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This holiday season, many of us will be swigging eggnog and decorating our Christmas tree (possibly drunk). But where do these annual festivities come from? Here are the origins of traditions that have become pop culture staples.
The Christmas tree has become so popular that 8 in 10 Americans say they plan to put one up this year, according to Pew Research Center. (One South Carolina woman has 26 trees in her home this year!)
We can thank the Germans for the tradition. It dates back to the Middle Ages.
Roman Catholic countries, including Germany, celebrated the Feast Day of Adam and Eve on Dec. 24. The Germans would do a procession carrying “paradise trees” with apples on them representing the forbidden fruit, said Bob Doares, a training specialist in the historical research department at the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.
The tradition was introduced to England during the Victorian era. When Queen Victoria married Prince Albert, a German, he brought Christmas trees into their palaces.
Although it’s difficult to trace back to the very first Christmas tree in the United States, it’s assumed Germans settlers brought the tradition with them, Doares said.
In Williamsburg, Va., the first Christmas tree came in 1842. German professor Charles Minnigerode, while teaching at the College of William and Mary, brought a Christmas tree to the home of a fellow professor to entertain his colleague’s children. Minnigerode decorated the tree with colored papers and used wire to attach candles to the branches, Doares said.
Why do we pucker up under this parasitic plant?
One story of mistletoe’s beginnings comes from Norse mythology: The god Baldur was certain that Earth’s plants and animals wanted to kill him, so his mother and wife negotiated with every living thing to leave Baldur alone. But mistletoe was the one plant his wife and mother overlooked, and, ultimately, Baldur was killed with an arrow made from the plant. “We kiss beneath it to remember what Baldur’s wife and mother forgot,” writes biologist Rob Dunn in Smithsonian Magazine.
Another story: Druids believed mistletoe had magical powers and used it during rituals. Because of its use in pagan ceremonies, mistletoe was banned in Christian places of worship, writes Leonard Perry, a forestry professor at the University of Vermont. It’s unclear when mistletoe became associated with Christmas, he writes.
The tradition of kissing under the mistletoe dates back to 16th century England, and is possibly related to the belief of the plant’s “effects on fertility and conception,” according to an article on the American Phytopathological Society website.
About 16% of Americans said they plan to go caroling this year, according to the Pew study. The tradition goes as far back as the 8th or 9th century, said Daniel Abraham, musicologist and director of choral activities at American University. In feudal times, the visits may have been intended for people to take their harvest to their lords and get something in return, Abraham said.
Like Christmas trees, it was in the Victorian era when modern-day caroling was born – four-part harmonies and refrains in songs, Abraham said. Popular songs today – such as Good King Wenceslas, Hark the Herald and Little Town of Bethlehem – became standards during this period, he said.
The milky, frothy drink is often flavored with nutmeg and spiked with alcohol. The beverage has its roots as a wintertime drink for British aristocracy, writes Frederick Douglass Opie, food history professor at Babson College, in his blog Food As a Lens. Only the wealthy could afford the milk and eggs and added expensive liquors like brandy and sherry to keep the drink from spoiling, Opie writes.
Eggnog came to the U.S. colonies in the 18th century, where the drink was changed. Instead of adding the heavily taxed brandy or wine, colonists added rum – “the drink of the marginalized” – which was traded from the Caribbean, according to Opie.
What about the name – eggnog? Opie writes that the term is a combination of two colonial slang words – rum was referred to as grog and bartenders served it in small wooden mugs called noggins. The drink first became known as egg-n-grog and later as eggnog.
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Read the original story: Spiked eggnog to mistletoe, Christmas traditions explained
Asheville, N.C.–The Economic Development Coalition for Asheville-Buncombe County (EDC), Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College and the NC Biotechnology Center jointly announced today that f(x) Immune Company will locate its new company in Asheville.
In early January 2014, f(x) Immune Co. will begin operations in the Technology Commercialization Center at the A-B Tech Community College’s Business Acceleration Site in Enka (BASE) as a participant in the Business Incubator Program. f(x) Immune Co. is a spin-out from parent company Flow Applications Inc. with headquarters in the greater St. Louis area and with labs in the greater Atlanta area. f(x) Immune Co. is an immuno-diagnostic companion assay developer, offering laboratory services and biologics development support for member companies of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRma).
Over the next three-years, f(x) Immune Co. will hire up to six lab technicians for its new operation in Asheville. The company will give priority to associate degreed Laboratory Technicians trained in NCCLS accredited programs and graduates of the former A-B Tech Biotechnology Associate Program in Applied Science. Resumes and cover letters are invited and will be accepted email@example.com. f(x) Immune Co. also plans to use lab services of the NC BioNetwork hosted at A-B Tech.
Company principals cited a number of reasons for the selection of Asheville, including the incubator and wet-labs in the tech commercialization center at A-B Tech, the robust talent pipeline for life sciences, and the EDC’s strategic focus on science and technology jobs and knowledge based entrepreneurship.
“The leadership of the NC Biotech Center’s Western Office traveled to our headquarters in 2011 to present these competitive advantages,” recalled Michael Hickey. “The EDC, A-B Tech and the Biotech Center teamed up to do an exceptional job facilitating our visits to the community. We are confident that the Asheville operations will meet our growth objectives in 2014 and beyond.”
“The f(x) announcement shows the community’s commitment and ability to compete for the Science and Technology jobs of the next generation,” observed EDC Board Chair Paul Szurek. “The partnership of A-B Tech and NC Biotech Center is very valuable in meeting the ambitious goals of the AVL 5×5 plan.”
f(x) Immune Company is led by principals Michael H. Hickey BS, MLS (ASCP) and Joseph E. Martinez PhD. with a combined 60-years of experience in the life sciences sector. Mr. Hickey described the company’s competitive advantage as the development of laboratory technologies in collaboration with its parent company Flow Applications Inc. and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that will significantly decrease the time and expense of new biologics introduction. Collectively termed Multi-plexed Opsonic Detection Technologies (MODT), these methods will satisfy the criteria set down by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for classes of therapeutics known as biologics inclusive of bacterial vaccines and therapeutic monoclonal antibodies.
The EDC for Asheville-Buncombe County is a public-private partnership committed to: creating and retaining high quality jobs, community leadership, and being a resource for better business decisions. The EDC accomplishes this mission through its four core services: business retention and expansion, small business and entrepreneurship, research, and marketing and recruitment. The EDC is funded by Buncombe County, the City of Asheville, the Town of Weaverville, the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce and the AVL 5×5 Campaign.
The Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce is a member organization with over 1,800 member businesses and organizations. Chamber members collaborate with community organizations and coalitions to support the community and each other with the mission of building community through business. The Chamber is home to a 4,000 square foot Visitor Center which welcomes over 195,000 visitors per year.
ASHEVILLE, N.C. – Known as one of the Southeast’s most beloved and storied holiday travel destinations is Christmas at Biltmore. Candlelight Christmas Evenings, offering evening candlelight tours of Biltmore House, take place through Jan. 4, 2014.
This year’s Christmas displays throughout Biltmore House, the gardens and grounds will draw inspiration from nature, with designs that evoke thoughts of forests, birds and other woodsy elements.
On Christmas Eve 1895, George Vanderbilt opened Biltmore House for the first time to his friends and family. In subsequent years, he and his wife, Edith, welcomed family, friends and the estate’s employees and their families into the Banquet Hall for the annual Christmas party.
Biltmore’s modern-day Christmas celebration is modeled on that first Christmas, with an elaborately decorated, 35-foot tall Fraser fir dominating the Banquet Hall. Guests will see 56 trees throughout Biltmore House, each intricately designed and decorated by members of Biltmore’s floral team. Miles of fresh garland and wreaths create a yuletide scent throughout the House, with around 1,000 red and white poinsettias in the Winter Garden and other areas.
Biltmore House takes on a warm glow during Candlelight Christmas Evenings, creating a unique holiday experience. Local choirs and small musical ensembles stationed in the Winter Garden perform music of the season as guests enter Biltmore House. Soloists perform traditional Christmas music throughout the house while guests wander among the decorated rooms. The front lawn will glow with a 55-foot Norway spruce, lit by 45,000-plus tiny white lights. Guests may also visit Antler Hill Village when they attend Candlelight Christmas Evenings.
Additional holiday activities
In Antler Hill Village, Santa will visit with children and families from 1 to 5 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays through Dec. 22, Antler Hill Village links to the Winery, where visitors may take guided tours, enjoy free wine tastings and purchase wines from Biltmore’s diverse portfolio. Special wine seminars are also available.
Guests may enjoy a festive meal at Bistro, Deerpark Restaurant, Stable Café, Cedric’s Tavern or The Dining Room at Inn on Biltmore Estate. For guests looking to extend their stay at Biltmore, the four-star Inn on Biltmore Estate offers several packages for holidays, including special New Year’s Eve packages. Biltmore boasts retail shops, all perfect for holiday gift shopping. Other activities include taking a horse and carriage ride and exploring acres of landscaped gardens.
For more information about Christmas at Biltmore, visit http://www.biltmore.com.
DURHAM — No. 2 Duke just finished final exams and now the Blue Devils’ women’s basketball players are preparing for a different kind of test.
No. 1 Connecticut is coming to town.
The Blue Devils (10-0) and Huskies (10-0) meet tonight in the biggest game of the season so far.
Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie said the matchup means more to women’s basketball as a whole than it does to her team.
“I think the 1-2 thing is already doing what it should do — drawing attention to the game,” McCallie said Monday. “It’s very important that women’s basketball continues to grow.”
But for her Blue Devils, she added that “this is one game. We’ve got a lot of games to play. That’s it. I’m sorry to disappoint. It’s one game, and we’ve got a whole lot after that, and it’s not March or April. It’s a chance to test ourselves.”
Tests this tough don’t come along all the time — especially for a Duke program that can take a huge step forward with a win against a perennial nemesis that has won six straight in the series by an average of nearly 30 points.
UConn is the only visitor since 2008 to come into Cameron Indoor Stadium and beat Duke. And in both 2010-11 and last year, the Huskies welcomed undefeated Blue Devils teams to Connecticut — and blew them out.
“I think sometimes we have a mental block,” Duke point guard Chelsea Gray said. “’Oh, we’ve got to get that stop,’ and it bleeds from there. They’ll go on runs and we just haven’t had that stop like, ‘We’re going to stop that run.’”
This marks the seventh No. 1-vs.-No. 2 game in Duke history and the first since the then-top-ranked Blue Devils beat North Carolina 64-53 in 2007, the season before McCallie arrived.
UConn, meanwhile, has won 14 of its 17 all-time 1-vs.-2 matchups and are 10-1 in them when it’s the top team.
“As long as we stay focused on what it is that we do, we usually end up being fine,” UConn guard Bria Hartley said.
The Blue Devils are trying to beat a No. 1 team for the first time since knocking off Maryland in 2007 and replacing the Terrapins at the top spot.
The Huskies’ last visit to Cameron in 2011 marked the only home loss ever experienced by Duke’s five seniors. The Blue Devils were 20-0 in 2010-11 before UConn beat them by 36 points, and last season they were 16-0 before a 30-point loss to the Huskies.
“We’ve never really played a full 40 minutes” against UConn, guard Tricia Liston said. “We’ve kind of gotten outside of ourselves or lost focus. … We haven’t put two good halves together since we’ve played them. That hurts us.”
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“We must redefine and reinvent what we do. Change or be changed,” declared Mike Konzen. “You have a chance in Asheville to build something that’s really special on top of what you already have that’s really special. But you need to adapt and change to stay relevant.”
Konzen was addressing a group of about 150 local community leaders, gathered Dec. 11 in downtown Asheville for a forum on “Destination Development” organized by the Asheville Convention and Visitors Bureau.
The chairman of PGAV Destinations, a global leader in the the business of tourism consulting and planning, Konzen flew in from St. Louis to deliver the keynote speech. He’s helped oversee a long list of successful projects around the world, from the pyramids of Giza to the Kennedy Space Center and the Biltmore Estate.
The tourism industry already brings in $2.3 billion annually to Buncombe County. That’s up from roughly $183 million 30 years ago. Traditionally, the big drivers of the local tourism economy have been the Biltmore Estate, the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Grove Park Inn. But to continue to grow local visitation, government officials and business owners need to “anticipate trends that are shaping the future,” Konzen urged.
Brave new future
Those trends include changing traveler demographics, interests and the importance of social media in shaping opinions, he reported.
“This millennial generation is the future. … This generation will redefine American culture and society, just like the baby boomers did,” he said. “They’re very savvy travelers.”
A term referring to those born roughly between 1980 and 2000, so-called millennials care more about close friendships than money, and travel to learn things more than buy stuff, Konzen said. Their prolific use of technology and social media presents opportunities and challenges, he added. When a traveler is moved by a visit to a local brewery or restaurant to Tweet or post a positive Facebook comment, that shapes opinions in a more powerful way than less personal advertising, he said.
“The experience itself becomes the marketing,” he explained. “Those are marketing dollars that you aren’t spending because they’re doing it for you.”
On the other hand, a “negative complaint” via social media “resonates far more than something that’s positive,” he cautioned. And with technology putting more and more choices within reach of the push of a button or the click of a mouse, “it actually makes them harder to satisfy,” he reported.
“Lots and lots of choices are great, but they don’t necessarily make our lives as providers any easier,” he added. “People are more stressed. So when they get away, they have higher expectations.”
The key to growing the local tourist economy in a sustainable way is to maintain Asheville’s sense of authenticity — even as it takes intentional steps to increase visitation, according to Konzen.
“Asheville has a really strong brand. We hear about Asheville all over the country,” he reported. “Authenticity is what separates Asheville from Greenville or any other place people want to go.”
To that end, he encouraged cooperation and planning. “Placemaking is a key thing, because individual attractions usually don’t do very well on their own,” he said. “They need to synergize with things around them, they need to fit together.”
Charting a course
Officials proceeded to tout a number of upcoming projects that could help improve Asheville’s appeal in coming years. Many of them are in the River Arts District.
Paramount to the discussion was New Belgium Brewing’s plan to invest $175 million in a new Craven Street facility along the French Broad River, tentatively set to open in two years. When deciding where to locate the new brewery along the East Coast, Asheville’s thriving tourism scene — as well as its “progressive community climate” — was key, said Operations Manager Gabe Quesinberry.
New Belgium’s Fort Collins, Colo., headquarters attracts 150,000 visitors a year; there’s a two-month waiting list to sign up for brewery tours. And there’s “internal betting that that number will be even higher in Asheville, due to existing tourism infrastructure,” Quesinberry revealed.
Meanwhile, Harry Pilos reported that his nearby RAD Lofts project on Clingman Avenue will include hundreds of residential units as well as a parking garage, retail space and restaurants. “I take comfort that New Belgium is anchoring this area,” Pilos said, noting the development’s $50 million price tag. “I’m taking a huge personal gamble here. … I think the time for the RAD is there. I think it’s going to create a nice synergy down there.”
But his project “needs to generate tourist interest, or else we’re not going to be able to make payments on that $50 million,” he added.
Stuart Cowles, owner of downtown’s ClimbMax Climbing Center, also revealed plans to open a Smoky Mountain Adventure Center in the RAD next spring that will offer “uniquely Asheville experiences,” such as climbing and other outdoor activities. A new French Broad River Paddle Trail and several new access points will also help attract outdoor enthusiasts, said Karen Cragnolin, executive director of RiverLink.
City government is helping facilitate the private-sector growth by building pedestrian-friendly infrastructure in the area to lure and accommodate growing crowds, said Stephanie Monson, riverfront redevelopment coordinator.
“One of the things government can do best is provide connections to the places you are building,” she said. Revamped roads — as well as new greenways, bike lanes, sidewalks, trails and public bathrooms — are all in the works for the district, she reported.
Numerous projects in other parts of the county were celebrated as well, such as the Noble Rock Resort Spa, a 290-acre luxury wellness development planning to open in 2016 near Black Mountain.
Going forward, a 1 percent hotel room occupancy tax will continue to be key in funding major tourism projects, said Marla Tambellini, deputy director of the Asheville Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Administered by the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority, the tax has generated $14.9 million since 2001. It’s been dispersed in grants for 16 projects that attract visitors, including Pack Square Park, the Grove Arcade and the John B. Lewis Soccer Complex at Azalea Park. The TDA will accept applications this spring for the next round of grants. About $3.5 million will be available for local projects.
Stephanie Brown, senior vice president of the Asheville Convention and Visitors Bureau, said a goal of the forum was to spark future grant ideas. “We’re coming together today to think creatively, to dream a little dream,” she said. During a brainstorming session, there seemed to be a consensus that there’s a need for more transportation infrastructure between local attractions, said Brown. Thinking big, several attendees even floated the idea of constructing a light rail service.
As for the challenge of maintaining Asheville’s sense of authenticity amid a new planning push, Brown said she doesn’t see a contradiction. “I think it’s about having a commitment to a sense of place. I don’t think that’s inconsistent with planning,” she explained. “The role that we can help to play is to build connectivity between these ideas that are growing organically. … And to foster a sense of how we can put these things together and plan for them in a way that all of them are successful, and the whole will be more than the sum of its parts.”
And despite the forum’s focus on luring outsiders to town, ultimately, the idea is that a growing tourism industry will benefit Asheville residents, said Mayor Esther Manheimer, who was sworn in to office Dec. 10.
“We want it to be a place where people can afford to live and have a high quality of life,” she said.
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It’s looking less like the week before winter starts than the week before the start of spring here in Asheville, but there is snow sledding to be had not too far away.
The Beech Mountain youth sledding hill in Avery County has opened for the winter season, brought to you by the magic of a snow gun. The sledding hill offers a wonderland of fun daily for children 12 and younger. Located next to the town’s visitors center, the hill provides good sledding conditions with a combination of natural and man-made snow.
The free sled run is operated by Beech Mountain Parks Recreation Department seven days a week (weather permitting) with safety personnel on duty. A loud speaker plays music and hot chocolate is available at nearby restaurants.
Plastic sleds are required. Families may bring their own, or they’re available for rent and purchase at nearby stores on the mountain.
“The sledding hill is a great option for families with younger children who aren’t ready for skiing or snowboarding yet, but still want to play in the snow,” says Amy Morrison of the Beech Mountain Tourism Development Authority. “We get calls starting in September asking when the sledding hill is going to open. People plan their vacations knowing that they can use the hill. It’s quite a popular attraction every winter.”
And it’s not just kids who love the hill. Parents like the heated restrooms and lobby in the adjacent visitors center, which offers complimentary Wi-Fi service. They’ve even been known to share a sled with the kids, sometimes for hours at a time.
Beech Mountain, at an elevation of 5,506 feet, is the highest town in Eastern America with an average annual snowfall of 84.6 inches. And when Mother Nature doesn’t cooperate, powder is available from a snow gun purchased exclusively for the sledding hill.
Hours of operation are: 1 to 5 p.m. weekdays; and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends and holidays. The sledding hill stays open through late February or early March, depending on the weather.
Real-time sledding hill conditions are available by calling the visitors center toll-free at 800-468-5506. For more information visit www.beechmtn.com.