Tuesday, December 13, 2011

National Violins Day

The violin is a string instrument, usually with four strings tuned in perfect fifths. It is the smallest, highest-pitched member of the violin family of string instruments, which includes the viola, cello, and bass.


The violin is sometimes informally called a fiddle, regardless of the type of music played on it. The word violin comes from the Middle Latin word vitula, meaning stringed instrument; this word is also believed to be the source of the Germanic "fiddle". The violin, while it has ancient origins, acquired most of its modern characteristics in 16th-century Italy, with some further modifications occurring in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Someone who plays the violin is called a violinist or a fiddler. The violinist produces sound by drawing a bow across one or more strings (which may be stopped by the fingers of the other hand to produce a full range of pitches), by plucking the strings (with either hand), or by a variety of other techniques. The violin is played by musicians in a wide variety of musical genres, including Baroque music, classical, jazz, folk music, and rock and roll.
Violinists and collectors particularly prize the instruments made by the Gasparo da Salò, Giovanni Paolo Maggini, Stradivari, Guarneri and Amati families from the 16th to the 18th century in Brescia and Cremona and by Jacob Stainer in Austria.
The earliest stringed instruments were mostly plucked (e.g. the Greek lyre). Bowed instruments may have originated in the equestrian cultures of Central Asia, an example being the Kobyz (Kazakh: қобыз) or kyl-kobyz is an ancient Turkic, Kazakh string instrument or Mongolian instrument Morin huur:

Turkic and Mongolian horsemen from Inner Asia were probably the world’s earliest fiddlers. Their two-stringed upright fiddles were strung with horsehair strings, played with horsehair bows, and often feature a carved horse’s head at the end of the neck. The violins, violas, and cellos we play today, and whose bows are still strung with horsehair, are a legacy of the nomads.
Source: Wikipedia
Photo credits:  Violinist Jascha Heifetz, perhaps the most memorable of the Golden Age soloists and a so-called "classical" virtuoso who was actually a household name in many American communities, glassshallot.typepad.com; gracecomesbyhearing.blogspot.com; Israeli violin virtuoso, conductor, and master-instructor. He is widely considered as one of the preeminent violin virtuosi of the 20th century.tipsforclassicalmusicians.com;Wikipedia, Wikipedia, Kyoko Yonemoto playing Paganini's Caprice No. 24 on a violin, Wikipedia; talknologytips.blogspot.com

got cocoa?

Today is your day! National Cocoa Day!

December 13, 2011 is

National Cocoa Day

It’s National Cocoa Day! Nothing warms you up better on a cold winter day than a nice cup of hot cocoa! Cocoa, the dried, fully fermented seeds of the cacao tree, is the basis for cocoa powder, which is used to make the hot cocoa beverage we all know and love. Did you know that monkeys were the first creatures to discover that the cacao plant was edible and quite tasty? Over 1500 years ago, monkeys began to consume the pulp of the plant and spit out the beans. Humans soon began to follow the monkey's example and the rest is history. Cacao trees are grown all over the world, but it is believed that the first cacao trees grew in South America. Cocoa is similar to wine in that its flavor differs depending on the location where it is grown. It's a good thing that cacao trees are plentiful because approximately 300 to 600 cocoa beans are needed to make just two pounds of chocolate! To celebrate National Cocoa Day, make your favorite type of cocoa to enjoy. For a holiday twist on a traditional cup of cocoa, try adding a candy cane. Punchbowl.com

Happy St. Lucia Day!

Happy St. Lucia Day, December 13th. 

This day dedicated to the Sicilian martyr St. Lucy, and is traditionally celebrated in Scandinavian countries and Italy on December 13th, and represents the start of the holiday season. 
It is sometimes called the Festival Of Lights because the girls dress up in the community to give out food/drink or as a procession. Boys sometimes get involved, dressed in white (s0metimes red) with a cone hat and are called "Star boys". 
The Legend
Saint Lucia was Italian, a Sicilian martyr. So how did an Italian girl-turned-saint come to be honored in Sweden? There are various stories about Lucia with one basic storyline - her father dies, her mother is ill and is healed and they become Christians, that Lucia devotes herself to her faith and brings food and drink to Christians in hiding, and later she refuses to marry a pagan suitor that her father had arranged, she is sentenced and killed for the marriage refusal and acknowledgement of her Christianity beliefs, which was illegal. 

One of the most common story is as follows: Lucia was born of wealthy, noble parents about 283 AD in Syracuse, Sicily. Her father died when she was very young. When her mother fell ill and her death appeared imminent, the desperate Lucia took her on a pilgrimage to the tomb of Saint Agatha, where miraculous healings were rumored to take place. An angel appeared to her in a dream beside the shrine and she refused to compromise her virginity in marriage. The mother was healed and both women became Christians. Together they pledged to use their wealth to help the sick and the poor.
Meanwhile, at the time, Sicily was under the rule of an emperor, and Christianity was forbidden in favor of pagan gods. But the devout young Sicilian virgin held to her faith and distributed food to the homeless and starving.
Many of those poor families sought refuge in caves, and at night, Lucia would make her way through the passageways with armfuls of bread, food and drink and supplies. She wore a crown of candles on her head to light the way, leaving her hands free to carry the food and supplies.
Lucia vowed to remain a virgin. But before her father died, he had arranged her marriage into a pagan family, a deal that Lucia had no intention of honoring. Her betrothed, however, demanded her hand as his bride. In a rage, the suitor took his revenge and reported Lucia's Christian faith to the Roman officials. On Dec. 13, 304 AD, Lucia was led before a court where she was sentenced. She was tortured, the guards dragged her away with great difficulty, poked out her eyes, tried to burn her at the stake per the court order and she was finally killed by the sword in the throat of one of the soldiers to stop her from talking to the crowd. 

Later she was venerated as a martyr and saint, and the day of her death, Dec. 13, was named Saint Lucia's Day.
As Christianity spread through Europe and into Scandinavia, though, the pagan celebration of Winter Solstice had to be replaced with a Christian celebration. In keeping with "timing is everything," winter solstice happened to fall on Dec. 13, so Saint Lucia was the natural replacement holiday choice.

The legend of this celebration was cemented when a terrible famine came to the Province of Varmland in Sweden during the middle ages. The poor village was starving to death. But on Dec. 13 of that year a large white ship was seen coming through the night across Lake Vanern, with a beautiful young woman standing on the bow. She was wearing a brilliant white gown, and a ring of light encircled her head. 
The country people boarded the ship to find that its cargo was food, clothing and supplies. They quickly unloaded it, and as they carried the last baskets away the people looked back to see that the ship was no longer there. 

Probably, it had been a much-needed supply ship from another province. But many felt in their hearts that it was a gift from Saint Lucia, and as the story spread, celebrations of Saint Lucia's Day began. Even after the calendar was reformed and winter solstice fell on a later day, the 13th of December remained the celebration of Saint Lucia.
Through the years, symbolism includes the bright shining candles, reminds us to be the light in the darkness. (Lucia/Lucy means "light"). And her offerings of food and drink remind us to be giving and kind to others. The white gown symbolizes the young woman's purity and the red reminds us of her martyrdom.
In families, the tradition is to have the oldest daughter brings coffee and St. Lucia buns (or ginger cookies or croissants, etc.) to her parents (and siblings) while wearing a candle-wreath and singing a Lucia song. 
St Lucia buns/Lussekatter (Saffron Buns)

Song for Santa Lucia - Swedish Version

Natten går tunga fjät rund gård och stuva; kring jord, som sol förlät, skuggoma ruva.
Då i vårt mörka hus, stiger med tända Uus, Sankta Lucia, Sankta Lucia.
Natten går stor och stum nu hörs dess vingar i alla tysta rum sus som av vingar.
Se, på vår tröskel står vitklädd med ljus i hår Sankta Lucia, Sankta Lucia.
Mörkret ska flyta snart urjordens dalar så hon ett underbart ord till oss talar.
Dagen ska åter ny stiga ur rosig sky. Sankta Lucia, Sankta Lucia.

-from Maia Mittelstaedt 

Santa Lucia(English translation)
Night walks with heavy tread
round farm and byre, 
dark sun-forsaken earth
shadows attire.
Then in our winter gloom
candlelight fills the room:
Santa Lucia, Santa Lucia!

 Silent and dark the night
now hear descending
rustle of wings in flight,
all darkness ending. 
Then she comes, dressed in white, 
head wreathed in candles bright: 
Santa Lucia, Santa Lucia!

Shadows will soon be gone
from earth’s dark valley
wonderful words anon
us cheer and rally. 
Day will soon dawn anew
in skies of rosy hue: 
Santa Lucia, Santa Lucia!

Source: Wikipedia, post-gazette.com/food, twigandtoadstool.blogspot.com
Photo credit: indiebeauty.com, Wikipedia, ashlemieux.blogspot.com, Wikipedia, twigandtoadstool.blogspot.com, Flag of Sicily -Wikipedia, americangirl.wikia.com, Flag of Sweden - Wikipedia, clipper - people.usd.edu, americangirl.wikia.com, post-gazette.com/food, visitsweden.com, blog.splendia.com