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Murder by Death

I read cozy and historical mysteries, a bit of Paranormal/UF, and to mix it up, I read science and gardening books on occasion.

16 Tasks of the Festive Season: Fifteenth Square - Newtonmas / Boxing Day / St. Stephen's Day


Sir Isaac Newton was born on December 25th and the Newtonmas holiday celebrates reason, logic, and human accomplishment in the areas of technology and science.


The holiday is broken down into two parts:


The first part of our Newtonmas celebration centers around the gifts of technology by giving gifts of technology. Any technology is an acceptable present, with the only requirements being that the technology given makes the recipient happy, was invented by humans and is a useful tool in the recipient’s life.


The second part of Newtonmas involves apples, as it was during a walk in his garden that an apple falling to the ground inspired him to form a hypothesis for Gravity.  So giving or eating apples, hanging an apple ornament, drinking apple cider or wine, are all acceptable forms of expression for Newtonmas.


Most importantly, Newtonmas is the time to  honor and celebrate what science and the scientific method have accomplished over the past year and to examine how these advancements improve our daily lives.



Book themes for Newtonmas:  Any science book.  Any book about alchemy.  Any book where science, astronomy, or chemistry play a significant part in the plot. (For members of the Flat Book Society: The “Forensics” November group read counts.)


Tasks for Newtonmas: Take a moment to appreciate gravity and the laws of motion. If there’s snow outside, have a snowball fight with a friend or a member of your family.  –OR– Take some time out to enjoy the alchemical goodness of a hot toddy or chocolate or any drink that relies on basic chemistry/alchemy (coffee with cream or sugar / tea with milk or sugar or lemon, etc.).  Post a picture of your libations and the recipe if it’s unique and you’re ok with sharing it.



Boxing Day

The Oxford English Dictionary gives the earliest attestations from Britain in the 1830s, defining it as "the first week-day after Christmas-day, observed as a holiday on which post-men, errand-boys, and servants of various kinds expect to receive a Christmas-box”.  Today, Boxing day is celebrated on the 26th of December and is generally associated with after-Christmas sales and, if you live in Australia or the UK, cricket.


The term "Christmas-box" dates back to the 17th century, and among other things meant:


A present or gratuity given at Christmas: in Great Britain, usually confined to gratuities given to those who are supposed to have a vague claim upon the donor for services rendered to him as one of the general public by whom they are employed and paid, or as a customer of their legal employer; the undefined theory being that as they have done offices for this person, for which he has not directly paid them, some direct acknowledgement is becoming at Christmas.



Saint Stephen's Day 

or the Feast of Saint Stephen, is a Christian saint's day to commemorate Saint Stephen, the first Christian martyr or protomartyr, celebrated on 26 December in the Latin Church and 27 December in Eastern Christianity.  


St. Stephen’s Day is celebrated in a wide variety of ways, depending on the country and culture: 


In the Republic of Ireland, the holiday is called Lá Fhéile Stiofáin or Lá an Dreoilín, meaning the Wren Day. The name alludes to several legends, including those found in Irish mythology, linking episodes in the life of Jesus to the wren. People dress up in old clothes, wear straw hats and travel from door to door with fake wrens dancing, singing and playing music. A Mummer's Festival is also held at this time every year in the village of New Inn, County Galway, and Dingle in County Kerry.  Saint Stephen's Day is a popular day for visiting family members and going to the theatre to see a pantomime.


Saint Stephen's Day in Wales is known as Gŵyl San Steffan. One ancient Welsh custom, discontinued in the 19th century, included bleeding of livestock and "holming" by beating with holly branches of late risers and female servants. The ceremony reputedly brought good luck, although this would probably be heatedly disputed by the late risers and female servants.


Saint Stephen's Day (Sant Esteve) in Catalonia centers on a big meal including canelons. These are stuffed with the ground meat left over from the escudella i carn d'olla, turkey, or capó of the previous day.


In Austria, Czech Republic, Germany and Poland, numerous ancient customs still continue to this day, including ceremonial horseback rides and blessing of the horses, and the "stoning" drinking ritual celebrated by young men after attending church service.


The most well known tradition linked to the day in Finland is "the ride of Stephen's Day" which refers to a sleigh ride with horses. These merry rides along village streets were seen in contrast to the silent and pious mood of the preceding Christmas days.  Another old tradition was parades with singers and people dressed in Christmas suits. Today, a related tradition is the dances of Stephen's Day which are held in several restaurants and dance halls.



Book themes for Boxing Day/St. Stephen’s Day: Read anything where the main character has servants (paid servants count, NOT unpaid) or is working as a servant him-/ herself.


Tasks for St. Stephen’s Day/Boxing Day: Show us your boxes of books!  –OR–  If you have a cat, post a picture of your cat in a box.  (your dog in a box works too, if your dog likes boxes - I’m looking at you WhiskeyintheJar) - or any pet good-natured enough to pose in a box long enough for you to snap a picture.


BONUS task: box up all the Christmas detritus, decorations, or box up that stuff you’ve been meaning to get rid of, or donate, etc. and take a picture and post it.