Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Christmas Traditions Around The World 2015: How They Celebrate In Germany, France, Mexico And Other Nations

Image result for CHRISTMAS IMAGESnlike so many other holidays that are specific to individual countries — Thanksgiving in the United States, Bastille Day in France — Christmas is a tradition that can be seen across the globe, with children of many cultures waiting on the night of Dec. 24 for their own version of the fat man in the red suit. Christmas is celebrated both as a religious holiday, when Christians attend midnight masses and sing songs celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ and a secular holiday, filled with rushed shopping and plenty of eggnog to go around, leaving a lot of room for a wide group of people to find their place around the holiday season.Image result for CHRISTMAS IMAGES
While many symbols of Christmas are associated with the United States — Charlie Brown’s not-such-a-bad-little tree, Rudolph’s shiny red nose, running over someone in Toys “R” Us to get the last doll on the shelf — many Christmas traditions have their origins elsewhere, especially in Europe. These traditions have been modified, adapted or just plain ignored throughout the world.
Germany: The ultimate symbol of Christmas is, of course, the Christmas tree, which has its origins in Germany. Bringing evergreen trees inside during the winter had long been a winter tradition and by the 1820’s, the tradition had made its way to the United States by way of German immigrants in Pennsylvania.
In some homes across Germany, parents are known to decorate a specific room in the house for Christmas, but lock it up so the children of the home can’t see it, according to the BBC. The parents then ring a bell and the children are allowed to go in and see for the first time.
France: The French are known for their love of extended dinners of some of the world’s greatest dishes and Christmas is no different. The big dinner in France is actually held on Christmas Eve, and is known as Reveillon. The meal can last up to six hours, and is a sacred tradition around France. Great care is given to the decorations put on the long table, and the menus vary across France. While Parisians are known to dine on luxurious dishes such as oysters, foie gras and caviar, residents of Alsace and Burgundy take a route more familiar to Americans with a stuffed turkey often seen as the dinner centerpiece.
Ethiopia: Ethiopians actually celebrate Christmas later than December 25. Following the Julian calendar, Ethiopians host Christmas celebrations Jan. 7 each year, a day that typically starts with a fast, according to A church service is then followed by a feast quite different than what is typically seen in the United States. The meal involves stew and sourdough bread most of the time, and most families in Ethiopia actually don’t exchange gifts, but instead fill it with games and sports.

Argentina: Fireworks and ballImage result for CHRISTMAS IMAGESoons are at the center of it all during the Christmas celebration in Argentina. Children delight in the fireworks most of the time and at night, Argentineans are known to light the inside of paper lanterns and release them into the sky, speckling the South American night. Children in Argentina put their shoes out to get gifts in them. Some children have adopted this old tradition for modern times, placing their shoes beneath a Christmas tree instead. 
Mexico: Piñatas hold a special place in the Mexican consciousness during Christmastime. Piñatas can be filled with everything from wrapped candies to fruit, and are often shaped as the Star of Bethlehem, which helped the Biblical Magi to find Jesus on the night of his birth. “It’s not really Christmas time until I’m surrounded by hundreds of [star] piñatas,” Joshua Cruz, a third generation piñata maker in Mexico said to the Christian Science Monitor.
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Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Winter Solstice 2015: 5 Facts To Know About The First Day Of Winter

RTR4IX14The winter solstice is the shortest day and the longest night of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. Above, a reveler wearing a golden cape celebrates as the sun rises during the winter solstice at Stonehenge on Salisbury Plain in England Dec. 22, 2014.PHOTO: REUTERS/DYLAN MARTINEZ

Days before each Christmas comes the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere and the longest in the Southern Hemisphere. Here are five must-know facts about the solstice, why it occurs and its history.
1. When is the winter solstice? In 2015, the winter solstice arrives Monday at 11:48 p.m. EST. It represents the first day of winter. After the winter solstice, the days grow longer in the Northern Hemisphere and shorter in the Southern Hemisphere.
2. What is a solstice? A solstice is an astronomical event that happens when Earth's axis, which is tilted at an angle of 23.5 degrees, is at its maximum in leaning either toward and away from the sun. In contrast, an equinox occurs when Earth's axis is simply perpendicular to the rays of the sun. The following diagrams can help you visualize the difference:

Summer solstice is when the Earth reaches a point in its orbit when its axis is inclined toward the sun. See diagram.

On equinox days, Earth's axis is not inclined toward or away from the Sun (see diagram). 

3. What's the history of winter-solstice celebrations? Different cultures, peoples and societies have celebrated the winter solstice for thousands of years. The pagan holiday of Yule falls on the winter solstice, the Romans had a weeklong feast known as Saturnalia (named for the god Saturn), and the Celts threw parties and had animal sacrifices. Because the days of the year grow longer after the winter solstice in the Northern Hemisphere, these celebrations were hopeful, marking the return of the sun.
4. Who celebrates it? Druids and Wiccans celebrate Yule by decorating their homes in red, green and white, by exchanging gifts, and by lighting Yule lights. Druids often mark the holiday by watching the sun rise at Stonehenge in England. Other celebrations are held at ancient sites elsewhere, such as Peru's Cerro del Gentil pyramid.
5. How many hours of daylight are there during the solstice? It varies. Alaska has about three hours 45 minutes of daylight, while the continental U.S. can see a range from fewer than 8 1/2 hours to more than 10 1/2 hours.

Christmas Trees

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For many years fir trees decorated with ornaments and lights have been part of our Christmas festivities. Long before Jesus was born evergreen plants played an important part in people's lives.
Christmas Tree
To the Ancient Egyptians, Chinese and Hebrews, evergreen trees, wreaths and garlands were symbols of everlasting life. In Europe tree worship was also common and people from Norway and Sweden used to decorate their houses with evergreen plants at New Year to scare away the devil.
When Europeans became Christians they still kept the evergreen traditions as part of the Christmas festival. The custom of having a Christmas tree in the home came from Germany. In medieval times German people had a 'Paradise tree'. This was a fir tree hung with apples to remember Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. These trees were set up on December 24th and candles were often added to represent Jesus Christ.
In 1800 Queen Charlotte, the German born wife of George III, as far as we know had the first Christmas tree in Britain at a Christmas Day party at Windsor. Members of the Royal family had Christmas trees long before ordinary people. Princess Victoria had one in Kensington Palace in 1832.
Image result for christmas tree imagesThe person responsible for Christmas trees becoming popular in Britain was the German Prince Albert who was Queen Victoria's husband. In 1848 he allowed 'The Illustrated London News' to print a picture of the Royal Family gathered round their Christmas tree. After that everyone wanted one. Victorian trees were decorated with candles, fancy cakes and sweets.

The History of Christmas tree

Image result for christmas tree imagesThe evergreen fir tree has traditionally been used to celebrate winter festivals (pagan and Christian) for thousands of years. Pagans used branches of it to decorate their homes during the winter solstice, as it made them think of the spring to come. The Romans used Fir Trees to decorate their temples at the festival of Saturnalia. Christians use it as a sign of everlasting life with God.
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).
Other early Christmas Trees, across many parts of northern Europe, were cherry or hawthorn plants (or a branch of the plant) that were put into pots and brought inside so they would hopefully flower at Christmas time. If you couldn't afford a real plant, people made pyramids of woods and they were decorated to look like a tree with paper, apples and candles. Sometimes they were carried around from house to house, rather than being displayed in a home.
It's possible that the wooden pyramid trees were meant to be like Paradise Trees. These were used in medieval German Mystery or Miracle Plays that were acted out in front of Churches on Christmas Eve. In early church calendars of saints, 24th December was Adam and Eve's day. The Paradise Tree represented the Garden of Eden. It was often paraded around the town before the play started, as a way of advertising the play. The plays told Bible stories to people who could not read.
The first documented use of a tree at Christmas and New Year celebrations is argued between the cities of Tallinn in Estonia and Riga in Latvia! Both claim that they had the first trees; Tallinn in 1441 and Riga in 1510. Both trees were put up by the 'Brotherhood of Blackheads' which was an association of local unmarried merchants, ship owners, and foreigners in Livonia (what is now Estonia and Latvia).Image result for christmas tree images
Little is known about either tree apart from that they were put in the town square, were dance around by the Brotherhood of Blackheads and were then set on fire. This is like the custom of the Yule Log.. The word used for the 'tree' could also mean a mast or pole, tree might have been like a 'Paradise Tree' or a tree-shaped wooden candelabra rather than a 'real' tree.
In the town square of Riga, the capital of Latvia, there is a plaque which is engraved with "The First New Year's Tree in Riga in 1510", in eight languages. You can find out more about the Riga Tree from this website:
A picture from Germany in 1521 which shows a tree being paraded through the streets with a man riding a horse behind it. The man is dressed a bishop, possibly representing St. Nicholas.
In 1584, the historian Balthasar Russow wrote about a tradition, in Riga, of a decorated fir tree in the market square where the young men “went with a flock of maidens and women, first sang and danced there and then set the tree aflame”. There's a record of a small tree in Breman, Germany from 1570. It is described as a tree decorated with "apples, nuts, dates, pretzels and paper flowers". It was displayed in a 'guild-house' (the meeting place for a society of business men in the city).
Cones on a Fir Tree
The first first person to bring a Christmas Tree into a house, in the way we know it today, may have been the 16th century German preacher Martin Luther. A story is told that, one night before Christmas, he was walking through the forest and looked up to see the stars shining through the tree branches. It was so beautiful, that he went home and told his children that it reminded him of Jesus, who left the stars of heaven to come to earth at Christmas. Some people say this is the same tree as the 'Riga' tree, but it isn't! The Riga tree originally took place a few decades earlier. Northern Germany and Latvia are neighbors.
Another story says that St. Boniface of Crediton (a village in Devon, UK) left England and travelled to Germany to preach to the pagan German tribes and convert them to Christianity. He is said to have come across a group of pagans about to sacrifice a young boy while worshipping an oak tree. In anger, and to stop the sacrifice, St. Boniface is said to have cut down the oak tree and, to his amazement, a young fir tree sprang up from the roots of the oak tree. St. Boniface took this as a sign of the Christian faith and his followers decorated the tree with candles so that St. Boniface could preach to the pagans at night.
There is another legend, from Germany, about how the Christmas Tree came into being, it goes:
Once on a cold Christmas Eve night, a forester and his family were in their cottage gathered round the fire to keep warm. Suddenly there was a knock on the door. When the forester opened the door, he found a poor little boy standing on the door step, lost and alone. The forester welcomed him into his house and the family fed and washed him and put him to bed in the youngest sons own bed (he had to share with his brother that night!). The next morning, Christmas Morning, the family were woken up by a choir of angels, and the poor little boy had turned into Jesus, the Christ Child. The Christ Child went into the front garden of the cottage and broke a branch off a Fir tree and gave it to the family as a present to say thank you for looking after him. So ever since them, people have remembered that night by bringing a Christmas Tree into their homes!
A drawing of the famous Royal Christmas Tree from 1848
In Germany, the first Christmas Trees were decorated with edible things, such as gingerbread and gold covered apples. Then glass makers made special small ornaments similar to some of the decorations used today. In 1605 an unknown German wrote: "At Christmas they set up fir trees in the parlours of Strasbourg and hang thereon roses cut out of many-coloured paper, apples, wafers, gold foil, sweets, etc."
At first, a figure of the Baby Jesus was put on the top of the tree. Over time it changed to an angel/fairy that told the shepherds about Jesus, or a star like the Wise Men saw.
The first Christmas Trees came to Britain sometime in the 1830s. They became very popular in 1841, when Prince Albert (Queen Victoria's German husband) had a Christmas Tree set up in Windsor Castle. In 1848, drawing of "The Queen's Christmas tree at Windsor Castle" was published in the Illustrated London News. The drawing was republished in Godey's Lady's Book, Philadelphia in December 1850 (but they removed the Queen's crown and Prince Albert's moustache to make it look 'American'!).
The publication of the drawing helped Christmas Trees become popular in the UK and USA.
In Victorian times, the tree would have been decorated with candles to represent stars. In many parts of Europe, candles are still used to decorate Christmas trees.
Tinsel was also created in Germany, were it was originally made from thin strips of beaten silver. But when plastic/man made tinsel was invented, it became very popular as it was much cheaper than real silver and also lighter to go on the tree!
One legend says that the Christ Child first made tinsel by turning spider's webs into silver after taking pity on a poor family that couldn't afford any decorations for their Christmas Tree!
Because of the danger of fire, in 1895 Ralph Morris, an American telephonist, invented the first electric Christmas lights, similar to the ones we use today.
In 1885 a hospital in Chicago burned down because of candles on a Christmas Tree! And in 1908 insurance companies in the USA tried to get a law made that would ban candles from being used on Christmas Trees because of the many fires they had caused! So we have to say a big thank you to Ralph Morris for making Christmas safer!
The most lights lit at the same time on a Christmas tree is 194,672 and was done by Kiwanis Malmedy / Haute Fagnes Belgium in Malmedy, Belgium, on 10 December 2010!
Many towns and villages have their own Christmas Trees. One of the most famous is the tree in Trafalgar Square in London, England, which is given to the UK by Norway every year as a 'thank you' present for the help the UK gave Norway in World War II. The White House in the USA has had a big tree on the front lawn since the 1920s.
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The record for the most Christmas trees chopped down in two minutes is 27 and belongs to Erin Lavoie from the USA. She set the record on 19th December 2008 on the set of Guinness World Records: Die GroBten Weltrekorde in Germany.
Artificial Christmas Trees really started becoming popular in the early 20th century. In the Edwardian period Christmas Trees made from colored ostrich feathers were popular at 'fashionable' parties. Around 1900 there was even a short fashion for white trees - so if you thought colored trees are a new invention they're not! Over the years artificial tress have been made from feathers, papier mâché, metal, glass, and many different types of plastic (I've got a couple of inflatable trees!).
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The tallest artificial Christmas tree was 52m (170.6ft) high and was covered in green PVC leaves!. It was called the 'Peace Tree' and was designed by Grupo Sonae Distribuição Brasil and was displayed in Moinhos de Vento Park, Porto Alegre, Brazil from 1st December 2001 until 6th January 2002.
In many countries, different trees are used as Christmas trees. In New Zealand a tree called the 'Pohutakawa' that has red flowers is sometimes used and in India, Banana or Mango trees are sometimes decorated.

You can decorate an online Christmas Tree in the fun section of the site!

Monday, December 21, 2015

Kingdom of Morocco Pioneering Economic Growth



  Let us first mention how some scholars explain the inception of the Amazigh calendar. According to them, the origin of Yennayer refers to the first mention of Amazigh people in historical records: the founding by Amazigh Pharaoh Sheshonq I of the 22nd pharaonic dynasty in 958 BC, followed by the 23rd and 24th Amazigh pharaonic dynasties, over 200 years (958 BC-712 BC) of Amazigh rule in ancient Egypt. According to ancient Egyptian historian Manetho (3rd century BC) and archeological records, Amazigh Pharaonic dynasties brought back stability to Egypt by reunifying it and defending it against foreign invasion from the East.
In summary, Yennayer 2966 that we  will celebrate this year commemorates the first mention of the Amazigh people in history. Significantly, it refers to Imazighen as the contributors to the glorious Egyptian civilization. 13 January corresponds to the end of armed conflict between Imazighen and the Egyptian pharaohs.
Here are some few traditions related to the celebration of Yennayer (on January 13th) in some areas of the large land of Tamazghra as they had been described at the beginning of the twentieth century by some French ethnographers since our ancestors didn’t keep records of their practices and since these traditions are unfortunately in the process of disappearing if nobody act efficiently in order to save them.Image result for TAMAZGHA CELEBRATES YENNAYER 2966 images
The festivities are strictly a family affair involving specific dishes. Couscous with chicken is the predominant dish, which embodies the whole symbolism of the event. Nowadays, the celebration -when it takes place- is limited to a special meal like, usually prepared in a household with elderly members or to a party usually initiated by young active members of Amazigh movements in urban societies where most of Imazighen evolve today.
Yennayer should be an occasion to learn more about the cultural background of our ancestors, and to make every effort to transmit this heritage to the young generation that hardly speaks and cares about its significance.
Celebrating Yennayer could also be a step to affirm a fundamental cultural aspect of Imazighen  and further more an attempt to revise or reappraise the official historiography.
The members accustomed to attend celebrations organized by some Amazigh association in Huceima and Nador and documenting the event.Image result for TAMAZGHA CELEBRATES YENNAYER 2966 images

Saturday, December 19, 2015


       In the 1990s microcomputers became powerful enough to process graphics, sound, and video. When Apple and IBM identified a fertile soil in schools, interfaces were created to make writing computer programming easier for the general public, especially teachers and students with no interest in the technicalities of computer programming and learning computer languages.. Thus, in 1987 Bill Atkinson introduced HyperCard, the first authoring application for Apple (Goodman, 1990). In 1989, IBM released LinkWay. Both authoring applications allow users to develop interactive programs including text, graphics, sound, and links to video players, without computer programming.3
Today, there are several authoring systems on shelves or under construction (including Hyperstudio, Authorware, and Macromedia Director) in addition to web editors, presentation software, graphics/drawing and painting programs, animation and audio/video processors, and so forth. Some of these authoring systems are made for small and personal projects and others are used for the development of major electronic publications. The personal systems are easy to master but have limited capabilities, while the professional authoring systems require systematic learning and practice. These application programs provide users with ways to customize or create their own material. Some educators found in such a technology an opportunity for a flexible and inclusive system for the expansion of the experiences of their students. These application programs provide users with the capability to create, manipulate, and store text, graphics, sound, and image. In an educational setting, as individuals or as a team, students can use these application programs to learn mathematics, science, languages, or make their own programs to express themselves using text, graphics, sound, music, and/or images. From merely using the already made software, today with hypermedia applications, individuals with limited knowledge of microcomputers can compose their own material and distribute it on floppy disks, zip disks, CD-ROM, or publish it on the World Wide Web. Companies such as Geocities (1997) offer free e-mail accounts and several megabytes of space on their servers. Some companies such as (n.d.) offer unlimited space on their servers. This is enough to host a large web site with text, graphics, animation, sound, and video files. Such companies also provide subdirectories to help their clients organize their files, a full set of tools, and technical support. Users do not even need to own a computer. They can use a school, business, or library services to access their e-mail and to develop a web site for free in most of the cases.
Currently, we are working at Francis Marion University on the development of an electronic encyclopedia for the preservation and the implementation of the Thmazight language in the public sphere. This project has the objective of encouraging the indigenous people of North Africa to preserve their language/culture. Visual arts, historical artifacts, and songs are the core of the program, which explores various pervasive symbols and metaphors. By listening to the enchanting music and lyrics of the Imazighen, the user will gain insights of their everyday lives. The project provides users with a selection of songs from North Africa. They are invited to browse through the stacks and explore the songs in Thmazight, English, French, and Spanish. Other stacks will include “Spelling Games,” “Learn to Write,” and “Understand Thmazight.”
     Amar Almasude1

Friday, December 18, 2015


The perplexed term ‘Berber’ is shrouded with mystery, just as the Berbers themselves. Regardless of whether some people like or dislike the use of the term ‘Berber’, the name had entered the international vocabulary, and therefore it will be used here when writing in English. The matriarchal name ‘Tamazight’, albeit more popular in its recent masculine and patriarchal form Amazigh, is gradually becoming known to the outside world. This is not to say that there is anything wrong with using the term Berber, just because it was mistakenly associated with Greek barbarous and the negative connotation it conveys; as it existed long before the Greeks and the Romans, and was also used by the Ancient Egyptians and the Berbers long before them. The etymology of the name ‘Berber’ was altogether misunderstood, and it never meant ‘barbaric’ or ‘savage’, simply because the Romans used it to describe the Ancient Egyptians whom we all know were far more advanced and civilised than both the Romans and the Greeks.
The etymology of ‘Imazighen’, namely ‘The Free People’, also has no etymological basis nor historical foundation, and it was merely a superstitious conjuncture that somehow gained widespread popularity amongst both Berberists and European scholars, probably after it was introduced to them by Berber Leo Africanus without questioning its authority or explaining how it came to have this bizarre etymology. Which part in the term ‘Imazighen’ that says ‘free’ and which part that means ‘people’ remain to be explained. The only etymology that can be concluded, so far, is “nobel”, as in Tuareg Tamaheqt majegh (‘nobel’). Nobel, they are, no doubt; but free is far from true! Freedom starts in the mind, then manifests in the real world.

Imazighen is the plural form of the masculine singular Amazigh or Mazigh, while ‘Timazighin’ is the plural form of the feminine singular Tamazight. This means that the recent use of the term “Amazigh” to describe a group of people, as in “the Amazigh of Libya” or “the Amazigh of Algeria”, is inaccurate because the term is singular; and therefore the correct form to use is the plural “Imazighen”, as in “the Imazighen of Libya” — in the same way one cannot say: “the Berber of Libya” because the correct form to use is “the Berbers of Libya”. However, there are instances where one can use the singular form to describe a group, like “the Berber people”; but “the Berber of North Africa” (or “the Amazigh of North Africa”) is also incorrect.
And so the term Berber was used by foreigners, or aliens some would say, while the Berbers call themselves Imazighen or Imushagh; as they came to call Berber language by the name of “Tamazight”, (also ‘Tamaheqt’ or ‘Tamasheght’, depending on language and dialect). The popular and masculine form used almost world-wide, namely “Amazigh Language”, does not exist, violates the sacred “Tamazight”, and is heading towards threatening the very base on which it was founded — the matriarchal nature of the whole Berber culture & society. Tamazight by itself means exactly that: ‘Berber language’; full stop.
‘Tamazgha’, meaning the ‘land of the Imazighen’, namely North Africa, was also invented by activists to describe what the Berbers have always prescribed as ‘Tamort’, or ‘Thamorth’, (‘land, village, town, country, earth’). Terms like ‘Amazighity’, which mixes the English suffix -ty with the Berber noun Amazigh- in a rare percussion, and ‘Imazighenautes’ (‘the Berber geeks of the Internet’) give the amusing impression that “things are getting complicated”. For some unknown reason, there seems to be an attempt, not quite sure by whom, to abandon the original matriarchal form of the appellation “Tamazight” and ultimately all its associated forms.
Some might say this is not bad and should not pose a threat, but one can only agree that modernisation, in the context that was applied to justify elimination of identities rather than illuminate, is part of biological evolution overall and is not man’s invention. TEK (‘Traditional Environmental Knowledge’) is already taking care of modernising all aspects of human existence in one complete system we know as evolution. This extensive TEK system of indigenous People’s heritage and accumulative wisdom, which modern scientists now seek for new insights, insures culture’s continuation and inspires new inventions of material types, smart tools and even new human societies altogether; encompassing all aspects of human’s existence. Yet despotic systems, in contrast, emphasise only one single aspect on the expense of all other aspects including the desecration of nature, polluting the environment, and feeding the earth with toxic waste. This reckless and temporary expression will not succeed in evolutionary terms because it violates long range perspective with which nature sees its future offspring thriving as ever!
Given the fact that Berber mentality, their cheerful attitude to life, their customary egalitarian justice and tribal council of the elders (both female and male transparent members of the society who could lead by example), and all the good and unique elements that distinguish Tamazight society from most of the warring ideals of the neighbouring and far distant countries may well become affected, and may even become infected with the new cultureless direction towards which the Berber society may one day find itself led to — something the Imazighen of today should be concerned with right now rather than shortsightedly endure later. If the Berbers loose their own cultural unique identity, as a Berber, one may no longer wish to remain a Berber, since there will be no one in essence.
To take away from indigenous people the values at the heart of their existence, rather than preserve their priceless world heritage, goes against all human ideals reverberating across the moral world. The Tuareg of the Sahara have also come under the patriarchal hammer in the last decade or so, where they were forced to perform some patriarchal con-sessions, and even were pressurised to abandon a number of Tamazight matriarchal institutions including the “sacred matrilineal naming system”.
“If the only tool we have is a hammer, I guess all problems must look like a nail.”