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The great chocolate egg rescue



The residents of Cocoaville were busy one morning preparing for the big Easter picnic. The whole town looked forward to this event, held yearly in a magnificent field of tulips. As was the tradition, each villager brought a dish to share.

Jen the Hen had just put the finishing touches on her succulent vegetable salad when she heard a knock on the door. Opening it, she saw her neighbor, Sonny the Bunny, holding a box of chocolate eggs and looking entirely despondent.

“What’s happening?” asked Jen with a worried voice.

“It’s my eggs,” he moaned, showing her his ruined chocolate eggs. “I left them by the window, and the sun melted them.”

“Oh, I see,” his friend replied. “But they’re not completely melted. I’m sure we can rescue them.”

“Do you really think so?” replied Sonny hopefully.

“Sure! Hurry home and get all your candies and come right back,” directed Jen, already rummaging through her cupboards.

A few minutes later, the rabbit returned with an assortment of sweets, including caramels, licorice, and all sorts of all sorts! Jen found jujubes, yogurt-coated raisins, and pralines in her own kitchen.

The two neighbors set out immediately, decorating the chocolate eggs. Their minds turned to the villagers.

“Look!” exclaimed Jen. “With all these colorful bits, this egg looks like Brock the Peacock!”

“And with the yogurt-covered raisins, this one will look like Sam the Lamb!”

After they’d given each egg a personal touch, they put them carefully into a cooler. Proud of their work, the hen and rabbit made their way to the tulip field, where they made a grand entrance. The locals were so impressed with Sonny’s unique chocolate eggs that they offered heartfelt congratulations.

“All the credit goes to my charming neighbor,” he replied, gesturing to Jen. “Her brilliant idea made my eggs turn out so beautifully.”

Ever since that day, Cocoaville has had a new tradition. A friendly chocolate egg competition takes place each year during the Easter picnic.


By Sarah Beauregard and Johannie Dufour
Translated by Lynette Adams

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Joyful Gatherings: Effortless Ways to Host a Memorable Family Christmas



Embracing Simplicity and Togetherness During the Festive Season.

As the festive season approaches, the excitement of hosting family Christmas dinners fills the air. Grandparents and elders in families often find themselves at the heart of these celebrations, juggling the roles of chefs, decorators, and hosts. However, the joy of hosting can sometimes be overshadowed by the exhaustive preparations and the quest for perfection. This year, we bring you a guide to hosting a delightful Christmas gathering that focuses on joy and togetherness without the usual fatigue.

Plan Ahead: Early preparation is the key to a stress-free Christmas Eve. Starting several weeks in advance allows for a well-thought-out approach to the festivities. This planning phase is not just about ticking off to-do lists; it’s also about sparing moments for personal enjoyment. Whether catching a holiday show or strolling through town to admire the festive lights, integrating leisure into your schedule can enhance your holiday spirit.

Enlist Support: Hosting a Christmas dinner doesn’t have to be a solo mission. Delegating tasks such as house cleaning, rearranging furniture, decorating, or even selecting wines can significantly lighten the load. Friends and family are often more than willing to lend a hand. For those who prefer, professional services can step in to take care of the details.

Embrace Imperfection: Perfection is often the enemy of enjoyment. This season, let go of the pressure to have everything just right. Your family will cherish the time spent together far more than they notice a flawlessly laid-out table. The laughter, stories, and shared moments leave a lasting impression.

Simplify the Feast: The traditional multi-course meal, lovingly prepared over days, is a hallmark of Christmas dinners. However, this year, consider simplifying your menu. Prepared meals from grocery stores or caterers offer delicious options with minimal effort. Alternatively, a potluck arrangement not only eases the cooking burden but also brings a variety of flavors to your table. If cooking is your passion, focus on one or two special dishes you enjoy making.

This Christmas, the focus is on creating warm, memorable experiences with loved ones without the accompanying stress. By planning ahead, seeking help, embracing imperfection, and simplifying the menu, you can transform the festive season into a period of relaxation and joy. Remember, the essence of Christmas is not found in the grandeur of the celebration but in the warmth and love shared among family and friends. Here’s to a merry, carefree Christmas filled with laughter, love, and cherished memories.

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Branching out: The Evolution of Artificial Christmas Trees



Unveiling the fascinating history of the holiday centerpiece.

Peek in the average American’s home during the holidays, and you’re likely to find an artificial Christmas tree. The American Christmas Tree Association reports that 75 percent of Americans display a Christmas tree during the festive season, with roughly 84 percent of them opting for the artificial variety. But have you ever wondered where and when the artificial Christmas tree first laid its roots? Artificial or not, these trees have grown through the years, evolving from humble beginnings to cherished holiday season symbols.

A Feathered Start
The origins of artificial Christmas trees can be traced back to late 19th-century Germany. At that time, the nation was grappling with extensive deforestation, prompting the need for a more sustainable and eco-friendly alternative to traditional trees. The solution came in the form of early artificial trees made from goose feathers, meticulously dyed green to emulate the appearance of natural branches. These feathered creations may not have offered the lushness of real trees, but they quickly gained popularity as a practical and green alternative.

From Toilet Brushes to Tannenbaums
In the early 1900s, an unexpected player entered the artificial tree game – the Addis Brush Company. Initially known for producing toilet brushes, they had a brilliant idea to repurpose their expertise. The brush company began taking their artificial toilet brushes, giving them a vibrant green dye job, and ingeniously fashioning them into artificial Christmas trees. While unconventional, these early attempts at crafting Christmas trees from brush bristles and similar materials remained in vogue through much of the early 20th century, offering a unique take on the holiday tradition.

The Aluminum Era
The 1950s ushered in a new era for artificial Christmas trees with the introduction of aluminum trees. These futuristic-looking trees ditched the traditional green for silvery leaves, reflecting the spirit of the burgeoning space race. However, despite their contemporary appeal, aluminum trees faced a surprising adversary in the form of Charlie Brown, the beloved protagonist of the famous Peanuts comic strip.

In 1965’s “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” Charlie took issue with the over-commercialization of the holiday season, and one of his main targets was the aluminum Christmas tree. In a heartwarming turn of events, Charlie chose a modest, puny green tree over the sleek aluminum alternative, delivering a powerful message to millions of Americans. This poignant moment in pop culture led to a widespread rejection of aluminum trees as people sought to preserve the authenticity and sentimentality of the holiday season.

The PVC Revolution
Artificial trees would make a triumphant comeback in the 1980s with the advent of PVC plastic trees designed to emulate the look of natural evergreens. These lifelike creations quickly gained popularity and became the centerpiece of countless American homes during the holidays. Since then, artificial trees made from PVC plastic have dominated the market, offering an appealing blend of convenience and realism that continues to win over consumers year after year.

The history of the artificial Christmas tree is a captivating journey through time, from the humble beginnings of goose feather creations to today’s sleek and eco-friendly PVC trees. As we adorn our homes with these symbolic holiday staples, we can appreciate the innovation and evolution that have shaped the beloved tradition of the artificial Christmas tree.

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Festive Shopping Spree: Embrace Local Gems This Holiday Season



A Guide to Discovering Local Delights for Food, Drinks, Gifts, and Fashion.

As the holiday season approaches, a wave of excitement fills the air, bringing with it the promise of joyful gatherings and festive celebrations. This year, why not add a sprinkle of uniqueness and community spirit to your holiday shopping? Embracing the local scene for your festive purchases not only guarantees quality and variety but also nurtures the community you call home.

Local Flavors Come Alive: Your neighborhood is a treasure trove of culinary delights waiting to be explored. Local caterers, grocers, and specialty shops like pastry and cheese stores are brimming with mouth-watering treats perfect for any holiday celebration. Imagine the rich aromas of freshly baked goods from the bakery down the street or the savory selections at your nearby butcher. Chocolate shops and farmers’ markets offer a plethora of options for those looking for something sweet and fresh. These local establishments provide a personal touch to your holiday meals, ensuring that each dish is as memorable as the occasion.

Cheers to Local Beverages: Local producers have transformed the beverage landscape, offering an exciting array of options for every palate. From the rich bouquets of neighborhood wineries to the unique blends of local breweries, there’s something to delight everyone. Artisanal spirits, ciders, cocktail syrups, and even non-alcoholic options like soft drinks and fruit juices are readily available. Supporting these local producers means you’re not just enjoying a drink; you’re experiencing a piece of your community.

Gifts with a Personal Touch: In the search for the perfect holiday gift, local businesses offer a world of options. Christmas markets and gift shops are filled with unique finds, from handcrafted toys to luxurious body care products. These items aren’t just gifts; they’re stories from your community, waiting to be shared and cherished. Shopping locally also means less stress, as you can easily avoid the last-minute rush and enjoy a more relaxed holiday experience.

Fashion Forward with Local Designers: This holiday season, make a statement with fashion that tells a story. Local designers and boutiques showcase a range of styles, from elegant to eclectic. By choosing clothes and accessories crafted locally, you’re not just dressing up for an event; you’re wearing a piece of art and supporting the dreams of local artisans. These fashion finds are not just clothing; they’re a celebration of local talent and creativity.

The act of buying local transcends mere shopping; it’s a commitment to the prosperity and growth of your community. This holiday season, as you weave through local shops and markets, remember that each purchase is a step towards sustaining the vibrant tapestry of your neighborhood. Happy shopping and joyous holidays to all!

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The Evolution of Thanksgiving: From Colonial Tradition to Federal Holiday



Tracing the Roots of an American Tradition.

Thanksgiving, a day ingrained in American culture and history, has evolved significantly since its inception. Its journey from a religious observance to a federally recognized holiday reflects the nation’s growth and changing values.

Early Celebrations and Presidential Proclamations

The history of Thanksgiving in America dates back to the early English colonists. In 1619, at the Berkeley Hundred plantation in Virginia, a day of thanksgiving to Almighty God was ordained. However, the popular narrative often credits the Pilgrims of Plymouth, Massachusetts, in 1621 with the tradition of feasting and giving thanks for a bountiful harvest.

By the honourable Gurdon Saltonstall, Esq; Governour of His Majesty’s Colony of Connecticut in New-England, a proclamation for a publick thanksgiving… New-London: Printed by Timothy Green, printer to his honour the governour and company, 1721. Printed Ephemera: Three Centuries of Broadsides and Other Printed Ephemera. Rare Book & Special Collections Division

In his first presidential proclamation, George Washington designated November 26, 1789, as a Day of National Thanksgiving, urging Americans to acknowledge God’s providence and blessings. Similarly, during challenging times like the closure of Boston Harbor and the Massachusetts Fast Day in 1774, days of thanksgiving and fasting were declared to commemorate both fortune and adversity.

The Push for a National Holiday

In the mid-19th century, Sarah Josepha Hale, a prominent writer and editor, championed the cause of a national Thanksgiving day. Her persistent advocacy, including a direct appeal to President Lincoln, eventually led to Lincoln’s 1863 Thanksgiving Proclamation following the Union victory at Gettysburg. This proclamation and a subsequent one in 1864 set the precedent for an annual fall Thanksgiving celebration.

Legislation and Tradition

The tradition was further cemented when Franklin D. Roosevelt, for economic reasons, chose the third Thursday of November for Thanksgiving from 1939 to 1941. However, in 1941, Congress passed legislation, signed by Roosevelt, establishing Thanksgiving Day on the fourth Thursday of November and declaring it a Federal Holiday.

Thanksgiving has transcended its origins to become a symbol of American culture and unity. From colonial observances to national holiday, it reflects the country’s journey through times of hardship and prosperity. Today serves as a day for Americans to gather, reflect, and express gratitude, continuing a tradition that has evolved over centuries.

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The Transformative Power of Gratitude on Health



Discover How a Grateful Mindset Enhances Well-being and Resilience.

Gratitude, often encapsulated in the simple act of saying “Thank you,” goes beyond mere politeness. It’s a powerful mindset with profound effects on one’s mental and physical health. Thanksgiving, it’s the perfect time to explore how gratitude can improve our overall health.

The concept of gratitude transcends cultural and spiritual boundaries, recognized for its ability to uplift and heal. Here are six compelling health benefits that gratitude brings:

  1. Improved Mental Health: Gratitude actively combats depression, anxiety, and stress. Shifting focus from negative to positive aspects of life fosters a sense of optimism, enhances self-esteem, and builds resilience.
  2. Enhanced Emotional Well-being: A grateful attitude breeds contentment. It increases life satisfaction and bolsters relationships through the expression of appreciation, creating a more emotionally fulfilled life.
  3. Reduced Physical Pain: Studies indicate that individuals who consistently practice gratitude report experiencing fewer aches and pains. This is a testament to the mind-body connection and the power of a positive mindset in physical health.
  4. Better Sleep Quality: Gratitude, particularly when practiced before bedtime, can lead to improved sleep. It calms the mind, eases anxious thoughts, and contributes to a more restful night.
  5. Boosted Physical Health: A grateful mindset encourages healthier lifestyle choices. Regular exercise, balanced eating, and proactive healthcare contribute to lowered blood pressure, reduced inflammation, and a robust immune system.
  6. Increased Resilience: Gratitude is not just about feeling good in the moment. It’s a tool for navigating life’s challenges. It helps individuals find growth and meaning even in difficult circumstances, enhancing their ability to bounce back.

Embracing gratitude, especially during the season of Thanksgiving, can have transformative effects on your life. It’s not just about acknowledging the good; it’s about realizing how those positives impact your health and happiness. As we gather with our loved ones this holiday season, let’s remember that gratitude is more than a practice—it’s a pathway to a healthier, more fulfilled life.

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A Glimpse into the First Thanksgiving: A Festival of Abundance and Unity



Celebrating Survival and Prosperity in 1621.

In the aftermath of the challenging times of 1620, the Pilgrims emerged from the shadows of adversity, heralding a brighter chapter in their New World journey. The harvest festival of 1621 wasn’t merely a feast—it was a symbol of perseverance, unity, and gratitude. Today, as we gather around bountiful tables, it’s essential to reflect on the roots of the Thanksgiving tradition and its enduring message.

A Harvest Worth Celebrating

The Pilgrims, who had endured numerous hardships in their pursuit of a better life, had finally experienced a successful harvest season. Edward Winslow, a prominent figure of the Plymouth Colony, penned an evocative account of this celebration to friends across the Atlantic. Through his words, we can paint a vivid picture of joy and camaraderie.

Winslow wrote, “Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a special manner rejoice together after we had gathered the fruit of our labors.” These men, displaying a blend of skill and luck, returned with an impressive bounty of fowl—enough to sustain the colony for almost a week.

However, the feast wasn’t just about the Pilgrims. It was an emblem of unity and friendship. Many Native Americans, led by their esteemed leader, King Massasoit, joined the festivities. Winslow fondly recounted, “many of the Indians coming amongst us, and among them rest their greatest King Massasoit, with some ninety men.” These guests not only participated in the merriment but also generously contributed to it. They hunted and brought back five deer, gifts for the colony’s leaders.

Bridging Two Worlds

This 1621 festival was more than a mere celebration of a successful harvest. It was an affirmation of the friendship and mutual respect between the Pilgrims and their Native American neighbors. They shared food, tales, skills, and laughter, bringing together two vastly different worlds in a harmonious gathering.

Winslow’s letter serves as a touching testament to this. He remarked, “And although it is not always so plentiful as it was this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want that we often wish you partakers of our plenty.” Such words underscore the deep sense of gratitude the Pilgrims felt, not just for the food but for the community they had found.

A Timeless Message of Gratitude and Unity

The legacy of the first Thanksgiving is not just in the feast but in its spirit. As we reminisce about the Pilgrims’ gratitude for their bountiful harvest and the hand of friendship extended by the Native Americans, it’s a timely reminder. In the midst of our modern luxuries, we should cherish the blessings we have and the friendships that enrich our lives.

In the words of Edward Winslow, it’s about wishing others to partake in our joy and plenty, recognizing that true abundance lies not just in material wealth but in shared moments and unity.

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Upcoming Events

all-day Hoopin on the Hill @ Randolph-Macon Academy
Hoopin on the Hill @ Randolph-Macon Academy
Dec 1 all-day
Hoopin on the Hill @ Randolph-Macon Academy
HOOPIN ON THE HILL Basketball Tournament at Randolph-Macon Academy This weekend, Friday (Dec 1) and Saturday (Dec 2!), come out and cheer some excellent athletes on!!! Call Jennifer Avery at 540-683-0790 with questions. We would[...]
all-day Hoopin on the Hill @ Randolph-Macon Academy
Hoopin on the Hill @ Randolph-Macon Academy
Dec 2 all-day
Hoopin on the Hill @ Randolph-Macon Academy
HOOPIN ON THE HILL Basketball Tournament at Randolph-Macon Academy This weekend, Friday (Dec 1) and Saturday (Dec 2!), come out and cheer some excellent athletes on!!! Call Jennifer Avery at 540-683-0790 with questions. We would[...]
10:00 am A Tree-mendous Hike @ Sky Meadows State Park
A Tree-mendous Hike @ Sky Meadows State Park
Dec 2 @ 10:00 am – 11:00 am
A Tree-mendous Hike @ Sky Meadows State Park
Sensory Explorers’ Trail. Explore the rich natural history of trees guided by a Virginia Master Naturalist. Discover the tips and tricks of basic tree identification and the tree-mendous roles that trees play in our environment.[...]
10:00 am Kris Kringle Market @ Trinity Lutheran Church
Kris Kringle Market @ Trinity Lutheran Church
Dec 2 @ 10:00 am – 7:00 pm
Kris Kringle Market @ Trinity Lutheran Church
The Trinity Lutheran Church Kringle Market will take place on Saturday, December 2, 2023 from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.  The Kringle Market is centrally located in the Newtown–Stephensburg Historic District in the Trinity Lutheran[...]
10:00 am SPCA Thrift Shop Grand Reopening @ WASPCA Thrift Shop
SPCA Thrift Shop Grand Reopening @ WASPCA Thrift Shop
Dec 2 @ 10:00 am – 2:00 pm
SPCA Thrift Shop Grand Reopening @ WASPCA Thrift Shop
After months of renovations and hard work, the Winchester Area SPCA is thrilled to welcome you back to its thrift store, where every purchase supports the mission of caring for and finding loving homes for[...]
1:00 pm Front Royal Bluegrass Music Jam @ The Body Shop
Front Royal Bluegrass Music Jam @ The Body Shop
Dec 2 @ 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm
Front Royal Bluegrass Music Jam @ The Body Shop
New Bluegrass and traditional music jam the first Saturday of each month starting Feb. 4th, from 1pm till 4pm. All levels of playing invited to attend.
3:00 pm Valley Chorale “Once Upon a Chri... @ Calvary Episcopal Church
Valley Chorale “Once Upon a Chri... @ Calvary Episcopal Church
Dec 3 @ 3:00 pm – 5:00 pm
Valley Chorale "Once Upon a Christmas" Concert @ Calvary Episcopal Church
Join The Valley Chorale for a family-friendly concert featuring favorite carols, hymns and songs of the Christmas season!
5:30 pm Free Holiday Meal @ Trinity Lutheran Church
Free Holiday Meal @ Trinity Lutheran Church
Dec 6 @ 5:30 pm – 7:00 pm
Free Holiday Meal @ Trinity Lutheran Church
If one has read the Surgeon General’s 2023 report on America’s epidemic of loneliness and crisis of disconnection, one can then understand the significance that a Holiday Meal can have on the community at large. [...]