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Yule log

The Yule log, Yule clog, or Christmas block is a specially selected log burnt on a hearth as a Christmas tradition in regions of Europe the United Kingdom, subsequently the Americas. The origin of the folk custom is unclear. Like other traditions associated with Yule, the custom may derive from Germanic paganism. American folklorist Linda Watts provides the following overview of the custom: The familiar custom of burning the Yule log dates back to earlier solstice celebrations and the tradition of bonfires; the Christmas practice calls for burning a portion of the log each evening until Twelfth Night. The log is subsequently placed beneath the bed for luck, for protection from the household threats of lighting and, with some irony, fire. Many have beliefs based on the yule log as it burns, by counting the sparks and such, they seek to discern their fortunes for the new year and beyond. Watts notes that the Yule log is one of various "emblem of divine light" that feature in winter holiday customs.

According to the Dictionary of English Folklore, although the concept of Yule extends far into the ancient Germanic record long before Christianization, the first "clear" references to the tradition appear in the 17th century, thus it is unclear from where or when the custom extends. However, it has long been observed that the custom may have much earlier origins, extending from customs observed in Germanic paganism; as early as 1725, Henry Bourne sought an origin for the Yule log in Anglo-Saxon paganism: Our Fore-Fathers, when the common Devices of Eve were over, Night was come on, were wont to light up Candles of an uncommon Size, which were called Christmas-Candles, to lay a Log of Wood upon the Fire, which they termed a Yule-Clog, or Christmas-Block. These were to Illuminate the House, turn the Night into Day, it hath, in all probability, been derived from the Saxons. For Bede tells us, That this Night was observed in this Land before, by the Heathen Saxons, they began, says he, their Year on the Eight of the Calenders of January, now our Christmas Party: And the Night before, now Holy to us, was by them called Mædrenack, or the Night of the Mothers … The Yule-Clog therefore hath been a Part of those Ceremonies which were perform'd that Night's Ceremonies.

It seems to have been used, as an Emblem of the return of the Sun, the lengthening of the Days. For as both December and January were called Guili or Yule, upon Account of the Sun's Returning, the Increase of the Days; this was the Reason of the custom among the Heathen Saxons. …" More G. R. Willey says: Communal bon-bons with feasting and jollification have a pagan root—ritual bonfires at the beginning of November once signaled the start of another year and the onset of winter, their subsequent incorporation into the Christian calendar, to become part and parcel of the festival of Christmas, their association with the New Year is an intriguing story. Many, if not all, of the various customs and traditions at one time extensively witnessed at Christmas and the'old' New Year stem from this common source, e.g. Twelfth Night bonfires, including'Old Meg' from Worcestershire and burning the bush from Herefordshire, first footing, etc. … Any traces of primitive ritual such as scattering of burnt ashes or embers as an omen of fertilisation or purification have long since disappeared.

The events of Yule were held to have centred on Midwinter, feasting and sacrifice were involved. Scholar Rudolf Simek comments that the pagan Yule feast "had a pronounced religious character" and that "it is uncertain whether the Germanic Yule feast still had a function in the cult of the dead and in the veneration of the ancestors, a function which the mid-winter sacrifice held for the West European Stone and Bronze Ages." Yule customs and the traditions of the Yule log, Yule goat, Yule boar are still reflected in the Christmas ham, Yule singing, others, which Simek takes as "indicat the significance of the feast in pre-Christian times." The Yule log is recorded in the folklore archives of much of England, but in collections covering the West Country and the North Country. For example, in his section regarding "Christmas Observances", J. B. Partridge recorded then-current Christmas customs in Yorkshire, Britain involving the Yule log as related by "Mrs. Day, Minchinhampton, a native of Swaledale".

The custom is as follows: The Yule log is given, is at once put on the hearth. It is unlucky to have to light it again after it has once been started, it ought not go out until it has burned away. To sit around the Yule log and tell ghost stories is a great thing to do on this night card-playing. Two large colored candles are a Christmas present from the grocery. Just before supper on Christmas Eve, while the Yule log is burning, all other lights are put out, the candles are lit from the Yule log by the youngest person present. While they are lit, all wish, it is common practice for the wish to be kept a secret. Once the candles are on the table, silence may be broken, they must be allowed to burn themselves out, no other lights may be lit that n

Mechanics Hill

The Town, now known as Robbins, NC began in 1795 when gunsmith Alexander Kennedy and his family left Philadelphia to settle along Bear Creek. Kennedy set up a factory, which produced long rifles for American soldiers, near the site of the present day Robbins Water Plant; the Kennedy rifle works continued in operation until 1838 and the place became known as Mechanics Hill. Kennedy established what was reputed to have been "the largest gun factory in this part of the south" in which he worked as many as seventy-five hands. According to tradition, Kennedy bought part interest in a small gun shop owned and operated by William Williamson after which they ran the concern jointly as Williamson and Kennedy. A few old guns in the section bear the initials "W. W. and D. K." Later, Kennedy bought out sole interest in the business. Various types of guns and swords were made in this factory; the finer rifles were said to have been ornamented with silver melted from sixteen silver dollars and sold for proportionately higher prices.

Large grindstones, which were operated by water power, shaped the barrels into octagonal shape and the metal was drawn out and molded by large trip hammers operated by water power. The task of truing the sights on the rifles was accomplished by shooting across the millpond to a target on the other side, near which stood a man to mark the deviation from the bull’s eye; the sights were patiently varied until they were found true. Many of these guns are said to have been used in the War of 1812. So important did this business become that a post office was established there and names Mechanics Hill. There is a local legend to the effect that Kennedy, weary of paying such a high price for his gunlocks which he "imported" from a New York factory, made a trip on horseback to the latter factory, where he found that the secret method used in making the locks was guarded. Undaunted, he wormed his way into the good graces of the workers and operators by his violin music, which they admired. Once inside the shop, he soon discovered the secret involved and returned to Mechanics Hill where he began to make his own.

A contemporary writer described the business in 1810: We have no manufactories unless the efforts of a couple of Riffle Makers deserve that name – these Men are Self Taught and believed to excel any Gun Smiths in the State for Neteness and Elegence of Work, The Profits of David Kennedy is worth about $15,00 and that of his Brother about $1000 P. Annum. Little else is known of the sylvan operator other than the fact that he is said to have given the land and borne the expense for the construction of the old Mechanics Hill Baptist Church, the first Baptist Church in that section of Moore County. Described as "a substantial frame building 40 x 60 ft." The building is still standing at Flint Hill between Robbins. Inside one may still see the narrow, uncomfortable wooden seats, typical of earlier days. Planked wood railings divided the pews from each other; the Durham and Charlotte Railroad reached Mechanics Hill in 1899

Kawasaki-juku

Kawasaki-juku was the second of the fifty-three stations of the Tōkaidō. It is located in Kawasaki-ku in the present-day city of Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan. Kawasaki-juku was established as a post station by the local magistrate Hasegawa Nagatsuna, it was the last post station to be built along the Tōkaidō. It was located near Heiken-ji, a famous Buddhist temple, so it was used by travelers coming to pray; the classic ukiyo-e print by Andō Hiroshige from 1831–1834 depicts travelers in a ferry-boat crossing the Tama River, passengers waiting on the further bank. Mount Fuji is depicted in the far distance. Tōkaidō Shinagawa-juku - Kawasaki-juku - Kanagawa-juku Carey, Patrick. Rediscovering the Old Tokaido:In the Footsteps of Hiroshige. Global Books UK. ISBN 1-901903-10-9 Chiba, Reiko. Hiroshige's Tokaido in Poetry. Tuttle. ISBN 0-8048-0246-7 Taganau, Jilly; the Tokaido Road: Travelling and Representation in Edo and Meiji Japan. RoutledgeCurzon. ISBN 0-415-31091-1