My Search For Santa…

Santa Claus

Santa Claus

It has been a while since Santa Claus has paid me a visit. I am not sure if I beat my brother up one too many times when I was younger, being deemed a bad child or the simple fact that somewhere along the way I grew up. No Christmas has been the same since he stopped coming to my house. Being a child on Christmas eve is a magical thing, there is a sparkle in the cold air and a feeling of overwhelming excitement. It’s a magical feeling that fortunate children all over the world still get to share, waiting for the legendary Santa Claus.

On my search to find Santa Claus, I realized that he isn’t just a legend or a mythical man but a was real person. The legend began with a bishop named Saint Nicholas who was born sometime around 280 A.D. in Turkey. It is rumored that Saint Nicholas inherited a huge wealth of money, he would travel with his riches helping the sick and the poor. He saved poor children from falling into slavery by offering their families money, allowing them to keep their home. Word spread far and wide about this generous man, he became known as a protector of children. Another legend of Santa Claus comes from the Dutch. He was known there as Sinter Klaas his birthday, Dec. 6th is still celebrated there today. It is said that the Dutch brought the legend of Santa Claus with them when they immigrated to America. In 1773 the author, Washington Irvin published a story in the American press about “St. A Claus” which gave details about the Dutch Saint traveling with presents and visiting children. In 1823 a poem was written by Clement Clarke Moore, it was known then as “A Visit From Saint Nicholas” but is known today as “The Night Before Christmas”. Moore gave more details about the jolly Santa. Including what clothes he wore, how his toys were made by elves, how he entered the home through the chimney and even his preferred mode of transportation… his 8 flying reindeer of course! In the 1860 Thomas Nast illustrated Santa Claus, revealing even more details. But the big question was where does Santa live the other 364 days of the year when not delivering presents? Nast’s answered these important details, Santa lives in the North Pole which is where his toy shop and elves live. He also discovered the list of good and bad children and so the details were finalized. Not much has changed about Santa since the 1800’s except that now a days he prefers to wear his red suit. He also added a new addition to the family, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer which he needed to guide his sleigh through a bad storm in the 1930’s.

What is the most important thing that Santa has brought to us? No, it’s not the presents but the idea of giving to the less fortunate. This year when you are trying to decide what to give your loved ones, take the time to think about the children who rely only on Santa’s visit. There are many ways you can help make their holidays better. You can donate a toy, food, money or even your time to the needy. There are many organizations that mimic Santa’s cause. Search for reputable charities near you.

After doing this research I have learned the reason why Santa no longer leaves me a present under the tree, I did in fact grow up. It is now my turn to spread the generosity that Santa has showed me. It is the gift giving and not the receiving that is the most important thing. It can mean more to someone than you will ever know or understand. It is the giving that makes this the most wonderful time of the year.

Oh Flag Betty, Bam A Lam

Betsy Ross is widely credited with being the creator of the first American flag. Despite much debate over this fact, one thing is true, Betsy Ross is one of the most prominent faces in both American and flag history.

Elizabeth Griscom was born on January 1, 1752 in Philadelphia, PA; the 8th of 17 children. She was born into a strict Quaker environment where she learned to sew early in her life from her great-aunt Elizabeth Griscom. After becoming an upholstery apprentice following Quaker schooling, she soon fell in love and married her coworker John Ross. Because Ross was an Episcopal Christian, the Quaker community quickly separated itself from Elizabeth. Betsy and John soon joined Christ Church of Philadelphia where George Washington attended. As you can guess, this is important for the rest of the story.

Betsy and John soon opened up their own upholstery business to start their lives together. When the Revolutionary war began in 1775, John joined the militia, leaving Betsy to remain with their upholstery business. John would eventually be killed in January, 1776 by a gunpowder explosion, leaving Betsy widowed at the young age of 24. Betsy continued to run the upholstery shop…

According to Betsy, George Washington (leader of the Continental Army), Robert Morris (one of the wealthiest men in the US) and Colonel George Ross (uncle of John) approached Betsy about making the first American flag. At that point, she had known Washington from church and had often sewn for him and Martha. Washington had apparently wanted a 6 point star, but after showing how to cut a 5-point star with one swipe of the scissors, they were convinced that she was the right person for the job. She created a 13 star design in a circle. The 13 stars represented the original 13 colonies and is still used in many American flag designs today.

Grand Union Flag

Grand Union Flag

As the Revolutionary War continued, a new flag was needed for the American colonies. Up until this time, most colonies were using flags inspired by Great Britain, such as the Grand Union flag. This is where most of the story gets tricky. The reason most people believe that Betsy Ross created the first American flag is because of a letter that William Canby, Betsy’s grandson, sent to the Historical Society of Pennsylvania in 1870, 34 years following her death and a full 96 years following the actual creation of the flag. In this paper, Canby recounts a story that his Aunt had told him regarding the creation by Betsy. However, many of the stories and accounts in this paper have been unable to be verified; however, by most Americans, the story has been accepted as truth and she is generally regarded with the first American flag creation. Will we really ever know if Betsy Ross was responsible for creating the first official American flag? Sadly, probably not.

Getting back to the story! Following the death of John, she returned to her Quaker roots. She would then get remarried to a mariner by the name of Joseph Ashburm. With Joseph, Betsy became pregnant with two daughters, one of which miscarried. A British ship captured Joseph and returned him to a prison in England where he died of unknown reasons without ever meeting his daughter.

Betsy Ross Headstone

Betsy Ross Headstone

She eventually married again to a man named John Claypoole and had 5 more daughters, all the while still running the upholstery shop. John passed away in 1817 after 34 years of marriage. Betsy never remarried and eventually moved in with one of her daughters in Philadelphia following her retirement. She passed away in 1836 and was buried in a Quaker burial site in Philadelphia, PA.

If you are looking for a Betsy Ross flag or any other historical flags for that matter, please check out our website at www.flagexpressions.com.

What are you thankful for?

The 1st Thanksgiving

The 1st Thanksgiving

This Thanksgiving what is it that you will be thankful for? Many of us will be thankful for our families, friends and jobs, but have you ever stopped to think how Thanksgiving, the actual holiday came about? To be honest, I know, like most of you the main story but never knew the little details that ended up really making the biggest impact in establishing our Thanksgiving Day Celebration.

The first acknowledged Thanksgiving is dated back to 1621, when it was celebrated individually by colonies and states. In 1621, Thanksgiving was not recognized as a holiday but more like a gathering. Pilgrims seeking a better life, a life without religious persecution, boarded the Mayflower for a pilgrimage to America. Pilgrims set ground on Plymouth Rock, Massachusetts on December 11th, 1620. After settling in Plymouth Rock the pilgrims faced a devastating winter, with the help of the native Indians 56 out of 102 pilgrims survived. To show thanks to the native Indians for helping them survive the winter, the Pilgrims held a feast which lasted three days. I don’t know about your family traditions, but my family always has the same food every year, the traditional turkey and pumpkin pies. The pilgrims feast didn’t include such food items, but had items like fish, berries, watercress, lobster, dried fruit, clams, plums and venison.

Thanksgiving Feast

Thanksgiving Feast

After this first initial “feast” another one wasn’t held until the year of 1676. It wasn’t until October 1777 that all 13 colonies joined in the Thanksgiving celebration. In 1789 George Washington tried to establish a National Day of Thanksgiving, but attempting to do this led to much uproar and hardship. Many felt that the Pilgrims did not want a national holiday. When President Jefferson took office he opposed the idea of Thanksgiving all together. We can all give thanks to a lady named Sarah Hale whose efforts gave us our national Thanksgiving holiday. Sarah was a magazine editor who campaigned for the Thanksgiving holiday. She wrote letters to government officials, presidents and wrote editorials for over 40 years. In 1863 she was finally able to make this day a reality when President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed that the Thanksgiving holiday be held each November. Thanksgiving has been proclaimed by every president since and in 1941 Thanksgiving was finally declared a national American holiday by Congress and was to be celebrated on the 4th Thursday in November.

When learning the history of Thanksgiving Day it is amazing to realize how much effort it took to make it a national holiday. This year as we have all faced extremely challenging times let us all give thanks for the gifts we do have in our lives.

Honor our Heroes on Veterans Day (Nov. 11)

Veterans Day Parade

Veterans Day Parade

Veterans Day is a United States federal holiday which is celebrated on November 11th. It was put into place in 1919 by President Woodrow Wilson to honor all military members, past or present. The date, November 11 is significant because it is also the date that the Armistice was sign which ended World War I.

Today Veterans Day is celebrated with parades, flying flags and mini flags placed on memorials and military graves. There are many ways you can honor veterans on November 11th and every day of the year. These brave men and woman have risk their lives and many perished to protect our freedom. It is important that we never forget the sacrifices they have made so that we can have the quality of life that we do today as proud Americans.

American Flags Placed on Memorials

American Flags Placed on Memorials

Here are a few things you can do to make a difference in the lives of our Veterans:

• Visit a Veteran and ask to hear their story

• Write a Veteran or military member, tell them what your freedom means to you

• Visit a military spouse or family

• Visit a Veterans memorial, decorate with mini US flags or flowers

• Prepare a care package to be sent to military members who are currently serving
There are many organizations that send packages over seas to deployed troops. Check out AnySoldier.com

• Pray for those who are serving or reflect on the sacrifice that has been made

• Visit a VFW post

• Volunteer at a shelter

• Donate to disabled Veterans organizations

• Wear or display your yellow ribbons

• Attend a memorial parade or celebration. Check out vetfriends.com to search for an event near you

• Fly your American, military and support our troops flags!

There are many company and organizations for offer free meals and discounts for Veterans. Don’t forget to support your local companies that offer these benefits to our military members. Some of the 2009 companies that offered military discounts include:

Veterans Day Ceremony

Veterans Day Ceremony

Applebees

• McCormick & Schmick’s

Golden Corral

• Home Depot and Lowe’s

• Outback Steakhouse

Check out: military.com to get a list of companies that are offering discounts in 2010.

Veteran’s Day only happens once a year but support is needed year-round. Don’t forget that you can show your appreciation any time of the year. Visit Flag Expressions for all of your Veterans Day and American Made products!

Your Halloween Jack-O-Information

How did Halloween come to be?

Despite celebrating Halloween since being a little kid, dressing up in my ninja turtle, pirate, batman and spiderman costumes, I have never really understood the meaning behind Halloween…until now.

The name: Halloween is a variation of the name “All Hallow’s Eve”. “Hallow’s Day”, or All Saints Day, which takes place on November 1st, is a Western Christianity day of honoring the saints, and “All Hallow’s Eve” simply means the night before this date.

This History:However, most historians attest the celebration to the Celtic celebration of Samhain. Samhain marks the end of Summer (light season) and the beginning of Winter (dark seasons). Many Celtics believed that on this day, the spiritual world opened up to those who had lost their lives that year to find new bodies to dwell in. According to some, this fear of being possessed led to many people dressing up as ghosts and ghouls and being loud and boisterous around the cities. This was done to scare these spirits elsewhere, leaving the people of that area free from being possessed.

Reasons behind traditions: There are many traditions associated with Halloween, from pumpkin carving to trick or treating. Lets get behind some of the reasoning to these traditions.

Pumpkin Carving: Carving pumpkins, or “Jack-O-Lanterns“, originated from an old Irish myth about Stingy Jack. According to the myth, Stingy Jack convinced the devil to have a drink with him. Since Jack was stingy, he did not have enough money to pay for the drinks and convinced the devil to turn into a coin so that he could pay. The devil agreed and became a silver coin. Jack put the coin into his pocket next to  his silver cross which prevented the devil from turning back into his regular form. Jack eventually freed him though under the agreement that the devil would not bother him for a full year. A year later, Jack again convinced the devil to climb a tree to grab a piece of fruit. After the devil had climbed the tree, Jack carved a cross into the tree, now preventing him from coming back down. Jack then allowed the devil back down as long as he did not bother Jack for 10 years. Shortly afterwards, Jack died. Jack was denied entry into Heaven, and because the anger and agreement that the devil had made with Jack, he was denied entry into Hell as well. The devil did however give Jack a burning coal to find his way in the darkness. Jack put this coal into a carved turnip so it would not get extinguished. These carved turnips became known as Jack of the Lanterns, which has now become Jack-’O-Lanterns. People began carving scary faces into the turnips and placed them into their windows to ward off Jack and the devil. This tradition eventually transferred into pumpkins, especially in Western society since pumpkins were more easily available and softer, allowing easier carving.

Trick or Treating: The ritual of trick-or-treating is actually a little more complicated since it can possibly be traced back to a couple of different sources. The most common source for the act of going from door to door goes back to Ireland and Britain during the Middle Ages as the practice of “souling”. Souling was done by the underpriveleged people of the time who would offer up prayers for the dead on All Saints Day in return for food. This eventually combined with everyone dressing up to become what we know today as trick-or-treating!

Halloween has become on of the most recognized and exciting Holidays of the year. It is a time to get dressed up, see everyone in your neighborhood and most importantly, to get candy….lots of it! We hope this blog has helped you understand the history of Halloween and if you are needing any Autumn, Halloween or even Thanksgiving or Christmas flags, please check out FlagExpressions.com. Enjoy this upcoming Holiday season and we appreciate your business and loyalty.

September 11th is Patriot Day

Patriot Day is approaching quickly, marking the 9th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks. Patriot Day, which was signed into effect by George W. Bush on October 25, 2001, is a day to remember the 2,996 brave men and women who lost their lives early on the morning of 9/11. On this day, we are asked to fly our flags at half-staff and to honor a moment of silence at 8:46 AM, which is the time the first plane (American Airlines Flight 11) hit the World Trade Center.

To think that it has already been 9 years since the attack is crazy to me. I continually wonder if I will always feel like it just happened. Many things have changed since that day, some good, some bad, but in the end, America has stood firm. We dusted ourselves off, people rushed to NY to help out and we all raised our flags and our heads. On Patriot Day, please remember how far we have come and why we have been able to get here – because of the brave men and women who have dedicated and in some cases, given their lives so we can enjoy our freedoms.

One of the most memorable moments I have from 2001 is watching the Chicago White Sox, New York Yankees game the following week. Pastor Phyllis Arnold, a woman from Chicago sang the national anthem and God bless America before the game which was actually played in Chicago despite New York being the home team because they could not play at their stadium. To see all of the New York support signs from the Chicago fans and both teams coming together as Americans made me realize we were going to be okay. Please feel free to reply with some of your 9/11 memories that stand out to you.

This Patriot Day, we give thanks to all of our soldiers, past and present. Flag Expressions gives thanks to our many heroes that were lost that fateful day and we will never forget your dedication to our great country. Again, please remember to fly your flags at half-staff and observe a moment of silence at 8:46 AM. Thank you for reading. I look forward to hearing your 9/11 stories.

The History of the Checkered Flag

One thing that many people don’t know about me, is my love of racing. Horse racing, NASCAR, Indy, Rally, you name it. The competition is intense, the atmosphere electric, and the crowd is noisy! Watching a race on TV doesn’t really do the trick, it has to be live!

Back in March I went to the NASCAR race in Atlanta, and took note of something I hadn’t noticed before. You guessed it… an abundance of flags! Upon entering the stadium you see flags flying high. The US flag, Georgia State flag, NASCAR flags and even sponsor flags. But there was one flag that stood out the most above others. One flag that everyone noticed and is so important, it even caught the attention of the racers. Of course, I’m talking about the checkered finish flag. Considering it’s one little flag that’s proved to be of such importance to these prestigious racers, I thought I’d look into exactly why the flag is checkered and why it stands for the finish of a race.

The most interesting theory of the origins of the checkered flag that I found dates back to the 1800′s after the date of the Louisiana Purchase. An early American past-time in the Mid-West settlement included horse racing. After the races, those in attendance would gather for lunch or dinner. Often, a table-cloth would be taken and waved in the air to signal that the food was ready, and the racing should come to and end. Lo and behold, typical tablecloths of the time happened to be checkered! Soon, that waving checkered table-cloth acted as a brand or a recognized symbol to end the races. Over time, checkered flags were created and produced specifically for this purpose, and still used today!

Now, here’s the kicker. The above theory is just a theory! The table cloth idea has been passed down over 200 years, and could very well be just a tale. The more likely reasoning for the checkered flag is the contrast of colors being something easy to see for the racers. Back in the earlier days of racing, the tracks were dirt roads. Dust and dirt would kick into the air, making it difficult to see, especially when moving at high speeds. The contrasting black and white checkered flag was easy to spot and therefore made the perfect finish line flag.

The next time I go to the races, I know I’ll be looking for that checkered finish flag to see who won. On that day, Kurt Busch won the big race, Matt Kenseth came in 2nd and Juan Pablo Montoya in 3rd. The next time you head to the race track make sure you bring your NASCAR flags to support your favorite racer.

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