The Gift of Holiday Traditions: Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, and Christmas

Exploring family gift giving and other holiday traditions, old and new. Happy, happy Christmas, that can win us back to the delusions of our childhood days, recall to the old man the pleasures of his youth, and transport the traveler back to his own fireside and quiet home! Charles Dickens Gift Giving Some curmudgeons do[…]

Karl Follen: An Abolitionist and the Christmas Tree in 1835

Sadly, Follen’s Christmas tree has gone largely forgotten. Karl Follen came to America from Germany in 1825 as political refugee. As a young law professor he had written that people are justified in rising up against despotic regimes. Lafayette, returning for the fiftieth anniversary of the American Revolution, assisted with introductions.  Soon Follen was again[…]

George Washington’s Perilous Christmas Night Crossing of the Delaware

Washington’s crossing of the Delaware on Christmas night 1776 led to victory, but terrible weather led to more casualties than the battle. Introduction For most people today, Christmas is a time of food, family and festivities, when attention turns from work and woes to fellowship and celebration. Yet it has not always been so. In[…]

Frances of Assisi and the Creation of the Nativity Scene in 1223

Nativity scenes first originated in the small Italian town of Greccio. Introduction Around the Christmas season, it is common to see a display of the Nativity scene: a small manger with the baby Jesus and his family, shepherds, the three wise men believed to have visited Jesus after his birth and several barnyard animals. One[…]

Decking the Halls of History: The Origins of Christmas Decorations

The pagans paved the way for our modern festivities. Introduction The idea of hanging up decorations in the middle of winter is older than Christmas itself. Decorations are mentioned in ancient descriptions of the Roman feast of Saturnalia, which is thought to have originated in the 5th century BC. Some 900 years later, a Christian[…]

The Long History of Espresso, Americano, and Latte in a Cup

According to legend, the Ethiopian shepherd Kaldim introduced the properties of coffee to humanity in the 9th century. He noticed that his goats began galloping along the hills after eating the leaves of a wild-growing coffee tree. The shepherd told the abbot of the local monastery about this unique plant, and he tried the leaves and[…]