Showing posts with label Greek. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Greek. Show all posts

Dec 27, 2014

Origin of Christmas Stockings

The tradition of Christmas stockings is said to have originated from the actions of a kind noble man named Nicholas, who was born in March, 270 AD, in Patara, at the time Greek, but now Turkey. While still young, his wealthy parents died in an epidemic. Nicholas became a Christian priest and used all his riches to help the poor, the needy, the sick, and the suffering. He was made Bishop of Myra (modern Turkey) at a young age and became known for his kindness and generosity. He traveled across the country helping people, giving gifts of money and other presents. He had a reputation for secret gift-giving, such as putting coins in the shoes of those who left them out for him, a practice celebrated on his feast day - St Nicholas Day, December 6 in Western Christianity and 19 December in Eastern Christianity. He died December 6, 343 AD. Many still observe December 6 as a St. Nicholas holiday. I grew up enjoying the candy treats thrown on my porch the evening of December 6.

Nicholas was so widely revered that thousands of churches were named for him, including three hundred in Belgium, thirty-four in Rome, twenty-three in the Netherlands and more than four hundred in England.

Through the centuries many stories and legends have been told of Saint Nicholas' life and deeds. One popular account (with many variations) tells us of a poor peasant who lived happily in a small cottage in Saint Nicholas' hometown, with his wife and three daughters. The wife suddenly died of an illness, leaving the poor man and his three daughters in despair. All the burden of household chores now fell upon the daughters.

When the daughters reached a marriage age, the poor father became depressed for he knew he could in no way marry them off to good men. In those days a young woman's father had to offer prospective husbands something of value - a dowry, which he could not afford.

Saint Nicholas found out about peasant and his daughters and decided to help him. He went to the peasant's house the night before the eldest daughter came of age, with a bag of gold and waited for the family to go to bed. That night, after finishing their washing for the day, the daughters hung their stockings by the fireplace to dry. As they turned off the lamps and fell asleep, St. Nicholas tiptoed to the cottage window and saw the daughters' stockings hanging close to his reach. He carefully put in his bag of gold in one of the stockings and went away.

When the father found the bag the next morning and opened it, he was delighted to find enough gold in the stocking to pay for the dowry of one daughter. The father was able to provide for his eldest daughter and saw that she got married to a nice groom.

Soon after, Saint Nicholas took another bag of gold, and threw it carefully into another stocking. The next morning the man opened the stocking and found enough gold to marry off his second daughter.

The father had grown eager to discover his mysterious benefactor, and each night he stayed awake. When Saint Nicholas came up with another bag of gold, the man recognized him. He fell on his knees and cried of gratitude and thanked him with all his heart.

This is how the tradition of Christmas stockings is said to have begun.

And below, my Christmas stockings.

Jan 11, 2013

Wordology, Idiot

This word has its origins in the ancient Greek word idiōtēs, meaning a private person, a person who is not actively interested in politics. The word is now commonly used to mean someone of relatively low intelligence.

It seems to have come full circle from its original meaning. Because of the word’s negative connotations, ‘idiot’ slowly changed how it is used today. Ironically, many people now use that word to describe politicians, who are always interested in politics. 

Jul 6, 2012

Wordology, Petrichor

This word describes the scent of rain on dry earth. The word is constructed from Greek, petra, meaning stone + ichor, the fluid that flows in the veins of the gods in Greek mythology.

The term was coined in 1964 by two Australian researchers, Bear and Thomas, for an article in the journal Nature, where the authors describe how the smell derives from an oil exuded by certain plants during dry periods and is absorbed by clay-based soils and rocks. During rain, the oil is released into the air along with another compound, geosmin, producing the distinctive scent. Now you have a name for that great aroma.

Jun 8, 2012

Dog Days of Summer

The earliest reference to some aspect of this expression goes all the way back to the Ancient Egyptians. They noted that the heliacal rising of the star Sirius heralded the hottest part of the summer. The star’s hieroglyph is a dog. Sirius would appear in Egypt just before the season where the Nile typically floods. So it is thought the star’s hieroglyphic symbol being a dog symbolized a “watchdog”.

It is the brightest star in what is now known as the Canis Major (Latin for Greater Dog) constellation. It’s rising marked the start of the hottest part of the year, which then became the 'Dog Days'.

The Roman’s and Greeks had expressions for Dog Days. They both believed that, when Sirius rose around the same time as the Sun, this contributed to that time of year becoming hotter. As such, they would often make sacrifices to Sirius, including sacrificing dogs, to appease Sirius with the hope that this would result in a mild summer and would protect their crops from scorching. Seems to me that offering dead dogs to a dog might not please him as much as they thought.