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  • Christmas Traditions from All Over the World

    From leaving stockings out for Santa Claus to fill to attending midnight mass on Christmas Eve, Christmas traditions are different all over the world. Not only do Christmas traditions differ from place to place, but for many cultures the 25th of December isn't the main event. From St. Nicholas Day to Epiphany Day, and all the festivities in between, here is the rundown on different holiday traditions:

    St. Nicholas Day
    Christmastime festivities in many countries begin with St. Nicholas Day, which is December 6th. In Holland, children believe that Sinterklaas comes to visit on the night of St. Nicholas Eve, so they leave their shoes out for him to fill with presents.

    St. Lucia's Day
    Saint Lucia is the patron saint of light, and in Sweden where the winters are cold and very dark, wintertime festivities honor her. Before the institution of the Gregorian calendar in the sixteenth century, the winter solstice-the time of year when the days are the very shortest-fell on December 13th. For that reason, December 13th is still celebrated as St. Lucia's day in Sweden and in other Scandinavian countries. For St. Lucia's day, the oldest daughter of each family dresses up as a "queen of light" in a long white dress and a wreath with candles on her head. She sings the song of Saint Lucia and serves coffee and sweet buns to every member of the family.

    Novena or Las Posadas
    The nine-day period beginning December 16th and ending on Christmas Eve is called Novena in Italy and Las Posadas in Spain and Latin America. It commemorates the Holy Family's nine-day journey to Bethlehem and their search for lodging there. The Spanish word for "inn" is posada, and during Las Posadas, processions are held in which villagers acting as the Holy Family go from house to house asking for a place to stay. This culminates in Noche Buena, the night of Christmas Eve when the children lead a procession to the church and place the Christ child in the nativity, or nacimiento, there. Then everyone attends midnight mass; the church bells are rung and fireworks are lit, and everyone goes home for a middle-of-the-night feast.

    The Twelve Days of Christmas
    December 25th marks the first of the twelve days of Christmas, also known as Christmastide or Yuletide. Christmastide lasts until January 5th; the night of January 5th is Twelfth Night, and the Twelve Days of Christmas are followed by Epiphany.

    Epiphany
    January 6th, the Day of Epiphany, marks the day that the three kings presented their gifts before the baby Jesus. Thus on the night of January 5th, known as Twelfth Night or Epiphany Eve, children receive gifts from the three kings who are traveling on their way to see the infant Jesus.

    In Spanish tradition, the three kings were named Melchor, Gaspar, and Baltazar. They represented Europe, Arabia, and Africa, respectively. According to this tradition, Melchor arrived on a horse and brought gold to give the baby Jesus; Gaspar rode on a camel and brought frankincense; and Baltazar rode on an elephant and brought myrrh for his gift. (In reality, frankincense and myrrh were both grown on the Arabian peninsula, and gold was commonly traded along the desert trading routes there, so the three magi were probably Arabian.) Because of the tradition of the magi, the 6th of January is also called El Día de los Reyes, or the Three Kings' Day, in Spanish tradition.

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  • Pearl Harbor Remembrance

    The attack on the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii by the Japanese navy occurred on Sunday, 7 December 1941. Four U.S. navy battleships were sunk: the USS Arizona, the USS Utah, the USS Oklahoma, and the USS West Virginia. The USS Maryland, USS Pennsylvania, USS Tennessee, and USS Nevada were also hit by Japanese missiles. Altogether, there were more than 2,400 American soldiers and seamen killed that morning.

    The USS Arizona is the final resting place of 1,177 of the men who were killed; nearly all of the crewmen of the Arizona perished with her. To honor those who had died, a flagpole was erected over the sunken battleship in 1950. In 1958, President Dwight D. Eisenhower approved an official memorial, which was completed in 1961. The USS Arizona Memorial has become a monument to all the American men who died on 7 December 1941.

    A few hours after the Pearl Harbor disaster, President Franklin D. Roosevelt delivered his legendary speech to a joint session of Congress: "I ask that the Congress declare that since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan on Sunday, December 7th, 1941, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese empire." Within an hour, Congress had complied with the president's request and passed an official declaration of war against Japan, thus bringing the United States into World War II.

    Do you have relatives who were stationed on the base at Pearl Harbor or on a U.S. navy ship there at the time of the attack? There are published Pearl Harbor casualty lists online, including the one at http://www.usswestvirginia.org/ph/phlist.php. The casualty list is searchable by surname and records the full name of each man killed, his rank and/or age, whether he was a civilian or whether he served in a branch of the military (most of the men killed were in the navy), and where he was stationed (the Pearl Harbor base itself or one of the ships docked there).

    You can also access Pearl Harbor Muster Rolls with a subscription to www.fold3.com. These records list all men stationed on ships at Pearl Harbor from 1939 to 1947. The muster rolls list each man's full name and service number, the ship he served on and the date received on board, and the date he enlisted.

    With all the records being uploaded online every day, learning more about the Pearl Harbor disaster-and the soldiers and seamen who were involved-is becoming easier and easier. And the 7th of December 1941 continues to be a date that will live in infamy.

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  • Share More Than A Turkey Dinner With Your Family

    For most of us, the word "family" brings to mind holidays, reunions, summer vacations and visits to Grandma and Grandpa. But for many of us, that word - family - takes us no further. Few of us have memories of great-grandparents and we may not even recognize the names of ancestors before that. That our experience with our families is limited to only those we've met and known in person is unfortunate - and unnecessary.

    Our families, even those members who lived generations before us, are the stuff we are made of. They are our roots, our beginnings and they influence our lives in ways we may not even understand.

    This year your family celebration could mean so much more by working together on a gift for future generations: your family tree.

    We would like to help you give your loved ones the precious gift of learning more about themselves by finding out more about their family history. Over Thanksgiving dinner invite your friends and family to join you at OneGreatFamily. 

    At OneGreatFamily we have strong feelings about the joy and family unity that can come from working together on your family tree. Invite your family and friends to join you as well at OneGreatFamily to get excited about their genealogy.

    Members of OneGreatFamily already know the benefits of collaborating with other genealogists from all over the globe in locating their ancestors and merging their own family tree with the world's first true global family tree - found at OneGreatFamily.com. 

    Now you can share your experience with all your family members. Tell your family to visit OneGreatFamily and see what we can do for their family tree. 

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