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

Published: Sunday, November 19, 2017 @ 11:48 PM
Updated: Sunday, November 19, 2017 @ 11:48 PM

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/ 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 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.

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How to enjoy chocolate Easter eggs without the Cadbury bunny

Published: Monday, March 12, 2018 @ 8:03 AM

The Cadbury bunny shows up on television and suddenly the hunt for chocolate Easter eggs is on. The egg is a traditional symbol of the Christian holiday and the delectable chocolate form has fans on both sides of the pond tensed with anticipation.

The Cadbury bunny shows up on television and suddenly the hunt for chocolate Easter eggs is on. The egg is a traditional symbol of the Christian holiday and the delectable chocolate form has fans on both sides of the pond tensed with anticipation.

»RELATED: When is Easter 2018 and why does the date change each year? 

The UK sets the tone, hosting more than 250 National Trust Cadbury Egg Hunts in lucky locations across England, Wales and Northern Ireland, but the good old U.S. of A. is wild for chocolate Easter eggs too.

Tempering is an important step when you make your own Easter eggs from chocolate.(Contributed by The Independent/For the AJC)

Along with every grocery, drug and dollar store selling mass-produced versions, elite retailers like Williams-Sonoma trot out signature collections for Easter. Tinier companies like Lake Champlain Chocolates in Burlington, Vermont, also rally to produce artisanal chocolate eggs. And just a few words from Southern Living's eloquent essay, "Why Southern Churches Make the Best Peanut Butter Eggs" leaves no doubt about Southern states' attachment to the Easter confections. Heck, Vie de la Vegan even offers a recipe for Vegan "Milk" Chocolate Easter Eggs.

But here's the thing: while buying at the store is simple (and it's certainly an Easter miracle if you can track down the elusive Cadbury White Chocolate Creme Eggs), making your own chocolate eggs is a grand tradition.

Along with being able to customize the eggs with your own ingredients and bonding with your candy co-creators, making homemade chocolate Easter eggs provides the satisfaction of being an artisan, part of a long-standing tradition.

According to Saveur's "Basket Cases: The History of Easter Candy," while European candy-makers first started crafting chocolate eggs for the holiday in the 1800s and the first Cadbury eggs were sold in 1875, mass-produced eggs didn't come out until the early 20th century.

If you'd like to join the old-school artisans, check out this recipe based on instructions from The Independent. But first, understand that to get a shiny finish on a homemade chocolate egg, you must first temper the chocolate. "This is the process of gently heating and cooling in order to align the sugar crystals," The Independent explained. "It is also important to use the best quality chocolate you can buy; 70 percent cocoa or above."

Follow these instructions:

  • Break the chocolate up into small pieces and place two thirds of it in a large glass or metal bowl over a pan of very gently simmering water. Let the chocolate melt gradually, heating it until it reaches 131°F.
  • Remove the bowl from the heat, stir in the rest of the chocolate and let the temperature fall to 82°F.
  • Return the bowl to the double boiler and heat it to a temperature of 90°F.
  • Use a pastry brush to apply a thick layer of chocolate evenly over the outsides of both halves of your mold.
  • Transfer the molds to the fridge to set for 5 minutes, then repeat the process with successive layers of chocolate. Finally, leave the molds to set in the fridge for 1 hour.
  • Once the chocolate has completely set, carefully remove from the molds, gently pushing down on the shell.
  • Heat a baking tray and push the edges of the shells onto it. Once softened, stick the two halves together and hold for a couple of seconds to seal. Your egg is now ready to decorate.
Of course, one thing will be missing if you forgo Cadbury's version of the eggs: their wonderful commercials. No worries there, though. Watch a compilation of them on You Tube while you wait for your homemade confections to dry.

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

Published: Tuesday, December 12, 2017 @ 4:01 PM
Updated: Tuesday, December 12, 2017 @ 4:01 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.

RELATED: 6 little-known facts about winter solstice

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. 20, 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 by Irish game.

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.


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Here's where you can find Santa in Dayton

Published: Friday, November 25, 2016 @ 6:00 AM

Santa Claus arrived at Dayton Mall last week. CONTRIBUTED
Staff Writer
Santa Claus arrived at Dayton Mall last week. CONTRIBUTED(Staff Writer)

It’s no secret: all the kids know that Santa Claus comes into town before Christmas Eve to note what toys he needs to make at the North Pole before making his big trip. 

Luckily for us, Dayton has plenty of places you can visit Santa with your kids this year. Make this holiday a special one for your children and bring them out to experience a beloved holiday tradition with the jolly old man himself. 

>> RELATED: 5 ways to enjoy the holidays that don't involve shopping

Below is a list of dates, events and places that you can visit with Santa, take pictures and maybe even share a meal with him.  

The Mall at Fairfield Commons   

Santa’s Village Presented by Dayton Children’s Hospital 

Catch him before his sleigh takes off! Dayton Children’s Hospital is hosting time to spend with Saint Nicholas inside Santa’s Village on select dates throughout the rest of Nov. and Dec. 

Where: Center Court at the Mall at Fairfield Commons, 2727 Fairfield Commons Dr., Beavercreek


Nov. 11 – Dec. 8 (Mon.-Sat. 11 A.M. – 8 P.M; Sun. 12 P.M. – 6 P.M.) 

Dec. 9 – 23 (Mon. – Sun. 8 A.M. – 9 P.M.) 

Dec. 24 (8 A.M. – 5 P.M.) 

Cost: Free | Photo packages are available for purchase 


Sensitive Santa 

Specifically for children with autism, Santa has a designated time to meet with them in Santa’s Village in a sensory-friendly way. Lower lighting and quieter surroundings will give your child peace and joy while engaging in activities during their wait with Therapy Connections. 

Where: The Mall at Fairfield Commons, 2727 Fairfield Commons Dr., Beavercreek

When: Dec. 4 at 9 A.M. – 11 A.M. 

Cost: Free, but must register online here


Polar Bear Express 

“All aboard!” The polar bear express will whisk away children and embark on a journey to meet Mrs. Claus. Upon arrival Mrs. Claus will greet each child with hot chocolate, cookies and embrace them with a special story time tale. Make-and-take crafts will be available for each family to create and the kids will receive a special gift, a book of their choice. 

Where: Lower Level Macy’s Court, Mall at Fairfield Commons, 2727 Fairfield Commons Dr., Beavercreek 

When: Dec. 9 at 6 P.M. – 8 P.M. 

Cost: Free 

>> RELATED: Lace up your skates -- RiverScape Ice Rink opens this Friday

Dayton Mall 

Rusty Bucket’s annual Breakfast with Santa 

Guests will be given a delightful breakfast consisting of scrambled eggs, bacon and toast along with coffee, juice or milk. As Santa circles the restaurant meeting each family, you and yours are encouraged to take photos with your personal cameras to capture the memory of when Santa came to your table for breakfast. 

Where: Dayton Mall, 2812 Miamisburg Centerville Rd., Dayton 

When: Dec. 10 at 8:30 A.M. – 10 A.M. 

Cost: $5 per person, call ahead for reservations is encouraged. Phone: 937.436.2426.


Santa’s Here! Presented by Dayton Children’s Hospital 

St. Nick will be in the building taking photos with children and asking what they want for Christmas this year throughout Nov. and Dec. 

Where: Dayton South Mall near Macy’s in the Center Court 

When: Nov. – Dec 24. Times vary; see full schedule here

Cost: Visit is free, photo packages are available with purchase 

>> RELATED: More than 50 Small Business Saturday deals in Dayton and beyond

Austin Landing  

Breakfast with Santa at the Hilton 

Share a magical morning with Santa at the Hilton Garden Inn hotel with a delicious breakfast. Your family will always remember spending time with other good little boys and girls and their favorite gift-giver. 

WHERE: 12000 Innovation Drive, Miamisburg.

WHEN: Dec. 3, Dec. 10 and Dec. 17 from 9 A.M. – 10:30 A.M. 

COST: $12 per person (937) 247-5850 | Purchase here 

Yellow Springs  

The Gingerbread Festival 

A homemade gingerbread competition kicks off what will be the sweetest family-fun event during this Christmas season. Families are encouraged to design, bake and decorate their own gingerbread creation for a chance to win prizes. Kids will be able to decorate their own cookie cottage kits and share their Christmas list with Santa when he comes in at noon. 

A raffle drawing for a live tree from Carl and Dorothy Young’s Christmas Trees will also take place. The event will benefit the Mills Lawn Elementary School PTO. 

WHERE: The Mills Lawn Elementary School Gymnasium, 200 South Walnut St., Yellow Springs 

WHEN: 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Dec. 10

COST: Free | Register online here

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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.

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