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Rare ‘Christmas Star’ To Light Up Night Sky For First Time In Hundreds Of Years

Jupiter and Saturn will appear to be so close from Earth on Dec. 21 that they may look like one shining star.

Look up at the night sky on Dec. 21 and you may see something special.

The planets of JUPITER and SATURN will appear (weather-permitting) on the winter solstice to be so close from Earth that they may look like one shining star, even though they’ll actually be 450 million miles apart.

The so-called “Great Conjunction ” last happened in 1623 but could not be seen from Earth. Before that, the phenomenon previously occurred on March 4, 1226.

2020’s celestial event has been christened by some as the “Christmas Star,” due to its proximity to Christmas Day.

“Alignments between these two planets are rather rare, occurring once every 20 years or so, but this conjunction is exceptionally rare because of how close the planets will appear to one another,” said, a professor of physics and astronomy at Rice University.

“On the evening of closest approach on Dec 21 they will look like a double planet, separated by only 1/5th the diameter of the full moon,” Hartigan explained. “For most telescope viewers, each planet and several of their largest moons will be visible in the same field of view that evening.”

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Baked French Toast Casserole

BREAKFAST & BRUNCH

Thanksgiving Breakfast paired with flowers!


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Skip the hassle of standing over the stove to fry each slice of French toast for breakfast. Instead, try this simple Baked French Toast Casserole! Prep the ingredients and let your oven do the rest. Pair with your favorite syrup for a special Saturday morning breakfast!


Ingredients

• 8 ounces whipped cream cheese• 1/3 cup chopped pecans• 1/4 cup light brown sugar• 2 teaspoons maple syrup• 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon• 2 cups of milk• 5 eggs• 1/4 cup granulated sugar• 1/2 teaspoon vanilla• 1 loaf thick sliced bread• 2 tablespoons sugar• 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon• confectioners’ sugar, optional

Directions

Step 1

Mix together cheese, pecans, brown sugar, syrup, and 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon.Step 2

Set aside.Step 3

Beat together, with a whisk, milk, eggs 1/4 cup granulated sugar and vanilla.Step 4

Spread cheese mixture on one side of each slice of bread.Step 5

Layer at an angle in a 13 x 9″ baking dish, cheese side up.Step 6

Pour milk mixture over the bread evenly.Step 7

Cover with plastic wrap and chill overnight.Step 8

Remove wrap and sprinkle with 2 tablespoons sugar and 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon mixed together.Step 9

Bake in a preheated oven, 350 degrees, for 20 to 25 minutes or until browned and egg is set.Step 10

Sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar before serving, if desired.


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10 pieces of advice for couples who have postponed their weddings to 2021

When Tavi Kaunitz and Tom Lerner had to postpone their May wedding due to the coronavirus pandemic, it was stressful and upsetting for the couple, who had spent nearly a year planning their dream ceremony.

“We’d already been in the throes of planning, and you just get excited for it,” Lerner told “Good Morning America.” “That time was really tough and stressful.”

Tavi Kaunitz and her fiance Tom Lerner, pose for a photo after their engagement. The couple had to postpone their wedding earlier this year due to COVID-19.

Kaunitz and Lerner, from California, are one of many couples from all across the country who were planning on getting married in 2020, but instead quickly had to pivot, decide on a new date and rethink what their celebrations would look like.

“There was a lot of disappointment and a lot of fear about what their new wedding was going to look like,” said wedding planner Victoria Holland, founder and CEO of Victoria Ann Events in Los Angeles, who worked with Kaunitz and Lerner. “For my weddings that were in May, I told them they needed to make a decision sooner than later because we needed to come up with a plan B. I think the best thing was [for us] that we were at the first line of defense right away.”

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When Is Easter 2020? Here’s Why Its Date Changes Every Year

Everything you need to know about Easter Sunday

  • Easter Sunday changes dates year-to-year. This year, Easter is on Sunday, April 12, 2020.
  • The holiday coincides with the vernal equinox, which welcomes spring in the northern hemisphere.
  • All of the celebrations leading up to Easter also change dates.

Springtime is the signal for many things: warmer weather, fresh flowers, and for those who celebrate, Easter Sunday. Unlike Christmas, which, as most of us know, falls on December 25 every single year, Easter, and the celebrations leading up to it, change dates. Lifelong and brand new celebrators alike might wonder, “How the Easter date is determined?” Which is why we’ve answered your burning questions about why Easter changes dates.

Of course, to know when Easter is this year, you can figure it out by taking a step back and figuring out Ash Wednesday’s date. The main event occurs six and a half weeks after Ash Wednesday, encompassing the 40 days of Lent. But to discover what causes all these dates to fluctuate year after year instead of staying in one place like many other annual holidays including Christmas, Valentine’s Day, and St. Patrick’s Day, you might want to look to the sky for your answer. We’ve investigated the reasons behind the ever-changing date, which includes the phases of the moon, the vernal equinox, and the Gregorian calendar. You might not have realized just how much goes into how Easter Sunday is determined each year!

How is the Easter date determined every year?

First off, it’s important to know that though the exact date of Easter changes each year, there’s a definite period in which the day occurs, and that’s March 22 through April 25 (in the Gregorian calendar, not the Julian calendar). Easter always occurs on the first Sunday after the Paschal Full Moon, according to The Old Farmer’s Almanac. So, what’s the Paschal Full Moon? It is the first full Moon that occurs after the vernal equinox, which signifies the beginning of spring in the northern hemisphere.

Now, this is where things get a little tricky. The church has decided to always—and forever—recognize the spring equinox on March 21. Technically speaking, however, the equinox could actually fall on Thursday, March 19—like it does this year. But if you’re acknowledging the equinox on March 21 like the church, the first full moon after that date isn’t until April 8. The following Sunday—April 12—is Easter this year.

how easter is determined


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How Christmas Trees Became a Holiday Tradition

A man walks past the Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center before sunrise on Dec. 5, 2019, in New York City.

A man walks past the Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center before sunrise on Dec. 5, 2019, in New York City. Gary

The Christmas tree that was lit up at New York City’s Rockefeller Center on Wednesday night — a 77-foot, 12-ton Norway Spruce — and the one lit up at the White House on Thursday night may be unusually large, but in other respects they will be merely two in countless trees bought this month. Many people who celebrate Christmas have already decorated their own evergreens to enjoy for the month of December.

Here’s a look at the history of the tradition of Christmas trees — both real and artificial — and how they became a holiday tradition.

The Origins of Christmas Trees

Records of using greenery to celebrate the holidays predate widespread use of the phrase “Christmas tree.” Rural English church records from the 15th and 16th centuries indicate that holly and ivy were bought in the winter — hence the British carol “The Holly and the Ivy.” Private houses and streets were also decorated with greenery at this time, according to Judith Flanders’ Christmas: A Biography. Flanders posits that a precursor to the Christmas tree can be seen in the pole that parishes would decorate with holly and ivy, like a winter Maypole; one account describes a storm in London that knocked over a poll that’s described as “for disport of Christmas to the people.”

A lot of myths surround the origins of Christmas trees. One legend says that Martin Luther, who catalyzed the Protestant Reformation, believed that pine trees represented the goodness of God. Another myth popular in the 15th century tells the story of St. Boniface, who in the 8th century thwarted a pagan human sacrifice under an oak tree by cutting down that tree; a fir tree grew in its place, with its branches representing Christ’s eternal truth. Some versions of this St. Boniface legend say he cut down the new fir tree and hung it upside down, which is believed to have led to the tradition of trees being hung upside down to represent the Holy Trinity — sometimes with an apple wedged at the point instead of a star. All of these stories may have helped the Christmas tradition spread.

But the real origins of Christmas trees appear to be rooted in present-day Germany during the Middle Ages.

In 1419, a guild in Freiburg put up a tree decorated with apples, flour-paste wafers, tinsel and gingerbread. In “Paradise Plays” that were performed to celebrate the feast day of Adam and Eve, which fell on Christmas Eve, a tree of knowledge was represented by an evergreen fir with apples tied to its branches. Flanders finds documentation of trees decorated with wool thread, straw, apples, nuts and pretzels.

The oldest Christmas tree market is thought to have been located just over the southwestern German border in Strasbourg in Alsace (which was back then part of the Rhineland, now in present-day France), where unadorned Christmas trees were sold during the 17th century as Weihnachtsbaum, German for Christmas tree. Flanders says the “first decorated indoor tree” was recorded in 1605, in Strasbourg, decorated with roses, apples, wafers and other sweets, according to her research.

Demand for Christmas trees was so high in the 15th century that laws were passed in Strasbourg cracking down on people cutting pine branches. Ordinances throughout the region of Alsace limited each household to one tree in the 1530s.

How Christmas trees got popular in U.S.

References to Christmas trees in private homes or establishments in North America date back to the late 18th century and early 19th century. Flanders mentions a reference to a pine tree in North Carolina in 1786. In 1805, a school for American Indians run by Moravian missionaries sent students “to fetch a small green tree for Christmas.” Similar examples pop up in the first half of the 19th century in the Midwest and further West, such as the German immigrants in Texas who decorated trees with moss, cotton, pecans, red pepper swags and popcorn.

                       

But the image of a decorated Christmas tree with presents

 underneath has a very specific origin: an engraving of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert and their children gathering around a Christmas tree, eyeing the presents underneath, published in the Illustrated London News in 1848. The premier women’s magazine in America back then, Godey’s Lady’s Book, reprinted a version of the image a couple of years later as “The Christmas Tree.”

Illustrations of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert and their children gathered around their Christmas tree helped popularize this tradition in the U.S.

Illustrations of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert and their children gathered around their Christmas tree helped popularize this tradition in the U.S. Getty Images

“This single image cemented the Christmas tree in the popular consciousness, so much so that by 1861, the year of Albert’s death, it was firmly believed that this German prince had transplanted the custom to England with him when he married,” writes Flanders.

The tradition of gigantic Christmas trees in public spaces seems to be an American one that dates back to the late 19th century. The electricity lobby pushed for the first “National Christmas Tree” at the White House as a publicity stunt for the glories of electricity: a nearly 60-ft.-tall balsam fir tree covered in 2,500 light bulbs. A 20-ft.-tall Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center first went up in 1931 when the building was still under construction; by putting so many people unemployed during the Great Depression back to work, the tree became a symbol of hope.

The changing Christmas tree

In December 1964, TIME magazine heralded a new Christmas trend: fake trees.

The Polyvinyl versions looked more realistic than ever before, and they made up about 35% of the $155 million Christmas tree business in the U.S., according to an article headlined “And a Profit In A Polyvinyl Tree.”

Fifty years later, artificial trees still dominate the Christmas tree industry. Of the roughly 95 million American households with Christmas trees in 2018, 82% of the trees were artificial and 18% were real, according to a Nielsen survey. The reasons for this ratio are many. Climate change has made trees more difficult to grow. Farmers planted fewer trees during the Great Recession, and in general, trees take 7 to 10 years to grow. And there are even shortages of the farmers who grow them, as they age out of the business. Artificial trees are also hailed as having a lower environmental impact than buying trees, when the transporting them to retail outlets is factored in.HEALTH

But the National Christmas Tree Association is appealing to those same environmentally conscious consumers by arguing that real trees support local economies — they are grown in the U.S. and in Canada, while many plastic trees are manufactured in China — and that real trees are renewable resources and recyclable, while the artificial kinds could contain some non-biodegradable parts.

Five decades ago, a professor in Montreal who was hard at work trying to develop a longer-lasting real tree explained to TIME the larger philosophical argument for preserving the tradition of real Christmas trees: “We live in an artificial environment. The Christmas tree is one of the few things left that is natural.”