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  • Writer's pictureAnne Hartley

Cold Weather Holidays

Hello readers, well we have come through Halloween, Thanksgiving and fall is over and winter is here with Christmas just around the corner, and a New Year approaches.

The winter solstice marks the first day of winter, ushering in months of cold weather and winter holidays. The winter solstice will be Thursday, Dec. 21, 2023, marking the first day of winter. The winter solstice marks the shortest day and longest night of the year, according to the National Weather Service. But don't worry, as the days go by, the amount of sunlight increases while the darkness decreases. With the colder weather, snow, ice and harsh wintery winds riding a motorcycle is not always a good option but there are still outdoor activities that are fun. Like: ice skating, kick back in an outdoor hot tub, stargazing, take a wintry hike, have an epic snowball fight, build a snowman, go sledding, hit the slopes, go snowshoeing. But there are still going to be those of us that will continue to ride motorcycles as long as there is no snow and ice on the roadways. This is a time of year to go to holiday parties with friends and family. We tend to think of winter as a time of rest, hibernation, and quiet. But a look at the calendar reveals many holidays around the world that prove this impression entirely wrong. The cold months are clearly a popular time for parties and celebrations. While some are filled with solemn tradition, others focus on fun and frolic. All pose opportunities for interesting and real-life lessons in geography, culture, history, and religion. Here is a list of a few popular traditions celebrated during winter holidays around the world.

Hanukkah: For eight days each November or December, Jews light a special candle holder called a menorah. They do it to remember an ancient miracle in which one day’s worth of oil burned for eight days in the temple. During Hanukkah, many Jews also eat special potato pancakes called latkes, sing songs, and spin a top called a dreidel to win chocolate coins, nuts, or raisins.

Three Kings Day: At the end of the Twelve Days of Christmas comes a day called Epiphany, or Three Kings Day. This holiday is celebrated as the day the three wise men first saw baby Jesus and brought him gifts. On this day in Spain, many children get their Christmas presents. In Puerto Rico, before children go to sleep on January 5, they leave a box with hay under their beds so the kings will leave good presents. In France, a delicious King cake is baked. Bakers will hide a coin, jewel, or little toy inside.

St. Nicholas Day: A popular December holiday in many European countries, St. Nicholas Day, celebrates St. Nicholas of Myra, the man whose life inspired the tradition of Santa Claus and Father Christmas. He gave all of his money to the needy and was known for his compassion for children and all those in need. The holiday honors the man on the anniversary of his death, December 6, 343 A.D. Many celebrate with parades, feasts, gift giving, and festivals.

Christmas: People celebrate this Christian holiday by going to church, giving gifts, and sharing the day with their families. In some parts of Europe, “star singers” go caroling—singing special Christmas songs—as they walk behind a huge star on a pole. The Christmas festivities in Ireland tend to be more religious in nature rather than being about gifts. Christmas celebrations last from Christmas Eve until January 6 (Epiphany). On December 26, known as St. Stephen’s Day, an Irish tradition that is known as the Wren Boys Procession takes place. Children go from door to door singing, holding a stick that is topped by a holly bush and a wren. They ask for money for the “starving wren,” which goes into their pockets. In ancient times, a real wren was killed and fastened to the stick, but today fake wrens are used. The Christmas Eve festivities in the Ukraine are known as Sviata Vechera, which means “Holy Supper.” The celebration begins when the first evening star is sighted in the night sky. In farming communities, the household head brings in a sheaf of wheat, which symbolizes the wheat crops of Ukraine. It is called “didukh,” which translates to “grandfather spirit.” In homes within the city, a few stalks of wheat may be used to decorate the table.

New Year: In Ecuador, families dress a straw man in old clothes on December 31. The straw man represents the old year. The family members make a will for the straw man that lists all of their faults. At midnight, they burn the straw man, in hopes that their faults will disappear with him.

Mardi Gras: The time of Lent is a solemn one of reflection for Christians, so the Tuesday before Lent begins is a time of merry-making for many people around the world. In New Orleans, people wear costumes and attend huge parades for the festival of Mardi Gras. Brazil’s Carnival also features parades, costumes, and music. This day is also known as Shrove Tuesday. In England, some towns have pancake contests in which women run a race while flipping a pancake at least three times. Mardi Gras usually occurs in February or March, 47 days prior to Easter.

Useless Facts about Winter:

1. You can hear thundersnow if the conditions are right.

2. Snowflakes fall at a rate of 1 to 6 feet per second.

3. The snowiest city on Earth is in Japan.

4. Wet snow is best for snowman-building.

5. According to the Guinness World Records, on January 28, 1887, a snowflake 15 inches wide and 8 inches thick fell in Fort Keogh, Montana, making it the largest snowflake ever observed.

6. The average snowflake falls at about 3 mph.

7. While the winter solstice is the shortest day of the year, seasonal lag means that the coldest period usually follows the solstice by a few weeks.

8. The most snow ever recorded in 24 hours in the United States was at Silver Lake, Colorado, in 1921 at 76 inches. Coming in second is Georgetown, Colorado, in December 4, 1913, at 63 inches.


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