Monthly Archives: December 2021

πŸΎπŸ‘‘πŸŽ‰ Happy New Year’s Eve! πŸ₯‚πŸŽ©πŸ•›

Merry 6th Day of Christmas, Happy New Year’s Eve and Happy Champagne Day!

What are you doing New Year’s….New Year’s Eve?Β  I love that song. This is my favorite rendition of it, by Rufus Wainwright…

I hope you have festive plans!Β  Maybe staying safer at home, again, this year? If you want to go out, check the Cool Yule Blog calendar of events for ideas.

Friends in Virginia, keep in mind that on January 1st, all Virginia State Parks and many county parks are hosting a first day hike. Put your best foot forward and take a hike on New Year’s Day!

Here is some background information about New Year’s Eve customs we know and love.

Why we celebrate the New Year on January 1?

For centuries, various cultures around the world have celebrated the New Year at various times of the year, including spring, summer, fall and winter. The Western tradition of celebrating the New Year on January 1 goes back to the time of Julius Caesar of Rome, who proclaimed that January 1st was the first day of the new year. January was named in honor of Janus, the Roman god who guarded the gate between earth and heaven, and a great festival was held in his name. Janus had two faces; one to look at the old year departing and the other to look at the new year arriving. (Source: Happy New Year Around the World by Lois S. Johnson, 1966).

Why is a newborn baby assoiated with the New Year?

The Greek god, Dionysus, was represented as a baby in the ancient Greek new year festival in the spring. It probably became associated with the themes of rebirth and newness.

Why Do We Sing Auld Lang Syne at Midnight on New Year’s Eve?

The band leader Guy Lombardo was from Canada and he got his start there, playing at dances. Ontario had a large Scottish population and it was traditional to end dances by playing “Auld Lang Syne” a song written by the immensely popular Scottish poet Robert Burns who lived around the time of George Washington, who based it off an old Scottish song of unknown origin.

When Lombardo and his band relocated to the United States, they began playing New Year’s Eve concerts that were broadcast on the radio, and in 1929, the band ended the concert with the song in their repertoire and his performances became a tradition on radio and later television into the mid-1970s. Now, it just wouldn’t seem like New Year’s Eve without Auld Lang Syne at midnight.

Why do we use noisemakers and make noise on New Year’s Eve?

The custom of making noise and setting off fireworks goes back to an ancient pagan tradition of making noise to scare away evil spirits and to welcome good spirits and good luck. It is the same reason why churches (at least they used to) ring bells on New Year’s Eve — to drive the Devil away.

Why do we wear funny hats on New Year’s Eve?

Many ancient customss involve wearing some sort of costume during New Year festivals. The idea behind this custom is that you will not be recognized by evil spirits or fairies who might otherwise do you harm.

Why do we throw confetti and streamers on New Year’s Eve?Β 

The custom of doing this at New Year’s Eve probably began most likely in France in 1885. Flowers, confetti (tiny candies), rice and bits of paper were showered on brides in Italy, England and France to ensure the bride’s fertility and the couple’s prosperity for centuries. Confetti – both the candies and the paper kind — were tossed from parades to spectators during carnival season. It is likely that the custom transferred to New Year’s Eve celebrations as wishes for prosperity at parties. The custom of throwing serpentine streamers likely originated with the tradition of throwing streamers from aboard ship to well-wishers on the dock as one left on a voyage. It was a symbolic gesture of affection and connection.

Why do we dress up on New Year’s Eve?

The celebration of the start of the year in America was typically a quiet one. People went to church; Dutch immigrants in New York hosted open houses for family, friends and neighbors to visit. After the Industrial Revolution and inventions of electrc lights, street cars and subways (late 1800s to early 1900s), however, more people gravitated to cities like New York and Washington, DC to work and make friends. Going out at night became possible because of the increased lighting and transportation options. It became the fashion to go to New Year’s Eve parties at social clubs or in private homes for dinner and dancing, or to celebrate at home. People began dressing up in their finest and most sparkly attire for these ritzy fetes to impress the other hosts and guests — and the custom likely came to be associated with starting the new year with hopes for success on the right foot. The sparkles reflected the light in these lower-light settings, symbolizing a bright start to the new year.

What is the history of New Year’s resolutions?

The custom of resolutions is more than 4,000 years old! Ancient Babylonians and Romans presented offerings and prayers to their gods at the start of the new year. They promised to behave with virtue and in ways pleasing to the gods in order to win favor from them in the new year.

Why do we kiss at midnight on New Year’s Eve?

The custom of kissing at midnight on New Year’s Eve is a tradiion in America that likely arrived with Scottish and German settlers, who in turn were influenced by Ancient Roman, Celtic and Viking customs in which kissing was thought to protect people from ill fortune and evil spirits. German immigrants believed whomever you were with at midnight at New Year’s Eve affected your luck in the new year.

Why do we drink champagne on New Year’s Eve?

Champagne was once so expensive that only royalty could afford to drink it. In the 1800s, it became affordable enough for people to afford on very special occasions and it continued to be associated with riches and luxury. It probably was drunk on New Year’s Eve since so many people wish for prosperity then.

Why do we drop a ball on New Year’s Eve at midnight?

Sailors used set their timepieces by dropping floating balls into the sea from their boats at certain intervals and then finding them with a spyglass. The first time ball dropped on New Year’s Eve in the U.S. happened in 1845 in Washington, DC and in the early 1900s, the tradition began in Times Square, New York. But Times Square is not named after the ball. It is named because the New York Times moved their offices there in 1904.


New Year’s Eve by the numbers

How do you like to celebrate New Year’s Eve? Statista has some findings about how Americans celebrate this special night. Do you watch the ball fall down?

Infographic: Key Ingredients to a New Year's Celebration | Statista You will find more infographics at Statista

Plan Your Resolutions Day

Photo by Towfiqu barbhuiya on

Merry 5th Day of Christmas and Happy Plan Your Resolutions Day!

Making resolutions is one of my favorite tasks this time of year. I have lots of tips! Here’s a link to the articles I have written about making resolutions.

Maybe you’d like to know which resolutions are the most popular this time of year? Here are some statistics on the resolutions Americans make. Which of these will you choose for 2022?

Statistic: What are your 2021 resolutions? | Statista
Find more statistics at Statista

πŸŽ„ Cool Yule Watch Party: Bridget Jones’ Diary πŸŽ„

Merry Fourth Day of Christmas and Happy Almost New Year! Today is Still Need to Do Day — so, it’s a perfect day to wrap up your New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day celebration plans (even if you are remaining safer at home). What are you going to wear on New Year’s Eve?

But first, a break for a classic holiday movie! Break out those Christmas jammies! Let’s get comfy with Bridget Jones!

We’re watching the 2001 movie, Bridget Jones’ Diary, starring Renee Zellweger, Hugh Grant and Colin Firth. If you haven’t seen it, I know you will enjoy it and if you have seen it, you’ll probably appreciate reliving her unforgettable Christmas and New Year’s Eve cinematic moments. If you want to watch it with me, I’ll be watching this at 8 p.m. As of this writing, it is free to watch on YouTube.

Looking Back at 2021

2021 was a tumultuous year. Let’s look back at the highlights (and low lights) of 2021 as we say farewell to the old year and hope for the best in the new year.

Top News Stories of 2021

  • Presidential Inauguration
  • The Capitol Riot
  • Troops Leave Afghanistan
  • Covid-19, Delta and Omicron
  • Vaccines and boosters
  • β€œI’m Not A Cat” attorney Zoom filter error
  • Game Stop Stock fiasco
  • Prince Harry and Meghan Markle leave royal life
  • Derek Chauvin ruled guilty of murder in George Floyd trial
  • Britney Spears won her conservatorship case
  • Samantha Jones cut out of Sex and the City
  • Surfside, Florida condo collapse
  • Gabby Petitto murder
  • Container ship blocks Suez Cana
  • Hurricane Ida flash floods in NYC
  • Supply chain snafus
  • Gulf of Mexico Eye of Fire
  • Tokyo Olympics
  • Distance learning during the pandemic
  • Return to schools after pandemic closures

Top Movies of 2021

  • The Tragedy of Macbeth
  • Dune
  • No Sudden Move
  • Pig
  • Spencer
  • Licorice Pizza
  • Drive My Car
  • Spider Man: No Way Home
  • The Green Knight

Top-Selling Products of 2021 – what we purchased reflects what we valued in 2021…

  • Resistance bands
  • Water bottles
  • Yoga mats
  • Air fryers
  • Phone tripods
  • Charging stations
  • Board games and puzzles

New York Times 10 Best Books – what we read reflects what occupied our minds in 2021…

  1. How Beautiful We Were by Imbolo Mbue
  2. Intimacies by Katie Kitamura
  3. The Love Songs of W.E.B. DuBois by Honoree Fanonne Jeffers
  4. No One Is Telling About This by Patricia Lockwood
  5. When We Cease to Understand the World by Benjamin Labatutt
  6. The Copenhagen Trilogy by Tove Ditlevsen
  7. How the Word Is Passed by Clint Smith
  8. Invisible Child by Andrea Elliot
  9. On JuneteenthΒ by Annette Gordon Reed
  10. Red Comet by Heather Clark

Selecting your word of the year

Photo by ArtHouse Studio on

Merry 3rd Day of Christmas! Today is also Call A Friend Day. Here’s a good question to ask your friend…

Have you ever used a word of the year?Β 

A word of the year is a motivational word or phrase of the year that is relevant to you and your goals. For example, if your word is “fitness,” your goals might include a healthy diet, regular exercise and massage. Your one word is a beauitfully simple way to maintain your focus on an an area of self-improvement…and it can help you power through times when you feel discouraged or unmotivated.

For example, one year, my word of the year was self-care. When I encountered obstacles or setbacks, I said to myself, self-care, self-care, self-care, like a mantra. I made a self-care kit. I created self-care challenges to complete each month. I read about self-care. I wrote down in my planner the self-care activities I completed. My devotion to my word and my goal made an aspiration into a daily habit that had wonderful impact on my wellbeing. It transformed the way I treated myself. My focus on my self-care also enabled me to achieve other goals.

Continue reading

Learn how to cut out paper ❄ snowflakes β„

Merry 2nd Day of Christmas! In addition to being Fruitcake Day, today is Cut Out Paper Snowflakes Day (seriously, it’s a thing!)

I watched this video and now, just using copy paper, I can cut out paper snowflakes like a pro! Try making small, medium and large snowflakes. The mix of sizes makes the display of them quite magical!


The Tradition of the Twelve Days of Christmas

Photo by Jessica Lewis on

December 26th can be a huge anti-climax. A grouchy let-down because Christmas is over. Darn!

Or…is it? πŸ™‚

No, Christmas isn’t over! It’s still here. There are 12 Days of Christmas and the first day of Christmas is today! Happy First Day of Christmas!

My son and I have celebrated the traditional 12 Days of Christmas — the first day of Christmas is December 26 and the 12th day is January 6, Epiphany. I’ve got some good reasons why you might want to consider adding this holiday tradition.

  • It eases you out of the holidays and into the new year in a more gentle and gradual way. I find this really helps me and my son seemed to enjoy it. And it is the antidote for post-Christmas let-down.
  • It has no focus on presents (except the post-Christmas card shopping for bargains and using gift cards). So, the pressure is off and you can enjoy other aspects of the season. Strip away the commercialism, and what do you have — only the best and most beautiful parts of Christmas, the good will, the coziness, the beauty of the lights and decorations, the spirtiual aspects, and the time with family and friends. You might like Christmas BETTER after December 25!
  • If you have children at home, you typically have at least a week of winter break AFTER Christmas Day. So, it gives you a chance to have Christmas-y fun during that week before they go back to school — like going ice skating, drinking cocoa with a peppermint stick in it and going out to see light displays. And also doing good works – like helping out at home, volunteering or donating.
  • Some of the Christmas attractions are still open (and still festive!) but will be significantly less crowded, including the National Tree, Meadowlark Gardens Winter Walk of Lights, Bull Run Festival of Lights, Tinsel!, Christmas Town Busch Gardens and Winterfest at Kings Dominion.
  • It allows you time and space to celebrate some of the more spiritual aspects of the season after Santa returns to the North Pole. You might read some passages from the Bible or reflect on the impact of Jesus’ birth or celebrate neo-pagan Yule traditions.
  • It gives you extra mileage out of your Christmas “stuff” — fuzzy socks, pyjamas, holiday teas, candy canes,Β  books and decorations, movies, and music, since you have almost two more weeks of the Christmas season after Christmas Day.
  • You can legitimately still send presents and cards, in case you are really running late this year!
  • New Year’s Eve at your house looks more festive when the tree and decorations are still up.
  • It makes the un-decorating task easier. I leave my decorations up until January 6, Epiphany. But I do phase them out gradually. Pretty much everything stays up until New Year’s, except the stockings of course. And I leave some lights up deep into January to comaat the winter blahs. But the tree doesn’t come down until January 6.
  • It gives you another holiday to look forward to in the bleakest part of winter. My son and I look forward to Epiphany. I will have a special blog post on that day sharing stories and traditions.

The Twelve Days of Christmas

Sunday, December 26 – The First Day of Christmas and Thank You Note Day; Candy Cane Day

Monday, December 27 – The Second Day of Christmas and Fruitcake Day; Make Cut Out Snowflakes Day

Tuesday, December 28 – The Third Day of Christmas and Call a Friend Day; Card Playing Day

Wednesday, December 29 – The Fourth Day of Christmas and Still Need to Do Day

Thursday, December 30 – The Fifth Day of Christmas and Resolution Planning Day

Friday, December 31 – The Sixth Day of Christmas and New Year’s Eve and Champagne Day; World Peace Meditation Day

Saturday, January 1 – The Seventh Day of Christmas and New Year’s Day; First Hike Day (Virginia)

Sunday, January 2 – The Eighth Day of Christmas; Motivation and Inspiration Day

Monday, January 3 – The Ninth Day of Christmas and Fruitcake Toss Day

Tuesday, January 4 – The Tenth Day of Christmas and National Spaghetti Day

Wednesday, January 5 – The Eleventh Day of Christmas

Thursday, January 6 – The Twelth Day of Christmas and Epiphany. National Take Down the Christmas Tree Day.

Friday, January 7 – Orthodox Christmas Day

and also coming up…(visit my self-care blog now and through 2022)

Saturday, January 8 – National Vision Board Day

Wednesday, January 12 – Stick to Your Resolutions Day

πŸŽ€ Merry Christmas! πŸŽ€

Best wishes for a blessed Merry Christmas from your friend, Mary, at Cool Yule!

Today will be an unseasonably warm and humid day in Northern Virginia, with a high expected of 67 degrees. It will be a great day for outdoor activities, including outdoor ice skating, walking, biking and visiting parks and playgrounds.

There is a surge of Covid infections. If gathering with friends and family outside of your household, please consider taking precautions, such as meeting outdoors and wearing masks, regardless of your vaccination status.

Christmas is a lovely time to spend at home but if you want to go out for a meal, some ice skating or to see some spectacular light displays, here are some ideas…

Last minute gifts and grocery items

  • Most grocery stores and drug stores will be open until about 5 p.m.
  • Grab some healthy snacks, like veggie and fruit trays, guacamole, veggie sushi, salsa and hummus, etc.
  • Pick up something fun to read, like Reader’s Digest, your favorite magazine or a seasonal paperback.

Staying safer at home

  • Call friends and family and wish them a Merry Christmas.
  • Take a long walk during the day.
  • Christmas services are available to view on Youtube – Washington National Cathedral (Episcopal) and The National Basilica (Catholic).
  • TubiTV has many Christmas movies free to watch online. Check out my movie recommendations.
  • Complete self-care acitivities, like guided meditation, brief workouts and yoga, reading – catch up on the self-care challenge!
  • Make one meal special today – breakfast/brunch, lunch or dinner.
  • Play card games and board games.
  • Get a head-start on your New Year’s resolutions or craft a vision board.
  • Listen to Christmas music while keeping your hands busy on a project, like coloring, crafting or a puzzle. You can listen to my playlist of 30 Christmas favorites on the home page of the Cool Yule Blog.

Coffee Runs and DiningΒ 

  • Remember, you can always order food to go or to be delivered, if you are remaining safer at home.
  • Some restaurants that are open on Christmas Day include Denny’s, iHOP and some Starbucks, McDonald’s and Dunkin Donuts.
  • McCormick and Schmidts, Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, Morton’s, Fogo da Chao, Macaroni Grill and other similar upscale chain restaurants will be open on Christmas Day. Many of these restaurants ask that you remained masked on the premises whenever you are not actually eating or drinking. Consider getting take-out orders for additional safety.

Ice Skating

  • Cameron Run Ice and Lights in Alexandria will be open for skating and looking at lights.
  • The outdoor ice skating rink at Reston Town Center will be open from 1:30 pm to 11 pm. Even if you don’t skate, it’s fun looking at the skaters.

More Seasonal fun

  • You can visit the National Christmas Tree in back of the White House and the Capitol Tree from 10 am – 5 pm. It will be crowded, though so please consider wearing a mask and social distancing.
  • Save yourself the trip: The US Botanic Gardens will be closed (as will all DC museums) and the outdoor display with model trains will also be closed. But you could chek out the Capitol Tree!
  • In Williamsburg, Christmas Town at Busch Gardens is open and I highly recommend it.
  • Save yourself the trip: Kings Dominion Winterfest in Doswell is closed Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. But it is open on New Year’s Eve!
  • In the evening, the walk-through Meadowlark Gardens Winter Walk of Lights (Vienna) is open as is the drive-through Bull Run Lights and Winter Village in Manassas.
  • The new attraction, Tinsel! at Holiday Inn Dulles in Sterling is open for 2-hour visits.

The story of the birth of Christ

On Christmas Day, one year, I listened to a rector talk about the beautiful story of the birth of Christ in his sermon. Whether or not it is completely true was immaterial, he said. He referred to the meaning of the story and its timelessness.

I agreed with him, but all my life, even when I doubted the existence of God himself, I believed this story happened. It seems too wonderful to not be true. But as the rector stated, that isn’t truly the point. We don’t know the exact date Christ was born and other details are lost to history. The point is that the wrondrous story of the birth of Christ is a story of love, reverence, faith, difficulty, sacrifice and miracles. And that is a story that every person can relate to on some level.

Let’s remember the night the angels sang…

Let’s remember what happened in a little town, as related in the Gospel of Luke. Merry Christmas.

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed.

(And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)

And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.

And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of Davdi, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David: )

To be taxed with Mary, his espoused wife, being great with child.

And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.

And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.

And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

And it came to pass, as the angels were gone into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known to us.

And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.