Debate settled: This is the right time to put up your Christmas tree

Published: Tuesday, October 31, 2017 @ 11:05 AM

At least one of these timing traditions is bound to work for you Don't put up the tree before Thanksgiving Put up the tree for 12 days beginning mid-December and take it down right after Christmas Stick with the original Christmas Tree timeline of Albert and his German forebears and go with Christmas Eve The Aussie approach recommends not putting up the tree before December Italian Christmas traditions begin on December 8 with the Feast of the Immaculate Conception As for the latest time to put up the tre

While it may never reach the level of controversy of how to hang the toilet paper roll or which way to load the dishwasher, the right time to put up the Christmas tree is a heavily-debated household topic.

There are answers to this question that depend on everything from Prince Albert to the opinion of tree growers to something called Adelaide Pageant Day.

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Whether you're undecided on the best time to put up your Christmas tree or are merely looking for reinforcement for your preferred date, at least one of these timing traditions is bound to work for you:

(Contributed by Johnny Miller/MarthaStewart.com/For the AJC)

Forbidding the tree before turkeys

The ultimate etiquette authority, Miss Manners, doesn't specify when you should put up the tree, but does note succinctly that it isn't done before Thanksgiving.

The nouveau 12 days of Christmas approach

In days of yore, the 12 days of Christmas started with Christmas Day and wrapped up on January 6, also known as the Feast of the Epiphany. Apartment Therapy suggests a more modern 12 Days of Christmas tree strategy, putting up the tree for around 12 days beginning in mid-December and taking it down right after Christmas.

This dovetails nicely with advice from the British Christmas Tree Growers Association, which noted in The Telegraph that while it's cool to buy live trees from December 1 onwards, the middle of the festive season, around the third week of Advent, is a good compromise between putting the tree up immediately and waiting for Christmas Eve.

Prince Albert is credited with introducing the Christmas Tree in Victorian England in the 1840s, replicating the tradition from his German childhood. This illustration from the time shows him and Queen Victoria with their family Christmas tree.(Contributed/For the AJC)

Prince Albert

Queen Victoria's husband, Prince Albert, is widely heralded as the man who lit up the Victorian Christmas tree tradition in the 1840s, bringing it to Britain from his native Germany. If you want to stick with the original Christmas Tree timeline of Albert and his German forebears, go with Christmas Eve. 

The Aussie approach

According to Monash University religious diversity professor Gary Bouma in The Age, the established guideline in Australia is not to put up the tree before December, but not everyone abides by it.

By "not everyone," he may mean the full 14 percent of Be a Fun Mum blog readers, who said they put up the tree in early November. They did restrain themselves until after something known as Adelaide Pageant Day, the second Saturday of November. And they are in solidarity with the Fun Mum herself, who says she put her tree up in early November because, "My mum always did. I love Christmas and like to string it out."

Viva Italiana

You may be leaning towards putting the tree up the first week of December anyhow, but this Italian tradition provides a godd reason for it. According to Italy Magazine, Italian Christmas traditions begin on December 8 with the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, a date set in the Catholic calendar in 1476 by Pope Sixtus IV.

Since December 8 is a public holiday and most Italians get the day off, it has become the day when many of them put up their Christmas trees and other holiday decor.

According to WalesOnline, some people put up their Christmas tree the same day they start Advent, four Sundays before Christmas.(Contributed by WalesOnline.com/For the AJC)

The final word on when to put up your tree

Assuming your own family tradition isn't already firmly in place, Southern Living gets the last word on the best time to put up the Christmas tree. That's because the ultimate authorities on Southern taste on all things mayo and wicker are also so darn sensible and inclusive on this topic: "We pass no judgement, but here are the times for when to put up your Christmas decorations. Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, is the earliest that you should set up a Christmas tree or put up Christmas-specific decorations."

The reason you shouldn't do it earlier? "It is inconsiderate for your beautiful tree to steal the thunder from your big turkey dinner."

As for the latest time to put up the tree, that would be Christmas Eve, a nod to bygone, less holiday-crazed times.

Hanukkah 2017: 8 things you probably didn't know about Hanukkah

Published: Sunday, November 05, 2017 @ 4:25 PM

Here are some interesting things you probably didn't know about Hanukkah The Hebrew word is "חֲנֻכָּה" The word Hanukkah translates to "dedication" Hanukkah celebrates how they reclaimed their temple in Jerusalem and rededicated it to the God of Jewish tradition The books of Maccabees are the ones that describe the retaking of the holy land The game of dreidel was inspired an Irish one The next "Thanksgivukkah" is only 53 years away

If everything you know about Hanukkah comes from an Adam Sandler song, you are not alone.

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There are a many Americans out there whose only real knowledge on the subject is that Hanukkah, which will be celebrated between the evening of Dec. 12 to evening of Dec. 2, is a festival of lights and that, instead of one day of presents, the Jewish community gets the joy of eight nights of gifts.

There's much more to know about Hanukkah than that, though.

Here are some interesting things you probably didn't know about Hanukkah:

1. How to spell it

If, when the subject of Hanukkah comes up, you become nervous and uncertain because you don't know whether to go with H-A-N-U-K-K-A-H or C-H-A-N-U-K-A-H or whether it's two K's or one. Here’s the deal: you probably aren't wrong. The Hebrew word is "חֲנֻכָּה" and when people transliterate that word into something English, they sometimes go with C-H and sometimes go with just an H, both of which are approximate the guttural "kh" sound that starts the Hebrew word. So, if you like keeping things easy, start with the H. 

2. What did we just spell?

The word Hanukkah, by the way, translates to "dedication."

3. What the dedication was all about

A brief history lesson: In 164 BC, the land Jewish people consider "the Holy Land" was ruled by a group that today would comprise parts of Syria and Greece. They wanted the people of Israel to assimilate, but a small band of Jews (led by a fellow named Judah the Maccabee) won a battle, reclaimed their temple in Jerusalem and rededicated it to the God of Jewish tradition.

4. Why, if it's about temple dedications, are there ‘eight crazy nights,’ as Sandler puts it?

Because, as legend has it, when the temple dedication team went to light the temple's menorah, they found only enough olive oil to last one day. Miraculously, that supply lasted eight whole days. And thus, Hanukkah was born.

5. Is it really about the oil lasting eight nights? 

Maybe not. Other Jewish texts suggest that it wasn't the oil burning for eight days, but rather a delay in regularly scheduled programming that brought about the modern eight-day Hanukkah tradition. Because the Jewish people of Israel were still in caves fighting during September 164 BC, they didn't get to celebrate the eight-day-long holiday of Sukkot. The event was postponed until after the Jewish guerrillas won back Jerusalem and reclaimed the temple. Then, the event was back on, and thus Hanukkah was born.

6. The books that describe all of these events aren't in the Hebrew bible.

The books of Maccabees are the ones that describe the retaking of the holy land. And they aren't even in the traditional Hebrew bible. But they are in the Catholic bible. So, there's that.

Right to left, Alex Brown, 11, Gabriel Brown, 11 and Eli Cox, 9, play the dreidel game, a traditional Hanukkah game, at the Dreidel Tournament held at Recycled Reads in 2013.(Erika Rich)

7. The game of dreidel was inspired an Irish one.

Besides the menorah, nothing is associated with the holiday traditions of Hanukkah quite like the dreidel. But few realize that the game itself comes from Ireland. Originally, the four sided tops were painted with Latin words. The game dates to an era before the Roman empire. As the empire's trade routes expanded, the game spread across Europe and eventually became synonymous with Jewish culture.

8. The next "Thanksgivukkah" (sort of), is only 53 years away.

For those who don't know better, Hanukkah can seem like a Jewish Christmas. But it isn't that at all. Nor, despite its proximity in dates to western holidays, is it some kind of post-Thanksgiving buffer holiday. In fact, Hanukkah moves around. The Jewish calendar relies on lunar months of either 29 or 30 days. But the rest of the world goes on the Gregorian calendar. As a result, Hannukah's start date can fall anywhere between November 27 and December 26 in any given year. The next time we see a Thanksgivukkah? 53 years. The next Christmukkah? 2027.

Bonus burning fact

There is a height limit for menorahs: 20 cubits, and not a cubit more.

Black History Month - how it began

Published: Friday, January 01, 2016 @ 9:08 AM
Updated: Friday, January 01, 2016 @ 9:08 AM

Americans have recognized black history annually since 1926, first as "Negro History Week" and later as "Black History Month." What you might not know is that black history had barely begun to be studied-or even documented-when the tradition originated. Although blacks have been in America at least as far back as colonial times, it was not until the 20th century that they gained a respectable presence in the history books.

Blacks Absent from History Books

We owe the celebration of Black History Month, and more importantly, the study of black history, to Dr. Carter G. Woodson. Born to parents who were former slaves, he spent his childhood working in the Kentucky coal mines and enrolled in high school at age twenty. He graduated within two years and later went on to earn a Ph.D. from Harvard. The scholar was disturbed to find in his studies that history books largely ignored the black American population-and when blacks did figure into the picture, it was generally in ways that reflected the inferior social position they were assigned at the time.

Established Journal of Negro History

Woodson, always one to act on his ambitions, decided to take on the challenge of writing black Americans into the nation's history. He established the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (now called the Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History) in 1915, and a year later founded the widely respected Journal of Negro History. In 1926, he launched Negro History Week as an initiative to bring national attention to the contributions of black people throughout American history.

Woodson chose the second week of February for Negro History Week because it marks the birthdays of two men who greatly influenced the black American population, Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln. However, February has much more than Douglass and Lincoln to show for its significance in black American history. For example:
  • February 23, 1868:
    W. E. B. DuBois, important civil rights leader and co-founder of the NAACP, was born.
  • February 3, 1870:
    The 15th Amendment was passed, granting blacks the right to vote.
  • February 25, 1870:
    The first black U.S. senator, Hiram R. Revels (1822-1901), took his oath of office.
  • February 12, 1909:
    The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) was founded by a group of concerned black and white citizens in New York City.
  • February 1, 1960:
    In what would become a civil-rights movement milestone, a group of black Greensboro, N.C., college students began a sit-in at a segregated Woolworth's lunch counter.
  • February 21, 1965:
    Malcolm X, the militant leader who promoted Black Nationalism, was shot to death by three Black Muslims.

New websites help shoppers find Black Friday deals

Published: Wednesday, November 02, 2011 @ 11:52 AM
Updated: Wednesday, November 02, 2011 @ 11:52 AM

Pittsburgh TV reporter Robin Taylor has checked out three websites that already have Black Friday deals posted, and some deals are available for purchase now.

The websites have “leaked” deals posted and also show how you can save more money with online coupon codes.

Robin went to all three sites and found some interesting holiday specials. Many deals won’t require you to camp out in front of the store.

At www.cyberblackfriday.com we learned Amazon is already selling an LG 42 inch TV for $680, and it comes with a low price guarantee.

Go to Blackfriday.com and you’ll find you can get 5 percent off all toys purchased online by using the right coupon code.

Blackfriday2011.com has a leaked ad from wholesaler BJ’s. On the Friday after Thanksgiving, it’ll be offering a $250 rebate on Asus laptops.

Mapping out your holiday shopping strategy -- could save you money -- because you'll be less likely to fall for impulse buys.

The great pumpkin shortage

Published: Monday, September 19, 2011 @ 7:19 AM
Updated: Monday, September 19, 2011 @ 7:19 AM

Blame Hurricane Irene for the Great Pumpkin Shortage of 2011.

The northeast may be pressed for Jack-O-Lanterns this Halloween.  Farmers' pumpkin patches were wiped out by Irene.  Wholesale prices have doubled in upstate New York; some farmers are trying to import pumpkins from other parts of the U.S. to make up for the shortfall. 

Pumpkins typically have to be ready to ship by mid-September, because demand plummets after Halloween.

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