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Merry Christmas

 Christmas 2010  Issue 96a

Return to Home Page   2009 Index  2010 Index

MESSAGE FROM THE STAFF

The Staff decided to do this Christmas Special Edition rather than attempting to shove a lot  of this into the regular December issue of The Akumalian.  Plus, it makes these stories a bit more timely, but the down side is that many of you are already with family and friends, or you are “on the road” trying to get there.

There are a few of us still here in Akumal, and the sky has been very clear and star filled, to say nothing of bright with the declining full moon.  Earlier in the week, on the 22nd, we had ring-side seats for the Winter Solstice, Full Lunar Eclipse (spectacular), and a fantabulous moon rise.

Here is our Christmas tree.

 Interestingly enough, a number of things happened in Washington this week that most, if not all, of America can be thankful for:

·         Late last Thursday House lawmakers approved the $858 billion deal Bush-era tax cuts until 2012 on a rare bipartisan vote of 139 Democrats and 138 Republicans.

·         The Senate voted 71-27 in favor of the START nuclear arms treaty with Russia.

·         The House of Representatives voted for a $4.2 billion measure that would provide health services to the Sept. 11 rescue crews.

 President Obama signed the repeal of the "don't ask, don't tell" straightjacket for gays in the military.

THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS by SteveC

 It was the night before Christmas,
          And Santa was busy preparing his reindeer and sleigh,
          Because he knew he would soon be on his way.

 It was Christmas Eve 2010,
          And Santa was heading out once again,

 The course was all plotted and set,
           And he’d be back home by dawn, that was a good bet.

 In a last minute adjustment, with one eye to the sky,
           It was decided that he would first, to Akumal fly.

 “It’s Christmas Eve” he said to his elves,
           As they moved toys to the sleigh from the workshop shelves,

 And he grinned, chuckled, and winked a time or two, maybe three,
           Knowing he soon would be squeezing into many a chimney,

 But to Santa that did not matter a twit,
           Knowing the fireplaces would be cold and unlit.

 It was more important that he stay on the course throughout the night,
           Not wanting to give a poor child a toy-less Christmas morning fright.

 He knew it would be hard, and there might be places with lots of ice,
          And then there are others where the weather might be quite nice.

 In Akumal, the house roofs are large and flat and offer a good view,
          But many are topped by a satellite dish or two,

 However, it would be rather mild, and he knew the perfect spot to land,
        He’d swing around the palm trees and land on the sand.

 In some villas, Santa would have to enter by the upstairs balcony,
           But he needed to be aware of the Akumal police and private security.

 The final preparations made, he gathered the elves and patted each head,
         Saying, “It’s now time for you to rest and go to bed.

 It’s now up to the reindeer and me,
           We are heading off to Akumal and the Caribbean Sea.”

 Then again Christmas is very, very near,
           And if you listen quietly, you know what you can hear,

 A thousand voices singing out, “Merry Christmas to All and a Very Happy New Year.”
 
 

THE YULE LOG

Need an excuse for a Christmas party?  How about a "traditional" excuse?  If this year's party is already planned, add this old tradition to it. Burning a Yule log is probably the oldest Christmas tradition there is. It started even before the first Christmas.  Celebrating Yule means no work as long as the special log burns.  It does require gathering family, friends and neighbors for songs and stories, dances and romances, feasts and fun.

At first, burning a Yule log was a celebration of the winter solstice. In Scandinavia, Yule ran from several weeks before the winter solstice to a couple weeks after.  This was the darkest time of year, and the people celebrated because days would start getting longer after the solstice. There was quite a bit of ritual and ceremony tied to the Yule log, for it marked the sun's rebirth from its southern reaches.  The Yule log gets its name from the Scandinavian tradition, but the ritual burning of a special log during winter solstice took place as far west as Ireland, as far south as Greece, and as far north as Siberia.

In the fourth century AD When Pope Julius I decided to celebrate Christmas around the Winter Solstice, the Yule log tradition continued, but the fire came to represent the light of the Savior instead of the light of the Sun.

On or about Christmas Eve, a big log was brought into a home or large hall. Songs were sung and stories told. Children danced.  Offerings of food and wine and decorations were placed upon it. Personal faults, mistakes and bad choices were burned in the flame so everyone's new year would start with a clean slate.  The log was never allowed to burn completely, a bit was kept in the house to start next year’s log.  The log brought good luck. Any pieces that were kept protected a house from fire, or lightning, or hail.  Ashes of the log would be placed in wells to keep the water good. Ashes were also placed at the roots of fruit trees and vines to help them bear a good harvest.

The log also predicted bad luck. If the fire went out before the night was through, tragedy would strike the home in the coming year.  If its flame cast someone's shadow without a head, supposedly that person would die within the year.

The burning of the Yule log marked the beginning of Christmas celebrations.  In Appalachia, as long as the log, or "backstick" burned you could celebrate.  Often a very large "backstick" was chosen and soaked in a stream to ensure a nice long celebration.  In the early nineteenth century, American slaves didn't have to work as long as the Yule log burned, so they would choose the biggest, greenest log they could find.  If they did have to work while it burned their master had to pay them for the work.

In England the log was supposed to burn for the twelve days of Christmas, from Christmas eve on December 24th to Epiphany on January 6th.  Some English Yule logs were large enough that a team of horses were required to drag it to the castle or manor.  Some English preferred a log from an ash tree. In the Slavic and other countries oak was the wood of choice.  Almost everywhere, the fire was started with that bit of the last year's log, to symbolize continuity and the eternal light of heaven.

In some parts of France, a special carol was sung when the log was brought into the home. The carol prayed for health and fertility of mothers, nanny-goats, ewes, and an abundant harvest. Of course the French were probably the first to eat their Yule logs.  They started out burning them like everyone else, but when big open fireplaces began to disappear in France, they moved the tradition to the table by making a cake roll that looked like a Yule log, called a "Buche de Noel".

You have a choice.  You can burn your Yule log like the English.  Or if you don't have a fireplace, you can eat it like the French.  If you don't need anymore Christmas goodies around the house, you can light a special candle as they do in Denmark and Norway.  Or you can use a decorated log as a center piece like the Italian "ceppo".  However you mark your Yuletide, the spirit of the tradition requires gathering family and friends for a warm and cheery celebration.
 

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.

CHRISTMAS CROSSWORD PUZZLE

 

 

 

 

 

 

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ACROSS

2. Color of Santa’s suit
4. House for sale in South Akumal
7. Santa’s helpers
8. Location of Santa’s workshop
9. Nemesis who stole Christmas
12. Mexican Christmas tradition for children
14. Beverage children leave for Santa
15. Christmas in Spanish
16. Traditional fireplace log
17. Spanish Santa Claus

DOWN

1. Who does the Best Shirt award remember
2. Santa’s red-nosed reindeer
3. Plant hung over a doorway to entice young lovers to kiss
4. Food snack children typically leave for Santa
5. Santa’s mode of transportation on Christmas Eve
6. Santa's last name
10. Depiction of the birth of Jesus as described in the gospels
11. What powers Santa’s mode of transportation on Christmas
12. Enactment of looking for lodging of for Joseph and Mary
13. Spanish Christmas Eve

 

HAPPY NEW YEAR, DECEMBER 31st   

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

 

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