December 31 - New Year's Eve

Posted on December 31, 2020

This is an updated re-publishing of my 12/31/2009 post:

New Year's Eve!


Festival Day!

Whatever you call it, this is the last day of the year, according to the widely-used Gregorian calendar. For some, it is a day to clean and get ready for the New Year, and for others, it is a day of feasting and festivities. In 2020, celebrations will almost surely have to change because of the global pandemic, but let's check out the usual 

Montserrat is a Caribbean island, and today is one of the most important days of the Festival season (which is like the Carnival or Mardi Gras celebrations that occur in February or March in other nations). Festival Day (December 31) is the day of the Festival Troupe competition. For several weeks, there have been masquerades and music and competitions to select the Festival Queen and King. On January 1 there is a parade of all the troupes in the competition.

In ScotlandHogmanay is characterized by “first-footing,” which means visiting people with gifts of food and drink immediately after midnight. The gifts are supposed to be symbolic of luck for the coming year.

A lot of Hogmanay customs involve lights and fire. Fireball swinging is described on Wikipedia:

WARNING: Don't try this at home!

"This involves local people making up 'balls' of chicken wire filled with old newspaper, dried sticks, old cotton rags, and other dry flammable material up to a diameter of 61 cm. Each ball has 2 m of wire, chain or nonflammable rope attached. As the Old Town House bell sounds to mark the new year, the swingers set off up the High Street... swinging their burning ball around their head as they go for as many times as they and their fireball last. At the end of the ceremony any fireballs that are still burning are cast into the harbour."

Wikipedia reports that the 2007/2008 Hogmanay event was attended by 12,000 people, and that the event is now streamed live over the Internet. Presumably that includes the musical acts before the fireball swinging, and the fireworks after!

In JapanOmisoka is marked by the year's biggest housecleaning followed by the year's biggest dinner. At midnight, many families visit a Shinto shrine, where large cast bells are struck 108 times (to represent the 108 earthly desires that cause human suffering).

In the U.S., New Year's Eve often involves parties and fireworks and shows on New Year's Eve. Some of the most popular spots to enjoy these things remain Times Square in Manhattan, NYC, Las Vegas, and Disneyland.

Kids' New Year

Sparkling apple cider
, noisemakers, streamers, confetti, and maybe even a midnight balloon drop are great fun for kids who aren't normally allowed to stay up until midnight!

Here are some ideas for making a balloon drop.

An idea from a parent is unrolling bubble wrap on a hardwood floor and jumping onto it at midnight.

Some parents celebrate the New Year at someone else's midnight. For example, with a countdown-to-midnight and ball-drop televised from New York City airing at 10 p.m. Mountain Time and 9 p.m. Pacific Time, kids can experience the excitement of the New Year but still get a full night's sleep.

New Year's Fortunes, Predictions, and Resolutions

Another warning: Make sure everybody "gets" that fortunes and predictions are just for fun, no magic at all...

Write fun fortunes and tuck them between layers of a cake, with curling ribbon sticking out all around the cake so family members or friends can pull out a random fortune. Or play magnet-fish with the paper-clipped fortunes being the fish. Fortune cookies or simply drawing fortunes out of a bowl are some other possibilities.

It can be fun to make predictions for the coming year. Consider tucking away the predictions until New Year's Eve next year—then you can check and see how many of your predictions came true.

Finally, write some New Year's resolutions. Try to be realistic and specific, and it will be much easier to fulfill your resolutions!

December 30 - Rizal Day in the Philippines

Posted on December 30, 2020

This post is an update of my 12.30.2009 post:

José Rizal is a national hero in the Philippines, and the anniversary of his death is marked by a public holiday.

Rizal was a writer who worked for freedom of his country from Spanish rule by institutional reforms and peaceful means. When the Spanish rulers executed him, however, he ended up inspiring the Filipino revolution that ended in their secession from the Spanish empire.

The Philippines is made up of many islands. And when I say "many islands" - I mean that there are more than 7,100 of them!

(Unfortunately, the Filipinos were not yet free and independent; instead, Spain ceded the country to the U.S., and Filipinos had to continue their struggle for independence against a new ruler.)

Rizal is considered a “polyglot,” which means that he could speak many languages—ten, to be exact. He is also considered a “polymath,” which means that he was learned in many areas. (You can probably tell that poly- means many.)

Rizal studied surveying, medicine and philosophy and earned degrees—including two doctorates!—in Manila (Philippines), Spain, France, and Germany. He was an ophthalmologist, sculptor, painter, educator, farmer, historian, playwright, journalist, poet, and novelist, and he dabbled in architecture, cartography, economics, ethnology, anthropology, sociology, linguistics, dramatics, martial arts, fencing, and pistol shooting!!! (Source: Wikipedia.)

His last words

Rizal was idealistic and dignified even through his military trial and martyrdom. He wrote a poem on the last day of his life, and he hid it in the stove in his prison cell, knowing the stove would be given to his family. In front of his guards, but in English, Rizal told his sisters, “There is something inside it,” thereby ensuring that the poem would be found.

The poem was untitled, but many refer to it as “Mi último adiós,” or “My Last Farewell.” According to Wikipedia, it could be the most translated patriotic “goodbye” in the world:
“Aside from the 35 English versions and interpretations into 46 Filipino languages, this poem has been translated into at least 38 other languages: Indonesian, Bengali, Bulgarian, Burmese, Chinese, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Fijian, French, German, Greek, Hawaiian, Hebrew, Hindi, Hungarian, Igbo, Italian, Japanese, Javanese, Korean, Latin, Māori, Norwegian, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Sanskrit, Sinhalese, Somali, Tahitian, Thai, Tongan, Turkish, Urdu, Vietnamese, Wolof, and Yoruba.” 

Celebrate the Philippines, and Rizal! 

Download and print some coloring pages about the Philippines.

Do Filipino-inspired crafts. There are four ideas here.

Languages of the Philippines

Just growing up in the Philippines, you get to be a bit of a polyglot. That's because there are two official languages (Filipino and English), at least 8 other “co-official” languages, and about 170 languages altogether!

For more than 300 years, Spanish was the official language of the country. When free public schools were mandated in 1863, they were taught in Spanish, and when Jose Rizal was writing his works in Spanish, it was spoken by 60% of the population (as their first, second, or third language). After the Spanish-American war, when America occupied the Philippines and imposed English as an official language, Spanish gradually declined. (Source: Wikipedia)

Some of the important regional languages are Bikol, Cebuano, Hiligaynon, Ilokano, Kapampangan, Kinaray-a, Maguindanao, Maranao, Pangasinan, Tausug, and Waray-Waray. Tagalog is the regional language that is the basis for the official language, Filipino.

Listen to some Tagalog phrases at this website.

December 29 - Anniversary of Texas's Statehood

Posted on December 29, 2020

This is an update of my December 29, 2009 post:

On this date in 1845, Texas became th
e 28th state of the U.S. The name Texas comes from the Caddo Indian word teysha, which means “hello, friend.”

The phrase “
six flags over Texas” hints at Texas's complex (we might even say “messy”) history:

Can you figure out which of the flags listed
below is which flag in the picture above?
1. Confederate States of America
2. France
3. Mexico

4. (Independent) Republic of Texas

6. United States of America

(Answers below)

Notice that there was no flag from the original inhabitants, the Caddo Indi
ans and other Indian groups. This backs the point that comedian Eddie Izzard once made: Europe stole countries “with the cunning use of flags.”*

Take a quiz to see how much you know about Texas.

1) Texas is the ______ state in the U.S.

a. largest
b. second largest

c. third largest
2) Texas's official nickname is _________.
a. the Bluebonnet State
b. the Longhorn State
c. the Lone Star State
3) The Alamo (often referred to by the phrase, “Remember the Alamo!”) was the site of _____.
a) a victory of Mexican troops against Spain
b) a victory of Mexican troops 
against white “Texians”
c) a victory of white “Texians” against Mexico
4) The largest city in Texas is ________.
a) Houston
b) Dallas

c) Austin
5) One of the most important aspects of the Texan economy is _______.
a) cattle
b) wheat

c) oil
6) Which of these U.S. presidents were born in Texas?
a) Dwight D. Eisenhower
b) Lyndon B. Johnson

c) George W. Bush

d) “a” and “b” above

e) “b” and “c” above

f) all of the above


SIX FLAGS: From left to right, 5, 2, 6, 4, 1, 3

TEXAS TRIVIA: 1.b - 2.c - 3.b - 4.a - 5.c - 6.d

* Warning: Eddie Izzard is very funny but uses some curse words in his act.

Texas has a reputation for everything BIG!

Big state, big (unobstructed) sky, big ranches and cars and hairdos and money and ev
en hurricanes.

So, of course, there has to be some big art, too! Monumental land art (also called “earthworks”) is an art form that is large-scale and involves a sizable chunk of land. There are several pieces of monumental art in Texas. 

One is the Amarillo Ramp (a curved, almost fully circular ramp). 

Another is Cadillac Ranch. Cadillac Ranch features ten “Caddies” that are half buried in the ground. If you go see the sculpture, take a can or two of spray paint—because viewers are invited to participate with the art by putting their names, initials, or inspiring messages on the cars.

Above, the making of Cadillac Ranch

Below, generations of folks have left
their mark on this amazing art piece!

Isn't this tribute to Cadillac Ranch gorgeous???
It's called Electric Renaissance, and I have to
admit that it isn't located in Texas; it's in Nevada...

Plan your own monumental art piece. If you had a lot of money and land for land art, what would you create? Draw your plan.

Celebrate Texas!

Color a Texan flag, state flower, or map.

Take a virtual tour of Texas landmarks, or two tours, or seven! 

Learn to talk like a Texan.