Posts Tagged ‘wishes

15
Dec
19

Santa Claus at the Department Store

20191214_200420This is me about 58 years ago. Maybe I was asking for a Chatty Cathy doll, one of my favorite Christmas presents! My mother had taken me from our rural community to “the big city” to see Santa Claus. I do not have much in the way of a memory of this, though the magical image of him in the department store window, and lines of children waiting their turn is familiar.

In our area, a trip to the city was a cause for something special – you dressed in your Sunday best and had a special occasion to visit the department store; maybe a wedding or back to school clothes, some sort of milestone. We also dressed to visit the dentist or doctor and maybe had a chance to go out to lunch!

A Christmas visit to Santa was one such milestone! I don’t remember going more than once, but I’m sure many children did. Just a visit to the city was excitement enough, but at Christmas time – oh my! Downtown department stores often had signature restaurants, cafes or tea rooms that were a delight for the senses. I particularly remember the very elegant restrooms in the department store!

Of course all stores didn’t have Santa Claus, some had train displays or lit villages in a winter wonderland, or displays of bows, bells, packages and holly. Snowmen and animated elves working in Santa’s workshop were common. Nativity scenes were often present as well. Carols were played on loudspeakers everywhere, which added to the festive season!

I did not grow up in New England, but for those of you that did, this may bring back some fond memories – http://www.newenglandhistoricalsociety.com/downtown-department-stores-meant-christmas/?fbclid=IwAR3tU-LjzYM1W03W1zDh0JTCZoTa4WQf0PPxST_aWIThebo7XunqsVYDgs0

26
Oct
17

Candles

It’s my birthday week, so I thought this was a timely article to write –

Candles are romantic, candles are for birthdays, candles are for scent, candles are for religion and celebrations, candles have lots of different meanings for many of us – crossing cultures around the world.

The earliest candles may have been small torches – branches dipped in animal fat and lit for a slow burning, dependable light source.

In 3000 BC, Egyptians were using tallow (fat rendered from animals other than pigs) for candles and as time went on, other cultures began finding different sources to use. In India they found that a residue was left by melting cinnamon and it would burn (also smell nicer than tallow, I presume!). China was using whale fat and insects, while Japan extracted oil from tree nuts.

Indigenous people of the Pacific Northwest found that fish called eulachon had a very high fat content during spawning, so they would dry them and use them as candles for lighting, thus the fish’s new name “candlefish.”

In more modern times, beeswax, bayberry wax and whale spermaceti were used. Spermaceti was made by crystalizing sperm whale oil which was a harder wax that didn’t melt in the summer, produced a brighter light and didn’t smell as badly as tallow.

In the early 19th century a French chemist discovered how to extract stearic acid from animal fatty acids, which lead to stearin wax, a wax that burned cleanly and was hard and durable. Later, paraffin wax, made by distilling coal, came into use.

Candles seem mystical – have you ever been mesmerized by watching a candle’s flame flickering? It’s easy to understand why/how certain superstitions got started. If a flame burns blue, supposedly a ghost is in the area and if there is a tall, straight flame it means a stranger will come. Burn a candle in the window to make sure a lover will return.

You should always light a candle with your right hand, otherwise, expect bad luck! Also, it’s bad luck to melt the base of a candle to make it set well in its base or to light it from a fire’s flame. I do hope, for your sake, that a candle that you light does not immediately go out – otherwise bad luck will follow! If it is difficult to light – rain is on the way.

The Irish used to have a superstition that 12 candles must be lit around a body at the wake as protection from evil spirts.

In 1700’s New England, a cultural tradition was begun using wax and oil of the bayberry plant added to their candles. They found the candles burned longer and gave off a wonderful scent. They presented these new candles to friends and neighbors at Christmas time, with the poem that indicated all good wishes would be lost in the smoke if they were blown out.

A Bayberry candle, burned to the socket

Brings joy to the home, and wealth to the pocket.

And now to the point of this whole article – birthdays! And of course, with birthdays, come candles on birthday cakes (or in my case birthday pies) and the tradition of blowing them out.

Apparently, the first birthday party was recorded in early Egypt, for a pharaoh on his coronation, which marked the moment he was “birthed” as a god. But the Greeks made cakes in offerings to some of their gods and eventually placed lit candles on some cakes as a way to symbolize the moon. It was believed that when the candles were blown out their prayers were carried up to the gods.

In the 1700’s in Germany, there were many accounts of cakes and candles used to celebrate children’s birthdays – a kinderfest. A record of a cake decorated with a candle for each year of life was in 1746, for Count Ludwig Von Zinzindorf.

Just when the belief of having to blow out all the candles to have your wish (or prayer) come true is unsure, but we still all make that important wish (prayer) annually, and send the wishes up to the heavens.




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