Have a blessed Epiphany

Today, January 6, is Epiphany. It is the last day of the Christmas season and is also known as Three Kings Day and Twelth Night, depending on the country and custom. To celebrate this day in a meaningful way, in this post, I will share information about the three kings, an excerpt from the Bible about their visit to the Christ child, some customs associated with Epiphany, a short story about one of these customs and a carol. Enjoy!

Origin of Epiphany

Like many Christian holidays, Epiphany has ancient origins. In pre-Christian times, Egyptians drew water from the Nile for holy water, as it was considered to be purest on January 6. This festival became associated with the baptism of Christ when Egyptians converted to Christianity. Four hundred years after Christ died, the date of December 25 was fixed as the date of his birth and Christmas began to be celebrated as an important Christian observance, heavily influenced by existing stories and customs, and the date of January 6 soon became marked as the finale of the Christmas festival.

The Gospel According to Matthew

The Biblical account of the journey and visit of the three wise men is as follows:

Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the King, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem.

Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.

When Herod the king heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.

And when he had gathered the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should  be born.

And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet.

And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel.

Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, inquired of them diligently what time the star appeared.

And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also.

When they had heard the king, they departed, and lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was.

When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.

And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshiped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense and myrrh.

And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.

And when they were departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him.

When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt.

The Three Kings

Three Magi, or wise men, were said to visit Jesus. In the early Christian times, they were deonoted as Kings although they were not known to have dominions. Magi were Persian priests, scientists and astrologers who had observed the stars on the night of Jesus’ birth. Legend has it that they brought three gifts to the Christ child.

  • Balthazar, from Ethiopia, brought frankincense. Frankincenes is an incense that was used in relgious rites. The symbolism is that the child was acknowledged as a future priest.
  • Melchior, from Arabia or India, brougt gold. Gold was a tribute to a young king.
  • Caspar, possibly Greek, brought myrrh. Myrrh was an incense and ointment. It was a symbol of a healer.

Although I do not know if it is still done today, in some countries, it was the custom in the past for boys or men to dress up as the Three Kings and process or deliver gifts. We are accustomed to our children receiving gifts on Christmas Day but in those countries, Kings brought the gifts, just as they did to the Christ Child, on January 6. In Italy, La Befana, an old woman, delivers the gifts that day.

We Three Kings

One of my favorite carols is We Three Kings. I like how the melody sounds like the slow plodding of camels and kings on their way to Bethlehem. Listen to the carol as sung by the great jazz singer and Virginian Ella Fitzgerald.

Three Young Kings

The beautiful and moving short story, Three Young Kings, written by George Sumner Albee in 1956, describes the procession of the Three Kings in a Cuban town. You can listen to it here or read the text here.

The King Cake

In France, they still celebrate Epiphany with a King Cake. A delicious pastry is topped with a golden crown. Whomever finds the baby inside is king for a day. This tradition has continued in New Orleans, although now King Cakes are more associated with Mardi Gras.

You can order and buy delicious, French-style King Cakes or King Cake slices at the franchise restaurant, La Madeleine, typically through January 6, while supplies last.

Farewell until November!

For many years, my Christmas has extended past New Year’s until January 6, when I wistfully take down my tree and put away my Christmas decorations. Epiphany also marks the last day of the season I post on Cool Yule. Please visit often and come back for new content about the winter holidays in November 2022. May God bless you and keep you all year. — Mary

✨ Last day for these holiday events ✨

Photo by Elly Fairytale on Pexels.com

Merry 8th Day of Christmas!

As the weekend winds down, today is the last day to experience some favorite holiday events this Christmas season.

Meadowlark’s Winter Walk of LightsMeadowlark Botanical Gardens, Vienna, VA. Through January 2 open daily from 5:30 p.m. – 10 p.m. More than 500,000 LED lights and displays transform the gardens into a winter wonderland, including a flowing stream of softly glowing lights, two-story animated fountain, and Gingerbread Village. Advance registration is recommended.


Bull Run Festival of Lights. Bull Run Regional Park, Centreville. Through January 2. 5:30 p.m. – 9:30 p.m. Two and half mile drive-through light display and walk-around winter carnival and Holiday Village with attractions and s’mores.


Busch Gardens Christmas Town in Wiliamsburg, VA is a highly recommended holiday experience. Runs on select nights through Jan 2.


Winter Lights in McLean Central Park is a walk-through event running from early November to mid-January 2022. McLean Central Park: 1468 Dolley Madison Blvd., McLean


Ice and Lights: The Winter Village at Cameron Run. 5 p.m. – 10 p.m. nightly. Through January 2, including New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. Admission to village is $10. Skating and admission is $22 and tickets must be purchased online in advancel. 55×80’ Real Ice Rink, 20’ Walk thru Tree, 100’ RGB Lighted Tunnel, lit trees and winter displays, Fire Pits, Heated Igloos, Wreath Photo Op, Bling & Things Retail Shop, Slice & Ice Pizza, donuts & more.


Kings Dominon celebrates Winterfest in Doswell, VA on select nights through January 2. Tickets begin at $32. The event includes seasonal light displays, rides and attractions, performances, character meet and greets, ice skating (additional fee), cookie decorating (additional fee).

👟 How to Keep Your Resolutions 👟

Merry 8th Day of Christmas and Happy New Year!

So…how are those resoltutions coming along? 

Don’t worry, today is also Motivation and Inspiration Day. I am here to motivate and inspire you. You can do this! I believe you!

If you have difficulty sticking to your resolutions, here are some tips that may work for you…

1. Go on Pinterest or Google and find an an inspirational image, motivational quote or funny meme pertaining to your resolution that you can download and print. For example, I would like to meditate regularly. I found a great quote about meditation on Pinterest that I know will inspire me. I will print it and tape it to my bathroom mirror. You could also tape in your calendar or planner or pin it to your bulletin board. Or incorporate a bunch of images in a vision board. Memes can help you have a sense of humor about something you are struggling to achieve, such as saving or weight loss, while reminding you to work on your goal.

2. Pick at least one fairly easy resolution you can accomplish in a month or less, right off the bat, such as reading one book in January or cleaning and de-cluttering under the kitchen sink. Nothing inspires you like those little wins!

3. Break down a big goal into steps you can achieve fairly easily. Let’s say you would like to walk outside most days of the week. A first step would be shopping for a new pair of walking shoes or just finding the ones you own already. Hopefully, these small wins will also make you feel good about yourself and confident about your ability to reach goals for the rest of the year.

4. Set a 10 minute goal. I am always telling myself I am going to do an exercise video (which is about 45 minutes long). But do I do it, no, I do not. So I need a 10 minute goal. Instead of telling myself I am going to exercise for 45 minutes every day, I am going to try and exercise for just 10 minutes.

5. Start tracking your progress in a calendar or planner. If you make a small note in your calendar, you will be able to see your progress. Maybe you will put a star on each day that you walk outside. Seeing all those stars may motivate you to stick to your resolution.

6. Try this procrastination-breaker. If you find yourself “stuck” not exercising, organizing or otherwise doing something you struggle to do, break it down into little steps. For example, you are procrastinating taking a morning walk. Say, “I choose to put on my shoes. 5, 4, 3, 2, 1…do it now.” It is really empowering language to use. You acknowledge that your time is yours to use as you see fit. Now your shoes are on. Do whatever is the next logical step. Before you know it, you are outside! This trick also helps me when I am cleaning house.

7. Piggy back a goal. So, everyday I brush my teeth. Good thing, right? But I don’t remember to take my vitamins everyday. Although the bathroom is not a great place to store vitamins, if I put them next to my toothbrush, I’ll remember to take them. I am also good about washing the dishes and cleaning the sink every night. But I’m not so good about going to bed before 11 p.m. and that is a goal. So I could make cleaning the sink one of the last things I do before turning in. So, f you have a good daily habit, stick that other one onto it and see how you progress.  

How do you manage to stick to your resolutions?

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

You know, I love New Year’s Eve. To me, it is one of the most glamorous and sparkling of holidays. But I think sometimes we forget about New Year’s Day! It gets a little eclipsed by New Year’s Eve. But New Year’s Day is special in its own right.

Here are some New Year’s traditions to help you celebrate New Year’s Day to the fullest. Many of the traditions of New Year’s Day are associated with good luck and good health.

Creating New Year’s Resolutions

I take my resolutions very seriously! I devote hours to reflection and planning for the new year in the week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve. But if you have not written your resolutions yet, New Year’s Day is the perfect time to begin. Good to have on hand is a 2022 planner or calendar and a notebook or computer.

First Day Hike

I don’t know if this is a country-wide tradition but in Virginia, all the state parks are open for the First Day Hike. It’s simple. You simply take a good, long hike outdoors on New Year’s Day.

Why Do We Eat Blackeyed Peas and Collard Greens on New Year’s Day?

The Southern custom of blackeyed peas goes back to the Civil war era. Blackeyed peas were one of the few foods avaialble at the end of the war in the South and people felt lucky to have them. After the war, it became a tradition to eat these on the first of January every year to bring good luck and prosperity to the household.

Some people say the peas represent coins, the greens represent bills (money) and cornbread represents gold.

These foods are healthy and delicious, so starting off the year eating them is not a bad idea.

One way to make black eyed peas more palatable is to make Hopping John. Hopping John is a South Carolina dish made of black eyed peas, ham hock, stewed tomatoes and of course, rice. It can’t be Carolinian without rice!

Vegetarian Hopping John

You can buy canned Hopping John or seasoned black eyed peas. But it is not hard to make. i used to make a vegetarian version with canned black eyed peas, rinsed, and canned tomatoes with juice. To this mixture, I added sauteed garlic, chopped green bell pepper and chopped yellow onion, salt and pepper and bay leaf. You could also add green onions and chopped celery to the saute mixture. This is most delicious if you make it a day a head and reheat. Serve with or without rice, as you like. But greens are a must! 🙂

Why Do We Eat Pork and Sauerkraut on New Year’s Day?

The Pennsylvania Dutch (and other Pennsylvanians) eat pork and sauerkraut for good luck. The pig roots for food moving forward. For this reason, it is considered lucky. Long shreds of sauerkraut are said to represent a long life — and some people also equate cabbage with money.

 

🍾👑🎉 Happy New Year’s Eve! 🥂🎩🕛

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?  I love that song. This is my favorite rendition of it, by Rufus Wainwright…


I hope you have festive plans!  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? 

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 Pexels.com

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

🎄 Cool Yule Watch Party: Bridget Jones’ Diary 🎄

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.

Selecting your word of the year

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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? 

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 ❄

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!

Looking for more fun things to do? 

The Capitol Tree remains on display until December 31. West Lawn, U.S. Capitol. Washington, DC. There is very little parking, but the Capitol South metro station (Orange, Silver and Blue lines) is nearby.


The National Christmas Tree and nightly Pageant of Peace on The Ellipse:The National Tree and state trees may be viewed until 10 pm through December 31.


Meadowlark’s Winter Walk of LightsMeadowlark Botanical Gardens, Vienna, VA. Through January 2 open daily from 5:30 p.m. – 10 p.m. More than 500,000 LED lights and displays transform the gardens into a winter wonderland, including a flowing stream of softly glowing lights, two-story animated fountain, and Gingerbread Village. Advance registration is recommended.


Bull Run Festival of Lights. Bull Run Regional Park, Centreville. Through January 2. 5:30 p.m. – 9:30 p.m. Two and half mile drive-through light display and walk-around winter carnival and Holiday Village with attractions, s’mores and Santa Claus.


Busch Gardens Christmas Town in Wiliamsburg, VA is a highly recommended holiday experience. Runs on select nights through Jan 2.


Winter Lights in McLean Central Park is a walk-through event running from early November to mid-January 2022. McLean Central Park: 1468 Dolley Madison Blvd., McLean


Ice and Lights: The Winter Village at Cameron Run. 5 p.m. – 10 p.m. nightly. Through January 2, including New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. Admission to village is $10. Skating and admission is $22 and tickets must be purchased online in advancel. 55×80’ Real Ice Rink, 20’ Walk thru Tree, 100’ RGB Lighted Tunnel, lit trees and winter displays, Fire Pits, Heated Igloos, Wreath Photo Op, Bling & Things Retail Shop, Slice & Ice- Pizza, donuts & more.


 

Kings Dominon celebrates Winterfest in Doswell, VA on select nights through January 2. Tickets begin at $32. The event includes seasonal light displays, rides and attractions, performances, character meet and greets, ice skating (additional fee), cookie decorating (additional fee) and a parade and fireworks on select nights, including New Year’s Eve.


Tinsel! 5 p.m. – 9 p.m. Weekends and select weekdays. Through January 22. This is an immersive, walk-through winter wonderland experience with a dollar from the tickets benefitting INOVA Hospital Foundation. Up to 2 hours of access to light displays, photo ops, kids activities and additional activities and food trucks paid for separately.