Monday, September 28, 2015

A Watch to Hear

August 9
In 1865, Charles Reuge, watchmaker from the Val-de-Travers, settled in Sainte-Croix and began making pocket watches with musical movements. Today, Reuge has a reputation for manufacturing the most luxurious seasonal and non-seasonal music boxes around the world. But all was not sweet. The invention of the phonograph record in the early 20th century nearly wiped out the music box industry completely. Reuge survived, largely due to their quality sound and accurate movements -- and they still make musical pocket watches.

That Old Chestnut...

August 8
"The Christmas Song" is a classic Christmas song, written in 1944 by vocalist Mel Tormé and Bob Wells. According to Tormé , the song was written during a blistering hot summer. In an effort to "stay cool by thinking cool," the most-performed Christmas song was born. "I saw a spiral pad on his piano with four lines written in pencil," Tormé recalled. "They started, `Chestnuts roasting... Jack Frost nipping... Yuletide carols... Folks dressed up like Eskimos.' Bob didn't think he was writing a song lyric. He said he thought if he could immerse himself in winter he could cool off. Forty minutes later that song was written. I wrote all the music and some of the lyrics."

Snowball Cocktail

August 7
Need to cool off? How to make a Snowball drink: You will need 1 fl. oz. (25 ml) advocaat, 5 fl. oz. (125 ml) lemonade, chilled ice cubes as required, 1 slice(s) of lemon.
  • In a highball glass (8 oz), add ice cubes and pour the advocaat.
  • Pour the chilled lemonade to fill the glass(es).
  • Serve garnished with slice(s) of lemon.

Elves Precisely

August 6
Elves, in Norse folklore, are just one of a class of preternatural beings who are known for their magical powers and immortality. In some lore, they tend to be a playful, childlike group of beings, and so associating them with Santa Claus as the gift giver's helpers seems like a natural vocation. When Keebler was looking for a mascot that implied their cookies were fun products, elves were also called into service.

Christmas in Scotland

August 5
Though Scotland has few deeply established Christmas traditions, they do have many superstitions about the end of the year. Divination was once widespread during the holiday season with rituals centered around the family hearth. The luck to be found in the New Year is divined by reading the signs in the ashes after a Christmas Day fire. A foot shape facing the door foretells a death in the family, and a foot facing the room means a new arrival. Another custom is to carve an old woman from a piece of wood. She is named Cailleach, the Spirit of Winter. She is burned in a ritual symbolizing the end of bad luck and a fresh start for the New Year.

Herod the Great

August 4
In 74 BC, Herod the Great was born the son of Antipater the Idumaean, a high-ranking official in the Nabataeans. His family's influence was great, and at the age of 25, Herod found himself appointed governor of Galilee. It was a volatile time for the region, but eventually the Roman Senate elected Herod the King of the Jews. Herod took the title of Basileus when Rome defeated Antigonus in Judea in 37 BC, and the Herodian Dynasty began. Herod himself ruled for 34 years. On his death, his kingdom was divided among three surviving sons: Herod Archelaus, Herod Phillip II, and Herod Antipas, who figured significantly in the final hours of Jesus’ life.
Herod the Great, who sought the death of the child sought by the Magi, is known for his cruelty and paranoia. But he was also a builder, and his most ambitious project was the rebuilding of the second temple in Jerusalem. "Herod's Temple" was mostly destroyed in 70 AD. Today the Wailing Wall of Jerusalem is the last remaining wall of the structure.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Pudding Racer's Have All the Fun

August 3

The Great Christmas Pudding Race has been a London annual event since 1980. Teams of contestants wearing fancy dress have to run around Covent Garden plaza while trying to balance a Christmas pudding on a plate. Obstacles such as balloons full of flour and water hazards complicate the task. The Pudding Race benefits cancer research organizations.