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December 2013  Issue 132

Return to Home Page   2009 Index  2010 Index   2011 Index   2012 Index   2013 Index

 

MESSAGE FROM THE STAFF

The 2013 Hurricane Season has passed us by, and The Staff is still here.

Things picked up considerably in November, as the snow birds began arriving.

And, the expectation is that December will be an extremely busy and active month as many “local snowbirds” return to Akumal for the last “Best Shirt” Award of 2013 and the series of December holidays and festivities, including Christmas.  Unfortunately, as we go to press, many of the event committees have not reported in yet, so…..

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

Do not forget the other local publications, Sac-Be - The Costal Source for Travel in the Riviera Maya, the Pelican Free Press, and the CEA Newsletter
  

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
4          Jordan & Jacquelyn Dey
5          Joyce Hornor
5          Susan Gravlee
7          Jordan Dey
10        Gail Rowland
10        Ken Sutton
11        Phill Combs
12        Gayle Doebert
13        Marguerite Kirk
14        Mike Brier
16        Dean Keegan
19        Wendell Day
21        Diane Mahan
22        Beryl & Susanne Van Lierop, Anniversary
22        Josie Pritchard
23        Kevin “Red Beard” McKee
24        Laura Bush
24        Karen Sutton
25        Francys McCasland
26        Bruce Eanet
30        Ann Kennedy
30        Ritchie Fredette
30        Eden Cost Knod
31        Donny & Cheryl Hall, Anniversary

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

 Missed September, October and November Birthdays and Anniversary

            September 26 - Kai and Lyzz Kirk welcomed their first child into the world.  After over 20 hours of labor, Corbin Landrick Kirk was born at 12:25am in Playa Del Carmen's Costa Med at a healthy 7.9 lbs.  Mom and Dad couldn't be prouder, though Grandma's (Marguerite Kirk) pride comes pretty close

             October 19 – Bob & Ann Marie Radamacher’s 25th anniversary.

October 28 - Mary & Ken Anderson report their new granddaughter, Kara Madelynne Anne, was born October 28th, 2013, and she weighed in at 7 lbs 1 oz and was 19 1/2 inches tall!! 

             November 5 – Mary Anderson’s birthday, BIG 5-0

 

HURRICANE SEASON ENDS WITH A WHIMPER

The official end of the hurricane season was on November 30, and here is a recap of the 2013 Hurricane Season. 

Despite predictions for an above-average hurricane season, all was quiet along the Atlantic Coast this year.

For most of 2013's premier hurricane months — August through October — an unusual weather pattern in the Atlantic tore apart budding tropical storms, preventing hurricanes from forming and wreaking havoc with forecasts.  The lack of strong storms makes this year's hurricane season, which ends Saturday (Nov. 30), one for the record books.

The weather pattern, which featured exceptionally dry air and strong wind shear, had already established itself in August, when the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) issued a forecast that said climate conditions called for a 70 percent chance of an above-normal storm season.  NOAA forecast three to five major hurricanes and 13 to 20 named storms (tropical storms and hurricanes).  But NOAA wasn't the only one fooled; other climate modelers, such as those at Colorado State University, also predicted several major hurricanes.

Tracks of all Atlantic tropical cyclones during the 2013 season.  Along the right side, the wind speed and central pressure are listed at the storm's peak intensity.

And the hurricane-preventing pattern never disappeared.  By November, only two of the season's 13 named storms had become hurricanes: Ingrid and Humberto.  And both were barely even hurricanes, with wind strengths just above the 74 mph (119 kph) hurricane threshold.  No storm in the Atlantic ever came close to achieving major hurricane status, defined as Category 3 — wind speeds greater than 111 mph (178 km/h).

The season also nearly set a record for the slowest start, as Humberto strengthened into a hurricane mere hours before Sept. 11, the date of the latest first hurricane on record.

This year marked a big turnaround from 2012, when the number of tropical storms exceeded NOAA's annual forecast and Hurricane Sandy (which was actually a post-tropical cyclone when it made landfall) ravaged the Atlantic Coast.

On average, 12 Atlantic tropical storms have formed each year since 1981, and six or seven of those disturbances have strengthened into hurricanes.  Two of those hurricanes, on average, will intensify into major hurricanes.  And hurricane activity has been higher than average since 1995, said Gerry Bell, NOAA's lead seasonal hurricane forecaster.

But, 2013 was the slowest hurricane season in 30 years, as well as the sixth-least-active storm year since 1950, in terms of collective strength and duration of named storms and hurricanes, NOAA said.  The agency had predicted Accumulated Cyclone Energy, or ACE, of 120 percent to 205 percent of the 1950-2005 median for 2013.  A measure of the intensity of a hurricane season, ACE quantifies the amount of energy contained in cyclonic winds, taking into account the number, duration and intensity of storms.  Instead, the 2013 season ends with an ACE at 30 percent of the 1981-2010 median, according to Colorado State University's end-of-year hurricane report.
 

PROPERTY TAXES ARE DUE IN DEC.!!  

As The Akumalian goes to press, there has not been any available information regarding a discount schedule for this December.

       However, there was an unsubstantiated report that the municipality was providing a 100% discount on back taxes if 2014 was paid in November; something like that.  That is all we know!!
 

FIRST SUNDAY OF ADVENT, DEC. 1st

Advent is a spiritual season of preparation before Christmas celebrated by many Christians.  In Western Christianity, the season of Advent begins on the fourth Sunday prior to Christmas Day, or the Sunday which falls closest to November 30, and lasts through Christmas Eve, or December 24.

Many Christians in the United States attend a church service on the first Sunday of Advent and may engage in activities such as special prayers and contributing to ideas on enhancing peace.  Many Advent traditions are observed in the United States in the prelude to Christmas Day.  For example, the Advent wreath is becoming increasingly popular in the United States.  The wreath can be seen in various churches across the nation around this time of the year.

It is uncertain as to when exactly the celebration of Advent was first introduced in the Christian church. Some sources say that Advent began on November 11 (St Martin's Day) at some time in the fifth century in the form of a six-week fast leading to Christmas.  Advent was reduced to its current length at some stage in the sixth century and the fasting was later no longer observed.  Advent is originally a time to reflect and prepare for Christmas similarly to how Lent is in preparation for Easter.  Advent has sometimes been referred to as the Winter Lent.  In recent times the restrictions that Advent brings to Christians have become more relaxed.

Advent traditions spread from Europe to the United States, especially the Advent calendar, which became very popular in the United States after World War II as American military personnel and their families who were stationed in Germany brought them home and made them a part of the pre-Christmas traditions.  Some people credit President Dwight Eisenhower with helping the tradition of the Advent calendar spread in the United States during the 1950s.

Advent calendars of all designs are also given as gifts at this time of the year.  The calendars feature openings in the form of windows or doors that are numbered to count the days to Christmas. Calendars may contain chocolates, toys, or candy and are given to children as a fun way to observe the Christmas countdown.  Some traditional Advent calendars show 24 days, but many Advent calendars show 25 days, with the last opening on Christmas Day.
 

DID YOU KNOW THAT?   

All items in '12 Days of Christmas' now top $107K

Add seven swans, six geese and five golden rings to the list of Christmas gifts that cost more than they did a year ago.

 And if you get all 364 items repeated throughout ‘‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’’ carol, you'll pay 6.1 percent more this year, according to the so-called Christmas Price Index that PNC Wealth Management updates annually.

That comes to $107,300.

Thrifty shoppers may find some reasons for cheer. Six items mentioned in the song haven’t gone up in price: maids-a-milking, ladies dancing, lords-a-leaping, calling birds, turtle doves and the partridge. The eight maids-a-milking still cost just $58 because the minimum wage hasn’t risen.

Twelve drummers drumming ($2,775.50) and eleven pipers piping ($2,562) might also be considered relative bargains compared to seven swans, which will set you back $7,000. Nine ladies dancing will cost you $6,294.03.

The 2012 drought caused the prices of some birds to soar, partly because of corn and other feed costs.  ‘‘The geese were up 29.6 percent, and swans were up 11 percent,’’

The price of a pear tree is $189.99, an 11.8 percent jump from last year’s $169.99. Five gold rings jumped 16.3 percent this year, to $750, and three French hens are now $165, instead of $150.

The $15 partridge is the cheapest item, and swans the most expensive, at $1,000 each.

Last-minute shoppers who turn to the Internet will pay a bit more for the gifts.  Buying one set of the core items in each verse costs $24,431 in traditional stores this year, but $40,440 online. Part of that difference is the extra expense of shipping live birds, adding that Internet costs rose 1.5 percent compared to last year.
 

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 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 asKnecht 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.
 

ROBIN’S BEST SHIRT AWARD, DEC. 6th   

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 very nebulous, and it seems to be more about something other than than ‘best shirt’.

The November competition drew a huge number of very colorful and ambitious contestants, and, as it turned out, Russ Motley took top honors over a high stepping crowd of competitors.  The photos are located at November Best Shirt Award.
 

COMINGS AND GOINGS

                        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:
·      
The snow birds are arriving and it started with the Day of the Dead Best Shirt.

·      
There was a reported El Moreland sighting in South Akumal in late October
·      
Wally & Jan Koenst were back.
·      
Cheryl & Pat Reagan were back for a brief spell.
·      
Barbara Miller was back for Halloween.
·      
Steve & Sharon Wandler are back for the season.
·      
Didier Jackson was about town.
·      
Karl & Dawn Shubert were spotted at the beach bar.
·      
Kevin “Red Beard” was here for Halloween.
·      
Steve & Judy Holz are back in Aventuras Akumal.
·      
Donny & Cheryl Hall were back in town for six weeks.
·      
Steve & Kathleen Cole have returned from Alaska.
·      
Charles Shaw was here as a speaker at the CEA FORUM.
·      
Richard & Cami Mazzola are back for the season.
·      
Gail Rowland is back in Playa Blanca.
·      
Larry & Karen Kantor are back for a bit.
·      
Richard & Arlene Pargot will be arriving for the holiday season.  
Zoe and Scott will be down for the holidays.
·      
Russ Motley’s mother, Sherry, and brother, Troy, were here for Thanksgiving.
·      
Cathy Farrell was in briefly.  She & Jim return in December.
·      
Andrew & Lisa Leigh were in town for the weekend before Thanksgiving.
·      
Tony, Joan, Cssie, and Alex Gonzalez were back for Thanksgiving week.
*
     John & Sharon Winkel were here for 3 weeks in Nov.
·      
Janet Bouten and her daughter, Jessie, will be here in December.
·      
There is a rumor that Denny & Diane Mahan will be here in mid-December. 

Goings:

·       Thierry & Jissou have apparently returned to Europe for the holidays.

·       John Mark Davis has gone to the US for a short trip.

·       Bob & Ann Marie Radamacher are going to some of the more popular Christmas Markets in Germany and France for a belated 25th anniversary trip.
 

COMET ISON IS ALSO COMING IN DEC.

Comet ISON is nearly here — the potentially incredible comet should soon be visible to the naked eye, reaching perihelion (closest approach to the Sun) on November 28.  Once perihelion occurs — if the comet survives — it should brighten significantly, and become visible in both the evening sky after sunset, and in the morning sky before sunrise.


The best dates to watch will likely be right in the middle of December, probably between the 10th and the 15th — though there’s a real possibility that Comet ISON will remain visible throughout all of December and also early January.  The comet will probably be easier to spot in the evenings, but it should be visible both before sunrise and after sunset.  With regard to where to find Comet ISON in the sky in December — when watching before sunrise, you’ll want to look to the East, and when watching after sunset, you’ll want to look to the West/North-West.

           

     For those interested, Comet ISON is already visible with only a pair of binoculars, simply point your binoculars to the South-Eastern portion of the predawn sky — it’s currently located near the constellation of Virgo, specifically right next to the very bright star Spica.  While it’s rather faint currently, it’s expected to brighten significantly over the next two weeks.

Something else to note, the Earth will actually pass through the debris trail left behind by Comet ISON in the middle of January (14th-15th) — there’s a real possibility that we’ll experience a meteor shower as a result, or, at the very least, some night-shining noctilucent clouds.  (A note — Comet ISON will make its closest approach to the Earth on December 26, 2013, at that time it will be ‘only’ around 28 million miles away from us.)
 

VIRGIN OF GUADALUPE DAY, DEC 12th

December 12, the day of Virgin of Guadalupe (Nuestra Señora de 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.

 

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, DEC 13-14th

 December 13-14, 2013, mid-evening until dawn, Geminids

Radiating from near the bright stars Castor and Pollux in the constellation Gemini the Twins, the Geminid meteor shower is one of the finest meteors showers visible in either the Northern or the Southern Hemisphere. The meteors are plentiful, rivaling the August Perseids, with perhaps 50 to 100 meteors per hour visible at the peak. Plus Geminid meteors are often bright, so, if there’s a bright moon, many meteors may be able to overcome the harsh moonlight. These meteors are often as good in the evening as in the hours between midnight and dawn. In 2013, a bright waxing gibbous moon will interfere with the Geminids throughout most of the peak night. Your best bet is to watch on the mornings of December 13 and 14, from moonset until dawn.
 

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.
 

FULL MOON, DECEMBER 17th 

     The Full Cold Moon is on December 17th at 9:21 a.m. AST.  On occasion, this moon was also called the Moon before Yule.  December is also the month the winter cold fastens its grip.  Sometimes this moon is referred to as the Full Long Nights Moon by the Maya, and the term "Long Night" Moon is a very appropriate name, because the nights are now indeed long, and the Moon is above the horizon a long time.  This particular full moon makes its highest arc across the sky because it's diametrically opposite to the low Sun. 
 

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.

AKUMAL

         Ak-Nah Galeria Has Re-opened for the Season
       Cami & Richard Mazzola are back in town and they opened Ak-Nah Galeria in mid-November.  It is over by the stage, where the Peak Gym used to be.

 Lol Ha Re-opens
    
The Lol Ha Restaurant re-opens for the season on December 15th, and the first shows start Dec 18th and 19th; Flamenco Wed, and Arpason Thursdays.

         Meet Lol Ha’s New Restaurant Manager
     
Laura reports that Victor Torres Gomez is the new restaurant manager, and he will be working closely with Miguel to ensure a smooth and pleasant experience for everyone visiting the Lol Ha Restaurant.

Victor is from Bokoba, Merida, Yucatan.  He studied Tourism Administration in Playa del Carmen and worked at various notable restaurants in Playa, including 100% Natural, Casa del Agua, and Frida’s Restaurant and Bar. While there, he took various training courses that have served him well.

The next time you are at Lol Ha and see Victor, please give him a warm welcome to Akumal.

 North Akumal Police Hut to Re-open
    
The Police Station/Hut, just around the first corner in North Akumal where the gate used to be, is almost completed and should be manned shortly.  This is great for North Akumal security measures as we enter the high season.

 Liquidation of Akumal Council
     
Pablo Díaz Lavín is working to liquidate the Akumal Council once and for all.  To help in that process there are two Calls for Assembly (February and March 2013) that are posted here at Old Calls for Assembly.

 Secrets Resort Breaks Ground
    
Secrets Resort (AMR) has broken ground between Hotel Akumal Caribe and Akumal Beach Resort.  It looks like the foundation is going in, and the word on the street is that they will be open for the 2015 season.

 The White Bungalows Have Been Sold
  
The white bungalows – a ka’ the "Bunkers" - on the northern part of Akumal bay have been acquired by a yet unknown investor.  The renters have received their eviction notices and have been told to be out no later than January 15th.  This is prime property and can be good fodder for rumors about the development going into the high season and 2014; who will start on Friday, November 29th.

 Akumal Bay Info Web Site
    
Everything you wanted to know about the situation with Akumal Bay, but were afraid to ask, is now available in an informative web site called akumalBAYinfo.  Check it out to be brought up-to-date and be in-the-loop.

  New Pharmacy Charges Rip-Off Prices
   
You know that new pharmacy/store in the location where Akumal Real Estate used to be, across from the entrance to the old parking lot, please be advised that they charge REALLY exorbitant prices for medications.  While we cannot attest to all medications or anything else in the pharmacy/store, The Staff has it on first-hand experience that one particular medication cost FOUR TIMES what it costs in Farmacia YZa in Tulum.

The medication in question cost 251 pesos in Sam’s Club, and the Akumal Farmacia/store wanted 800 pesos.  However, the exact same thing cost just 207 pesos at YZa in Tulum.

Our advice, avoid the new Akumal Farmacia for medication.

 

TULUM

         Hechizo Opens
   
Stefan and Hui are planning to re-open Hechizo on Tuesday, December 17, and the seating times are as always at 6:30pm, 7:30pm and 8:30pm.
        Stefan has planned fixed price menus for Christmas (24th & 25th) and New Year’s Eve, but the menus are not quite ready yet.

  

PLAYA DEL CARMEN

        Blue store??
            The Staff has not checked this out yet, but it appears that there is a version of Cancun’s ‘Blue Store’ – that wild and crazy place in Cancun, over Blockbuster and Actual – right on MX307 north of Playa del Carmen.
 

WINTER SOLSTICE, DECEMBER 21st

In the Northern Hemisphere, the Winter Solstice occurs on December 21, 2013 at 11:11am AST.  This will be the Summer Solstice in the Southern Hemisphere.

The December solstice occurs when the sun reaches its most southerly declination of -23.5 degrees. In other words, it is when the North Pole is tilted 23.5 degrees away from the sun.  Depending on the Gregorian calendar, the December solstice occurs annually on a day between December 20 and December 23.  On this date, all places above a latitude of 66.5 degrees north (Arctic Polar Circle) are now in darkness, while locations below a latitude of 66.5 degrees south (Antarctic Polar Circle) receive 24 hours of daylight.

The solstice marks 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 when the sun shines directly over the tropic of Capricorn; the summer solstice occurs when the sun shines directly over the tropic of Cancer.  In the Southern Hemisphere, the winter and summer solstices are reversed.
 

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 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.
 

CHRISTMAS PAGEANT, DECEMBER 22nd 

Marcy & Memo Essy are not going to be here to organize the Live Nativity in 2013, but Marieke White and Jen Smith are diligently working to ensure that Akumal does have a Christmas pageant.  It is scheduled for December 22nd, 5pm-6pm, at the Plaza Ukana Grateful Dead Stage.

Marieke and Jen report, “We will have Christmas carols with the kids from the Hekab Be library and friends, and we'll have some Christmas stories.  Of course, Santa will be here, so that all kids (big and small) can sit on his knee and tell him what they'd like for Christmas.”
 

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.
 

KWANZAA, DECEMBER 26th - January 1st   

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 December 26 to January 1.

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?"
 

DID YOU KNOW THAT Thanksgivukkah …….?    

Thanksgivukkah was a once-in-a-lifetime holiday in 2013.

For the first time since 1888 - and the last time until the year 79,811 - the first day of the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah will coincided with the American observance of Thanksgiving on Thursday, November 28, 2013.

Thanksgivukkah, as this year's double-holiday convergence has been dubbed, happened because of the difference between two calendars.

The date of Thanksgiving is determined by the Gregorian calendar, which is solar, while Hanukkah is set by the Hebrew calendar, which is lunisolar.  In the lunisolar calendar, months are calculated according to the moon and the years according to the sun, with leap months added every few years to keep the seasons in sync.  The different calendars explain why Jewish holidays - which occur every year on the same day in the Hebrew calendar - fall on different days of the Gregorian, or Western, calendar followed in America.

But there's another wrinkle.  The Hebrew calendar is slipping "ever so slowly" behind the solar calendar, at the rate of about four days every thousand years.  Although the Hebrew calendar system, which was set over a thousand years ago, is a very good calendar, there are imperfections.

That slippage means that 200 years from now, Hanukkah won't ever begin earlier than November 29.  Because November 28 is the latest day that Thanksgiving can fall, the two holidays won't overlap again until the year 79,811.

 

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 the Event in November.  

 

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