Friday, December 25, 2009

Most American will be partying while waiting for the new year to arrive. Some will party at home and others somewhere else. We all need to hope that 2010 will be better for those that got caught on the short end of the stick during this past year when jobs and homes were lost.

CAUTION: If you drink alcohol and plan to attend a New Year's party away from home, it is absolutely necessary to bring a non drinker (designated driver) with you to operate your vehicle on your way home. Another option is to make reservation for a motel room close enough for walking from your party to the motel room. The year of 2010 would not be a good year for you if you were arrested for driving under the influence. If the first two above suggestions are denied by you, leave your vehicle parked at the party site and get a taxi to take you home. Drunk driver's kill people and sometimes it is the drunk behind the wheel that is killed. I have driven a lot in my 84 years of life and I have practiced what I preach. I have never been stopped by an law enforcement officer and I have never been in an accident. My first automobile was a Ford Model T.

We all hope and pray that our government leaders will find a way to expedite the exit of the two ongoing wars. We must remember that a quarter of a million American troops are risking their lives each day and night fighting in the wars where there will be no winners. We need to depart those hellhole countries and let the citizens of the war countries fight their own civil war.

Reflecting on the brighter side of life. Let us return to a planned celebration of the New Year and remember how it first started about 106 years ago in the Big Apple.

The beginning of New Year's Eve celebration in New York City in 1904. It was a city on the verge of tremendous changes - and, not surprisingly, many of those changes had their genesis in the bustling energy and thronged streets of Times Square. Two innovations that would completely transform the Crossroads of the World debuted in 1904: the opening of the city's first subway line, and the first-ever celebration of New Year's Eve in Times Square.

This inaugural bash commemorated the official opening of the new headquarters of The New York Times. The newspaper's owner, German Jewish immigrant Alfred Ochs, had successfully lobbied the city to rename Longacre Square, the district surrounding his paper's new home, in honor of the famous publication (a contemporary article in The New York Times credited Interborough Rapid Transit Company President August Belmont for suggesting the change to the Rapid Transit Commission). The impressive Times Tower, marooned on a tiny triangle of land at the intersection of 7th Avenue, Broadway and 42nd Street, was at the time Manhattan's second-tallest building -- the tallest if measured from the bottom of its three massive sub-basements, built to handle the heavy weight demands of The Times' up-to-date printing equipment.

The building was the focus of an unprecedented New Year's Eve celebration. Ochs spared no expense to ensure a party for the ages. An all-day street festival culminated in a fireworks display set off from the base of the tower, and at midnight the joyful sound of cheering, rattles and noisemakers from the over 200,000 attendees could be heard, it was said, from as far away as Croton-on-Hudson, thirty miles north along the Hudson River.

The New York Times' description of the occasion paints a rapturous picture: "From base to dome the giant structure was alight - a torch to usher in the newborn year..."

The night was such a rousing success that Times Square instantly replaced Lower Manhattan's Trinity Church as "the" place in New York City to ring in the new year. Before long, this party of parties would capture the imagination of the nation, and the world.

Two years later, the city banned the fireworks display - but Ochs was undaunted. He arranged to have a large, illuminated seven-hundred-pound iron and wood ball lowered from the tower flagpole precisely at midnight to signal the end of 1907 and the beginning of 1908.

On that occassion, and for almost a century thereafter, Times Square signmaker Artkraft Strauss was responsible for the ball-lowering. (For more information on the past and present of the New Year's Eve Ball itself. In 1914, The New York Times outgrew Times Tower and relocated to 229 West 43rd Street. By then, New Year's Eve in Times Square was already a permanent part of our cultural fabric.

In 1942 and 1943, the glowing Ball was temporarily retired due to the wartime "dimout" of lights in New York City. The crowds who still gathered in Times Square in those years greeted the New Year with a minute of silence followed by chimes ringing out from sound trucks parked at the base of the Times Tower.

The New York Times retained ownership of the Tower until 1961, when it was sold to developer Douglas Leigh, who was also the designer and deal-maker behind many of the spectacular signs in Times Square, including the famous Camel billboard that blew water-vapor "smoke rings" over the street. Mr. Leigh stripped the building down to its steel frame, then re-clad it in white marble as the headquarters for Allied Chemical Corporation.

Today, New Year's Eve in Times Square is a bona fide international phenomenon. Each year, hundreds of thousands of people still gather around the Tower, now known as One Times Square, and wait for hours in the cold of a New York winter for the famous Ball-lowering ceremony. Thanks to satellite technology, a worldwide audience estimated at over one billion people watches the ceremony each year. The lowering of the Ball has become the world's symbolic welcome to the New Year.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

We know why this special day is a holiday. We celebrate the anniver-sary of the birth of Jesus.

God Bless our military who are serving overseas protecting our cherished freedom.

In the United States, Christmas is observed on the 25th of December.

Here the festive season traditionally begins on the fourth Thursday in November, just after the Thanksgiving holiday. On Thanksgiving Day, a spectacular parade is taken out in New York City that has the smiling figure of Santa Claus participating in it. It indicates the beginning of the Christmas shopping season. Department stores. shopping malls and small shops ready themselves appropriately for the season to attract shoppers and get them to spend quite a few bucks on Christmas trees, gifts, apparels, greeting cards and suchlike.

In the final days leading to December 25, small evergreen trees are seen to be established in every home and beautifully decorated with colored lights, tinsel, angels, stars and bright ornaments. The exterior of almost every house and the adjoining shrubbery is adorned with strands of electric lights. Strings of electric lights are used not only to adorn mantles and doorways, rafters, roof lines, and porch railings of individual homes but also of public/commercial buildings, departmental stores and even business hubs. Christmas trees are also seen to be set up in most of these places. It is often a pastime for the American people to drive or walk around neighborhoods in the Christmas evenings to see the lights displayed on and around other homes. Those with deep pockets are often found to place life-sized, illuminated Santas, reindeers and snowmen on their lawns and roofs. Many churches and private homes display illuminated Nativity Scenes commemorating the humble birth of Jesus Christ.

Christmas Eve is not an official holiday here. Hence most people have to work. However, many workplaces hold Christmas parties or celebrations, so there is a celebratory air to the day. For kids, it is a day of great joy since most schools and other educational establishments are usually closed. In the evening, most people add final touches to their home decorations. Many also set up the Christmas tree in their homes on this day. Many organizations and department stores are usually open for last minute Christmas shoppers, but may close earlier. Many people travel to visit family members or friends on Christmas Eve. Some people, especially Roman Catholics, attend a Midnight Mass service at church and participate in singing carols. Traditionally, the midnight mass starts at midnight, the point of transition from Christmas Eve to Christmas Day. Many Protestant churches also hold special services on Christmas Eve, complete with displays of beautiful manger scenes and candle-lit religious observances.

The Christmas dinner in the U.S. includes turkey or ham, potatoes and pie. Cakes are of course, a must for the occasion. This is a recipe I plan to make for my Christmas dinner:

Honey Glazed Ham
5-6 pounds fully cooked ham
1/4 cup whole cloves
1/2 cup dark corn syrup
1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
1-1/2 cups honey
2/3 cup butter
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup orange juice
1/8 teaspoon white pepper

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Place ham cut side down in a foil-lined roasting pan. Using a sharp knife, score the surface of the ham in a diamond pattern. Place the whole cloves in the scored intersections.

Combine corn syrup, cardamom, honey, butter, brown sugar, orange juice, and pepper in the top half of a double boiler, and heat until the butter melts and mixture is smooth, stirring occasionally. Keep this glaze in the top of a double boiler, over hot water, while baking ham.

Brush glaze over ham, then cover with foil. Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes at 325 degrees, basting ham every 10 to 15 minutes with the warm honey glaze. During the last 5 minutes of baking time, remove the foil and turn on broiler to caramelize the glaze. Watch the ham carefully during the broiling time! Remove ham from oven, cover with foil, and let sit for 10 minutes before serving.

At Christmas Eve gatherings adults drink eggnog, a drink made of cream, milk, sugar, beaten eggs and brandy or rum.

After dinner on Christmas Eve, children go to bed early but not before hanging up their stockings on the fireplace or the end of their bed to be filled with gifts and goodies by Santa Claus. On the following morning, children wake up to look for their desired items in their stockings and also find nicely wrapped presents under their Christmas tree.

Children wake up early on Christmas mornings to see the gifts that they got from their parents as well as from Santa Claus. They are exited to open up the new toys and sweets that they have received as presents. They also check the gifts in the stocking that they have hung near the fire place or near the Christmas tree. They dress in their best clothes brought for Christmas and then have a sumptuous Christmas breakfast on the Christmas morning. The breakfast on the special Christmas morning includes puddings, cakes and special cookies that are all home made and delicious.

On the Christmas morning the carol singers visit every house in the vicinity and sing melodious carols for all. The families come together to celebrate on Christmas mornings and have lunch or dinner together. The meals are really filing with a variety from, chicken, pork, beef, meat and wonderful desserts to feast on. Christmas mornings are one of the best times of the year for enjoying with your family and loved ones.