Beethoven

As someone who has loved Peanuts for a long time, I would be remiss if I didn’t celebrate Ludwig van Beethoven on his birthday. As Schroeder reminds us each year, Beethoven was born on December 16 in the year 1770. Beethoven is the predominant musical figure in the transitional period between the Classical and Romantic eras. He showed talent at an early age, and was taught originally by his father, who was a court singer and alcoholic. Hoping his son would be another prodigy like Mozart, Johann worked him very hard. Indeed, he was actually abusive to the child. At the age of 10, Beethoven withdrew from school to study music full time with Christian Gottlob Neefe, the newly appointed Court Organist. As his father’s alcoholism worsened, young Johann took over as the breadwinner for the family. He was only fourteen. He studied off and on in Vienna, where among others, Haydn, and Salieri taught him. At the time, he was known mainly as a virtuoso pianist.

Turning to composing, he debuted his first symphony in 1800. It was also about this time that he realized he was going deaf. One of his best-known symphonies debuted in 1804. It was to have been dedicated to Napoleon, who at first was seen as a savior of the French, ending the reign of terror. But when he took the title of emperor, Beethoven struck out the dedication and called the Eroica, or heroic symphony. Also during this time, he composed operas, concertos, sonatas, and others. His very famous Symphony No. 5, was first performed in 1808. Before he could finish his tenth symphony, he died on March 7, 1874.

Do listen to some of his inspiring music today. You can find many, many on YouTube, including three of his symphonies here.

Quotes by Beethoven

What I have in my heart and soul – must find a way out. That’s the reason for music.

The vibrations on the air are the breath of God speaking to man’s soul. Music is the language of God. We musicians are as close to God as man can be. We hear his voice, we read his lips, we give birth to the children of God, who sing his praise. That’s what musicians are.

Music is a higher revelation than all wisdom and philosophy. Music is the electrical soil in which the spirit lives, thinks and invents.

Don’t only practice your art, but force your way into its secrets; art deserves that, for it and knowledge can raise man to the Divine.

I wish you music to help with the burdens of life, and to help you release your happiness to others.

Life would be flat without music. It is the background to all I do. It speaks to the heart in its own special way like nothing else.

Then let us all do what is right, strive with all our might toward the unattainable, develop as fully as we can the gifts God has given us, and never stop learning

What will be the judgment a century hence concerning the lorded works of our favorite composers today? …  Then, let every man do that which is right, strive with all his might towards the goal which can never be obtained … For life is short, art eternal.

Music can change the world.

You ask me where I get my ideas. That I cannot tell you with certainty. They come unsummoned, directly, indirectly – I could seize them with my hands – out in the open air, in the woods, while walking, in the silence of the nights, at dawn, excited by moods which are translated by the poet into words, by me into tones that sound and roar and storm about me till I have set them down in notes.

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Hanukkah

Although for many of us December is the Christmas season, it is not the only holiday celebrated at this time of year. December is also the season of Hanukkah or Chanukah. The word derives from the Hebrew word for dedication.

Hanukkah is not the Jewish Christmas, but a holy day in its own right. The story of Hanukkah is preserved in the books of the First and Second Maccabees. Antiochus IV Epiphanes of Syria ruled Israel in the second century BCE. He desecrated the temple in Jerusalem by erecting a statue of Zeus. Using largely guerrilla techniques, the Jews managed to drive the Syrians out and took back the temple. History.com says, “According to the Talmud, one of Judaism’s most central texts, Judah Maccabee and the other Jews who took part in the rededication of the Second Temple witnessed what they believed to be a miracle. Even though there was only enough untainted olive oil to keep the menorah’s candles burning for a single day, the flames continued flickering for eight nights, leaving them time to find a fresh supply. This wondrous event inspired the Jewish sages to proclaim a yearly eight-day festival.”

The heart of the festival is the menorah, with candles being lit each night. The first night one candle is lit, the second two, and so on until all eight are lit. Special blessings are recited, and traditional songs are sung. Since the Chanukah miracle involved oil, it is customary to eat foods fried in oil, specifically latkes, or potato pancakes. It is also customary to play with a dreidel (a four-sided spinning top bearing the Hebrew letters, nun, gimmel, hei and shin, an acronym for nes gadol hayah sham, “a great miracle happened there”). Today gifts are also exchanged, though traditionally money was given to children both for their use and to give to others.

Quotes about Hanukkah

Blessed is the match consumed in kindling flame. Blessed is the flame that burns in the secret fastness of the heart.–Hannah Senesh

May the lights of Hanukkah usher in a better world for all humankind.–Unknown

Chanuka is about the spark of the divine in all of us made in God’s image.–Suzanne Fields

The darkness of the whole world cannot swallow the glowing of a candle.–Robert Altinger

On Hanukkah, the first dark night, light yourself a candle bright. I’ll you, if you will me invite, to dance within that gentle light.–Nicholas Gordon

Praised are You, Our God, Ruler of the universe, Who made us holy through your commandments and commanded us to kindle the Hanukah lights.–Unknown

Kindle the taper like the steadfast star
Ablaze on evening’s forehead o’er the earth,
And add each night a lustre till afar
An eightfold splendor shine above thy hearth.
–Emma Lazarus

The miracle, of course, was not that the oil for the sacred light – in a little cruse – lasted as long as they say; but that the courage of the Maccabees lasted to this day: let that nourish my flickering spirit.–Charles Reznikoff

We have focused on the miracle-thing and I think we often overlook the message of Hanukkah.  To me, the core of the holiday is the cleaning of the temple…. The accomplishment was in restoring the temple to the purpose for which it was built.  Now think of the temple as a symbol.  Perhaps it represents my life.  The world has tried to use me for its own (perhaps good, but none-the-less extrinsic) purposes.  But now I can rededicate myself to my own original purpose.–Ralph Levy,

… and May This Festival of Lights bring Blessings upon you and All Your Loved Ones for Happiness, for Health, and for Spiritual and Material Wealth, and May the Lights of Chanukah Usher in the Light of Moshiach and a Better World for All of Humankind.–Hanukkah blessing

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Poinsettia Day

December 12, we celebrate a flower almost as iconic to Christmas as the tree. Roberts Poinsett, an American botanist, physician, and Minister to Mexico in 1828 sent cuttings of the plant he’d discovered in Southern Mexico to his home in South Carolina. The flower was named after him, and we celebrate it on the anniversary of his death. In Mexico, the plant is known as La Flor de la Nochebuena or, Flower of the Holy Night. Long before that, however, the Aztecs knew it as Cuitlaxochitl, or the Star Flower. They used it for red dye, and the curing of fevers. The red reminded them of purity, or sacrifice.

The poinsettia plant’s connection to the Christmas season dates back to 16th-century Mexico. Legend tells of a girl who worried she had no gift to celebrate Jesus’s birthday because she was too poor. An angel tells her to give any gift with love. The young girl gathered weeds from alongside the road and placed them in the manger. Miraculously the weeds bloomed into beautiful red stars.

In the 1920s, Paul Ecke discovered a way to make the seedlings of the plant branch, and created the poinsettia industry. In July 2002, the House of Representatives passed a resolution creating the holiday in honor of him. Since then they have become big business. Poinsettias contribute upwards of $250,000,000 a year to the U.S. economy and they account for about one-quarter of flowering potted plant sales

Today, poinsettias are no longer just red. New hues from horticulture supplier C. Raker & Sons include Gold Rush and Christmas Beauty Marble. Did you know – the flowers on poinsettias are very small and yellow. The most decorative part of the poinsettia, which we think of as the flower, is actually its colorful bracts, that is, modified leaves.

Quotes about Christmas

Conversely, the red plant itself burns a brighter red when set off by the green than when it grows among its peers. In the bed I always reserved for poinsettia seedlings, there was little to distinguish one plant from its neighbours. My poinsettia did not turn scarlet until I planted it in new surroundings. Colour is not something one has, colour is bestowed on one by others.–Arthur Japin

When Christmas bells are swinging above the fields of snow, We hear sweet voices ringing from lands of long ago, And etched on vacant places Are half-forgotten faces Of friends we used to cherish, and loves we used to know.–Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Let us remember that the Christmas heart is a giving heart, a wide open heart that thinks of others first.–George Mathhew Adams

Let Christmas not become a thing Merely of merchant’s trafficking, Of tinsel, bell and holly wreath And surface pleasure, but beneath The childish glamour, let us find Nourishment for heart and mind. Let us follow kinder ways Through our teeming human maze, And help the age of peace to come.–Madeline Morse

Whatever else be lost among the years, Let us keep Christmas still a shining thing: Whatever doubts assail us, or what fears, Let us hold close one day, remembering Its poignant meaning for the hearts of men. Let us get back our childlike faith again.–Grace Noll Crowell

Christmas is more than a time of music, merriment and mirth; it is a season of meditation, managers and miracles. Christmas is more than a time of gaiety, greenery and gifts; it is a season of wonder, worship and wisemen.–William Arthur Ward

Time was with most of us, when Christmas Day, encircling all our limited world like a magic ring, left nothing out for us to miss or seek; bound together all our home enjoyments, affections, and hopes; grouped everything and everyone round the Christmas fire, and make the little picture shining in our bright young eyes, complete.–Charles Dickens

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Dewey Decimal System Day

Melville Louis Kossuth Dewey was born on December 10, 1851, and on the anniversary of his birth, we celebrate the classification system he created for library materials. One of his passions in life was simplifying things, which is why early in his life he changed his first name to Melvil, to get rid of extra letters. According to the Online Computer Library Center (OCLC), “Dewey invented the Dewey Decimal Classification® (DDC) system when he was 21 and working as a student assistant in the library of Amherst College. His work created a revolution in library science and set in motion a new era of librarianship. Melvil Dewey well deserves the title of ‘Father of Modern Librarianship’.”

This system, first widely used in 1876, is still the main way books are classified in public libraries. It divides knowledge into ten basic categories, which are:

000 – Computer science, information & general works
100 – Philosophy and psychology
200 – Religion
300 – Social sciences
400 – Language
500 – Pure Science
600 – Technology
700 – Arts & recreation
800 – Literature
900 – History & geography

Some of the categories have weathered the nearly 150 years since the DDC came into being better than others. The whole field of computer science had to be fit into a schedule that was not created to include it, for instance. It is also English-centric and Christian-centric. Some lesser-used languages and religions get lumped together into categories. Nonetheless, it has served libraries well through the years.

As the most widely used classification system in the world, the DDC is found in 135 countries around the worlds. Its editorial offices are located within the Decimal Classification Division of the Library of Congress. They assign a basic Dewey number to all items they catalog.

So visit your library today, and enjoy Dewey’s gift to library patrons everywhere.

Quotes about organization

The desire for order is the only order in the world.–Georges Duhamel

Early in my career I felt that organization would destroy my creativity. Whereas now, I feel the opposite. Discipline is he concrete that allows you to be creative.–Verna Gibson

First comes thought; then organization of that thought, into ideas and plans; then transformation of those plans into reality.–Napoleon Hill

For every minute spent organizing, an hour is earned.–Benjamin Franklin

Good order is the foundation of all things.–Edmund Burke

I see something that has to be done and I organize it.–Elinor Guggenheimer

An idea can only become a reality once it is broken down into organized, actionable elements.–Scott Belsky

It is best to do things systematically, since we are only human, and disorder is our worst enemy.—Hesiod

The knowledge which we have acquired ought not to resemble a great shop without order, and without an inventory; we ought to know what we possess, and be able to make it serve us in need.–Baron Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibnitz

One person’s mess is merely another person’s filing system.–Margo Kaufman

Organizing is what you do before you do something, so that when you do it, it’s not all mixed up.–A.A. Milne

We adore chaos because we love to produce order. –M. C. Escher

Chaos is merely order waiting to be deciphered.–José Saramago

Order and simplification are the first steps towards mastery of a subject.–Thomas Mann

The librarian was explaining the benefits of the Dewey decimal system to her junior—benefits that extended to every area of life. It was orderly, like the universe. It had logic. It was dependable. Using it allowed a kind of moral uplift, as one’s own chaos was also brought under control.–Jeanette Winterson

It is the function of science to discover the existence of a general reign of order in nature and to find the causes governing this order.–Dmitri Mendeleev

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National Christmas Tree Day

On December 8, we celebrate the Christmas tree. We think of the decorated tree as the symbol of Christmas, but the use of evergreens around the time of the winter solstice goes back as far as the history of humankind. In very earliest times, when most peoples worshipped the sun, the solstice marked both the time of the sun’s weakness and the time when it began to grow strong again. People brought living greens into their homes to celebrate the strengthening of the sun, and the promise of spring and planting time to come. Evergreens have long been considered special because they are green when other things are dead.

According to WhyChristmas.com, “Nobody is really sure when Fir trees were first used as Christmas trees. It probably began about 1000 years ago in Northern Europe. Many early Christmas Trees seem to have been hung upside down from the ceiling using chains (hung from chandeliers/lighting hooks).”

Some say the first to light a candle atop a Christmas tree was Martin Luther. Legend has it, late one evening around Christmas time, Luther was walking home through the woods when he was struck by the innocent beauty of starlight shining through fir trees. Wanting to share this experience with his family, Martin Luther cut down a fir tree and took it home. He placed a small candle on the branches to symbolize the Christmas sky.

In the middle ages, many clergy condemned the Christmas tree as distracting from the birth of Jesus, the true reason for celebrating the season. Puritans, in particular, disliked this tradition (among many others). However, by the time of Queen Victoria, it had become an accepted custom, and it is a rare home today, especially one with children, which doesn’t have its decorated tree with presents beneath.

Quotes about Christmas trees

The best Christmas trees come very close to exceeding nature. If some of our great decorated trees had been grown in a remote forest area with lights that came on every evening as it grew dark, the whole world would come to look at them and marvel at the mystery of their great beauty.–Andy Rooney

The best of all gifts around any Christmas tree: the presence of a happy family all wrapped up in each other.–Burton Hillis

The Christmas spirit that goes out with the dried-up Christmas tree is just as worthless.—Unknown

I’m dreaming of a white Christmas
Just like the ones I used to know.
Where the treetops glisten,
And children listen
To hear sleigh bells in the snow.
–Irving Berlin

Never worry about the size of your Christmas tree. In the eyes of children, they are all 30 feet tall.–Larry Wilde

O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
Of all the trees most lovely!
Each year you bring renewed delight,
A-gleaming in the Christmas night.–German Carol

The perfect Christmas tree? All Christmas trees are perfect!–Charles N. Barnard

Stop, sit, light a quiet flame. Stare into the glittering green of the tree for a while. Bundle up, breathe, and be together. Let it all come to rest. And just remember how it ought to be.–Mike Connelly

For it isn’t the holly, it isn’t the snow.
It isn’t the tree not the firelight’s glow.
It’s the warmth that comes to the hearts of men
When the Christmas spirit returns again.
–Anonymous

Everyone wants a Christmas tree. If you had a Christmas tree Santa would bring you stuff! Like hair curlers and slut shoes.–Janet Evanovich

The Christmas tree is a symbol of love, not money. There’s a kind of glory to them when they’re all lit up that exceeds anything all the money in the world could buy.–Andy Rooney

…freshly cut Christmas trees smelling of stars and snow and pine resin – inhale deeply and fill your soul with wintry night…–John Gedde

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St. Nicholas Day

More widely commemorated in Europe than the States, we celebrate St. Nicholas Day on December 6. Nicholas was born sometime in the late third century C.E in the village of Patar, which was located on the southeastern coast of modern-day Turkey. He lost his parents at an early age to an epidemic. Taking seriously the command in the Bible to “sell all you have and give to the poor,” he spent the wealth left him in good deeds to the less fortunate. While still a young man, Nicholas became Bishop of Myrna. Bishop Nicholas became known throughout the land for his generosity to those in need, his love for children, and his concern for sailors and ships.

Many stories and legends have grown up around Nicholas and his generosity. Many know the story about how he put dowry money in a shoe so poor girls could marry. If the story is unfamiliar to you, you can read it here.  It is thought that this story, at least, is likely true.

Another story tells that after his death, he appeared to a slave boy and brought him home.

The Saint Nicholas center tells us: “Other stories tell of Nicholas saving his people from famine, sparing the lives of those innocently accused, and much more. He did many kind and generous deeds in secret, expecting nothing in return. Within a century of his death he was celebrated as a saint. … [He is ] patron of a great variety of persons-children, mariners, bankers, pawn-brokers, scholars, orphans, laborers, travelers, merchants, judges, paupers, marriageable maidens, students, children, sailors, victims of judicial mistakes, captives, perfumers, even thieves and murderers! He is known as the friend and protector of all in trouble or need”

Nicholas died on December 6, providing us the background legend that became Santa Claus.

Quotes about Christmas

While winter is white and cold and human hearts are warm, Christmas must continue to be the universal festival of peace and good will, the sacred season of love, the holiday of kindness.—Unknown

Which Christmas is the most vivid to me? It’s always the next Christmas.–Joanne Woodward

When we recall Christmas past, we usually find that the simplest things – not the great occasions – give off the greatest glow of happiness.–Bob Hope

When the song of the angel is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost–
To heal the broken–
To feed the hungry–
To release the prisoner–
To rebuild the nations–
To bring peace among brothers and sisters–
To make music in the heart.–Howard Thurman

We worry about finding just the right gift, hanging just the right decorations, sending the right card. So many times I say I wish I could slow down, scale back, and reclaim the true meaning of Advent. The reality, though, is that I am the only one preventing that from happening.–Susan Hines-Brigger

We should try to hold on to the Christmas spirit, not just one day a year, but all 365.–Mary Martin

Until one feels the spirit of Christmas, there is no Christmas. All else is outward display–so much tinsel and decorations. For it isn’t the holly, it isn’t the snow. It isn’t the tree not the firelight’s glow. It’s the warmth that comes to the hearts of men when the Christmas spirit returns again.—Anonymous

Unless we make Christmas an occasion to share our blessings, all the snow in Alaska won’t make it “white”.–Bing Crosby

Three phrases that sum up Christmas are: Peace on Earth, Goodwill to Men, and Batteries not Included.—Unknown

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National Cookie Day

December 4 is the day to celebrate cookies, or if you are outside the United States, biscuits. In 1987, Matt Nader of the San Francisco-based Blue Chip Cookie Company created Cookie Day, saying: “It’s just like having National Secretaries Day… It will just be a fun thing to do.” Needless to say, it is also endorsed by the Cookie Monster from Sesame Street. He proclaimed it in the 1980 book The Sesame Street Dictionary.

The English word “cookie” is derived from the Dutch word “koekie” meaning little cake. Cookies have been around a long time if you count the hard-baked wafer type food that people carried on trips because they traveled well. The origin of what we would consider cookies appears to begin in Persia in the seventh century, soon after the use of sugar became common in the region. They were then spread to Europe through the Muslim conquest of Spain. Cookies arrived in the U.S. in the seventeenth century. They were a little different than today, perhaps. The cookie recipe in the first American cookbook had some interesting ingredients. You can find a modern-day adaptation of the recipe here. Ginger cookies were also popular. An adapted recipe from 1784 can be found here.

Of course, there are all kinds of cookies, but since it is only three weeks until Christmas, it’s time to be making those Christmas cookies to eat and to share. If you are too busy to bake, you can find a list of places giving out free cookies on December 4, here.

Although Oreos are a huge favorite for cookies from the store, it turns out people really prefer homemade, which isn’t too surprising. Nor is the fact that chocolate chip cookies are number one, followed by chocolate, then oatmeal chocolate chip. So enjoy a cookie today!

Free Cookie at Great American Cookies on Dec. 4. (PRNewsfoto/Great American Cookies)

Quotes about cookies

In the cookie of life, friends are the chocolate chips.–Salman Rushdie

I love cookies baking. During the winter, they have these candles that smell like cookies, and I always buy like a hundred of them.–Jared Padalecki

I think cookies are sort of the unsung sweet, you know? They’re incredibly popular. But everybody thinks of cakes and pies and fancier desserts before they think cookies. A plate of cookies is a great way to end dinner and really nice to share at the holidays.–Bobby Flay

Classic Christmas cookies are really time-consuming. Instead, make a bar you can bake in a pan and just cut up, like a brownie or a blondie or a shortbread, which still has that Christmas vibe.–Zooey Deschanel

Baking cookies is comforting, and cookies are the sweetest little bit of comfort food. They are very bite-sized and personal.–Sandra Lee

I think baking cookies is equal to Queen Victoria running an empire. There’s no difference in how seriously you take the job, how seriously you approach your whole life.–Martha Stewart

I’m a mom, a full-time mom when I’m not taping. I do the carpool thing, and bake the cookies, and do the homework.–Vanna White

I suppose I could have stayed home and baked cookies and had teas.–Hillary Clinton

A balanced diet is a cookie in both hands.–Paula Deen (and many others!)

Think what a better world it would be if we all, the whole world, had cookies and milk about three o’clock every afternoon and then lay down on our blankets for a nap.–Barbara Jordan

Peace means no one is worried about anyone else’s cookie…in this moment we are all quietly content with the cookies we have.–Amy Krouse Rosenthal

I mean, at the end of the day, if you can’t have a Girl Scout cookie and a piece of cheese, what is life all about?–Amanda Seyfried

What thought or message would you put in a fortune cookie? “Stop reading this. Eat the cookie and live your life.–Veronica Roth

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