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.

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.

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.

Thankful For Mothers…Day

Mothers Day is coming up on May 9th, 2010. It is a time to celebrate the women that have made us who we are today. Often times these women are our biological mothers but sometimes they are adopted mothers or our figurative mothers. It is a holiday that is celebrated across the world usually in March or May and has been recognized as an official holiday in America as 1914.

Mothers Day can be traced back to ancient Greece when festivals recognized Cybele and Rhea, the mother of the Gods. Ancient Rome celebrated Juno, the patron goddess of Rome, Christians celebrated Mary, the mother of Jesus, and many countries had their own special day or parade to celebrate the mothers of the country.

There was not an established day in America celebrating mothers until Anna Marie Jarvis, a woman from West Virginia, helped establish it in 1908. Following her mothers death in 1905, she set out to establish a day that mothers would get the recognition and relaxation that they deserve. Following the first few celebrations, it continually kept growing until West Virginia declared it a state holiday in 1910. All other states soon followed and it became one of the most important holidays of the year.

These special ladies in our lives make sacrifices each day so that we might be better people. They take time off of work to take us to our practices and games. They force us to eat with the family so that we can spend time together. They get mad at us when we get in trouble. They stay and help us when we are hurt. They forgive us when we misbehave.

No matter what, they help us become who we are. I ask that this year you let your “mother” know that is appreciated and that she is making a difference. Get her a nice Mother’s day flag and/or garden flag 🙂 and get ready for spring!

St. Patrick’s Day Pot-O-Information

I will admit it, I have no idea about most of the traditions that are regarded with St. Patrick’s Day. However, since it is fast approaching, I have decided to do a little investigation!

First, lets get some of the basics out of the way…Who is St. Patrick and why is he famous?

-St. Patrick is generally regarded as the most well known patron saint of Ireland. What is a patron saint? I’m glad you asked! A patron saint is any saint that generally guards or defends a certain people, object, illness, nation, or idea. Okay, that makes more sense.

-St. Patrick was born in Scotland in the year 387 AD and (allegedly) died MARCH 17, 493…thus marking March 17th as St. Patrick’s Day. This would make him 105-106 years old!

-His father, Calpornius, was a deacon. His grandfather, Potitus, was a priest.

-Only two writing of St. Patrick have survived until today, “The Declaration”, which gives an account of Patrick’s life and mission, and “Letters to the Soldiers of Coroticus”.

-At the age of 16, Patrick was captured in Britain by Irish “marauders”, or treasure hunters. He was taken to Ireland for 6 years where he was forced into slavehood and became a herdsman…looking over the master’s sheep. It was in slavehood that he began praying daily and according to his writings, was the leading cause for the life he would lead as an apostle. Following a dream he had with a voice telling him he would soon escape, he left and traveled nearly 200 miles to catch a ship where he returned home, then in his early 20’s.

-He eventually returned to Ireland in his mid 40s and became an apostle, teaching the ways of Christianity and converting many of the chiefs to Christianity.

-He continued to preach until his death in 493 and has been allegedly buried in Down Cathedral in Downpatrick, Down County.

St. Patrick’s Day Themese and their Reasons:

Shamrock: The shamrock became part of St. Patrick’s day because St. Patrick used the 3 leaf clover design to help explain the trinity of Christianity. His followers quickly adopted the practice of wearing these to show their dedication. Most of us think of 4 leaf clovers represent good luck and can outnumber 3 leaf clovers 10,000 to 1! A little fun fact: the guiness book of world records sets the record for most number leaves on a clover at 21.

Leprechauns: From the information I could find, leprechauns don’t have anything to do with St. Patrick, the man, at all. However, the Irish have many stories of the leprechauns, which are believed to be Irish fairies. They are usually short (around 2′), are usually quite grumpy, and are shoemakers. Each leprechaun allegedly has a pot of gold that is hidden, but if you are to find a leprechaun, you can force them to tell you but DON’T take your eyes off of them at any point because they are sure to vanish.

-Wearing green: St. Patrick’s favorite color was blue, not in fact green. Actually, the Irish weren’t fond of green until the 19th century. Many Irish considered green to be the color of leprechauns and wearing green showed association with leprechauns. Green wasn’t associated with the holiday until the 19th century, and has become St. Patrick’s color because Ireland as a nation is lavished with green…grass, trees, leprechauns :), etc. Pinching people without green was created but young Irish children and the tradition continues today!

St. Patrick Day Events In America!

Chicago, IL holds one of the coolest St. Patrick Day Celebrations in the US by dying the Chicago River green immediately before their St. Patrick’s Day Parade. The “dyers” of the river pour in a seemingly orange dye into the river which immediately turns green thanks to the help of leprechauns. Using 40-50 lbs. of food coloring, the river stays green for just a few hours. Two parades take place in Chicago which combined draw in about 600,000+ people.

New York City, NY, has the largest parade in the US, which is expected to have 2 million+ attendees this year! In New York, this parade has been taking place every year since 1762! It is much different than most parades in the fact that there are no floats, cars, or corporate sponsors; just marching, bagpipes, and the largest St. Patrick Day celebration in the country!

Boston, MA-With a population that is nearly 16% of Irish background – no wonder it is the oldest celebrated St. Patrick’s Day Parade in America…which it started in 1737. Boston brings in more than 500,000 parade goers and has more Irish pubs than any other city in America.

White House-Starting in 2009, Michelle Obama made the decision to dye the north and south lawn fountains green. It marked the first time that it had ever been done before, but it should not be a surprise. Michelle and Barack are from…Chicago!

St. Patrick’s Day is quickly approaching so grab your St. Paddy’s Day decorations, your green shirts, and celebrate the one day of the year that we are all part Irish. We here at FlagExpressions.com asks everyone to have a safe, exciting, and pinch-free day…even if it is a Wednesday! If you are in need of last-minute banner, you have hit the jackpot!

Christmas Blog that is Real Nice Clark!

Christmas time is officially here and with just a couple of more days to go, I am hoping you guys are done with your Christmas shopping! I, for one, have not started yet. It is the “guy” in me I guess. I will probably run out this afternoon and get some gifts but I am in no hurry. 🙂 A funny thing about Christmas is how everyone has their own routines. Many of them are what we have been doing since we were little kids.

For me, number one thing, I have to have a real Christmas tree. Without this, it will not feel like Christmas. And for those of you with fake trees and “Christmas tree” candles, it is not the same. No matter how much you tell yourself, it is not the same! Also, if I don’t watch Christmas Vacation, it wouldn’t be Christmas. My mom still cries from laughing so hard when we watch it. We’ve watched it every Christmas Eve for the last 10 years or so.

The one thing that IS different for me this year is the appreciation I have for our soldiers overseas. Writing some of these blogs (Medal of Honor / Honoring our heroes of Patriot Day, etc.) has given me a chance to really look at the sacrifices that many people make each and every day to protect this great country. Many of these soldiers are young men and women out of high school who are giving up or postponing college and their lives to defend this great country and our rights. Their families have to deal with them going out on their own in frightening far away towns and cities with the fear that they might not make it back.

For me, I have often overlooked these sacrifices and go about my own agenda but I am asking everyone reading this blog to take a moment before the end of the year and give thanks for this great nation and our military. Appreciate your time with friends and family, delicious food and snacks, and all of the many activities that accompanies our Holiday season. Try to remember these soldiers and if you can, send out a letter or one of the thousands of items that are needed (boots, food, snacks, etc.). Anysoldier.com is a great site that sends your letters to a soldier overseas. I encourage you to check the site out and donate anything you can, even if it is just an uplifting story. Everything helps.

FlagExpressions.com wishes everyone a safe and wonderful Holiday season filled with many memories and stories. Enjoy your time to relax and break from the real world. Say hello to old friends and give thanks for all of your gifts. We thank all of our customers  and soon to be customers 🙂 for a wonderful year and we look forward to 2010 with high hopes and many new things to come your way.

Please feel free to respond to this blog with any and all comments or suggestions.

What is the deal with Christmas Decorations?

Going through my small town back at my parents’ house this weekend for Thanksgiving, the town Christmas decorations are out and spreading joy. Giant stars made from Christmas lights were on every light pole in the town. Only problem is, they didn’t light up at all.

Okay, a little sad but that’s okay. We are trying. With a town of 3,000 people you can’t really expect much but not being able to light up decorations on Christmas, come on guys! My mom did however have her Christmas flag out…actually picked up from Flagexpressions.com! Is it because I got her a discount or because we have the best flags ever? I am hoping because of the best flags ever 🙂 but expecting because of the discount 😦

Being at home over Thanksgiving though reminded me that moms are great. She loves decorating the house and getting a tree. She puts up luminaries around our driveway every year. We also have a blow up Santa and Rudolph along with usually a Griswold sized tree. It wouldn’t feel like Christmas without our decorations though. She loves it…So do we…

If it was up to the guys though (she had 3 boys), the house wouldn’t have anything but Christmas candy for the holidays. We would probably have a tree but it would be able to be snapped together and pre-decorated with many broken ornaments. We would have our Dallas Cowboys flag on the porch year round and it would be faded to the point where you would think it’s a “surrender” flag. Yes we need her for the Holidays.

There is however some things that I wonder why she does it. I mean she puts the candle lights up in all of the windows of the house. The thing is, she made me put up candles in my brothers window this weekend. Doesn’t sound useless huh? Not until you realize his room is in the back of the house which faces…absolutely nothing. No houses, no streets, nope…nothing but woods. He doesn’t even live there anymore due to college but she still required that candle be put up or it would bug her all of December.I love my mom…but sometimes I gotta wonder.

Christmas is by far my favorite Holiday though. We get to eat like it’s Thanksgiving and open presents like it’s our birthdays. I get to see the whole family for a couple of days and catch up on all of our missed time due to work, schedules, and distance apart. It always makes me remember being a kid. I still have trouble sleeping on Christmas Eve even if I know every present I am getting. Feeling young feels great! No matter what you celebrate in December, whether it is Christmas, Hanukah, or Kwanzaa…be thankful for the people and family that make your Holidays special.

If your mom asks you to put up lights in the spare bedroom or an amazing Holiday flag from FlagExpressions in your basement, just smile and do it! (see how I added that in there?) FlagExpressions wishes everyone a great Holiday season and a Happy New Year!

Wanting a new flag? Right now, get free shipping on all orders over $50. Send us some of your Holiday traditions and we will post them in the blog!