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Holiday

    It's one of the most famous Christmas carols, but a Boston University professor is calling it racist. BU theater historian Kyna Hamill makes the argument in a research paper published earlier this year, “The story I must tell:' 'Jingle Bells' in the Minstrel Repertoire. 'Jingle Bells' is a hometown favorite for people from Medford. It was written by James Lord Pierpont, and there's a plaque in the city commemorating where he wrote the song. >> Read more trending news  But Hamill said she looked into the history of the song, and of Pierpont's life. She said there's a different story entirely behind it. 'I don't have the definite answer to where he sat down and wrote the song,' Hamill said in an interview for BU Today. 'But—and this is where my town is going to be mad at me—it was absolutely not written in 1850 at the Simpson Tavern in Medford.' Hamill tracked down Pierpont's history, and found he was living in California in 1850, which is the year the song was allegedly written in Medford. And that's not all, Boston25News reported. Hamill found a playbill from the Harvard Theater Collection that shows the first time the song was performed was at Ordway Hall on Sept. 15, 1857, in blackface, during a minstrel show. 'The legacy of ‘Jingle Bells’ is, as we shall see, a prime example of a common misreading of much popular music from the nineteenth century in which its blackface and racist origins have been subtly and systematically removed from its history,' Hamill argues in her research paper. Hamill's research paper was published in September, Boston25News. 
  • Santa Claus paid a special visit to a great-grandmother with dementia in New Mexico, proving that the magic of the season delights those of all ages.Santa stopped by The Hartsocks’ Photography studio in Albuquerque Dec. 9 to spend time with one of his older fans. Karen, a great-grandmother who has dementia, posed with Santa for several heartwarming photos. The photo shoot was arranged by her daughter-in-law, Linda Rangel, KRQE reported.  >> Read more trending news  Rangel said that even though her mother-in-law is in the latter stages of dementia, her love of Santa Claus has remained. The photo studio wrote on its Facebook page that Karen has visited Santa at the mall for years, and even sleeps with a Santa doll, which she speaks to in her native Japanese. Karen recently entered hospice care, and her family wanted to capture her love for Santa in a photo shoot.Santa gave Karen a busy blanket, designed to reduce restlessness and agitation in those with dementia.The Hartsocks’ Photography studio posted photos from Karen's visit with Santa on its Facebook page. 
  • Kwanzaa is a relatively modern holiday that began just over 50 years ago. Since then, Kwanzaa has grown in popularity and has been commemorated with postage stamp designs and mentioned by several presidents as part of their holiday greetings. Unless you celebrate Kwanzaa, you may not be aware of the traditions and philosophy that are important to its meaning and celebration. Here are seven things to know about Kwanzaa. >> Read more trending news Why and when it was created Kwanzaa was created in 1966 by Maulana Karenga, a black nationalist who became a college professor. He created the holiday in the aftermath of the Watts riots in Los Angeles as an effort to unite and empower the African-American community, and it was first celebrated that year. The origins of its name Inspired by traditional harvest festivals, Kwanzaa takes its name from a Swahili phrase, “matunda ya kwanza,” which means “first fruits.” Over 2,000 languages are spoken in Africa, so Swahili, which is spoken by millions, was chosen since it’s a unifying language. An extra “a” was added to the end of the original word because seven children each wanted to represent a letter at the first Kwanzaa celebration. Who can celebrate KwanzaaBecause it’s celebrated from Dec. 26 to Jan. 1, some people assume that Kwanzaa is an alternative to Christmas. It’s a cultural celebration that has a spiritual quality, but the holiday is not a religious one. And although it celebrates African culture, people of any race or ethnic background can participate in the holiday’s events and customs. Why it lasts for seven daysEach of the seven days of Kwanzaa is dedicated to a principle, which gives each day a specific meaning and purpose on which to focus. The seven principles are: unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith. The colors of KwanzaaThe colors of Kwanzaa are black, red and green, and they’re used to represent unity for people of African descent worldwide. Black represents the people, red for their noble blood that unites them and green for the rich land of Africa. The meaning of the candelabraA seven-branched candelabra called a kinara is used to help discuss and celebrate the principles, with a new candle being lit each night. One is black, three are red and three are green, and the black candle is placed in the center. The black candle, which represents unity, is lit on the first day of Kwanzaa. Red candles are placed to the left and green to the right and are lit in that order. The order of the candles indicates that the people come first, followed by the struggle and then hope. The importance of foodFood is an important part of many holidays, and Kwanzaa is no exception. Many people celebrate with their favorite African-American dishes – along with traditional African, Caribbean and other appropriate recipes – throughout the week. The holiday culminates with a feast (known as Karamu) on Dec. 31, with dishes meant to symbolize the past as well as the current growth of African culture. 
  • In recent years, the combination of Christmas and tacky sweaters has taken on a life of its own. Festive people aspire to wear the ugliest holiday sweater possible. Whether it’s including as many adornments as possible, breaking out a ratty and worn polyester pullover or sporting animals in full holiday cheer, here’s a roundup of ugly Christmas sweater ideas to inspire you. Shiny wreathWhat’s says Christmas more than a wreath with a little shine? Take your Christmas tackiness to a new level with a shiny wreath pinned to your red or green sweater. For a little extra bling, string some lights to the wreath and load with a battery pack to keep it shining. The fireplaceIf the coziness of sitting by a blazing fire in the winter tickles your fancy, you’ll love this ugly Christmas sweater idea. This sweater can be pre-purchased with a trimmed fireplace and a pocket in the middle of sweater for your phone. Download an app on your phone to provide virtual flames. Trim the treeGet your craftiness ready to whirl with this shiny and embellished sweater. You’ll need shiny garland, small ornaments and lots of glue, but the end result is a tree to inspire even the grinchiest with a smidge of Christmas spirit. By the way: Don’t forget the ornament to top the tree. >> Read more trending stories Stuffed stockingNeed some wine or sweet treats to keep you going through the holiday season? This stocking stuffer sweater is just what you need. A beer lover’s ChristmasYet another DIY ugly Christmas sweater idea, this one entails the usage of hundreds of bottle tops to make a Christmas tree. Take a red or green sweater and gather all your bottle tops. Arrange them on the sweater and glue them into the shape of a tree. Top off the tree with a metallic bow for a touch of glitz. Snow globeBring the wishes of a White Christmas to life with this ugly Christmas sweater in the fashion of a snow globe. Take a plastic tablecloth and fold in half, being careful to stuff it with the insides with a pillow to look like artificial snow. An ugly tie tree For this creation, all of the old ugly ties of Christmases pasts can be put to good use. Gather your ugly Christmas ties and arrange them in a tree pattern on an old sweater. Easy peasy Christmas sweater to don at all your holiday parties in the season. Matching couple sweaters Want to look tacky as a pair? Wear the ugliest Christmas sweater connected to one other person to have double the fun and double the tackiness. Rudolph the Red-Nosed ReindeerPay homage to Santa’s favorite reindeer and favorite helper of them all with this Christmas sweater. Start with a black sweater vest and decorate with big eyes and a red nose. Layer a brown long-sleeved shirt underneath the sweater vest, attaching stems to look like antlers on your sleeves.
  • Police in Arizona are looking for a pair of grinches who instead of stealing Christmas set afire a holiday symbol. Surveillance footage from the early morning hours of Dec. 3 shows two men approaching the front door of a home in Phoenix, azcentral.com reported. Video footage shows the pair dousing the door's Christmas wreath with lighter fluid before setting it on fire with a lighter. >> Read more trending news The homeowner was asleep at the time of the incident.Police are seeking the public's help in capturing the suspects.
  • A holiday tradition sparked by “The Elf on the Shelf,” the children's book published in 2005, has since taken on a life of its own. The idea is to have fun placing an elf in random areas around the house performing various activities, to distract the little ones from the note-taking elf is doing for Santa for his naughty or nice lists. Here’s a rundown of the most popular Elf on the Shelf ideas, based on parent blogs. Gone fishing Let the elf go fishing with no body of water required. Position your elf on the rim of a toilet. Give him a toothbrush for a fishing rod and string floss through the teeth for the line. Toss the end of the line in the toilet water and your elf is occupied for hours or more. Sack raceRe-imagine the good old days of field day during the school years with creating a challenge for the elf. Roll down small paper sacks and stuff the elf inside. Pair some friends, Barbies, stuffed animals, action figures, to make the sack race a competition. >> Read more trending news Shaving What’s a day of pampering if it doesn’t include shaving? Set up your elf for some quality time solo right by the sink with all he needs to get his shave on: shaving cream, a razor, skin moisturizer. Dab some shaving cream on his face to get him started. Clever disguiseHidden in plain sight is the name of the game for this elf on the shelf idea. Take the ingenious approach to hiding your elf within the Christmas tree to do his pertinent work scouting out to report back to Santa. Paint his face with paint to take it a step further and complete the disguise. Date nightEveryone needs some romance in their life and your elf isn’t in the least exempt. Set up a romantic date with Barbie to keep your elf occupied. Maybe while he’s schmoozing with Barbie he can take his focus off who belongs on the nice or naughty list. At least one can hope that is what happens. Photoshoot Strike a pose and get elf ready for his close-up. Build a DIY photo booth with wrapping paper, a camera and a few friends to join in on the fun. Add in paper mustaches and Barbie dolls to make photo-taking a blast. Lego worldNot much pre-planning required for this elf idea. Gather a bucket of Legos into any shape, form or fashion and put your elf in the midst of it. Build a fort, house or container for the elf to get comfy in or hide to take his notes. Breakfast time Elves get hungry, too, especially one who is as hard at work as these elves on the shelves. Behind this top idea is making bite-sized eats the elf can enjoy. You can choose breakfast and make dime-sized pancakes or easy translate the idea to other meals: small sandwiches for lunchtime, itty bitty desserts. Emails from Santa Let your elf make good use of technology and the spare desktop computer, laptops or tablets for his leisure activity. Prop him up near any one of these and pen a letter the elf is writing to Santa to technologically update him on how the children are behaving. After all, Santa must know if your children are being naughty or nice. Bedtime After a full day of exploring the world, or rather house, around him to make sure the children are behaving, your elf will most likely need a nap. Retire him to dreamland on a Kleenex box. Folded tissues make a nice and compact pillow and of course, the single sheets of tissue snug covers to tuck your elf in for a satisfying nap or good night of rest.
  • The Nintendo Switch, the latest addition to Nintendo’s popular lineup of gaming consoles, was released earlier in 2017 and has made its way onto many Christmas lists this year.  If you’re thinking about buying one, you may not want to wait, since stores can have spotty inventory as they sell out and wait for another shipment to arrive. >> Read more trending news  Here’s what you’ll need to know if you’re thinking about treating yourself or someone else to a Nintendo Switch this holiday season. Nintendo Switch featuresThe most interesting feature about the Switch is what gives this gaming system its name. You can use it on your TV, on a tabletop and as a handheld device, and it’s quick and simple to switch from one mode to another. When you buy a Nintendo Switch, you’ll have everything you need – including adapters and cables – to get set up. Along with the console, the Switch comes with a dock, a left and right Joy-Con controller, two wrist strap accessories, a grip accessory, an AC adapter and an HDMI cable.  The Joy-Con controllers are adaptable in several different ways and can be used while attached to the grip, or you can remove them from it. You can use one controller a time, or one in each hand. The Joy-Cons come equipped with a camera and motion detection, and one has an infrared motion camera that can detect distance and simple hand gestures. One also has a button that allows you to share screenshots. When the Switch is in handheld mode, it has a multi-touch screen that’s a lot like the Nintendo DS.  You’ll be able to play compatible games online with other players for free (at least temporarily) through your Nintendo account. When the paid online service launches in 2018, you can pay by the month or year. If you own games for another Nintendo system, you won’t be able to play them on the Switch. Where to buy Nintendo Switch and how much you’ll payThe Switch can be found in brick-and-mortar stores and online at places like Walmart, Target, Best Buy, GameStop and Amazon. At times, they’ll sell out, so you may have to check more than one retailer or be willing to keep checking back to see if they’ve gotten another shipment in.  Some stores, such as Best Buy, let customers buy just one during each visit to help extend availability. The price is quite consistent, with most retailers charging approximately $299.  Games vary in price from about $14.99 to $59.99. Some are available for purchase and download online, while other are available as physical copies. How to get a Nintendo Switch dealDeals are tough to find, since the Switch is still quite new and in demand. You can buy bundles that offer the gaming system along with a particular game, such as Super Mario Odyssey or Sonic Forces, but they usually don’t offer much by way of savings. If you do happen to see a discount at a store that’s not convenient to you, try to price match at a local store that has this policy, like Target or Best Buy.
  • Only Santa can take reindeer-powered flights at Christmas; everyone else taking to the skies must rely on plane travel. Whether you're flying home for the holidays or heading on a holiday getaway, Christmas airfare deals are probably high on your wish list.To find Christmas airfare deals, refer to KAYAK's 2017 Holiday Hacker Guide and take advice from travel experts. Here are the top 6 ways to get the best holiday airfare deals. Fly on Christmas Eve. If you wait until Christmas Eve to depart, KAYAK data shows you can score some of the best deals. It's sort of surprising, but Kayak also shows really good deals for those who agree to fly on the big day itself, whether arriving or departing.This year's Guide's 'When to Book' section showed median airfares to expect based on anticipated arrival and departure dates for the Christmas holiday. The prices are based on last year’s data. A few of the best median airfares are as follows: $351 departing Dec. 20 and returning Dec. 25$354 departing Dec. 21 and returning Dec. 25$358 departing Dec. 23 and returning Dec. 25$346 departing Dec. 24 and returning Dec. 25$359 departing Dec. 24 and returning Dec. 26$234 departing Dec. 25 and returning Dec. 25$338 departing Dec. 25 and returning Dec. 27$352 departing Dec. 25 and returning Dec. 28 Book your flights before expected price increases. You’ve probably found that airfares fluctuate on different dates each time you fly. A general rule of thumb for Christmas airfare deals is to expect fares to increase 21, 14 and again seven days before departure, according to Google Flights.   Score a great airfare deal to Nordic countries. KAYAK's list of Wallet-Friendly International Flights had Stockholm, Oslo, Copenhagen and Reykjavík at the top. If the cold is cool with you, those great flight prices apply to Christmas airfare deals, too. Plus, late December is a great time to catch holiday festivities in Stockholm or view the northern lights in Oslo. Pick a wallet-friendly North American destination. If you aren't gathering with family for the holidays (intentionally or unintentionally), save some money with one of KAYAK's Top 10 Wallet Friendly North American Flights to a Christmas vacation: Chicago, Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Las Vegas, Atlanta, Dallas, New York, Calgary or Seattle. Choose a spot that's not trending to spend Christmas or New Year's. Google Flights compared 2016 and 2017 flight searches between June 6 and Sept. 20 and came up with these North American destinations as the top trending for Christmas 2017: Rome, Rio de Janeiro, Barcelona, Sao Paulo, Lisbon, Bogota, Bangkok, Buenos Aires and Brussels. It may seem counterintuitive, but avoiding those destinations for the Christmas holidays may mean cheaper airfare to the places you do select. If you're flexible with holiday getaway plans, consult the Google Flights Explore Map to find airfare and vacation bargains. Don't save money at the expense of your happy holiday. Some other tactics may be easier on your flight bill, but will put you at higher risk of ruining your holiday, noted the Air Fare Watchdog blog. The travel expert said you could save money on peak holiday travel by taking connecting flights rather than nonstop, 'but since winter weather can foul up connections, you're better off splurging for the nonstop.'While it's tempting to grab the last seat on an inconvenient flight time closer to the holidays, Air Fare Watchdog also recommended booking early for anyone who won't enjoy the flight at all without their preferred seating. 'This is especially true if there are several of you flying together and you don't want to all end up sitting far apart from each other,' noted the blog.
  • When it comes to holiday decorating, one big question that arises each year is whether real or artificial Christmas trees are the better choice.There are pros and cons to both kinds of Christmas trees, and which is best for you is a personal decision. Here are some factors to consider when deciding between a real or artificial Christmas tree.For better health, real tree: Birgitta Gatersleben, an environmental psychologist at the University of Surrey, told The Telegraph that households benefit from exposure to natural environments and there was “plenty of evidence” that real Christmas trees helped people recover more quickly from stress and mental fatigue.“Evergreen plants seem alive when everything else appears dead,' she noted. 'It is the depth of color of real trees and the smell that really appeals to people, as well as the notion that something alive is coming indoors.”For minimal mess, artificial tree: “No matter what you do, there’s going to be needles falling off a real tree,” Chal Landgren, a professor in the department of horticulture at Oregon State University, told Consumer Reports. Overwatering can also damage floors or carpets, or at least require frequent mopping or steam cleaning.Of course, artificial trees also eventually require cleaning, according to SFGate, including some sponging down and vigorous shaking at the beginning of the season. The only time it might be more difficult to clean up after an artificial tree than a natural version: when the fake tree comes pre-wired with lights that are almost impossible to clean around, since you shouldn't get them wet.For decreased risk of home fire, artificial tree: The National Fire Protection Association determined that the risk of a fire is three times greater with natural trees than artificial ones, reported CR, adding that total number of Christmas-tree-related fires is small and burning candles are the far more common culprit.If you want to buy American, real tree: Using 2012 U.S. Department of Agriculture stats, CR reported that U.S. farmers harvested 17.3 million Christmas trees for $305 million in sales, while U.S. Census Bureau stats indicated 97 percent of artificial trees that same year were imported from China.For improved outdoor air quality, real tree: All trees, even those planted solely to cut for Christmas a few years later, are beneficial to the environment, according to Clean Air Gardening. 'Trees are like the lungs of the planet,' it said. 'They breathe in carbon dioxide and breathe out oxygen. Additionally, they provide habitat for birds and other wildlife.'Trees also help to reduce ozone levels in urban areas, cut runoff and erosion by storing water and breaking the force of rain as it falls, and absorb sound and reduce noise pollution.For decorations lasting more than a few weeks, artificial tree: According to Today's Home Owner, a cut tree will last just a month before you need to take it down. Even a month may be a stretch--that figure only applies to a freshly cut tree, kept well supplied with water. 'If you’re buying a pre-cut tree, be sure to ask when it was harvested,' noted THO. All natural Christmas trees start losing needles as they dry, though fir, spruce, and cypress generally typically keep their needles longer than pines.For those who aren't so great with upkeep, artificial tree: A real tree can drink a gallon or more of water per day to start, according to THO, so to maintain one you'll need to be prepared to check the reservoir several times over the first few days and at least once a day after that, never letting the reservoir dry out.If you value reusing, recycling or repurposing, real tree: If you're responsible and maybe a little creative, a live tree will never need to take up space in a landfill, according to Lowe's, which recommended looking for local recycling centers that will chip and shred trees for use as mulch or part of erosion barriers for lake and river shoreline management.Note, though, if you're not going to recycle your tree, the fact that it could be recycled doesn't count as a plus. Instead, it will just go to the landfill once a year, versus the artificial tree, which should last many years before you have to toss and replace it.Lowe's also suggested repurposing live trees after you take them down, using thin slices of the trunk as canvases for next year's ornaments or coasters, for example, or sinking the whole tree into a backyard pond as a refuge and feeding area for fish. You can also stand the tree or a few of its larger branches in the yard as an organic feeder and sanctuary for birds.For allergy relief, it's a draw. If you have sneezing fits around Christmas trees, the cause is less likely to be the tree and more likely to be mold spores on the tree, according to CR. A fake Christmas tree that's been stored in the attic or basement can collect dust or mold, too.After reviewing all the evidence, if you're still undecided or drawn to the same decision you've made in years past, don't fret, advised CR. 'It really comes down to your holiday traditions and what works best for your family,' it said. 'And no one said you couldn’t purchase more than one!”
  • To make sure packages arrive in time for the holidays, you’ll need to know the shipping deadlines for the major carriers. There's not a single date to note: 'Last day to ship' guidelines depend on the carrier and a variety of other factors.This year’s shipping deadlines might be especially tricky, according to Consumer Reports, which has this advice for Christmas gift-givers: 'Don't be fooled into thinking that Dec. 25 means you have a cushion of 12 more days. Most major retailers — and package shippers — anticipate online shopping will be off the charts this year and place a tremendous strain on package delivery systems this holiday season.'Whether you're getting a last-minute Sunday delivery from Amazon, are mailing care packages abroad for loved ones in the military or have other pressing shipping needs this holiday season, make sure your gifts get there on time with these holiday shipping deadlines: Free shipping day If you take the 'If it's free, it's for me,' approach, you'll want to check out Free Shipping Day Dec. 15. More than 600 online merchants will participate, offering hundreds of items that will arrive by Christmas Eve when shipped for free on Dec. 15.FedExFor guaranteed Christmas delivery shipping within the U.S.:Dec. 11: Last day to ship via FedEx SmartPostDec. 15: Last day to ship via FedEx GroundDec. 18: Last day to ship via FedEx Home DeliveryDec. 19: Last day to ship via FedEx Express SaverDec. 20: Last day to ship via FedEx 2Day and FedEx 2Day A.M.Dec. 21: Last day to ship via FedEx Standard Overnight, FedEx Priority Overnight, and FedEx First OvernightDec. 25: Last day to ship via FedEx SameDay City (Priority), FedEx SameDay City (standard), and FedEx SameDay Shipping deadlines vary for packages headed to Puerto Rico and international destinations including Canada and Mexico.If you're interested in Saturday delivery on Dec. 23, the following FedEx Express® services will deliver that day if you select that option: FedEx First Overnight®, FedEx Priority Overnight®, and FedEx 2Day®. FedEx Ground does not deliver on Saturday, Dec. 23, but FedEx Home Delivery will deliver that day with no additional charge.The FedEx SameDay service (and some other FedEx expedited services) allows you to ship on Christmas Day or any other day of the year.Find the delivery time and FedEx delivery choices for your U.S. and international shipments by using the Get Rates & Transit Times application at fedex.com.Download an easy-to-print deadline calendar for the office or to keep posted at home on the FedEx website. UPS To make sure your package arrives in time for Christmas via UPS, get a quote that compares shipping charges and delivery times for UPS domestic and international services. If you're shipping within the U.S.:Dec. 18: Last day to ship UPS 3 Day Select, with delivery on Friday, Dec. 22Dec. 20: Last day to ship via UPS 2nd Day Air, with delivery on Friday, Dec. 22Dec. 21: Last day to ship via UPS Next Day Air, with delivery by Friday, Dec. 22.Dec. 21 is also the last day to ship via UPS 2nd Day Air with Saturday Delivery option. (Saturday Delivery is not available to all ZIP codes.)Dec. 22: Last day to ship via UPS Next Day Air with Saturday Delivery option. (Saturday Delivery is not available to all ZIP codes.)Note the UPS Saturday delivery carefully, and note that certain other packages and services may require an additional day of transit time per UPS warnings. For international shipping deadlines and other holiday-related information, such as pickup and delivery schedules, see the Holiday Shipping with UPS website. And to make sure your package is in good shape to get there in time for Christmas, UPS has packaging tips and guidelines on its website. U.S. Postal ServiceThe most important thing to note about holiday shipping deadlines for the USPS is that these are only recommended send-by dates for 'expected' delivery by Dec. 25. The postal service notes on its website that 'actual delivery date may vary and is based on origin, destination, post office acceptance time and other conditions.'For mail and package shipping within the continental U.S.:Dec. 14: Last day to send packages via Retail GroundDec. 19: Last day to send packages via First Class MailDec. 20: Last day to send packages via Priority MailDec. 22: Last day to send packages via Priority Mail Express As for the express mail options, note that the USPS will honor its money-back guarantee for Priority Mail Express shipments mailed Dec. 22 through Dec. 25th only if the shipment is not delivered or delivery is not attempted within two business days. For mail and package shipping to Alaska:Dec. 20: Last day to send packages via First Class Mail and Priority Mail servicesDec. 21: Last day to send packages via Priority Mail ExpressFor mail and package shipping to Hawaii:Dec. 15: Last day to send packages via First Class Mail and Priority Mail servicesDec. 20: Last day to send packages via Priority Mail ExpressThe deadline for shipping packages internationally, including to overseas military bases, varies based on the destination and type of delivery service. For more informationFedEx last days to ship for holidayswww.fedex.com/us/holiday/last-days-to-ship.htmlUPS holiday shipping guidewww.ups.com/us/en/help-center/shipping-support/days-of-operation-us/holiday-shipping.pageHoliday shipping deadlines, USPSwww.usps.com/holiday/holiday-shipping-dates.htm