Thursday, 24 December 2009

Merry Christmas To All Our Readers


Christmas Eve

Christmas 2009
Each day from 1 December to today we have included one article devoted to a subject connected with Christmas. In this, the last article in the series, we take a look at Christmas Eve.
Christmas Eve, December 24, is the morning, day, and night before Christmas Day, which celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ. It is a culturally significant celebration for most of Christianity; however, it is also celebrated by secular people and is a national holiday in many countries of the world.

Many Roman Catholics and Anglicans traditionally celebrate a midnight Mass (Eucharist) which begins either at or sometime before midnight which is held in churches throughout the world, marks the beginning of Christmas Day.
A popular joke is to ask what time Midnight Mass starts, but in recent years some churches have scheduled their "Midnight" Mass as early as 7 p.m. In Spanish-speaking areas, the Midnight Mass is sometimes referred to as Misa del Gallo, or "Missa do Galo", in Portuguese ("Rooster's Mass"). In the Philippines, this custom lasts for nine days, starting on December 16 and continuing daily up to December 24, during which Filipinos attend dawn masses, usually starting at around 4:00-5:00 a.m.
Lutherans often carry on Christmas Eve traditions typical for Germany and Scandinavia. "Krippenspiele" (nativity plays), special festive music for organ, vocal and brass choirs and candlelight services make Christmas Eve one of the highlights in the Lutheran Church calendar. Christmas Vespers are popular in the early evening, and midnight services are also widespread in regions which are predominately Lutheran. The old Lutheran tradition of a Christmas Vigil in the early morning hours of the 25th of December (Christmette) can still be found in some regions of Germany. In eastern and middle Germany many congregations still continue the tradition of "Quempas singing": separate groups dispersed in various parts of the church sing verses of the song "He whom Shepherds once came Praising" (Quem pastores) responsively.
Methodists celebrate the evening in different ways. Some, in the early evening, come to their church to celebrate Holy Communion with their families. The mood is very solemn, and often the only visible light is the Advent Wreath, and the candles upon the Lord's Table. Others celebrate the evening with services of light, which often include singing the song "Silent Night" as a variety of candles (including personal candles) are lit. Other churches have late evening services at 11 pm, so that the church can celebate Christmas Day together with the ringing of bells at 12 am. Others offer Christmas Day services as well. Each church is welcome to celebrate Christmas Eve evening and Christmas Day in their own special way.
The Nine Lessons and carols broadcast annually from King's College, Cambridge on Christmas Eve has established itself as one of the signs that Christmas has begun in the United Kingdom. It is broadcasted to many parts of the world via the BBC World Service.
Other churches also hold a candlelight service, which is also typically held earlier in the evening; these often feature dramatizations of the Nativity. Similar worship services are held in many Protestant churches on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.

In Poland, traditional Christmas Eve meals include one or more of the following foods: Golabki filled with Kasza Pierogi, Borscht, fish soup, carp, and pickled Herring. Krupnik is sometimes drunk after dinner.
In the Czech Republic and Slovakia, the meal features a fish soup and breaded roasted carp with potato salad. Italian Catholics eat seven types of seafood. In some parts of Eastern Europe such as Poland and Lithuania, a traditional meatless 12-dishes Christmas Eve Supper is se
rved before opening gifts. Cubans, Dominicans, and Puerto Ricans serve roast pork (pernil).
A symbolic Christmas Eve meal used to be a common Eastern Orthodox tradition in the Russian Empire, but today it has become virtually extinct in Russia as a result of the official atheism of the former Soviet Union; though it continues to be popular in Ukraine.
On Christmas Eve in Bulgaria, the meal consists of an odd number of lenten dishes in compliance with the rules of fasting. They usually are the traditional sarma, bod chorba (bean soup), fortune pita (pastry with a fortune in it), stuffed
peppers, nuts. The meal is often accompanied with wine or Bulgaria's traditional alcoholic beverage rakia.
By the Christmas traditions of the Serbs, this festive meal is copious and diverse in foods, although it is prepared in accordance with the rules of fasting. Besides a round, unleavened loaf of bread and salt, which are necessary, this meal may comprise e.g. roast fish, cooked beans, sauerkraut, noodles with ground walnuts, honey, and wine.
In France and some other French-speaking areas, a long family dinner, called a reveillon, is held on Christmas Eve. The name of this dinner is based on the word réveil (meaning "waking"), because participation involves staying awake until midnight and beyond.
Réveillons is generally of an exceptional or luxurious nature. For instance, appetizers may include lobster, oysters, escargots or foie-gras, etc. One traditional dish is turkey with chestnuts. Réveillons in Quebec will often include some variety of tourtiere. Dessert may consist of a buche
de Noel. In Provence, the tradition of the 13 desserts is followed: 13 desserts are served, almost invariably including: pompe à l'huile (a flavoured bread), dates, etc. Quality wine is usually consumed a such dinners, often with champagne or similar sparkling wines as a conclusion.
In Germany, traditions vary from region to region. Carp is eaten in many parts of the country. Potato salad with frankfurter or wiener sausages is popular in some families. Another simple meal which some families favour, especially in regions where Christmas Eve still has the character of a fast day, is vegetable or pea soup. In some regions, especially in Schles-wig

Holstein where Danish influence is noticeable, a roasted duck or goose filled with plums, apples and raisins is family tradition. In other regions, especially in Mecklenburg and Pomerania, many families prefer kale with boiled potatoes, special sausages and ham. Many families have developed new traditions for themselves and eat such meals as meat fondue or raclette. In almost all families in all parts of Germany you find a wide variety of Christmas cookies baked according to recipes typical for the family and the region. In many families more than one kind of meat is served. The meat is served with gravy, boiled potatoes, sugar glazed potatoes and red cabbage. For dessert a rice and almond pudding with cherry sauce is served. A whole almond is hidden in the pudding. The person who gets the almond wins a small gift.
In the Republic of Macedonia and Bulgaria, a coin is concealed in a bread loaf and the host breaks a piece of the loaf at the dinner table for each member of the household: it is believed that the one who gets the piece of bread with the coin will be fortunate in the forthcoming year. The dinner is according to the rules of fasting: fish, baked beans, sauerkraut, walnuts and red wine are common. The dessert may consist of apples and dried fruits: plums, dates, figs. The table is usually not cleared after the dinner and until the next morning, to leave some food for the holly spirits - a custom which probably comes from pagan pre-Christian times.

Christmas Eve is also seen as the night when Santa Claus (or some variant thereof) makes his rounds delivering gifts to good children. In the Czech Republic, Romania and Hungary, where St. Nicholas (sveti Mikuláš) gives his sweet gifts on December 6th, the Christmas gift-giver is the Child Jesus (Jezisek in Czech,Jézuska in Hungarian and Ježiško in Slovakia), also known to most as Christkind. In Argentina, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Quebec, Romania, Uraguay, and Sweden, Christmas presents are opened mostly on the evening of the 24th, - this is also the tradition among the British Royal Family, due to their mainly German ancestry - while in Italy, the United States, the United Kingdom, Ireland, English Canada, South Africa,
New Zealand and Australia mostly on the morning of Christmas Day. In Finland Joulupukki and in Sweden Jultomten personally meets children and gives presents in the evening of Christmas Eve. In most parts of Germany, Austria, and Switzerland Christmas presents are opened in the evening of December 24 ('Bescherung') and are brought by Christkindor Christchild (or alternatively by the Weihnachtsmann), who leaves the gifts but is never seen doing so. In Spain gifts are traditionally opened on the morning of January 6, Epiphany day ("Día de Los Tres Reyes Magos"), though in some other countries, like Argentina and Uruguay people received presents both around Christmas and on the morning of Epiphany day; there are also some countries, like the rest of Latin America, where people stay awake until midnight, when they open the presents. In the Netherlands gift giving on Christmas Day is a fairly new phenomenon, because of the Dutch celebration of Sinterklaas on December 5.

Today's Smile

Who Am I?

The answer to Wednesday's Who Am I? puzzle

Holly Willoughby

Polar Bears

The polar bear (Ursus maritimus) is a bear native largely within the Arctic Circle encompassing the Arctic Ocean, its surrounding seas and surrounding land masses. It is the world's largest carnivore species found on land. It is also the largest bear, together with the omnivore Kodiac bear which is approximately the same size. An adult male weighs around 350–680 kg (770–1,500 lb), while an adult female is about half that size. Although it is closely related to the brown bear, it has evolved to occupy a narrow ecological niche, with many body characteristics adapted for cold temperatures, for moving across snow, ice, and open water, and for hunting the seals which make up most of its diet. Although most polar bears are born on land, it spends most of its time at sea, hence its name meaning "maritime bear", and can hunt consistently only from sea ice, spending much of the year on the frozen sea.
The polar bear is classified as a vulnerable species, with 5 of the 19 polar bear subpopulations in decline. For decades, unrestricted hunting raised international concern for the future of the species; populations have rebounded after controls and quotas began to take effect. For thousands of years, the polar bear has been a key figure in the material, spiritual, and cultural life of Arctic indigenous
peoples, and the hunting of polar bears remains important in their cultures.
The IUCN now lists global waming as the most significant threat to the polar bear, primarily because the melting of its sea ice habitat reduces its ability to find sufficient food. The IUCN states, "If climatic trends continue polar bears may become extirpated from most of their range within 100 years." On 14 May 2008, the United States Department of the Interior listed the polar bear as a threatened species under the Endangered Speices Act.
Being both curious animals and scavengers, polar bears investigate and consume garbage where they come into contact with humans. Polar bears may attempt to consume almost anything they can find, including hazardous substances such as strofoam, plastic, car batteries, ethylene glycol, hydraulic fluid, and motor oil. The dump in Churchill, Manitoba was closed in 2006 to protect bears, and waste is now recycled or transported to Thompson, Manitoba. To see just how far polar bears have come in integrating with humans take a look at the picture below: