Monday, December 31, 2007

Babiesconsult is 1 year old!! is 1 year old this month!!!!

I cannot believe that one year has gone by since I started this website. To celebrate our first birthday and Christmas I would like to give you a present.

Christmas Books - A Collection of 16 Books of Stories for the Young and Old (5.12MB)

This month we welcome 1 new model to our childcare centre

Jocelyn is 3 months old

This is Jeffrey pushing himself up to the sitting position. He is 6 months plus. Most babies will normally do this at about 8 months.

Starting position

Pushing up the upper body

Checking to make sure the legs have moved forward

Pushing the upper body backwards

Almost there

Hey! I am sitting

Oops! That did not last long

Let’s try again

One week later...

"I did it!!!"

Zaydeen completed her 6 months so time to start eating proper home cooked porridge. She loves it.

Merry Christmas!

December is a very nostalgic month for me as it always brings back memories of my 15 years in England. During my early years in England, it always snowed over the Christmas holidays so I always looked forward to getting up in the mornings and looking out of the window to see how much snow has fallen and having snow fights with my friends. I love walking down Oxford Street looking at all the Christmas decorations and joining in the frenzy of shopping for presents even though I am not a Christian. On weekends before Christmas we would go to the woods to pick chestnuts and berries.

Whilst single, I usually worked during the Christmas holidays so that the married staff can spend Christmas with their families. On Christmas Eve we would go caroling from ward to ward to cheer up the few patients who could not go home. At the stroke of midnight we cheered and wished each other ‘Merry Christmas” and exchanged presents. This is the only night that we are allowed to drink wine on duty. Most of the Malaysian nurses are not good drinkers so try and imagine seeing us serving bed pans and urinals with red faces. The next day all the hospital staff on duty or living in the nurses’ hostel would be invited to a Christmas lunch in the staff canteen. I love this day because this is the only day in the year when all the senior hospital staff i.e. the administrators, matrons and ward sisters would serve us the junior staff. We just sit at the table and wait to be served the traditional roast turkey, potatoes, turnips, brussel sprouts, plum pudding and mince pies. ………….yum, yum!!!

After I got married, it was Christmas at home, putting up the Christmas tree, cooking the dinner for relatives and so forth. While the turkey is in the oven, it is down to the nearest pub for a quick pint and meeting friends who cannot make it for dinner.

Our Xmas tree

The table set for dinner

After dinner, we would sit by the fireplace and have toasted marshmallows and all the Christmas goodies and either sing Christmas carols or just chat or watch old movies on the box. The next day is eating all the left over and my favourite is ‘Bubble and Squeak’ which is chopping up all the vegetables and then frying them. Ah…………. Those were the days.

I still make it a point to celebrate Christmas here in Malaysia but the weather is so hot, it is not the same.

The meaning of Christmas

Christmas is an annual holiday that celebrates the birth of Jesus. In most places around the world, Christmas Day is celebrated on December 25. In the United Kingdom and many countries of the Commonwealth, December 26 is called Boxing Day. The word "Christmas" is a contraction of two words "Christ's mass" and is derived from the Middle English Christemasse and Old English Cristes mæsse, a phrase first recorded in 1038. In early Greek versions of the New Testament, the letter ? is the first letter of Christ (???st??). Since the mid-16th century ?, or the similar Roman letter X, was used as an abbreviation for Christ. Thus, Xmas is an abbreviation for Christmas.

Christmas festivities often combine the commemoration of Jesus' birth with various secular customs, many of which have been influenced by earlier winter festivals. The date as a birth date for Jesus is traditional, and is not considered to be his actual date of birth.

The Roman's celebrated their god Saturn during a festival called Saturnalia which began in the middle of December and ended on January 1st. The celebration would include masquerades in the streets, big festive meals, visiting friends, and the exchange of good-luck gifts called Strenae (lucky fruits). The Romans decked their halls with garlands of laurel and green trees lit with candles and the masters and slaves would exchange places. The early Christians wanted to keep the birthday of their Christ child a solemn and religious holiday, not one of cheer and merriment as was the pagan Saturnalia but as Christianity spread they were alarmed by the continuing celebration of pagan customs and Saturnalia among their converts. At first the Church forbade this kind of celebration, but to no avail. Eventually it was decided that the celebration would be tamed and made into a celebration fit for the Christian Son of God.

Some legends claim that the Christian "Christmas" celebration was invented to compete against the pagan celebrations of December. The 25th was not only sacred to the Romans but also the Persians whose religion Mithraism was one of Christianity's main rivals at that time. The Church eventually was successful in taking the merriment, lights, and gifts from the Saturnalia festival and bringing them to the celebration of Christmas.

Christmas traditions - How It All Started

Santa Claus

The legend of Santa Claus can be traced back hundreds of years to a monk named St. Nicholas who was born sometime around 280 A.D. in Patara, near Myra in modern-day Turkey. Much admired for his piety and kindness, St. Nicholas became the subject of many legends. It is said that he gave away all of his inherited wealth and traveled the countryside helping the poor and sick. He is depicted as a merry rotund old man with red and white clothes living with his wife and elves in Lapland in the North Pole and he has e ight flying reindeers one of whom is the famous Rudolph the red nosed reindeer . On the night of December 24 th he enters houses through the chimney to fill socks or stockings with presents.

In the United States and England, children hang stockings on their bedpost or near a fireplace on Christmas Eve, hoping that it will be filled with treats while they sleep. In Stocking Scandinavia , similar-minded children leave their shoes on the hearth. This tradition can be traced to a legend which tells of three poor sisters who could not marry because they had no money for a dowry. To save them from being sold by their father, St. Nick left each of the three sisters a gift of gold coins. One went down the chimney and landed in a pair of shoes that had been left on the hearth. Another went into a pair of stockings left hanging by the fire to dry.

Christmas Trees

Germany is credited with starting the Christmas tree tradition as we now know it. It is a widely held belief that Martin Luther, the 16th-century Protestant reformer, first added lighted candles to a tree. Walking toward his home one winter evening, composing a sermon, he was awed by the brilliance of stars twinkling amidst evergreens. To recapture the scene for his family, he erected a tree in the main room and wired its branches with lighted candles. Since then, devout Christians brought decorated trees into their homes. Some built Christmas pyramids of wood and decorated them with evergreens and candles.

In 1846, the Illustrated London News showed the popular royals, Queen Victoria and her German Prince, Albert standing with their children around a Christmas tree. Queen Victoria was very popular with her subjects, and what was done at court immediately became fashionable—not only in Britain, but with fashion-conscious East Coast American Society. It was noted that Europeans used small trees about four feet in height, while Americans liked their Christmas trees to reach from floor to ceiling.

Yule log

Norway is the birthplace of the Yule log. The Norse believed that the sun was a great wheel of fire that rolled towards and then away from the earth. The original Yule Log Ceremony was a festival celebrating the sun’s return during the winter solstice, which occurs close to the time we celebrate Christmas today.

Originally, the Yule Log was burned in honor of the gods and to bring good luck in the coming year. The log always came from its owners' land or a neighbor's property, and was never purchased. Once dragged into the house and placed in the fireplace it was decorated in seasonal greenery, doused with cider or ale, and dusted with flour before being set ablaze on Christmas Eve accompanied by music, fun, and games.

The log would burn throughout the night and left to smolder for 12 days after which it was ceremonially put out. It was customary that each year a piece of the Yule Log was saved and used to start the fire for the next year's log. To help kindle the fire, holly was placed under the log. Customarily, guests would toss a sprig of holly into the fire to burn up the troubles of the past year and to keep their houses safe from lightning and being burnt down in the New Year. Since the disappearance of great hearths or fireplaces the great log was thus replaced by a smaller one, often embellished with candles and greenery and placed in the centre of the table as a Christmas decoration. Today, the Yule log has become a traditional pastry, a delicious cake roll, smothered in coffee or chocolate-flavoured icing and decorated with sugared holly leaves and roses

England is where the following traditions started

Christmas greeting cards featuring festive scenes and a pre-written holiday greeting were produced by an Englishman named John Calcott Horsley who helped to popularize the tradition of sending Christmas greeting cards in the late 1830s. Improved postal services in England and the United States made the cards an overnight sensation. At about the same time, similar cards were being made by R.H. Pease, the first American card maker, in Albany, New York.

Mistletoe has long been a symbol of love, peace and goodwill. From the earliest times mistletoe has been one of the most magical, mysterious, and sacred plants of European folklore. It was said to have the ability to heal wounds and increase fertility. Celts hung mistletoe in their homes in order to bring themselves good luck and ward off evil spirits. During holidays in the Victorian era, the English would hang sprigs of mistletoe from ceilings and in doorways. If someone was found standing under the mistletoe, they would be kissed by someone else in the room, a behavior not usually demonstrated in Victorian society.

Caroling also began in England. Wandering musicians would travel from town to town visiting castles and homes of the rich. In return for their performance, the musicians hoped to receive a hot meal or money .

Plum pudding is an English dish dating back to the Middle Ages. Suet, flour, sugar, raisins, nuts, and spices are tied loosely in cloth and boiled until the ingredients are "plum," meaning they have enlarged enough to fill the cloth. It is then unwrapped, sliced like cake, and topped with cream.

The 12 Days of Christmas - Bollywood version!

Asian festival

Chinese winter solstice Dong Zhi

Literally meaning the "arrival ( 至) of winter ( 冬)”, Dong Zhi is the second most important festival of the Chinese calendar, and is the last festival of the year. Celebrated on the longest night of the year, Dong Zhi is the day when sunshine is weakest and daylight shortest. Dong Zhi has its origins in the farmer's celebrations of the year-end harvest.

Marie making the tang yuan this year

I prefer to mix the dough myself and I normally have 3 colours

Red = females

White = males

Yellow = money

Starting with the first ‘ball’

“Ok I have finished rolling all the ‘balls’

Cook the ‘balls’ by boiling in a pot of water. Once the ‘balls’ are cooked, transfer them to pot of sugared water which is flavoured with a couple of pandan leaves and a small piece of fresh ginger

“Mummy the sieve is too short and I am getting my fingers burnt”

“Ok this sieve is much better”

The finished product

Non Asian festivals

The next festival I want to highlight here is a Jewish festival called Hanukkah or Chanukah . Most Asians may not have heard of this festival. I was lucky that I was able to learn about Judaism, its festivals and traditions because I started my nursing career in a Jewish hospital where I did my general nurse training. It was a very small hospital which catered to the Jewish community in East London. I always marvel at the setup of the hospital because 95 % of the patients were Jews and 95 % of the nurses were Malaysians. Being a Jewish hospital we had to observe their traditions such as not eating pork on the premises, not cooking on Saturdays (Sabbath) and helping the patients to celebrate the festivals.

The History of Hanukkah

Hanukkah, the “Festival of Lights,” starts on the 25th day of the Jewish calendar month of Kislev and lasts for eight days and nights. In Hebrew, the word "Hanukkah" means "dedication." In 2007 Hanukkah begins at sundown on December 4.

In the 2nd century B.C. Judah Maccabee and his brothers defeated Hellenistic-Syrian King Antiochus IV, who was trying to wipe out Judaism. When they chased the enemy out of Jerusalem, the Maccabees found their temple had been desecrated. They cleaned and repaired the Temple, and when they were finished, they decided to have a big dedication ceremony. For the celebration, the Maccabees wanted to light the menorah. They had only one small vial of untainted olive oil -- enough, they thought, to burn for only one day. To their surprise, the oil lasted eight days -- the time they needed to get more consecrated oil and rededicate the temple. This miracle is celebrated by lighting a candle for each of the eight days of Hanukkah and frying potato pancakes in boiling oil.

Over the years, the holiday's status has been raised by its proximity to Christmas. In fact, the tradition of gift giving at Hanukkah evolved so that Jewish children would get as many presents as their Christian classmates.

The Menorah

A menorah is a candlestand. The Chanukah menorah is called a HANUKIYAH. It has nine candle holders. There are eight candles, one for each night of Chanukah. The ninth is called the Shamash (“servant”). The Shamash is lit first and then is used to light the other candles. Each evening of Hanukkah, one more candle is lit, with a special blessing.

The menorah symbolizes the burning light in the temple, as well as marking the eight days of the Hanukkah festival. The lighting of the menorah is the most important Hanukkah tradition.

Hanukkah Foods

Many traditional Hanukkah foods are cooked in oil, in remembrance of the oil that burned in the temple. The most widespread and popular Hanukkah food is latkes, or potato pancakes. In Israel, the favorite Hanukkah food is sufganiya, a kind of jelly donut cooked in oil which is eaten for more than a month before the start of Hanukkah.