The children at the North Pole Animal Day Care are napping under the watchful eye of their teacher, Rudolpha the reindeer. Resting on their soft mats, Mistral the penguin, Storm the fox, Bianca the rabbit and Snowflake the polar bear look like perfect angels.
Only Frost the snowy owl isn’t napping peacefully. He flaps his wings, twitches his feet and shakes his head from left to right. Suddenly, he opens his eyes and yells, “HELP! HELP ME PLEASE! NOOOO!”
The other children all wake with a start. Calmly, Rudolpha approaches the young owl. “Everything’s okay, Frost. It’s Rudolpha, you’re at day care and you’re safe here.”
Trembling and breathing hard, the little owl huddles closer to his teacher while the other children watch him curiously. Slowly, Frost calms down. “I had a terrible nightmare. I was so scared,” he says.
“Tell us what happened,” says Mistral.
“Yeah, we want to know what scared you so much,” agrees Storm.
“Do you feel like sharing, Frost?” asks Rudolpha gently.
“Okay,” he agrees, “but I’m warning you all, it’s really scary.
“I was all alone on the tundra when I heard something that sounded like a lion’s roar. I knew that lions don’t usually live in the North Pole but then I saw a huge set of pawprints in the snow. At first, I thought they were bear prints, but they didn’t look anything like Snowflake’s paws. What were they?
“I found out a second later. Suddenly, there was a huge monster next to me. It looked like a big cat with two gigantic fangs coming out of its mouth. I think it was hungry because it was drooling as it looked at me.
“I tried and I tried to fly away, but my feet were stuck to the ground and I couldn’t move. That’s when I yelled and woke everyone up.”
“It sounds like you were dreaming about a saber-toothed tiger,” says Rudolpha.
“What’s that?” asks Frost.
“It’s a huge prehistoric cat that, luckily for us, disappeared thousands of years ago.”
“Really? Well, the next time I dream about one, I’ll say, ‘I’m not afraid of you, big kitty, because you don’t even exist!’” says Frost, puffing out his feathered chest.
After the emotional episode, the children and Rudolpha put away their mats and carry on with their day. That afternoon, they decorate Christmas cupcakes for snack time.
Written by Johannie Dufour and Sarah Beauregard
Translated by Cyan Caruso-Comas
“White Christmas” and the Man Behind the Melody: Irving Berlin’s Enduring Legacy
The tale of a timeless classic and the extraordinary life of songwriter Irving Berlin.
A Timeless Tune
As the holiday season approaches, the familiar strains of “White Christmas” waft through the airwaves, evoking feelings of nostalgia and warmth. With its timeless melody and heartfelt lyrics, this classic song has become synonymous with the magic of Christmas. But do you know the story behind this beloved holiday anthem?
Legend has it that Irving Berlin, the prolific songwriter responsible for “White Christmas,” once remarked to Bing Crosby, “You don’t have to worry about this one.” Indeed, Berlin may have had a premonition of the enduring legacy this song would achieve.
Berlin’s faith in his creation was well-founded. “White Christmas” made its debut in 1942 as part of the movie “Holiday Inn.” Crosby’s rendition, featured in the film, quickly ascended to the pinnacle of the music charts. It wasn’t just a hit; it was a phenomenon. The song went on to become one of the best-selling records of all time, topping the charts a remarkable twelve times and eventually selling a staggering 50 million physical copies.
From Humble Beginnings to Musical Maestro
Irving Berlin’s journey to becoming a musical maestro was marked by resilience and determination. Born as Israel Beilin in Tsarist Russia, he arrived in the United States with his family at the tender age of five in 1893. The Beilin family, like thousands of other Russian Jewish families, had fled their homeland to escape brutal pogroms and the virulent anti-Jewish policies of Tsar Alexander III.
Tragedy struck when Berlin’s father passed away just eight years after their arrival, leaving the family in dire straits. Berlin, a mere eight-year-old with only two years of schooling, took to the streets to sell newspapers and contribute his meager earnings to his struggling mother. At fourteen, he ventured out on his own, making a living by singing in honky-tonks and gradually transitioning into songwriting. His first major hit, “Alexander’s Ragtime Band,” marked the beginning of a legendary career.
Despite his humble beginnings, Berlin developed a profound love for America and an unshakable sense of patriotism. His composition “God Bless America” stands as a testament to his deep affection for his adopted homeland, earning its place as a classic song performed in his honor upon his passing in 1989. Walter Cronkite, the legendary broadcaster, once eloquently stated that Berlin played a vital role in “writing the story of this country, capturing the best of who we are.”
A Blend of Traditions and a Lifelong Love
Irving Berlin’s personal life was equally fascinating. While he was of Jewish heritage, Berlin celebrated many traditional Christmases with his wife, Ellin, who was Catholic—a fact that intrigued America at the time. Their union wasn’t without its challenges; when they eloped in 1926, Ellin’s father promptly disowned her.
Christmas Day in 1928 brought both joy and sorrow to the Berlin household. It was the day their only son, Irving Jr., passed away at less than a month old. Despite this heart-wrenching loss, the Berlins eventually reconciled with Ellin’s father, and their love story continued to flourish. The couple went on to have three other children, enjoying a lifetime filled with success and an enduring love affair.
As the strains of “White Christmas” once again fill the air, let us remember the extraordinary life of Irving Berlin, a man whose enduring melodies continue to enchant generations and whose story is a testament to the American dream. In the words of his timeless song, “May your days be merry and bright, and may all your Christmases be white.”
Crafting Love: 15 Handmade Gift Ideas for a Thoughtful Christmas
Personalize Your Holiday Giving with Creative, Handcrafted Presents.
As the festive season approaches, the quest for the perfect Christmas gifts begins. In an era where online shopping reigns supreme, handmade gifts offer a deeply personal touch. Creating a gift with your hands is an expression of creativity and a testament to the love and thought you put into each present.
Here are 15 heartwarming and creative handmade gift ideas that cater to a range of skills, from crafting to cooking, ensuring there’s something special for everyone on your list:
- Knitted Accessories: Craft cozy knitted items like throws, scarves, or slippers – perfect for keeping your loved ones warm during the winter.
- Homemade Alcohol: Brew your own gin, beer, or wine, adding a personal touch to a classic gift.
- Handcrafted Jewelry: Design unique bracelets, rings, or necklaces, making a fashionable and memorable present.
- Bath Bombs: Create soothing bath bombs for a relaxing spa experience at home.
- Scented Candles: Make candles with delightful fragrances to add a cozy ambiance to any room.
- Decorative Picture Frames: Craft personalized picture frames to preserve cherished memories.
- Jams and Spreads: Prepare homemade jams or spreads, perfect for foodies.
- Christmas Decorations: Create festive decorations like wreaths or baubles to add holiday cheer.
- Tasty Marinades: Mix up flavorful marinades – a great gift for grilling enthusiasts.
- Custom Spice Mixes: Blend your own spice mixes tailored to your recipient’s taste preferences.
- Clay Pots: Fashion clay pots for plant lovers to showcase their greenery.
- Potpourri: Blend a fragrant potpourri as a delightful sensory gift.
- Fancy Soaps: Make artisanal soaps with unique scents and ingredients.
- Homemade Body Care Products: Create creams or exfoliants for a luxury skincare touch.
- Cork Drink Coasters: Craft stylish drink coasters from Cork for a practical and chic gift.
Handmade gifts are not just items; they are a showcase of time, effort, and personal attention. This Christmas, embrace the joy of making and giving something unique. These gifts will bring smiles to your loved ones’ faces and support local shops where you can buy all the necessary materials. Get creative, spread joy, and make this holiday season one to remember with your heartfelt creations.
Malls May Be Dying, but Santa Still Thrives: A Journey Through Time and Tradition
Where will the kids see Santa in an era of declining malls? The evolution of Santa Claus and the future of this cherished holiday tradition.
The Dawn of a Jolly Tradition
In the bygone era of yesteryears, children’s knowledge of Santa Claus was primarily gleaned from stories, newspapers, and cherished books. Santa, the mythical figure who embodied the spirit of giving, was a distant yet beloved character in the hearts of children worldwide. However, the dawn of a new tradition was on the horizon, and it was about to change how families experienced Christmas’s magic.
In 1891, a pivotal moment occurred in retail and holiday celebrations. James Edgar of Brockton, Massachusetts, donned the iconic red suit and bushy white beard, becoming the first Santa Claus to grace a department store. This momentous event marked a sea change in the world of retail, as children from near and far began arriving by train to catch a glimpse of this legendary figure. While Macy’s in New York City also lays claim to hosting the first Santa, it was James Edgar’s portrayal that set the archetype of Santa as a jolly, rotund grandfather figure, as reported by New England.com.
From Downtown Stores to Mall Santas
As the 20th century progressed, the landscape of Santa sightings underwent a transformation of its own. By the late 1990s, Santa had largely bid adieu to the freestanding downtown department stores, which had begun to decline in popularity. Instead, he found a new home in the heart of America’s booming malls. It was a symbiotic relationship; malls provided a hub for holiday shoppers, and Santa brought in the families, creating cherished memories captured in photographs.
Yet, as we step into the year 2023, a pall of uncertainty hangs over America’s shopping malls. With only 700 malls still in operation, a sharp decline from the apex of mall culture in the 1980s when there were 2,500, according to Business Insider, the landscape is indeed changing. However, Santa Claus remains a stalwart presence, proving that the allure of the holiday season transcends the ebb and flow of retail trends.
A Profitable Tradition Endures
In the face of adversity, Santa continues to thrive, drawing entire families for professional photos amid glittering backdrops. Gone are the days of modest North Pole sets; today’s high-end shopping centers, like the Grove in Los Angeles, adorn towering 100-foot trees, while Paramus Park Mall in New Jersey boasts an extravagant 10-room Christmas village brimming with festive goods for sale.
Even smaller, ailing malls manage to summon the holiday spirit for a few precious weeks each year. Take the Military Circle Mall in Norfolk, Virginia, which was razed earlier this year. It managed to welcome crowds during the last weeks of 2022, infusing an otherwise dark and vacant space with the luminance and warmth of one last Christmas celebration.
The Uncertain Future of Santa
Yet, malls face a sketchy future, and the implications are far-reaching. Small towns may soon find themselves devoid of department stores or malls, leaving us to ponder the fate of Santa Claus. Will your UPS driver don a red suit and exclaim a hearty “ho ho ho” while delivering presents to your doorstep? Might you order up Santa delivery as casually as your favorite burrito? Could the age-old tradition of meeting Santa shift to a virtual realm, with families Skyping Santa from their living rooms?
As we stand at this crossroads, the future of Santa culture remains uncertain. What is certain, however, is the enduring appeal of this beloved holiday tradition. In the face of changing retail landscapes, Santa Claus, that symbol of generosity and goodwill, will find a way to continue spreading joy and brightening the hearts of children, young and old.
Stress-Free Holiday Celebrations: Tips for a Relaxing Season
Simple Strategies to Navigate the Holiday Frenzy with Ease.
The holiday season, while filled with joy and festivities, often brings a whirlwind of stress and exhaustion. However, with a few practical tips and mindful approaches, it’s entirely possible to bask in the holiday spirit without feeling overwhelmed. Here’s how you can enjoy a more relaxed and fulfilling holiday season.
Shopping: Begin your holiday shopping early, especially when using online retailers. Avoid the last-minute rush by adhering to a general rule: aim to ship gifts by December 15. For late purchases, overnight shipping is an option, but keep track of each order to ensure timely arrival.
Decorating: Transform your space into a festive haven with just one or two tasteful displays. There’s no need to go overboard with decorations both inside and outside. Aim to complete your decorating by the first week of December for a stress-free holiday ambiance.
Baking: If time is short, let a local bakery handle your holiday treats. This approach saves time and allows you to enjoy a variety of professionally made goodies.
Christmas Dinner: Simplify your holiday meal. Instead of an array of side dishes, focus on a main course like turkey, rib roast, or ham, complemented by classics like baked potatoes, vegetables, and salad. A straightforward menu can be just as festive and far less taxing.
Family Visits: To manage demands for your presence, plan early. If balancing visits between two sets of parents, consider scheduling one for Christmas Day and the other for Christmas Eve. Alternative options include meeting on the Sunday before Christmas or the Saturday after.
Gift Wrapping: Save time with gift bags or boxes, adding just a simple bow for a touch of festivity. This method is efficient and presents your gifts in an attractive and hassle-free manner.
Personal Care: Maintain your normal sleep and exercise routines as much as possible. Embrace quiet moments to rejuvenate amidst the holiday bustle.
Holiday Eating: Approach holiday meals with moderation. Avoid going to dinners on an empty stomach, and try to sample small portions of different dishes. Stopping before you’re completely full can help you enjoy the variety without discomfort.
Dealing with Relatives: Prepare mentally for family gatherings. Resolve to enjoy the occasion despite any challenging dynamics, and remember to take things in stride.
The key to a stress-free holiday season lies in simplification and planning. By streamlining your approach to shopping, decorating, and entertaining, you can create a relaxed atmosphere that allows you to enjoy the essence of the season truly. Remember, the holidays are a time for joy and celebration, not stress and exhaustion.
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.
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.