Tag Archives: Germany

New Year’s: One Country’s Times Square is Another’s Burnt Straw Dummy Outside Your Home

New Year's Eve in Times Square, New York City

New Year's Eve in Times Square, New York City

Fun Facts About New Year’s Traditions Around the World

Many New Year’s traditions are similar, but some are different. Here are some interesting customs, past and present, around the world.

New Year's in Sydney, Australia

New Year's in Sydney, Australia

Australia: New Year’s is celebrated on January 1. This is a public holiday and many people spend it having picnics and camping on the beach. Their parties start on December 31. At midnight they start to make noise with whistles, rattles, car horns, and church bells to ring in the New Year.

Austria:
 New Year’s Eve is called Sylverterabend, which is the Eve of Saint Sylvester. they make a spiced punch in honor of the saint. Decorations and champagne are part of the celebration. Evil spirits of the old year are chased away by the firing of moroars, called boller. Midnight mass is attended and trumpets are blown from church towers at midnight, when people kiss each other.

Belgium: New Year’s Eve is called Sint Sylvester Vooranvond, or Saint Sylvester Eve. People throw parties and at midnight everyone kisses and exchanges good luck greetings. New Year’s Day is call Nieuwjaarrsdag – children write letters on decorated paper to their parents and god parents, and read the letter to them.

Traditional First Footing offerings

Traditional First Footing offerings

Great Britain: the custom of first footing is practiced. the first male visitor to the house, after midnight, is supposed to bring good luck. The man brings a gift like money, bread, or coal, to ensure the family will have plenty of these in the year to come. The first person must not be blond, red-haired, or a woman, as these are supposed to be bad luck. In London, crowds gather in Trafalgar Square and Piccadilly circus to hear the chimes of London’s Big Ben as it announces the arrival of the New Year.

France: The French New Year is Jour des Etrennes, or Day of New Year’s Presents. Dinner parties are thrown for the entire family, where presents are exchanged.

Germany: People drop molten lead into cold water to tell the future from the shape it makes. A bit of food eaten on New Year’s Eve is left on their plate until after Midnight, as a way on ensuring a well stocked larder in the coming year.

Greece: January 1 is an important date in Greece because it is St. Basil’s Day, as well as the first day of the year. St. Basil was known for his kindness to children. Stories tell how he would come in the night and leave gifts for children in their shoes. People gather, have special meals and exchange gifts.

A Jack Straw scarecrow in Hungary

A Jack Straw scarecrow in Hungary

Hungary: In Hungary the people burn effigies, or a scapegoat known as “Jack Straw”. The scapegoat represents the evils and misfortunes of the past year. Burning the effigy is supposed to get rid of the bad luck.

India: The Indian New Year’s is started with a festival of lights called Diwali. Cards and gifts are exchanged and people finish off any uncompleted work.

Japan: Oshogatsu in an important time for foamy celebrations when all business are closed. To keep out evil spirits they hang a rope of straw across the front of their houses. The rope stands for happiness and good luck. When the New Year begins, the Japanese people begin to laugh, which is supposed to bring them good luck in the New Year.

Netherlands: People burn Christmas Trees in street bonfires and let fireworks ring in the New Year.

Pope Sylvester I

Pope Sylvester I

Poland: Known as St. Sylvester’s Eve., in honor of Pope Sylvester I. Legend is that Pope Sylvester foiled the plans of a dragon to devour the world in the year 1000.

Portugal: The Portuguese pick and eat twelve grapes from a bunch as the clock strikes twelve on New Year;s Eve. The twelve grapes ensure twelve happy months in the coming year.

Colorblind Santa? Nyet...it's Russia's Grandfather Frost

Colorblind Santa? Nyet...it's Russia's Grandfather Frost

Russia: Grandfather Frost, who wears a blue suit instead of Santa’s red, arrives on New year’s Eve with his bag of toys for the children.

Scotland: Night of the Candle. People prepare for New Year by cleaning their home and purifying it with a ritual or burning juniper branches carried through the home. The First Footer says that whoever the first person to set foot into your home on New Year’s Day decides the luck of the family for the coming year.

South Africa: The New Year is rung in with church bells ringing and gunshots being fired. On New year’s Day there is a carnival atmosphere.

South America: A dummy or straw person is ofter placed outside the home and burned at midnight

Eating twelve grapes in Spain, Portugal and Greece is said to ensure good luck for the coming year

Eating twelve grapes in Spain, Portugal and Greece is said to ensure good luck for the coming year

Spain: Everything, including theater productions and movies, is stopped at Midnight on New Year’s. The clock strikes midnight and everyone eats twelve grapes. They eat one grape for each toll to bring good luck for the next twelve months of the New Year. Sometimes the grapes are washed down with wine.

United States: The New Year is often rung in with festive dancing parties and meals. People kiss each other at midnight and wish each other a “Happy New Year”.

Wales: At around 3:00 to 4:00 am on New Year’s morning, the boys of the village go from house to house with an evergreen twig to sprinkle on the people and then each room of their house, to bring good luck. On New Year’s Day the children travel the neighborhood singing songs are are rewarded with coins and sweets.

Special thanks to AssociatedContent.com
Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Entertainment, Travel

Copernicium: Man-made Element #112 and Ununbium by Another Name

The Copernicium/Ununbium atom was first synthesized in Germany on February 9, 1996

The Copernicium/Ununbium atom was first synthesized in Germany on February 9, 1996

Fun Facts About Copernicium/Ununbium

Nicolaus Copernicus: Portrait, 1580, Toruń Old Town City Hall

Nicolaus Copernicus: Portrait, 1580, Toruń Old Town City Hall

German nuclear scientists at the GSI facility announce they have created element 112, ununbium. Ununbium would be later renamed to copernicium in honor of Nicolaus Copernicus.

Copernicium or Ununbium

Atomic Number: 112

Symbol: Cp or Uub

Atomic Weight: [277]

Discovery: Hofmann, Ninov et al. GSI-Germany, February 9, 1996

Electron Configuration: [Rn] 5f14 6d10 7s2

Name Origin: Named for Nicolaus Copernicus, who proposed the heliocentric solar system. The discoverers of copernicum wanted the element’s name to honor a famous scientist who did not get much recognition during his own liferime. Also, Hofmann and his team wished to honor the importance of nuclear chemistry to other scientific fields, such as astrophysics.

The 120 meter long linear ion accelerator at GSI-Germany

The 120 meter long linear ion accelerator at GSI-Germany

Properties: The chemistry of copernicum is expected to be similar to that of the elements zinc, cadmium, and mercury. In contrast to the lighter elements, element 112 decays after a fraction of a thousandth of a second by emitting alpha particles to first become an isotope of element 110 with atomic mass 273, and then an isotope of hassium with atomic mass 269. The decay chain has been followed for three more alpha-decays to fermium.

Sources: Element 112 was produced by fusing (melting together) a zinc atom with a lead atom. The zinc atom was accelerated to high energies by a heavy ion accelerator and directed onto a lead target.

Element Classification: Transition Metal

Special thanks to About.com

Leave a comment

Filed under Science

Attila the Hun: “Scourge of God”

Attila the Hun, ?-453 AD

Attila the Hun, ?-453 AD

Fun Facts About Attila the Hun

Attila’s Rise to Power

Called the Scourge of God by the Romans, Attila the Hun was king and general of the Hun empire from A.D. 433 to 453. Succeeding his uncle, King Roas, in 433, Attila shared his throne with his brother Bleda. He inherited the Scythian hordes who were disorganized and weakened by internal strife. Attila’s first order of affairs was to unite his subjects for the purpose of creating one of the most formidable and feared armies Asia had ever seen.

Peace Treaty Between Rome and Attila the Hun

In 434 East Roman Emperor Theodosius II offered Attila and Bleda 660 pounds of gold annually with hopes of securing an everlasting peace with the Huns. This peace, however, was not long lived. In 441 Attila’s Huns attacked the Eastern Roman Empire. The success of this invasion emboldened Attila to continue his westward expansion. Passing unhindered through Austria and Germany, Attila plundered and devastated all in his path.

Attila Attacks Italy

In 451, having suffered a setback on the Plains of Chalons, by the allied Romans and Visigoths, Attila turned his attention to Italy. After having laid waste to Aquileia and many Lombard cities in 452, the Scourge of God met Pope Leo I who dissuaded him from sacking Rome.

Attila’s Ignominious Death

Attila’s death in 453 wasn’t quite what one would have expected from such a fierce barbarian warrior. He died not on the battlefield, but on the night of his marriage. On that night Attila, who, despite common misconceptions, was not a heavy drinker, drank heavily in celebration of his new bride. In his wedding chambers at the end of the event, Attila passed out flat on his back. It was then and there that Attila had a massive nosebleed which caused him to choke on his own blood.

 

Special thanks to www.about.com

1 Comment

Filed under Historical Events & Figures

Interpol: Aiding Cross-border Law Enforcement and Cooperation

Interpol: Established September 7th, 1923

Interpol: Established September 7th, 1923

 

Fun Facts About Interpol

 

Interpol offices1. Interpol (International Criminal Police Organization, O.I.P.C., ICPO) was founded in Austria in 1923 to facilitate cross-border police cooperation. The word ‘Interpol’, contraction of ‘international police’, was chosen in 1946 as the telegraphic address.

2. Interpol is the world’s third largest international organization, after the United Nations and FIFA, with 186 member countries financed by annual contributions of about €41.7 million from its member countries.

3. It was located in Germany from 1942 to 1946, and its staff and facilities were used as an information gathering unit for the Gestapo. After World War II, the agency was reconstituted and headquartered in Paris. Today the organization is headquartered in Lyon, France.

4. The United Nations recognized Interpol as an intergovernmental organization in 1971.

Its principal services are to provide its member countries with information on the whereabouts of international criminals, to held seminars on crime detection science, and to facilitate the apprehension of criminals.

5. Contrary to the popular belief, Interpol officers do not operate directly in member countries and are not involved in the actual law enforcement. Interpol’s main role is to pass the information.

6. Interpol maintains a large database of unsolved crimes, convicted and alleged criminals. Member nations may access specific sections of this database at any time, while its police forces are encouraged to check information collected by Interpol whenever a major crime is committed.

7. In 2003 Interpol established Command and Co-ordination Centre, enabling the organization to operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

8. Since 2002 Interpol has also been maintaining a database of lost and stolen identification and travel documents, and by 2006 this database contained over ten million identification items reported lost or stolen.

Special thanks to http://facts.trendstoday.info 

Leave a comment

Filed under Criminal Justice, Historical Events & Figures, Travel

“It’s a Wonderful Life”: Frank Capra’s Timeless Holiday Classic

"It's a Wonderful Life" Movie Poster

"It's a Wonderful Life" Movie Poster

Fun Facts About “It’s a Wonderful Life”

Classic Christmas flick It’s a Wonderful Life is played in countless homes around the world each holiday season. So before the family gathers around the television to enjoy this feel-good film this season, brush up on your trivia knowledge about George Bailey’s story to impress even your scroogiest family members.

  • “The Greatest Gift” was a short story written by Philip Van Doren Stern in 1943. It concerned a man named George Pratt who wished he never been born. A stranger meets George on a bridge grants him his wish. George gets to see what would have happened if he wasn’t around. He ends up selling a brush to his former wife and her new husband in this alternative universe. When Stern couldn’t get the story published, he self-published it as a 21 page Christmas card gift that he sent out to 200 friends. A Hollywood agent got a hold of the card and bought the rights. When attempts at creating a script failed, director Frank Capra took over the rights and the rest is history.
  • Despite the snowy setting, the movie was filmed in California where temperatures reached 90 degrees during filming. Jimmy Stewart can be seen sweating in some scenes.
  • Before “It’s A Wonderful Life,” film snow was actually corn flakes painted white. The problem was all that crunching. Films that used corn flake snow had to go back and dub in the dialogue. Frank Capra wanted to record the sound live so he asked his special effects department for some new snow. They came up with a combination of soap, water and foamite (stuffed used for fighting fires). This new snow formula proved so successful it actually won a technical award from the Academy.

  • The classic scene where George and Mary dance the Charleston and end up taking a dip was filmed at the Beverly Hills High School gymnasium which actually has its basketball court built over its swimming pool. The same set up was used in the Cary Grant from “The Bachelor and the Bobby Soxer.” The school also boosts such alumni as David Schwimmer, Lenny Kravitz and Jamie Lee Curtis.
  • George and Mary might not have taken their dunk during the high school dance had it not been for a little rascal, specifically Alfalfa. Carl Dean “Alfalfa” Switzer played the role of Freddie, Mary’s ill-fated date to the dance. Carl was 19 when he appeared in the film, but had his start in show business at the age of 8 when he appeared in the first Little Rascal short “Beginner’s Luck” in 1935.
  • Ginger Rogers turned down the role of “Mary” because she found the part to be “too bland.” When discussing the decision in her autobiography, Rogers asked her readers “Foolish, you say?”.

  • The Hotel Clarence in Seneca Falls, New York is named for George Bailey’s guardian angel.
  • Ma Bailey was played by Academy Award nominated actress Beulah Bondi. Turns out she played Jimmy Stewart’s mother in four other times in “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” “Of Human Hearts,” “Vivacious Lady,” and on the “Jimmy Stewart Television Show.”
  • The film was James Stewart’s first since returning from World War II where he flew missions over Germany.
  • Alfred Hitchcock was famous for making on-screen cameos in all of his movies. Jimmy the Crow was Frank Capra’s good luck charm. He first popped up in “You Can’t Take It With You” and made subsequent cameos in most of Capra’s film. In “It’s A Wonderful Life” Jimmy was one of Uncle Billy’s pets shown in the Bailey Building and Loan.
  • Despite being only referred to as “Mr. Potter,” the full name of Lionel Barrymore’s character is Henry F. Potter.

  • At one point in the film, an inebriated Uncle Billy bids good night to his nephew George then wanders off screen. A crash is heard and Uncle Billy cries out, “I’m alright.” That crash was a crew member accidentally dropping equipment during the take. Frank Capra decided to keep in the ad lib and paid the crew member an extra 10 bucks for “improving the sound.”
  • By Hollywood standards, the original released of “It’s A Wonderful Life” in 1946 was a box office disappointment. The film cost around 3.7 million to make, but only generated 3.3 million in its initial run. That would be considered a bomb in anyone’s record book. Then along came television and public domain. Looking for fill up programming hours during the holidays, local television stations got to broadcast “It’s A Wonderful Life” as many times as they wanted. This meant several dozen showings in one holiday season. The result is that folks fell in love with the classic and demanded it to be aired every Christmas. Today, NBC maintains the rights to the film and have managed to create their own traditions with multiple airings every December.

 

Special thanks to holykaw.alltop.com and www.toptenz.net

Leave a comment

Filed under Entertainment, Movies, Television

Ludvig van Beethoven: Genius, Inspiration and Musical Revolutionary

Ludvig van Beethoven, 1770-1827

Ludvig van Beethoven, 1770-1827

Fun Facts About Ludvig van Beethoven

  • Born in 1770 in Cologne, Germany, Beethoven performed in public by the age of seven, and while not quite the sensation that the young Mozart was, he was quickly recognized as a brilliant musical talent.
  • He moved to Vienna while in his early twenties and settled there, studying with Joseph Haydn and gaining a solid reputation as a virtuoso pianist.
  • Beethoven wrote 9 symphonies, 7 concertos, 17 string quartets, 32 piano sonatas, and 10 sonatas for violin and piano.
  • Beethoven dipped his head in cold water before he composed.
  • There were three major periods of Beethoven’s musical life. The second period, sometimes called the “Heroic” period, lasted from 1803 to 1814 and is named for the tremendous works that express struggle and heroism. His famous Fifth Symphony was one of the many pieces of music written during this period.
  • He also popularized instrumental music in a European culture that had a preference for vocal music such as operas.
  • Even though he wrote only one classical opera, Fidelio, he remains one of the most acclaimed and influential composers of all time.
  • As one who scorned authority and social rank, he would stop performing at his piano if the audience was talking too much or not giving him their full attention. At soirées, he refused to perform if suddenly called upon to do so.
  • Beethoven began having hearing problems as early as 1802. What started as an annoying ringing in his ears worsened until he was almost totally deaf by 1816.
  • The cause of deafness is unknown, but it has variously been attributed to syphilis, lead poisoning, typhus, autoimmune disorder and even his habit of immersing his head in cold water to stay awake.
  • A large collection of his hearing aids, such as special ear horns, can be viewed at the Beethoven House Museum in Bonn, Germany.
  • He used a special rod attached to the soundboard on his piano that he could bite. The vibrations of the bite would then transfer from the piano to his jaw thus increasing his perception of the sound.
  • At the premier performance of his final masterpiece, the Ninth Symphony, Ludwig van Beethoven had to turn around to see the audience’s thunderous applause: he was too deaf to hear it.
  • Strange but true: Beethoven was extremely particular about his coffee , he always counted 60 beans per cup.
  • Beethoven was bedridden for most of the last months of his life. Many friends came to visit him and when he died on March 26, 1827, it was during a thunderstorm. His friend, Anselm Hüttenbrenner, who was present at the time, claimed that there was a peal of thunder at the moment of his death.
  • Despite his reputation for being rude and angry, Beethoven had many friends and was well liked. More than 20,000 people attended his funeral.

Leave a comment

Filed under Entertainment, Historical Events & Figures, Music