Friday, January 7, 2022

2021 Christmas Spirit Reading Challenge and Readathon - Wrap-Up

Happy New Year! I hope you enjoyed your seasonal reading. I apologize for not posting a mid-event check-in. I had a busy holiday season which probably isn't a surprise. 

How did you do on the reading challenge/readathon? Share your wrap up link in the linky below. It's the same linky as the sign-up so just add "wrap-up" when you enter your name, like so "Michelle@truebookaddict-Wrap-up" (you don't have to put a blog name, you can just put your name).

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Always in spirit...

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Saturday, December 25, 2021

Merry Christmas...Happy Holidays...Yuletide Greetings...

...from my family to yours. Wishing you happiness, peace, and prosperity in the new year.

Always in spirit...

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Friday, December 24, 2021

Christmas Eve and the Nutcracker

The nutcracker is a famed article from the German Erzgebirge (Ore Mountains) area. A fairy tale written between 1776 and 1822 by E.T. Amadeus Hoffman entitled "The Nutcracker and the King of Mice" and the famous Tchaikovsky "Nutcracker Ballet" first performed in 1892 have done much to popularize the nutcracker. 

The origin of the first nutcracker is a mixture of legend and history. No one knows when they were first made. Fancifully carved nutcrackers have been known and collected in Europe since medieval times. As early as the year 1725, they were present in Erzgebirge homes.

Nutcrackers are a reflection of dining customs in the past. At one time, nuts were served as part of the dessert course in which guests cracked their own nuts and lingered over wine and sweets. The amusing nutcrackers undoubtedly provided a lighthearted conversation piece. An important source of protein that could be preserved through the winter, nuts were considered a more important foodstuff before the modern age than they now are. Nutcrackers may crack nuts, but their real joy today is their colorful presence in the home.

It is said that someone has a "hard nut to crack" if one faces a difficult problem. Nutcrackers have unusual faces, and many depict officials or authority figures who work for the people to "crack nuts." Even folk sayings reflect the nut's significance. "The harder the nut, the sweeter the kernel," or "Nuts are given to us by life, but we have to open them ourselves." As the Germans used to say when faced with a difficult problem, "I will discuss it with my nutcracker!" 

Germany, a country of rich woodlands, has long been a major center of woodworking and nutcracker production. The Steinbach factory in Hohenhamein is a leading manufacturer and has been turning out wood products of various kinds for generations. The Steinbach family claim that their nutcrackers bring good fortune and have even devised their own guidelines to nutcracker collecting: "The first and most important piece in a nutcracker collection is the king. He is the ruler of the collection, so he needs to be displayed so that he overlooks his subjects. The number two piece is the soldier or guard with a weapon. He is there to protect the king. The third nutcracker for any collection should be the good luck piece, and in Europe the chimney sweep is the symbol of good luck. The fourth in line of importance is the drummer or musician. This nutcracker is the one who drums out the good news about the collection. The king need to eat, have clothes and shoes, so bakers, servants and workers finish out the basic collection."

The Erzgebirge mountain region of Saxony remains a prominent area for cottage-industry nutcracker-making. The Ulbricht factory of Seiffen is located in this region. As many as 130 separate procedures are required to make a fine quality nutcracker. Some nutcrackers are handcarved, but most are produced on the lathe, as in times past. The wood is carefully selected, cured, dried, machined, assembled and finally painted. Nutcrackers are much sought after as collectors pieces. Because there is a great deal of handwork and skill involved, only limited quantities can be crafted. Nutcrackers are also produced in Far Eastern countries and in the USA.

German author Dr. Heinrich Hoffman, widely know for his children's books, penned the following verse in 1851: 
King Nutcracker that's my name.
I crack hard nuts and eat the sweet insides, 
But the shells, ugh - I throw to others,
Because I am the King!
This information was obtained from a leaflet I picked up while visiting Bronner's Christmas Wonderland (the world's largest Christmas store) in Frankenmuth, Michigan. 

Bronner's carries a wide selection of nutcrackers year-round.

Happy Christmas Eve!!!

Always in spirit...

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Tuesday, December 21, 2021

We welcome and observe Winter Solstice/Yule

On the arrival of the Winter Solstice, we observe Yule.

Also known as Jul, Yule predates the Christmas holiday by thousands of years. Linguists debate the origin of the word Yule. Some suggest the word is derived from “Iul,” the Anglo-Saxon word for wheel. This makes a connection to a Celtic calendar, the Wheel of the Year. However, in the Norse culture, “Jul” refers to the god, Odin. Odin was celebrated during Yule as well.

Yule celebrations included bonfires, decorating with holly, mistletoe, and the boughs of evergreen trees, ritual sacrifices, feasts, and gift-giving.

Many Christmas Traditions Borrowed From Yule

Many of the traditions we use at Christmastime were borrowed from Yule traditions of old. Whether they are from myths, feasts, folklore, ancient beliefs, oral stories told, or festivals, we have woven them into the fabric of our modern-day customs. Do you recognize any Christmas traditions borrowed from Yule?
  • The midwinter feast usually lasted 12 days.
  • Vikings decorated evergreen trees with gifts such as food, carvings, and food for the tree spirits to encourage them to return in the spring.
  • Mistletoe combined with a mother’s tears resurrected her son, the God of Light and Goodness, in a Viking myth. The Celts believe Mistletoe possessed healing powers as well and would ward off evil spirits.

  • In Norse tradition, Old Man Winter visited homes to join the festivities. The Viking god, Odin was described as a wanderer with a long white beard and is considered the first Father Christmas.
  • Viking children left their shoes out by the hearth on the eve of the winter solstice with sugar and hay for Odin’s eight-legged horse, Sleipnir.
  • Children traipsed from house to house with gifts of apples and oranges spiked with cloves and resting in baskets lined with evergreen boughs.
  • The Yule log was a whole tree meant to be burned for 12 days in the hearth. The Celts believed the sun stood still during the winter solstice. They thought by keeping the Yule log burning for these 12 days encouraged the sun to move, making the days longer. The largest end would be fed into the hearth, wine poured over it. They lit it with the remains of the previous year’s Yule log. Everyone took turns feeding the length of timber into the fire as it burned. Letting it burn out would bring bad luck.
How to observe Yule

Share your observations, stories, and traditions related to the holiday. Examine your holiday traditions and compare them to those of yuletide. Where do they cross and blend? Explore the history and lore of Yule. Read Yule: A Celebration of Light and Warmth by Dorothy Morrison for more insight.

Yule History

While we observe the winter solstice around the world, Germanic cultures of northern and western Europe primarily celebrated Yule. At the midpoint of winter, they celebrated the rebirth of the sun and the light it would bring to the Earth.


The winter solstice is the shortest day and longest night of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. It occurs annually between December 20th and December 23rd.

The winter solstice is marked by the point at which the North Pole is at its farthest from the sun during its yearly orbit around the sun. It will be approximately 23 degrees away from the sun. Despite the temperature outside, the winter solstice is considered the astronomical beginning of winter. Meteorological winter begins December 1st and lasts until the end of February. It’s marked by the coldest average temperatures during the year.

Depending on how far north a person is in the Northern Hemisphere during the winter, their day can range from 9.5 hours to absolutely no sunrise at all. On the bright side, the days will gradually become longer in the Northern Hemisphere until the summer solstice in June. In the Southern Hemisphere, this same day marks the summer solstice and the Southern Hemisphere’s longest day of the year.

The vernal equinox and the autumnal equinox conventionally mark the beginning of spring and fall respectively and occur when night and day are approximately equal in length.

Around the world since ancient times to modern-day, celebrations, festivals, rituals, and holidays recognizing the winter solstice have varied from culture to culture.

How to observe WinterSolstice

Winter lovers, enjoy the shortest day of the year. Those longing for more sunlight, prepare to celebrate. Longer days are ahead. 

Winter Solstice History

Since the marking of time and the earliest calendars, this day marked the hardest time of the year for early people. Survival was paramount when food and heat are not reliable. In all corners of the Earth, there are ancient remains that seem to have been built around marking the winter solstice.
  • Probably the most famous of these is Stonehenge, England. Every year when the sun sets on the winter solstice, the sun’s rays align with two of the giant stones known as the central Altar and the Slaughter stone.
  • As the sun rises the day of the winter solstice, its rays illuminate the main chambers of the monument dating back to 3200 B.C. at Newgrange, Ireland.
  • In Tulum, Mexico an ancient Mayan city stands deserted. At the top of one of these buildings, a small hole casts a starburst when the sun rises on the winter and summer solstices.
Credit for the Yule and Winter Solstice above: National Day Calendar here and here.

Winter Solstice will arrive at 10:58 am EST today.

I finished my wreath...just in time for Yule/Winter Solstice. 

A Blessed Yule to your and yours!

Always in spirit...

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