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December 2009  Issue 84

Return to Home Page   2009 Index  

 

INTRODUCTION

Things picked up considerably in November, and the expectation is that December will be an extremely busy and active month as many “locals” return to Akumal for the last “Best Shirt” Award of 2009 and the series of December holidays and festivities, including Christmas.  It’s also a good time to return to Akumal to get a 25 percent discount on early payment of the property taxes.

Robin's Best Shirt Award is this Friday!!!!!

All things considered, this turns out to be a fairly long issue of The Akumalian.

IMPORTANT DECEMBER FACTS

Sagittarius - November 22 - December 21

Capricorn -  December 22 - January 19

 December Birthstone: Blue Topaz
December’s official birthstone is the Blue Topaz.  This beautiful blue gemstone is also the traditional gemstone for a couple’s fourth wedding anniversary.

December Birthday Flower: Poinsettia
Though known for its association with the holidays, the poinsettia is also a December birthday flower. Poinsettias traditionally symbolize success and good cheer.

 

DECEMBER BIRTHDAYS

Birthdays and Anniversaries
2          Mark Miller
5          Joyce Hornor
5          Susan Gravlee
11        Phill Combs
14        Mike Brier
16        Dean Keegan
21        Diane Mahan
22        Beryl & Susanne Van Lierop, Anniversary
24        Laura Bush
25        Francys McCasland
30        Ritchie Fredette
31        Donny & Cheryl Hall, Anniversary
 

There must be more than this.  Let’s hear about YOUR birthday before it happens.

 Missed November Birthdays / Anniversary
October 31      Mike & Lynda Jochim were married; congratulations
November 6    Schatzi had a birthday
November 21  Wendell & Lynda Day celebrated their 25th wedding Anniversary

 

HURRICANE SEASON ENDS WITH LITTLE BLUSTER

The 2009 Atlantic hurricane season ended Monday without a hurricane landing on Akumal’s shores and with the fewest named storms in 12 years, according to the National Hurricane Center.  There were nine named tropical storms since June, when the season began.  Three became hurricanes and two tropical storms made landfall in the U.S.  The reason: El Niño, the cyclical warming of equatorial waters in the eastern Pacific Ocean, which tends to inhibit the development of tropical systems in the Atlantic.

The most damaging storm of the season, Ida, slammed into Nicaragua as a hurricane, damaging schools and homes.  Ida then came up and went through the Yucatan Channel, staying well away from Akumal.

El Niño is expected to stay through the winter and into spring.  The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will issue its 2010 hurricane forecast in May.
 

PROPERTY TAXES ARE DUE IN DECEMBER!!

Property taxes are due this month, and if paid in a timely manner, they are eligible for the 25% discount.   

Gerardo H. Dominguez of Akumal Real Estate reports the following:
There is a desk from the Tulum Municipality at our office from 9 to 4, until December 9th 2009.  They are accepting payments for Predial and giving estimates too.

Payments can be done with:
·        
cash (25% discount until Dec 18th)
·        
credit card (20% discount until Dec 18th)
·        
3 payments in Dec, Jan and Feb, with cash only (20% discount)

 As far as we know, the discounts for payments done in January are 20%, and February is 15%.

I don’t know what discounts apply for payments done with credit card in January and February.

Payments with personal checks of Mexican Banks accounts are possible, filling a format. Good Spanish language skills recommended when using this alternative.

 Akumal Real Estate offers its service to pay these taxes for absentee owners.  The fee is 30$ usd for each property tax, but there is a flat fee for multiples properties.  If anyone is interested they can contact me at gerardo@akumalrealestate.com
 

CONSEJO DE DESARROLLO DE AKUMAL S.A.

There was a General Assembly meeting on Wednesday, November 18th.  The Akumalian was unable to attend, so there are no informal minutes or photos for this issue of The Akumalian

The Minutes have not been posted on the Akumal Council web site at http://www.akumalcouncil.com/ACcontent/archives.html but they should be there soon.
  

COMINGS AND GOINGS

            The Akumalian is ‘on-site’ this year, personally recording some of the “comings and Goings” as they pass by.  Needless to say, things picked up towards the last week of the month for Thanksgiving, and the activity continues unabated as we head towards Christmas

 Comings:
In early November, the following were in Akumal:
·        
Terry & Lisa Turner
·        
Macon & Susan Gravlee
·        
Jim & Jackie Power
·        
Mike & Lynda Jochim
·        
Chuck & Pam Dobson
·        
Frank & June Malcom
·        
Schatzi
·        
Donny & Cheryl Hall

 Later in the month we had the following back in town:

  • Gail Rowland and two friends for three weeks
  • Diana Harris & David Walters back at La Sirena #1
  • Diana & David’s friends, Jim & Brenda, were here too.
  • Shane Hampton at 7 Seas
  • Tony, Joan, Cassie, and Alex Gonzalez were back for their traditional Thanksgiving trip
  • Wally Koenst was back in Aventuras Akumal for some R&R and fishing

·         Wendell & Lynda Day are back in Aventuras Akumal
·        
Steve & Judy Holtz are also back in Aventuras Akumal
·        
Gene & Mary Ellen Langan return to South Akumal on December 2
·        
Macon & Susan Gravlee return to South Akumal on December 6
·        
Bob & Gayle Dobert arrive in Aventuras Akumal on December 15
·        
Bud Blatner returns on December 3, threatening to have THE BEST SHIRT for the 4th
·        
Alice Blatner is scheduled to follow on, or about, December 15

 Goings:
·        
Kazue and Beniko Schober have gone to Japan to visit family
      Maggie McKown has returned to Texas, permanently.

  

FULL MOON, DECEMBER 2nd

The Full Cold Moon is on December 2th at 1:32 a.m. AST.  Among some Maya tribes, it’s also called the Full Long Nights Moon.  In this month the winter cold fastens its grip, and the nights are at their longest and darkest.  The term Long Night Moon is a doubly appropriate name, because the midwinter night is indeed long, and the Moon is above the horizon a long time.  The midwinter full Moon takes a high trajectory across the sky because it is opposite to the low Sun.

Watch for another full moon on the 31st.
 

ROBIN’S BEST SHIRT AWARD, DECEMBER 4th

It's this Friday evening!!!!!!

Come one, come all, to the Beach Bar, where we’ll have a ball.

It’s time for another “Best Shirt Award”, which is held on the first Friday of each month during Happy Hour at the Lol Ha Beach Bar. 

This award is based on Robin’s penchant for good, classy Beach Bar shirts, and his sister, Mary, is ready to once again be the judge and jury as she selects the “Best Shirt” for December.  And, as we go to print the criteria are still somewhat nebulous, and they seem to be changing as we move into the high season.

The November competition drew a huge number of very colorful and ambitious contestants, and, as it turned out, Jim Power took top honors over a high stepping crowd of competitors.

The photos are located at Best Shirt Award.
 

ST. NICHOLAS DAY, DECEMBER 6th

Strictly speaking, the tradition of St. Nicholas is not synonymous with the role of Santa Claus in the U.S.  As practiced in many European countries, the celebration of St. Nicholas is separate from the Christmas holidays, and occurs during the 2 weeks prior to December 6th, which is St. Nicholas's day.  Sometimes St. Nicholas Day is the main holiday for gift giving, and not Christmas.

St. Nicholas was born in 271 AD and died around December 6, 342 or 343 AD near the Asia Minor (Turkey) town of Myra, where he later became Bishop.  He performed many good deeds and was a friend to the poor and helpless, and upon his death, myths soon sprang up about him all around the Mediterranean Sea.  He was reputed to be able to calm the raging seas, rescue desperate sailors, help the poor and downtrodden, and save children.  He was soon named as the patron saint of sailors, and when Myra was overthrown, his bones were transported by sailors to Bari, a port in Italy, where a tomb was built over the grave and became the center of honor for St. Nicholas.  From here the legend spread on around to the Atlantic Coast of Europe and the North Sea to become a European holiday tradition regardless of religion.

In anticipation of St. Nicholas's nightly visits, children in several European countries put their shoes in front of the fire place.  They sing traditional songs and provide a carrot or hay for the horse.  At night, Black Pete puts gifts and candy in the shoes.

In the Netherlands, families celebrate St Nicholas's birthday the night before his feast day (December 6th).  At one point during the evening, a loud knock will herald the arrival of Sinterklaas and at the same time candy may be thrown from upstairs; when the door is opened, a bag of gifts will be on the doorstep.

 In Germany, St. Nicholas is also known as Klaasbuur, Sunnercla, Burklaas, Bullerklaas, and  Rauklas, and in eastern Germany, he is also known as Shaggy Goat, Ash Man and Rider, and he is more reflective of earlier pagan influences (Norse) that were blended in with the figure of St. Nicholas, when Christianity came to Germany.  After the reformation, St. Nicholas's attire began to change, maybe as a reflection of the change from the Roman church, and he started to wear a red suit with fur.  His dark-skinned helper is most often known as Knecht Ruprecht.  Although he still visits many homes on Dec 5th/6th and leaves candy and gifts in the children's shoes, more recently St. Nicholas has begun showing up on Christmas Eve in Germany and is called Father Christmas.

In France, he is now called Pere Noel (Father Christmas), and he travels in the company of Pere Fouettard.  Pere Noel leaves presents for good children, while Pere Fouettard disciplines bad children with a spanking.  Pere Noel only sometimes leaves presents on St. Nicholas day, more often now on Christmas.  St. Nicholas day was celebrated formerly in Russia, but under Communism he was changed to Grandfather Frost and wore blue instead of red.  In Sicily, he comes on December 13th and is called Santa Lucia.
 

HANUKKAH, DECEMBER 11th

Hanukkah begins at sundown on December 11th.

Hanukkah, the “Festival of Lights,” starts on the 25th day of the Jewish calendar month of Kislev and lasts for eight days and nights. With blessings, games, and festive foods, Hanukkah celebrates the triumphs—both religious and military—of ancient Jewish heroes.

Hanukkah is a relatively minor holiday in the Jewish year. In the United States, however, its closeness to Christmas has brought greater attention to Hanukkah and its gift-giving tradition.  Amid the ever-growing flood of Christmas advertising, it may seem especially fitting that the Hanukkah story tells of Jewish culture surviving in a non-Jewish world.

The Hanukkah Story
Nearly 2,200 years ago, the Greek-Syrian ruler Antiochus IV tried to force Greek culture upon peoples in his territory. Jews in Judea—now Israel—were forbidden their most important religious practices as well as study of the Torah.  Although vastly outnumbered, religious Jews in the region took up arms to protect their community and their religion.  Led by Mattathias the Hasmonean, and later his son Judah the Maccabee, the rebel armies became known as the Maccabees.

After three years of fighting, in the year 3597, or about 165 B.C.E., the Maccabees victoriously reclaimed the temple on Jerusalem's Mount Moriah.  Next they prepared the temple for rededication—in Hebrew, Hanukkah means “dedication.”  In the temple they found only enough purified oil to kindle the temple light for a single day.  But miraculously, the light continued to burn for eight days.

 The Menorah
The lighting of the menorah, known in Hebrew as the hanukiya, is the most important Hanukkah tradition.  A menorah is a candle stand with nine branches.  Usually eight candles—one for each day of Hanukkah—are of the same height, with a taller one in the middle, the shamash (“servant”), which is used to light the others.  Each evening of Hanukkah, one more candle is lit, with a special blessing.

The menorah symbolizes the burning light in the temple, as well as marking the eight days of the Hanukkah festival.  Some say it also celebrates the light of freedom won by the Maccabees for the Jewish people.
 

THE VIRGIN OF GUADALUPE DAY, DECEMBER 12th

December 12, the day of Virgin of Guadalupe, is an official national holiday, observed with pilgrimages, processions, special masses, fiestas, and Indian dances in front of some churches. In a sense, the Virgin of Guadalupe represents the essence of Mexico, the fusion of two cultures, Catholic Spain and indigenous Mexico.

 

WHAT’S NEW AROUND TOWN?

            A lot is happening around town as we make the transition from Thanksgiving (late this year) to December and the year-end holidays and festivities, and all of this makes for a fairly long issue.

 AKUMAL

 Maggie McKown Is Gone from Akumal
            Please be advised that Maggie McKown has left Akumal and returned home to Texas.  She reports that she was fired as the Librarian at Hekab Be Biblioteca de Akumal back in August, by the new Board of Directors.
            Maggie was a dedicated leader of the Library for a number of years, as well as an integral part of the Akumal community.  She will be sorely missed.
            Thanks for all your efforts in Akumal, Maggie, and all the best for wherever your new endeavors take you.

 Hekab Be Biblioteca de Akumal Christmas Party
           
This year’s Christmas Party will be celebrated on Tuesday, December 22, at 3:30 PM.

 Lucy’s Too Is Open
            Lucy's Too Restaurant and Bar, in the Pueblo Akumal, is now open Tuesday to Saturday with Lunch 12 to 5; Happy Hour 5 to 6; Dinner 6 to 10; and Bar 10 to 11.

 New Assistant Manager at Lol Ha Beach Bar
         
Andres Somellera reports that he has a new Assistant Manager at the Lol Ha Beach Bar, and you should introduce yourself to him the next time you are there.
         His name is Rodrigo Manzanares from Mexico City Mexico.  He just moved down from Matamoros, Tamaulipas Mexico, where he lived for the last 6 months after he moved back from the USA where he lived for 10 years.  He worked in Las Vegas, NV, Concord. CA, and Orlando FL, working as server, manager, and trainer for concepts, like Cheese Cake Factory, Friday’s, Red Robin and Chevy’s Mexican Grill.
           Rodrigo is married and has a twelve year old daughter. His family is back in Matamoros and hope to move soon to the Riviera Maya.

 La Lunita Now Open for Breakfast & Brunch
       
Please be advised that La Lunita is now open every day, all day, from 8:00am to 10:30pm serving breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Some of the breakfast & brunch 'specials' include:
·        
Salmon Crepes "La Lunita"
·        
Poached Eggs with Grilled Lobster
·        
Shrimp Rolls with Guacamole
·        
Quiche Lorraine
·        
Roasted Vegetable Quiche
·        
Lamb Burger with Potatoes

Check out La Lunita’s ‘new’ web site at La Lunita.

 “Local Species” Signs at Beach Bar
            You may have noticed that the two ‘locals’ signs hanging over the Beach Bar at Lol Ha are not there.  Andres reports that they have been removed for cleaning and refurbishing, and the encircling ropes are being replaced.  The signs should be back up by mid-December, if not for the Best Shirt Award this coming Friday.

 Lights on the Bridge
        
The new bridge over MX307 connecting the Akumal Pueblo with Akumal Central has had some new lights added recently, and these have to be seen to be believed.  They change colors.  As you approach Akumal from either the north or the south, the bridge seems to be changing colors, from red, to purple, to green, to blue, and it can be quite discerning the first time you see this.  Watch for this the next time you come to Akumal at night.
 

POINSETTIA DAY, DECEMBER 12th

Poinsettias are traditional Christmas plants.  When people shop for turkeys, crackers and presents, they also pick up a poinsettia.  Their vivid red bracts (leaves) have become associated with Santa's coat and robins' breasts.

Poinsettias are native to Mexico, where the Aztecs used them in the 14th, 15th, and 16th centuries both for medicinal purposes and for making dye.  Poinsettias are 'short day plants', meaning they flower when there are less than 12 hours daylight, to ensure the minimum of competitors of pollinating insects.  The colored red leaves surround the base of the tiny flower heads and are designed to attract insects that might otherwise overlook the flowers.

The Christmas connection to poinsettias comes from a Mexican legend which tells of a poor girl who dreams of bringing a beautiful gift to favor the Virgin Mary for a Christmas Eve service, yet has nothing worthy.  On the way to Church, she meets an angel who tells her to pick some weeds.  She kneels by the roadside and, despite her protests that they are far from desirable, gathers a handful of common weeds and makes her way to a small chapel where she places her offering on the altar.  The moment she does, they burst into blooms of brilliant red poinsettias and her sorrow turns to joy.  The Mexicans renamed it Flor de Nochebuena (Christmas Eve Flower).  

The ancients knew this plant as Cuetlaxochitl, which means "the flower of leather petals".  The ancients considered all flowers to be divine gifts of the Gods, not only because of their wonderful beauty, scent and color, but they were also believed to be metaphors of the most beautiful feelings.  This star-shaped, red, winter-flowering plant was a special favorite long before the arrival of Columbus.

Poinsettia Day is on December 12th.  It was declared in honor of the death of Joel Roberts Poinsett, whom the plant is named after.
 

GEMINIDS METEOR SHOWER, DECEMBER 13 - 14th

Considered by many to be the best meteor shower in the heavens, the Geminids are known for producing up to 60 multicolored meteors per hour at their peak.  The peak of the shower is on the morning of December 13-14, although some meteors should be visible from December 6 - 19.  The Geminid meteor shower this year will not have the moon interfering with the display, because the moon is in a crescent phase just before sunrise.  Sky & Telescope reports we should see approximately 100 per hour..  The best time to view the meteor shower is in the late night to early morning hours.  The best time to view a meteor shower typically begins around 2 AM.  This is because as the Earth rotates toward dawn, the forward velocity of the planet adds to the linear velocity of the surface and atmosphere.  This has the effect of "sweeping up" more meteors.
 

POSADA, DECEMBER 16TH to 24th

La Posadas, the remarkable buildup to Christmas Eve, is perhaps the most delightful and unique Mexican tradition. Beginning December 16th, it commemorates the events in the journey of Mary and Joseph from Nazareth to Bethlehem.

Las Posadas are a series of nine charming children’s processions which are uniquely, genuinely and exclusively Mexican, seemingly invented by the early Spanish missionaries solely to comfort and convert the former Aztecs.

The tradition of the nine days of processions (Posadas) began soon after the arrival of the Spaniards in Mexico.  Clever San Ignacio de Loyola created the custom to teach the story of the birth of Jesus and more importantly, to coincide with the nine day Fiestas of the Sun, which celebrated the virgin birth of the Aztec Sun god, Huitzilopchtli, from the 16th through the 24th of December.  Special permission was received from Rome to celebrate nine “Christmas Masses” to represent the nine months of Mary’s pregnancy.

Children in the villages will set out each evening from the church for a pilgrimage to a different neighborhood.  This procession symbolizes the journey made by Joseph and Mary from Nazareth to Bethlehem and Joseph’s search for shelter (Posada) at an Inn (also Posada).  The peregrinos (pilgrims) include Joseph leading Mary on a burro, an Angel, shepherds, kings, and a large flock of excited, giggling, jostling, bumping, wiggling, shiny-eyed others, most with bright ribbon and flower decked shepherds’ staffs which they tap in time to the music.

The verses of the traditional Posada song are exchanged back and forth between Joseph and the group outside each house and the Innkeeper and the group inside.  At each location, Joseph asks for entry, until finally at a prearranged location, the Innkeeper and friends sing from inside the shelter (house): “Enter holy pilgrims, receive this humble corner, that while we know it is a poor lodging, it is given as the gift of heart.”

And the party begins, with joyous music, piñatas, with candy, fruit, and treats for everyone.  Like the fiestas held by the ancients to honor Huitzilopochtli, the Mexican Posadas are full of the deepest of feeling; laughter mixed with deep spirituality, combined with the Mexican’s thirst for diversion from the daily sameness of survival.  This is truly a merrily religious celebration, and for most of the children, far more anticipated than Christmas itself.
 

AKUMAL TOY DRIVE FOR “DIA DE LOS REYES MAGOS”

Like Christmas morning in the U.S., children wake up the morning of January 6th to find toys and gifts left by the Three Kings.  Día de los Reyes Magos, “Three Kings Day” or “Epiphany”, is the most special day of the year for children throughout Mexico, and historically portrays the arrival of the Wise Men in Bethlehem bringing gifts to baby Jesus.  However, many children in the rural villages have never experienced the joy of receiving a toy from the Reyes Magos.  Help us change this!!

A small group of Akumal business owners, residents, home owners, and guests raised money last year and drove a carload of new toys out to the rural villages along the Tulum-Coba highway.  They put smiles on over 200 little faces on January 6th, 2006.  This past January 6th, vacationers brought a toy to donate, money was collected to buy toys, and over 500 children received a special gift from the Reyes Magos which they normally would not have, and WOW – look at all those beautiful smiles

When you vacation to the Riviera Maya this year, bring a small new or used, in good-condition, toy with you.  A toy car, a Barbie doll, crayons, a ball – anything.  We will keep this collection going all year long to give the Reyes Magos even more gifts to give next January 6th, to more children, to as many villages as possible!

As you are planning your December (Christmas / New Year’s) vacation to Akumal, please think about bringing a small new or used, in good-condition, toy with you.  A toy car, a Barbie doll, crayons, a ball – anything – is very appropriate and would be greatly appreciated by the children in these small, rural villages.  The “Three Kings” will be visiting these villages on Día de los Reyes Magos again this holiday season (January 6, 2009).

We will keep this collection going all year long to provide the Reyes Magos even more gifts to give on January 6, 2010, to more children, in as many villages as possible, so toys are welcome."

THERE ARE DROP OFF BOXES in the TSA Office and the Pueblito Market located at the entrance of Akumal.  We thank you for your generosity!
 

HEKAB BE BIBLIOTECA CHRISTMAS FIESTA, DEC 22nd

Hekab Be Biblioteca de Akumal, A.C. is having a Christmas Fiesta on Tuesday, December 20th at 3:30pm.  Please, join the staff and the kids for a visit from Santa Claus.
 

 

WINTER SOLSTICE, DECEMBER 21st

In the Northern Hemisphere, the Winter Solstice occurs on December 21, 2008 at 6:04 AM AST and 12:04 AM UT (Universal Time).  In the Southern Hemisphere, the Winter Solstice takes place on June 20, 2008 23:59 PM UT (Universal Time).

It marks the solstice—the beginning of winter in the Northern Hemisphere and summer in the Southern Hemisphere.

The winter solstice marks the shortest day and the longest night of the year.  The sun appears at its lowest point in the sky, and its noontime elevation appears to be the same for several days before and after the solstice.  Hence the origin of the word solstice, which comes from Latin solstitium, from sol, “sun” and -stitium, “a stoppage.”  Following the winter solstice, the days begin to grow longer and the nights shorter.

In the Northern Hemisphere, the winter solstice occurs on December 22, when the sun shines directly over the tropic of Capricorn; the summer solstice occurs on either June 21 or 22, when the sun shines directly over the tropic of Cancer.  In the Southern Hemisphere, the winter and summer solstices are reversed.
 

LIVE NATIVITY, DECEMBER 23rd 

The Annual Akumal Christmas Candlelight Service will be held on Wednesday, December 23 at 6-7 PM on the Akumal Stage (Ukana Plaza Stage) by the Peak Gym; start time is a punctual 6:00pm.  The soloist will be Natalie Novak.  Be there for the world famous Live Nativity Scene.
 

 

CHRISTMAS IN MEXICO

The first thing to know about celebrating Christmas in Mexico is that most everybody takes off the last two weeks in December - to party, spend more time with the family, visit with old friends, even make new friends.  One of the biggest fiestas of the year - in small towns, big cities, the beach resorts, everywhere - Christmas in Mexico is celebrated in a variety of ways.  A common denominator is the posada, a recreation of Mary (on donkey) and Joseph searching for a "room at the inn."  Accompanying them is a choir of small children who knock on doors asking for lodging for the weary couple.  By previous arrangement, there are no takers.
 

CHILDREN SINGING AT THE BEACH BAR – LAS RAMAS

Ever wonder what it is all about when the Mexican children come around the Beach Bar with a box and sing for money?  Here’s the “rest of the story”.

Here in the Yucatan, this ritual has a little trickster twist to it.  Here in Akumal, they have Las RamasRamas means “branches” and the little visitors all hold branches, so that must be where they get their name.

Each night during Advent, the 24 days leading up to Christmas, children of the neighborhood travel from bar to restaurant singing a song and collecting money.  With them they carry las ramas as well as a picture of the Virgin of Guadalupe, somehow set up with a candle.  It’s typically a little box, with flowers and candles in front of the Virgin. 

In this tradition, the children go door to door in their neighborhood, singing this song.  They sing or shout it very quickly so that it’s almost impossible to tell what they are saying.
 

CHRISTMAS, DECEMBER 25th

Christmas, or Christmas Day, is an annual holiday on December 25th that marks the traditional birth date of Jesus of Nazareth. Christmas combines the celebration of Jesus' birth with various other traditions and customs, many of which were influenced by ancient winter festivals such as Yule and Saturnalia.  Christmas traditions include the display of Nativity scenes and Christmas trees, the exchange of gifts and cards, and the arrival of Santa Claus on Christmas Eve. Popular Christmas themes include the promotion of goodwill, giving, compassion, and quality family time.

In Western culture, where the holiday is characterized by the exchange of gifts among friends and family members, some of the gifts are attributed to a character called Santa Claus (also known as Father Christmas, Saint Nicholas or St. Nikolaus, Sinterklaas, Joulupukki, Weihnachtsmann, Saint Basil and Father Frost).

Santa Claus is a variation of a Dutch folk tale based on the historical figure Saint Nicholas, or Sinterklaas, who gave gifts on the eve of his feast day of December 6.  He became associated with Christmas in 19th century America, and was gradually renamed Santa Claus or Saint Nick.  In 1812, Washington Irving wrote of Saint Nicholas "riding over the tops of the trees, in that selfsame wagon, wherein he brings his yearly presents to children."  The connection between Santa Claus and Christmas was popularized by the 1822 poem, "A Visit from Saint Nicholas" attributed to Clement Clarke Moore, which depicted Santa driving a sleigh pulled by reindeer and distributing gifts to children.  The popular image of Santa Claus was created by the German-American cartoonist Thomas Nast (1840-1902), who drew a new image annually, beginning in 1863.  By the 1880s, Nast's Santa had evolved into the form we now recognize.  The image was standardized by advertisers in the 1920s.

Father Christmas, who predates the Santa Claus character, was first recorded in the 15th century, but was associated with holiday merrymaking and drunkenness.  In Victorian Britain, his image was remade to match that of Santa.  The French Pere Noel evolved along similar lines, eventually adopting the Santa image.  In Italy, Babbo Natale acts as Santa Claus, while La Befana, is the bringer of gifts and arrives on the eve of the Epiphany.  It is said that La Befana set out to bring the baby Jesus gifts, but got lost along the way.  Now, she brings gifts to all children.

The current tradition in several Latin American countries (such as Venezuela) holds that while Santa makes the toys, he then gives them to the Baby Jesus, who is the one who actually delivers them to the children's homes.  This story is meant to be a reconciliation between traditional religious beliefs and modern day globalization, most notably the iconography of Santa Claus imported from the United States.

In Southern Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Sudtirol and Liechtenstein, the Christkind brings the presents.  The German St. Nikolaus is not identical with the Weihnachtsman (who is the German version of Santa Claus).  St. Nikolaus wears a bishop's dress and still brings small gifts (usually candies, nuts and fruits) on December 6 and is accompanied by Knecht Ruprecht.
 

SCIENTIFIC FACTS ON SANTA TO PONDER

In case you do not get those presents from Santa you were hoping for, here's something to consider.

There are approximately two billion children (persons under 18) in the world.  However, since Santa does not visit children of Muslim, Hindu, Jewish, or Buddhist religions, this reduces the workload for Christmas night to 15 percentage of the total, or 378 million (according to the Population Reference Bureau).  At an average (census) rate of 3.5 children per household, and that comes to 108 million homes, presuming that there is at least one good child in each.

Santa has about 31 hours of Christmas to work with, thanks to the different time zones and the rotation of the earth, assuming he travels east to west (which seems logical).  This works out to 967.7 visits per second.  This is to say that for each Christian household with a good child, Santa has around 1/1000th of a second to park the sleigh, hop out, jump down the chimney, fill the stockings, distribute the remaining presents under the tree, eat whatever snacks have been left for him, get back up the chimney, jump into the sleigh and get on to the next house.

Assuming that each of these 108 million stops is evenly distributed around the earth (which, of course, we know to be false, but will accept for the purposes of our calculations), we are now talking about 0.78 miles per household; a total trip of 75.5 million miles, not counting bathroom stops or breaks.  This means Santa's sleigh is moving at 650 miles per second or 3,000 times the speed of sound.  For purposes of comparison, the fastest man-made vehicle, the Ulysses space probe, moves at a poky 27.4 miles per second, and a conventional reindeer can run (at best) 15 miles per hour.

The payload of the sleigh adds another interesting element.  Assuming that each child gets nothing more than a medium sized Lego set (two pounds), the sleigh is carrying over 500 thousand tons, not counting Santa himself.  On land, a conventional reindeer can pull no more than 300 pounds.  Even granting that the "flying" reindeer could pull ten times the normal amount, the job can't be done with eight or even nine of them.  Santa would need 360,000 of them.  This increases the payload, not counting the weight of the sleigh, another 54,000 tons, or roughly seven times the weight of the Queen Elizabeth (the ship, not the monarch).

600,000 tons traveling at 650 miles per second creates enormous air resistance; this would heat up the reindeer in the same fashion as a spacecraft re-entering the earth's atmosphere.  The lead pair of reindeer would absorb 14.3 quintillion joules of energy per second each.  In short, they would burst into flames almost instantaneously, exposing the reindeer behind them and creating deafening sonic booms in their wake.  The entire reindeer team would be vaporized within 4.26 thousandths of a second, or right about the time Santa reached the fifth house on his trip.

Not that it matters, however, since Santa, as a result of accelerating from a dead stop to 650 MPS in .001 seconds, would be subjected to centrifugal forces of 17,500 g's.  A 250 pound Santa (which seems ludicrously slim) would be pinned to the back of the sleigh by 4,315,015 pounds of force, instantly crushing his bones and organs and reducing him to a quivering blob of pink goo.

Therefore, if Santa did exist, he's dead now; Bummer.

 Merry Christmas anyway.
 

KWANZAA, DECEMBER 26th

This celebration is not a festival originating in any of the 55 African countries, nor is it an "African" Christmas celebration.  Kwanzaa is an African-Americans celebration of life from 26 December to 1 January.

Dr. Maulana Karenga introduced the festival in 1966 to the United States as a ritual to welcome the first harvests to the home.  Dr. Karenga created this festival for Afro-Americans as a response to the commercialism of Christmas.  In fact, one might say that Kwanzaa has similarities with Thanksgiving in the United States, or the Yam Festival in Ghana and Nigeria.  The word "kwanza" is a KiSwahili (Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania) word meaning "first."

Five common sets of values are central to the activities of the week: ingathering, reverence, commemoration, recommitment, and celebration.

 The seven principles (nguzo saba) of Kwanzaa utilize Kiswahili words: unity (umoja), self-determination (kujichagulia), collective work and responsibility (ujima), cooperative economics (ujamaa), purpose (nia), creativity (kuumba), and faith (imani).  Each of the seven candles signify the principles.  Like the Jewish Hannakah, candles are used to represent concepts of the holiday.

 The symbols of Kwanzaa includes crops (mzao) which represents the historical roots of African-Americans in agriculture and also the reward for collective labor.  The mat (mkeka) lays the foundation for self- actualization.  The candle holder (kinara) reminds believers in the ancestral origins in one of 55 African countries.  Corn/maize (muhindi) signifies children and the hope associated in the younger generation.  Gifts (Zawadi) represent commitments of the parents for the children.  The unity cup (Kkimbe cha Umoja) is used to pour libations to the ancestors.  Finally, the seven candles (mishumaa saba) remind participants of the several principles and the colors in flags of African liberation movements; 3 red, 1 black, and 3 green.

Gifts are exchanged.  On December 31, participants celebrate with a banquet of food, often cuisine from various African countries.  Participants greet one another with "Habari gani", which is Kiswahili for, "How are you/ how's the news with you?"

FULL MOON, DECEMBER 31st    

December 31, 1:13 p.m. AST -- Full Long Night Moon.  Nights are at their longest and darkest.  The term Long Night Moon is a doubly appropriate name because the midwinter night is indeed long and the moon is above the horizon a long time.  The midwinter full moon takes a high trajectory across the sky because it is opposite to the low Sun. 

This is the second time the moon turns full in a calendar month, so it is also popularly known as a "Blue Moon."  Full moons occur on average each 29.53 days (the length of the synodic month), or 12.3683 times per year; so months containing two full moons occur on average every 2.72 years, or every 2 years plus 8 or 9 months.  There will be a partial lunar eclipse that will be visible from Europe, Africa and Asia with this full moon.
 

PARTIAL LUNAR ECLIPSE, DECEMBER 31st    

A partial lunar eclipse will take place on New Year's Eve, December 31, 2009, the last of four lunar eclipses in 2009.  Only a tiny sliver of the Moon will be in the Earth's umbral shadow, but there should be a distinct darkening visible over the Moon's surface at greatest eclipse.  It will be visible from all of Africa, Europe, Asia, and Australia – got three “A”s there but no Akumal.

Enjoy the full Blue Moon on New Year’s Eve.

 

HAPPY NEW YEAR, DECEMBER 31st   

The Akumalian staff wishes you and yours a very Happy and Prosperous New Year, wherever you are.  Enjoy.

 

 

EVENTS

Robin’s November “Best Shirt Award”, was NOT the only recorded “Event”.  A number of “Events” between the October and November “Best Shirt Award” Events have been recorded and posted to The Akumalian Photo Gallery.

 See the following:

 Wendell & Lynda Day’s 25th Wedding Anniversary

 Thanksgiving dinner in Akumal

 

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