Category: Seasonal

Fun Ways To Celebrate The Summer Solstice

Summer is a great time to enjoy recreational activities that take advantage of the great outdoors. This year summer arrives on June 20 with the summer solstice, which features the most hours of daylight of any day for the entire year. Celebrants who want to usher in another summer of fun in the sun can embrace these ideas for commemorating the start of summer.

Watch the Sunrise

Get up early and watch the sun come up on the longest day of the year. Then be sure to catch the sunset to enjoy every minute of daylight.

Host a Cookout

Memorial Day, Canada Day and Independence Day get most of the barbecue glory this time of year. But there’s nothing that says the first day of summer shouldn’t be a reason to gather friends and family for a cookout. June 20 falls on a Thursday this year, so the solstice provides the perfect excuse to take a four-day weekend and celebrate the official arrival of summer.

Light a Campfire

Traditional Midsummer’s Eve/summer solstice celebrations featured bonfires. Hold on to the tradition by gathering people around a campfire or backyard firepit. S’mores make the perfect complement to a campfire scene.

Grab Some Ice Cream

Cool off on the summer solstice by visiting a nearby ice cream shop and indulge in a sundae or triple-decker cone.

Go on a Nature Hike

Enjoy the great outdoors with a relaxing hike through a park or nature trail.

Participate in a Beach Clean-up

Make a beach trip even more enjoyable by signing up for a clean-up to clear the sand of litter. Organize an impromptu beach clean-up session either solo or with some like-minded friends.

Pick Fresh Fruit

Many berries come into season in the summer. Head to a nearby pick-your-own farm and grab fresh fruit to enjoy right away or utilize your pickings in recipes.

Plant a Flower Garden

Clean up garden beds or go to the nursery and grab some colorful annuals to spruce up areas around the yard.

The summer solstice is an opportunity to celebrate the arrival of summer and all the fun that comes with it.

Tasty Tidbits About Eggnog

Eggnog is a rich and delicious beverage that has become synonymous with the most festive time of year. This milk- and egg-based concoction is tasty on its own, or it can be dressed up with other flavors and spiked with a favorite spirit when celebrating the holiday season with other adult partygoers.

December is National Eggnog Month, and December 24 is National Eggnog Day. There is no more perfect time of year to learn everything you can about eggnog – all the while sipping a cup of this creamy concoction. Indulge in these festive facts about the beverage, courtesy of Mental Floss, The Fact Site and Tastemade.

Eggnog likely originated in the medieval period and was known as “posset,” a hot, milk-based drink made of spices and wine. Even though posset could be a cocktail, it also was used as a remedy for colds and flu for its soothing properties.

  • Milk, eggs and sherry used in the early recipes were difficult to come by, so when eggnog first appeared it was a drink only the wealthy could enjoy. That changed when eggnog was popularized in the American colonies, where dairy products and liquor were more readily available.
  • Entymologists believe “eggnog” stems from the word “noggin,” which refers to small wooden mugs often used to serve strong ale, known by the slang word “nog.”
  • In the Medieval period, it was risky to drink milk straight because it wasn’t pasteurized. Eggnog contained alcohol so that it would kill off any harmful bacteria in the milk.
  • A typical homemade version of eggnog has roughly one egg per serving. However, commercial eggnog is regulated by the FDA and can only contain 1 percent of the product’s final weight in egg yolk solids. That stems from fear of raw egg and salmonella.
  • President George Washington apparently enjoyed serving eggnog at Christmas, and even had his own special recipe, according to the Old Farmer’s Almanac.
  • There is no right or wrong alcohol to use when preparing eggnog. Distilled spirits like rum, sherry, cognac, and whiskey all have produced suitable eggnogs.
  • Puerto Rican coquito is a traditional drink that is very similar to eggnog.
  • Individuals concerned about eggs or milk in eggnog can enjoy a vegan recipe made from nut milk instead. Commercially produced vegan eggnog offerings are now more widely available.
  • One of the more notable flavors in eggnog comes from the use of nutmeg. Nutmeg is a fragrant spice made from grinding the seed of the nutmeg tree.

Simple Tricks To Disentangle Holiday Lights

The joyous holiday season is enhanced by the beautiful and festive decorations that adorn homes and businesses during this special time of year. Twinkling lights are part of the holiday decorating equation. However, tangled lights in storage bins and boxes can sap anyone’s holiday spirit.

Christmas lights can turn into a tangled mess no matter how hard people work to avoid such an outcome. Christmas lights get tangled partly because of their design. There is a metal wire inside the cord to help with the packaging of the lights, which gives the cord a natural curve. Furthermore, most light cords are made from twisted or braided wires that have spaces throughout. The lights themselves can get snagged in these pockets between the wires.

Although it can be frustrating to deal with tangled lights that look like balls of yarn in a knitting basket, there are ways to disentangle them with relative ease – and then pack them in a way that can reduce further tangles.

Begin by plugging all lights into the outlet to see if they work. If most of the bulbs are burnt out or the lights do not go on at all, discard the strand. There’s no point untangling lights only to learn they don’t work.

Start slowly, beginning on the plug end, when untangling the lights. Keep the strand you’re working on separate from the other lights so they do not inadvertently become entangled. Tackle this job in a space with a lot of room. Lay the lights out on a large table or sit on the floor to do the untangling.

Utilize a pen or pencil to fish out more stubborn snags. This can help you loosen any knots and make it easier to pull snags through.

Lay the untangled strands out in a safe area away from your working space as you work through each strand.

One of the ways to avoid the hassle of tangled lights is to remember to store the lights in ways that will reduce their propensity for tangling in the first place.

· Rather than wrap lights around your hand or arm to condense the strand, use something else. A piece of cardboard, a hanger and some PVC tubing can keep lights from becoming tangled.

· Store lights in a zip-top bag to keep them from tangling with other strands stored together.

· Save the original boxes and return the lights to them after each use.

· Icicle lights have hanging strands of lights on longer strands, which can compound tangling issues. Use a rubber band to gather the hanging “icicles” together, or use some plastic wrap for the same purpose.

· Invest in a cord reel, similar to what you might use for a garden hose. Longer light strands or wires are stored on such reels, and they can be used with Christmas lights.

Patience and care can prevent holiday lights from becoming tangled.

The Significance Of Various Symbols Of Easter

Easter Sunday is a day when Christians across the globe celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Data from the Pew Research Center indicates there are approximately 2.4 billion Christians across the globe, which accounts for nearly one-third of the global population.

Though certain Christians groups do not celebrate Easter, many consider it the holiest day of the year. Given that significance, it’s no surprise Easter is steeped in symbolism. The following are some of the many symbols of Easter and what they represent to faithful Christians across the globe.

Eggs

Eggs might now be more instantly associated with Easter egg hunts for children, but the American Bible Society notes that eggs are symbolic of more than just fun for kids. Eggs represent the new life that’s symbolic of spring, which is when Easter occurs in the northern hemisphere. Christians view eggs as a reminder of the resurrection of Jesus. Interestingly, though colored eggs are often seen as a fun Easter activity for kids, the ABS notes that the tradition dates back to the early days of Christianity, when red-colored eggs were used to represent the resurrection.

Crucifix

The crucifix, which is a distinct representation of a cross with Jesus Christ on it, is symbolic of the crucifixion and subsequent resurrection of Jesus. The ABS notes that the resurrection of Jesus symbolizes his victory over the power of sin and death.

The Lamb

Jesus is referred to in the Bible as the “Lamb of God” (Revelation 5:6-14), so the lamb is another important Easter symbol for Christians. In addition, in John (1:29), Jesus is referred to by John the Baptist as the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”

Easter Bunny

Another symbol, like Easter eggs, that people could be forgiven for mistaking as purely secular, the Easter Bunny is not entirely separate from the spiritual meaning of the holiday. As noted, Easter, even though it’s a moveable feast, takes place in spring in the northern hemisphere each year. Spring is symbolic of rebirth, and the hare was a symbol of fertility among the ancient pagans. The spirit of rebirth associated with rabbits, particularly in spring, also is reminiscent of the resurrection of Jesus from his tomb.

Easter is celebrated across the globe. Those celebrations feature many significant religious symbols that have withstood the test of time.

How To Celebrate The Holidays Away From Home

A popular Christmas song attests “there’s no place like home for the holidays.” For many people, a truer statement couldn’t be uttered. But sometimes life gets in the way of an old-fashioned holiday spent at home.

There are a number of reasons why individuals may not be able to spend the holidays at home. Active military service people may not be able to leave their posts to travel home. Some students studying abroad or even far away domestically may find getting back to their homes can be time- and cost-prohibitive. Some people may not be home for the holidays because work obligations keep them out of town, or because they have planned vacations to serve as nontraditional holiday celebrations.

Being away from some familiar sights and sounds of the holidays doesn’t mean celebrations should be any less special. Here are tips for celebrating away from home.

Find People In Similar Situations

Chances are you will not be the only person away from home, particularly if you are a student or someone on a business venture. Connect with others who are away from their families and do something together for the holidays.

Partake Of Local Traditional Activities

You may be used to baking sugar cookies for the holidays, but in a foreign country, the locals may make another type of dessert. Figure out how the locals celebrate the holidays and then take part in any way you can.

Volunteer Your Time

If you will be away or alone for the holidays, volunteer your time to help the less fortunate. Deliver meals to those who are not able to leave home, like seniors, or volunteer at a soup kitchen. Visit a children’s hospital and deliver small gifts.

Engage In Virtual Fun

Connect with people at home through the power of digital technology. Video conferencing services connect people who can’t be together in person. Utilize these apps and services to remote into a holiday dinner or when loved ones open gifts.

Cook Up Your Favorites

Evoke traditional holiday celebrations by cooking the foods you would normally enjoy at home. Those tastes and smells can transport you back to grandma’s kitchen or dad’s living room.

Stay Off Of Social Media

Being away from home during the holidays can be challenging, and that challenge can be even greater if you see photo after photo on social media of people you know spending time with their friends and loved ones. Tune out of your social feeds for a few days.

Invite Others To You

Maybe you don’t have the means of getting home, but you can bring those at home to you. Find out if anyone can plan a road trip, train ride or flight to where you are and then enjoy the holidays together.

Being away from home during the holidays may not be ideal. However, there are plenty of ways to maintain your holiday spirit when celebrating in unfamiliar surroundings.

14 Facts About The Winter Solstice

The winter solstice occurs each year during the month of December in the northern hemisphere. In 2022, the winter solstice will take place on December 21 at 4:48 p.m. EST.

Solstices are significant events that occur twice per year. One occurs in the winter and one in the summer. The winter solstice also is known as the first day of winter and occurs when the Earth’s pole reaches its maximum tilt away from the sun. During the winter solstice, people will experience the shortest period of daylight and the longest period of nighttime of the year. Here are 14 fascinating facts about the winter solstice.

1. Depending on the hemisphere, the north or south pole will experience continuous darkness or twilight around its winter solstice.

2. The winter solstice sometimes is referred to by the term midwinter.

3. Even though the solstice is marked by a whole day on the calendar, it actually is just the brief moment of time when the sun is exactly over the Tropic of Capricorn.

4. The word “solstice” can be translated from Latin and means “sun stand still.”

5. The Tropic of Capricorn is located at 23.5 degrees south of the equator.

6. Tourists flock to Stonehenge to track the movement of the sun. The stones will frame the sunset on the winter solstice and the sunrise on the summer solstice.

7. Ancient cultures viewed the winter solstice as a time of death and rebirth.

8. Important events in history have taken place on winter solstices. The Apollo 8 spacecraft launched on the solstice in 1968. Pilgrims also arrived at Plymouth on the winter solstice in 1620.

9. Each planet in the Earth’s solar system has its own solstices and equinoxes.

10. The southern hemisphere experiences the winter solstice in June each year.

11. A full moon on a solstice is even more rare than a blue moon. The last full moon to occur on the winter solstice was in 2010 and the next one won’t happen until 2094.

12. Earth is closer to the sun around the winter solstice in December. However, the northern hemisphere receives less sunlight and has cooler temperatures because it is tilted away from the sun during winter.

13. Even though the winter solstice features the shortest amount of daylight of any day during the year, it does not have the earliest sunset. That takes place roughly two weeks prior. In 2021 in New York, the winter solstice took place on December 21, but the earliest sunset occurred on December 7 at 4:28 p.m.

14. Meteorological winter begins on December 1 rather than December 21.

Craft An Entire Day Around Tree Shopping

Though retailers may begin playing holiday tunes shortly after Halloween, for many people, no date on the calendar marks the beginning of the holiday season better than the day they pick up their Christmas tree.

There are many different ways to acquire a Christmas tree. Some people prefer artificial Christmas trees that can be stored and taken out each year. Others make a yearly expedition to a tree lot or a Christmas tree farm to find the perfect fir or spruce. Historians believe a man named W.V. McGallard planted 25,000 Norway spruce seedlings at his Mercer County, New Jersey farm in 1901, essentially establishing the first commercial Christmas tree farm. By 1908, customers could visit the farm and choose trees for $1 each. McGallard helped create an entirely new industry that now accounts for 350 million trees being grown and sold in the United States every year.

Selecting a Christmas tree may not take more than an hour or two, but there are ways for families and other tree shoppers to maximize their time spent looking for a tree.

Bring Refreshments

Couple Christmas tree shopping with picnicking if the weather is amenable. Pack some foldable chairs into the vehicle (sitting on the ground on a blanket may be too cold) and bring along thermoses of coffee or hot cocoa. Snacks like granola bars, Christmas cookies or other filling treats can keep everyone satisfied and energized while they shop for a tree.

Pair Tree Shopping With A Trip To See Lighting Displays

Find the tree lot or tree farm and then scope out potentially scenic spots to view holiday lighting displays nearby. Neighborhood Facebook or other social media groups often tout homes that put up eye-catching displays. Ask around for addresses and plan your own tours.

Plan A Night Out

Everyone may be tired and hungry after a long day of Christmas tree hunting. Plus, it’s typically a good idea to wait some time for boughs to open before decorating. Use this opportunity to dine out and return home ready to decorate. Make it a regular occurrence that Christmas tree shopping is followed by a family meal at a favorite restaurant.

Watch A Classic Film

Many different holiday movies are broadcast this time of year and each enhances the Christmas spirit. While putting up the tree, play a favorite film in the background. What better way to enjoy decorating your own tree than by watching Charlie Brown adorn his meager evergreen at the same time?

Make a day of selecting and putting up the Christmas tree each year. Doing so can enhance the holidays and make for an entertaining way to spend time together as a couple or family.

5 Reasons To Shop Small Versus Big Box

The importance of small businesses to the economy cannot be overstated. Though national chains often garner publicity, local businesses are equally, if not exceedingly, worthy of attention.

What defines a small business as “small” varies significantly, but these businesses are generally privately owned and generate far less revenue than big corporations. General consensus also defines small businesses as companies with fewer than 500 paid employees, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration.

Here’s a deep look at why small businesses are so vital, and why consumers should direct more of their purchasing power to smaller companies rather than the big box retailers and other national chains.

1. Autonomy And Diversity

The layout and offerings at national chains will be identical whether you live in the mountains or at the beach. Big box stores follow a consistent marketing strategy and look the same regardless of where they are located. That familiarity can come at the cost of variety. On the other hand, an independent business offers the products and services that are reflective of the customers and the community they serve.

2. Local Hiring Strategy

Certain big box retailers will hire local residents, but hiring policies may push for promoting from within the organization. This could mean relocating an employee rather than bringing in someone from the community who may be more in tune with local sensibilities. Small businesses may be more inclined to hire residents they know and keep hiring centralized to the local area – something that keeps more resources and money in the community.

3. Adaptability And Change

Local businesses can move more quickly to respond to economic factors that require change. Since they are focused more on the needs of their customers rather than stockholders, changes can be implemented rapidly without having to go through red tape, meetings and updates to corporate policies. Changes also can be customized to the local community at large.

4. Investing In The Town

According to the financial resource Financial Slot, shopping at locally owned businesses rather than big box retailers keeps more money in the community. Local property taxes and other taxes paid by the businesses go right back into the community. This helps raise overall value for homeowners and can even reduce their taxes. The funding helps keep police, fire and school departments functioning properly.

5. Turnover Is Greater

While no one wants to see a small business fail, that fate is sometimes unavoidable. However, that turnover helps teach communities what was done poorly and helps others learn from those mistakes. It also means fresh businesses will come in and replace the old, driving new growth, opportunity and competition that keeps prices competitive.

The benefits of a thriving small business sector are numerous. Consumers can do their part by patronizing these firms more frequently.

A Look At The Oldest Halloween Traditions

As with many celebrations, Halloween is steeped in traditions – many of which can be traced back quite some time. Since Halloween is believed to have originated from Celtic pagan, ancient Roman and early Christian events, its traditions are varied. The following is a deep look at some old traditions associated with Halloween.

Bonfires

Historians trace many traditions of Halloween to a Celtic holiday known as Samhain (pronounced sow-in). The Celts lived 2,000 years ago in parts of what is now Northern France, Great Britain and Ireland.

During Samhain, people believed that the door between the worlds of the living and the dead was blurred. On Samhain, Celts believed the ghosts of the dead returned. Also, Druids made predictions about the future at this time of year. It was customary to build large, sacred bonfires and burn crops and other sacrifices to the Celtic deities.

While large bonfires are not typically part of Halloween celebrations today, revelers can light fire pits in their yards that are reminiscent of ancient celebrations.

Trick-or-Treating

Christianity spread throughout Celtic regions and blended with other rituals. Pope Gregory III expanded on a holiday Pope Boniface IV established to honor Christian martyrs to include all saints and martyrs. All Saints Day on November 1 commemorates the venerable saints, and All Souls Day on November 2 celebrates loved ones who went on to eternal rest. All-Hallows Eve (Halloween) was a time to pay homage to the dead. Poor children would go door to door in more affluent neighborhoods offering to say prayers for residents’ deceased loved ones in exchange for some food or money. This was known as “souling,” which became the basis for trick-or-treating. Later the tradition became known as “guising” in areas of Scotland, where children would go around in costumes.

Witches

Images of witches riding broomsticks are everywhere come Halloween, and witch costumes remain a standard. Almanac.com indicates that, during the Middle Ages, women who practiced divination were dubbed “witches,” from the Anglo-Saxon word “wicce,” or “wise one.” It was believed the witches could go into a trancelike state, and would do so in front of their fireplaces. Superstitious people believed the witches could fly out of their chimneys on broomsticks and terrorize others with magical deeds.

Bobbing For Apples

Bobbing for apples is not quite as popular as it once was, as more people have become concerned about spreading germs. During the Roman festival for Pomona, which occurred around November 1, Pomona, the goddess of fruit and orchards, was celebrated. Romans believed the first person to catch a bobbing apple with his or her teeth would be the first to marry. It also was believed apple peels contained the secrets to true love.

Carving Pumpkins

Removing the insides of pumpkins and carving them into funny or fearsome faces may be messy work, but it’s tradition on Halloween. Turnips were the material of choice in ancient Ireland, but were replaced by pumpkins when immigrants came to America. The “lanterns” were made with scary faces and lit to frighten away spirits.

Halloween is full of traditions, many of which have lengthy histories.

8 Sights To See At Fall Harvest Festivals

Just as summertime is synonymous with concerts and carnivals, fall is a prime time for its own opportunities for seasonal entertainment, such as harvest festivals. Certain features overlap between summer carnivals and fall festivals, but the latter offers some unique offerings as well. The following are some things to expect when fall festival season hits full swing.

1. Seasonal fare

Many fall harvest festivals are built on the foods harvested in the fall for that region. In Wisconsin, that may be cranberries, while in Massachusetts it could be oysters. Apples also turn up in many areas starting in September. For those who can’t wait to bite into food picked at the peak of its season, a fall harvest festival can’t be beat.

2. Wagon rides

Farms and the tools of the farming trade are part of harvest festivals. Wagons transporting crops are a classic sight, even if they’re no longer heavily relied upon on the farm. Rather than a cargo bed full of corn or apples, harvest festivals tote families around on wagon rides or on hay bale beds towed by tractors.

3. Apples galore

Candied and caramel apples and many other apple products feature prominently at many harvest festivals. Apple fritters, apple turnovers, apple pies, fried apples, and others are bound to be sold by vendors, along with traditional fair foods, like funnel cakes.

4. Cider stations

Lemonade stands that are staples of summer give way to hot or cold cider offerings come the fall. Cold ciders are perfect for an unseasonably warm fall day while warm varieties are tailor-made for days when there’s a chill in the air.

5. Pumpkin patches

Fall harvest organizers pick and display pumpkins in fields to make it easier for youngsters to find the perfect pumpkin for Halloween carvings. It’s a sea of orange this time of year, and things may get more colorful with non-edible gourds in shades of white or yellow.

6. Leaf-peeping opportunities

Some festivals are geared around chances to view the fall foliage that abounds in primarily rural areas. A mountain or forest backdrop adds vibrant color to any event. Coastal areas may set up fall foliage cruises that let guests see the leaves from a new perspective.

7. Corn mazes

Fall festivals set up adjacent to or on farms may have corn mazes for the kids. These mazes may be kept up throughout October and repurposed into haunted mazes for older kids looking to get a scare for Halloween.

8. Wine tastings

Many grape varieties are harvested in the fall, so fall harvest festivals may capitalize on that and invite local vineyards to set up tables providing tastings of their vintages. Vineyards also may host their own fall festivals, featuring sips and snacks with live music.

Fall offers a host of entertaining festivals geared around the harvest season. These festivals are ideal ways for people to see the sights and nibble on seasonal delights along the way.