Saturday, December 28, 2019
Welcome to 2020. This has become a traditional time of celebration. We party on New Year's Eve and celebrate the moment the clock strikes midnight signaling the beginning of a new year.
And, of course, when the year 2000 arrived we celebrated for twenty-four hours as each time zone around the world welcomed the new millennium on live television broadcasts.
But why and how did the New Year's celebrations become part of our annual routine? The earliest recorded account of a celebration in honor of the new year dates back four thousand years to ancient Babylon. For the Babylonians, the first new moon following the vernal (spring) equinox announced the arrival of the new year. They celebrated this spring time event with a massive eleven day religious festival called Akitu. It was during this time that a new king was crowned or the current ruler's mandate renewed.
Throughout antiquity, civilizations around the world developed more sophisticated calendars with the first day of the year associated with an agricultural or astronomical event. For example, in Egypt the year began with the annual flooding of the Nile which coincided with the rising of the star Sirius. In China, the new year occurred with the second new moon after the winter solstice…a day they still celebrate.
The early Roman calendar had 10 months and 304 days with each new year beginning at the vernal equinox. Tradition holds that it was created by Romulus, the founder of Rome, in the eighth century B.C. Numa Pompilius, a later king, is credited with adding the months of Januarius and Februarius. Over the ensuing centuries, the Roman calendar grew out of sync with the sun. In 46 B.C., Julius Caesar introduced the Julian calendar which closely resembles the more modern Gregorian calendar used today by most countries.
As part of his reform, Julius Caesar declared January 1 as the first day of the year and Romans celebrated by exchanging gifts, decorating their homes, and attending raucous parties. In medieval Europe, Christian leaders temporarily replaced January 1 as the first day of the year with days carrying more religious significance, such as December 25 as the anniversary of Christ's birth and March 25 as the Feast of the Annunciation. It was Pope Gregory XIII in 1582 who re-established January 1 as New Year's Day.
In many countries, New Year's celebrations begin on New Year's Eve and continue into the early hours of January 1st. These celebrations often include specific foods that are said to bring good luck for the coming year—grapes in Spain, round fruits in the Philippines, suckling pig in Austria, soba noodles in Japan, rice pudding in Norway, and black-eyed peas in the southern United States. Other customs that are common worldwide include making new year resolutions (a practice started by the Babylonians) and watching fireworks displays.
In the United States, the most famous New Year's tradition is the dropping of the giant ball in New York City's Times Square. This event, first instituted in 1906, occurs at the stroke of midnight. The original giant ball was made of iron and wood weighing 400 pounds. A total of 7 versions of the Ball have been designed over the more than a century since the first drop of the ball occurred.
Today's giant ball is a brightly patterned sphere 12 feet in diameter and weighing nearly 12,000 pounds. Each year, the 2688 intricate Waterford crystals that make up the skin of the huge orb are replaced with new ones. This year, 192 Waterford Crystal triangles introduce the new Gift of Goodwill design of three pineapples signifying the traditional image of hospitality and goodwill. 192 are the Gift of Harmony design of small rosette cuts flowing into each other in beautiful harmony. 192 are the Gift of Serenity design of butterflies flying peacefully above a crystal meadow capturing the spirit of serenity. 192 are the Gift of Kindness design consisting of a circle of rosettes symbolizing unity with the fronds reaching out in an expression of kindness. 192 are the Gift of Wonder design composed by a faceted starburst inspiring our sense of wonder. 192 are the Gift of Fortitude design of diamond cuts on either side of a crystal pillar to represent the finer attributes of resolve, courage, and spirit necessary to triumph over adversity. The remaining triangles are the Gift of Imagination design with a series of intricate wedge cuts that are mirrored reflections of each other inspiring our imagination.
The 2,688 Waterford crystal triangles are bolted to 672 LED modules which are attached to the aluminum frame of the ball. The ball is capable of displaying a palette of more than 16 million colors and billions of patterns that create a spectacular kaleidoscope effect as the ball drops down a flagpole at the stroke of midnight Eastern Standard Time. In addition to the New Year's Ball drop in New York City, the numerals introducing the new year come to life high above Times Square. The giant "2-0-2-0" stands seven feet high.
So, however you celebrate the arrival of the new year…whether you go out to a party, have family or a few friends to your home, or simply curl up by a cozy fire and watch the festivities in Times Square…I wish everyone a happy and healthy 2020.
Saturday, December 21, 2019
Although many believe 'Twas The Night Before Christmas' to be the title of the popular Christmas poem, the actual title is An Account Of A Visit From St. Nicholas. The long poem, written by Clement Moore in 1822 as a present for his three daughters, has become a Christmas staple. Moore, an Episcopal minister, was initially hesitant about publishing his poem due to its frivolous content.
The poem, first published anonymously in the Troy, New York, Sentinel on December 23, 1823, had been submitted by a friend of Moore's. It was first attributed to Moore in 1837 and finally publicly acknowledged by Moore himself in 1844.
Four handwritten copies of the poem are known to exist, three in museums and the fourth (written and signed by Clement Clarke Moore as a gift to a friend in 1860) was sold by one private collector to another in December 2006 for a reported $280,000.
Moore's poem is largely responsible for today's image of Santa Claus as a "right jolly old elf" who flew from house to house on Christmas Eve in a sleigh pulled by eight flying reindeer. A rotund fellow who entered via the chimney and left toys for good boys and girls.
In 1881, political cartoonist Thomas Nast used Moore's poem as the basis to create a likeness of Santa Claus that matches today's image. The cartoon, which appeared in Harper's Weekly, depicted Santa with a full white beard, a red suit trimmed in white fur, and a large bag filled with toys. He also gave Santa his North Pole workshop, elves, and Mrs. Claus.
Over the years, there has been some controversy about the authorship of the poem. There are those who contend that Henry Livingston, Jr., was the true author. Livingston was distantly related to Moore's wife. But the general consensus continues to be that Clement Clarke Moore is the true author.
Saturday, December 14, 2019
As with many Christmas traditions, the history of the Christmas tree as we know it today goes back to pagan times. Some Northern Europeans believed the sun was a god and annually went through a period of ill health in winter. On the Winter Solstice, they displayed evergreen boughs to remind them of the greenery that would grow again when the sun god regained his strength and spring arrived. The ancient Egyptians participated in a similar ritual using palm fronds to mark the return of Ra, a god who wore the sun as a crown. Ancient Romans used fir trees to decorate their temples during Saturnalia.
Exactly when the Christmas tree came into existence is an ongoing debate. The Eastern European cities of Tallinn and Riga both claim the first Christmas tree—Tallinn in 1441 and Riga in 1510 (now modern Estonia and Latvia). Each city claims they erected a tree in the town square over Christmas and danced around it then set it on fire. Around the same time, medieval Germans were incorporating evergreens into their Christmas rituals in the form of the Paradise Tree, an apple adorned fir that represented the Tree of Knowledge in the Garden of Eden. But Christmas trees didn't appear in the home until Martin Luther experienced a yuletide vision in 1536 where he saw thousands of sparkling stars in the night sky twinkling through the tree branches in a pine forest. He rushed home to create the vision inside his house.
The Christmas tree was brought to the colonies (specifically what is now Pennsylvania) by German settlers and may have played a part in the Revolutionary War. Legend says that as George Washington was crossing the Delaware River on December 25, 1776, Hessian mercenaries fighting for the British were busy decorating trees and getting drunk. They were in no condition to fight the ensuing battle and lost.
Christmas trees did not become commonly acceptable among fashionable society until 1848 when the Illustrated London News published a sketch of Queen Victoria's Christmas Tree at Windsor Castle. The image was reprinted in Philadelphia's Godey's Lady's Book with the queen's crown and Prince Albert's moustache removed to make it look more American.
Thomas Edison's assistant, Edward Johnson, was the person responsible for creating electric Christmas tree lights in 1882. On December 24, 1923, President Calvin Coolidge lit the National Christmas Tree, a 48 ft. balsam fir decorated with 2,500 colored bulbs.
I found a Christmas tree in Hawaii made up of poinsettia plants. In Japan, you'll find origami swans, paper fans, and wind chimes hanging from branches. In Spain, a tree trunk is filled with goodies such as candy, nuts, and dates with children taking turns hitting it with a stick to dislodge the treats [which sounds very much like the Mexican piñata]. In Brazil, December 25/Christmas is in summer where some people cover pine trees with little pieces of white cotton representing falling snow.
Traditions vary, but around the world Christmas trees are a universal symbol of joy.
Saturday, December 7, 2019
In honor of the season, I'd like to introduce you to Chance Fowler and Marcie Roper from The Millionaire's Christmas Wish (available from Harlequin in ebook) and tell you a bit about their Christmas story.
Good morning Chance and Marcie. I appreciate you taking the time to talk with me today.
Chance: Thank you, Shawna. It was nice of you to invite us. So…what would you like to know?
My first question is for whichever of you wants to answer it. How did the two of you meet?
Chance: (Winks at Marcie) Do you want to take that one?
Marcie: My pleasure. I was minding my own business, doing a little window shopping on my way back to my car from the book store, when he came along and accosted me in broad daylight. He grabbed me against my will then proceeded to kiss me. I was truly shocked and also a little frightened. I had no idea who he was or why he had forced himself on me.
Chance: Wait a minute…in my defense that wasn't quite the way it happened.
Marcie: (grins) My way sounds more mysterious…and more interesting.
Did he literally grab you on the street, a total stranger, and kiss you for no reason?
Marcie: Oh, yes…that's exactly what he did.
Chance: Well…not really…not like that.
Ah, ha! What's the true story?
Chance: I was being followed by another one of those tabloid photographers who were always trying to get candid pictures of me that they can exploit, things taken out of context and blown up into something they aren't.
As sole heir to the Fowler Industries fortune, an eligible bachelor leading a very high profile life including yacht racing and making the rounds of the club scene always with a beautiful woman on your arm, I can see where there would be an interest in your activities.
Chance: Since I was on my way to one of my special projects, I had to lose the guy following me. I was looking for a place to duck away from him…hide in plain sight, so to speak. As soon as I rounded a corner and was out of his sight for a few seconds, I turned my reversible jacket inside out to a different color, but there wasn't any place for me to hide. I spotted her standing in front of the store window. My intention was to put my arm around her shoulder so it would look like we were a couple window shopping together, but for some strange reason she objected. So I did what I had to do. The photographer ran on down the street without paying any attention to a couple kissing in front of a store window. I tried to apologize, explain to her, but she ran off without giving me an opportunity.
Marcie: It was later that I discovered who he was…Take-A-Chance Fowler, as the media referred to him. Major playboy, always being photographed with different women, yacht racing, seen at all the trendy clubs. In other words, a spoiled rich guy living off the family wealth who had never done an honest day's work in his life.
Chance: Definitely not a very flattering assessment of someone she didn't even know. I was determined to set her straight and change that erroneous assumption.
Take-A-Chance? Where did that come from?
Chance: One of those stupid tags the press pinned on me. "Always willing to take a chance on some wild stunt."
Marcie: I can't begin to tell you how embarrassed I was when he told me Chance was his legal first name, not some cute little nickname. It was his mother's maiden name. And the more I found out about the real person behind all those tabloid headlines, the more impressed I was and the more I liked him.
You mentioned your special projects. What did you mean by that?
Chance: I have several projects I finance and am actively, hands-on involved with, things I don't want the media to know about. Among other things, one of the projects is a job training program for disadvantaged youth. I don't want the other people involved to find their pictures and names splashed all over the front page of some tabloid newspaper.
What type of projects?
Chance: (flashes a sly grin) You can find out all about them in the book.
Marcie, did you encounter any unusual problems when you began dating someone of Chance's…uh…notoriety?
Marcie: (furrows her brow in a moment of concentration) Well, there were some uncomfortable moments with his family, such as the Christmas dinner at his father's house—
Chance: (laughs) Merely uncomfortable? That's an understatement!
Is there more to the family story than you're saying?
Marcie: You mean other than his father being responsible for driving a wedge between us that nearly destroyed our relationship?
Chance: My family is synonymous with the word dysfunctional. They're the personification of that old joke…look up the word dysfunctional in the dictionary and you find their picture. You'll find out all about them when you read the book.
I'd ask you to explain, but I already know what you're going to say.
Marcie: (laughs) You have to read the book!
Thank you, Marcie and Chance.
ALL I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS…
When millionaire Chance Fowler first kissed the pretty stranger in his arms, he'd only meant to dodge the photographers who'd tailed him. Then she ran off—but he couldn't forget her tempting taste on his lips. So he sought out the tantalizing woman who'd ignited his long-dormant desire….
Lovely Marcie Roper was the first woman to close her eyes to Chance's fortune. And though she'd captivated the jaded tycoon, Marcie yearned for what his wealth couldn't buy—a man who would say "I do" and mean it forever. Could Marcie convince Chance that love—for the right woman—would last a lifetime?
She was certainly different from the type of women he usually encountered. Her eyes sparked with the fire of emotion and her stance declared a very appealing independence. Yes, indeed. Marcie Roper was quite different—a breath of fresh air. He recalled the way she felt in his arms, the taste of her delicious mouth. He fought the almost overwhelming desire to pull her into his arms and kiss her again.
He watched her walk away from him—for the second time since he first encountered her. She had turned out to be a very intriguing woman. He already knew about the golden flecks in her hazel eyes, her soft pliable lips, her addictive taste and how good she felt in his arms. And now he knew she was certainly a challenge—and Chance had never been one to back down from a challenge.
Harlequin has reissued 17 of my backlist titles. THE MILLIONAIRE'S CHRISTMAS WISH was originally released by Harlequin in print and is currently available in ebook.
THE MILLIONAIRE'S CHRISTMAS WISH, a Silhouette Desire by Shawna Delacorte reissued by Harlequin in ebook and available at http://ebooks.eharlequin.com. Also available from Amazon for Kindle, Barnes & Noble for Nook, and other online vendors. Additional information and excerpts available on my website www.shawnadelacorte.com Information and excerpts from my other books also available on my website.