Tiffany: + 25.8% profit and renew the NY flagship

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The jeweler Tiffany stores the second quarter with profits of $ 144.7 million, an increase of 25.8% compared to the same period of 2017.

In the three months ended July 31, revenues amounted to 1.08 billion dollars, an increase of 12%. The biggest growth concerns the Asia-Pacific, the second most important market, which recorded a + 28%. In Japan, Tiffany scored a + 11% while in the Americas (first market) the increase in sales was 8%. Europe is at the bottom with a 5% increase (-1% in comparable stores).

In the quarter, earnings per share were $ 1.17, while analysts expected $ 1.01 and a turnover of 1.04 billion.

The listed company in New York has revised upward the earnings estimates for the fiscal year end (January 31, 2019), which now rose from 4.5-4.7 dollars per share to 4.65-4.8 dollars . The forecast is based on a hypothesis of revenue growth at a rate between 5% and 9%.

Commenting on the results, CEO Alessandro Bogliolo recalled that Tiffany is preparing to renovate the iconic New York flagship building, on the corner of 57th Street and Fifth Avenue, open since 1940. In granite and limestone, with influences Art Déco and steel doors, is characterized by a bronze sculpture depicting Atlas carrying a watch on the shoulders (in the picture).

Work to create a new luxury shopping experience for brand loyalists should start in the spring of 2019 and finish in the fourth quarter of 2021.

During the renewal, Tiffany will temporarily expand the retail area in the adjacent space, formerly Niketown (6 East 57th street). The planned capital expenditure is equal to a percentage between 1% and 2% of annual revenues for three years, from the fiscal year that begins on February 1, 2019 (approximately 250 million dollars, assuming revenues in line with last year exercise, amounting to $ 4.2 billion).

Kathy Kiefer




Taste of Florence’s Chianti Lovers Preview at Fortezza

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file63A wine fair takes place annually every February in Florence to celebrate the completion of the 2016 production year in Chianti.

On Sunday, February 12, Chianti Lovers Anteprima (Preview) is back once again to invite wine lovers to be among the first to sample 2016 Chianti not yet released on the market.

Representatives from over 100 estates will pour 500 types of wine.  Due to the enormous success of the past two editions, this year’s event will be held at the Fortezza da Basso in order to guarantee the tasting of wines in a relaxing and pleasurable manner.

The fair offers a chance to familiarize with the quality and the characteristics of Chianti 2016 and the Chianti Riserva 2014 from file14the subzones of Chianti Rufina, Colli Fiorentini, Colli Aretini, Colli Senesi, Colline Pisane (the hills around Florence, Arezzo, Siena and Pisa) as well as six additional Tuscan denominations. Doors will be open for the public from 4 to 9 pm with €15 admission (accessibility at 9:30 am is limited to trade professionals and journalists).

Chianti Lovers Anteprima welcomes visitors who are passionate about wine but also those who wish to investigate the mysteries
involved and the excitement of evaluating them. It is a chance to experience the meanings of the intense ruby colors, or hints of fruit or spicy notes on the nose, or on the palate the nuances of wild berries, vanilla, chocolate, leather or tobacco with overall smooth tannins.

file53These expressions refer to just some of the unique aspects of Chianti and their terroir, a unique environmental context contributing to the variety of flavors that can be distinguished. Moving among the stands there is an atmosphere of enjoyment and of feeling special as producers who are eager to hear critiques of their wines greet guests.

The term “Preview” means that the Chianti wines are still very young but still are able to give an idea of their quality and mature characteristics. In the coming months the vintages will continue to develop fragrances and aromas to express the robust quintessence of the Sangiovese grape.

A new feature of this year’s Anteprima will be the presence of a number of diminutive red Ape three-wheelers, which have slipped down from the hills of Chianti. The farm vehicles will be buzzing through the streets and squares of central Florence starting on Tuesday from 9 am to 5 pm, offering tastings directly from wineries.

These Chianti carts will provide an opportunity to acquire discounts on the tickets for the Sunday event. Late afternoon on Friday, 10th February 10 there will be a special pre-dinner aperitif offered in one of the main piazzas in town.

Kathy Kiefer


sure-com America

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Transcribe an article of my italian correspondent  Alessandro Sicuro,

That web marketing expert and web business

New York pushes on the social dimension of fashion. Waiting to know which new parades model will arrive from the Big Apple, from the American city of the weight signals arriving decided that, in any case, will have the hashtag. And the numbers are, indeed, impressive. According to the site Stylight, during the past year, it was shared around 31.6 million images on Instagram with the hashtag #nyfw. A flow which, however, does not take into account the post activated without entering the official hashtag. In confirmation of the strength of the new media, the CEO and co-founder of Snapchat Evan Spiegel, interviewed Monday by a journalist from The New Yorker, he has indicated the publishing directions during a conference of The Association of Magazine Media. Traditional text content, according to the manager, are unattractive for those who sail through smartphones. “We prefer a storytelling visual rather than textual, that’s why we always start a story with a video. You can learn more by reading the text, but in the last year, we found that the video storytelling is very much appreciated. ” Spiegel advises magazines also not to change its DNA, in favor of the expectations of millennials, but rather to maintain the integrity of the identity of titles because readers are attracted to the brand.

courtesy by Alessandro Sicuro

Pic Book Inspired by Kathy Kiefer

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Schermata 2016-01-06 alle 02.06.39


Kathy Kiefer




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Where did this beautiful holiday plant originate?


poinsettia-aliveThe poinsettia is a culturally and commercially important plant species of the diverse spurge family that is indigenous to Mexico and Central America. It is particularly well known for its red and green foliage and is widely used in Christmas floral displays. It derives its common English name from Joel Roberts Poinsett, the first United States Minister to Mexico, who introduced the plant into the United States in 1825.

Euphorbia pulcherrima is a shrub or small tree, typically reaching a height of 0.6–4 meters (2 ft 0 in–13 ft. 1 in). The plant bears dark green denate leaves that measure 7–16 centimeters (2.8–6.3 in) in length. The colored bracts—which are most often flaming red but can be orange, pale green, cream, pink, white, or marbled—are often mistaken for flower petals because of their groupings and colors, but are actually leaves. The colors of the bracts are created through phtoperiodism, meaning that they require darkness (12 hours at a time for at least five days in a row) to change color. At the same time, the plants require abundant light during the day for the brightest color.

The flowers of the poinsettia are unassuming and do not attract pollinators. They are grouped within small yellow structures found in the center of each leaf bunch, and are called cyathia.

The poinsettia is native to Mexico. It is found in the wild in deciduous tropical forest at moderate elevations from southern Sinaloa down the entire Pacific coast of Mexico to Chiapas and Guatemala. It is also found in the interior in the hot, seasonally dry forests of Guerrero, Oaxaca, and Chiapas. Reports of E. pulcherrima growing in the wild in Nicaragua and Costa Rica have yet to be confirmed by botanists.

There are over 100 cultivated varieties of poinsettia.

The Aztecs used the plant to produce red dye and as an antipyretic medication. In Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs, the plant is called Cuetlaxochitl, meaning “flower that grows in residues.” Today it is known in Mexico and Guatemala as Flor de Noche Buena, meaning Christmas Eve Flower. In Spain it is known as Flor de Pascua or Pascua, meaning Easter flower. In Chile and Peru, the plant became known as Crown of the Andes. In Turkey, it is called Atatürk’s flower because Ataturk, the founder of the Republic, liked this flower and made a significant contribution to its cultivation in Turkey.

The plant’s association with Christmas began in 16th-century Mexico, where legend tells of a girl, commonly called Pepita or Maria, who was too poor to provide a gift for the celebration of Jesus’ birthday and was inspired by an angel to gather weeds from the roadside and place them in front of the church altar. Crimson blossoms sprouted from the weeds and became beautiful poinsettias. From the 17th century, Franciscan friars in Mexico included the plants in their Christmas celebrations. The star-shaped leaf pattern is said to symbolize the Star of Bethlehem, and the red color represents the blood sacrifice through the crucifixion of Jesus.

Poinsettias are popular Christmas decorations in homes, churches, offices, and elsewhere across North America. They are available in large numbers from grocery, drug, and hardware stores. In the United States, December 12 is National Poinsettia Day.

Albert Ecke emigrated from Germany to Los Angeles in 1900, opening a dairy and orchard in the Eagle Rock area. He became intrigued by the plant and sold them from street stands. His son, Paul Ecke, developed the grafting technique, but it was the third generation of Eckes, Paul Ecke Jr., who was responsible for advancing the association between the plant and Christmas. Besides changing the market from mature plants shipped by rail to cuttings sent by air, he sent free plants to television stations for them to display on air from Thanksgiving to Christmas. He also appeared on television programs like The Tonight Show and Bob Hope’s Christmas specials to promote the plants.

Until the 1990s, the Ecke family, who had moved their operation to Encinitas, California, in 1923, had a virtual monopoly on poinsettias owing to a technique that made their plants much more attractive. They produced a fuller, more compact plant by grafting two varieties of poinsettia together. A poinsettia left to grow on its own will naturally take an open, somewhat weedy look. The Eckes’ technique made it possible to get every seedling to branch, resulting in a bushier plant.

In 1991, a university researcher discovered the method previously known only to the Eckes and published it, allowing competitors to flourish, particularly those using low-cost labor in Latin America. The Ecke family’s business, now led by Paul Ecke III, decided to stop producing plants in the U.S., but as of 2008, they still serve about 70 percent of the domestic market and 50 percent of the worldwide market.

In areas outside its natural environment, it is commonly grown as an indoor plant where it prefers good morning sun, then shade in the hotter part of the day. Contrary to popular belief, flowering poinsettia can be kept outside, even during winter, as long as it is kept frost-free. It is widely grown and very popular in subtropical climates such as Australia, Rwanda and Malta.

The poinsettia has also been cultivated in Egypt since the 1860s, when it was brought from Mexico during the Egyptian campaign. It is called Bent El Consul, “the consul’s daughter”, referring to the U.S. ambassador Joel Poinsett.

The plant requires a daily period of uninterrupted long, dark nights followed by bright sunny days for around two months in autumn in order to encourage it to develop colored bracts. Any incidental light during these nights (from a nearby television set, from under a door frame, even from passing cars or street lights) hampers bract production. Commercial production of poinsettia has been done by placing them inside a greenhouse and covering the latter completely to imitate the natural biological situation.

To produce extra axillary buds that are necessary for plants containing multiple flowers, a phytoplasma infection—whose symptoms include the proliferation of axillary buds—is used.

Poinsettias are susceptible to several diseases, mostly fungal, but also bacterial and parasitic.

In the United States and perhaps elsewhere, there is a common misconception that the poinsettia is highly toxic. This misconception was spread by a 1919 urban legend of a two-year-old child dying after consuming a poinsettia leaf. While the sap and latex of many plants of the spurge genus are indeed toxic, the poinsettia’s toxicity is relatively mild. Its latex can cause an allergic reaction in sensitive individuals. It is also mildly irritating to the skin or stomachand may sometimes cause diarrhea and vomiting if eaten. Sap introduced into the human eye may cause temporary blindness. An American Journal of Emergency Medicine study of 22,793 cases reported to the American Association of Poison Control Centers showed no fatalities, and furthermore that a strong majority of poinsettia exposures are accidental, involve children, and usually do not result in any type of medical treatment. POISINDEX, a major source for poison control centers, says a 50-pound (23 kg) child would have to eat 500 bracts to accumulate levels of toxins found to be harmful in experiments. An Ohio State University study showed no problems even with extremely large doses.

Today, poinsettias may be found in many different colors as well as product forms from mini poinsettias to large specimen trees and every size in between. Testifying to its success and popularity, the poinsettia is not only the most popular holiday flower, it is the number one flowering potted plant in the United States, with over 65 million plants sold nationwide in 2000.

The long production season for poinsettias (from propagation in the hot months of summer to vegetative growth and then flower bract development in the shorter days and cooler months of fall and early winter) provides a wide range of environmental conditions that can foster a series of diseases. A number of other less common diseases can cause significant problems for individual growers when favorable environmental conditions prevail. In addition to biotic agents, improper fertilization practices can cause symptoms in poinsettias.

Kathy Kiefer



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The tradition of the Yule log has a long and interesting history. Even though the Yule log is not a common part of modern-day Christmas celebrations in the U.S., it’s still interesting to see where this tradition got its start and how it evolved throughout the centuries. In fact, if it were up to me, the tradition of the Yule log would be brought back in full force. Wondering what the Yule log tradition is? I’ll let you in on the secret…

The tradition of the Yule log spans millennia and actually precedes Christianity. Peasants used to burn a yule log on the Winter Solstice in December. The Winter Solstice is the day of the year with the shortest amount of daylight. The peasants hoped to keep evil spirits away by burning the Yule log, which they presumed might come because of the prolonged darkness of the Winter Solstice.

The Yule log was frequently associated with winter celebrations until Christianity became widespread. As Christianity grew, the yule log became more commonly associated with Christmas celebrations and Christianity adopted the Yule log tradition. For centuries, Christians cut their own yule logs at Christmas time or they would try to find a yule log to burn. During the 1700s and 1800s, it was a regular Christmas tradition for men to go an expedition to find a yule log. Many European countries had somewhat different traditions surrounding the Yule log, but a Yule log was burned either in the days preceding Christmas or possibly on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.

The yule log was such an integral part of Christmas celebrations for centuries that it is hard to understand why it is virtually nonexistent in the United States. My only guess is electricity. Many homes don’t have fireplaces anymore and some of us are not accustomed to dealing with indoor fires, nor do many have the facilities to do so.

Because the yule log is not very popular anymore in the U.S., it’s hard to imagine that this tradition will ever be revived. Unless, of course, some company markets an electric yule log (are you listening you entrepreneurial types?). It’s hard to think of an adequate replacement of this dying tradition, but learning a bit about the history of the yule log is certainly warming and fitting as Christmas approaches.

Yule Log, Yule Llog, or Christmas Knock is a specially selected log burnt on a hearth around the period of Christmas in a number of countries in  Europe. The origin of the folk custom is unclear. Numerous scholars have observed that, like other traditions associated with Yule (such as the Yule boar); the custom may ultimately derive from Germanic paganism. Similar folk practices are recorded in various areas of Europe.

According to the Encyclopedia of English Folklore, the first “clear” references to the tradition appear in the 17th century, and thus it is unclear where or when the custom extends.

However, it has long been observed that the custom may have much earlier origins, possibly extending from or echoing customs observed in Germanic paganism. As early as 1725, Henry Bourne sought an origin for the Yule log in Anglo-Saxon paganism:

Our Fore-Fathers, when the common Devious of Eve were over, and Night was come on, were wont to light up Candles of an uncommon Size, which were called Christmas-Candles, and to lay a Log of Wood upon the Fire, which they termed a Yule-Clog, or Christmas-Block. These were to Illuminate the House, and turn the Night into Day; which custom, in some Measure, is still kept up in the Northern Parts. It hath, in all probability, been derived from the Saxons. For Bede tells us, that this very Night was observed in this Land before, by the Heathen Saxons. They began, says he, their Year on the Eight of the Calenders of January, which is now our Christmas Party: And the very Night before, which is now Holy to us, was by them called Maedrenack, or the Night of the Mothers. The Yule-Clog therefore hath probably been a Part of those Ceremonies which were perform’d that Night’s Ceremonies. It seems to have been used, as an Emblem of the return of the Sun, and the lengthening of the Days. For as both December and January were called Guili or Yule, upon Account of the Sun’s Returning, and the Increase of the Days; so, I am apt to believe, the Log has had the Name of the Yule-Log, from its being burnt as an Emblem of the returning Sun, and the Increase of its Light and Heat. This was probably the Reason of the custom among the Heathen Saxons; but I cannot think the Observation of it was continued for the same Reason, after Christianity was embraced. …”

Communal bon-bons with feasting and jollification have a pagan root—ritual bonfires at the beginning of November once signaled the start of another year and the onset of winter. Their subsequent incorporation into the Christian calendar, to become part and parcel of the festival of Christmas, and, later, their association with the New Year (January 1st) is an intriguing story. Many, if not all, of the various customs and traditions at one time extensively witnessed at Christmas and the ‘old’ New Year stem from this common source, e.g. Twelfth Night bonfires, including ‘Old Meg’ from Worcestershire and burning the bush from Herefordshire, first footing, etc. … Any traces of primitive ritual such as scattering of burnt ashes or embers as an omen of fertilisation or purification have long since disappeared.

The events of Yule are generally held to have centered on Mid-winter (although specific dating is a matter of debate), and feasting, drinking, and sacrifice were involved. Scholar Rudolf Simek comments that the pagan Yule feast “had a pronounced religious character” and comments that “it is uncertain whether the Germanic Yule feast still had a function in the cult of the dead and in the veneration of the ancestors, a function which the mid-winter sacrifice certainly held for the West European Stone and Bronze Ages.” The traditions of the Yule log, Yule goat, Yule boar (Sonargoltr) still reflected in the Christmas ham, Yule singing, and others stem from Yule customs, and customs which Simek takes as “indicating the significance of the feast in pre-Christian times.”

The Yule log is recorded in the folklore archives of much of England, but particularly in collections covering the West Country and the North Country. For example, in his section regarding “Christmas Observances”, J. B. Partridge recorded then-current (1914) Christmas customs in Yorkshire, Britain involving the Yule log as related by “Mrs. Day, Minchinhampton, a native of Swaledale”. The custom is as follows:

The Yule log is generally given, and is at once put on the hearth. It is unlucky to have to light it again after it has once been started, and it ought not go out until it has burned away.

To sit around the Yule log and tell ghost stories is a great thing to do on this night, also card-playing.

To large colored candles are a Christmas present from the grocery. Just before supper on Christmas Eve (where furmety is eaten), while the Yule log is burning, all other lights are put out, and the candles are lighted from the Yule log by the youngest person present. While they are being lighted, all are silent and wish. The wish must not be told, but you see if you get it during the year. As soon as the candles are on the table, silence may be broken. They must be allowed to burn themselves out, and no other lights may be lighted that night.

  1. J. Rose records a similar folk belief from Killinghall, Yorkshire in 1923: “In the last generation the Yule log was still burned, and a piece of it saved to light the next year’s log. On Christmas morning something green, a leaf or the like, was brought into the house before anything was taken out.”

The Yule log is also attested as a custom present elsewhere in the English speaking world, such as the United States. Robert Meyer, Jr. records in 1947 that a “Yule-Log Ceremony” in Palmer Lake, Colorado had occurred since 1934. Meyer Jr. describes the custom: “It starts with the yule log hunt and is climaxed by drinking of wassail around the fire.”

Similarities have been observed between the custom of the ashenfaggot, recorded solely in the West Country of England. First recorded at the beginning of the 19th century and occurring up until at least 2003 in some areas, the ashen faggot is burnt on Christmas Eve, is associated with a variety of folk beliefs, and is “made of smaller ash sticks bound into a faggot with strips of hazel, withy, or bramble”. G. R. Wiley observes that the ashen faggot may have developed out of the Yule log.

As early as Jacob Grimm in the early 19th century, scholars have observed parallels in the South Slavic custom of the Badnjak and the Yule log tradition. As observed by M. E. Durham (1940), the Badnjak is a long young tree is placed on the hearth on Christmas Eve. Varying customs involving the Badnjak may be performed, such as smearing it with fowl blood or goat blood and the ashes may be “strewn on the fields or garden to promote fertility on New Year’s Eve”.

Kathy Kiefer


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During Christmastime, one readily observable difference between Italy and the United States, for instance, is the lack of crass commercialism that threatens to swallow up and completely secularize the holiday. For instance, instead of writing letters to Santa Claus asking for presents (or, in the digital age, E-mailing Santa Claus), Italian children write letters to tell their parents how much they love them. The letter is normally placed under their father’s plate and read after Christmas Eve dinner has been finished.

Italians have also adopted some of the Northern European traditions as well. Nowadays, especially in northern Italy, a fair number of families decorate an evergreen tree in their home.  I am pleased to share some other rituals, customs, and traditions practiced by Italians during the Christmas holidays:

Ceppo: The ceppo is a wooden frame several feet high designed in a pyramid shape. This frame supports several tiers of shelves, often with a manger scene on the bottom followed by small gifts of fruit, candy, and presents on the shelves above. The “Tree of Light,” as it is also know, is entirely decorated with colored paper, gilt pinecones, and miniature colored pennants. Small candles are fastened to the tapering sides and a star or small doll is hung at the apex.

Urn of Fate: An old tradition in Italy calls for each member of the family to take turns drawing a wrapped gift out of a large ornamental bowl until all the presents are distributed.

Zampognari and Pifferai: In Rome and surrounding areas bagpipers and flute players, in traditional colorful costumes of sheepskin vests, knee-high breeches, white stockings and long dark cloaks, travel from their homes in the Abruzzi mountains to entertain crowds of people at religious shrines.

La Befana: a Kindly old witch who brings children toys on the Feast of the Epiphany, January 6. According to the legend of la Befana, the Three Wise Men stopped at her hut to ask directions on their way to Bethlehem and to invite her to join them. She refused, and later a shepherd asked her to join him in paying respect to the Christ Child. Again she refused, and when night fell she saw a great light in the skies.

La Befana thought perhaps she should have gone with the Three Wise Men, so she gathered some toys that had belonged to her own child, who had died, and ran to find the kings and the shepherd. But la Befana could not find them or the stable. Now, each year she looks for the Christ Child. Since she cannot find him, she leaves gifts for the children of Italy and pieces of coal (nowadays carbone dolce, a rock candy that looks remarkably like coal) for the bad ones.

Holiday Season: On the Italian holiday calendar December 25 isn’t the only special day. Throughout December and January there are a number of religious holidays to mark the season.

DECEMBER 6: La Festa di San Nicola – The festival in honor of St. Nicholas, the patron saint of shepherds, is celebrated in towns such as Pollutri with the lighting of fires under enormous cauldrons, in which fave (broad beans) are cooked, then eaten ceremoniously.

DECEMBER 8: L’Immacolata Concezione – celebration of the Immaculate Conception

DECEMBER 13: La Festa di Santa Lucia – St. Lucy’s Day

DECEMBER 24: La Vigilia di Natale – Christmas Eve

DECEMBER 25: Natale – Christmas

DECEMBER 26: La Festa di Santo Stefano – St. Stephen’s Day marks the announcement of the birth of Jesus and the arrival of the Three Wise Men

DECEMBER 31: La Festa di San Silvestro – New Year’s Eve

JANUARY 1: Il Capodanno – New Year’s Day

JANUARY 6: La Festa dell’Epifania – The Epiphany

In Germany, Sankt Nikolaus, and in Holland, Sinterklaas, became Santa Claus of Christmas fame and that tradition was carried to the Americas by European settlers.

The magnificent Basilica di San Nicola in Bari is visited by thousands of faithful and tourists every year.

So perhaps the next time your children ask if Santa Claus is real, maybe you should take them on a trip to Italy.

Kathy Kiefer

Babbo Natale

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Babbo Natale

santa_claus_3_zps1ce7eb25Italy’s Christmas Santa Claus Babbo Natale, Italy’s version of Santa Claus, is becoming more popular and gift giving on Christmas day is becoming more common. La Befana, an old woman who delivers gifts on Epiphany, January 6 is still the more popular Italian Christmas figure. Babbo Natale or Father Christmas is gaining popularity in Italy. Babbo Natale is a skinnier and more regal looking version of Santa Claus. They both wear red cloaks with white trim, but Santa Claus has most decidedly enjoyed more second helpings at the dinner table than Babbo Natale. Historically, Christmas has been more reserved in Italy than in other European countries and certainly more reserved than the raucous month long Christmas season enjoyed in the US. Many Italians now hang Christmas stockings for Babbo Natale to fill. Santa Claus, or Saint Nicholas, has very European roots in traditional folklore. Babbo Natale in Italy, Père Noël in France, Father Christmas in England, Julenisse in Scandanavia , Sinter Klass in the Netherlands, as well as Santa Claus are all regionalized versions of the story of Saint Nicholas. La Befana though, is uniquely Italian. Since the Santa Claus story was popularized by Clementfc4374418f7b72a31ddd19b8838021af Moore and Coca Cola, the story the world over has many similarities. Babbo Natale also has reindeer, whose names are: Cometa, Ballerina, Fulmine, Donnola, Freccia, Saltarello, Donato, Cupido (Comet, Dancer, Dasher, Prancer, Vixen, Donder, Blitzen, Cupid). Children all over the world write letters to their version of Santa Claus in hopes of receiving gifts. And, adults, well it is likely that many of us still believe in the spirit of the jolly man in the red suit whether he is known as Santa Claus or Babbo Natale. In Italy the Christmas season lasts for a few weeks up until Epiphany. It is common practice for Italian children write letters to Babbo Natale (Father Christmas) asking for Christmas presents. Christmas meals include: Lo zampone (skin of a lower pig leg filled with minced meat) Il cotechino (sausage, similar to salami) Turkey Lamb Tortellini (ring-shaped pasta) Il panettone (fruitcake) Bombardino (a popular drink similar to eggnog) Another popular Christmas activity is the “urn of fate”, in which presents are put into a lucky dip and there is one gift per person. However, gift-exchanging also occurs on Epiphany. in Italy, he is known as Babbo Natale (Father Christmas), for Babbo is the name children call their father, and even in the tiniest villages (of 80 people), Babbo Natale is welcomed and photographed with children each Christmas Eve while families are gathered around the table for a traditional Christmas Eve dinner. Babbo Natale is usually a straniero (foreigner), for he does not speak Italian, since he is from the North Pole. Babbo Natale sends his blessings around the world to you, and happily shares some of the joy with you as he wishes you peace, love, and good will toward all mankind. While La Bafana, the good Christmas Witch is something only found in Italy, Santa is really the same all over the world, but in Italy, his name is Babbo Natale–Daddy Christmas. Babbo Natale is who we call Santa Claus in the States, or Saint Nick or more formally, Saint Nicholas, but his roots are in many European countries’ traditional folklore. To the French, he is Pere Noël (Father Christmas), Father Christmas in England, Julenisse (Christmas Elf) in Scandanavia , Sinterklaas in the Netherlands, and Sankt Nikolaus or Weihnachtsmann in Germany. Santa Claus was made popular throughout the world by Coca Cola ads and Clement Moore’s story “A Visit from St. Nicholas” (‘Twas the Night Before Christmas) so there are many similarities. They all are kind and give presents. Most wear red. Some are fat and short, others are thinner and taller. Santa has a sleigh pulled by eight reindeer, and so does Babbo Natale. Their names are a bit different, though: Cometa, Ballerina, Fulmine, Donnola, Freccia, Saltarello, Donato, Cupido (in place of our Comet, Dancer, Dasher, Prancer, Vixen, Donder, Blitzen, Cupid).All over the world, Santa Claus and Babbo Natale represent the Christmas Spirit–lo Spirito di Natale. His jolly, kind, all-knowing face is a sign of love to children… a reminder than in fact, they are loved… by God, by Santa and by their parents and siblings. He is a symbol of what Christmas is all about–the Good Life that God gave us. Babbo Natale sends his blessings around the world to you, and happily shares some of the joy with you as he wishes you peace, love, and good will toward all mankind. So perhaps the next time your children ask if Santa Claus is real, maybe you should take them on a trip to Italy.

Kathy Kiefer


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KWANZAA is a week-long celebration held in the United States and in other nations of the Western African diaspora in the Americas. The celebration honors African heritage in African-American culture, and is observed from December 26 to January 1, culminating in a feast and gift-giving. Kwanzaa has seven core principles (Nguzo Saba). It was created by Maulana Karenga, and was first celebrated in 1966–67.

Maulana Karenga created Kwanzaa in 1965 as the first specifically African-American holiday. According to Karenga, the name Kwanzaa derives from the Swahili phrase matunda ya kwanza, meaning “first fruits of the harvest”. The choice of Swahili, an East African language, reflects its status as a symbol of Pan-Africanism, especially in the 1960s, although most of the Atlantic slave trade that brought African people to America originated in West Africa.

There iS NO WAY TO UNDERSTAND and appreciate the meaning and message of Kwanzaa without understanding and appreciating its profound and pervasive concern with values. In fact. Kwanzaa’s reason for existence, its length of seven days, its core focus and its foundation are all rooted in its concern with values. Kwanzaa inherits this value concern and focus from Kawaida, the African philosophical framework in which it was created. Kawaida philosophy is a communitarian African philosophy which is an ongoing synthesis of the best of African thought and practice in constant exchange with the world.

Kwanzaa is a celebration that has its roots in the Black Nationalist movement of the 1960s, and was established as a means to help African Americans reconnect with their African cultural and historical heritage by uniting in meditation and study of African traditions and Nguzo Saba, the “seven principles of African Heritage” which Karenga said “is a communitarian African philosophy”.

During the early years of Kwanzaa, Karenga said that it was meant to be an “oppositional alternative” to Christmas. However, as Kwanzaa gained mainstream adherents, Karenga altered his position so that practicing Christians would not be alienated, then stating in the 1997 Kwanzaa: A Celebration of Family, Community, and Culture, “Kwanzaa was not created to give people an alternative to their own religion or religious holiday.”

Many African Americans who celebrate Kwanzaa do so in addition to observing Christmas.

Principles and symbols

Kwanzaa celebrates what its founder called the seven principles of Kwanzaa, or Nguzo Saba (originally Nguzu Saba—the seven principles of African Heritage), which Karenga said “is a communitarian African philosophy,” consisting of what Karenga called “the best of African thought and practice in constant exchange with the world.” These seven principles comprise *Kawaida, a Swahili term for tradition and reason. Each of the seven days of Kwanzaa is dedicated to one of the following principles, as follows:

  • Umoja (Unity): To strive for and to maintain unity in the family, community, nation, and race.
  • Kujichagulia (Self-Determination): To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves, and speak for ourselves.
  • Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility): To build and maintain our community together and make our brothers’ and sisters’ problems our problems, and to solve them together.
  • Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics): To build and maintain our own stores, shops, and other businesses and to profit from them together.
  • Nia (Purpose): To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.
  • Kuumba (Creativity): To do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it.
  • Imani (Faith): To believe with all our hearts in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders, and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.

Kwanzaa symbols include a decorative mat (Mkeka) on which other symbols are placed: corn (Mahindi) and other crops, a candle holder kinara with seven candles (Mishumaa Saba), a communal cup for pouring libation (Kikombe cha Umoja), gifts (Zawadi), a poster of the seven principles, and a black, red, and green flag. The symbols were designed to convey the seven principles.

Families celebrating Kwanzaa decorate their households with objects of art, colorful African cloth such as kente, especially the wearing of kaftans by women, and fresh fruits that represent African idealism. It is customary to include children in Kwanzaa ceremonies and to give respect and gratitude to ancestors. Libations are shared, generally with a common chalice, Kikombe cha Umoja, passed around to all celebrants. Non-African Americans also celebrate Kwanzaa. The holiday greeting is “Joyous Kwanzaa”.

A Kwanzaa ceremony may include drumming and musical selections, libations, a reading of the African Pledge and the Principles of Blackness, reflection on the Pan-African colors, a discussion of the African principle of the day or a chapter in African history, a candle-lighting ritual, artistic performance, and, finally, a feast (karamu). The greeting for each day of Kwanzaa is Habari Gani? which is Swahili for “How are you?”

At first, observers of Kwanzaa avoided the mixing of the holiday or its symbols, values, and practice with other holidays, as doing so would violate the principle of kujichagulia (self-determination) and thus violate the integrity of the holiday, which is partially intended as a reclamation of important African values. Today, many African American families celebrate Kwanzaa along with Christmas and New Year’s. Frequently, both Christmas trees and kinaras, the traditional candle holder symbolic of African American roots, share space in Kwanzaa-celebrating households. For people who celebrate both holidays, Kwanzaa is an opportunity to incorporate elements of their particular ethnic heritage into holiday observances and celebrations of Christmas.

Cultural exhibitions include the Spirit of Kwanzaa, an annual celebration held at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts featuring interpretive dance, African dance, , song and poetry.

The holiday has also spread to Canada, and is celebrated by Black Canadians in a similar fashion as in the United States.

Kwanzaa’s Seven Symbols

The Kwanzaa Decoration of the Mazao
To demonstrate their “mazao,” as a Kwanzaa decoration, families place nuts, fruits, and vegetables, which represent their work, on another Kwanzee decoration called “mkeka” or a traditional place mat. The mazao symbolizes the historical gathering of Africans for their harvest festivals in which joy, sharing, unity, and thanksgiving were the fruits of their labors.


The Kwanzaa Decoration of the Mkeka
The Kwanza decoration called the “mkeka” is essentially a traditional African place mat constructed of straw or cloth. The Mkeka represents the firm historical and traditional foundation that Kwanzaa celebrants stand on and build their lives. During Kwanzaa, families remember their traditions, history and contemplate their future.


The Kwanzaa Decoration of the Vibunzi
This Kwanzaa decoration is a simple ear of corn. Whereas a stalk of corn represents children as the hope for the future, the “Vibunzi,” a single ear of corn, represents each individual child and his/her importance. Thus one Vibunzi is placed as a Kwanzaa decoration on the Mkeka for each child in the family. During Kwanzaa, the adults symbolically take the love and nurture that they were given as children and selflessly return it to all children, especially the helpless, homeless, loveless ones in their community. Thus, in the Kwanzaa decoration of Vibunzi we remember the Nigerian proverb, “It takes a whole village to raise a child.” Kwanzaa tradition recalls that the Africa culture called for child rearing to be a community affair.


The Kwanzaa Decoration of Mishumaa Saba. The Seven Candles
The “Mishumaa Saba” are the Kwanzaa decorations of seven candles symbolizing the sun’s power and the sun’s giving us light. This Kwanzaa decoration is made up of one black candle, three red candles, and three green ones. The back candle symbolizes (unity) and is lit on December 26th. The three green candles, representing purpose, collective work and responsibility, and faith are placed to the right of the black candle. The three red candles, representing self-determination, cooperative economics, and creativity are placed to the left.


The Kwanzaa Decoration of the Kinara
This Kwanzaa decoration is the Candleholder-the “Kinara.” It is the center of the Kwanzaa setting and symbolizes the original stalk–our ancestors–from whom we descended. These Kwanzaa decorations can be any shape and made from all kinds of materials. The seven candles are placed in the Kinara. The Kwanzaa decoration of the Kinara symbolizes the celebrants’ ancestors, who during Kwanzaa, are remembered and honored.


The Kwanzaa Decoration of the Kikombe Cha Umoja
The “Kikombe Cha Umoja” is a special Kwanzaa decoration that could be called the “Unity Cup.” During the feast, on the sixth day according to Kwanzaa tradition, the Unity Cup is passed to family members and guests, who drink from it to promote unity. Then Kwanzaa tradition calls for the eldest person at the feast to pour the “tambiko,” usually water, juice or wine, in the direction of the four winds to honor ancestors.

The Kwanzaa Decoration of Zawadi
On the last day come Kwanzee decorations that are similar to other holiday observances-the exchange of gifts. The “Zawadi” or gifts are meant to be meaningful to the symbols of Kwanzee. Handmade gifts are encouraged to promote self-determination, purpose, and creativity and to avoid the distraction of commercialism during the holiday season. Accepting a gift implies a moral obligation to fulfill the promise of the gift, and it binds the recipient to follow the training of the host. The gift is meant to solidify and enhance relationships.

Kwanzaa Summary

Kwanzaa is a beautiful African-American tradition that celebrates a culture rich in love of family, honor of the past, hope for the future, and principle-centered ideals.


In 2004, BIG Research conducted a marketing survey in the United States for the National Retail Foundation, which found that 1.6% of those surveyed planned to celebrate Kwanzaa. If generalized to the US population as a whole, this would imply that around 4.7 million people planned to celebrate Kwanzaa in that year. In a 2006 speech, Ron Karenga asserted that 28 million people celebrate Kwanzaa. He has always claimed it is celebrated all over the world. Lee D. Baker puts the number at 12 million. The African American Cultural Center claimed 30 million in 2009. In 2011, Keith Mayes said that 2 million people participated in Kwanzaa.

According to University of Minnesota Professor Keith Mayes, the author of Kwanzaa: Black Power and the Making of the African-American Holiday Tradition, the popularity within the US has “leveled off” as the black power movement there has declined, and now between half and two million people celebrate Kwanzaa in the US, or between one and five percent of African Americans. Mayes adds that white institutions now celebrate it.

The holiday has also spread to Canada, and is celebrated by Black Canadians in a similar fashion as in the United States. According to the Language Portal of Canada, “this fairly new tradition has [also] gained in popularity in France, Great Britain, Jamaica and Brazil”, although this information has not been confirmed with authoritative sources from these countries.

In Brazil, in recent years the term Kwanzaa has been applied by a few institutions as a synonym for the festivities of the Black Awareness Day, commemorated on November 20 in honor of Zumbi dos Palmares, having little to do with the celebration as it was originally conceived.

In 2009, Maya Angelou narrated the documentary The Black Candle, a film about Kwanzaa.

Kathy Kiefer



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Advent is the period of four Sundays and weeks before Christmas (or sometimes from the 1st of December to Christmas Day!). Advent means ‘Coming’ in Latin. This is the coming of Jesus into the world. Christians use the four Sundays and weeks of Advent to prepare and remember the real meaning of Christmas.

There are three meanings of ‘coming’ that Christians describe in Advent. The first, and most thought of, happened about 2000 years ago when Jesus came into the world as a baby to live as a man and die for us. The second can happen now as Jesus wants to come into our lives now. And the third will happen in the future when Jesus comes back to the world as King and Judge, not a baby.

Some people fast (don’t eat anything) during advent to help them concentrate on preparing to celebrate Jesus’s coming. In many Orthodox and Eastern Catholics Churches, Advent lasts for 40 days and starts on November 15th and is also called the Nativity Fast.

Orthodox Christians often don’t eat meat and dairy during Advent, and depending on the day, also olive oil, wine and fish. You can see what days mean now eating what foods on the calendar from the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. .

There are several ways that Advent is counted down but the most common is by a calendar or candle(s).

There are many types of calendars used in different countries. The most common ones in the UK and USA are made of paper or card with 25 little windows on. A window is opened on every day in December and a Christmas picture is displayed underneath. When they were first made, scenes from the Christmas Story and other Christmas images were used, such as snowmen and robins, but now many calendars are made in the theme of television programs and sports clubs. Some of these types of calendar even have chocolate under each window, to make every day in December that little bit better! I used to like those when I was a little girl (and still do now!!!)!

Some European countries such as Germany use a wreath of fir with 24 bags or boxes hanging from it. In each box or bag there is a little present for each day.

You can also not get online Advent or ‘Christmas Countdown’ calendars. So during December, why don’t you visit the online Advent Calendar and find out something Christmassy each day!!!!!!

There are two types of candle(s) that are used to count down to Christmas Day in Advent. The first looks like a normal candle, but has the days up to Christmas Day marked down the candle. On the first of December the candle is lit and burnt down to the first line on the candle. The same is done every day and then the rest of the candle is burnt on Christmas day. I use one of these candles to count down during Advent.

An Advent Crown is another form of candles that are used to count down Advent. These are often used in Churches rather than in people’s homes. The crown is often made up of a wreath of greenery and has four candles round the outside and one in the middle or in a separate place. Sometimes a more traditional candelabra is used to display the five candles.

One candle is lit on the first Sunday of Advent, two are lit on the second Sunday and so on. Each candle has a different meaning in Christianity. Different churches have given them different meanings, but I was taught the following: (a) The first represents Isaiah and other prophets in the bible that predicted the coming of Jesus; (b) The second represents the bible; (c) The third represents Mary, the mother of Jesus; and (d) The fourth represents John the Baptist, Jesus’ cousin, who told the people in Israel to get ready for Jesus’ teaching.

The middle or separate candle is lit on Christmas Day and represents Jesus, the light of the world. In Germany this fifth candle is known as the ‘Heiligabend’ and is lit on Christmas Eve.

In many churches, the colour purple is used to signify the season of Advent. On the third Sunday, representing Mary, the colour is sometimes changes to pink or rose.

Advent was first recorded about 380AD in Spain. By the 6th century, there are records of monks in Tours (in France) holding a pre-Christmas fast. By end of the 6th century, the four Sundays before Christmas had commonly become known as Advent Sundays.

In medieval and pre-medieval times, in parts of England, there were an early form of Nativity scene called ‘advent images’ or a ‘vessel cup’. They were a box, often with a glass lid that was covered with a white napkin that contained two dolls representing Mary and the baby Jesus. The box was decorated with ribbons and flowers (and sometimes apples). They were carried around from door to door. It was thought to be very unlucky if you haven’t seen a box before Christmas Eve! People paid the box carriers a halfpenny to see the box.

There are some Christmas Carols that are really Advent Carols! These include ‘People Look East’, ‘Come, thou long expected Jesus’, ‘Lo! He comes, with clouds descending’ and perhaps the most popular advent song ‘O Come, O Come Emmanuel!

The 12 Days of Christmas are now most famous as a song about someone receiving a great many presents from their ‘true love”. However, to get to the song there had to be the days to start with!

The 12 Days of Christmas start on Christmas Day and last until the evening of the 5th January – also known as Twelfth Night. The 12 Days have been celebrated in Europe since before the middle ages and were a time of celebration.

The 12 Days each traditionally celebrate a feast day for a saint and/or have different celebrations: (a) Day 1 (25th December): Christmas Day – celebrating the birth of Jesus. ; (b) Day 2 (26th December also known as Boxing Day): St Stephen’s Day. He was the first Christian martyr (someone who dies for their faith). It’s also the day when the Christmas Carol ‘Good King Weneslas’ takes place; (c) Day 3 (27th December): St John the Apostle (One of Jesus’s Disciples and friends); (d) Day 4 (28th December): The Feast of the Holy Innocents – when people remember the baby boys which King Herod killed when he was trying to find and kill the Baby Jesus; (e) Day 5 (29th December): St Thomas Becket. He was Archbishop of Canterbury in the 12th century and was murdered on 29th December 1170 for challenging the King’s authority over Church; (f) Day 6 (30th December): St Egwin of Worcester; (g) Day 7 (31st December): New Year’s Eve (known as Hogmanay in Scotland). Pope Sylvester I is traditionally celebrated on this day. He was one of the earliest popes (in the 4th Century). In many central and eastern European countries (including Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Israel, Italy, Luxembourg, Poland, Slovakia, Switzerland and Slovenia) New Years’ Eve is still sometimes called ‘Silvester’. In the UK, New Year’s Eve was a traditional day for ‘games’ and sporting competitions. Archery was a very popular sport and during the middle ages it was the law that it had to be practised by all men between ages 17-60 on Sunday after Church! This was so the King had lots of very good archers ready in case he need to go to war!; (h) Day 8 (1st January): 1st January –Mary, the Mother of Jesus; (i) Day 9 (2nd January): St. Basil the Great and St. Gregory Nazianzen, two important 4th century Christians; (j) Day 10 (3rd January): Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus. This remembers when Jesus was officially ‘named’ in the Jewish Temple. It’s celebrated by different churches on a wide number of different dates!; (k) Day 11 (4th January): St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, the first American saint, who lived in the 18th and 19th centuries. In the past it also celebrated the feast of Saint Simon Stylites (who lives on a small platform on the top of a pillar for 37 years!); and (L) Day 12 (5th January also known as Epiphany Eve): St. John Neumann who was the first Bishop in American. He lived in the 19th century.   Also (1) Christmas is celebrated to remember the Birth of Jesus Christ, who Christians believe is the Son of God; (2) The name ‘Christmas’ comes from the Mass of Christ (or Jesus). A Mass service (which is sometimes called Communion or Eucharist) is where Christians remember that Jesus died for us and then came back to life. The ‘Christ-Mass’ service was the only one that was allowed to take place after sunset (and before sunrise the next day), so people had it at Midnight! So we get the name Christ-Mass, shortened to Christmas; (3) Christmas is now celebrated by people around the world. , whether they are Christians or not. It’s a time when family and friends come together and remember the good things they have. People, and especially children, also like Christmas as it’s a time when you give and receive   presents! !

The Date of Christmas

No one knows the real birthday of Jesus! No date is given in the Bible, so why do we celebrate it on the 25th December? The early Christians certainly had many arguments as to when it should be celebrated!

Also, the birth of Jesus probably didn’t happen in the year 1AD but slightly earlier, somewhere between 2BC and 7BC (there isn’t a 0AD – the years go from 1BC to 1AD!).   The first recorded date of Christmas being celebrated on December 25th was in 336AD, during the time of the Roman Emperor Constantine (he was the first Christian Roman Emperor). A few years later, Pope Julius I officially declared that the birth of Jesus would be celebrated on the 25th December.

There are many different traditions and theories as to why Christmas is celebrated on December 25th. A very early Christian tradition said that the day when Mary was told that she would have a very special baby, Jesus (called the Annunciation) was on March 25th – and it’s still celebrated today on the 25th March. Nine months after the 25th March is the 25th December! March 25th was also the day some early Christians thought the world had been made, and also the day that Jesus died on when he was an adult.

December 25th might have also been chosen because the Winter Solstice and the ancient pagan Roman midwinter festivals called ‘Saturnalia’ and ‘Dies Natalis Solis Invicti’ took place in December around this date – so it was a time when people already celebrated things.

The Winter Solstice is the day where there is the shortest time between the sun rising and the sun setting. It happens on December 21st or 22nd. To pagans this meant that the winter was over and spring was coming and they had a festival to celebrate it and worshipped the sun for winning over the darkness of winter. In Scandinavia, and some other parts of northern Europe, the Winter Solstice is known as Yule and is where we get Yule Logs from. In Eastern Europe the mid-winter festival is called Koleda.

The Roman Festival of Saturnalia took place between December 17th and 23rd and honored the Roman god Saturn. Dies Natalis Solis Invicti means ‘birthday of the unconquered sun’ and was held on December 25th (when the Romans thought the Winter Solstice took place) and was the ‘birthday’ of the Pagan Sun god Mithra. In the pagan religion of Mithraism, the holy day was Sunday and is where get that word from!

Early Christians might have given this festival a new meaning – to celebrate the birth of the Son of God ‘the unconquered Son’! (In the Bible a prophesy about the Jewish savior, who Christians believe is Jesus, is called ‘Sun of Righteousness’.) (1) The Jewish festival of Lights, Hanukkah starts on the 25th of Kislev (the month in the Jewish calendar that occurs at about the same time as December). Hanukkah celebrates when the Jewish people were able to re-dedicate and worship in their Temple, in Jerusalem, again following many years of not being allowed to practice their religion; (2) Jesus was a Jew, so this could be another reason that helped the early Church choose December the 25th for the date of Christmas!; (3) Christmas had also been celebrated by the early Church on January 6th, when they also celebrated the Epiphany (which means the revelation that Jesus was God’s son) and the Baptism of Jesus. Now Epiphany mainly celebrates the visit of the Wise Men to the baby Jesus, but back then it celebrated both things! Jesus’s Baptism was originally seen as more important than his birth, as this was when he started his ministry. But soon people wanted a separate day to celebrate his birth; (4) Most of the world uses the ‘Gregorian Calendar’ implemented by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582. Before that the ‘Roman’ or Julian Calendar was used (named after Julius Caesar). The Gregorian calendar is more accurate that the Roman calendar which had too many days in a year! When the switch was made 10 days were lost, so that the day that followed the 4th October 1582 was 15th October 1582. In the UK the change of calendars was made in 1752. The day after 2nd September 1752 was 14th September 1752; (5) Many Orthodox and Coptic Churches still use the Julian Calendar and so celebrate Christmas on the 7th January (which is when December 25th would have been on the Julian calendar). And the Armenian Apostolic Church celebrates it on the 6th January! In some part of the UK, January 6th is still called ‘Old Christmas’ as this would have been the day that Christmas would have celebrated on, if the calendar hadn’t been changed. Some people didn’t want to use the new calendar as they thought it ‘cheated’ them out of 11 days! (6) Christians believe that Jesus is the light of the world, so the early Christians thought that this was the right time to celebrate the birth of Jesus. They also took over some of the customs from the Winter Solstice and gave them Christian meanings, like Holly, Mistletoe and even Christmas Carols! And (7) St. Augustine was the person who really started Christmas in the UK by introducing Christianity in the 6th century. He came from countries that used the Roman Calendar, so western countries celebrate Christmas on the 25th December. Then people from Britain and Western Europe took Christmas on the 25th December all over the world!

  • SO when was Jesus Born?
  • There’s a strong and practical reason why Jesus might not have been born in the winter, but in the spring or the autumn! It can get very cold in the winter and it’s unlikely that the shepherds would have been keeping sheep out on the hills (as those hills can get quite a lot of snow sometimes!). (2) During the spring (in March or April) there’s a Jewish festival called ‘Passover’. This festival remembers when the Jews had escaped from slavery in Egypt about 1500 years before Jesus was born. Lots of lambs would have been needed during the Passover Festival, to be sacrificed in the Temple in Jerusalem. Jews from all over the Roman Empire travelled to Jerusalem for the Passover Festival, so it would have been a good time for the Romans to take a census. Mary and Joseph went to Bethlehem for the census (Bethlehem is about six miles from Jerusalem); (3) in the autumn (in September or October) there’s the Jewish festival of ‘Sukkot’ or ‘The Feast of Tabernacles’. It’s the festival that’s mentioned the most times in the Bible! It is when Jewish people remember that they depended on God for all they had after they had escaped from Egypt and spent 40 years in the desert. It also celebrates the end of the harvest. During the festival, Jews live outside in temporary shelters (the word ‘tabernacle’ come from a Latin word meaning ‘booth’ or ‘hut’); (4) Many people who have studied the Bible, think that Sukkot would be a likely time for the birth of Jesus as it might fit with the description of there being ‘no room in the inn’. It also would have been a good time to take the Roman Census as many Jews went to Jerusalem for the festival and they would have brought their own tents/shelters with them! (It wouldn’t have been practical for Joseph and Mary to carry their own shelter as Mary was pregnant.); (5) The possibilities for the Star of Bethlehem seems to point either spring or autumn; (6) So whenever you celebrate Christmas, remember that you’re celebrating a real event that happened about 2000 years ago, that God sent his Son into the world as a Christmas present for everyone!; and (7) As well as Christmas and the solstice, there are some other festivals that are held in late December. Hanukkah is celebrated by Jews; and the festival of Kwanzaa is celebrated by some Africans and African Americans takes place from December 26th to January 1st. Christmas is also sometimes known as Xmas. Some people don’t think it’s correct to call Christmas ‘Xmas’ as that takes the ‘Christ’ (Jesus) out of Christmas. (As Christmas comes from Christ-Mass, the Church service that celebrated the birth of Jesus.)

But that is not quite right! In the Greek language and alphabet, the letter that looks like an X is the Greek letter chi / Χ (pronounced ‘kye’ – it rhymes with ‘eye’) which is the first letter of the Greek word for Christ, Christos.

The early church used the first two letters of Christos in the Greek alphabet ‘chi’ and ‘rho’ to create a monogram (symbol) to represent the name of Jesus. This looks like an X with a small p on the top: ☧

The symbol of a fish is sometimes used by Christians (you might see a fish sticker on a car or someone wearing a little fish badge). This comes from the time when the first Christians had to meet in secret, as the Romans wanted to kill them (before Emperor Constantine became a Christian). Jesus had said that he wanted to make his followers ‘Fishers of Men’, so people started to use that symbol.

When two Christians met, one person drew half a basic fish shape (often using their foot in the dust on the ground) and the other person drew the other half of the fish. The Greek word for fish is ‘Ikthus’ or ‘Ichthys’. There are five Greek letters in the word. It can also make up a sentence of Christian beliefs ‘Ie-sous Christos Theou Huios So-te-r’ which in English means “Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior”. The second letter of these five letter is X or Christos!

So Xmas can also mean Christmas; but it should also be pronounced ‘Christmas’ rather than ‘ex-mas’!

Twelfth Night was a big time of celebration with people holding large parties. During these parties, often the roles in society were reversed with the servants being served by the rich people. This dated back to medieval and Tudor times when Twelfth Night marked the end of ‘winter’ which had started on 31st October with All Hallows Eve (Halloween).

At the start of Twelfth Night the Twelfth Night cake was eaten. This was a rich cake made with eggs and butter, fruit, nuts and spices. The modern Italian Panettone is the cake we currently have that’s most like the old Twelfth Night cake.

A dried pea or bean was cooked in the cake. Whoever found it was the Lord (or Lady) of Misrule for the night. The Lord of Misrule led the celebrations and was dressed like a King (or Queen). This tradition goes back to the Roman celebrations of Saturnalia. In later times, from about the Georgian period onwards, to make the Twelfth Night ‘gentile’, two tokens were put in the cake (one for a man and one for a women) and whoever found them became the ‘King’ and ‘Queen’ of the Twelfth Night party.

In English Cathedrals during the middle ages there was the custom of the ‘Boy Bishop’ where a boy from the Cathedral or monastery school was elected as a Bishop on 6th December (St Nicholas Day) and had the authority of a Bishop (except to perform Mass) until 28th December. King Henry VIII banned the practice in 1542 although it came back briefly under Mary I in 1552 but Elizabeth I finally stopped it during her reign.

During Twelfth Night it was traditional for different types of pipes to be played, especially bagpipes. Lots of games were played including ones with eggs. These included tossing an egg between two people moving further apart during each throw – drop it and you lose and passing an egg around on spoons. Another popular game was ‘snapdragon’ where you picked raisins or other dried fruit out of a tray of flaming brandy!

The first Monday after Christmas feast has finished was known as ‘Plough Monday’ as this was when farming work would all begin again!

Twelfth Night is also known as Epiphany Eve. In many countries it’s traditional to put the figures of the Wise Men/Three Kings into the Nativity Scene on Epiphany Eve ready to celebrate Epiphany on the 6th January.

It’s also traditional to take your Christmas decorations down following Twelfth Night.

Twelfth Night is also the name of a famous play written by William Shakespeare. It’s thought it was written in 1601/1602 and was first performed at Candlemas in 1602, although it wasn’t published until 1623.

 Kathy Kiefer


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What Is Hanukkah?– the eight-day festival of light that begins on the eve of the 25th of the Jewish month of Kislev — celebrates the triumph of light over darkness, of purity over adulteration, of spirituality over materiality.

More than twenty-one centuries ago, the Holy Land was ruled by the Seleucids (Syrian-Greeks), who sought to forcefully Hellenize the people of Israel. Against all odds, a small band of faithful Jews defeated one of the mightiest armies on earth, drove the Greeks from the land, reclaimed the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and rededicated it to the service of God.

When they sought to light the Temple’s menorah (the seven branched candelabrum), they found only a single cruse of olive oil that had escaped contamination by the Greeks; miraculously, the one-day supply burned for eight days, until new oil could be prepared under conditions of ritual purity. To commemorate and publicize these miracles, the sages instituted the festival of Chanukah. At the heart of the festival is the nightly menorah (candelabrum) lighting: a single flame on the first night, two on the second evening, and so on till the eighth night of Chanukah, when all eight lights are kindled.

On Chanukah we also add the Hallel and Al HaNissim in our daily prayers to offer praise and thanksgiving to G-d for “delivering the strong into the hands of the weak, the many into the hands of the few… the wicked into the hands of the righteous.”  Hanukkah customs include eating foods fried in oil – latkes (potato pancakes) and sufganiot (doughnuts); playing with the dreidel (a spinning top on which are inscribed the Hebrew letters nun, gimmel, hei and shin, an acronym for Nes Gadol Hayah Sham, “a great miracle happened there”); and the giving of Chanukah gelt, gifts of money, to children.

In Hebrew, the word Hanukkah is written חֲנֻכָּה or חנוכה (Ḥănukkāh). It is most commonly transliterated to English as Chanukah or Hanukkah, the former because the sound represented by “CH” ([X], similar to the Scottish pronunciation of “loch”) does not exist in the English language. Furthermore, the letter “het” (ח), which is the first letter in the Hebrew spelling, is pronounced differently in modern Hebrew (voiceless uvular fricative) than in classical Hebrew (voiceless pharyngeal fricative [ħ]), and neither of those sounds is unambiguously representable in English spelling. Moreover, the ‘kaf’ consonant is germinate in classical (but not modern) Hebrew. Adapting the classical Hebrew pronunciation with the geminate and pharyngeal Ḥeth can lead to the spelling “Hanukkah”; while adapting the modern Hebrew pronunciation with no germination and uvular Ḥeth leads to the spelling “Chanukah”. It has also been spelled as “Hannukah”.

The story of Hanukkah is preserved in the books of the First and Second Maccabees, which describe in detail the re-dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem and the lighting of the menorah. These books are not part of the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible) which came from the Palestinian canon; however, they were part of the Alexandrian canon which is also called the Septuagint. Both books are included in the Old Testament used by the Catholic and Orthodox Churches, since those churches consider the books deuterocanonical. They are not included in the Old Testament books in most Protestant Bibles, since most Protestants consider the books apocryphal. Multiple references to Hanukkah are also made in the Mishna (Bikkurim 1:6, Rosh HaShanah 1:3, Taanit 2:10, Megillah 3:4 and 3:6, Moed Katan 3:9, and Bava Kama 6:6), though specific laws are not described. The miracle of the one-day supply of oil miraculously lasting eight days is first described in the Talmud, committed to writing about 600 years after the events described in the books of Maccabees. Ray Nissimn Gaon postulates in his Hakdamah Le’mafteach Hatalmud that information on the holiday was so commonplace that the Mishna felt no need to explain it. A modern-day scholar Reuvein Margolies suggests that as the Mishnah was redacted after the Bar Kochba revolt, its editors were reluctant to include explicit discussion of a holiday celebrating another relatively recent revolt against a foreign ruler, for fear of antagonizing the Romans.

The Gemara (Talmud), in tractate Shabbat, page 21b, focuses on Shabbat candles and moves to Hanukkah candles and says that after the forces of Antiochus IV had been driven from the Temple, the Maccabees discovered that almost all of the ritual olive oil had been profaned. They found only a single container that was still sealed by the High Priest, with enough oil to keep the menorah in the Temple lit for a single day. They used this, yet it burned for eight days (the time it took to have new oil pressed and made ready). The Talmud presents three options: (1) The law requires only one light each night per household; (2) A better practice is to light one light each night for each member of the household; and (3) The most preferred practice is to vary the number of lights each night.

In Sephardic families, the head of the household lights the candles, while in Ashkenazic families, all family members light. Except in times of danger, the lights were to be placed outside one’s door, on the opposite side of the Mezuza, or in the window closest to the street. Rashi, in a note to Shabbat 21b, says their purpose is to publicize the miracle. The blessings for Hanukkah lights are discussed in tractate Succah, p. 46a.

The Jewish historian Titus Flavius Josephus narrates in his book, Jewish Antiquities XII, how the victorious Judas Maccabeus ordered lavish yearly eight-day festivities after rededicating the Temple in Jerusalem that had been profaned by Antiochus IV Epiphanes. Josephus does not say the festival was called Hanukkah but rather the “Festival of Lights”:

“Now Judas celebrated the festival of the restoration of the sacrifices of the temple for eight days, and omitted no sort of pleasures thereon; but he feasted them upon very rich and splendid sacrifices; and he honored God, and delighted them by hymns and psalms. Nay, they were so very glad at the revival of their customs, when, after a long time of intermission, they unexpectedly had regained the freedom of their worship, that they made it a law for their posterity, that they should keep a festival, on account of the restoration of their temple worship, for eight days. And from that time to this we celebrate this festival, and call it Lights. I suppose the reason was, because this liberty beyond our hopes appeared to us; and that thence was the name given to that festival. Judas also rebuilt the walls round about the city, and reared towers of great height against the incursions of enemies, and set guards therein. He also fortified the city Bethsura, that it might serve as a citadel against any distresses that might come from our enemies.”

The story of Hanukkah is alluded to in the book of 1 Maccabees and 2 Maccabees. The eight-day rededication of the temple is described in 1 Maccabees 4:36 et seq, though the name of the festival and the miracle of the lights do not appear here. A story similar in character, and obviously older in date, is the one alluded to in 2 Maccabees 1:18 et seq according to which the relighting of the altar fire by Nehemiah was due to a miracle which occurred on the 25th of Kislev, and which appears to be given as the reason for the selection of the same date for the rededication of the altar by Judah Maccabee.

The Scroll of Antiochus concludes with the following words:

…After this, the sons of Israel went up to the Temple and rebuilt its gates and purified the Temple from the dead bodies and from the defilement. And they sought after pure olive oil to light the lamps therewith, but could not find any, except one bowl that was sealed with the signet ring of the High Priest from the days of Samuel the prophet and they knew that it was pure. There was in it [enough oil] to light [the lamps therewith] for one day, but the God of heaven whose name dwells there put therein his blessing and they were able to light from it eight days. Therefore, the sons of Ḥashmonai made this covenant and took upon themselves a solemn vow, they and the sons of Israel, all of them, to publish amongst the sons of Israel, [to the end] that they might observe these eight days of joy and honor, as the days of the feasts written in [the book of] the Law; [even] to light in them so as to make known to those who come after them that their God wrought for them salvation from heaven. In them, it is not permitted to mourn, neither to decree a fast [on those days], and anyone who has a vow to perform, let him perform it.

Hanukkah is celebrated with a series of rituals that are performed every day throughout the 8-day holiday, some are family-based and others communal. There are special additions to the daily prayer service, and a section is added to the blessing after meals.

Hanukkah is not a “Sabbath-like” holiday, and there is no obligation to refrain from activities that are forbidden on the Sabbath, as specified in the Shulkhan Arukh. Adherents go to work as usual, but may leave early in order to be home to kindle the lights at nightfall. There is no religious reason for schools to be closed, although, in Israel, schools close from the second day for the whole week of Hanukkah. Many families exchange gifts each night, such as books or games and “Hanukkah Gelt” is often given to children. Fried foods (such as latkes potato pancakes, jelly doughnuts sufganiyot and Sephardic Bimuelos) are eaten to commemorate the importance of oil during the celebration of Hanukkah.

The reason for the Hanukkah lights is not for the “lighting of the house within”, but rather for the “illumination of the house without,” so that passersby should see it and be reminded of the holiday’s miracle (i.e. the triumph of the few over the many and of the pure over the impure). Accordingly, lamps are set up at a prominent window or near the door leading to the street. It is customary amongst some Ashkenazi Jews to have a separate menorah for each family member (customs vary), whereas most Sephardi Jews light one for the whole household. Only when there was danger of antisemitic persecution were lamps supposed to be hidden from public view, as was the case of Persia under the rule of the Zoroastrians, or in parts of Europe before and during World War II. However, most Hasidic groups light lamps near an inside doorway, not necessarily in public view. According to this tradition, the lamps are placed on the opposite side from the mezuzah, so that when one passes through the door s/he is surrounded by the holiness mitzvot (the commandments).

Generally women are exempt in Jewish law from time-bound positive commandments, although the Talmud requires that women engage in the mitzvah of lighting Hanukkah candles “for they too were involved in the miracle.” In practice, only the male members of Orthodox households are obliged to light the menorah. In practice, some Sephardi households involve everyone in the candle lighting, with the head of the household lighting the first candle each night, the wife the second candle, and the children, eldest first, lighting the subsequent candles.

Kathy Kiefer


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The countdown is on! Time to check gifts off the list and start wrapping things up.  Find stocking stuffer gifts, colorful Christmas gift baskets, and unique Secret Santa gifts that will keep them guessing.

RegaloRossoAre you ready to welcome Christmas? Do you have any idea about the latest Christmas trends that are presented for the next year? It seems that your answer is NO and this is why we are here to bring to you the latest and hottest Christmas trends for 2015 to help you to know how to decorate your home for welcoming this happy occasion. In fact, most of the ornaments and decorative items that are used for decorating home for celebrating this happy occasion are usually the same every year but there are simple changes that are presented every year and these changes include colors, materials and a diversity of ways that are followed for arranging ornaments whether it is in your Christmas tree or other spaces that can be decorated in your home.

Have you ever wondered what the world would be like if everyone were the same? If we all had the same color of skin, hair, eyes, etc., and we were all built just alike? Imagine if we all wore the same clothes, drove the same cars, sounded the same, and even smelled the same. The world would be so uninteresting! Thankfully, the world is filled with people of all shapes and sizes who have individual tastes, thoughts and beliefs, and that is what adds character and color to an otherwise bah-humbug…people didn’t want run of the mill items to place under the tree, but ordinary items were all that could be found. It’s no wonder people become so frustrated with shopping during the holidays!

Countless people around the world unite and celebrate Christmas every year. This is the most awaited celebration of each and

every one of us. The holiday season is soon to arrive and everyone is already preparing for this special day. Like the angels, shepherds, and wise men in the past, the excitement and anticipation does not and will never wane. Make this date unforgettable to you and to others by sharing the love, the joy and the warmth of this special day. 

We all look for the ideal Christmas gift. It’s a quest that takes some of us longer than others. Here at, we take a lot of the guesswork out of finding the right gift. We provide a place full of possibilities for everyone. We feature a variety of Christmas gift ideas from large to small, frugal to extravagant, and simple to grandiose. Yet, all of them have one uniting aspect — to make this Christmas season the most memorable.

Who says shopping for Christmas gifts has to be complicated? When you know the person whom you are buying for, what gift you’re getting becomes less of a mystery. Nowadays, people buy gifts for more than just family. The list can include friends, co-workers, classmates, and neighbors. Some even buy gifts for those they don’t know by participating in a charity gift drive or a secret Santa gift exchange.

An easy solution is just to pick up a gift card for a local or online general merchant. It’s nice, but doesn’t necessarily have the same appeal of a package that you don’t know what is inside. We carry gifts at this website that are meant to stand out and be cherished and remembered. We specialize in showing unique Christmas gifts for everyone. From tiny stocking stuffers to gifts that are too large to fit under the tree, we have it all. Additionally, we have a multitude of decorations to make your holidays festive and enjoyable.

If you have a pet, they should be remembered at Christmas as well.   They are a part of the family also.   They would love to receive a new water bowl or food dish for Christmas as well as new toys chew on or play with.

Avoid the bah-humbug shopping experience and that bored reaction from your gift recipients this holiday season and forget about those generic gifts on the seasonal aisle at your local five and dime.

Of the Month Clubs to Warm Your Loved One’s Heart: Choose from a wide variety of monthly club subscriptions and present your loved ones with gifts that bring them holiday cheer throughout the upcoming year. With fruit gifts, gourmet food gifts, dinner gifts, cigar gifts, and even gift cards of the month, the right monthly subscription is right here!

Personalized Gifts: Nothing makes a gift more unique than to personalize it with the name, special quote, or touching sentiment that makes your loved one smile.

Jars of Notes:
Beautifully decorated jars of notes are filled with personalized messages that your loved one can open anytime he or she needs a special life throughout the year.

Experience Gifts: Enable your recipient to experience something he or she has always dreamt of like a hot air balloon ride, flying lessons, a scenic cruise, or even a massage. With thousands of experiences to choose from in a variety of price ranges you are certain to find the right experience for your loved one.

How giving experience gifts can create memories that last a lifetime.

While the tangible gifts (such as gift baskets, clothing, and books) will never go out of style, the Christmas season has a new player in town; experience gifts.  Experience gifts can be big like a hot air balloon ride to cross off your bucket list or learning to fly a helicopter, or small like a picnic in the park together or tickets to a baseball game. But one thing’s for sure, there is a perfect experience gift for every one of every age, and for every budget.

Create Exciting Holiday Memories: Think outside the box this holiday season and consider giving your teen a gift thatbrizzolari_6807x-pacchetto-rosso creates exciting memories that can be cherished for years to come. An experience gift is the perfect solution. With thousands of different experience options in a wide variety of locations, you are certain to find the perfect adventure for your teen. Choose from things like hot air balloon rides, skydiving, city tours, and much, much more.

Get Personal: Just like anyone else, teens love having their own name on their belongings, and even the most finicky of teenagers will love having a gift that is made especially for them. Choose from personalized shirts or hoodies, coffee mugs, jewelry, or even custom photo frames.

With a wide variety of music gifts, we’ve got something for every teen on your list this Christmas. Check out items such as built-in headphones and is compatible with your tween or teen’s iPod, or consider a portable multimedia player that features a top loading CD/ DVD tray and a 7 inch television screen. Other ideas to think about?    How about music?lessons plus ways to create their own music?

Whether you are Daddy’s little girl, Dad’s special son, or a mom who is in search of the perfect gift for that special dad in your life, there are many fantastic choices.


Pocket Watch: Remember all of those times Dad showed up early for your school plays, sports games, and other activities? And how he never missed a beat when it was bedtime, suppertime, or the game was on TV? Show your dad or someone who is like a father to you how much you appreciate his timeliness with a personalized pocket watch this Christmas.

Cigars: An excellent Christmas gift dads who tend to enjoy an occasional cigar or the cigar enthusiast in your life, the cigar gifts at are smokin’ hot this year.

Experience Gifts: Give Dad that experience he’s always dreamt of with flying lessons, golf lessons, sky diving, race care driving and more.

Fake Magazine Covers: Feature Dad and all of his accomplishments on the cover of a fake magazine.

Personalized Glasses: Deck the man cave this Christmas with personalized beer glasses.

Surveillance System: Encourage Dad to keep his eye on you (like he needs any extra encouragement) with a home surveillance system.

Portable TV: Now Dad can watch the game no matter where he is with a portable TV.

Jars of Notes: Give Dad a sentimental jar of notes filled with your most heartfelt messages this holiday season, and show him how special he really is. Many moms’ would also like a special gift like this as well.

Personalized Photo Frame: Remind Dad of those special times you’ve shared throughout the years with a personalized01-pacco rosso photo frame. Don’t forget to insert your favorite photo for an even more special gift. Remember mom with a foto of a special memory in such a wonderful way.   It   would mean a great deal to her also.

Coffee Center: Dad will look forward to waking up to his favorite specialty coffee drink this winter when you present him with a new coffee center.

Handmade items.   Parents would love to show case something that you made with them in mind be it a homemade potholder, a picture or something of your own creation.   One thing I remember giving to my brother and nephew is hot wheel cars; they still are popular and unique toy today as well as a remote controlled car.

If you’re unsure of what to give it’s a perfect time to be creative and use your imagination in creating a gift for that hard to pleased person in your family.   It means a lot that shows you put a great deal of time and thought behind your gift. And the recipient will appreciate it that much more.


A variety of new sweaters and shirts have arrived! There are great apparel in both misses and plus sizes and most of our tops also come in additional colors!

Velvet is definitely the fabric for winter and a Velvet Cowl Neck Sweater is perfect for season! The sweater has a flattering waterfall hemline and relaxed cowl neck. This beautiful top comes in Navy and Black and is selling fast!

The Beaded Tunic is a piece that is sure to make a statement. The beautifully beaded scrollwork design instantly updates any outfit and the longer hemline makes it appropriate to pair with leggings. Choose an elegant combination of gray with silver beading; or if you are feeling bold, go for the red with black trim!

Fringe on clothes is a huge trend for the season and a Fringe Poncho is both stylish and functional. This layering piece can also be worn around your shoulders. It’s rare to find a button down poncho, and this one comes in both burgundy and black!

This holiday season; don’t forget to add some sparkle to your outfit!  The long sleeves sequin hemline tunic looks flattering on all shapes and sizes.  You can dress up this top by pairing it with a festive skirt or a pair of velvet draw string pants.  You’ll have a smart holiday look that won’t take a lot of time or effort to pull together. Ladies You can’t go wrong this season with a sequined mesh top with sparkly sequins and gorgeous georgette hemline.  This festive top is comfortable enough to wear all day, and the twinkling sequins give it a polished look.  It goes well with casual or dressy pants.

But always put time and thought into the gift you a looking to give that special person. Nothing is more embarrassing then to grab a gift only to have it refused, rejected or returned. The only trend these days     that I am not sure about is the hoverboard.   While it is growing in popularity amongst young people, it doesn’t appear all that safe.     If someone in your family is asking for one, use good judgement before purchasing it.   There should be no accident that happens as a result of getting a gift that appears safe, when it really may not be.     Just like giving a pet as a gift just because a youngster may want one.   They need to be responsible in taking care of the pet and taking good care of it. And not grow tired of it after a few days. Also giving a youngster a gift that is popular or that many of their classmates and friends have is no reason to give in to their desires and demands.   They really have to truly want the item and show that they can be responsible in taking care of their gift and be grateful for what they have received (and hopefully not turn into a spoiled brat).

Kathy Kiefer


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Give others all that is alive in us—our interest, understanding, our knowledge, our humor, everything in us that’s good. In doing so, we enhance the sense of aliveness in others while enhancing our own. When we give, we get a “heightened vitality” of what it means to be human.”

With our changing economic times, everyone is asking for help in some form. There are as many reasons to give as there are ways to give.

Some people give for recognition. They want their names in programs, on park benches and in hospital lobbies. Others give expecting to be paid back or thanked, they give to get. Some people want a hands-on-experience and are generous with their time. Some like to give anonymously and don’t want any recognition at all.

People who truly master the art of giving give out of the goodness of their hearts with no self-serving motives. Giving becomes a blessing for the giver and receiver. Generosity is a choice that feels right and joyful. Generosity comes from believing you have enough to share.

The purpose of gift-giving, whether by an individual or a corporation, is to please the recipient. Your reasons for doing so may vary but, whatever the reason; the focus must remain on the recipient if you want to elevate your gift-giving to an art.

Routine, careless or improper gift-giving can do your cause or relationship more harm than good. Gifts are never a substitute for a caring attitude, good business practices, goodwill or company manners. Nor should a gift ever be given as a bribe or when it could be misconstrued as one.

The following are gifts we all have, even if you are not aware of it, that can benefit others. (1) Give of Your Talents – Give someone an hour of coaching, a signed copy of your book or a golf lesson. Can you offer child care? Or do you have plumbing, painting, or landscaping skills?; (2) Give things – Clean your home and clear out your closet of unwanted things. Give what you don’t use or need to charity. Your junk is someone else’s treasure; (3) Give blood/Be an Organ Donor – Save a life. I’ve done this on several occasions; it’s a great feeling to know you are helping to save someone’s life. It is also heartwarming to become an organ donor, and it’s another way to help save a life(s). And to know that a part of you will live on; (4) Give of yourself – Make someone feel loved, special and appreciated with a visit, phone call, email, text or card. Give a handmade gift. Give praise, gratitude and appreciation. This creates heart-to-heart connections; (5) Give someone a lift – When you encounter a quotation or a good news story, pass it on with a personal “thinking of you” note. This is spirit-lifting. It can make someone’s day. Today hand written notes and cards are rare gifts; (6) Give a recommendation – Enrich someone’s life by sharing the discovery of a great blog, book, restaurant, product or service. The message you give is “This was a great find for me and I want to share it with you.”; (7) Give the gift of laughter – Laughter brings health and happiness to others. It offers physiological, psychological and spiritual benefits. Laugh loud and laugh often with everyone; (8) Give an invitation – Being invited to any kind of event means people want to be with you. When you invite someone into your life you are saying, “I want to spend time with you, you are important to me; (9) Give affection – Appropriately offer a hug, a kiss on the cheek, a pat on the back, a touch on an arm or a tender look. We never lose the need for affection and acceptance. Touching heals emotional wounds; (10) Give good advice – Ask the question, “Do you want advice or to you want me to listen.” If needed and wanted advice can be life-saving. Shared insights and wisdom is a precious gift; (11) Give encouragement – When people are filled with doubt and fear they lack courage. When you inspire and motivate someone to act on their dreams, it can be life changing. You are making the world a better place; (12) Give An Act Of Kindness – Kindness is the easiest and most abundant gift we have to give away. Buy Girl Scout cookies, always open the door for the person behind you, return your grocery cart, make cookies for your neighbor. The list is endless. Kindness brings joy to the giver, receiver and anyone witnessing the act!; and (14) Give love – It’s easy to love those who love us back. Challenge yourself to give love to those who deserve it the least. Make your love unconditional. Make the world a more loving place. Everyone will reap the benefits!

Keep a file on anyone who might be on your gift list. Note any interests, hobbies and other personal information that arise in conversation throughout the year, like the person’s alma mater or the purchase of a new home, that may be a source of inspiration. The file does double duty because it can also be a source for casual conversation or a reason to stay in touch throughout the year. I make notes of friends and family members interests to make it easier for finding just the right gift.

Should you not be able to come up with any information about hobbies or interests, then consider a gift for the office like a leather business card case, good desk accessories, a crystal paperweight or a crystal and sterling inkwell for someone who uses a fountain pen. Gifts for the home are another option, provided they are not too personal or stylized. A good crystal vase filled with seasonal flowers like Amaryllis is appropriate for men and women. Food always makes an excellent gift, whether it is a case of Florida citrus fruit, a wheel of Vermont cheese or a crystal jar filled with candy.

In your research, don’t forget to note any dislikes. Nor should a gift reflect a person’s shortcomings. Someone with a skin problem may misinterpret a gift certificate for a facial. And, while a sense of humor is wonderful, a gift should not be used to play a joke on someone. Avoid liquor and wine unless you know the person well because they or their company might look upon alcohol negatively. Smoking accoutrements and chocolates can also be taboo gifts.

Specialty stores that cater to the person’s interests are probably the best source of ideas within your budget. Don’t be afraid to consult the sales staff, especially if you know nothing about the hobby. Don’t forget catalogues from major department and specialty stores throughout the country; a quick phone call will usually get one in the mail to you. Most large stores have an in-store shopping service that will make selections at little or no extra charge. Specialized gift services and personal shoppers can also be found in your local Yellow Pages.

Always wrap a gift before giving it. Not wrapping a present implies carelessness and an uncaring attitude. It undermines the impact of your gift. If you are all thumbs trying to tie a bow, have the store where you purchased the gift wrap it for you. Or, have a wrapping service or a friend do it for you. In selecting the wrapping, consider the recipient just as you did in buying the gift. A pink and blue bow on flowery paper will probably cause the a male executive to raise an eyebrow while a young female administrative assistant might wonder if the gift wrapped in navy, burgundy and Hunter green stripes were actually intended for her boss.

Remember to enclose a gift card with a personal comment and your signature. A correspondence card is an ideal enclosure card. If possible, give the gift in person. That you took the time to share the moment adds immensely to the occasion. More important, make sure the gift is timely. The impact of the gift diminishes with every passing day. Just think how thrilled you would be to receive your birthday presents three or four months after the day has passed.

Unless you are attending a celebration at which everyone else is giving gifts too, give your gift in private. Singling the person out with a gift in front of others can be embarrassing to the recipient and to the people who neglected to give a gift. When giving a gift, don’t insist the person open it immediately; the person might prefer to open it in private when they don’t have to worry about making the appropriate responses. Don’t disparage the gift with remarks like “Oh, it’s nothing!” because the recipient might believe you.

Always accept a gift gracefully, regardless of how you feel about the gift or the giver. Even if a gift appears to be a hostile act, like a health club membership for someone who is overweight, it may have been well intentioned, albeit misguidedly. A simple ‘thank you’ is always an appropriate expression of appreciation. Never diminish the giver’s generosity with a statement like ‘you shouldn’t have’ even if you wish they hadn’t. How would you feel if someone did that to you after you had invested your time, effort and money?

Although a telephone call may be easier and more convenient, a ‘thank you’ note is compulsory. And, the note should be written immediately. Putting it off makes it an increasingly onerous task and diminishes the impact of your gratitude.

It is perfectly acceptable to refuse a gift and, under certain circumstances, it becomes obligatory. Always return a gift that is extravagant, too personal, has sexual implications or can be misconstrued as bribery. Although you may be furious about the gift, venting your anger can put you at a disadvantage. Enclosing a note that, because of the nature of the gift you are unable to accept it is more than sufficient. Be sure to keep a copy of the note and return it in a way that ensures you have receipt of the return.

When you’ve taken the time to find out what is acceptable and what the person may like and you allow yourself enough time, you relieve yourself of much of the stress associated with giving. Finding the perfect present can become a fun-filled adventure. A gift given with joy is the most wonderful gift to receive, and taking pleasure in gift giving elevates the act to an art.

Kathy Kiefer



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919489_10151732965286363_1548741135_o ACCESORIZING FOR THE HOLIDAYS

Use accessories with sparkle or shine to make outfits more festive. Choose one or two bold items to elevate your look. And have fun accessorizing! The holiday season is a wonderful time to dress up and highlight accessories you may not wear on a daily basis.

If you were invited to a holiday party this season and don’t have time or the money to go out and purchase a new dress, look to accessories to add some holiday spirit to what you already own.  Not only are accessories cheaper than buying a whole new outfit, but you don’t have to worry about dressing room meltdowns; jewelry usually fits.   You can even use many of my tips to take daytime dresses into proper evening wear.

Investing in a collection of accessories makes sense for both fashion-conscious shoppers and those with limited budgets.   Accessories let individuals create several different outfits simply by adding carefully selected jewelry, shoes, purses or accent pieces. This is useful during the holiday season when people need an easy way to transition from day to night wear, or want to update an existing look without having to purchase new clothes. These traditional ways to accessorize outfits transform and expand basic wardrobes for the holiday season.

Choose focal pieces, instead of over-accessorizing. Think bold instead of quantity. Try chandelier earrings, bold cuffs, multi-layer necklaces and cocktail ring, but not all at the same time. A good rule of thumb is not to put items too close together on the body. Instead of big earrings AND a big necklace, try big earrings and a cocktail ring.

Scarves are versatile and functional accessories that add a touch of color and warmth to a holiday outfit. These simple pieces of
fabric eliminate the need to search for coordinating jewelry and fit any body type. A printed scarf draped over the neckline dresses up a casual T-shirt, while a long, skinny silk scarf adds texture and panache to a dress. Scarves made from wool and silk blends work well in colder weather because they keep the body warm without adding excessive layers of clothing.

If you are larger in stature go for bigger pieces. Don’t wear anything so small that it simply gets lost on you. Conversely, if you are smaller, don’t wear pieces that are so big, it looks like you are drowning in decoration. Save that for the tree.

Just like red and green are colors to avoid at Christmas, resist “seasonal accessories” which include but are not limited to, ceramic reindeer or turkey pins, Christmas tree and candy cane earrings, mistletoe brooches and pilgrim hats (unless you are in a school play). Buy timeless, beautiful, interesting jewelry that will last you throughout the year with oodles of outfits, not just for November and December.

A faux fur vest is a fall wardrobe staple that works with a variety of looks. Unlike a coat that completely covers up an outfit, a vest adds a touch of warmth while letting the beauty of the ensemble shine through. Those who want a sophisticated look wear a faux fur vest over a slim turtleneck or fitted dress, while people who prefer a bohemian appearance pair the vest with a flowing skirt and boots.

One of the challenges of dressing for the holidays is finding accessories that stand out among layers of dark, bulky clothing. Chunky necklaces do just that by adding a pop of color to traditional holiday shades of black and gray. The secret to wearing statement pieces like cluster or collar necklaces is sticking with a single piece of jewelry that coordinates with the outfit. A cluster of silver beads around the neck, or a cascade of rhinestones draped over a collar, instantly perks up holiday flare.   Choose focal pieces, instead of over-accessorizing. Think bold instead of quantity. Try chandelier earrings, bold cuffs, multi-layer necklaces and cocktail rings — but not all at the same time. A good rule of thumb is not to put items too close together on the body. Instead of big earrings AND a big necklace, try big earrings and a cocktail ring.

Look to statement necklaces to add some glamour to any dress you’re thinking of wearing.  Right now these types of bold, chunky necklaces are really popular and perfect for evening.  Imagine how ready for a holiday party your little black dress will look with some bling around your neck.  Right now layering necklaces is one of the hottest trends.   If you’re bored with a string of pearls, try adding a second blingier necklace into the mix.  Additionally, it’s all about the bib necklace and there are tons of sparkly bib necklaces out there that look like they cost a fortune, but don’t.

Shine (metallic, patent, embellishment) is always good for dressing up an outfit and going from day to evening. Leave the beat-up leather boots or shoulder bag you wear every day to the office at home.

When in doubt about how to accessorize a dress for evening, go for metallic, silver or gold, your choice.  Not only does a pair of sparkly shoes and handbag make a dress look after-five appropriate but metallic will match whatever color your dress is.  You can go all metallic with a bag and shoes or just choose metallic in one or the other.  After the party, use these metallic accessories to liven up jeans or take a suit from desk to dinner.

Knee-high and ankle boots are holiday wardrobe staples that accent both dress and casual outfits. They add a touch of sophistication to a casual outfit and keep feet warm while consumers complete their holiday shopping. Ankle boots with embellishments like rhinestone studs or fur cuffs bring interesting detail to holiday dresses. When wearing boots, consumers need to aim for a balanced look between the boots and the clothing. They create a monochromatic look that slims the figure by pairing leggings, skinny jeans, or opaque tights with boots in the same color, or break up the pieces by opting for contrasting colors or neutral shades.

Another way to add some excitement to a holiday dress is through brightly colored shoes.  This strategy works well if your dress is in a neutral shade, like black, navy, brown or grey.  However, you can also add shoes in a bright color with a colorful dress if you want to color block your outfit.  If you really want to be festive, try wearing a pair of red shoes to your little black dress.  A great way to say holiday without going overboard.

Tights are a terrific accessory because they are inexpensive and available in a plethora of colors and patterns to complement any look. They keep legs warm in cooler weather and pull together the pieces of a holiday outfit. Opaque tights provide coverage that lets people wear skirts and dresses during the holiday season, while sheer tights let bare skin show through for a dressier look. In addition to the type of coverage, holiday dresses must consider how the tights’ colors and patterns look with the outfit. Tights with patterns as well as complementary colors break up monochromatic color schemes.

Sometimes, all it takes is a bag change to get a dress ready for a holiday party.  Grab a fun clutch with some sparkle or that is in an evening fabric, like satin, to elevate your dress for evening.  Like statement shoes in a bright color, a bright colored clutch is another way to add some festive feelings to your outfit in small doses.

When it comes to accessorizing for the holidays, a little goes a long way. You don’t have to go crazy with too many dressy details. Even if you choose one place to add a little shine, you will be well on your way to looking festive at your upcoming event. Try at least one of these accessorizing tips and you’ll be sure to shine.

My mother has been a source of style inspiration my entire life and helped to spark my love of vintage and stylish clothing. The best advice she gave me is that elegance is timeless and to wear what I love. If you love what you are wearing, it shows – elegance suits everyone!  I find it useful when I go out, I am always properly coordinated, with whatever I wear.

Kathy Kiefer


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What is “Black Friday”? What is the definition of “Black Friday”? Why is it called “Black Friday”?

Black Friday is the day following Thanksgiving Day in the United States (the fourth Thursday of November). Since middle 1960’s through the present , it has been regarded as the beginning of the Christmas shopping season in the US, and most major retailers open very early (and more recently during overnight hours) and offer promotional sales. Black Friday is not an official holiday, but California and some other states observe “The Day after Thanksgiving” as a holiday for state government employees, sometimes in lieu of another federal holiday such as Columbus Day. Many non-retail employees and schools have both Thanksgiving and the following Friday off, which, along with the following regular weekend, makes it a four-day weekend, thereby increasing the number of potential shoppers. It has routinely been the busiest shopping day of the year since 2005, although news reports, which at that time were inaccurate, have described it as the busiest shopping day of the year for a much longer period of time. Similar stories resurface year upon year at this time, portraying hysteria and shortage of stock, creating a state of positive feedback.

In 2014, spending volume on Black Friday fell for the first time since the 2008 recession. $50.9 billion was spent during the 4-day Black Friday weekend, down 11% from the previous year. However, the U.S. economy was not in a recession. The Christmas creep has been cited as a factor in the diminishing importance of Black Friday, as many retailers now spread out their promotions over the entire months of November and December rather than concentrate them on a single shopping day or weekend.  Contrary to what many believed, Black Friday did not originate from the sales of slaves on the day after Thanksgiving.

For many years, it was common for retailers to open at 6:00 a.m., but in the late 2000s many had crept to 5:00 or even 4:00. This was taken to a new extreme in 2011, when several opened at midnight for the first time. In 2012, Walmart and several other retailers announced that they would open most of their stores at 8:00 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day, prompting calls for a walkout among some workers. In 2014 stores such as JC Penny, Best Buy and others opened at 5 PM on Thanksgiving Day while stores such as opened at 6 PM on Thanksgiving Day. Yet there are retailers who opted not to open at all on the holiday, so that employees could enjoy the day with their families. More announced they would do the same for 2015.  I have never gone shopping on either Thanksgiving Day or Black Friday, and have no intention of starting now.

The news media have long described the day after Thanksgiving as the busiest shopping day of the year. In earlier years, this was not actually the case. In the period from 1993 through 2001, for example, White Friday ranked from fifth to tenth on the list of busiest shopping days, with the last Saturday before Christmas usually taking first place. In 2003, however, Black Friday actually was the busiest shopping day of the year, and it has retained that position every year since, with the exception of 2004, when it ranked second (after December 18).

Black Friday is popular as a shopping day for a combination of reasons. As the first day after the last major holiday before Christmas, it marks the unofficial beginning of the Christmas shopping season. Additionally, many employers give their employees the day off as part of the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. In order to take advantage of this, virtually all retailers in the country, big and small, offer various sales including limited amounts of doorbuster/doorcrasher/doorsmasher items to entice traffic. Recent years have seen retailers extend beyond normal hours in order to maintain an edge, or to simply keep up with the competition. Such hours may include opening as early as 12:00 am or remaining open overnight on Thanksgiving Day and beginning sale prices at midnight. Historically, it was common for Black Friday sales to extend throughout the following weekend. However, this practice has largely disappeared in recent years, perhaps because of an effort by retailers to create a greater sense of urgency.

The news media usually give heavy play to reports of Black Friday shopping and their implications for the commercial success of the Christmas shopping season, but the relationship between Black Friday sales and retail sales for the full holiday season is quite weak and may even be negative.   “Black Friday” as a term has been used in multiple contexts, going back to the nineteenth century, where in the United States it was associated with a financial crisis of 1869.

Many merchants objected to the use of a negative term to refer to one of the most important shopping days in the year. By the early 1980s, an alternative theory began to be circulated: that retailers traditionally operated at a financial loss for most of the year (January through November) and made their profit during the holiday season, beginning on the day after Thanksgiving. When this would be recorded in the financial records, once-common accounting practices would use red ink to show negative amounts and black ink to show positive amounts. Black Friday, under this theory, is the beginning of the period when retailers would no longer have losses (the red) and instead take in the year’s profits (the black).

Despite frequent attempts to control the crowds of shoppers, minor injuries are common among the crowds, usually as a result of being pushed or thrown to the ground in small stampedes. While most injuries remain minor, serious injuries and even deliberate violence have taken place on some Black Fridays.

The day after Thanksgiving as the unofficial start of the holiday shopping season may be linked together with the idea of Santa Claus parades. Parades celebrating Thanksgiving often include an appearance by Santa at the end of the parade, with the idea that ‘Santa has arrived’ or ‘Santa is just around the corner’ because Christmas is always the next major holiday following Thanksgiving.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, many Santa or Thanksgiving Day parades were sponsored by department stores. These included the Toronto Santa Claus Parade, in Canada, sponsored by Eaton’s, and the Macy*s Thanksgiving Day Parade, sponsored by Macy*s. Department stores would use the parades to launch a big advertising push. Eventually it just became an unwritten rule that no store would try doing Christmas advertising before the parade was over. Therefore, the day after Thanksgiving became the day when the shopping season officially started.

The sale day has caused a number of controversies over various practices: (1) Making unreasonable demands on staff, including requiring them to work, often long shifts, during Thanksgiving; (2) Health and safety risks due to insufficient staff for crowd management; (3) Selling “derivative” products manufactured just for Black Friday with lower specifications; and (4) Many employees are left with no choice but to work. (Work on Thanksgiving/Black Friday or be terminated).

Kmart began the trend of opening on “Gray Thursday” by opening at 7am, Thanksgiving morning, to appeal to those who wanted to miss any Black Friday traffic altogether, but still be home in time to have dinner with their families. As far back as 2009, Kmart has been utilizing this trend. It wasn’t until 2012, with backlash from the media, that Kmart started only opening at 6 pm on Thanksgiving Day, but staying open straight through Black Friday instead.

In recent years, retailers have been trending towards opening on Gray Thursday, occurring Thanksgiving evening. In 2011, Walmart began its holiday sale at 10 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day for the first time. In 2012, Walmart began its Black Friday sales at 8 p.m. the day before on Thanksgiving; stores that are normally open 24 hours a day on a regular basis started their sales at this time, while stores that do not have round-the-clock shopping hours opened at 8 p.m. Competitors Sears and Kmart also opened at 8 p.m. on Thursday night, while Target and Toys “R” Us opened at 9 p.m. Other retailers, such as Lord & Taylor opened on Thanksgiving for the first time. In 2013, more retailers announced plans to open earlier on Thanksgiving. Kmart planned to open at 6 a.m. Thanksgiving and stay open for 41 consecutive hours until 11 p.m.  Friday. Toys “R” Us opened at 5 p.m. on Thanksgiving. Walmart planned to start Black Friday sales at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving while Best Buy planned to open at 6 p.m. JC Penney, Kohl’s, Macy’s, Sears, and Target planned to open at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving. In addition Simon Property Group planned to open its malls at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving, it had been reported that 15,000 consumers “stormed the entrances” at Macy*s Herald Square for the 8:00 PM opening on Thursday.   The 2014 “Gray Thursday” sales were, a failure, as overall sales for the holiday weekend fell 11% compared to the previous year despite heavy traffic at the stores on Thanksgiving night. In response, a number of retailers decided to go back to closing on Thanksgiving for 2015, and Wal-Mart, although it is holding firm opening on the holiday and holding its sale, also pledged to offer the same deals online for those who wished to stay home.

Some websites offer information about day-after-Thanksgiving specials up to a month in advance. The text listings of items and prices are usually accompanied by pictures of the actual ad circulars. These are either leaked by insiders or intentionally released by large retailers to give consumers insight and allow them time to plan.

The term Cyber Monday, a neologism invented in 2005 by the National Retail Federation’s division, refers to the Monday immediately following Black Friday based on a trend that retailers began to recognize in 2003 and 2004. Retailers noticed that many consumers, who were too busy to shop over the Thanksgiving weekend or did not find what they were looking for, shopped for bargains online that Monday from home or work.

The National Retail Federation releases figures on the sales for each Thanksgiving weekend. The Federation’s definition of “Black Friday weekend” includes Thursday, Friday, Saturday and projected spending for Sunday. The survey estimates number of shoppers, not number of people.

The length of the shopping season is not the same across all years: the date for Black Friday varies between November 23 and 29, while Christmas Eve is fixed at December 24th had the longest shopping season since 2007.

Kathy Kiefer


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Holiday fashion trends for the winter holidays concentrate on luxury and sparkle.

Keeping up with the styles and trends can be exhausting and sometimes even impossible. Plus, with the holidays coming up, fashion becomes even more important. Many first impressions and holiday meet and greets require you to stay up to date and even ahead of the curve in regards to fashion. Your little black dress may be your staple piece to fall back on (we all have one) but this season, it’s time to break out of your comfort zone and be adventurous.

First and foremost, just because your little black dress is a dress, doesn’t mean all of your go to pieces need to be dresses. Try pairing straight legged pants with an exciting top littered with sequins. Make sure to balance the outfit out; the pants should be matte and your shirt should be sparkling. Navy, red and gold sequined shirts are the most favorable because they don’t go over the top, such as pink sequins shirts do. On that note, your little black dress is a classic for a reason: its simplicity.

Don’t overdo your sequined shirt by pairing it with feathers or rhinestones, or you run the risk of being that girl who “tried WAY to hard”, and no one wants that.

It’s no wonder women approach the holidays with dread: trying to coordinate outfits, gifts, travel and parties can overload even the most organized woman.
Instead of trying to match up dressy separates, try a little black dress this season. Not only is it universally flattering, it will take you to almost any event in style. Just add accessories and you’re set. Your hair should look uncomplicated as well. Opt for sexy half-up/half-down styles or pull your hair back into a low ponytail. Keep your makeup simple, but special: sometimes all it takes is a great red lipstick to dress it all up!

The Little Black Dress is being replaced by red. Vibrant, emotional and sensual, it is no surprise that red is competing for the new black. It is also perfect for the holidays! However, you don’t want to look like Mrs. Claus, so take the same principles you apply when wearing your little black dress, less is more.

You have also heard of “winter white”. Don’t forget about it this season! White is also holiday ready, reminding us of snowflakes, snowmen, winter wonderlands and other holiday festivities. White is the most fun because it can be accessorized easily and you can have a lot of fun with it. Pair up chunky all white sweaters with some long gold necklaces and bangles and a shimmery scarf for the ultimate winter outfit!

Holiday chic is festive and an excuse to dress up big time. If you can find something in your drawers and / or closet you can save time and money so panic, shop your closet. These trends have been around for some time and continue to be strong for the upcoming holiday season.

Florals (garden motifs) grounded in black are very “in style”. Florals were hot this summer and continue to be popular this winter. If you want to have a trendy look this holiday season, wear something floral. A major statement would be a floral dress but a floral evening bag, fascinator or floral shoes will give you an up-to-date look.

Luxurious fabrics like lace, velvet, brocade or satin are magical holiday favorites. Whether you want to look glamorous and sweet, or sexy and alluring an outfit in a luxurious fabric or combination of several luxurious fabrics says special occasion. When a fabric is fancy like lace or brocade clothing in simple designs are most chic. Black velvet can be very slimming and sensual but dark jewel tone velvets are great for holiday get togethers too. Plush, soft velvet feels good and says “luxury.” so it’s no wonder that velvet continues to be trendy for winter holiday dressing. For petites, darker colors of velvet will be better since textured velvet fabric is thicker than many other fashion fabrics we usually wear.

Be lovely in lace for this holiday season. Although holiday lace doesn’t have to be black, black lace is a fashion favorite, not only for that little black dress, but also for holiday bags, shoes, gloves, and tops.      Holiday trends include gloves this year, but they must be holiday special. This season’s holiday gloves move into the luxe category in velvet, satin, kid, or lace with embellishments such as ruching, beading, or sequins. In a nod to the 1980s, fingerless styles are on trend this year.

Sheer fabrics have been very hot but can be tricky to wear. A lot depends on your figure, the style of the outfit and where the sheer fabrics are located on the outfit. Outfits with transparent fabrics give the fashion diva a sexy look. They can look great on females of any age when the sheer fabrics are strategically located.  If you feel good when you wear an outfit and it looks great on you, go for it.

Sparkles (sequins and metallics) are a huge holiday trend. Any sparkly clothing whether a skirt, pants, jacket or dress is a statement piece.  One statement piece is enough for any outfit. Always combine sparkly separates with simple clothing and accessories. Sparkly dresses are elegant but should be worn with simple style jewelry and accessories. Never go head-to-toe in sparkles. A little sparkle goes a long way.   Mix pearls with rhinestones to be on trend this holiday season. Rhinestones will give your jewelry some holiday twinkle while the pearls give it a touch of class

Metal is “in” for the holidays, whether it’s a metal mesh evening bag, studded killer heels, or mixed metal jewelry. Many of this season’s metal accessories have a hard edge vibe while others, such as the evening bag shown, appeal more to fashionistas who favor vintage.   Sparkle in sequins this holiday season–there’s nothing like some glitz and glitter to enhance your holiday mood. You can find sequin decoration on tops, dresses, evening bags, and shoes.

Fur’s a huge trend this year, and a faux fur wrap is just right for holiday dressing. Keep warm on your way to a holiday party with a faux fur coat, jacket, or stole while looking glam at the same time

If you’ve ever dressed up shinier than a Christmas tree or turned down last-minute party invitations because you had nothing to wear, you’ll know that the holiday season is loaded with chances for fashion disasters. From overdone party looks to being caught with nothing to wear, there are lots of ways that holiday fashion can catch you at your stylish worst.

You show up in jeans, everyone else wears velvet; you wear a long dress and others wear business clothes. You’re not alone if you have trouble deciphering dress codes on a party invitation: most people get confused by designations as ambiguous as “Dressy Casual” or “Cocktail Attire.” A few dressy items span several categories like the little black dress for her or dark suit for him — both of which can attend everything from semi-formal to cocktail parties.

Here are some common holiday faux pas and how to avoid them: (1) Wearing Too Much Glitz – Beading, metallic and shimmer are all fine for the holidays. In fact, most women wait until a good party to break out all of the glitzy finery. But too much shine can overwhelm anyone, especially if you wear it in areas that you don’t necessarily want to highlight (like a beaded chest sweater for a busty gal). Done right, glitz can light up your face and highlight your best body parts. And don’t forget that sometimes the best glitz appears only in accessories: a beaded clutch, sparkly shoes or a hint of glitter eye shadow can go a long way;   (2) Showing Too Much Skin – Thigh-high miniskirts and cut-to-the-navel dresses may look great on the runway, but in reality they are almost impossible to carry off. Not only is it possible to dress sexy while leaving lots to the imagination, it’s also the best way to look your prettiest for the holidays. The secret here is to accentuate your best features with a suggestion: a lace-trimmed camisole under a blazer hints at great cleavage, a small slit on a skirt gives a glimpse at gorgeous legs, a halter dress shows off toned arms; and (3) Getting Caught With Nothing to Wear – Nothing is worse than being invited to a fabulous party and having nothing to wear. By keeping a few dressy basics in your closet you can always be prepared for last-minute invitations. You can even re-wear the items and make them look totally different just with accessories. Essentials like a great little black dress or perfect dressy black pants can take you a long way.

Kathy Kiefer


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Plymouth is a town located in Plymouth County, Massachusetts, United States. Plymouth holds a place of great prominence in American history, folklore and culture, and is known as “America’s Hometown.” Plymouth was the site of the colony founded in 1620 by the Pilgrims, passengers of the famous ship the Mayflower. Plymouth is where New England was first established. It is the oldest municipality in New England and one of the oldest in the United States. The town has served as the location of several prominent events, the most notable being the first Thanksgiving feast. Plymouth served as the capital of Plymouth Colony from its founding in 1620 until the colony’s merger with the Massachusetts Bay colony in 1691. Plymouth is named after Plymouth, South West England, United Kingdom.

Plymouth holds the unique distinction of being the first permanent settlement in New England, and one of the oldest settlements in the United States.   Plymouth has played a very important role in American colonial history. It was the final landing site of the first voyage of the Mayflower, and the location of the original settlement of the Plymouth Colony. Plymouth was established in the December of 1620 by Anglicans and English separatists who had broken away from the Church of England, believing that the Church had not completed the work of the Protestant Reformation. Today, these settlers are much better known as “Pilgrims”, a term coined by William Bradford.

Plimoth Plantation, founded in 1947, is a living history museum in Plymouth, Massachusetts, that exhibits the original settlement of the Plymouth Colony established in the 17th century by English Colonists, some of whom later became known as Pilgrims. They were among the first people who immigrated to America to avoid religious persecution and to seek religious separation from the Church of England. It is a not-for-product museum supported by admissions, contributions, grants and volunteers.

As one of the country’s first settlements, Plymouth is well known in the United States for its historical value. The events surrounding the history of Plymouth have become part of the mythology of the United States, particularly those relating to Plymouth Rock, the Pilgrims and the First Thanksgiving. The town itself is a popular tourist spot during the Thanksgiving holiday.  I remember going the Plymouth Plantation with my family when I was younger on one of our summer trips.

Prior to the arrival of the Pilgrims, the location of Plymouth was a village of 2,000 Wampanoag Native Americans called Patuxet. This region that would become Plymouth was visited twice by European explorers prior to the establishment of Plymouth Colony. In 1605, Samuel de Champlain sailed to Plymouth Harbor, calling it Port St. Louis. Captain John Smith, a leader of the colony at Jamestown, Virginia, explored parts of Cape Cod Bay; he is credited with naming the region which would become the future Plymouth Colony as “New Plimouth.”

The 17th-Century English Village is a re-creation of the small farming and maritime community built by the Pilgrims along the shore of Plymouth Harbor. The English Village brings colonial Plymouth vividly to life. Here, you will find modest timber-framed houses furnished with reproductions of the types of objects that the Pilgrims owned, aromatic kitchen gardens, and heritage breeds livestock. Engaging townspeople are eager to tell you about their new lives in Plymouth Colony.

Today, the people you meet are costumed role players portraying actual residents of Plymouth Colony. They have adopted the names, viewpoints and life histories of the people who lived and worked in the Colony. Each has a unique story to tell. Their viewpoints might shock or fascinate you, educate or entertain you. Imagine you have travelled back in time and can hear directly from the Pilgrims about the Colony’s difficult beginnings. Ask about religious beliefs, education and child rearing, relations with Native People, gardens, cooking, or any topic of interest to you. Or simply rest on a bench and enjoy the unique atmosphere of 17th-century Plymouth Colony.

The re-creations are sourced from a wide variety of first and second records, accounts, articles and period paintings and artifacts, and the museum conducts ongoing research and scholarship, including historical archaeological excavation and curation locally and abroad.

In the 1627 English Village section of the museum, interpreters have been trained to speak, act and dress appropriately for the period. At Plimoth Plantation they are called historical interpreters, and they interact with their ‘strange visitors’ (i.e. the modern general public) in the first person, answering questions, discussing their lives and viewpoints and participating in tasks such as cooking, planting, blacksmithing and animal husbandry. The 1627 English Village loosely follows a time line, chronologically representing the calendar year 1627 from late March through November (the months the museum is open), depicting day-to-day life and seasonal activities as well as featuring some key historical events such as funerals and special celebrations.   Alongside the settlement is a re-creation of a Wamanoag home site, where modern Native People from a variety of nations (not in period character, but in traditional dress) explain and demonstrate how the Wampanoag’s ancestors lived and interacted with the settlers.

The museum grounds at Plimoth Plantation also include Nye Barn, where historical breeds of livestock are kept; a crafts center where many of the objects used in the village exhibits are created; a cinema where educational videos are shown, a Colonial Education site for youth and adult groups, and visitors’ center with indoor exhibits and educational programs. The two houses on the Colonial Education site were built by Plimoth Plantation for the PBS show Colonial House filmed in Maine. Following the filming, the museum disassembled the houses and reconstructed them at Plimoth Plantation. The roof of one of these houses, the Cook House, was destroyed by a fire from a fireplace on November 19, 2011. The building had to be torn down.

The Mayflower II, docked near the purported Plymouth Rock, is also under the care of the museum. Colonial first-person interpreters represent the sailors and officers of the ship circa the 1620s. At some times, the “sailors” go on week-long trips to experience what it was like for Pilgrims.   The Mayflower II is a full-size replica of the Mayflower, the ship which brought the Pilgrims to Plymouth in 1620. It is located at the State Pier in Plymouth Center. The ship is open as a museum about the Pilgrims’ historic voyage from Plymouth, England, and is considered a faithful replica of the original Mayflower. It is officially a part of Plimoth Plantation. The ship is still seaworthy, and routinely takes voyages around Plymouth Harbor.

The Mayflower first anchored in what would become the harbor of Provincetown, Massachusetts on November 11, 1620. The ship was headed for Virginia, but eventually reached New England. There are varying theories as to how this happened. They include: violent storms threw the ship off course; a navigation error; the Dutch bribed the captain to sail north so the Pilgrims would not settle near New Amsterdam; and the Pilgrims on the Mayflower, who comprised only 35 of the 102 settlers aboard the Mayflower, hijacked the ship to land far from Anglican control. The Pilgrim settlers, realizing that the party did not have a patent to settle in the region, subsequently signed the Mayflower Compact. The Pilgrims went on to explore various parts of Cape Cod, but soon a storm and violent fights with local Native Americans forced the migrants to sail westward into Cape Cod Bay. The Pilgrims eventually came across the sheltered waters of Plymouth Harbor on December 17th. The appealing and protected bay led to a site in the present-day Harbor District being chosen for the new settlement after three days of surveying. The settlers officially disembarked on December 21, 1620. It is traditionally said that the Pilgrims first set foot in America at the site of Plymouth Rock, though no historical evidence can prove this claim. The settlers named their settlement “Plimouth” (also historically known as “Plimoth”, an old English spelling of the name) after the major port city in Devon, England from where the Mayflower sailed.

Plymouth faced many difficulties during its first winter, the most notable being the risk of starvation and the lack of suitable shelter. From the beginning, the assistance of Indians was vital. One colonist’s journal reports: ‘We marched to the place we called Cornhill, where we had found the corn before. At another place we had seen before, we dug and found some more corn, two or three baskets full, and a bag of beans….In all we had about ten bushels, which will be enough for seed. It is with God’s help that we found this corn, for how else could we have done it, without meeting some Indians who might trouble us.’

Even greater assistance came from Samoset and Tisquantum (better known as Squanto), an Indian sent by Wampanoag Tribe Chief Massasoit, as an ambassador and technical adviser. Squanto had been kidnapped in 1614 by an English slave raider and sold in Malaga, Spain. Having learned English, he escaped slavery and returned home in 1619. Teaching the colonists how to farm corn, where and how to catch fish, and how to make other necessary items, he was instrumental in the survival of the settlement for the first two years. Squanto and another guide sent by Massasoit in 1621, Hobomok, helped the colonists set up trading posts for furs and pay off the cost of establishing the colony. Chief Massasoit later formed a Peace Treaty with the Pilgrims. Upon growing a plentiful harvest in the fall of 1621, the Pilgrims gathered with Squanto, Samoset, Massasoit, and ninety other Wampanoag men in a celebration of food and feasting. This celebration is known today as the First Thanksgiving, and is still commemorated annually in downtown Plymouth with a parade and a reenactment. Since 1941, Thanksgiving has been observed as a federal holiday in the United States.

Plymouth Rock is one of Plymouth’s most famous attractions. Traditionally, the rock is said to be the disembarkation site of the Pilgrims. However, there is no historical evidence to support this belief. The first identification of Plymouth Rock as the actual landing site was made in 1741 by 94-year-old Thomas Faunce, whose father had arrived in Plymouth in 1623, three years after the arrival of the Mayflower. The rock is located roughly 650 feet (200 m) from where the initial settlement was thought to be built.

Plymouth Rock became very famous after its identification as the supposed landing site of the Pilgrims, and was subsequently moved to a location in Plymouth Center. During the process, the rock split in two. It was later moved to Pilgrim Hall and then to a location under a granite Victorian Canopy, where it was easily accessible and subject to souvenir hunters. The rock was finally moved back to its original location along the town’s waterfront in 1921. “Plymouth Rock”, a large boulder, now sits under the historic Plymouth Rock Portico. The Neo-Classical Revival structure was designed by the highly influential architectural firm of McKim, Mead and White, designers of the Boston Public Library, Rhode Island State House and the former Pennsylvania Station in New York City. Built in 1921 the existing granite portico replaced an earlier Gothic Revival style monument designed by Hammatt Billings (who also designed the National Monument to the Forefathers). In 1970 the Plymouth Rock Portico was listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The rock and portico are the centerpiece of Pilgrim Memorial State Park. The park is the smallest park in the Massachusetts state forest and park system, but is also the most heavily visited.

Pilgrim Hall Museum, founded in 1824, is the oldest continually operating museum in the United States. It is located in Plymouth Center. Plymouth also features the National Monument to the Forefathers, which was dedicated in 1889. Standing at 81 feet (25 m) tall, it is the tallest free-standing solid granite monument in the United States. Other notable historical sites include the Jenney Grist Mill, a working replica of an original mill built in 1636, as well as the 1640 Richard Sparrow House, the oldest house still standing in Plymouth.

Kathy Kiefer

Florence Italy. Indian super wedding to be held in piazza Ognissanti

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Florence Italy. Indian super wedding to be held in piazza Ognissanti

On November 27 in piazza Ognissanti, Florence will welcome a fairytale Indian wedding.

213132_0006_3890880-013-U46000298221534USB-U46020485842319JKE-1224x916@CorriereFiorentino-Web-Firenze-593x443One hundred thousand euro for the use of public land, 20,000 in tourist taxes and another 58,000 for the restoration of the fountain in piazza Santa Croce, with an estimated return of 6 million euro for Florence, and 600 rooms already booked in five-star hotels throughout the city—these are the figures for an extravagant Indian wedding that will take place at the end of this month.

The groom is the son of an oil magnate based in Dubai and the happy couple have decided to get married beside the Arno.12305823_10153138743631363_1333871162_n

Councillor for economic development and tourism Giovanni Bettarini has stated that Florence has been confirmed as the wedding location, which comes shortly ahead of the Tuscan city hosting the Destination Wedding Planners Congress in 2016. Bettarini also stressed how important this wedding will be in promoting Florence as the ideal destination wedding location.

The City of Florence has released new regulations on the private use of piazzas, allowing the city to give better price quotes to engaged couples seeking to reserve public land for their weddings.

                                                                                                                                                               Pic from sure-com Web Agency Italy

On November 27, a temporary ban will be placed on the entrance to piazza Ognissanti as well as on the routes of the procession (lungarno Vespucci, via Melegnano and via Montebello).

Kathy Kiefer




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Schermata 2015-11-24 alle 17.41.03


As 1940s post war America entered into a period of prosperity, as with the wartime rationing of materials including fabric now lifted, the high style of Hollywood could be worn by the masses. Fashion (what would become today’s Retro Style) developed quickly. Through the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s people had more leisure time, more money which was used to make some of the most creative music, art and fashion. The fashion styles developed with popular culture and changed quickly with the influence of rock and roll and Hollywood movies. These styles of the 40s 50s and 60s gave way to others in the 70s and 80s, but the classic quality of these styles have been coming back in revivals and each time they do, they are updated just a little bit, infusing the original spirit with a modern day twist.

Retro is a pretty general term but refers to clothing commonly worn in the past. When we talk about retro style, we are referring to the fashions of the 1940s 1950s and 1960s. Certain items have become iconic and representative of these times, like the 50s poodle skirt or the 60s Mod style, which can be combined in new and interesting ways with current clothing and fabrics. It was a simpler time than today, mass consumption, culture and people cared a lot about quality as well as style. The fashion came from wartime styles, out of Hollywood, from the development of new materials, and later from the pop culture around the rock and roll music of the time. Makeup and hairstyles are a part of the retro fashion styling of their eras, adding to the signature fashion elements that help define a decade.

Retro” and “vintage” are two descriptive labels for styles and clothing. In addition, these two words can be applied to other designed objects. In terms of clothing and fashion, a “vintage” item is a piece of clothing that is made during the period of the 1920’s to 1980’s.

There is a subtle difference between vintage and retro clothing styles. Vintage clothing is the actual clothing produced in the time period. These garments are very collectible and desirable by vintage clothing enthusiasts which may include specific designer labels and material, however since it is often previously worn, and clothing wears out, vintage clothing is often times hard to find in good wearable condition. Vintage clothing sizing may be a problem as it was somewhat different in the 40s 50s and 60s than it is today.

Retro Clothing is new clothing in classic styles, sometimes called vintage style. These modern designers are inspired by vintage styles and cuts from by-gone eras, but are using modern materials and methods to create these retro-inspired garments. A big advantage of retro style clothing is that since it is produced today, it is generally easier to find in desired modern sizing and produced in modern fabrics.

Retro fashion refers to fashion from 1940-1990. Retro fashion is a clothing style which consists in wearing clothes commonly used in the past. This way of clothing often includes garments and accessories that are characteristic of such times, and many people use them in an exaggerated way and in combination with current clothing. Some examples are leather handbags from the 1950s, “bell-bottom jeans”, Poodle skirts, big sunglasses, fedoras, funky jackets, shoes, small neckties, chiffon scarves, sport equipment, skinny jeans, etc. Makeup may also play a part in feminine retro fashions, with focal points being heavily-lined eyes and bright red lipstick; hairstyles such as pompadours, ponytails, and ducktails may be adopted, as well as styles that model film stars of the 1940s and 1950s.

An example of this trend is 1970s and 1980s sportswear; soccer jackets, jerseys and T-shirts with former logos of the soccer associations are very popular; their designs commonly remember the old days by using lines in the sides and combinations of colors characteristic of those times. Brands such as Adidas, Puma and Nike have their own divisions specialized in retro products. Some soccer, baseball and basketball clubs also have re-edited their former garments to raise their sales.

The 1950s greaser look greatly influenced the punk subculture. In the late 2000s there was a revival of neon and pastel colors, stereotypically associated with 1980s fashion.  Nowadays, 1990s fashion has made a comeback, many of the fabrics and patterns ubiquitous to the decade (such as crushed velvet and floral) are popular now in the 2010s. Dr. Martens, a shoe brand popular in the 1990s, has also made a strong comeback in the early 2010s. 2011 – 2012 was the British company’s bestselling season of all time.

Vintage clothing echoes the style that was popular during that extensive period. The word can refer to the pattern, style, and age of the said object or clothing. Vintage clothing or objects use old patterns and old materials. Clothing is considered vintage if the style and material used are 20 – 75 years old compared to the current fashion trends. However, even some people continue to wear vintage clothing as an expression of fashion as a way to recycle clothes and save money.

Vintage is closely related to antiques where an object has to be 100 years or older to be considered as such. Vintage clothing is usually formal or classy clothing. Some of the vintage styles or designs have evolved through time and the clothing necessities of the people.

Most vintage clothing includes dresses and have some key features that make them stand out from other trends. Vintage clothing styles are full of details like lapels, appliques, or designs. They also have very modest or full cuts and lengths compared to modern clothing. Vintage clothes also have smaller proportions. The construction of vintage clothes is also different from other clothes.

Vintage clothing is regarded as original and authentic in terms of inspiration and design.
“Vintage” is a word that was first used in reference to a wine’s age. In addition, the word is also used to refer to secondhand clothing. The word is Middle English which is probably derived from Anglo-French “vendage” or “vendenge,” from Latin “vindemia.” It was first used in the 15th century. “Vintage,” as a term can function as a noun and an adjective.

One common term associated with vintage is retro. Retro is a type of style or design that refers to previous fashion trends, particularly the vintage style. It is also known as “vintage inspired” or “vintage look.” “Retro” is different from “vintage” with respect to appearances and material. Retro clothing has an updated and more polished look. It means that retro clothes are made with an old style or design but with new or contemporary materials. Retro is mostly borrowed, reproduced or imitated designs.

This embodies the spirit of retro, a shortened word of “retrospective” or “retrospection.” The word’s origin is from the Latin word “retrospectus” which means “backwards.” In terms of age, retro clothing is newer. The word is also used as a term to describe 1960-1970 street clothing.

Kathy Kiefer


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calendario1000-510x187The theme of the winter show interprets the similarity of many generations in fashion and contemporary styles.

Pitti Generation(s) is the guiding theme of the salons in January – says Agostino Poletto, Deputy General Manager of Pitti Immagine – and talks about the similarity of many different generations and styles in the fashion world today. The contemporary speed compresses and mixes the personal time and generations, between nostalgic reflection and experimentation in a global world while overcoming boundaries. So Pitti Generation(s) recounts, with humor and lightness, an era where age is becoming more of a state of mind than master, with mature men in jeans and t-shirts and beards young Victorian with a passion for vintage. “

With a set designed by Oliviero Baldini, the Fortezza da Basso will welcome visitors between installations and surprising inroads, between art and performance, which will transform the grounds of the square opposite the Pavilion, the facade of the Lyceum and other key locations of the Fortress, for an unprecedented generational representation. Time, different styles and genres emerge in an eclectic mix, all under the ironic and surreal of hundreds of eyes that with their “blink”, will transform the square of the Main Pavilion. And yet, the Fortezza da Basso is an exceptional location for such a special event that will launch a surprising way, theme Pitti Generation(s).

The new digital art project of Pitti Uomo is signed by Pasquale Abbattista

The collaboration between Pitti Immagine and talented directors realize the digital art project that launches the theme of the salons, and its relevance. The new video plays Pitti Generation(s) through the technique of morphing, alternating and overlapping the familiar faces of characters belonging to the international fashion system.  Directed and photographed by Pasquale Abbattista, the production of Hi! Production and supervision of Max Brun, the new video project will be linked to an important charity project: the remuneration of the stars of the video will be donated to Meyer Children’s Hospital of Florence and the ASP Montedomini , two Florentine institutions dealing with care of children and the elderly, respectively.

PITTI GENERATION (S) presents a collection of objects of Seletti in collaboration with Toiletpaper

To celebrate, Pitti Generation (s) will also be presented the special collection of iconic objects and evergreen design, made in collaboration with the Italian brand Seletti Toiletpaper, magazine of worship by Maurizio Cattelan and Pierpaolo Ferrari.

Selectively Toiletpaper is a proposal to objects characterized by an inexhaustible desire to experiment, a black humor that one dips in pastel colors, materials democratic and family combined with unexpected images and a pop of spirit.

The Fortezza da Basso will be featured objects Seletti wears Toiletpaper, and will be launched in two new preview of the project – a line of carpets and “strangely scented candles” – presented to the Pitti Uomo audience from a series of original means of transport. . Items will then be available for purchase at a temporary shop that has been set up in the Hall of Ronda.

sure-com America



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What do I need to know before I go? If I were to participate must I be of Scottish heritage?   What is the significance and importance of the Scottish Christmas Walk? Do clans have a real rivalry? What is the significance of the tartan?

Want to celebrate Alexandria’s biggest holiday weekend but don’t know where to start? Dinna fash yersel! (That’s Scottish for don’t worry.) Sure, there are more than a dozen holiday events in Alexandria December 4th through the 6th, but the number one must-see is the Scottish Christmas Walk Parade. On December 5 at 11 a.m., Old Town Alexandria will welcome more than 20,000 parade-goers with the bellow of bagpipes and the beat of drums as over a hundred marching units—including Scottish clans, dancers, dignitaries, Scottie dogs and more—head to Market Square to salute our bonny town’s rich Scottish heritage.

Many different people march in the parade—including a pair from the North Pole—but the ones you see in Scottish dress have a special connection to Scotland, and to Alexandria. Many are members of the Saint Andrew’s Society, which originated in Alexandria in the late 1700s.   You don’t have to be of Scottish ancestry to go the Scottish Christmas Walk or shop in Old Town.   It’s a grand time for everyone.

To be a member of Saint Andrew’s, you must have “one foot in Scotland,” in other words, confirmed Scottish lineage. Some members are recent immigrants to the United States who are connected to the British Embassy (since Scotland is part of the United Kingdom). Others have Scottish ancestry as close as two or three generations back.

Alexandria’s Scottish Christmas Walk is the summit of Scottish activity in the region for the year, “It’s like a giant family picnic.” In the parade, Scottish immigrants and descendants march to the tune of their cultural and genealogical heritage. It’s a way to feel connected with a faraway home and with the ancestors some clan members never got to meet.

The parade is also a chance to give back: proceeds from participation fees benefit the Campagna Center, Alexandria’s leading not-for-profit organization dedicated to providing educational and social development programs for children, teens, and adults.

For several reasons, Alexandria is the perfect place for the Scottish Walk. First, Alexandria is steeped in Scottish history—in 1749 it was officially established by Scottish merchants and named after John Alexander. Those merchants were also members of the Saint Andrew’s Society in its early days. (One of them, William Hunter, is buried behind the Old Presbyterian Meeting House in Alexandria, and before each parade members place a wreath on his grave.)

But Alexandria has an even closer connection to Scotland—we have little pieces of it in our streets!  During the 18th century, when Alexandria was a major seaport, Scottish merchants sailed to the city with stone in the bellies of their boats for ballast. Upon arrival, the ships dumped the stones in the streets to open up their vessel for goods. Legend has it that Old Town’s cobblestone streets still contain ballast from those Scottish ships. For many, walking the streets of Old Town is one way to revisit your ancestral homeland.

Centuries ago in feudal Scotland, the weave or pattern of a tartan (plaid) revealed who your family was, the person you were married to or who you were subservient to. Today things are a little different, but the main idea is the same: your tartan is your way to celebrate your family’s heritage.

 Look closely during the parade, and you’ll see that many of the men clad in Scottish regalia carry small, hairy bags around their waists, almost like a furry fanny pack. Nope, this isn’t the latest trend in men’s wear (although maybe it should be), but those furry bags actually serve a very practical purpose. Called sporrans, the purse worn around the waist came about because traditionally, kilts do not have pockets. So what might you find inside those woolly wallets? Most likely money, credit cards and cell phones.

Traditionally, Scotsmen wore nothing under the kilt, apart from long shirts tied in a knot between their legs. So if a wearer keeps tradition, no boxers or briefs are worn under the kilt so it’s safe to leave it at that.

You’ll see many dogs in the parade who proudly march in honor of their Scottish ancestors, including a host of Scottie dogs. But you’ll also spy dogs in the parade who are just happy to support a good cause—and who’s complaining about that?

There are quite a few clans who march in the parade who share longstanding rivalries.  The rivalry is friendly and a source of many jokes, but when Scots get together—and have absorbed a couple glasses of Scotch—the rivalry never fails to come up. In short “We forgive, but we remember.”

Some Other Christmas Walk Events

All this Scottish history got you thirsty for a wee dram? Book your ticket to the Campagna Center’s Taste of Scotland event, when you can sample varieties of Scotches and other Scottish spirits and lift a glass to our city’s founding fathers.

Campagna Center – You know what they say: Put a wreath on it! But seriously, there’s no better way to catch the holiday spirit than with fresh heather bundles, wreaths, or garlands in your home or office.

If you want to know the real meaning of “decked out,” take a stroll through some of Old Town Alexandria’s historic homes in all their holiday splendor for some serious decoration inspiration.

The Art League helps kick off the holiday season with an annual art celebration and open house featuring exhibits, live music, artist demonstrations, and refreshments, as well as a weekend-long ceramics and jewelry sale of handmade wares by Art League students and associates.

At sundown on the day of the Scottish Christmas Walk parade, Alexandria’s harbor lights up as dozens of illuminated boats cruise the Potomac River at the historic waterfront, led by Alexandria’s fireboat The Vigilant and Washington, DC’s fireboat John Glenn. DC media personality Tommy McFly of 94.7 Fresh FM will be the parade announcer.  At the marina before and after the parade, stop in to the Holiday Festival: Take a Walk in the Woods at the Torpedo Factory Art Center  between 4 and 9 p.m. to enjoy performances by the Alexandria Harmonizers plus gift shopping in open artist studios.

Note to Santa: I want a piece of local art this Christmas, and the Torpedo Factory Open House is the perfect place to find it. With live music and special activities, the Torpedo Factory is also the perfect place to pop in on your way to or from the Boat Parade of Lights! And the Torpedo Factory is the perfect place to find a unique work of art and/or jewelry and purchase it directly from the artist. You also may have the opportunity to see the artist at work (making the purchase all the more special).

Kathy Kiefer



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How does thanksgiving translate from colonial times to present day?

Many Americans erroneously assume that our nation has been celebrating Thanksgiving since the Mayflower Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock in 1620. Nothing could be further from the truth.

To begin with, this was not even the first Thanksgiving celebrated in this country. An earlier thanksgiving was offered in prayer alone by members of the Berkeley plantation, an extension of the original Jamestown settlement, near present-day Charles City, Virginia, on December 4, 1619.    Each year visitors are invited to join in the festivities at the Virginia Thanksgiving Festival hosted by Berkley Plantation, site of the very first Thanksgiving in 1619. Enjoy this day dedicated to history and food, and including house tours of the beloved 1726 Berkeley Plantation manor house. I remember visiting Berkley one year with my mom and my brother to do just that. I found it to be an enjoyable day and time and quite memorable.   I highly recommend it.

Berkeley’s history begins in 1619 when settlers observed the first official Thanksgiving in America. The original 1726 Georgian mansion is the birthplace of Benjamin Harrison V, signer of the Declaration of Independence and governor of Virginia. The estate is also the birthplace of William Henry Harrison, ninth president of the United States, and ancestral home of his grandson, Benjamin Harrison, the twenty-third president. During the Civil War, Berkeley was occupied by General George McClellan’s Union troops. While at Berkeley, General Daniel Butterfield composed the familiar tune “Taps”, first played by his bugler, O.W. Norton. Enthusiastic guides in period costumes conduct tours of the mansion daily. The mansion is furnished with a magnificent collection of 18th century antiques and artifacts. Grounds tours are self-guided and include five terraces of boxwood and flowering gardens leading to the James River, monuments to the First Thanksgiving and to Taps, and the Harrison family graveyard. The gardens provide an elegant setting for weddings and private events. The first Sunday in November, Berkeley celebrates the historic 1619 landing with the Virginia Thanksgiving Festival. In December, the plantation is decorated with traditional holiday decorations of fresh greenery and natural arrangements from Berkeley’s gardens. Berkley bears the designation of being both a Virginia and National Historic Landmark.

The Mayflower landed on December 11, 1620. The first winter was devastating and nearly half of the 102 passengers who had sailed from Plymouth, England died before spring. But the harvest of 1621 was a bountiful one. This “first” Thanksgiving was celebrated over a period of three days by the Pilgrims and neighboring Wampanoag Indians who supplied much of the food – venison, waterfowl, dried berries, shellfish and cornbread. Governor William Bradford sent “four men fowling” after wild ducks and geese. It is not certain that wild turkey was part of their feast. The term “turkey” was used by the Pilgrims to mean any sort of wild fowl.

This was the only Thanksgiving feast the Pilgrims ever celebrated. In fact, it wasn’t until June of 1676 that another Day of Thanksgiving was proclaimed.

It is believed that the Pilgrim Colonists and the Wampanoag Indians celebrated the very first Thanksgiving feast after their first harvest in 1621 in Plymouth, MA. The harvest festival was religious in nature and took place outdoors, where hundreds of people gathered to partake in the festivities. Food was plentiful for this occasion and the spirit of thankfulness prevailed over the three-day celebration.

Historians believe that on that Thanksgiving day almost 400 years ago the menu consisted of venison – or deer meat – roasted (not stuffed) turkey, wild fowl including ducks, geese, and even swans, fish, lobsters, pumpkin in some form, squash, beans, dried fruits, some sort of cranberry sauce, and dried Indian maize or corn. The sugar supply brought over on the Mayflower from England was nearly exhausted by the time of the first Thanksgiving, so it is widely surmised that wheat pudding may have been one of the only sweet dishes served.

The Pilgrims used many spices, including cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, pepper, and dried fruit in the meat sauces they prepared. The best way to cook things in the 17th century was to roast them. Many of the meats were put on a spit and turned over a fire for up to six hours at a time to ensure that the meat was evenly cooked. They didn’t have ovens so pies and cakes and breads most likely never made it to that first Thanksgiving dinner table in Plymouth.

Today we enjoy delicious meals served in a warm home where it’s quite possible a football game can be heard from a nearby television set. At the dining room table many Americans may enjoy herb-roasted turkey, stuffing, gravy, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, creamed corn, candied yams, almond green beans, cranberry-orange relish, turnip, popovers with butter, pumpkin pie, mince pie, apple pie, and vanilla ice cream, even tofu-turkey and similar menu items for those that follow vegan or vegetarian diets.

Another location I highly recommend any time of the year, but especially at Thanksgiving would be Colonial Williamsburg.  They mix traditional colonial with yet a modern feel on things down to the last detail. It is an experience one should not miss.  I remember when I was around 10 years old; my family came done on Thanksgiving vacation, and what a treat was in store for us.   Spending time exploring the colonial capital of the United States and having a special thanksgiving dinner at the Williamsburg Inn was such a special treat and a wonderful memory for me.

Sunrise and fresh-baked bread warm up a cool, crisp day at Colonial Williamsburg. The alluring mix tempts the morning’s first visitors to follow the costumed bakers to the Raleigh Tavern on Duke of Gloucester Street (shortened to “Dog” Street by locals). There you’ll find baskets filled with goodness. You couldn’t ask for a more appetizing start to celebrating Thanksgiving’s bounty at Colonial Williamsburg.

All of the taverns and inns offer superb holiday fare, costumed servers, roving minstrels, authentic furnishings, and a pleasant atmosphere. Our favorite meal has to be the sumptuous offering for Thanksgiving dinner at King’s Arms Tavern. Start with cream of Virginia peanut soup, so rich, flavorful, and filling that they could serve it as the main course. But then there would be no room for the roasted young turkey served with giblet gravy, cornbread dressing, Carolina candied yams, and cranberry chutney.

Be sure to visit the shops, cottages, and other sites in the historic district. If you haven’t been here in years (or ever), seeing Colonial Williamsburg this month makes good sense too.

Gone are the steamy summer lines waiting to get in all the shops, craft houses, and taverns. You’ll also get the jump on the Christmas season crowds coming to shop in December. There seem to be just enough visitors to make it sociable. Don’t be surprised if you’re the only one in front of the warm fire at the cobbler’s shop, usually one of the most popular places. That’s another reason why Thanksgiving is such a great time to visit.

Although there are many differences between the first Thanksgiving in 1621 and the holiday we celebrate today, the one tradition that remains constant (despite some commercialization) is the celebration of being thankful.

However we choose to celebrate our national holiday today, we should remember ALL the first Thanksgivings and proclamations, as well as our American ancestors, whether native born, free emigrant, slave or indentured servant. We should never forget the struggles they all endured to create this nation from which our generation and our children’s will continue to greatly benefit.

Kathy Kiefer


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I read this article of the italian Blogger, Alessandro Sicuro, he’s always very careful to recognizing the talents creativity of Made in Italy and beyond. I immediately wanted posted in my blog this important report, because I believe that, this brand and its line will have ‘future.



Schermata 2015-11-19 alle 22.23.15As a lover of Italian creativity and ingenuity, I am always on the lookout for companies to discover new ideas and products.

Recently I had the opportunity to visit the Creative Lab of a young Tuscan Company Marka™ Ltd, for their collection of accessories and unique jewelry, bracelets and chains for pants, designed and styled very attractively. Silver, precious stones such as amethyst, tiger eye, silver bracelets, leather, python, set in magnificent frames made in the urban Hipster style.


Many times companies write to me for a technical opinion and input on their creations. I am generally happy to oblique.

One of the most interesting ideas that I have become aware of lately, is a new brand with a very unique style.  How did the idea begin? The story is simple, and the entrepreneurs are four friends, who met over dinner and decided to give birth to a new line of products, involving the creation of fashion accessories.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAGiven the fact that the four friends have a plethora of experience in the field of industrial creativity for many years, although each in different sectors. For them, this environment for them is so challenging, yet complicated and fascinating at the same time, allowing him to obtain several successes to the point of deciding to embark on this new creative venture with the creation of the brand 43°11° © –

go to the web site: www.4311.itOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I readily admit that this idea intrigued me from the very beginning, their enthusiasm has spread and my talent scouting staff, “always lurking like a sentinel,”  I immediately came to understand that I was in the right place, at the right time. Then moving from words to deeds, I came to see the creations of the collection 43°11°©, led by creative director Andrea Balleri, to see for myself this team full of energy and passion for innovation, there’s really an idea worth telling and bringing forward.

Schermata 2015-11-19 alle 22.46.49Ing. Andrea Balleri creative director 43°11°©

Upon arriving at the company and opening the caskets of the collection, I noticed three elements that strike me immediately in the products. The first is the lightness of the product, a fact that I always find very valuable when you have to wear something. Despite the closure of the bracelets and chains, they are both reliable and lightweight, as well for pendants, and chains that are set with semiprecious stones.

 ⬇︎ bracelets


The second element that struck me is the exquisite design and detail, impact, quality of micro-fusion of silver, an aesthetic and functional mix I found really fascinating.

 ⬇ bracelets ︎

The third element that struck me is the price: finding to be an excellent compromise between quality and cost. Bearing in mind that manufacturing procedures faithfully respect the matching processing parameters in compliance with the safety standards.

⬇ pants/trouser chains ︎

The collection is ready and the holders Marka Ltd say, which is also in high demand by social media and Internet.


Marka srl. Sede legale: Ripa Castel Traetti, 1. 51100 PT (Italy)
Sede operativa: Via Prov. Francesca Sud 143 145, 56029 Santa croce sull’Arno PI.
P.iva 01843420470  email:

Pozzuoli becomes more beautiful, large maneuvers recovery of archaeological sites,

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Pozzuoli becomes more beautiful, large maneuvers recovery of archaeological sites, the historical center, and the tourist areas and the city’s cultural flegrea.

12282907_10205722712682186_1589201419_nPozzuoli near Naples, cleaned the necropolis on Cells: new intervention of CityHall.

Pozzuoli has completed the recovery of the necropolis on Cells, which appeared again covered with weeds. After few days of work and with the help of mechanical tools, the remains of the ancient settlement Roman funeral.

“These operations of intervention in the city’s archaeological sites are  now customary – explains the deputy .  Workers are regularly engaged in the various settlements on the city territory and we try to keep them clean but unfortunately, due to lack of staff of the Superintendent, can not be visited. ” Discovered in the thirties, the necropolis on Cells consists of mausoleums, burial chambers and columbaria made between the first and second centuries after Christ and destined to collective burials at multiple levels. It is located along a stretch of Via Consularis Puteolis-Capuam, where it engages the way to Naples.

Evidence: “The Necropolis of Via Celle, Pozzuoli, Italy (Naples).

<< The Roman necropolis dating from between the first and the second century AD, is located along the stretch of the street12277037_10205722712642185_1583573648_n Consularis Puteolis-Capuam, where it engages the way Puteolis-Neapolim. Burial area was discovered a group of fourteen mausoleums funeral, called columbaria, already surveyed and investigated in the ‘700, while the first regular excavations dating back to the thirties of the last century; but only in the sixties he proceeded to clear the entire group of buildings along the east side of the road. To these monuments you add a building interpreted as collegium funeraticium, (association whose members are of modest means, joining, could inexpensively make a decent burial) characterized by a rectangular plan built around a courtyard in the center of which was erected a mausoleum . To the north of the courtyard there are two environments, while to the east and south is a corridor porch on two floors, along which, in the north wing, you have a number of service areas on two levels; while, in the Northeast, a small courtyard with cistern, provides access via a staircase to the upper floor, which has the same floor plan of the lower one. The southern arm of the corridor leads, then, to a rectangular open to the street, decorated with marble on the walls and paved with a mosaic of black and white. To the side walls of the room they are placed against the balconies, under which open the arcosolia relevant to a later phase of use, host inhumation burials of late period such as those found in the environment. >>

click on the pic for slider:


From: PozzuoliPiù Press Office :

My other article of Pozzuoli:


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Restaurants in Old Town Alexandria offer unforgettable meals in a beautifully historic and walkable setting. With the combination of a polished atmosphere, exquisite ingredients and personal service, Alexandria’s restaurants leave diners in awe after every meal.   There is something for every taste and budget.   Even if one follows a Vegan and Vegetarian diet you will be able to have a fabulous dining experience.  Restaurants range from Ethiopian, Italian, Spanish, Irish, Indian, Thai, Lebanese, regional and Native American fare, Seafood and more.  This is but a brief introduction and look into the dining experiences that await you in Alexandria. I am aware of many outstanding restaurants as well as micro-breweries and pubs that can be found in Alexandria, and I could write a more complete dinning guide. I don’t mean to slight any of them.

An excellent choice of regional American cuisine can be found at Restaurant 219 on King Street in the heart of Old Town. Found in an elegant Victorian setting, serving genuine New Orleans cuisine since 1979. The Basin Street Lounge has live jazz & blues Fri. & Sat. The Bayou Room has dancing with a DJ. Outdoor dining is available weather permitting.

Take to the outdoors and dine alongside Alexandria’s bustling streetscape or tranquil waterfront. With more than 30 of the city’s restaurants featuring sidewalk or patio seating, finding crepes, pad thai, burgers, or seafood (even dog-only menus!) to enjoy outside is simple. Sip on a glass of wine at Grape & Bean or indulge in Greek cuisine on the garden patio of Taverna Cretekou.

Whether setting the tone for a relaxing, laid back weekend or fueling up for a day of activity in Alexandria, there’s no better meal than weekend brunch, where coffee and mimosas flow. For savory dishes like salmon benedict and shrimp and hoecakes, head to Bastille, or head over to the organic-minded Del Ray Café for sweet treats like fluffy brioche French toast tossed in a vanilla batter and served with a strawberry rhubarb compote.

At Il Porto Brunch offerings include a variety of items including Brunch drinks such as Tuscan Punch, mimosas, Grand mimosa. Favorites include our chop salad, coconut shrimp, paninis, sauteed jumbo lump crab cakes, french toast, poached eggs with hollandaise and biscuits. Try the Grilled Filet Mignon & Eggs, short Smoked Salmon Filet, Jumbo Lump Crab Meat Omelet, home fries and more.     Il Porto’s Brunch menu is as expansive and outstanding as their fantastic lunch and dinner menus.   Every dish at Il Porto Italian Ristorante is made from scratch, on premise, including our pasta, all fresh, every day!  The chef has added his own signature to the Northern Italian style of cooking at Il Porto. The daily specials are not to be missed, always new, always innovative, while still rooted in Northern Italy style and tradition. There is also a wide variety of wines to accompany any and all meals as well as after dinner selections.

Bastille offers elegant and contemporary French bistro cuisine in a comfortable yet, upscale setting. Highlighting the cooking of acclaimed chefs Christophe and Michelle Poteaux, Bastille features an award-winning wine list. Locally sourced ingredients exemplify the cooking of this duo along with an amazing hand selected wine list are just a sample of what awaits you at Bastille. Outdoor seating available, weather permitting.

Nestled in the West End, Tempo Restaurant is one of Alexandria’s best-kept secrets. This elegant, but unpretentious, neighborhood restaurant is where the locals dine. Tempo’s menu displays a blend of northern Italian and French cuisine, featuring fresh seafood.

If you’re in the mood for fresh seafood, look no further than Old Town for some of the region’s most delicious and creative seafood fare. Stop by the Cajun-inspired Warehouse Bar and Grill for crawfish and shrimp beignets or The Wharf for tender clams and oysters steeped in garlic herb butter. DC-area legend Hank’s Oyster Bar, named amongst America’s Best Oyster Bars by Food & Wine, brings New England style comfort food to Old Town. If views leave you breathless, book your reservation at the Chart House at sunset, where diners watch the amber sun’s reflection slip into the Potomac as they dine on macadamia crusted Mahi Mahi drizzled in a warm peanut sauce. In the spring, summer and early fall you can even sit outside at the Chart House and the Wharf to enjoy your meal.

A newcomer to the dining experience is Blackwall Hitch which honors the heritage of the Chesapeake Bay with a modern interpretation of a classic coastal tavern. We deliver an ambiance of relaxed sophistication, with service that pampers and delights and food that is simple, fresh and delicious. Their sophisticated yet comfortable ambiance offers flexible gathering spaces for all occasions. The menu draws upon classic American techniques while we look to our region for additional inspiration. Simply put, the best ingredients make the best food. Their menu is seasonally inspired with classic, local fare. To complement any meal there is an exceptional beverage program complete with creative cocktails and an extensive wine list and draught beer selection. Whether it’s the colossal Blackwall Prawns, oysters shucked at your request, or the wood-fired flatbreads rolled out daily, they deliver an experience you are guaranteed to remember.

In the Del Ray area of Alexandria, I have discovered Cheesetique, a gourmet cheese boutique specializing in hard-to-find cheeses, meats and accompaniments from around the world. Also take the time to browse through their extensive wine and beer selection. If you are unsure of what to choose, do allow their expert staff to help you make selections or create your custom party platter or gift bucket.

For a slightly different dining experience complete with gourmet dining, dancing and an unparalleled view of our nation’s majestic monuments. Day or night, rain or shine, year ’round. Nina’s Dandy features a 465-square-foot marble dance floor and 3,700-square-foot outer deck for dancing under the stars.

There is also the Odyssey. Experience Washington DC from a stunning, glass-enclosed ship on the Potomac River. Listen and dance to live music. And take in the beautiful, totally unobstructed view of our nation’s capital while enjoying creative cuisine. Your Odyssey escape awaits. Come see why nothing on land can compare to the Odyssey.   Delicious food and drinks, top entertainment and stunning views combine for an experience both you and your guests won’t forget. From business meetings to special occasion celebrations, give your event a whole new energy.

There are also two excellent examples to have a bygone era dining experience in Alexandria.   The first is at Gadsby’s Tavern in Old Town.   Gadsby’s is an Historic 18th-century tavern, serving fine dining since 1770. They also serve Brunch on the weekends. Enjoy lunch and dinner in elegant Colonial dining rooms, while enjoying nightly Colonial entertainment.

The other is the Mount Vernon Inn Restaurant, located just footsteps from George Washington’s historic estate.  The Inn is open daily for lunch and dinner and brunch on the weekends.   They also offer happy hour Tuesday thru Friday. The menu uses only the freshest and seasonal items, and while contemporary in nature, yet remains colonial in nature. The Inn, like Gadsby’s, is also available for private events and both offer seasonal menus.

The Mount Vernon Inn is located 8 miles south of Old Town Alexandria and 16 miles from Washington, D.C. at the southern end of the George Washington Parkway. The Mount Vernon Inn is considered one of Washington’s best- kept secrets.

Kathy Kiefer


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Alexandria, Virginia, is a destination with sophisticated style, extraordinary attractions, and exquisite cuisine. As rich in culture as it is in history, the city on the Potomac links America’s storied past with its celebrated present.

Alexandria’s history reaches back more than thirteen thousand years. From the first Native Americans to settle here, to the bustling city it is today, the timeline of Alexandria’s history is filled with events that helped shape the United States of America into the country it is today.

A vital seaport during colonial times, Alexandria is George Washington’s hometown and part of the original Washington, DC. Thomas Jefferson entertained guests at Gadsby’s Tavern; Civil War general Robert E. Lee moved to Alexandria with his family when he was only four years old, and would eventually become one of the most famous figures in the American Civil War.

A quick ride by boat, car, or train transports visitors to the National Mall, making Alexandria an unparalleled home base for visiting the nation’s capital, but Washington politicos and celebrities cross in the other direction for the galleries, boutiques, and award-winning restaurants that line Alexandria’s cobbled streets.

What makes the city so extraordinary? Among hundreds of experiences to enjoy, here some reasons to visit Alexandria to start you off

Landmarks within the city include the George Washington Masonic National Memorial (also known as the Masonic Temple) and Observation Deck, Christ Church, Gadsby’s Tavern, John Carlyle House, Little Theatre of Alexandria, Lee-Fendall House, Alexandria City Hall, Market Square (site the oldest and continual farmers Market on Saturdays year round), the Jones Point Light, the south cornerstone of the District of Columbia, Robert E. Lee’s boyhood home, the Torpedo Factory Art Center, and the Virginia Theological Seminary. Other sites of historical interest in the city include Alexandria Black History Resource Center, Fort Ward Park and Museum, and the Alexandria Canal lock re-creation at Canal Office Center. Interesting sites with Alexandria addresses but outside of the city limits include River Farm, Collingwood Library & Museum, Green Spring Garden Park, Hundley Meadows Park, Historic Huntley, Pope-Leighy House (designed by Frank Lloyd Wright), Woodlawn Plantation, Washington’s Grist Mill and Mount Vernon Estate.

In 1830, John Hollensbury’s home in Alexandria was one of two homes directly boarding an alleyway that received a large amount of horse-drawn wagon traffic and loiterers. In order to prevent people from using the alleyway, Hollensbury constructed a 7 feet (2.1 m) wide, 25 feet (7.6 m) deep, 325-square-foot (30.2 m2), two story home using the existing brick walls of the adjacent homes for the sides of the new home. The brick walls of the Hollensbury Spite House living room have gouges from wagon-wheel hubs; the house is still standing, and is occupied.

Finding the best way to see the city is as easy as picking your passion in Alexandria, Virginia. History buffs explore colonial sites or follow lantern-carrying guides through graveyards for haunting tales of the city’s past. Foodies get a taste of the town with Old Town Food Tours, families gear up for adventure with Mount Vernon by Bike & Boat, and sightseers’ board water taxis and river cruises for a leisurely view of D.C. monuments.

A beautifully-preserved historic district on the Potomac River, Old Town Alexandria is the heart of the city George Washington called home. Today Old Town’s cobblestone streets and red brick sidewalks hum with an energy that attracts everyone from presidents to pet lovers to some of the city’s best restaurants, arts events, shopping and historic attractions.

The area is anchored in the west by the majestic George Washington Masonic Memorial and in the east by the Potomac River waterfront, where you’ll find restaurants with waterfront views, the nationally renowned Torpedo Factory as well as numerous boat tours and water taxis.

You’ll also find a wealth of historic architecture and attractions — a museum without walls — including the Market Square Museums and other hidden gems.

King Street, the main thoroughfare of Old Town Alexandria, is a walkable one mile of shops, restaurants, and outdoor cafes. A blend of locally-owned boutiques and national retailers makes Alexandria, Virginia, one of the region’s top destinations for antique-hunting, big-box shopping and high-fashion finds. In Old Town, the free trolley carts shoppers down King Street, the main drag, where upscale clothiers and handmade-jewelry shops nestle between fashion and home goods favorites like Anthropologie and Williams Sonoma. Minutes away in eclectic Del Ray, playful window displays beckon everyone from comic book collectors to cheese gourmands and vintage-fashion hounds.

Easily accessible, the King Street Metro Station links Old Town Alexandria with Washington, D.C., via a 15-minute train ride. Find bike share stations, taxis and the Free King Street Trolley at this multi-modal transit hub.

By day, Old Town bustles with museum-goers, art enthusiasts, and shoppers. Night or day, top chefs draw diners with creative menus and exquisite experiences. At night, Old Town bars and pubs are abuzz with live music, along with local beer or craft cocktails.  There is something for every taste and budget.   You will not be disappointed at all.

Named one of America’s Top Art Places, Alexandria is nationally recognized as a community with a “backbone of creative culture…exceptionally successful at combining art, artists and venues for creativity and expression…to make vibrant neighborhoods.” The city’s visual arts hub is the world-famous Torpedo Factory Art Center, a former munitions factory transformed into an artistic powerhouse with three floors of artist studios and galleries, plus the headquarters of the Art League School which serves 7,000 students annually. The Legendary Music Hall the Birchmere hosts the biggest names in country, folk and rock, while MetroStage performs top-quality productions in an intimate setting. From musical theater to cozy jazz clubs, printmaking classes to comedy nights, Alexandria’s art scene buzzes with life, forming the core of our city.

Alexandria has a distributed park system with approximately 950 acres (3.8 km2) spread across 70 major parks and 30 recreation centers, of which Chinquapin is one of the largest. Chinquapin offers facilities for swimming, tennis, racquetball, and other sports. The city also organizes several sports leagues throughout the year including volleyball, softball and basketball.

The city is home to Cameron Run Regional Park which includes a water park with a wave pool and water slides, as well as a miniature golf course and batting cages. A portion of the Mount Vernon Trail, a popular bike and jogging path, runs through Old Town near the Potomac River on its way from the Mount Vernon Estate to Roosevelt Island in Washington, DC. There is also a largely unbroken line of parks stretching along the Alexandria waterfront from end to end.

Kathy Kiefer

Fall Wine Festivals In the United States

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Fall Wine Festivals In the United States


Annual wine festivals celebrate viticulture and usually occur after the harvest of the grapes which, in the northern hemisphere, generally falls at the end of September and runs until well into October or later. They are common in most wine regions around the world and are to be considered in the tradition of other harvest festivals. I have also shared several of the festivals, there are many fall festivals and harvest events all around the country. There is something to please everyone.

The Egyptian god Osiris was dedicated to wine, but the oldest historically documented wine festivals can be traced back to the Greek celebrations for their wine god Dionvsos. The typical ingredients of a wine festival include wine drinking, grape pressing, regional foods, music and, in many areas, religious ritual.   The grape, and the extraction of its juice to produce wine, is more than a flavorsome food or drink. Both grapes and wine have immense cultural significance in many cultures and often religious significance too.

Autumn is the ultimate time of year for food festivals, and with the changing of the seasons on the horizon, it’s time to start planning trips that allow you taste the best the country’s various regions have to offer. Harvest season in New England and California’s wine country means festivals that celebrate local produce, while other events around the country feature the best beer, barbecue, oysters, and more.

As we are enjoying fall, wineries in the Northern Hemisphere are hard at work harvesting their grapes from the vines. So you’ll find that September and October make a great time to stop at a vineyard and enjoy a wine tasting.   Another way to sample the wine from their vineyards is at a fall wine festival. Local wineries will offer samples of their wines for guests to try. Wine festivals are popular because they are an easy way to try a large number of different grapes, vintages, and wineries. At the end of the event, buy a couple bottles of your favorite wines and enjoy them later at home or at a BYOB. There’s also food and entertainment at the festival to make sure that everyone has a good time.

Harvest is a vintner’s celebration of the culmination of a year’s hard work. It marks the transition period in the winemaking cycle from vineyard to cellar. In physical terms, it is the process of picking ripe grapes from the vine. I am sharing some that are annual events in different areas, please realize this is but a small sample, and there are a wide variety around the country.

Long Island Wine Country. com cordially invites you to take part in their once-a-year activity by joining their annual Harvest Fest “Day in the Vineyard”.   This full day event will take place at Laurel Lake Vineyards, in the quaint hamlet of Laurel, on the North Fork of Long Island. Laurel Lake Vineyards is a modern vineyard & winery focusing on producing premium quality estate wines. The winery building features a massive elevated wrap around deck that offers a picture perfect view of the vineyard below (and at other vineyards on the east end of the island).

Harvest Fest is a full day, fun-filled educational event. Attendees will gain a new appreciation for how wine gets into the bottle. Clip the vines, pick the grapes, and have the opportunity to custom blend your own bottle of wine! “attitude-free” wine!

Harvest Fest includes: (1) Food & Wine paring demonstration; (2) Welcome toast with sparkling wine; (3) Winemaking overview and presentation; (4) Picking grapes in the vineyard; (5) Live demonstration of the crush & winemaking process; (6) VIP Tour of the wine cellar; (7) VIP Barrel Tasting of pre-release vintages; (8) Delicious Vineyard Lunch; (9) Live Music; (10) “Barrel Rolling Contest” with valuable prize; (11) Tasting of artisan cheese & Ice wine; and (12) Optional-Blend your own bottle of wine of “Meritage” style red wine with the winemaker.    Plus so much more.     Harvest Fest is just one of many fall harvest related festivals taking place on the east end of Long Island at various vineyards. They are not to be missed.

Founded in October 1982, the Great American Beer Festival in Denver, Colorado is a celebration of the best brews produced around the country, with nearly 700 breweries represented at last year’s festival. When you’ve had your fill of beer, sample some of the artisanal cheeses, hosted by the American Cheese Society, or check out the Farm to Table Pavilion, featuring the best chefs working in the U.S.

The Annual Lynchburg Beer and Wine Festival takes place in Lynchburg, Virginia at the Lynchburg City Stadium on the third weekend of September.  Over 16 area wineries are on hand with samples of their finest Virginia wines.   Breweries from the state and beyond will have craft ales and lagers on tap with 76 different varieties for you to sample and buy. Artisans and crafters from around the state display their goods while area businesses are represented to feature their newest line of products.

Food vendors galore line the perimeter of the festival park with barbecue, ribs, wings and crab cakes.  You will also find the all American favorites of hot dogs, hamburgers, pizza, ribbon fries and funnel cakes.  This year they have added Mediterranean, Greek and Italian cuisine.  There will be something to tempt every pallet. A festival isn’t a festival without the finest of entertainment. Their goal is to bring in local acts as well as featured bands from out of the area that will offer a different variety of music while still playing the favorite sing-a-long tunes that everyone loves.

Paw Paw Wine and Harvest Festival – Paw Paw, MI – (early September)
Wine tours, wine tasting, 4 stages of musical entertainment, grape stomp, carnival rides, car show, sports activities, arts & crafts show and more.

Dripping with Taste Wine & Food Festival – Dripping Springs, TX (mid-September).   Enjoy live music on stage with top talent including the Billy Garza Band.  View chef and drink demonstrations, grape stomping, a cigar booth, and a host of wineries, breweries, and family activities.

Virginia Wine Festival – The Plains, VA – Annual September event held at Great Meadows.

GrapeFest – Grapevine, TX – Mid-September Annual event. The Grapevine Wine Festival includes a People’s Choice Wine Tasting Classic with 100+ wine samples from 40+ Texas wineries so that guests can choose their favorite. The Grape Stomp competition is very popular.

Lynchburg Beer & Wine Festival – Lynchburg, VA – Mid-September
Voted one of the Best Beer and Wind Festivals by Lynchburg Living Magazine. Over 5,000 guests attend the event at Lynchburg City Stadium. More than 16 wine vendors provide samples and there are nearly 100 craft ales and lagers on tap.

Taste of Freedom Wine Festival – Montpelier, VA – (mid-September) Enjoy Constitution Day at James Madison’s Montpelier. Take the 11 mile round-trip Liberty Ride. Breweries and wineries, arts & crafts, food vendors, live music, children’s entertainment and more.

Stratford Hall Wine and Oyster Festival – Stratford, VA – (mid-September) Sample Chesapeake Bay seafood recipes, have a beer, view craftsmen and ride the Bay Transit Trolleys.  Experience colonial chocolate making, kid’s rides, and much more.

Texas Reds Steak & Grape Festival – Bryan, TX – (late September)  Downtown Bryan hosts this annual festival featuring a steak cook-off, craft beer, artist showcases, vendors, food, and Texas wineries.

Fredericksburg Area Wine Festival – Fredericksburg, VA – (early October)
Ten wineries offer samples and the opportunity to purchase more than 100 varieties of wine from Virginia, Beer garden hosted by the All-American Girls. Food vendors, live music, arts & crafts and more.

Chesapeake Virginia Wine Festival – Chesapeake, VA – (early October)   Back for another year is this wine tasting event from over twenty premier Virginia Wineries.  All activities are at the Chesapeake City Park.

Virginia Wine & Garlic Festival – Amherst, VA – (early October) “Always a Stinkin’ Good Time”.  This popular event is held at Rebec Vineyards, 2229 N. Amherst Hwy, Amherst.  It features live music, arts, crafts, tastings, and over 150 arts and craft vendors.  This is Virginia’s largest agricultural festival.

Wine & Unwind Wine Festival – Salem, VA – (October)   Sample wines, taste food, dance to good music and enjoy the arts and crafts.  Held annually at the Salem Civic Center.

Kathy Kiefer



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Let me preference by saying that the face of Terrorists/terrorism and violence know no race, color, creed, nationality or even religion. Especially in the wake of the recent ISIS terrorism attacks in Paris.   Why do they do these horrendous acts? DO they really enjoy killing and seeing others suffer at some lunatics’ hand?

It has been reported that The Islamic State claimed the attacks were in response to France’s campaign against its fighters and insults against Islam’s prophet. The group warned that France would remain one of its top targets. Many of the world’s Muslims are not members of this or other extremist organizations; they remain true to their faith and their faith’s teachings.   Unfortunately these members of such extremist groups are doing their religion a disservice as well as giving it a bad name. It’s a little disconcerting to hear that there may have been some home grown terrorists in France that were (or potentially) communicating with the factions that actually were behind the terrorist attacks all around the country.

These attacks by these extremists have been deemed a crime against humanity. And the organizations recruited members from all over the globe.      In an effort to combat their efforts, all peoples and nations to stand together to fight the machinations of these groups.   Tighter the right will persevere against hate and violence.   The causes of terrorism seem almost impossible for anyone to define. Here’s why: they change over time. Listen to terrorists in different periods and you’ll hear different explanations. Then, listen to the scholars who explain terrorism. Their ideas change over time too, as new trends in academic thinking take hold.

Many writers begin statements about “the causes of terrorism” as if terrorism were a scientific phenomenon whose characteristics are fixed for all time, like the ’causes’ of a disease, or the ’causes’ of rock formations.

Terrorism isn’t a natural phenomenon though. It is name given by people about other people’s actions in the social world. Both terrorists and terrorism’s explainers are influenced by dominant trends in political and scholarly thought. Terrorists—people who threaten or use violence against civilians with the hope of changing the status quo—perceive the status quo in ways that accord with the era they live in. People who explain terrorism are also influenced by prominent trends in their professions. These trends change over time.

Although many people today believe that that religious fanaticism “causes” terrorism, it isn’t true. It may be true that religious fanaticism creates conditions that are favorable for terrorism. But we know that religious zealotry does not ’cause’ terrorism because there are many religious fanatics who do not choose terrorism or any form of violence. So there must also be other conditions that in combination provoke some people to see terrorism as an effective way of creating change in their world.   These terrorists and potential terror cells have no place in society and the world today.

There are two more reasons why asking, “What conditions create a favorable climate for terrorism?” is better than asking about causes The first is, it makes it easy to remember that there are always at least several conditions. Terrorism is a complex phenomenon; it is a specific kind of political violence committed by people who do not have legitimate army at their disposal. A second reason that has been useful for me, as I ask questions about terrorism, is that thinking in terms of ‘conditions’ helps me remember that people have a choice about whether to use violence.

There is nothing inside any person or in their circumstances that sends them — like a monopoly piece headed directly to “Go”— directly to terrorism. Instead, there are certain conditions, some of which make violence against civilians seem like a reasonable, and even necessary, option. Despite this, and some of the deeply unforgivable circumstances that foster terrorism, people always have the free will to seek another course of action.

Viewing terrorism as the extreme edge of mainstream trends helps us understand, and thus seek solutions, to it.  When we view terrorists as evil or beyond explanation, we are inaccurate and unhelpful. We cannot ‘solve’ an evil. We can only live fearfully in its shadow. Even if it is uncomfortable to think of people who do terrible things to innocent people as part of our same world, I believe it is important to try. You will see in the list below that people who have chosen terrorism in the last century have been influenced by the same broad trends that we all have.

In the early 20th century, terrorists justified violence in the name of anarchism socialism and communism. Socialism was becoming a dominant way for many people to explain the political and economic injustice they saw developing in capitalist societies, and for defining a solution. Millions of people expressed their commitment to a socialist future without violence, but a small number of people in the world thought violence was necessary.

In the 1950s through 1980s, terrorist violence tended to have a nationalist component.   Terrorist violence in these years reflected the post-World War II trend in which previously suppressed populations committed violence against states that had not given them a voice in the political process. Algerian terrorism against French rule; Basque violence against the Spanish state; Kurdish actions against Turkey; the Black Panthers and Puerto Rican militants in the United States all sought a version of independence from oppressive rule.

Scholars in this period began seeking to understand terrorism in psychological terms. They wanted to understand what motivated individual terrorists. This related to the rise of psychology and psychiatry in other related realms, such as criminal justice.

In the 1980s and 1990s, terrorism began to appear in the repertoire of right-wing, neo-Nazi or neo-fascist, racist groups. Like the terrorist actors that preceded them, these violent groups reflected the extreme edge of a broader and not-necessarily violent backlash against developments during the civil rights era. White, Western European or American men, in particular, grew fearful of a world beginning to grant recognition, political rights, economic franchise and freedom of movement (in the form of immigration) to ethnic minorities and women, who might seem to be taking their jobs and position.

In Europe and the United States, as well as elsewhere, the 1980s represented a time when the welfare state b had expanded in the United States and Europe, the agitation of the civil rights movement had produced results, and globalization, in the form of multi-national corporations, had gotten underway, producing economic dislocation among many who depended on manufacturing for a living. Timothy McVeigh’s bombing of the Oklahoma City Federal Building, the most lethal terrorist attack in the U.S. until the 9/11 attacks, exemplified this trend.

In the Middle East, a similar swing toward conservatism was taking hold in the 1980s and 1990s, although it had a different face than it did in Western democracies. The secular, socialist framework that had been dominant the world over—-from Cuba to Chicago to Cairo-—faded after the 1967 Arab-Israeli war and the death in 1970 of Egyptian president Gamal Abd Al Nasser. The failure in the 1967 war was a big blow—it disillusioned Arabs about the entire era of Arab socialism. Economic dislocations because of the Gulf War in the 1990s caused many Palestinian, Egyptian and other men working in the Persian Gulf to lose their jobs. When they returned home, they found women had assumed their roles in households and jobs. Religious conservatism, including the idea that women should be modest and not work, took hold in this atmosphere. In this way, both West and East saw a rise in fundamentalism in the 1990s.

Terrorism scholars began to notice this rise in religious language and sensibility in terrorism as well. The Japanese Aum Shinrikyo, Islamic Jihad (holy war) in Egypt, and groups such as the Army of God in the United States were willing to use religion to justify violence. Religion is the primary way that terrorism is explained today.

New terrorism forms and new explanations are underway, however. Special interest terrorism is used to describe people and groups who commit violence on behalf of a very specific cause. These are often environmental in nature. Some predict the rise of ‘green’ terrorism in Europe–violent sabotage on behalf of environmental policy

No matter the location around the world, we are all one family and need to stand strong and support where ever the violence occurs that meaning the victims and countries. The little things matter, like donating blood that would help those that need it.

Kathy Kiefer


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The most popular holiday parade in America, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade NY has been a Big Apple tradition since 1924. Attracting more than 3.5 million people to the streets of New York City each year, as well 50 million TV viewers nationwide, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade has become so synonymous with Thanksgiving tradition in NYC that it’s often shortened to “The Macy’s Day Parade.” Like any great tradition in NYC, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in Manhattan features a long and storied history.

santaThe first-ever Macy’s Day Parade actually took place on Christmas of 1924. Macy’s employees dressed as clowns, cowboys, and other fun costumes, and traveled with Central Park zoo animals and creative floats a lengthy six miles from Herald Square to Harlem in Manhattan. The parade was meant to draw attention to the Macy’s store in NYC, and the gimmick worked – more than 250,000 people attended the inaugural Macy’s Day Parade. It was decided that this NYC parade would become an annual NY event in Manhattan.     In the 1920s, many of Macy’s department store employees were first-generation immigrants. Proud of their new American heritage, they wanted to celebrate the American holiday of Thanksgiving with the type of festival their parents had loved in Europe.

The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is an annual parade presented by the U.S.-based department store chain Macy*s, the tradition started in 1924, tying it for the second-oldest Thanksgiving parade in the United States with America’s Thanksgiving Parade in Detroit (with both parades being four years younger than the Dunkin’ Donuts Thanksgiving Day Parade in Philadelphia). The three-hour Macy’s event is held in New York City starting at 9:00 a.m. Eastern Standard Time on Thanksgiving Day, and has been televised nationally on NBC since 1952.

In 1924, the annual Thanksgiving parade started by Lois Bamberger in Newark, New Jersey at the Bamberger’s store was transferred to New York City by Macy’s. In New York, the employees marched to Macy’s flagship store on 34th Street dressed in vibrant costumes. There were floats, professional bands and live animals borrowed from the Central Park Zoo. At the end of that first parade, as has been the case with every parade since, Santa Claus was welcomed into Herald Square. At this first parade, however, the Jolly Old Elf was enthroned on the Macy’s balcony at the 34th Street store entrance, where he was then “crowned” “King of the Kiddies.” With an audience of over 250,000 people, the parade was such a success that Macy’s declared it would become an annual event.

At the finale of the 1928 parade, the balloons were released into the sky, where they unexpectedly burst. The following year, they

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 28:  (EDITOR'S NOTE: Image was shot with a fisheye lens) Snoopy makes his way down Avenue of the Americas during the 87th Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on November 28, 2013 in New York City.  (Photo by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY – NOVEMBER 28: (EDITOR’S NOTE: Image was shot with a fisheye lens) Snoopy makes his way down Avenue of the Americas during the 87th Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on November 28, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images)

were redesigned with safety valves to allow them to float for a few days. Address labels were sewn into them, so that whoever found and mailed back the discarded balloon received a gift from Macy’s. Through the 1930s, the Parade continued to grow, with crowds of over one million people lining the parade route in 1933. The first Mickey Mouse balloon entered the parade in 1934. The annual festivities were broadcast on local radio stations in New York City from 1932 to 1941, and resumed in 1945, running through 1951.   The parade was suspended from 1942 to 1944 as a result of World War II, owing to the need for rubber and helium in the war effort. The parade resumed in 1945 using the route that it followed until 2008. The parade became known nationwide after being prominently featured in the 1947 film, Miracle on 34th Street, which included footage of the 1946 festivities. The event was first broadcast on network television in 1948. By this point the event, and Macy’s sponsorship of it, were sufficiently well-known to give rise to the colloquialism “Macy’s Day Parade”.

The classic “Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade” logo was, with one exception, last used in 2005. For 2006, a special variant of the logo was used. Every year since then, a new logo has been used for each parade. The logos however are seen rarely, if at all, on television as NBC has used its own logo with the word “Macy’s” in a script typeface and “Thanksgiving Day Parade” in a bold font. The logos are assumed to be for use by Macy’s only, such as on the Grandstand tickets and the ID badges worn by parade staff. The Jackets worn by parade staff still bear the original classic parade logo, this being the only place where that logo can be found.

New safety measures were incorporated in 2006 to prevent accidents and balloon-related injuries. One measure taken was the installation of wind measurement devices to alert parade organizers to any unsafe conditions that could cause the balloons to behave erratically. In addition, parade officials implemented a measure to keep the balloons closer to the ground during windy conditions. If wind speeds are forecast to be higher than 34 miles per hour (55 km/h), all balloons are removed from the parade.

2387747600000578-2850819-image-128_1417030947914The balloons in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade come in three varieties. The first and oldest is the novelty balloon class, consisting of smaller balloons, some of which fit on the heads of the performers; the largest of the novelty balloons typically require approximately 30 handlers. The second, and most famous, is the full-size balloon class, primarily consisting of licensed pop-culture characters; each of these is handled by exactly 90 people. The third and is the “Blue Sky Gallery,” a program that ran from 2005 to 2012 and transformed the works of contemporary artists into full-size balloons.   There are also Falloons which is a combination of a balloon and a float and created exclusively by Macy’s.

In 1927, Felix the Cat became the first giant balloon to ever take part in the Macy’s Day Parade. In 1928, Felix was inflated with helium, and without a plan to deflate this massive balloon, NYC parade organizers simply let Felix fly off into the sky. Unfortunately, he popped soon thereafter.   The Parade continued to let the balloons fly off in subsequent years, only these balloons would have a return address written on them, and whoever found the balloon could return the balloon for a prize from Macy’s. However, the results of this experiment weren’t exactly successful.

Despite the Great Depression, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade continued to grow through the 1930’s. The first national radio broadcast of the Macy’s Parade Thanksgiving took place in 1932. Two years later, Disney got in on the giant balloon fun, introducing the Mickey Mouse balloon in 1934. By then, more than one million people were attending this popular parade in NYC, and those fortunate enough to own a TV could see the broadcast on NBC starting in 1939.

Today, more than 8,000 people participate in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade each year, and it takes another 4,000 dedicated volunteers to put together this NYC Thanksgiving celebration. Both NBC and CBS broadcast the New York City parade nationwide, and this NYC event still attracts high-profile musicians and the most talented Broadway performers.

In addition to the well-known balloons and floats, the Parade also features live music and other performances. College and high school marching bands from across the country participate in the parade, and the television broadcasts feature performances by established and up-and-coming singers and bands. The Radio City Rockettes are a classic performance as well (having performed annually since 1957 as the last of the pre-parade acts to perform), as are cheerleaders and dancers chosen by the National Cheerleaders Association from various high schools across the country. The parade concludes with the arrival of Santa Claus to ring in the Christmas and holiday season.

Only the NBC telecast is from in front of the flagship Macy’s store on Broadway/Herald Square and 34th Street, the marching bands perform live music. Most “live” performances by musicals and individual artists lip sync to the studio, soundtrack or cast recordings of their songs, due to the technical difficulties of attempting to sing into a wireless microphone while in a moving vehicle (performers typically perform on the floats themselves); the NBC-flagged microphones used by performers on floats are almost always non-functioning props. Live performances with no use of recorded vocals, are very rare in the parade.

More than 44 million people watch the parade on television on an annual basis. It was first televised locally in New York City in1385423706000-parade 1939 as an experimental broadcast. No television stations broadcast the parade in 1940 or 1941, but when the parade returned in 1945 after the wartime suspension, local broadcasts also resumed. The parade began its network television appearances on CBS in 1948, the year that regular television network programming began. NBC has been the official broadcaster of the event since 1952, though CBS (which has a studio in Times Square) also carries unauthorized coverage under the title The Thanksgiving Day Parade on CBS. Since the parade takes place in public, the parade committee can endorse an official broadcaster, but they cannot award exclusive rights as other events (such as sporting events, which take place inside restricted-access stadiums) have the authority to do. The rerouting of the parade that was implemented for the 2012 event moved the parade out of the view of CBS’s cameras and thus made it significantly more difficult for the network to cover the parade; CBS nevertheless continues to cover the parade to the same extent as in previous years.

At first, the telecasts were only an hour long. In 1961, the telecast expanded to two hours, and was then expanded to 90 minutes beginning in 1962, before reverting to a two-hour telecast in 1965; all three hours of the parade were televised by 1969. The event began to be broadcast in color in 1960. NBC airs the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade live in the Eastern Time Zone, but tape delays the telecast elsewhere in the continental U.S. and territories in the same 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. timeslot across its owned and operated and affiliated stations. The musical director for the television coverage is veteran composer/arranger Milton DeLugg.

In the 1930s, the balloons were inflated in the area of 110th Street and Amsterdam Avenue near St. John the Divine Cathedra. The balloons have always been inflated the evening prior to the parade and routinely draws a large crowd to watch the balloons come to life. The parade proceeded South on Amsterdam Avenue to 106th Street and turned east. At Columbus Avenue, the balloons had to be lowered to go under the Ninth Avenue El. Past the El tracks, the parade proceeded through 106th Street to Central Park West and turned south to terminate at Macy’s Department Store.

A new route was established for the 2009 parade. From 77th Street and Central Park West, the route went south along Central Park to Columbus Circle, then east along Central Park South. The parade would then make a right turn at 7th Avenue and go south to Times Square. At 42nd Street, the parade turned left and went east, then at 6th Avenue turned right again at Bryant Park. Heading south on 6th Avenue, the parade turned right at 34th Street (at Herald Square) and proceeded west to the terminating point at 7th Avenue where the floats are taken down.   The City of New York said that the new route would provide more space for the parade and more viewing space for spectators. Another reason for implementing the route change is the city’s plan to turn Broadway into a pedestrian-only zone at Times Square. I always remember when my family went into the City to watch the parade; we always found a good spot along the parade route.   When I lived in Manhattan, I found an excellent vantage point at the corner of Herald Square and 34th Street to view the parade, which also turned out to be an excellent spot for taking pictures of the parade. Also along the parade route, there are many people who get to watch the parade from the comfort of their apartments or offices.

Kathy Kiefer


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Thanksgiving Day, celebrated on the fourth Thursday in the month of November, every year, is essentially a harvest festival. It is a time characterized with lot of fun and frolic, gifting, family feasting, community praying. It is also a time to show your gratitude and respect to your elders, friends, your siblings and also your colleagues. Popular gifts include thanksgiving flowers, jewelry, baked cookie hampers, chocolate gift baskets, candy-wreaths, wine and much more.

Thanksgiving is most jubilated in the countries of America and Canada. These countries witness a lot of fervor and zeal among its residents. It is a time to thank not only God for a bountiful harvest, but also your fellow countrymen and women for their continuous support and care.

It is also celebrated in parts of Asia, Africa under different names. The theme behind all the celebrations is uniform- being grateful to Lord Almighty and your fellow men.

Thanksgiving Day is celebrated with lot of fervor and merry-making in America. Celebrated on the fourth Thursday in the month of November every year, it is a time for communal thanksgiving, feeling gratitude, lavish feasts. It is a time to remember the pilgrims. The original pilgrims celebrated the autumn harvest with a feast of thanks. The feast popularly known as the ‘First Thanksgiving Day Feast’ was held as a gesture of thanks to almighty God. It was celebrated in the year 1621. After the United States gained independence, Congress recommended one yearly day of thanksgiving for the whole nation to celebrate.

Until recently, many people believed Thanksgiving Day to be a celebration of pilgrims, offering food to Indians. It however is a day marked as a gesture of thanks and gratitude to Lord Almighty for his blessings. It is also a celebration to mark the respect towards Indians for teaching the pilgrims how to cook. The Pilgrims could not have survived without the help of the native Indians.

Thanksgiving Day is a time of festivity, family meals and reunions in America. Carved turkeys, Pumpkin Pie, Corns, Cranberry Sauce are the traditional dishes adorning the dinner tables in almost every house. A time for feasting, Thanksgiving Day epitomizes the holiday mood of people. There are ways for people to celebrate even if they are Vegans, Vegetarians, or have other dietary restrictions.  Some families choose to serve vegetarian Thanksgiving dinners instead of a stuffed turkey. Some people eat vegetarian turkey, which is made out of tofu. Others prefer to eat squash, salads, or other fruit and vegetable dishes.

 One of the best things about Thanksgiving is spending time with family. Many people live far from family members and travel long distances by car, train, or plane to be with their loved ones. Thanksgiving is the busiest travel day of the year!   Some that aren’t able to get to be with family or friends use Thanksgiving as an opportunity to help the less fortunate. Some people volunteer to serve food at homeless shelters on Thanksgiving Day and others donate to shelters or participate in canned food drives. For others unable to get home, many communities have a plethora of activities that they could participate in so they are not alone.

Some families have a tradition that includes breaking the turkey’s wishbone as part of their celebration. The wishbone is found attached to the breast meat in the turkey’s chest. After the meat has been removed and the wishbone has had a chance to become dry and brittle, two people each take one end of the bone, make a wish, and pull. Whoever ends up with the larger part of the bone gets their wish!

Each year at Thanksgiving, the President of the United States receives a gift of a live turkey (along with an alternate in case something happens to the official turkey). At a White House ceremony, the president traditionally “pardons” the National Thanksgiving Turkey and the alternate turkeys, allowing them to live out the rest of their lives on a farm.

In addition to the traditional football games that are televised on Thanksgiving, the most popular that is watched (and well attended) is the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, from New York City.     While I was growing up there were many years that my family went into the City from Long Island and watched the parade and I went by myself when I lived in Manhattan,    This was one of our traditions and eagerly anticipated.   Yes, we still had the traditional holiday meal as well, sometimes when we were in the city we made it an entire day and had thanksgiving dinner at a nice restaurant.   Even now I look forward to watching the parade on TV, and I feel that it is still a fabulous way to ring in the holiday season.

After the feast families often do additional activities. Some like to take walks after eating such a large meal. Some people take naps. Others sit down together to play board or card games together.   In many areas around the county there are also Turkey Trots, races and walks that becoming more and more popular among many people and a good way to help   burn off some of the calories from their meal. Some participants also race in holiday themed costumes.

Thanksgiving Day is the official beginning of the Christmas season and that here in America; businesses witness a maximum sales volume the next day. The Friday after thanksgiving is famously known as ‘Black Friday’. This is so, because of the standard accounting practice of writing profits in black. The ongoing festive spirit, shopping spree, helps the shopkeepers to register maximum sales and profits. The entire atmosphere during the time is euphoric; people get in a holiday mood. It is also the perfect time to get the holiday decorations out and start decorating the home for Christmas.

One of the recent trends that I am not a fan of is some stores opening on Thanksgiving Day in an effort to boost sales and their profits. I find that it takes away from the reason and meaning of the holiday, and I have been pleased to learn that many retailers have started to change their policy of opening on Thanksgiving. I am also not a big fan of places decorating or putting out Christmas items out as early as Labor Day in September.   It is just not right.

Kathy Kiefer


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thanksgiving-day-entertaining-table-settings-table-hgtv-design-happensFall is finally here! Pumpkins fill the stores, the air is finally crisp and pumpkin baked goods are all I can think about! Everything feels festive and something about the season just makes me want to entertain.

I love throwing a fantastic holiday themed party and setting a beautiful table for friends and family to gather round.  For a fall gathering, nothing says ambiance to me like candles. They create magic like nothing else, are cheap, and are the easiest decorations!

Thanksgiving entertaining tends to lead to stress, since it’s a more labor-intensive meal than most dinners. If you plan out what you’re going to prepare for Thanksgiving dinner weeks in advance, it will help minimize any tension you might feel, since you’ll be organized well before the big holiday. Thanksgiving is a time of sharing your appreciation for your life, the blessings you receive, and the people who are a part of your life.

Thanksgiving is perhaps the most American holiday of all, a celebration of beloved foods, and customs that evoke happy memories of good times shared with family and friends.

For traditionalists, there is a classic New England Thanksgiving dinner featuring roasted turkey with pan gravy and all the trimmings, including an old-fashioned oyster stuffing, cranberry relish, and buttery mashed potatoes. A contemporary California-style holiday menu showcases a butterflied turkey and light, seasonal Mediterranean-inspired accompaniments, while an elegant southern buffet offers a glorious glazed ham, spooned bread, and collard greens.

Have a fall beverage station where several festive choices are waiting for your guests all evening.   Remember, the goal is self-Outdoor-Halloween-Decorations-4serve. Have water for tea already hot and ready in a kettle. In a crate, I would place several tea options and coffee waiting to be made. Apple cider is another big fall favorite. I like to serve it chilled in a pitcher, so that you won’t need to tend to it throughout the evening.

You don’t need to have a ton of options to make your beverage bar feel extra special. Some whipped cream, cinnamon, and cinnamon sticks for stirring are enough to make it feel “fall fancy” while not creating a full-service coffee bar for you to manage.

Because Thanksgiving entertaining often extends beyond the holiday meal, you can always plan for casual day after lunches/brunches complete with turkey sandwiches and snacks, as well as a homey weekend breakfast, with French toast, smoothies, and an irresistible Pumpkin Bread.

Before you sit-down for a traditional Thanksgiving dinner (like a roasted Turkey or Prime Rib), offer your guests prepared appetizers to help stave off their appetite, and give them an opportunity to relax and mingle while the dinner is still being prepared. A few easy appetizers to serve (that are fast and easy to prepare), are hummus & pita chips, a selection of cured meats, pre-roasted canned vegetables (like bell peppers and mushrooms, in addition to what fresh vegetables can be bought at the farmers market or local farm stands). Serve the appetizers in an array of vibrant colored dishes or bowls to add visual interest to your table.

Instead of plating each meal, create a buffet table. This enables you to focus on preparing the food, while the guests have the opportunity to serve themselves the dishes and portions they desire. Since everyone has particular tastes (some crave stuffing, while others love cranberry sauce), this is a win-win for both you, as the hostess, and them. A buffet table containing an array of delectable side dishes to accompany your main course, such as sauteed seasonal vegetables, sweet potatoes, fresh cranberry sauce, herb-seasoned stuffing, and tossed autumn salad (including dark leafy greens and in-season berries) completes your Thanksgiving buffet.

Some people prefer to showcase their finest china during Thanksgiving dinner, while others view it as an opportunity to bring out their Thanksgiving themed dinnerware. With so many festive options on the market (like Turkey printed bowls, Pilgrim printed cups, Autumnal leaf printed plates), it can be fun to mix things up for this annual holiday, especially if kids will be joining you. Depending on the type of Thanksgiving entertaining you’re planning on doing (whether it’s a formal affair for sophisticated guests, or a casual get-together with easy-going families), choose your dinnerware to suit the occasion.

No matter what you decide to serve, remember to enjoy the process, relax, and focus on the meaningful purpose of Thanksgiving. Happy holidays!

Aside from the meal, a key focus for preparing for Thanksgiving entertaining should be decor.

The dinner table should be the primary focus of your Thanksgiving decor efforts, since it’s the gathering place for all your guests. Opt for an easy-to-make, but equally festive centerpiece that incorporates natural elements (like a bowl of neatly-arranged fallen leaves, twigs and branches, mini pumpkins, fresh herbs for greenery, and dried flowers). This type of centerpiece can be arranged quickly, costs pennies (especially since you can find most of these items outside), and lasts for weeks.

When it comes to seasonal decorating, the less-is-more approach works best. Opt for simple focal points that add warmth to your home, such as Thanksgiving Pilgrim Figurines, a mixture of different sized and colored pumpkins, scented candles, and autumnal floral arrangements. The last thing you want to do is display every type of Thanksgiving decor item, which will just make your house look cluttered, making your guests feel overwhelmed. That’s why a few key accent pieces highlighting specific areas (like buffet tables, fireplace mantles, etc.) is a better way to go.

Kathy Kiefer


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alexandria5Located along the western bank of the Potomac River, Alexandria is approximately 7 miles (11 km) south of downtown Washington, DC.

Like the rest of Northern Virginia, as well as central Maryland, modern Alexandria has been shaped by its proximity to the U.S. capital. It is largely populated by professionals working in the federal civil service, in the U.S. military, or for one of the many private companies which contract to provide services to the federal government. One of Alexandria’s largest employers is the U.S. Department of Defense and another is the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

Living within the confines of the City of Alexandria, Virginia is a unique experience   unlike many other locales given its rich history and background.   There is always something new to discover about the city on a weekly basis. Given my love of history, I feel quite honored to live in such a town and still learning much about the city and its founding. Many homes and businesses (structures) date back to colonial times and have special designations.

The historic center of Alexandria is known as Old Town. With its concentration of boutiques, restaurants, antique shops andold-town-alexandria theaters, it is a major draw for tourists. Like Old Town, many Alexandria neighborhoods are compact, walkable, high-income suburbs of Washington, D.C. It is the 7th largest and highest-income independent city in Virginia. It also boasts the oldest and continually operating farmers market on Saturdays (which I love going to every week.). There are many activities during the year for just about every taste.   One of the most popular takes place in early December that being the Annual Scottish Christmas Walk which pays homage to the cities Scottish heritage and a fabulous way to ring in the Christmas season for everyone. I’ve always enjoyed going to watch and browse the shops in search of a holiday bargain.

A portion of adjacent Fairfax County is named “Alexandria”, but it is under the jurisdiction of Fairfax County and separate from the city; the city is sometimes referred to as the City of Alexandria or Alexandria City to avoid confusion. In 1920, Virginia’s General Assembly voted to incorporate what had been Alexandria County as Arlington County to minimize confusion.

The addressing system in Alexandria is not uniform and reflects the consolidation of several originally separate communities into a single city. In Old Town Alexandria, building numbers are assigned north and south from King Street and west (only) from the Potomac River. In the areas formerly in the town of Potomac, such as Del Ray and St. Elmo, building numbers are assigned east and west from Commonwealth Avenue and north (only) from King Street. In the western parts of the city, building numbers are assigned north and south from Duke Street. Neighborhoods in Alexandria include Old Town, Eisenhower Valley, Rosemont, The Berg, Parker-Gray, Del Ray, Arlandria, West End, and North Ridge. The population is mixed between a plethora of nationalities and incomes.

As an independent city of Virginia (as opposed to an incorporated town within a county), Alexandria derives its governing authority from the Virginia General Assembly. In order to revise the power and structure of the city government, the city must request the General Assembly to amend the charter. The present charter was granted in 1950 and it has been amended in 1968, 1971, 1976, and 1982.

Kathy Kiefer

November is Native American Heritage Month

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November is Native American Heritage Month


After 100 years of efforts, American Indian and Alaska Native people finally have a special place on the national calendar to honor their contributions, achievements, sacrifices and cultural legacy.

November is the perfect time to celebrate the rich and diverse cultures, tribes, traditions and histories of Native Americans. Many of our public lands hold stories of important Native American contributions, the unique trials they’ve faced in the past (and today) and the ways in which tribal citizens conquer these challenges.

What is Native American Heritage Month?

What started at the turn of the century as an effort to gain a day of recognition for the significant contributions the first Americans made to the establishment and growth of the U.S., has resulted in a whole month being designated for that purpose.

One of the very proponents of an American Indian Day was Dr. Arthur C. Parker, a Seneca Indian, who was the director of the Museum of Arts and Science in Rochester, N.Y. He persuaded the Boy Scouts of America to set aside a day for the “First Americans” and for three years they adopted such a day. In 1915, the annual Congress of the American Indian Association meeting in Lawrence, Kans., formally approved a plan concerning American Indian Day. It directed its president, Rev. Sherman Coolidge, an Arapahoe, to call upon the country to observe such a day. Coolidge issued a proclamation on Sept. 28, 1915, which declared the second Saturday of each May as an American Indian Day and contained the first formal appeal for recognition of Indians as citizens.

The year before this proclamation was issued, Red Fox James, a Blackfoot Indian, rode horseback from state to state seeking approval for a day to honor Indians. On December 14, 1915, he presented the endorsements of 24 state governments at the White House. There is no record, however, of such a national day being proclaimed.

The first American Indian Day in a state was declared on the second Saturday in May 1916 by the governor of New York. Several states celebrate the fourth Friday in September. In Illinois, for example, legislators enacted such a day in 1919. Presently, several states have designated Columbus Day as Native American Day, but it continues to be a day we observe without any recognition as a national legal holiday…


It wasn’t until 1986 that Congress passed—and President Ronald Reagan signed—a proclamation authorizing American Indian Week. Then, recognizing that—for Native Americans—November was generally a time of thanks and celebration after a successful harvest season, President George H. W. Bush designated November as National American Indian Heritage Month. Since then, Presidents regularly issue similar proclamations.

Several states, like California, South Dakota and Tennessee celebrate a specific American Indian Day on different dates of the year (South Dakota has actually changed Columbus Day to Native American Day).

In 1990 President George H. W. Bush approved a joint resolution designating November 1990 “National American Indian Heritage Month.” Similar proclamations, under variants on the name (including “Native American Heritage Month” and “National American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month”) have been issued each year since 1994.

Native American Month is commemorated through celebrations and special lessons in schools. It is probably no coincidence that Native American Month falls in the same month as Thanksgiving. Traditionally, schoolchildren spent the month discussing the history of the pilgrims who came to America to escape religious persecution. However, now that Native American month has been established, students explore the effect of the settlers on the Native Americans and how significant the contributions were. If it had not been for the Native Americans, the pilgrims would not have survived, and indeed many of them died because they were unfamiliar with the terrain of the New World. Native American month honors Native American wisdom and culture and gives students a chance to explore the Thanksgiving story from the point of view of the American Indians.

Native American Month is also commemorated with special exhibits in museums designed to celebrate and display American Indian art and history. Many Native Americans have public celebrations and meetings to raise awareness of Native American rights. Schools celebrate Native American month by concentrating on the history of various tribes in America. Young children may dress up in Indian costumes and eat traditional Native American food. Many children write and act out plays in honor of Native American month and read books about Native American history

In South Dakota people celebrate Native Americans’ Day through learning from educational resources that focus on the traditions, culture and background of Native Americans. It is a day to celebrate the heritage of Native Americans and for both native and non-native cultures to unite so the many aspects of native culture can be shared.

In Berkeley, California, some organizations, community groups and churches support the day through awareness-raising activities about the history, culture and traditions of indigenous peoples of the United States. Cultural activities such as markets and pow wows, which are gatherings of North America’s indigenous people, are held. In modern times, pow wows involve dancing, singing, socializing and celebrating Native American culture.

Why do so many parents, families and teachers continue to dedicate the month of November with a focus on perpetuating this myth year after year after year?

Native people are connected to history, to family, to land, culture and community. We are still alive. We are still here; we have not disappeared into the past, like the pilgrims did. All of the Elders have said that Native People have been giving thanks for as long as people have existed. After the corn was dried, pumpkins sliced and the wild plums brought in it was a time for “giving thanks.” When the food was together for the hard winter months and when the work was all done, they gathered.

Yet after the “Thanksgiving” holiday was coined and continues to be celebrated based on a story that does not include factual Native American history, “Thanksgiving” has become a time of mourning for many Native People. It serves as a period of remembering how a gift of generosity was rewarded by theft of land and seed corn, extermination of many Native people from disease, and near total elimination of many more from forced assimilation. As celebrated in America “Thanksgiving” is a reminder of 500 years of betrayal.

Kathy Kiefer


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Why is honoring veterans on Veterans Day necessary?   Veterans Day important? It is a day to not only honor all who have served but also to acknowledge those who have given their lives to protect our freedoms. Veterans are those p those people who not only go to war, they also are those who risk their lives for the freedom of their country. They are what are called Heroes, risking everything they have.

There are several reasons why we should honor veterans. If you’re among the few who are still wondering why, and if, it’s necessary, I hope the reasoning I am sharing should prove sufficient.   Whatever you may think about war, their sacrifices should always be appreciated.

These people are willing to put their lives on the line. They go to war zones and are willing to face danger and death. They get assigned to foreign countries and fight alongside or against total strangers. From hunting down terrorists to maintaining peace and order, there is not a moment when their lives are not in danger. They don’t do this to attain glory or fame.

Soldiers do it so the people back home will have the chance to live in peace. The soldiers fight so you don’t have to.   Joining the military is voluntary. Fighting for your countrymen can’t be forced on anyone. Yet they do it, not just for their families but even total strangers. This is just one of the reasons why we should honor veterans.

Most of the time, they don’t get their names on the paper or their pictures on TV. Yet more than anyone these men and women manage to keep the peace. Just take a moment to recognize that they fought for you.

For the Family Sacrifices They Make

The soldier who goes to the battlefield isn’t just putting his / her life at risk. He leaves behind friends and family as well. Some of these soldiers get stationed in foreign countries for several months on end. They hardly get the chance to see their kids grow. Soldiers gave up the chance to spend time with friends and loved ones so you may do so. This doesn’t just affect the soldier of course; it affects their families and friends as well.

A lot of the things we take for granted now were through the efforts of soldiers who fought (and are still fighting) for the country. It’s all too easy for us to sit back and watch war footages on TV. Yet as anyone who has gone through a tour of duty will tell you, nothing on TV matches the real thing. The reason why we should honor veterans is because they let us do these simple things.

While we are happily going about our lives, those soldiers spend years toiling at the battlefields. Many of them come home carrying the scars of war. These can be physical or emotional. Oftentimes, it is both.

They go through this ordeal so we can rest easy. It’s a fact, a sad fact, that their efforts to keep the peace are rarely noticed. Only when an occasional negative incident happens are they noticed and pilloried.

When you are enjoying dinner with your spouse or playing with your child, it’s because someone gave up his / her chance to do so. If you’re wondering why we should honor veterans, it’s because their sacrifices made it possible for you to spend time with your family.

For Providing Security

The threats of terrorism and other enemies are always present. If not for these fighting men and women, you wouldn’t be able to sleep at night. When you walk around the park, enjoy a movie or play video games downtown, it’s because these soldiers made it possible. To this day there are places in the world where people are afraid to leave their homes, because they might never be able to make it back.

The reason why we should honor veterans is that, simply put they are willing to die for their country and countrymen. They have given up the comforts of living life at home you can enjoy it. They chose to see their children grow in pictures so you can see yours say their first word and take their first walk. These people are willing to shed blood, sweat and tears so you can sleep peacefully.

Some of these soldiers will never make it back home. A lot of those who do return carry with them the scars and memories from many tours of duties. They will have to endure physical, emotional and mental anguish.

There are some people say that fighting is a bad thing; war is the same thing except risking their lives to try and save all others in the world. And one day eventually all those veterans, which have fought in a war, will accomplish that dream. That dream all veterans have, of changing the world to bring freedom and peace at last.

A visit to any war hospital will show you the pain they go through and will deal with for the rest of their lives. The sacrifices they make for their country are irreplaceable and priceless. That is why we should honor veterans.

Give Thanks

The next time you see a soldier, give him or her a salute. If you get the chance to talk, let them know how much you appreciate what they’ve done for the country. Let them know that the sacrifices they made were not in vain.

Let them know that their well-being and safety are always part of your prayers. And don’t forget to tell them that you are grateful for their courage in defending the country from harm.

Learning the reasons why we should honor veterans is something you should take to heart. It’s the least you can do for these outstanding individuals.

Kathy Kiefer


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I’ve always enjoyed decorating for the different holidays and seasons in addition to entertaining and having friends over. So I am pleased to be able to share some ideas to liven up any autumn decorating and entertaining you may wish to do   I find it enjoyable to come up with something different every time, and the rewards are well worth it.

Fall is officially upon us, and it’s not just the leaves that are turning. Our thoughts are also turning, from barbecues and pool parties to fall soirées and Thanksgiving Day feasts. Looking for some ways to spice up your fall fetes?

Whether you are new at entertaining or are an experienced host or hostess, parties and gatherings always go better when you prepare for them. Whether it’s combing recipe books and websites in an attempt to try out new dishes or carefully considering how much space you have for entertaining, thoughtful planning is the key to a successful event:

During the summer heat, we find ourselves barbequing and preparing simple dishes so we can keep the stove off and the kitchen cool. But colder weather brings with it the chance to use our stoves to cook up some amazing meals for our guests. Don’t be afraid to stretch yourself, cooking-wise, during the fall season.   Dishes that feature pumpkin or sweet potato are a perfect way to usher in the cooler months.

With so many holidays in fall and winter, people can easily become overbooked. Select your guest list carefully to ensure an interesting and diverse mix of guests. Have a look through your social media feeds to see who had interesting experiences over the summer that you think others might enjoy hearing about.

If you plan to fall entertain, particularly during late fall, get your invitations out as soon as possible. Doing so will usually result in a better turn out.

When entertaining this fall, remember the dining room table isn’t the only place to display beautiful decorations. The buffet table or sideboards are the perfect places to go for pizazz and gusto! For an eye-catching display use hurricane vases, tall decorative vases or even baskets to display long loaves of bread, tall branches or branches from your changing foliage trees in your yard. Remember it doesn’t have to be formal. Fall is all about bringing nature indoors and celebrating the changing seasons with your friends and family.

It is also interesting to note that the beauty of fall decorating is that it can stay up all season. No worries that you aren’t entertaining, for those of you with a formal dining room. Decorate the table as if you are expecting to have a dinner party! The beautiful colors, organic centerpiece ideas, and inspiring elements will create an autumn theme you will love throughout the entire season.

There’s nothing more festive than an autumn moon, so hold your party on or around an evening when the moon is full and bright. Full moon dates this fall are October 8 and November 6. If it’s not too cool, serve cocktails or dinner outside. Drape throws in seasonal colors over the backs of the chairs for those who get chilly.

Fall weather can be tricky, so keep your eye on it as the date of your event approaches. If you live in an area where the weather in late fall can range from warm to downright wintery, don’t plan on being able to use your yard or unenclosed patio (or your grill) for entertaining your guests.

Welcome your guests with a drink that puts them in the mood for the cool, crisp days of autumn. Try a Spiced Pear Collins, which is made with gin, pear puree and rosemary.

Heat up a pot of mulled wine or spiced cider on your stove and offer a mug to your guests as they arrive. The drink is a welcome warmer after a cold trip and the scent of spices permeates your home, setting a wonderful mood.

Tip: If you plan to have an alcoholic hot beverage, make another pot of a non-alcoholic brew. Kids and guests who don’t drink will appreciate your thoughtfulness.

Serve warm, earthy nibbles with squash, pears, fennel, figs, apples and other fall flavors. Butternut squash soup served in shot glasses and garnished with sage is a classic autumnal touch that looks beautiful passed on trays. Garnish your dishes and serving trays with edible fall leaves.   Serve your nibbles on leaf-shaped serving platters and choose linens in autumnal shades like gold, rust and pumpkin.

Richer meats and heartier vegetables lend themselves to slow cooking methods and advance preparation. If you’re planning a multicourse meal, start prepping foods a day or two in advance so that you aren’t franticly chopping and dicing the day of your event.

When you think of dessert at a fall gathering you probably are only thinking about what to serve, but don’t forget about creating a fall themed table that draws in your guests. Dark browns, chocolate inspired colors married with beige, and natural colors are a great backdrop for your yummy desserts. Decorate with a burlap fabric tablecloth and layer with napkins and dessert plates that compliment your delicious treats!

Create a playlist that reflects the sounds of the season. It’s a subtle but instrumental (pun intended) touch. Songs to consider are “Autumn Leaves” by Nat King Cole, “September” by Earth, Wind and Fire and “Forever Autumn” by the Moody Blues.

Reflect the bounty of fall with floral arrangements that include seasonal vegetables and herbs like chard, beets, purple artichokes, fennel blossoms, rosemary and purple basil.

Use lots of candles to make everyone look and feel gorgeous. Place votives in groups on tables to draw people together as though they’re gathering around a hearth.

As each guest leaves the party, thank them for coming and send them home with a warm hug and a thermos filled with cider or a classic caramel apple. Nostalgic touches always make people smile.

Remember to relax and have fun. If you don’t have a good time at your autumn fête, your guests won’t either.

Kathy Kiefer

Election Day in United States

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Election Day in United States

Election Day in the United States of America is the Tuesday following the first Monday in November. It can fall on or between November 2 and November 8. It is the day when popular ballots are held to select public officials. These include national, state and local government representatives at all levels up to the president.

On Election Day, citizens of the United States of America can vote by popular ballot for candidates for public offices at local, state and national levels. In even numbered years, federal elections are always held. In years divisible by four, presidential elections are always held. Elections for local and state officials may be held in odd or even-numbered years, depending on local and state laws.

The way in which people vote, depends on the state in which they live. In Oregon, all votes are cast by post and all votes have to be received at a given time on Election Day. In the state of Washington, nearly all people vote by post and the envelopes containing the voting papers have to be postmarked with the date of Election Day. In other states, people vote at voting stations, where long queues can form.

In 1792, a law was passed allowing each of the states to conduct presidential elections at any point in the 34 days before the first Wednesday in December. This was the date when the meetings of the Electors of the U.S. president and vice-president, known as the Electoral Colleges, were held in each state. A date in November or early December was preferable because the harvest would have been finished, but the most severe winter storms would not have begun.

As long distance communication improved and became quicker with the advent of trains and telegraphs, allowing each state to conduct its elections at any point in a period of more than a month, became outdated. The results of the elections that were announced earliest could influence the outcomes of elections held later in the permitted period.

In 1845 the United States Congress chose a single date for all national elections in all states. The first Tuesday after the first Monday in November was chosen so that there would never be more than 34 days between Election Day and the first Wednesday in December. Election Day is held on a Tuesday so that voters will not have to vote or travel on Sunday. This was an important consideration at the time when the laws were written and is still so in some Christian communities in the United States.

For federal offices (President, Vice President and United States Congress), Election Day occurs only in even-numbered years. Presidential elections are held every four years, in years divisible by four, in which electors for President and Vice President are chosen according to the method determined by each state. Elections to the United States House of Representatives and the United States Senate are held every two years; all Representatives serve two-year terms and are up for election every two years, while Senators serve six-year terms, staggered so that one-third of Senators are elected in any given general election. Many state and local government offices are also elected on Election Day as a matter of convenience and cost saving, although a handful of states hold elections for state offices (such as governor) during odd-numbered “off years”, or during other even-numbered “midterm years”.

Election Day is a civic holiday in some states, including Delaware, Hawaii, Kentucky, Montana, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, West Virginia, and the territory of Puerto Rico. Some other states require that workers be permitted to take time off from employment without loss of pay. California Elections Code Section 14000 provides that employees otherwise unable to vote must be allowed two hours off with pay, at the beginning or end of a shift. A coincidental federal holiday, Democracy Day, has been unsuccessfully proposed.

In modern times, the United States is no longer primarily an agrarian society, and Tuesday is now normally a work day throughout the country with most voters working on that day. This has led activists to object to Election Day being on a Tuesday on the grounds that it currently decreases voter turnout. They advocate either making Election Day a federal holiday, as in the Democracy Day proposal, or allowing voters to cast their ballots over two or more days. The United Auto Workers union has negotiated making Election Day a holiday for workers of U.S. domestic auto manufacturers. Some employers allow their employees to come in late or leave early on Election Day to allow them an opportunity to get to their precinct and vote. Activists encourage voters to make use of early voting and postal voting facilities when available and convenient.

Most states allow for early voting, allowing voters to cast ballots before the Election Day. Early voting periods vary from 4 to 50 days prior to Election Day. Unconditional early voting in person is allowed in 32 states and in D.C.[8] Also, most states have some kind of absentee ballot system. Unconditional absentee voting by mail is allowed in 27 states and Washington, D.C., and with an excuse in another 21 states.[8] Unconditional permanent absentee voting is allowed in 7 states and in Washington, D.C In Oregon and Washington State all major elections are by postal voting, with ballot papers sent to voters several weeks before Election Day.

Elected offices of municipalities, counties (in most states), and other local entities (such as school boards and other special-purpose districts) have their elections subject to rules of their state, and in some states, they vary according to choices of the jurisdiction in question. For instance, in Connecticut, all towns, cities, and boroughs hold elections in every odd-numbered year, but as of 2004, 16 have them on the first Monday in May, while the other 153 are on Election Day. In Massachusetts, the 50 cities are required to hold their elections on Election Day, but the 301 towns may choose any date, and most have traditionally held their elections in early spring, after the last snowfall. In the area where I live and vote in Virginia, (Alexandria City) this year there are several candidates running for the House of Delegates (Mark Levine, Charnile Herring, Sean Lenehan and Andy Baker) as well of the State Senate George Barker and Joseph Murphy) to represent Alexandria, and a plethora of candidates for the Alexandria City Public School Board to choose from.  Alexandria City will also be electing (or re-electing Bill Euile) a Mayor and several members of the City Council.  Each candidates platform is so to that person, that one has to go with whom they can totally trust to represent their best interest(s). It can be difficult if you like more than one person, and what they stand for. But ultimately you can choose only one. In different jurisdictions in the Commonwealth of Virginia there are local and state wide referendums on the ballot (issues such as gun control, funding matters on transportation, and so on). Some of these referendums are local matters and others are on the state or federal level. Also, in the Alexandria City Public Schools, the students all learn about voting and the democratic process, by getting to vote for their favorite lunch menu item(s).   And the overall winner becomes a the next day’s lunch menu.

Kathy Kiefer

Election Day is Tuesday, November 3, 2015

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RICHMOND, Va. (WVEC) — Election Day is Tuesday, November 3, 2015. While there’s no national elections on the ballot this year, there are several local races, including the entire Virginia House of Delegates.

The Virginia Department of Elections launched its new Citizen Portal, which allows voters to apply for an absentee ballot online.

The system provides a secure means for voters to conduct paperless transactions with their local voter registration office.

WHERE DO I VOTE?Click here to look up your precinct

MORE: Candidates for the November 3, 2015 elections

Election Results:Check back here on Tuesday to see updates on the races

The secure online system will take voters through the application process step-by-step and allow users to sign the application using their Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles credentials. The site will also let voters see what will be on their ballot for the November 3rd election and get other election related information.

“This new online citizen portal is great for democracy and shows that Virginia is leading the way to empower every qualified Virginian to make his or her voice heard in our elections,” said Governor McAuliffe.

Click here to view your registration record and request an absentee ballot.

“This is part of the Department of Elections’ ongoing efforts to promote and support accurate, fair, open and secure elections for the citizens of the Commonwealth,” said Edgardo Cortés, the Commissioner of Elections.

Learn More: Registration requirements

Important absentee ballot dates to remember if voting in the November 3, 2015, general election.

  • The deadline to apply for a ballot by mail is on Tuesday, October 27, 2015 by 5 p.m.
  • The deadline to vote absentee in-person is on Saturday, October 31, 2015.
  • The deadline for returning your ballot by mail is on Tuesday, November 3, 2015, by 7 p.m.

Voters can also find information about the upcoming election, including what’s on their ballot, by visiting the site or calling the Department of Elections toll-free at (800) 552-9745.




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Does every religion/faith tradition celebrate All Saint’s Day?   Or whom? What is the meaning of All Saints Day?

All Saints’ Day, also known as All Hallows, Solemnity of All Saints, or Feast of All Saints is a solemnity celebrated on November 1st by the Catholic Church and several Protestant denominations, and on the first Sunday after Pentecost in Eastern Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy, in honor of all the saints, known and unknown. The liturgical celebration begins at Vespers on the evening of October 31st and ends at the close of November 1st. It is the day before All Souls’ Day.

Hallowmas is another term for the feast, and was used by Shakespeare in this sense. However, a few recent writers have applied this term to the three days from October 31st to November 2nd, as a synonym for the triduum of Hallotide.

In Catholic theology, the day commemorates all those who have attained the beatific vision in Heaven. It is a national holiday in many historically Catholic countries. In the Catholic Church and many Anglican churches, the next day specifically commemorates the departed faithful who have not yet been purified and reached heaven. Christians who celebrate All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day do so in the fundamental belief that there is a prayerful spiritual bond between those in heaven (the “Church triumphant”), and the living (the “Church militant “). Other Christian traditions define, remember and respond to the saints in different ways; for example, in the Methodist Church, the word “saints” refers to all Christians and therefore, on All Saints’ Day, the Church Universal, as well as the deceased members of a local congregation, are honored and remembered.

In the late spring, the Sunday following Pentecost Sunday (50 days after Easter) is set aside as a commemoration of all locally venerated saints, such as “All Saints of America”, “All Saints of Mount Athos”, etc. The third Sunday after Pentecost may be observed for even more localized saints, such as “All Saints of St. Petersburg,” or for saints of a particular type, such as “New Martyrs of the Turkish Yoke”.

In addition to the Sundays mentioned above, Saturdays throughout the year are days for general commemoration of all saints and special hymns to all saints are chanted from the Octoechos.

In the Maronite Church, the Sunday of the Righteous and Just is the traditional Maronite feast in honor of all saints.

The Catholic holiday of All Saints’ Day falls on November 1st, followed by All Souls Day on November 2nd, and is a Holy Day of Obligation in the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church.

In the early days the Christians were accustomed to solemnize the anniversary of a martyr’s death for Christ at the place of martyrdom. In the fourth century, neighboring dioceses began to interchange feasts, to transfer relics, to divide them, and to join in a common feast; as is shown by the invitation of St. Basil of Caesarea (397) to the bishops of the province of Pontus. In the persecution of Diocletian the number of martyrs became so great that a separate day could not be assigned to each. But the Church, feeling that every martyr should be venerated, appointed a common day for all. The first trace of this we find in Antioch on the Sunday after Pentecost. We also find mention of a common day in a sermon of St. Ephrem the Syrian (373), and in the 74th homily of St. John Chrysostom (407). At first only martyrs and St. John the Baptist were honored by a special day. As early as 411 there is in the Chaldean Calendar a “Commemoratio Confessorum” for the Friday after Easter.

On May 13, 609 or 610 Pope Boniface IV consecrated the Pantheon at Rome to the Blessed Virgin and all the martyrs, ordering an anniversary; the feast of the dedication Sanctae Mariae ad Martyres has been celebrated at Rome ever since. The origin of All Saints’ Day cannot be traced with certainty, and it has been observed on various days in different places. However, there are some who maintain the belief that it has origins in the pagan observation of May 13th, the Feast of the Lemures, in which the malevolent and restless spirits of the dead were propitiated. Liturgiologists base the idea that this Lemuria festival was the origin of that of All Saints on their identical dates and on the similar theme of “all the dead”.

The feast of All Saints, on its current date, is traced to the foundation by Pope Gregory III (731–741) of an oratory in St. Peter’s for the relics “of the holy apostles and of all saints, martyrs and confessors, of all the just made perfect who are at rest throughout the world”, with the day moved to November 1st and the May 13th feast suppressed. This fell on the Celtic holiday of Samhain, which had a theme similar to the Roman festival of Lemuria, but which was also a harvest festival. The Irish, having celebrated Samhain in the past, did not celebrate All Hallows Day on the November 1st date, as extant historical documents attest that the celebration in Ireland took place in the spring: “the Felire of Oengus and the Martyrology of Tallaght prove that the early medieval churches in Ireland celebrated the feast of All Saints on April 20.”

A November festival of all the saints was already widely celebrated on November 1st in the days of Charlemagne. It was made a day of obligation throughout the Frankish empire in 835, by a decree of Louis the Pious, issued “at the instance of Pope Gregory IV and with the assent of all the bishops”, which confirmed its celebration on November 1st. The octave was added by Pope Sixtus IV (1471–1484).

The festival was retained after the Reformation in the calendar of the Anglican Church and in many Lutheran churches. In the Lutheran churches, such as the Church of Sweden, it assumes a role of general commemoration of the dead. In the Swedish calendar, the observance takes place on the Saturday between October 31st and November 6th. In many Lutheran Churches, it is moved to the first Sunday of November. In the Church of England it may be celebrated either on 1 November or on the Sunday between October 31st and November 5th. It is also celebrated by other Protestants of the English tradition, such as the United Church of Canada, the Methodist churches, and the Wesleyan Church.

Protestants generally regard all true Christian believers as saints and if they observe All Saints Day at all they use it to remember all Christians both past and present. In the United Methodist Church, All Saints’ Day is celebrated on the first Sunday in November. It is held, not only to remember Saints, but also to remember all those who have died who were members of the local church congregation. In some congregations, a candle is lit by the Acolyte as each person’s name is called out by the clergy. Prayers and responsive readings may accompany the event. Often, the names of those who have died in the past year are affixed to a memorial plaque.

In many Lutheran churches, All Saints’ Day and Reformation Day are observed concurrently on the Sunday before or after those dates, given Reformation Day is observed in Protestant Churches on 31 October. Typically, Martin Luther’s “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” is sung during the service. Besides discussing Luther’s role in the Protestant Reformation, some recognition of the prominent early leaders of the Reformed tradition, such as John Calvin and John Knox, occurs. The observance of Reformation Day may be immediately followed by a reading of those members of the local congregation who have died in the past year in observance of All Saints’ Day. Otherwise, the recognition of deceased church members occurs at another designated portion of the service.

In Mexico, Guatemala, Portugal and Spain, offerings are made on this day. In Spain and Mexico the play Don Juan Tenorio is traditionally performed.   All Saints’ Day in Mexico, coincides with the first day of the Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos) celebration. Known as “Dia de los Inocentes” (Day of the Innocents), it honors deceased children and infants.   Portuguese children celebrate the Pao-por-Deus tradition going door-to-door, where they receive cakes, nuts and pomegranates. This occurs all over Portugal.

Hallowmas in the Philippines is variously called “Undas”, “Todos los Santos” (Spanish, “All Saints”), and sometimes “Araw ng mga Patay” (Tagalog, “Day of the Dead”), which actually refers to the following day of All Souls’ Day but includes it. Filipinos traditionally observe this day by visiting the family dead to clean and repair their tombs. Offerings of prayers, flowers, candles, and even food are made, while Chinese Filipinos additionally burn incense and kim. Many also spend the day and ensuing night holding reunions at the graves, playing games and music, singing karaoke, and feasting.

In Argentina, Austria, Belgium, Chile, France, Hungary, Italy, Lebanon, Luxembourg, Malta, Peru, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Spain, and American cities such as New Orleans, people take flowers to the graves of dead relatives. In some parts of Portugal, people also light candles in the graves.   In Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Finland, Catholic parts of Germany, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Serbia and Sweden, the tradition is to light candles and visit the graves of deceased relatives.

Kathy Kiefer


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Why is there a celebration of the harvest?   Is it just held in one specific area, region or country?   Can anyone attend and participate?

A harvest festival is an annual celebration and that occurs around the time of the main harvest of a given region. Given the differences in climate and crops around the world, harvest festivals can be found at various times at different places. Harvest festivals typically feature feasting, both family and public, with foods that are drawn from crops that come to maturity around the time of the festival. Ample food and freedom from the necessity to work in the fields are two central features of harvest festivals: eating, merriment, contests, music and romance are common features of harvest festivals around the world.

In North America, Canada and the US each have their own Thanksgiving celebrations in October and November.

In Britain, thanks have been given for successful harvests since pagan times. Harvest festival is traditionally held on the Sunday near or of the Harvest Moon. This is the full Moon that occurs closest to the autumn equinox (around the 22nd or 23rd of September). The celebrations on this day usually include singing hymns, praying, and decorating churches with baskets of fruit, and food in the festival known as Harvest Festival, Harvest Home, Harvest Thanksgiving or Harvest Festival of Thanksgiving.

In British and English-Caribbean churches, chapels and schools, and some Canadian churches, people bring in produce from the garden, the allotment or farm. The food is often distributed among the poor and senior citizens of the local community, or used to raise funds for the church, or charity.

In the United States, many churches also bring in food from the garden or farm in order to celebrate the harvest. The festival is set for a specific day and has become a national holiday known as Thanksgiving which falls on the fourth Thursday in November. In both Canada and the United States, it has also become a national secular holiday with religious origins, but in Britain it is both a Church festival giving thanks to God for the harvest and a more secular festival remembered in schools.

Harvest festivals in Asia include the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival, one of the most widely spread harvest festivals in the world. In Iran, Mehrgan was celebrated in an extravagant style at Persepolis. Not only was it the time for harvest, but it was also the time when the taxes were collected. Visitors from different parts of the Persian Empire brought gifts for the king all contributing to a lively festival. In India, Makar Sankranti, Thai Pongal, Uttarayana, Lohri, and Magh Bihu or Bhogali Bihu in January, Holi in February–March, Vaisakhi in April and Onam in August–September are a few important harvest festivals.


Harvest is from the Old English word hærfest, meaning “Autumn”.   It then came to refer to the season for reaping and gathering grain and other grown products. The full moon nearest the autumnal equinox is called the Harvest Moon. In ancient traditions Harvest Festivals were traditionally held on or near the Sunday of the Harvest Moon.

An early harvest festival used to be celebrated at the beginning of the harvest season on the 1st of August and was called Lammas, meaning ‘loaf Mass’. The Latin prayer to hallow the bread is given in the Durham Ritual. Farmers made loaves of bread from the fresh wheat crop. These were given to the local church as the Communion bread during a special service thanking God for the harvest.

By the sixteenth century a number of customs seem to have been firmly established around the gathering of the final harvest. They include the reapers accompanying a fully laden cart; a tradition of shouting “Hooky, hooky”; and one of the foremost reapers dressing extravagantly, acting as ‘lord’ of the harvest and asking for money from the onlookers. A play by Thomas Nashe, Summer’s Last Will and Testament, (first published in London in 1600 but believed from internal evidence to have been first performed in October 1592 at Croydon) contains a scene which demonstrates several of these features. There is a character personifying harvest who comes on stage attended by men dressed as reapers; he refers to himself as their “master” and ends the scene by begging the audience for a “largesse”. The scene is clearly inspired by contemporary harvest celebrations, and singing and drinking feature largely.

Another widespread tradition was the distribution of a special cake to the celebrating farmworkers.  Nowadays the festival is held at the end of harvest, which varies in different parts of Britain. Sometimes neighboring churches will set the Harvest Festival on different Sundays so that people can attend each other’s thanksgivings.

Until the 20th century most farmers celebrated the end of the harvest with a big meal called the harvest supper, to which all who had helped in the harvest were invited. It was sometimes known as a “Mell-supper”, after the last patch of corn or wheat standing in the fields which was known as the “Mell” or “Neck”. Cutting it signified the end of the work of harvest and the beginning of the feast. There seems to have been a feeling that it was bad luck to be the person to cut the last stand of corn. The farmer and his workers would race against the harvesters on other farms to be first to complete the harvest, shouting to announce they had finished. In some counties the last stand of corn would be cut by the workers throwing their sickles at it until it was all down, in others the reapers would take it in turns to be blindfolded and sweep a scythe to and fro until all of the Mell was cut down.

Some churches and villages still have a Harvest Supper. The modern British tradition of celebrating Harvest Festival in churches began in 1843, when the Reverend Robert Hawker invited parishioners to a special thanksgiving service at his church at Morwenstow in Cornwall. Victorian hymns such as “We plough the fields and scatter”, “Come ye thankful people, come” and “All things bright and beautiful” but also Dutch and German harvest hymns in translation helped popularize his idea of harvest festival and spread the annual custom of decorating churches with home-grown produce for the Harvest Festival service.

As British people have come to rely less heavily on home-grown produce, there has been a shift in emphasis in many Harvest Festival celebrations. Increasingly, churches have linked Harvest with an awareness of and concern for people in the developing world for whom growing crops of sufficient quality and quantity remains a struggle. Development and Relief organizations often produce resources for use in churches at harvest time which promote their own concerns for those in need across the globe.

In the early days, there were ceremonies and rituals at the beginning as well as at the end of the harvest.

In some regions the farmers believed that a spirit resided in the last sheaf of grain to be harvested. To chase out the spirit, they beat the grain to the ground. Elsewhere they wove some blades of the cereal into a “corn dolly” that they kept safe for “luck” until seed-sowing the following year. Then they plowed the ears of grain back into the soil in hopes that this would bless the new crop. (1) Church bells could be heard on each day of the harvest; (2) The horse, bringing the last cart load, was decorated with garlands of flowers and colorful ribbons. (3) A magnificent Harvest feast was held at the farmer’s house and games played to celebrate the end of the harvest; (4) Harvest is celebrated by many people but in Christianity, it is widely looked at in schools, and focused on in church; and (5) Harvest is mainly associated with fruit and vegetables, for which we give thanks. This is the whole point of the Harvest Festival.


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Happy Halloween party with children trick or treating


Trick-or-treating—going from house to house in search of candy and other goodies—has been a popular Halloween tradition in the United States and other countries for an estimated 100 years. But the origins of this community-based ritual, which costumed children typically savor while their cavity-conscious parents grudgingly tag along, remain hazy. Possible forerunners to modern-day trick-or-treating have been identified in ancient Celtic festivals, early Roman Catholic holidays, medieval practices and even British politics.

Halloween has its roots in the ancient, pre-Christian Celtic festival of Samhain, which was celebrated on the night of October 31. The Celts, who lived 2,000 years ago in the area that is now Ireland, the United Kingdom and northern France, believed that the dead returned to earth on Samhain. People would gather to light bonfires, offer sacrifices and pay homage to the deceased.

Although it is unknown precisely where and when the phrase “trick or treat” was coined, the custom had been firmly established in American popular culture by 1951, when trick-or-treating was depicted in the Peanuts comic strip. In 1952, Disney produced a cartoon called “Trick or Treat” featuring Donald Duck and his nephews Huey, Dewey and Louie.

During some Celtic celebrations of Samhain, villagers disguised themselves in costumes made of animal skins to drive away phantom visitors; banquet tables were prepared and edible offerings were left out to placate unwelcome spirits. In later centuries, people began dressing as ghosts, demons and other malevolent creatures, performing antics in exchange for food and drink. This custom, known as mumming, dates back to the Middle Ages and is thought to be an antecedent of trick-or-treating.

By the ninth century, Christianity had spread into Celtic lands, where it gradually blended with and supplanted older pagan rites. In 1000 A.D. the church designated November 2nd as All Souls’ Day, a time for honoring the dead. Celebrations in England resembled Celtic commemorations of Samhain, complete with bonfires and masquerades. Poor people would visit the houses of wealthier families and receive pastries called soul cakes in exchange for a promise to pray for the souls of the homeowners’ dead relatives. Known as souling, the practice was later taken up by children, who would go from door to door asking for gifts such as food, money and ale.

In Scotland and Ireland, young people took part in a tradition called guising, dressing up in costume and accepting offerings from various households. Rather than pledging to pray for the dead, they would sing a song, recite a poem, tell a joke or perform another sort of “trick” before collecting their treat, which typically consisted of fruit, nuts or coins.

Still another potential trick-or-treating predecessor is the British custom for children to wear masks and carry effigies while begging for pennies on Guy Fawkes Night (also known as Bonfire Night), which commemorates the foiling of the so-called Gunpowder Plot in 1605. On November 5, 1606, Fawkes was executed for his role in the Catholic-led conspiracy to blow up England’s parliament building and remove King James I, a Protestant, from power. On the original Guy Fawkes Day, celebrated immediately after the famous plotter’s execution, communal bonfires, or “bone fires,” were lit to burn effigies and the symbolic “bones” of the Catholic pope. By the early 19th century, children bearing effigies of Fawkes were roaming the streets on the evening of November 5, asking for “a penny for the Guy.”

Some American colonists celebrated Guy Fawkes Day, and in the mid-19th century large numbers of new immigrants, especially those fleeing Ireland’s potato famine in the 1840s, helped popularize Halloween. In the early 20th century, Irish and Scottish communities revived the Old World traditions of souling and guising in the United States. By the 1920s, however, pranks had become the Halloween activity of choice for rowdy young people, sometimes amounting to more than $100,000 in damages each year in major metropolitan areas.

The Great Depression exacerbated the problem, with Halloween mischief often devolving into vandalism, physical assaults and sporadic acts of violence. One theory holds that it was the excessive pranks on Halloween that led to the widespread adoption of an organized, community-based trick-or-treating tradition in the 1930s. This trend was abruptly curtailed, however, with the outbreak of World War II, when children had to refrain from trick-or-treating because of sugar rationing.

At the height of the postwar baby boom, trick-or-treating reclaimed its place among other Halloween customs, quickly becoming standard practice for millions of children in America’s cities and newly built suburbs. No longer constrained by sugar rationing, candy companies capitalized on the lucrative ritual, launching national advertising campaigns specifically aimed at Halloween. Today, Americans spend an estimated $6 billion annually on Halloween, making it the nation’s second-largest commercial holiday.

By the early 1920’s young trendsetters were beginning to throw lavish Halloween parties and there was renewed interest in “guising”. Stores started selling pre-made costumes that people could wear to disguise themselves and indulge in a little good natured Halloween fun. During WWII Halloween celebrations were toned down due to sugar rationing and the generally somber mood of the nation. By the time the war was over and people started the mad exodus to build homes in the suburbs the celebration of Halloween had gotten popular. The 50’s and 60’s were the decades when Trick-or-Treating became the important Halloween ritual they are today. Trick-or-Treating became the focus of Halloween celebrations because going Trick-or-Treating was seen as a wholesome activity for the whole family. Trick-or-Treating also became popular in the 50’s and 60’s because that was when living in subdivisions and newly built suburban neighborhoods became popular.

Trick-or-Treating remained popular through the 70’s and 80’s but by the 90’s the practice of Trick-or-Treating began to change. Many different factors like the rise of people living in apartment buildings instead of free standing houses in suburban neighborhoods and the rise in non-traditional households contributed to the major changes that shaped Trick-or-Treating at the end of the 90s. In order to accommodate parents with busy schedules and in an effort to make Trick-or-Treating safer for kids it was moved largely indoors. Malls began to open for specific Trick-or-Treating events where kids in costume could go to different stores to receive candy and coupons. These structured Halloween events also usually feature games, activities, and clowns and other performers to make the event even more special. Many neighborhoods have also designated special Trick-or-Treat hours to prevent a lot of Halloween mischief and help protect the safety of Trick-or-Treaters.

Kathy Kiefer


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There are so many forms and types of gourds, but what are the major differences?   How can I tell what is what?     I’ve discovered a plethora of information while I’ve been researching this topic myself.

October is synonymous with pumpkins, gourds and squash. Throughout the month, they are used for décor, the main ingredient of seasonal dishes and as children’s whimsical canvas for spooky designs. However, did you know pumpkins and gourds, as well as squash, come in more shades of color than orange or yellow?

It’s time to decorate for the season. Pumpkins, squash and gourds are now readily available for the season’s décor. Over the years, I’ve discovered considerable confusion exists when trying to distinguish one from the other. One simple, non-scientific definition I’ve heard is pumpkins are something you carve, squash are something you cook and eat, and gourds are something you look at but don’t eat. The fact is the genetic history of these three items is so intertwined that it’s extremely difficult to tell them apart. All three are fruits of herbaceous vining plants that seem to possess more similarities than differences.

With over 300 varieties of pumpkins, gourds, and squash grown annually, it is amazing to discern the color palette of nature: oranges, greens, yellows, blues, whites, striped, splotched, and spotted. Textures also vary greatly. Due to the close familial orientation of the three, it can often be difficult to tell them apart. All are members of the Cucurbita family, with each variety belonging to a different sub-category. It seems the stem is the primary way to distinguish a pumpkin from the group. If the stem appears woody and hard, it can be deemed a pumpkin.

Those recognized as true pumpkins (including the jack-o-lantern) belong to the Cucurbita pepo species. Varieties in this group have distinctly furrowed woody stems and yellow flowers. The skin of the fruit is hard and usually bright orange. Most pumpkins, acorn squash, summer squash and courgette (zucchini) belong to the C.pepo species. There are even some smaller varieties in this species that are referred to only as gourds.

The maxima species is slightly different from the pepo in that it is less hardy and has a softer, spongy stem. The skin is yellow rather than orange. The maxima species is frequently branded as a squash-type pumpkin or pumpkin-squash. They include winter squashes such as the banana squash and the buttercup squash.   Cucurbita moschata cultivars are generally more tolerant of hot, humid weather than cultivars of C. maxima or C. pepo. Butternut squash is an example of this species.

Gourds vs Pumpkins

Gourds and pumpkins are both bush-like plants which are popularly seen in the northern part of America. These two have almost the same properties and have a maturity period of about 100 to 129 days. As gourds and pumpkins belong to the same family, they do not differ much.

A gourd is mainly used as a vessel or a container at home. Gourds are also used as musical instruments such as drums and stringed instruments. When comparing the two, gourds are mostly ornamental in type. On the contrary, pumpkins are edible and are eaten when ripe.   Yet another difference that can be seen between the two is that gourds can be only dried when mature and pumpkins can be roasted, baked, steamed, or boiled when mature.   Both the gourd and the pumpkin are unique in themselves. During the times of Halloween, pumpkins are used as jack-o’-lanterns at houses. As said earlier, gourds are used as musical instruments as they can vibrate sounds. When comparing gourds and pumpkins, the latter are more often used as table vegetables as they are more edible. As the flesh of a pumpkin is a bit coarse or has a strong flavor, it is more often used as a vegetable after baking.

There are also many differences in the harvesting season of pumpkins and gourds. While pumpkins are harvested once the rinds become hard and when the skin turns orange, gourds are allowed to mature as long as possible. The more they mature, the better they are. But when on the vines, they have to be protected from very cold temperatures.

Some of the differences and similarities between them include: (1) Gourds and pumpkins are both bush-like plants; (2) Gourds are mainly used as vessels or containers at home. Gourds are also used as musical instruments such as drums and a stringed instrument; (3) During Halloween season, pumpkins are used as jack-o’-lanterns at houses; (4) When comparing gourds and pumpkins, the latter are more often used as table vegetables as they are more edible; (5) As the flesh of a pumpkin is a bit coarse or has a strong flavor, it is more often used as a vegetable after baking; (6) While pumpkins are harvested once the rinds become hard and when the skin turns orange, gourds are allowed to mature as long as possible; and (7) Another difference that can be seen between the two is that gourds can be only dried when mature and pumpkins can be roasted, baked, steamed, or boiled when mature.

Yellow summer squash is slender and bright yellow; crookneck squash is similar, but with a hook end and darker yellow coloring. Zucchini squash is oblong and dark green, sometimes with white striping. Gem squash is a small, spherical squash with solid, dark-green coloring. Pattypan squash is mint green in color, resembling a flattened circle with scalloped edges. Spaghetti squash features an oblong shape with yellow to orange rind and yellow or orange flesh that is stringy like spaghetti noodles. Styrian oil pumpkins are largely processed for pumpkin seed oil; they are small and round with yellow-orange and green stripes. A winter squash, acorn squash is acorn-shaped and dark green, sometimes with a touch of orange coloring. Another winter squash, delicata squash, features long fruits with thin green stripes set against a yellow background. Banana squash can be identified by its elongated shape with a slightly tapered tip, yellow-orange flesh and rind color that varies among creamy orange, pink and light blue. Hubbard squash has a rounded teardrop shape, yellow-orange flesh and varieties with rind colors including dark orange and blue-gray. Buttercup squash, enjoyed for the buttery flavor of its yellow-orange flesh, features olive to dark-green skin and a rounded, flat-topped shape. Jarrahdale pumpkin makes an appealing fall decoration with its short, round shape, ribbed rind and color ranging from blue-gray to steel gray.

Butternut squash, a favorite in recipes for the nutty flavor of its bright orange flesh, is cylindrical in shape with a base that is slightly wider than the stem end; color varies from yellow-tan to orange. Dickinson field pumpkin, commonly used for canned pumpkin puree, is tan in color, with a shape that ranges from long and cylindrical to a prolate spheroid — a slightly elongated sphere. Ranging in shape from a flattened sphere to tear-drop, Kentucky field pumpkin has light orange skin and dark orange flesh. Long Island cheese pumpkin, shaped like a cheese wheel, has soft yellow flesh. Tan to pale orange neck pumpkin are bulbous at the base with a narrow, curved neck up to about 18 inches long. Long of Naples squash are usually dark green with light green or pale orange streaks and yellow-orange flesh; they might be curved and cylindrical or feature a bulb at one or both ends.

Cucurbita mixta is less well known than other squash and gourd species, largely because its subspecies were previously classified as C. maschato or C. maximus. The species mostly comprises varieties of cushaw pumpkin, a variety of squash with a vase shape and straight or crooked, elongated neck. As its name suggests, green-striped cushaw has dark green and white stripes. White cushaw is bright white to ivory white in color. Golden cushaw is golden orange in color; color might be solid or striped with ivory white. Seminole pumpkin, native to Florida, is a small, spherical or teardrop-shaped pumpkin. The developing fruit is mottled with white over a dark green to yellow-tan base color.

Kathy Kiefer

Travel unforgettable & magical places. Hotel Gli Dei, Pozzuoli (Napoli), Italy.

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Travel unforgettable, magical places, where the body and mind find their center thanks to an energy that stems from three factors: beauty, harmony, quality.


vista-dall-hotelI have gotten to know this hotel via photographs posted by my editor, Alessandro Sicuro. Since then I have had an in-depth interest to know what happened here. And know more about this fabulous hotel with the spectacle of nature mixed with myth and history.

If we take a bay in front of us like that of Rio de Janeiro. A dominant position in the face of this scenario. A dream location, with Olympic swimming pools, terraces with breathtaking views. The interiors are warm, inviting and refined. The rooms are comfortable and spacious, each with a balcony of 80 meters, overlooking the sea. An outstanding restaurant offering a cuisine of the first order. As well as a health club that boasts an upscale spa. Tourist paths around the hotel make for interesting walks leading to archaeology sites, as well as art, culture, food and beverage venues. It has the most beautiful sea to be found anywhere that is warm and crystal clear. Well and clear that with all these connotations we can find at the Gli Dei Hotel in Pozzuoli.

I have noticed that staff of The Gli Dei Hotel warmly welcomes its guests to their two-story Mediterranean-style Hotel, which12166894_10153083604301363_1679939744_n offers great views of the sea, exploring the Gulf of Pozzuoli. In its breathtaking views making a spectacular backdrop, it was also designed for business meetings and conferences. In fact, the Gli Dei Hotel has 3 meeting rooms that can accommodate up to 550 people.

Additionally, with the impressive backdrop of the sea, the deck is the perfect setting for hosting ceremonies, parties and banquets.    With a huge ballroom as well, it is suitable for major events such as wedding receptions and other major events such as New Year’s Eve parties.  The staff will also ensure that ever you desire to eat and drink at your event will   surpass your expectations.

The space and facilities available at the Gli Dei Hotel meet your needs precisely and makes for an impressive conference setting.

Kathy Kiefer

Special thanks to Hotel Gli Dei Pozzuoli  (NA) Italy

Click on the pictures for slideshows ⬇︎





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This is the region of Tuscany popular for vineyards and wine industry, with an impressive history, culture and traditions.

Greve developed predominantly as a market town, with a large market being held in the unusual triangular piazza lined with porticoes, which is still always busy and lively.

The parish church of the town, dedicated to the Santa Croce, contains a triptych by Bicci di Lorenzo.

The Museo di Arte Sacra has very recently been opened in the former convent of San Francesco; it houses an important collection of paintings, sculptures, vestments and liturgical furnishings, a tangible sign of the artistic vitality of the local district.

Greve in Chianti (the old name was Greve; in 1972 was renamed Greve in Chianti after the inclusion of that area in the Chianti wine district) is a town and comune (municipality) in the province of Florence, Tuscany, Italy. It is located about 31 kilometers (19 mi) south of Florence on A1 highway, and 42 kilometers (26 mi) north of Siena.

Sitting in the Val di Greve, it is named for the small, fast-flowing river that runs through it, is the principal town in the Chianti wine district which stretches south of Florence to just north of Siena. Until recently it has been a quiet, almost bucolic town because it was, and still is, well off the main roads.

Even in ancient days Greve was not isolated because it was well-connected by secondary roads to the Via Volterrana and via Francigena. Nowadays, it is connected to the A1 superstrada between Florence and Rome and the main road between Florence and Siena. The old road network ensured easy access to Florence and to other places such as Figline where its tradesmen and farmers found ready markets for their goods and produce.

The site of Greve and the surrounding territory has been long settled, probably well before the Etruscans and then the Romans dominated the area. Historical documents of the 11th century refer to an ancient monastic settlement on a nearby hill, which is now called the hill of San Francesco. Before the Franciscans established their monastery in the 15th century, an earlier monastery dedicated to Santo Savi had already been built, and also a small hospital. Larger scale settlement occurred in the 13th and 14th centuries.

Although an independent town for most of its history, Greve ultimately came under Florentine control and remained so until the Grand Duchy of Tuscany was absorbed into the unified Kingdom of Italy in 1861.

The Franciscan monastery is still at the heart of the old part of the city, as is the triangular main piazza, where a market has been running more or less continuously for centuries serving the nearby castle communities and hamlets.

The piazza is fronted by numerous medieval aged buildings, including the 11th century Chiesa Santa Croce which was rebuilt in 1325 after being burned to the ground, along with the rest of the town, by the Duke of Lucca, Castruccio Castracani. After further renovation, the church, which houses paintings of the school of Fra Angelico, now features a neo-classical façade. In the piazza there is also a monument to navigator Giovanni da Verrazzano, who was possibly born nearby, however more recent scholarly work places his birth at Lyon France.

In the frazione of Montefioralle is the church of Santo Stefano, with a late 13th-century Madonna with Child and a 15th-century Trinity and Saints. Also in the hamlet is a house which, according to the tradition, belonged to other explorer Amerigo Vespucci. In the nearby is a Romanesque Pieve with narthexed façade and two mullioned windows.

At 2 kilometers (1 mile) from the centre of Greve is the castle of Verrazzano, sitting on a 348 meters (1,142 feet) high hill. Built probably by the Lombards, it was a possession of the explorer’s family and in the 17th century was turned into a villa. Of the 13th-century manor a tower remains.

In the neighborhood of the frazione of Panzano is the Pieve of San Leolino, known from the 10th century. The interior houses a 13th-century panel by Meliore di Jacobo, a 15th-century polyptych by the so-called Master of Panzano, as well as works by Raffaellino del Garbo and Giovanni della Robbia.

With the enlargement of the Chianti wine district in 1932, Greve suddenly found itself in a noble wine area. The Chianti region supports a variety of agricultural activities, most especially the growing of the grapes that go into the world-famous Chianti and “Super Tuscan” wines. Olive oil production is another staple of the local economy. Extra virgin Tuscan olive oil is highly prized for its delicate flavor, as opposed to the stronger, thicker olive oils of the south. Truffle harvesting is a distinguishing feature of local food production. Both black and white truffles are hunted in Chianti. The region is also noted for its meat. The Cinta Senese pig is unique to this region and produces pork of superior quality. Wild game is a common feature on local menus, including rabbit, pigeon, venison, and, especially, cinghiale (wild boar). Greve is home to one of Italy’s oldest and most renowned butcher shops, the Macelleria Falorni.

Due largely to this intense agricultural activity, and the wine and food production industries that have been built on top of it, since early medieval times, Greve evolved as the principal market town at the center of an (increasingly) densely populated area with an abundance of villages, parish churches, villas and castles. The latter were built mostly by the rich merchants and noble classes of Florence who enjoyed the country life, and developed their estates to earn additional income and also to supply their in-town tables.

The town of Greve’s busy quaintness and the lushness and diversity of the undulating landscape which surrounds it, have long attracted tourists and travelers. The current flow of tourism to the area and the purchase of homes by both Italians and foreigners are fully integrated with viniculture, wine-making and various related enterprises to form a highly integrated and highly productive local economy.

Chianti Classico wine festival – every year on second weekend of September and the preceding Thursday and Friday. On Thursday, the festival starts at about 5 pm and on Saturday and Sunday at about 11 am and the stands close at about 8 pm. Local merchants display their products, and wine tasting is offered for free. The visitor must purchase a glass, and then go to the displays. Olive Oil (locally grow and produced) is also available for tasting, served on fresh sliced Italian bread. Local cheeses are also available. This is an event not to be missed.

Kathy Kiefer


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Why do we celebrate Columbus Day?   What is the importance of this holiday?   What are some of its traditions?

Many countries in the New World and elsewhere celebrate the anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ arrival in the Americas, which happened on October 12, 1492, as a holiday or official celebration. The landing is celebrated as Columbus Day in the United States, as Dia de la Raza (“Day of the Race”) in many countries in Latin America, as Discovery Day in the Bahamas, as Día de la Hispanidad and Fiesta Nacional in Spain, as Día del Respeto a la Diversidad Cultural (Day of Respect for Cultural Diversity) in Argentina, as Dia de las Americas (Day of the Americas) in Belize and Uruguay and as Giornata Nazionale di Cristopher Columbus or Fiesta Nazionale di Cristopher Columbus in Italy and in the Little Italy’s around the world. These holidays have been celebrated unofficially since the late 18th century, and officially in various areas since the early 20th century. This holiday has met with a long history of opposition with several regions in the United States either refusing to observe it or celebrating a different event entirely.

Columbus Day first became an official state holiday in Colorado in 1906, and became a federal holiday in the United States in 1937, though people have celebrated Columbus’s voyage since the colonial period. In 1792, New York City and other U.S. cities celebrated the 300th anniversary of his landing in the New World. President Benjamin Harrison called upon the people of the United States to celebrate Columbus Day on the 400th anniversary of the event. During the four hundredth anniversary in 1892, teachers, preachers, poets and politicians used Columbus Day rituals to teach ideals of patriotism. These patriotic rituals were framed around themes such as support for war, citizenship boundaries, the importance of loyalty to the nation, and celebrating social progress.

Many Italian-Americans observe Columbus Day as a celebration of their heritage, the first occasion being in New York City on October 12, 1866. Columbus Day was first enshrined as a legal holiday in the United States through the lobbying of Angelo Noce, a first generation Italian, in Denver. The first statewide Columbus Day holiday was proclaimed by Colorado governor Jesse F. McDonald in 1905, and it was made a statutory holiday in 1907. In April 1934, as a result of lobbying by the Knights of Columbus and New York City Italian leader Generoso Pope, Congress and President Franklin Delano Roosevelt made October 12 a federal holiday under the name Columbus Day.

Since 1970, the holiday has been fixed to the second Monday in October, coincidentally the same day as Thanksgiving in neighboring Canada (which was fixed to that date in 1959) (note that October 12, 1970, was a Monday). It is generally observed nowadays by banks, the bond market, the U.S. Postal Service, other federal agencies, most state government offices, many businesses, and most school districts. Some businesses and some stock exchanges remain open; also some states and municipalities abstain from observing the holiday. The traditional date of the holiday also adjoins the anniversary of the United States Navy (founded October 13, 1775), and thus both occasions are customarily observed by the Navy, and the Marine Corps.

Actual observance varies in different parts of the United States, ranging from large-scale parades and events to complete non-observance. Most states celebrate Columbus Day as an official state holiday, though many mark it as a “Day of Observance” or “Recognition” and at least four do not recognize it at all. Most states (including states where it is not a legal holiday) close schools and other state services, while others operate as normal.   San Francisco claims the nation’s oldest continuously existing celebration with the Italian-American community’s annual Columbus Day Parade, which was established in 1868, while New York City boasts the largest.

As in the mainland U.S., Columbus Day is a legal holiday in the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico. In the United States Virgin Islands, the day is celebrated as both Columbus Day and “Puerto Rico Friendship Day”.     Virginia also celebrates two legal holidays on the day, Columbus Day and Yorktown Victory Day, which honors the final victory at the Siege of Yorktown in the Revolutionary War.

Hawaii, Alaska, Oregon and South Dakota are U.S. states that do not recognize Columbus Day at all, though Hawaii and South Dakota mark the day with an alternative holiday or observance. Hawaii celebrates Discoverers’ Day, which commemorates the Polynesian discoverers of Hawaii on the same date, the second Monday of October, though the name change has not ended protest related to the observance of Columbus’ discovery. The state government does not treat either Columbus Day or Discoverers’ Day as a legal holiday; state, city and county government offices and schools are open for business. South Dakota celebrates the day as an official state holiday known as “Native American Day” rather than Columbus Day. Oregon does not recognize Columbus Day, neither as a holiday nor a commemoration; schools and public offices remain open. Iowa and Nevada do not celebrate Columbus Day as an official holiday; however, the governor is “authorized and requested” by statute to proclaim the day each year. Several other states have removed Columbus Day as a paid holiday for government workers while still maintaining it either as a day of recognition or a legal holiday for other purposes. These include California and Texas.

The date Columbus arrived in the Americas is celebrated in many countries in Latin America. The most common name for the celebration in Spanish (including in some Latin American communities in the United States) is the Día de la Raza (“day of the race” or “day of the [Hispanic] people”), commemorating the first encounters of Europeans and Native Americans. The day was first celebrated in Argentina in 1917, Venezuela and Columbia in 1921, Chile in 1922, and Mexico in 1928. The day was also celebrated under this title in Spain until 1957, when it was changed to the Dia de la Hispanidad (“Hispanic Day”) and in Venezuela until 2002, when it was changed to the Dia de la Resistencia Indígena (Day of Indigenous Resistance). Originally conceived of as a celebration of Hispanic influence in the Americas, as evidenced by the complementary celebrations in Spain and Latin America, Dia de la Raza has come to be seen by some in Latin America as a counter to Columbus Day; a celebration of the resistance against the arrival of Europeans in the Americas and of the native races and cultures. In the U.S. Dia de la Raza has served as a time of mobilization for pan-ethnic Latino activists, particularly in the 1960s. Since then, La Raza has served as a periodic rallying cry for Hispanic activists. The first Hispanic March on Washington occurred on Columbus Day in 1996. The name has remained in the largest Hispanic social justice organization, the National Council of La Raza.

Between 1921 and 2002, Venezuela celebrated Dia de la Raza along with many other Latin American nations. The original holiday was officially established in 1921 under President Juan Vicente Gomez. In 2002, under President Hugo Chavez, the name was changed to Dia de la Resistencia Indigena (Day of Indigenous Resistance) to commemorate the Indigenous peoples’ resistance to European settlement. On October 12, 2004 a crowd of pro-government activists toppled the statue of Christopher Columbus in Caracas and sprayed allusive graffiti over its pedestal.

Since 1994, Costa Rica had changed the official holiday from Dia de la Raza to Dia de las Culturas (Day of the cultures) to recognize the mix of European, American, African and Asian cultures that helped to compose Costa Rican culture.

Some Caribbean countries also observe holidays related to Columbus Day. In Belize, October 12 is celebrated as Day of the Americas or Pan-American Day. In the Bahamas, it was formerly known as Discovery Day, until 2001 when it was replaced with National Hero’s Day. Since the 18th century, many Italian communities in the Americas have observed the Discovery of the New World as a celebration of their heritage; Christopher Columbus was an Italian explorer, citizen of the Republic of Genoa. In Italy, Columbus Day has been officially celebrated since 2004.

Since 1987, Spain has celebrated the anniversary of Columbus’ arrival in the Americas as its Fiesta Nacional or “National Day”. Previously Spain had celebrated the day as Dia de la Hispanidad, emphasizing Spain’s ties with the Hispanidad, the international Hispanic community. In 1981 a royal decree established the Dia de la Hispanidad as a national holiday. However, in 1987 the name was changed to Fiesta Nacional, and October 12 became one of two national celebrations, along with Constitution Day on December 6. Spain’s “national day” had moved around several times during the various regime changes of the 20th century; establishing it on the day of the international Columbus celebration was part of a compromise between conservatives, who wanted to emphasize the status of the monarchy and Spain’s history, and Republicans, who wanted to commemorate Spain’s burgeoning democracy with an official holiday. Since 2000, October 12 has also been Spain’s Day of the Armed Forces, celebrated each year with a military parade in Madrid. Other than this, however, the holiday is not widely or enthusiastically celebrated in Spain; there are no other large-scale patriotic parades, marches, or other events, and the observation is generally overshadowed by the feast day of Our Lady of the Pillar.

Opposition to Columbus Day dates to at least the 19th century where activists had sought to eradicate Columbus Day celebrations because of its association with immigrants and the Knights of Columbus. They were afraid it was being used to expand Catholic influence. By far the more common opposition today, decrying Columbus’s and Europeans’ actions against the indigenous populations of the Americas, did not gain much traction until the latter half of the 20th century. This opposition has been spearheaded by indigenous groups, though it has spread into the mainstream.

Very high on the list of those expressions of non-indigenous sensibility that contribute to the perpetuation of genocidal policies against Indians are the annual Columbus Day celebration, events in which it is baldly asserted that the process, events, and circumstances described above are, at best, either acceptable or unimportant. More often, the sentiments expressed by the participants are, quite frankly, that the fate of Native America embodied in Columbus and the Columbian legacy is a matter to be openly and enthusiastically applauded as an unrivaled “boon to all mankind”.

From his base on Haiti, Columbus sent expedition after expedition into the interior. They found no gold fields, but had to fill up the ships returning to Spain with some kind of dividend. In the year 1495, they went on a great slave raid, rounded up fifteen hundred Arawak men, women, and children, put them in pens guarded by Spaniards and dogs, then picked the five hundred best specimens to load onto ships. Of those five hundred, two hundred died en route. The rest arrived alive in Spain and were put up for sale by the archdeacon of the town, who reported that, although the slaves were “naked as the day they were born,” they showed “no more embarrassment than animals.” Columbus later wrote: “Let us in the name of the Holy Trinity go on sending all the slaves that can be sold.”     But too many of the slaves died in captivity. And so Columbus, desperate to pay back dividends to those who had invested, had to make good his promise to fill the ships with gold. In the province of Cicao on Haiti, where he and his men imagined huge gold fields to exist, they ordered all persons fourteen years or older to collect a certain quantity of gold every three months. When they brought it, they were given copper tokens to hang around their necks. Indians found without a copper token had their hands cut off and bled to death.

In the summer of 1990, 350 representatives from Indian groups from all over the hemisphere, met in Quito, Ecuador, at the first Intercontinental Gathering of Indigenous People of the Americas, to mobilize against the quincentennial celebration of Columbus Day. The following summer, in Davis, California, more than a hundred Native Americans gathered for a follow-up meeting to the Quito conference. They declared October 12, 1992, “International Day of Solidarity with Indigenous People”. The largest ecumenical body in the United States, the National Council of Churches, called on Christians to refrain from celebrating the Columbus quincentennial, saying, “What represented newness of freedom, hope, and opportunity for some was the occasion for oppression, degradation and genocide for others”.

Kathy Kiefer


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October marks the beginning of Breast Awareness month, an annual campaign that aims to increase knowledge and awareness of the disease.

Breast Cancer Awareness Month (BCAM), also referred to in America as National Breast Cancer Awareness Month (NBCAM), is an annual international health campaign organized by major breast cancer charities every October to increase awareness of the disease and to raise funds for research into its cause, prevention, diagnosis, treatment and cure. The campaign also offers information and support to those affected by breast cancer.

NBCAM was founded in 1985 as a partnership between the American Cancer Society and the pharmaceutical division of Imperial Chemical Industries (now part of AstraZeneca, producer of several anti-breast cancer drugs). The aim of the NBCAM from the start has been to promote mammography as the most effective weapon in the fight against breast cancer.

In 1993 Evelyn Lauder, Senior Corporate Vice President of the Estee Lauder Companies founded The Breast Cancer Research Foundation and established the pink ribbon as its symbol, though this was not the first time the ribbon was used to symbolize breast cancer. In the fall of 1991, the Susan G. Komen Foundation had handed out pink ribbons to participants in its New York City race for breast cancer survivors.

A variety of events around the world are organized in October, including walks and runs, and the pink illumination of landmark buildings. In the United States, the National Football League promotes breast cancer awareness by incorporating pink on and off the field, and comic strip artists use pink on one day in October.

In October 1983 the Race for the Cure was held for the first time in Dallas, Texas, where 800 people participated. According to the organizers, by 2002 the number of participants reached 1.3 million and the event was held in over 100 US cities. The event is also being organized in several other parts of the World.

There are various two-day-long walks to raise money for breast cancer research institutes. Avon sponsors a 39-mile (60 km) walk. A walk in Atlanta offers varying lengths of up to 30 miles. Canada’s large “Weekend to End Breast Cancer” features a 60 km walk. St. Louis, MO offers a one-day-long breast cancer walk. This walk consists of three miles.

For the entire month of October Great Architect is sponsoring a Breast Cancer Awareness campaign. They are encouraging all members of their guild and in their games to wear pink for the entire month. You can visit their site and related thread for ways to support Breast Cancer Awareness.

Male breast cancer, which is rare, is generally overlooked. In 2009 the male breast cancer advocacy groups Out of the Shadow of Pink, A Man’s Pink, and the Brandon Greening Foundation for Breast Cancer in Men joined together to globally establish the third week of October as “Male Breast Cancer Awareness Week”.

Inspiration for the foundation of NBCAM came from Zeneca Inc. in 1989 when they began a breast cancer screening program within their company. In 1996, with the screening program and study complete, Zeneca Inc. analyzed the total monetary amounts lost due to the increase in health care provided compared with the total monetary amounts lost if the company was to scrap the program were compared. The total costs to the company of running the early detection program were estimated to be $400,000. Total costs to the company if they chose not to run the program were estimated to be around $1.5 million.

Critics have said that “the BCAM idea ‘was conceived and paid for by a British chemical company that both profits from this epidemic and may be contributing to its cause'”.  Sometimes referred to as National Breast Cancer Industry Month, critics of NBCAM point to a conflict of interest between corporations sponsoring breast cancer awareness while profiting from diagnosis and treatment.  The breast cancer advocacy organization, Breast Cancer Action, has said repeatedly in newsletters and other information sources that October has become a public relations campaign that avoids discussion of the causes and prevention of breast cancer and instead focuses on “awareness” as a way to encourage women to get their mammograms. The term pink-washing has been used by Breast Cancer Action to describe the actions of companies which manufacture and use chemicals which show a link with breast cancer and at the same time publicly support charities focused on curing the disease. Other criticisms center on the marketing of “pink products” and tie ins, citing that more money is spent marketing these campaigns than is donated to the cause<

A closer look at the staggering stats about breast cancer reveal why this is an important cause to so many people.  According to the American Cancer Society, every 2 minutes a woman in the United States is diagnosed with breast cancer — that’s everything from “stage zero” cancer (which some doctors believe shouldn’t even be called cancer) to the deadliest form: invasive breast cancer.

The cancer organization also estimates that 231,840 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in women in the United States this year. And an estimated 2,350 new cases will be diagnosed in men.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer, a part of the World Health Organization, estimated that in 2012, around 1.7 million new cases of breast cancer in women occurred worldwide.

These numbers have influenced the need for early detection and screenings. According to the Food and Drug Administration, more than 39 million mammograms are performed each year in the United States.

And those mammograms may have had an impact. The American Cancer Society reports that the breast cancer death rate is down 34% since 1990. As of Jan. 1, 2014, there were more than 3.1 million breast cancer survivors in the U.S.

The World Cancer Research Fund International reports that there are more than 6 million breast cancer survivors worldwide, giving many survivors a reason to celebrate this month

Breast Cancer Awareness Month, marked in countries across the world every October, helps to increase attention and support for the awareness, early detection and treatment as well as palliative care of this disease.

There are about 1.38 million new cases and 458 000 deaths from breast cancer each year. Breast cancer is by far the most common cancer in women worldwide, both in the developed and developing countries. In low- and middle-income countries the incidence has been rising up steadily in the last years due to increase in life expectancy, increase urbanization and adoption of western lifestyles.

Currently there is not sufficient knowledge on the causes of breast cancer; therefore, early detection of the disease remains the cornerstone of breast cancer control. When breast cancer is detected early, and if adequate diagnosis and treatment are available, there is a good chance that breast cancer can be cured. If detected late, however, curative treatment is often no longer an option. In such cases, palliative care to relief the suffering of patients and their families is needed.

The majority of deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries, where most women with breast cancer are diagnosed in late stages due mainly to lack of awareness on early detection and barriers to health services. A situation that can be reverted if adequate public health programmes are put in place.

WHO promotes comprehensive breast cancer control programmes as part of national cancer control plans. The recommended early detection strategies for low- and middle-income countries are awareness of early signs and symptoms and screening by clinical breast examination in demonstration areas. Mammography screening is very costly and is feasible only in countries with good health infrastructure that can afford a long-term programme.

Kathy Kiefer

7 Powerful Ways to Turn Every Failure Into Success

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7 Powerful Ways to Turn Every Failure Into Success

🇺🇸 Failure is part of life, and most certainly part of business. We don’t often acknowledge it, but failure is also a fundamental element of our success.

Our instinct is to be ashamed of failure, maybe because we don’t like how it makes us feel–humiliated, as though we have done something wrong.

But if you can shift your perspective and look at failure not as something to be ashamed of but something valuable, you can begin to understand that it’s through failure that we truly learn to succeed.

The sooner we stop shaming our failures, the easier it will be to turn them to our advantage. Here are seven points to think about:

1. Mistakes are not a problem, but not taking the opportunity to learn from them is. Identify your mistakes and learn from them quickly. Many successful people have experienced some kind of failure–and they build on those lessons. Learning to fail well means learning to understand your mistakes. In every mistake there is a potential for growth.

2. Be careful how you talk to yourself, because you are listening. Self-talk can be incredibly damaging, especially after a failure. Handle your self-talk and don’t allow it to make you feel worthless–especially in the aftermath of a failure. Let it sting for a moment, and then do everything you can to stay positive and get back on track.

3. It’s far better to do something imperfectly than to do nothing perfectly. The only true failure is doing nothing–inaction puts everything at risk. When we do nothing, it means we are not moving anywhere. And that is a surefire way to stay in failure. All that is required for failure to triumph is for us to do nothing.

4. We are products of our past, but we don’t have to let our mistakes define us.Even if the past did not go as we had hoped, our future can still be better than we can envision. Too often, we’re afraid to talk about our past and our failures out of fear that they’ll define us. Let it out, but stay focused on what’s ahead.

5. The enemy of success is fear of failure. It’s not failure itself that’s so dangerous–it’s the fear of failure that keeps us doing nothing. Like all fears, you conquer it by facing it down. And when the fear of doing nothing exceeds the fear of doing it wrong, that is when your true work begins.

6. Consistent action creates consistent results. Strength doesn’t come from what you can do, it comes from mastering the things you once thought you couldn’t do. So let yourself fall down, but learn to dust yourself off and get up and move forward. What you do every day matters more than what you do every once in a while. Consistency is key to success.

7. You can’t do it alone–and you don’t have to. Sometimes our failures keep us stuck in our old ways and we need support to help us get past our bad habits. The worst thing we can do is think we need to handle this alone. Find a coach, a mentor, or a friend who supports you in your efforts and has the experience to get you pointed toward your own success.

Failure is the only way to grow yourself and grow your organization, because ultimately, it is how we learn to succeed.


sure-com America

inspiration  by  LOLLY DASKAL  President and CEO, Lead From Within


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Schermata 2015-10-02 alle 10.21.22


schermata-2015-10-02-alle-10-03-52I had often heard of this prestigious event. I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with the creator for an interview, Paul Lubrano.  While it may be difficult to define this character with a few lines of text: elegant man, in love with his land, with organizational skills and achievement, really special. “

On September 30, 2015 a press conference was held, where I participated, in the prestigious and oldest theater in Naples in front of a large group of journalists and representatives of private companies that were the sponsors. ”Last year, the city of Pozzuoli hosted the orchestra of the Teatro San Carlo, and this year will be the Teatro San Carlo, who will host Pozzuoli” – These are the words of Paul Lubrano, Producer of the Civitas Prize, who on the morning of Wednesday, September 30th outlined the details of the 19th edition of the prestigious award, aimed at enhancing and promoting the image of Pozzuoli in the world with the help of personality forming task of real testimonials Flegreo territory.


                                                    Why did the choice fell to these three individuals?

Giuseppe Gaudino, Pozzuoli Doc, starring in recent weeks of the film “For Your Sake.” The theater director Franco Dragone, the genius of Cirque du Soleil, has exported abroad sophisticated talent from Campania with a cumulative audience of more than 85 million people. And finally, the astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti, Neapolitan by adoption for fundamental formative years spent at the Academy Force Academy and Federico II; a woman who this past January moved us devoting time to the disappearance of Pino Daniele via a photograph of the Gulf of Pozzuoli, taken from the International Space Station. In short, a trio of excellent awards recipients who serve as ambassadors of the artistic heritage, landscape and culture of Pozzuoli in the world.  Names sure to be added to the long list of personalities transformed over time in the face of the Civitas Award, range from Sophia Loren to Tilda Swinton, from Sherman to Dante Ferretti.


So begins the countdown to the Nineteenth Edition of the Civitas Award which points to the stars of space, film and theater. Namely: the astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti, the director Giuseppe Gaudino and theater director Franco Dragone. The three will receive the award Sunday, October 4th at the Teatro San Carlo in Naples and not, as is customary, in the ancient Macellum (Temple of Serapis) Pozzuoli, due to bad weather.

franklinchristopher-150227-001The Civitas Award for 2015 consolidates the usual collaboration with the Teatro Santeatro-san-carlo-festa-della-musica Carlo Theater-St-Charles-party-of-the Greatest Neapolitan with music enriching the event by having a special replica of “Don Pasquale” by Gaetano Donizetti drama (1797-1848). On the podium, directing Orchestra and Chorus will be the American Orchestra Director Christopher Franklin, with the historic staging by Roberto De Simone.

schermata-2015-10-02-alle-09-51-24The Civitas Award was created by the artist Lello Lopez who created an original work, inspired by the unique charm of his art: a steel hand covered with a starfish. “I’ve been able to see and photograph, which I must say, is a beautiful work.”

There is a prize that the City of Pozzuoli hosts as well, thanks to Civitas, the fourth edition of Lermontov. Lermontov was established by the Foundation and the Institute of Russian Culture M. Lermontov with the aim of uniting, spiritually and artistically, Italy and Russia. For 2015 the Lermontov prize goes to the Teatro San Carlo. A well-deserved honor and recognition.

Although the event will not take place at Macellum, the Civitas Award is working to create an innovative lighting system installed in the historic site.

AN IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT – During the last year there were many who point out that, after theschermata-2015-10-02-alle-02-36-46 impressive rally of May 29, 2014, it was unacceptable that the area of ​​the Temple of Serapis continued to continue with conditions of neglect and decay. Today the Civitas Award is working to create an innovative lighting system installed in the Macellum to be donated to the city with the collaboration of the Campania Region, the City of Pozzuoli and Department of Antiquities. “The Civitas Award is aimed at promoting the area away from the tourists – reiterates Paul Lubrano – and this year we allocate a substantial investment in the exploitation of international cultural impact (the responsibility of the Superintendent and now dimly lit thanks to the synergy of the City – Ed.)” We have opened a discussion with the bodies involved in order to have all permits and conclude the process as soon as possible – continues Lubrano – The goal is to succeed in December this year. Through the lighting fixtures to LED source, ensuring sustainable lighting, we will redesign the character of the original archaeological site, highlighting the features and points currently in the shadow of the Macellum.” The installation is signed off by the lighting designer Filippo Cannata, who adds:” I expected a light that was not the evening dress of the monument but that could express a concept of beauty, capable of bringing out the hidden image from time to citizens and tourists, as strong flow of attraction. “

Kathy Kiefer

by sure-com America

Special thanks to the blogger Alessandro Sicuro, and Sara dal Monte


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Sculpture is the branch of the visual arts that operates in three dimensions. It is one of the plastic arts. Durable sculptural processes originally used carving (the removal of material) and modelling (the addition of material, as clay), in stone, metal, ceramics, wood and other materials but, since modernism, shifts in sculptural process led to an almost complete freedom of materials and process. A wide variety of materials may be worked by removal such as carving, assembled by welding or modelling, or molded, or cast.

Painting taken literally is the practice of applying pigment suspended in a vehicle (or medium) and a binding agent (a glue) to a surface (support) such as paper, canvas, wood panel or a wall. However, when used in an artistic sense it means the use of this activity in combination with drawing, composition and other aesthetic considerations in order to manifest the expressive and conceptual intention of the practitioner. Painting is also used to express spiritual motifs and ideas; sites of this kind of painting range from artwork depicting mythological figures on pottery to The Sistine Chapel to the human body itself.

Color is the essence of painting as sound is of music. Colour is highly subjective, but has observable psychological effects, although these can differ from one culture to the next. Black is associated with mourning in the West, but elsewhere white may be. Some painters, theoreticians, writers and scientists, including Goethe, Kandinsky, and Newton, have written their own color theory. Moreover, the use of language is only an abstraction for a colour equivalent. The word “red”, for example, can cover a wide range of variations on the pure red of the spectrum. There is not a formalized register of different colours in the way that there is agreement on different notes in music, such as C or C#, although the Pantone system is widely used in the printing and design industry for this purpose.

Modern artists have extended the practice of painting considerably to include, for example, collage. This began with Cubism and is not painting in strict sense. Some modern painters incorporate different materials such as sand, cement, straw or wood for their texture. Examples of this are the works of Jean Dubuffet or Anselm Kiefer. Modern and contemporary art has moved away from the historic value of craft in favor of concept; this has led some to say that painting, as a serious art form, is dead, although this has not deterred the majority of artists from continuing to practice it either as whole or part of their work.

Literature is literally described as an “acquaintance with letters”. The noun “literature” comes from the Latin word littera meaning “an individual written character (letter)”. The term has generally come to identify a collection of writings, which in Western culture are mainly prose, drama and poetry. In much, if not all of the world, the artistic linguistic expression can be oral as well, and include such genres as epic, legend, myth, ballad, other forms of oral poetry, and as folktale. Literary arts and creative writing are interchangeable terms.

Comics, the combination of drawings or other visual arts with narrating literature, are often called the “ninth art” (le neuvième art) in Francophone scholarship.

Performing arts comprise dance, music, theatre, opera, mime, and other art forms in which a human performance is the principal product. Performing arts are distinguished by this performance element, in contrast with disciplines such as visual and literary arts where the product is an object that does not require a performance to be observed and experienced.   Each discipline in the performing arts is temporal in nature, meaning the product is performed over a period of time.[7] Products are broadly categorized as being either repeatable (for example, by script or score) or improvised for each performance. Artists who participate in these arts in front of an audience are called performers, including actors, magicians, comedians, dancers, musicians and singers.   Performing arts are also supported by the services of other artists or essential workers, such as songwriting and stagecraft. Performers often adapt their appearance, with costumes and stage makeup, etc.

Performance art is a specialized form of fine art in which the artists perform their work live to an audience.

Music is an art form whose medium is sound. Common elements of music are pitch (which governs melody and harmony), rhythm (and its associated concepts tempo, meter, and articulation), dynamics, and the sonic qualities of timbre and texture. The creation, performance, significance, and even the definition of music vary according to culture and social context. Music ranges from strictly organized compositions (and their reproduction in performance), through improvisational music to aleatoric forms. Music can be divided into genres and subgenres, although the dividing lines and relationships between music genres are often subtle, sometimes open to individual interpretation, and occasionally controversial. Within “the arts”, music may be classified as a performance art, a fine art, and auditory art

Theatre or theater is the branch of the performing arts concerned with acting out stories in front of an audience using combinations of speech, gesture, music, dance, sound and spectacle – indeed any one or more elements of the other performing arts. In addition to the standard narrative dialogue style, theatre takes such forms as opera, ballet, mime, kabuki, classical Indian dance, Chinese and mummers’ plays.

Dance generally refers to human movement either used as a form of expression or presented in a social, spiritual or performance setting. Dance was often referred to as a “plastic art” during the modern dance era. Dance is also used to describe methods of non-verbal communication between humans or animals (bee dance, mating dance), motion in inanimate objects (the leaves danced in the wind), and certain musical forms or genres. Choreography is the art of making dances, and the person who does this is called a choreographer. People dance to relieve stress. Definitions of what constitutes dance are dependent on social, cultural, aesthetic, artistic and moral constraints and range from functional movement to codified, virtuoso techniques such as ballet. In sports, gymnastics, figure skating and synchronized swimming are dance disciplines while Martial arts ‘kata’ are often compared to dances.

Gastronomy is the study of the relationship between culture and food. It is often thought erroneously that the term gastronomy refers exclusively to the art of cooking, but this is only a small part of this discipline; it cannot always be said that a cook is also a gourmet. Gastronomy studies various cultural components with food as its central axis. Thus it is related to the Fine Arts and Social Sciences, and even to the Natural Sciences in terms of human nutritious activity and digestive function.

Kathy Kiefer


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(Children must be heard)


schermata-2016-05-03-alle-18-53-00The Federico Heart Association (Federiconelcuore) expresses bewilderment about the initiative  to hold a study day entitled “Children who refuse to meet a parent,” which will take place May 5, 2016 at the Auditorium  in Florence.
In the presentation, it reads that the event will be entirely dedicated to the “problem of minors who, in the course of a judicial separation between the parents, refuse to meet with one of the parents”, the phenomenon defined by the organizers “Parental Alienation”. The parental or parental alienation is a pseudo-scientific theoretical construct that seeks to attribute the behavior of a child who refuses to meet one of the