Christmas parade was getting quite large.  There were more and more movie stars and athletes riding in the parade.  There were more floats, bands and clowns than ever before.  There was even a variety of animals that graced the parade route.

Larry King and Newest wife


   In the late 1970's, it was decided that there needed to be increased excitement surrounding the parade and the glamour of Hollywood needed to be brought to everyone.  This was done in three ways.  First, the name of the parade was changed from the Santa Claus Lane Parade to "The Hollywood Christmas Parade".  The second this to happen was the broadcasting of the parade on station KTLA, so that people could watch it from home.  The third thing was the parade route was lengthened to include Sunset Boulevard.  These were all great decisions as they are still working today.
   Today, "The Hollywood Christmas Parade" is star studded.  There are more movie stars, athletes, and entertainers then ever before.  There are equestrians, lots of bands that come from all over, numerous floats and of course Santa Claus, to finish up the parade and start the Christmas season.

Santa and friend


   The Hollywood Christmas Parade, even though it's fun to watch and is very magical and glamorous, it still has educated the public about Hollywood and the interaction Hollywood has with the people of the United States.
   Here is something to remember.  Gene Autry wrote the famous song that was named after the Santa Claus Lane Parade.  So, every time you hear the song "Here Comes Santa Claus", you will know it's about The Hollywood Christmas Parade and the children wating to see Santa Claus.


     In Japan, the most practiced religions are Buddhism and Shinto.  Because of this, Christmas is a more commercial event, much like Valentine's Day or Mother's Day in the United States.  Furthermore, the main celebration revolves around Christmas Eve and not the day that is honored in the West as the day of Christ's birth.
   Though Christmas is not generally celebrated in honor of the birth of Christ, Japanese families enjoy the same focus on the importance and joy of generosity and giving.  Gift giving on Christmas is common.  In families, children believe that only Santa Kuroshu (Santa Claus)gives gifts on Christmas, so children do not give gifts to their parents.  It is believed that Santa has eyes in the back of his head so he can always see what the children are doing.  Children who do not believe in Santa don't receive gifts.

    Christmas trees and lights on homes are becoming more and more common in Japan.  Trees are often decorated with paper lanterns, origami, tinsel, and other ornaments.  Community decorations are becoming more prevalent in places like dance halls and arcades.  Stores are decorated and they sell Christmas items weeks before Christmas in Japan, much like stores in America and other Christian majority countries.  Some families even display manger scenes to tell the Christmas story, though it is thought of more along the lines of the story of Santa.
   Japanese families often enjoy a Christmas Cake on Christmas Eve.  The Christmas Cake is usually a sponge cake covered with strawberries and whipped cream.  Stores try to sell their cakes before Christmas morning, as they don't sell as well after Christmas.  Because of this, the Japanese sometimes sarcastically refer to women over the age of thirty as an "unsold Christmas Cakes".  As for other traditional food fare, turkey is difficult to find in Japan.  Most families try to celebrate with a chicken dinner, preferably the wildy popular Kentucky Fried Chicken.

Japanese Christmas cake

     Much like Valentine's Day in America, it is important for many women to have someone special with which to spend Christmas with.  Christmas Eve night is romanticized as a night of special time and gifts between two people who love each other.  It is considered sad to not have someone special with which to spend this "night for romance" with.
   Though the Christian faith only represents about 1% of the Japanese population, this originally a Christian holiday,  has become very popular and meaningful in Japan.  Over 75% of those polled report that Christmas holds special meaning for them.