Command Comfort Blog : Archive for the ‘Happy Holidays’ Category

When New Year’s Day Was Not on January 1st

Thursday, January 1st, 2015

Some holidays fall on shifting calendar days for every year, such as Thanksgiving (fourth Thursday in November) and Easter (the first Sunday after the first full moon to occur on or after March 21). Other holidays, such as Valentine’s Day and Halloween, are fixed. No holiday has a more solid calendar date attached to it than New Year’s Day. It has to fall on January 1st because it celebrates the first day of a new year. That only makes sense…

…except that, like most things that at first appear obvious, there is a bit more to the story. The beginning of the year was not always on the first of January. As with an enormous numbers of traditions in the Western World, the establishment of January 1st as the inaugural day of a new year goes back to the ancient Romans.

The modern solar calendar is derived from the Roman model, but the earliest Roman calendars did not have 365 days in a year spread over 12 months. Instead, there were 304 days spread over 10 months. The Romans believed this calendar originated with the mythical founder of the city, Romulus. If Romulus were a real person, we can credit him with a poor understanding of the seasons, as this abbreviated calendar soon got out of sync with Earth’s orbit around the Sun. Numa, one of the Kings of Rome (probably also fictional) receives credit for creating a longer year with two added months, Ianuarius and Februarius, bringing the number of days in the year to 355. The new month of Ianuarius, named after Ianus (Janus in contemporary spelling), the god of beginnings, would eventually be known in English as January. But when this new calendar was instituted, January was not the first month. March, named after the god of war, remained the first month, and March 1st was New Year’s Day.

This extended calendar still did not keep in synch with the seasons. In 45 BCE, Julius Caesar instituted reforms to align the calendar correctly according to calculations of astronomers, with an additional 10 days distributed across the year. January also became set as the first month, and offerings to the god Janus on this day started the tradition we now know as New Year’s. The date still fluctuated during the ensuing centuries, with a number of Western European holy days treated as the beginning of the year instead. It wasn’t until the next calendar reform in 1582, the Gregorian Calendar, that the date of the New Year was fixed at January 1st.

However you choose to celebrate the beginning of the current calendar, everyone here at Command A/C hopes you have a wonderful 2015!

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Why Do We Hang Up Mistletoe?

Thursday, December 25th, 2014

Of course, you probably know part of the answer to this question already. You hang up mistletoe so that the people standing underneath can share a romantic holiday kiss! But what you may not realize is that the origin of this longstanding ritual predates many of the other holiday traditions we celebrate today. Why would a plant that has many poisonous varieties (most types sold for use in the home have few negative effects, but you can wrap it in netting to prevent children from consuming any fallen berries or leaves) be used as a symbol of holiday affection?

There are a couple of ways to explain the positive associations of (potentially hazardous) mistletoe. For one, this semi-parasitic plant has long been hailed as a treatment for illnesses and pain. The ancient Greeks and Romans used it to cure cramps, epilepsy, and more. Even today, mistletoe extracts are one of the leading alternative medicines studied for their effectiveness in killing cancer cells. And because the early Celtic Druids saw it as a sign of healing and life, they may be the first to bestow upon the plant its romantic associations, deeming it worthy of treating the infertile.

But it is Norse mythology that is likely responsible for a majority of the modern traditions associated with this small hanging bunch. One of the powerful Norse god Odin’s sons, named Baldur, was said to be invincible due to an oath his mother took to protect him from harm. But Loki, a god who often set out to make trouble for the gods, set out to find the one thing that could do some damage, and eventually discovered that Baldur’s mother Frigg had never included mistletoe in her invincibility oath. When mistletoe was finally responsible for her son’s demise, the grieving Frigg vowed that the plant would never again be used to hurt another living thing, and that she would plant a peaceful kiss upon anyone who walked underneath it.

And that is one of the reasons that, today, kissing under the mistletoe is viewed as a source of good luck. From our family to yours, we wish you a safe holiday season, and we hope that you and your family are full of joy and good fortune—mistletoe or not! Happy holidays from Command A/C!

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Will Thanksgiving Turkey Really Make You Sleepy?

Wednesday, November 26th, 2014

We’ve all heard it before: you feel so sleepy after a Thanksgiving meal because of the main event: the turkey. For years, people have credited extraordinary levels of tryptophan in turkey as the reason we all feel the need to nap after the annual feast. But contrary to this popular mythology, tryptophan is probably not he largest responsible party for your post-meal exhaustion.

Tryptophan is an essential amino acid, which means it’s something that our bodies need but do not produce naturally. Your body uses tryptophan to help make vitamin B3 and serotonin, which is a neurotransmitter that sends chemicals to the brain to aid in sleep. But in order to get this essential amino acid, we have to eat foods that contain it.

Turkey has somewhat high levels of tryptophan, but so do many other foods, including eggs, peanuts, chocolate, nuts, bananas, and most other meats and dairy products. In fact, ounce-for-ounce cheddar cheese contains a greater amount of tryptophan than turkey. In order for tryptophan to make you feel sleepy, you would have to consume it in excessive amounts, and serotonin is usually only produced by tryptophan on an empty stomach.

The truth is, overeating is largely responsible for the “food coma” many people describe post-Thanksgiving. It takes a lot of energy for your body to process a large meal, and the average Thanksgiving plate contains about twice as many calories as is recommended for daily consumption. If anything, high levels of fat in the turkey cause sleepiness, as they require a lot of energy for your body to digest. Lots of carbohydrates, alcohol, and probably a bit of stress may also be some of the reasons it feels so satisfying to lay down on the couch after the meal and finally get a little bit of shut-eye.

If you feel the need to indulge in a heaping dose of tryptophan this year, go ahead! Turkey also contains healthy proteins and may even provide a boost for your immune system. Here at Command A/C, we hope your Thanksgiving is full of joy and contentment this year. Happy feasting!

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The Very First Labor Day Celebration

Friday, August 29th, 2014

Labor Day as a federal holiday, held on the first Monday of September, has been with us now for 120 years. President Grover Cleveland signed the law that made Labor Day a national holiday in 1894. Ever since then, the three-day weekend has provided people in the U.S. with the opportunity for vacations, time with their families, shopping trips, and a general celebration of the conclusion of summer and the beginning of fall.

However, there were twelve years of Labor Day observations in the U.S. before it became an official holiday. The first Labor Day celebration took place in 1882 in New York City on September 5. According to the accounts from the time, it had a rough start and almost didn’t happen.

The main event planned for that first Labor Day was a parade along Broadway that was to start at City Hall. However, the parade ran into a bit of a snag early on. The marchers started to line up for the procession around 9 a.m., with a police escort to make sure the event went peacefully. However, the problem of the day wasn’t rowdy members of the parade—it was that nobody had remembered to bring a band!

With people ready to march, but no music to march to, it started to look like no parade would happen at all, and the first Labor Day would have ended up a failure. But just in time, Matthew Maguire of the Central Labor Union—one of the two men who first proposed the celebration—ran across the City Hall lawn to the Grand Marshal of the parade, William McCabe, to inform him that 200 men from the Jeweler’s Union of Newark were crossing the ferry to Manhattan… and they had a band!

At 10 a.m., only an hour late, the band from Newark walked down Broadway playing a number from a popular Gilbert and Sullivan opera. They passed McCabe and the other 700 marchers, who then fell in line behind them. Soon, the spectators joined in, and an estimated 10,000 to 20,000 people marched through Lower Manhattan.

According to the New York Times, “The windows and roofs and even the lamp posts and awning frames were occupied by persons anxious to get a good view of the first parade in New York of workingmen of all trades united in one organization.”

The parade concluded two hours later when the marchers reached Reservoir Park. But the party was only getting started. Until 9 p.m., some 25,000 people celebrated with picnics and speeches and beer kegs. It was an enormous success, and all thanks to the speedy arrival of jewelers carrying band instruments.

If those musicians from Newark hadn’t shown up, perhaps we wouldn’t have the holiday opportunity that we now have every year. However you celebrate your Labor Day, our family at Command A/C wishes your family a happy end of summer.

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Leading the Way with Independence Days!

Thursday, July 3rd, 2014

The term “Fourth of July” is the popular name for the U.S. federal holiday officially known as Independence Day. It isn’t surprising that we would come up with a different name from the official one, since “Independence Day” is one of the most common holiday names across the globe. Most of the nations in existence today won their independence from another power, whether through wars, treaties, or long transitions.

What might surprise many people is how old U.S. Independence Day actually is compared to the similar holidays of other nations. Although the U.S. is still considered a young nation, it was one of the first to make a full break for its colonial master with a new constitution. Most countries that celebrate a national Independence Day are commemorating events that occurred in the second half of the 20th century, when many older empires at last relinquished control over their colonies.

How substantial is the difference in time for the U.S.A. and the rest of the world? U.S. Independence Day celebrates the signing of the Declaration of Independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain in 1776, making our country unusual in that almost no existing nations celebrate an independence event from the eighteenth century.

In terms of age, there is only a tiny handful current countries that celebrate an independence day that occurred earlier than the United States. Switzerland celebrates its independence from the Holy Roman Empire of the Germans in 1291 with “Swiss National Day,” held every August 1—although this only gained status as a national holiday in 1994. Sweden Celebrates “National Day of Sweden” to commemorate events in 1523 and the election of King Gustav I during the War of Liberation against Christian II of Denmark and Norway. Romania comes almost a hundred years after U.S. Independence, with its 1877 freedom from Turkish rule.

The most recent Independence Days to come into existence are for Montenegro, which gained independence from Serbia in 2006 and celebrates the day on May 21, and South Sudan, which gained independence from Sudan in 2011 and celebrates the day only a day after the U.S., on July 5.

Does anyone else celebrate a literal “Fourth of July,” an Independence Day that also falls on the fourth day of the seventh month? Yes: Abkhazia, a small Central Asian country that declared its independence from the Republic of Georgia in 1999 (although not all countries recognize it). Coming a day (like South Sudan) on July 5 is the independence of the small Atlantic island nation of Cape Verde, which became free from Portugal through signed agreement in 1975.

Everyone at Command A/C hopes you and your family enjoy a vibrant Independence Day/Fourth of July this year!

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The Original Valentine’s Day Greeting Cards

Friday, February 14th, 2014

It’s hard to imagine Valentine’s Day without the traditional greeting cards, whether accompanying a gift of flowers and candy, or sent between children in a school room. For commercial greeting card companies, February 14th is as important to them as the December holidays, Easter, and Mother’s Day.

Valentine’s Day as a celebration of romantic love predates printed greeting cards by a few centuries. In fact, the reason that sending romantic greeting cards became popular was because of the most un-romantic thing you can imagine: a reduction in postage rates.

In 1765, Parliament authorized the creation of “Penny Posts” that used a uniform rate of one old penny per letter throughout Great Britain and Ireland. Printers took advantage of the ease with which people could send letters to each other on Valentine’s Day by crafting cards with love poems on them. Many of these verses were collected in 1797 in the book The Young Man’s Valentine Writer, which was a resource for the lover with a romantic soul but not the most confident poetry style.

By the mid-19th-century, the Valentine’s Day greeting card was flourishing across England. Although people still followed a tradition of creating handmade Valentine’s Day cards from lace, ribbons, and flowers, commercially produced cards now overtook them. In 1835, the English post office mailed 60,000 valentines. As production expenses dropped, the English card manufacturers branched out creatively with humorous and sometimes vulgar cards… many of which we would find startlingly familiar in the 21st century. One of the common jokes on these cards was to design them to look like marriage certificates or court summons.

Across the Atlantic, the United States was slower to embrace the popular British custom. It wasn’t until 1847 that a U.S. printer mass-produced greeting cards for Valentine’s Day. Only two years later, American journalists noted how rapidly people in the country had embraced the tradition, turning into a fad that has never died down. The woman who printed the first U.S. Valentine’s Day card, Esther Howland, is today recognized by the Greeting Card Association with the annual “Esther Howland Award for a Greeting Card Visionary.”

The greeting card industry certainly has reason to thank Ms. Howland. Her idea of going into business printing romantic greeting cards, which came to her after she received a traditional English valentine when she was 19 years old, now sells 190 million cards in the U.S. every year. That number doesn’t include the smaller exchange cards used in elementary school classrooms, which would swell the number to 1 billion. (Who receives the most Valentine’s Day cards each year? Teachers!)

Whether you send out Valentine’s Day cards—handmade, store-bought, digital—or not, we at Command A/C hope you have a happy February 14th.

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New Year’s Eve: The Tournament of Roses Parade

Tuesday, December 31st, 2013

The East Coast has their own traditions for New Year’s Eve, notably the dropping of the ball in Times Square to signal the beginning of the New Year. We have our own traditions here on the West Coast, and with 2014 almost upon us, we thought we’d take a closer look at one of the biggest: the Tournament of Roses Parade.

The Parade is held every year on New Year’s Day, save when January 1 falls on a Sunday (in which case it is held on the 2nd). Tradition holds that they don’t host it on a Sunday in exchange for God preventing rain on the parade, though it has actually rained ten times since the first parade. It all began in 1890, when members of the Pasadena Valley Hunt club organized and staged it on Colorado Boulevard. Their parade consisted of horse carts covered with flowers, followed by a series of athletic events (including races and polo matches). Football was first added in 1902, when Michigan beat Stanford by a score of 49-0. The football tradition was dropped for a few years, but came back in 1916 for good. The game has traditionally featured the champions of the Big 10 and Pac 10 Conferences, though teams from different conferences have appeared from time to time.

As for the parade itself, it soon added motorized floats, marching bands and equestrian units to its array of features. A “Rose Queen” is chosen every year from the ranks of Pasadena girls ages 17 through 21, along with six princesses to serve as her court. 2014’s Rose Queen is high school student Ana Marie Acosta. A Grand Marshall is chosen every year as well, and has previously included such varied luminaries as Walt Disney, John Wayne, Dwight Eisenhower, Hank Aaron, George Lucas, Charles M. Schulz, Kermit the Frog, and Fred Rogers. The Grand Marshall for 2014 will be legendary Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully.

Wherever you are and however you choose to celebrate New Year’s Day, we here at Command A/C wish you nothing but the very best. May 2014 bring you all good things, and may your New Year’s celebrations – in whatever form they take – be happy, safe and fun for your entire family. Happy New Year!

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Longer Days Ahead: Why Winter Solstice Is a Reason to Celebrate

Monday, December 23rd, 2013

Holiday greetings from all of us at Command A/C!

December is a time of celebrations across the globe, despite the cold weather that affects much of the countries in the Northern Hemisphere. In fact, the cold weather is one of the reasons that it is so important for people to embrace celebrations of light, color, food, and warm drinks—what better way to cheer up during a time of short days and low temperatures?

There is another reason to feel joy at the end of December, regardless of your religion or culture: an astronomical event called winter solstice.

Four astronomical markers divide the seasons on planet Earth: two solstices and two equinoxes. Equinox (a combination of the Latin words for “equal” and for “night”) is the point in Earth’s orbit when its axis is parallel to the Sun. Solstice (from the Latin words for “sun” and “to stand still”) is the point in orbit where the Earth’s axial tilt points toward the Sun. During the equinoxes, which occur at the start of spring (vernal equinox) and fall (autumnal equinox), the periods of day and night are the same length. During the solstices, which occur at the start of summer (June solstice) and winter (winter solstice), either day or night is at its longest period. June solstice is the longest day of the year; winter Solstice is the shortest day of the year.

Occurring on the 20th or the 21st of the month (this year it falls on the 21st), winter solstice marks the official beginning of winter, but also the point at which the days start to grow longer once more. The sun, which has dropped lower in the sky since the June solstice (June 20-21) and reaches its lowest point above the horizon on noon on winter solstice, once again begins to rise.

From the earliest human prehistory, people have recognized the winter solstice as an important event in their lives. When winter survival was difficult for early human societies, the sight of the sun beginning to rise in the sky once more was a symbol of hope and a reason to celebrate.

(All of the above applies to the Northern Hemisphere of Earth. The equinoxes and solstices flip in the Southern Hemisphere. For example, in Australia, Christmas is a summer holiday.)

However you commemorate and observe this time of year, we hope you and your family have a joyful and safe season!

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Thanksgiving, 2013: The Presidential Turkey Pardon

Monday, November 25th, 2013

Thanksgiving began in 1621, but didn’t become a national holiday until 1863, when Abraham Lincoln declared it in hopes of bringing a divided nation together. We have many Thanksgiving traditions in this country, from turkey at the meal to the annual Cowboys and Lions games on television. But one of the most beloved is the annual Presidential turkey pardon, in which the U.S. President “pardons” a turkey to life in a petting zoo rather than ending up as someone’s main course. As we celebrate this Thanksgiving, we thought you’d like to know a little more about the history of this fascinating tradition.

Farmers have sent turkeys to the White House as far back as the 1800s, hoping to have the honor of providing the President’s annual meal. There have been scattered stories of individual turkeys being “pardoned” throughout that time, including one in which President Lincoln’s son Tad successfully convinced the president to spare a bird intended for the family’s Christmas dinner.

Starting in 1947, the National Turkey Federation became the official supplier of the President’s Thanksgiving birds. The White House arranged for an annual photo op that year with the President receiving the turkey in the Rose Garden. Sadly, there was no pardon as yet; those birds all ended up on the Presidential table.

The push for an official pardon picked up steam in 1963, when President Kennedy ask that the bird be spared just a few days before his assassination. President Nixon opted to send each of the birds he received to a nearby petting zoo after the photo op, though there was no formal pardon attached.

But it wasn’t until 1989 that the pardon became official. On November 14 of that year, President George H. W. Bush made the announcement, and sent the bird to a Virginia game preserve to live the rest of its life out in cranberry-and-stuffing-free bliss. Since then, every President has held an annual pardoning ceremony, with the lucky turkey spared the axe and sent off to live in peace. Since 2005, the pardoned birds have gone to Disneyland in Anaheim, California where they have lived as part of a petting zoo exhibit in Frontierland.

No matter what traditions you enjoy this holiday, or who you enjoy them with, all of us here wish you a peaceful and happy Thanksgiving weekend.

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We Wish You a Happy Labor Day

Monday, September 2nd, 2013

On every project that we complete, we ensure that our customers are satisfied. We take pride in the work that we do every day, and this level of diligence and attention to detail has allowed us to grow over the years. On the first Monday of every September, our country celebrates Labor Day as a way of recognizing the hard work that has made this country great. Because making your home more comfortable and convenient is our business, we want you to have an enjoyable and pleasant Labor Day.

Labor Day is a time of good BBQ, the start of the professional and college football seasons, entertainment with family and friends, and, most importantly, taking a day off from work. Labor Day emerges as a federal holiday in the wake of the Pullman Strike of 1894. It was designated as such by President Grover Cleveland and Congress as a way to reconcile the damage done by the faceoff between the Federal government and the Pullman Palace Car Company workers and other railroad workers. But over a decade before it became official, Labor Day began as a workers’ picnic and demonstration suggested by either Peter J. McGuire of the American Federation of Labor, or Matthew Maguire of the Central Labor Union of New York.

From our family to yours, we wish you all the best on this Labor Day.

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