This Christmas marks the 200th anniversary of “Silent Night.” First performed in a village church in Austria, “Silent Night” quickly became one of the most popular Christmas hymns in Europe and today is sung all over the world in countless different languages. In 2011, the carol was granted “intangible cultural heritage” status by UNESCO because of its prominence in world culture.
Known in German as “Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht” (“Silent Night, Holy Night”), the lyrics were composed by the Austrian priest Joseph Mohr and set to music by the church organist, Franz Xaver Gruber, for the Christmas Eve service in Arnsdorf in December 1818. Mohr and Gruber performed the carol themselves with only a guitar as accompaniment. The hymn was an instant success with the congregation and soon spread to other towns and countries.
One of the most moving examples of the carol’s place in our shared culture comes from an extraordinary event that occurred during World War I. In December 1914, Germany and the Allied forces declared a Christmas truce and ordered troops to cease all hostilities. According to contemporary accounts, on Christmas Eve one German soldier — Walter Kirchoff, once a tenor in the Berlin opera — stepped forward and began to sing “Silent Night,” first in German and then in English.
Recognizing the hymn, British soldiers joined in, and both sides began singing Christmas carols in their own languages. On Christmas Day, soldiers climbed out of the trenches to wish their enemies a merry Christmas and played games and exchanged gifts until the truce ended. For a brief time after the singing of “Silent Night” that Christmas, “heavenly peace” reigned over the battlefield.
How to tackle YOUR student loan debt
For more than 15 years, the government has recognized April as National Financial Literacy Month in an effort to teach Americans how to reduce debt and make better financial decisions.
Unfortunately, one of the highest sources of consumer debt in the United States is student loans. Totaling nearly $1.6 trillion, this debt burden doesn’t just affect young adults. More than three million Americans over the age of 60 are still paying off their student loans.
If you’re one of the nearly 45 million Americans struggling to pay off their student loans, here are some ways to reduce your debt.
• Understand your repayment options. There are eight federal plans with varying time frames and monthly payment sizes. You can change your plan at any time to better suit your evolving financial situation.
• Ask for forgiveness. Nurses, government employees, military personnel and teachers in low-income schools might be eligible for a loan forgiveness program. The government will also forgive your remaining debt after 20 or 25 years if you’re enrolled in an income-driven repayment plan.
• Consider consolidation. You may be able to save money by combining your existing student loans into a single loan and negotiating a new interest rate and loan term based on your current credit score and income.
Keep in mind, a proactive approach to paying off your student loans will put you in a better financial situation to reduce credit card debt and save for retirement. To pay off your student loan quicker, consider tightening your budget, using windfalls to make additional payments and if you can manage it, getting a second job.
Last year, the Financial Literacy and Education Commission urged higher education institutions to provide mandatory financial literacy courses, in part because studies show many borrowers don’t fully understand the repayment obligations when they obtain a student loan.
4 ways jobseekers can stay motivated
It’s easy to get discouraged during a job search, especially if you’ve gone weeks without hearing back from potential employers. Here are four things you can do to stay motivated.
1. Make a schedule
Establishing a routine will ensure you remain productive. Every morning, get up, get dressed and have breakfast around the same time you would if you were working. Set aside time each day for the job hunt and for household tasks. Don’t forget to give yourself a lunch break.
2. Set goals
Setting measurable goals will help you stay on track. For example, make it a point to apply for two jobs every day, or try to make one new contact in your industry every week.
3. Use rewards
Don’t wait until you’ve landed a job to applaud your efforts. Instead, be sure to celebrate minor achievements like being contacted for an interview with a small reward like a latte from a coffee shop you like or a hot bubble bath at the end of the day.
4. Find a coach
Appoint a friend or family member as your job search coach. They’ll make sure you meet your daily goals and give you a little push when you need it.
Finally, don’t forget to get outside help. Reach out to an employment agency or organization in your area to help you find leads for potential jobs.
7 movies (or TV shows) you should really read
Everyone has seen the Wizard of Oz. Can there be anything more lovely than Oz and all its characters?
Yes! The book by L. Frank Baum. You’ll find out about The Nome King, Pyrzqxgll, and the magic flower pot. Although written for children, it is a fun book to read with (or without) a kid.
So many other movies you have surely seen make delightful reading for children and young adults.
And for adults, too. These are books to read for a break. Easy and fun, they offer a quick trip out of the digital, workaday world.
Here are a few:
* The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. The movie was great but you’ll come back again and again to the lovely book.
* Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie. Happiness guru Gretchen Rubin says if you have only seen the movie you have never known Pan, a haunting, mind-blowing book for kids.
* Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. Tons of movies made for this book. But it is a classic of modern literature.
* Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. Amazing journey.
* Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder. The TV show was wonderful, but this is a masterpiece.
* Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers. If you love Mary, read the book to find out how much more interesting she really is.
* Anne of Green Gables. Television does a good job with Anne, but read the books to really understand her.
4 easy ways to revitalize your home for spring
Spring is the perfect time to refresh your home. Here are some easy ways to perk up any room in your house.
1. Add a bright rug. A cheerful print will infuse new life into the surrounding space. Just be sure that it’s large enough for all the furniture in the area to rest on it.
2. Change your linens. Curtains, bedding and towels can make a big difference in the look of a room. Swap out what you have now for bright prints and cheery colors.
3. Get some greenery. Plants are the perfect design accent. If you don’t have a green thumb, mimic the look with artificial flowers or plants.
4. Refresh your walls. A fresh coat of paint can work wonders. Whether you choose a fun new color or stick to neutrals, your home will feel brand new.
Updating your home doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. If you’re on a budget, try simply rearranging your furniture or moving some of your decor around. The space will feel new and it won’t cost you a thing.
March can be a busy time for the determined gardener
Weather in March is so unpredictable. It may say Spring on the calendar, but the weather rarely cooperates completely.
In Zones 8 and higher, the average dates of the last killing frost occur throughout March. Zone 7 gardeners must beware of frost throughout April.
Make the repairs to fences and arbors now so they will be ready when the weather settles down. Clean out bird houses, if you dare. Watch out for wintering mice.
March is the perfect time for starting summer blooming seedlings indoors. By now, seed packets are available everywhere. It usually takes about six weeks for seeds to become strong enough for plants to be set outside in pots or a garden.
Some vegetables can be planted right now in Zones 7-8, but start later in more northern climes.
Vegetable seeds may be started in prepared starter pots made of compressed peat and filled with a proper soil mixture.
It’s a good time to test the ph of your garden soil. You can add whatever you need as soon as the soil is dry; not wet and clumpy.
Some pruning this month
Roses, in particular, can be pruned and fed this month. Cut roses back sharply for more compact bushes and long, slender stems. Cut honeysuckle vines back to three feet. Prune the fruit trees before the buds appear.
Trees and shrubs
You can still fertilize trees and shrubs. Acid types go with azaleas, rhododendrons, evergreens, and conifers.
Talking to the animals might be possible
Your dog comes to you every night at 7 p.m., looks searchingly into your eyes, and gives a soft bark.
After years with you, the dog knows the drill: It’s dinner time. I’m hungry! Feed me now!
That’s animal/human communication at its most basic level. But what if the dog could say, “I hurt.”
Would you see the vet earlier?
A startup called Zoolingua is using Artificial Intelligence and Natural Language Processing technologies to help translate dog talk, and much more.
The company wants to enhance understanding of farm animals through language. If chicken sounds could be collected and interpreted, a farmer might know early on if his chickens were distressed. In fact, that’s happened. A machine model has proved capable of detecting emotional changes in birds with accuracy.
In Central Africa, a Silicon Valley company, Conservation Metrics, has collected 900,000 hours of recordings of elephant vocalizations, according to Synced Review. Researchers have been able to pick out all sorts of daily vocalizations, like simple greetings. Such learning may prove helpful in ending poaching or simply preserving habitat for species.
For our own pets, we may well understand patterns of volume, frequency, or tone. We know when they are telling us something and they probably aren’t quoting Shakespeare. Doubters for this kind of research say animal languages just aren’t that deep and human languages might not be the right way to translate them.