Happy Holidays Everyone, Peace with Nature, The Discoverer – The Most Beautiful Christmas Trees Around the World, and How to Celebrate St. David’s Day, Wales’ National Holiday

Happy Holidays Everyone, Peace with Nature, The Discoverer – The Most Beautiful Christmas Trees Around the World, and How to Celebrate St. David’s Day, Wales’ National Holiday

Peace with Nature: Photographs and Artwork by Ing-On Vibulbhan-Watts

the Discoverer: The Most Beautiful Christmas Trees Around the World, and  

How to Celebrate St. David’s Day, Wales’ National Holiday by Julia Hammond

 Peace with Nature: Photographs and Artwork by Ing-On Vibulbhan-Watts

Happy Holidays Everyone from Our Family

Ing’s newest logo

 On Sunday, April 4th, 2021 I sat under our rose tree in the garden with my work book and sketched some drawings.  The end result was a peace sign that I will use as one of my logos. It is a good opportunity, and the first time for me to launch my peace artwork on the 4th Of July.  By focusing on peace for the US and the world, came the message of, “KEEP PEACE IN YOUR HEART”, “LOVE” and “NATURE”. This concluded my wishes for myself and everyone on our planet.  

Ing-On Vibulbhan-Watts, Sunday, July 4, 2021

 Peace with Nature

Happy Holidays Everyone from Our Family

John Watts and Ing-On Vibulbhan-Watts

Saturday, December 25, 2021

The Discoverer: The Most Beautiful Christmas Trees Around the World

For many cities, the annual tradition of putting up a Christmas tree is a treasured one. Many of them have a story behind them and all of them provide a little dash of joy to our lives as the nights draw in and the temperatures fall. Here are our picks for the most beautiful Christmas trees around the world!

London, England

Credit: shanneong/Shutterstock

The tree that stands in Trafalgar Square is gifted each year from Oslo. Since 1947, a tree has symbolized the friendship between the two nations. It’s a token of their gratitude for the support shown by Britain during the Second World War, when the Norwegian government and its Royal family were forced into exile during the Nazi occupation. This year’s Norwegian spruce came from Ullevålsseter in Nordmarka and the tree always features vertical strings of lights, typical of the Scandinavian nation’s pared back style.

New York City, United States

Credit: Andrew F Kazmierski/iStock

The iconic tree that stands in front of New York’s Rockefeller Center was originally designed as a pick-me-up for New Yorkers during the Great Depression in the 1930s. The first tree was erected on the site in 1931 by a bunch of local construction workers – two years later it would become an official city tradition. The ice rink followed in 1936. This year saw the 86th tree-lighting ceremony, and once the holiday’s over, the tree will be cut into lumber and donated to Habitat for Humanity, who’ll use it in home construction.

Tallinn, Estonia

Credit: KavalenkavaVolha/iStock

The Estonian capital claims to have been the first in Europe to erect a municipal Christmas tree, though this is disputed by neighboring Latvia, which asserts that Riga’s predated it. Both cities tell the story of the Brotherhood of the Blackheads, a merchant association that donated a tree. Each year, the tree is installed with much ceremony, though never more so than in 1711 when Peter the Great, the Russian Emperor showed up to oversee the proceedings.

Bethlehem, Palestine

Credit: gary yim/Shutterstock

A Christmas tree is especially meaningful in Bethlehem, where it stands in Manger Square in front of the Church of the Nativity. Christians are a minority population here in the town commonly believed to be the birthplace of Jesus, though the town receives thousands of visitors in the run up to this important festival.

Paris, France

Credit: Felix Catana/Shutterstock

The window displays are delightful but it’s the tree inside the French capital’s most famous department store, Galeries Lafayette, that’s breathtaking. Each year, there’s a different theme – last year, it was the Dream Factory, sponsored by luxury watchmaker Piaget. In 2017, the opulent displays featured a tree made of balloons, thought by some to top the amazing upside-down tree that decorated the store a few years back.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Credit: dabldy/iStock

Rio’s Árvore de Natal da Lagoa returned last year after a two-year absence due to lack of sponsorship. That’s good news for Yuletide fans as it’s thought to be the world’s largest floating Christmas tree, occupying a prime spot in the Rodrigo de Freitas lagoon and lit with over 900000 LED bulbs. Thanks to the support of Petrobras, the 70-meter high tree was lit as part of a spectacular music and lights show.

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The Discoverer: How to Celebrate St. David’s Day, Wales’ National Holiday

In the UK, there’s no such thing as Independence Day, because although everyone from the Romans to the Normans has arrived over the years, there’s never been a situation where you’d call it a hostile takeover. In fact, the UK holds a dubious honor: it holds the record for the greatest number of countries which gained independence from a single nation. Over 60 countries commemorate their independence from the UK or Great Britain, including, of course, the United States.

But despite a strong national identity, there’s no British national day. Instead, separate commemorations take place around the nation. In England, St. George’s Day (April 23rd) celebrations waned after the union with Scotland in the 18th century, though St. Andrew’s Day (November 30th) is still an official public holiday north of the border. Northern Ireland adopted St Patrick’s Day (March 17th) as a bank holiday in 2000. The Welsh national day, meanwhile, is held annually on March 1st. Here’s how to celebrate St. David’s Day.

Learn A Little About St. David

St. David’s Cathedral in Pembrokeshire, Wales. Photo by jax10289

St David, the patron saint of Wales, was born in the 6th century. When he was baptized, some believe that the blind monk who held him regained his sight. Following this miracle, the boy David was taught by monks and later adopted their monastic ways. Once, according to legend, he was preaching to a crowd who were struggling to hear him. A dove flew onto his shoulder, the ground lifted up, and his voice was amplified.

Although no one knows exactly when he died, perhaps 589 AD, his death is traditionally agreed to be March 1st. His body was buried at the cathedral in St. David’s in Pembrokeshire, the place that bears his name. In 1123, Pope Calixtus II canonized him and declared that two visits to the saint’s tomb were equivalent to one pilgrimage to Rome. Since then, the day has been important to the Welsh. Read more about St David in this book by Welsh author and historian Gerald Morgan.

Wear a Daffodil – Or a Leek

Daffodil and leek on Welsh flag. Photo by JurassicPaul.

In St. David’s time, records weren’t exactly reliable, but some sources suggest that he may have existed on a diet of leeks and water. Whether that’s true or not, living at the monastery he certainly would have had an austere existence. Some historians think that the tradition of wearing a leek might stem from a 7th century battle; soldiers fighting for the king of Gwynedd, Cadwaladr wore the vegetable to identify themselves against the enemy – a kind of uniform, if you like. Shakespeare, writing Henry V in 1599, mentions in a conversation between Gower and Fluellen the practice of wearing a leek on St. David’s Day. The custom possibly refers to Edward the Black Prince defeating the French at the Battle of Crécy in 1346, when his archers fought in a field of leeks.

One man changed all that: the only Welshman to hold the office of British Prime Minister, David Lloyd George. He encouraged his fellow countrymen to wear a daffodil instead. One myth that perpetuates suggests that Lloyd George wore the flower at a ceremony where the future Edward VIII became Prince of Wales in 1911, though as that took place in July and daffodils bloom in spring, that’s highly unlikely.

Others will point out that one of the Welsh names for daffodil is Cenhinen Bedr, or Peter’s leek, so maybe something got lost in translation. Regardless, Lloyd George was an advocate for the flower, which would have smelled a whole lot better on his lapel than a pungent leek. Grab yourself some bulbs to plant in the fall, wear this pretty pin and bookmark this roundup of the best places to see daffodils in Wales for when travel resumes.

Cook Some Delicious Welsh Food

Traditional Welsh cawl. Photo by CKP1001.

Good news – some of Wales’ best dishes are super easy to cook. Cawl is probably the nearest you’ll get to a Welsh national dish. This tasty stew traditionally uses lamb or mutton, but you can make it with brisket or gammon too. Chunks of meat are slow-cooked with leeks, potatoes, onions, carrots and rutabaga in a meat stock to create a hearty dish that’s both filling and nutritious.

If you’re in the mood for a tasty snack, try a variation of cheese on toast called Welsh Rarebit. Pronounced “rabbit” by some and “rare-bit” by others, a thick cheesy sauce spiked with mustard is grilled over thick slices of crusty bread. Another quintessentially Welsh treat is Bara Brith, a fruit loaf containing tea, once made with yeast but these days much quicker to prepare. Finally, knock up a batch of Welsh cakes. They’re a kind of flatbread whose flavor is boosted by the addition of fat, sugar, and dried fruit before they’re cooked on a griddle pan.

Listen to a Welsh Choir Online

The 2018 National Eisteddfod Welsh Culture Festival in the Bay of Cardiff. Photo by Andreas Zerndl

Music and poetry are of great significance in Wales. For centuries, singing has been a way to pass stories and traditions down from generation to generation. It’s helped, in part, by the poetic nature of the Welsh language. (Incidentally, that didn’t go unnoticed by the author J.R.R Tolkien who appropriated certain characteristics of Welsh for the Elvish language he used in the Lord of the Rings.) Today, Eisteddfodau, the name given to competitive festivals of music and poetry in Wales, are still held on a regular basis, both on St David’s Day and in the summer. The next national Eisteddfod is scheduled for 2022.

After the Industrial Revolution, miners found solace from the hideous conditions of their day job in communal song – by 1900 there were an estimated 5,000 choirs across the country. And because mining was predominantly a male occupation, men-only choirs became common. One of the best is the Treorchy Male Choir, whose members once traveled to Windsor to sing for Queen Victoria. You can listen to them here.

Try a Welsh Tongue Twister

The Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch train station. Photo by hipproductions.

Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch boasts the longest place name not only in Wales, but anywhere in the UK. Translated into English, it means St. Mary’s Church in the hollow of the white hazel near to the rapid whirlpool of Llantysilio of the red cave. Its 58 character moniker is often shortened to Llanfair PG which is considerably easier to fit on an envelope and simpler to pronounce so long as you can master the Welsh “ll” sound. Advanced Welsh speakers could try these fun tongue twisters too.

Dydd G?yl Dewi Hapus! Happy St David’s Day!

About the author: Julia Hammond | Travel Writer

Enthusiastic advocate for independent travel and passionate geographer, Julia considers herself privileged to earn a living doing something she loves. When not roaming the globe, you’ll find her windswept but smiling, chatting away to her two dogs as they wander the Essex marshes.

Top photo by ComposedPix

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