On a Cold Winter’s Night

_MG_1903What do you like to do on a cold winter’s night?  Do you like to have a fire blazing in the hearth, or to make a cup of hot cocoa or cider? Do you like to go outside all bundled up and take a walk?

I remember that the winter right after we got married, we traveled from Florida (where we were going to college) to Iowa to visit my grandparents for Christmas. My wife is a native Californian, and she had never spent much time in the snow.

On Christmas eve, we’d walked from my grandparents house to the town square of Jefferson, Iowa to do some shopping. I noticed the clouds were starting to flatten out and the sky was getting dull and gray and the temperature was falling. Well, as luck would have it, later that evening it started to snow! We donned our coats and went out walking in it. If my memory serves me correctly, it was the first time my wife had ever had a white Christmas.

When we were at the Global Winter Wonderland (I’ve blogged about it several times this past week), it was cold outside and a breeze was blowing. There was a large food tent set up and we went in search of something to eat. It was warmer inside, and today’s photo was taken there of a hot dog vendor who had steaming hot dogs for sale. It looked very welcoming on such a cold night and I thought the billowing steam might make for an interesting shot. A portion of the face of the vendor, with his gray mustache, is also visible in the top right of the picture, just below the hanging heat lamp.

We didn’t have a white Christmas this year, but this coming Monday, they are forecasting snow showers!  That would be fine with me!

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY:  in 45 BC,In 45 B.C., New Year’s Day was first celebrated on January 1as the Julian calendar took effect.

Soon after becoming dictator, Julius Caesar decided that the traditional calendar was in need of reform. Introduced around the seventh century B.C., the Roman calendar attempted to follow the lunar cycle but frequently fell out of phase with the seasons and had to be corrected. In addition, the Roman group charged with overseeing the calendar, often abused its authority by adding days to extend political terms or interfere with elections. (I guess politicians never change, eh? – Galen)

In designing his new calendar, Caesar enlisted Sosigenes, an Alexandrian astronomer, who advised him to do away with the lunar cycle entirely and follow the solar year, as did the Egyptians. The year was calculated to be 365 and 1/4 days, and Caesar added 67 days to 45 B.C., making 46 B.C. begin on January 1, rather than in March. He also decreed that every four years a day be added to February, thus theoretically keeping his calendar from falling out of step. Shortly before his assassination in 44 B.C., he changed the name of the month Quintilis to Julius (July) after himself. Later, the month of Sextilis was renamed Augustus (August) after his successor.

Celebration of New Year’s Day in January fell out of practice during the Middle Ages, and even those who strictly adhered to the Julian calendar did not observe the New Year exactly on January 1. The reason for the latter was that Caesar and Sosigenes failed to calculate the correct value for the solar year as 365.242199 days, not 365.25 days. Thus, an 11-minute-a-year error added seven days by the year 1000, and 10 days by the mid-15th century.

The Roman church became aware of this problem, and in the 1570s Pope Gregory XIII commissioned Jesuit astronomer Christopher Clavius to come up with a new calendar. In 1582, the Gregorian calendar was implemented, omitting 10 days for that year and establishing the new rule that only one of every four centennial years should be a leap year. Since then, people around the world have gathered en masse (most in Times Square, I think) on January 1 to celebrate the precise arrival of the New Year.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: The piggy bank made its debut in Western Europe between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries, and replaced the clay jars that once housed spare change.  People named the pig-shaped bank after the orange clay, “pygg,” from which it was crafted.

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