New Years Throughout History and Cultures

28 12 2011

The year is about to end, and New Year’s Eve celebrations for 2012 will take place across the country. How do you celebrate the start of the new year? Have you ever thought about how we know when the New Year actually is? This day is marked by our calendar, and that calendar was created by tracking the moon, sun, and earth!

Since the dawn of civilization man has kept track of time by use of the sun, the moon, and the stars. Man noticed that time could be broken up into units of the day (the time taken for the earth to rotate once on its axis), the month (the time taken for the moon to orbit the earth) and the year (the time taken for the earth to orbit the sun).

Ancient civilizations, were able to create calendars by keeping track of the moon and the sun. The ancient Mayas invented a calendar of remarkable accuracy and complexity. At the right is the ancient Mayan Pyramid Chichen Itza, Yucatan, Mexico. The pyramid was used as a calendar! Four stairways, each with 91 steps and a platform at the top, making a total of 365, equivalent to the number of days in a calendar year!

At the end of the year, these ancient civilizations also celebrated the New Year, just like we do, with feasts, dancing and festivities. Today, most New Year festivities take place on December 31, but in other cultures they take place on different dates.

  • The earliest known record of a New Year festival dates from 2000 BC in Mesopotamia. In Babylonia the New Year began with the new moon closest to the spring equinox, usually mid-March.
  • In Assyria it was near the autumnal equinox in September.
  • For the Egyptians, Phoenicians, and Persians the day was celebrated on the autumnal equinox, which now falls on about September 23.
  • For the Greeks it was the winter solstice, which now falls on about December 21 or 22.
  • In early Rome, March 1 began a new year, but after 153 BC the date was January 1.
  • The Jewish New Year, called Rosh Hashana, is sometimes called the “feast of the trumpets.” It starts on the first day of the month of Tishri, which may begin any time from September 6 to October 5. The celebration lasts for 48 hours but ushers in a ten-day period of penitence.
  • In Japan the New Year festivities take place on January 1 to 3. The house entrance is hung with a rope made of rice straw to keep out evil spirits. Decorations of ferns, bitter orange, and lobster promise good fortune, prosperity, and long life.
  • The Chinese New Year is celebrated for one whole month!. The official celebration begins in late January or early February. There are outdoor parades and fireworks to mark the occasion. Check out the cool dragon costume they dance with:

Finally, the American celebration of the New Year marks the end of the Christmas holiday period. Many people go to church on New Year’s Eve, and many attend parties. Now that you know the history of New Years, you can celebrate this holiday with the knowledge of the past.

You can have fun with a costume like the Chinese do, and download this neat New Year’s Mask, look through it so you can see what the coming year has ahead!





How the Grinch Made Cookies

19 12 2011

Every Who

Down in Who-ville

Liked Christmas a lot…

 But the Grinch,

Who lived just North of Who-ville,

Did NOT!

The Grinch hated Christmas! The whole Christmas season!

Now, please don’t ask why. No one quite knows the reason.

It could be that his head wasn’t screwed on quite right.

It could be, perhaps, that his shoes were too tight.

But I think that the most likely reason of all

May have been that his heart was two sizes too small…

“How the Grinch Stole Christmas” by Dr. Seuss

The holidays are a wonderful time to get together with your family, don’t let the never-ending holiday cheer overwhelm you and turn you into a Grinch!

Here at the museum, we like to avoid becoming Grinch-y by making our own Grinch cookies! The recipe is originally from Betty Crocker but we found it on a cool blog called Living the Domestic Life (click on these links for the recipe!)

These gooey, green, mint-flavored, chocolate-chip cookies will subdue the Grinch in all of us. And if you would like a fun coloring activity to do while you wait for your cookies to bake, print out this Mr. Grinch Coloring Page!

Happy Baking!





The Happy Elephant

12 12 2011

Elephants are big happy mammals!

Elephants show joy all the time! When they are greeting of a friend or family member (even a human friend) that they haven’t seen in awhile, after the birth of a baby elephant or when they are playing games!

Typically this expression of joy takes place in the form of a greeting ceremony. When family members or friends meet, all the elephants gather around and celebrate. During this greeting the elephants involved will spin around, with their heads held high, and ears flapping they fill the air with a symphony of trumpets, rumbles, screams, and roars.

Also, elephants play games! They throw objects, twist, and interact with their elephant friends. Typically, elephants begin a playing session by trumpeting. Elephants can have fun playing with their friends or playing by themselves, they love to play either way!

Did you know:

  •     The elephant is the largest of all land mammals
  •     Life Span – elephants can live for up to 70 years!
  •     Elephants are able to swim for long distances
  •     Elephants spend about 16 hours a day eating!
  •     They consume as much as 495 pounds of food per day
  •     They live in tight social units
  •     Their tusks are of ivory and are actually enormously enlarged teeth
  •     The elephant’s eyes are small and its eyesight is poor
  •     They have the largest brains in the animal kingdom!

Here at ACM we think these happy mammals are enormous and jolly and so very neat!





Holiday Light-bulb Ornaments!

8 12 2011

Aren’t these homemade ornaments charming? If you want your holidays to be filled with creativity, you can dazzle your family with your very own ornaments too!

They are pretty simple to make, you need an old light-bulb (we found a nice round one to mimic the shape of store-bought ornaments) paint, paintbrushes, a pipe-cleaner/string/or ribbon, liquid glue, shaving cream, and optional glitter.

First, clean off your light-bulb so that the paint sticks.

Then, plan out what you want to paint onto your ornament, we chose our name, a candy-cane, and a snowman. But if your hand isn’t as steady as ours, you can just do fun designs, like red and white stripes, snowflakes or just random!

It was kind of difficult to paint the light-bulb while holding it, since you want every part of it to have color. So we suggest you take an old egg carton, or a small cup to prop the light-bulb on while you decorate it.

We created a snow effect on the bottom and on the snowman by combining equal parts liquid glue and shaving cream. It should dry puffy and it’s a lot of fun to paint and play with!

We added glitter to the top part of the ornament, but you can go crazy and do a whole glitter ornament if you want, who’s stopping you?

Finally, we used a pipe cleaner wrapped around the top of the light-bulb. Make sure to twist it in a way that lets you hang it on your tree. If you don’t have pipe cleaners, you can try using ribbon, yarn, or string tied at the top for hanging.

So from now on, don’t throw out broken light-bulbs, make ornaments instead!





1 Paper, 6 Snowflakes

5 12 2011

See the pretty snowflakes
Falling from the sky;
On the wall and housetops
Soft and thick they lie.

On the window ledges,
On the branches bare;
Now how fast they gather,
Filling all the air.

Look into the garden,
Where the grass was green;
Covered by the snowflakes,
Not a blade is seen.

Now the bare black bushes
All look soft and white,
Every twig is laden,
What a pretty sight!

“Falling Snow” by Anonymous

Snowflakes have a certain mystery and magical quality to them. So this winter why don’t you enjoy nature’s ice art, and make some snowflakes out of paper? You can make 6 individual snowflakes using just one sheet of printer paper. Here’s how: print out this snowflake activity: Snowflake Pattern, cut along all the lines to get your 6 snowflake templates. Then watch the slideshow below for instructions on how to create your 6 snowflakes. Happy winter!

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Make a Paper Gingerbread House

30 11 2011

Burrrr… It’s going to get really cold, really soon. Christmas is just around the corner. When the temperature drops we like to be inside where it’s nice and cozy. If you don’t want to brave the cold weather just yet, stay inside like us and make a paper gingerbread house!

This neat activity, is half the mess of a real gingerbread house, and it’s free! You can practice all your candy decorating skills so that when you get that real cookie house, you’ll be a pro.

You can check out the Museum Dec 1st-23rd during Gingerbread House Workshops, where we’ll provide enough candy and gingerbread to make a mansion! Registration just opened,  so sign up all you gingerbread architects!

Download our at-home gingerbread activity here: Paper Gingerbread House and tell us how your gingerbread homes turn out!





Make a Banjo Box

28 11 2011

A banjo is a string instrument, it produces music by vibrating strings. Banjos are normally played by plucking the strings, but strumming (running your fingers along the strings instead of grabbing and pulling them) creates sound too. Sound is made by the vibrations that send sound waves through the air. When you pluck the strings, they vibrate and make sound waves that reach your ear.

You can make your own musical instrument, just follow the instructions below for our banjo box!

Instead of strings we used rubber bands. You’ll notice the thinner rubber bands make a higher note. Why is this? It’s because the thinner the band the faster it vibrates, making a higher pitch. The thicker band vibrates slower, producing a lower note. Our banjo box is a million times easier to make than an actual banjo, and just as much fun!

All you need is:

  • An old box (we used a left-over soap box because it was small)
  • Rubber bands of different thickness
  • 2 Pencils, pens or markers (to raise the rubber bands from the box)

Just wrap the rubber bands around the box and slide the pencils under the bands to raise them, then you’re done! Wasn’t that easy? See how ours turned out:

We had a lot of fun playing our creative instrument. You can make instruments out of all sorts of found objects. This guy made a banjo with an old cigar box!

We admit he’s a little better at playing it than we are with our banjo box…








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