The Rocket Flame

10 Ways To Make Your Christmas Season Sleigh

After all the turkey and stuffing is gone, and 95.1 immediately begins playing Christmas music, it’s time to get into the Christmas spirit. You can finally crank up “Jingle Bells” and decorate your tree with no judgment of celebrating “too early.” There are many little things you can do to make your Christmas season as festive as possible.


Hershey Sweet Lights in Hershey, PA is a 2-mile drive through about 600 different displays of animated Christmas lights. As you drive through the winding  path, you can tune your radio to the special station that corresponds to the dancing and twinkling lights.

Hershey’s Sweet Lights in Hershey, PA.

Another way to enjoy the Christmas season is to take advantage of the deals when it comes to holiday shopping. Many stores have special promotions going on for buying lots of gifts. Malls and stores are decorated for the season and luring shoppers in with their sales and festive music. Locally, many people go to the Valley Mall or the Hagerstown Premium Outlets to do their holiday shopping.


Immediately after Thanksgiving, the upbeat and happy Christmas music begins to play which makes it obvious that it’s time for the holidays and to celebrate. Listening to Christmas music is a central idea in the holiday season.


“Listening to Christmas songs makes me enjoy this season so much because it just warms my heart how happy everyone gets,” said Lizzie Pittman (12).


One prominent thing in the holidays is shopping for a Christmas tree. Picking out a live Christmas tree is a unique experience when it comes to just getting an artificial tree out of a box every year.


“Finding the perfect Christmas tree with my family really puts me in the holiday spirit,” said Nathan Walls (12).


Another idea is ice skating. Locally, you can go to the Hagerstown Ice and Sports Complex and lace up a pair of ice skates. Admission is $5.00 and skate rental is $2.00.


“I really enjoyed going  ice skating my first time”, said Marlee Barry (12), “I liked it so much I actually once thought about taking lessons”.


Many locals in our area also spend time at Whitetail Ski Resort throughout the winter season, whether it’s time spent working, skiing, snowboarding or tubing. Whitetail has not yet opened for the season but will soon begin making snow for lots of skiers and snowboarders to enjoy.


Around this time is when many family members and friends give and receive gifts from one another. Many people participate in “Secret Santa” gift exchanges. Names are drawn out and you must get a gift for that person and keep it a secret until you exchange gifts.


“Secret Santa is a great way to celebrate the holiday because of the suspense and excitement it creates by not knowing who is surprising you”, said Emily Gipe (12).


Student Council also holds the annual Food Drive for the holiday season where students can bring in non-perishable canned goods to donate to families in need. The competition that takes place between the homerooms to win the prize gets lots of students participating.


There are also many other ways to donate back to the community during the holidays. Many “Toys for Tots” boxes and local shelters and organizations are in need of donations.


“We should all aspire to help others because helping other should be a part of your life,” said Mallory Peck (11). “Seeing someone else happy and know you were able to make that happen in some sort of way is one of the best feelings.”


Snickerdoodles, chocolate chip, and sugar cookies are another way add to the holiday season. Many people bake treats to share with friends and family as a miniature present and a way to enjoy each other.


“My family always has a cookie bake day where we all get together at my great aunt’s house to eat lunch, bake cut out cookies, make a craft, and just have a good time in everyone’s company,” said Elena McNulty (11).


Memories and traditions made this time of year become annual and a special part of many people’s Christmas.


“My favorite tradition is playing Hershey Kiss Oven Mitt Relay Race at my Nana’s house after dinner,” said Harley Rife (12). “We put on oven mitts and try to unwrap a Hershey Kiss. When everyone on your team unwraps their candy, they get to open gifts first and also receive a mystery gift.”


When it’s time to relax by the Christmas tree, make sure you include watching lots of Christmas movies. This time of year, many TV channels and apps like Netflix have a wide selection of Christmas movies to enjoy with your families. Some movies to watch on Netflix are How The Grinch Stole Christmas, A Princess Switch, The Christmas Chronicles, and A Christmas Prince.


“All my family watches Hallmark Christmas movies the entire day of Christmas Eve in our matching pj’s and then we make home made cookies for the younger ones to put out for Santa,” said Kali Rotharmel (12).


Many memories can be made and fun can be had while doing activities during Christmas. You can spend time enjoying the weather and seasonal activities, but always remember the real reason for the season and what it means to you.


What on Earth are You Doing on Earth Day?


Surrounded by lush plants and flowers, a tree grows in the safety of old rubber boots

It’s April 22, 1970. Nobody seems to be noticing the increasing pollution in the air from cars and factories or the damage that oil spills can have like the one that occured a year prior in Santa Barbara, California. That is everyone except for a Wisconsin senator by the name of Gaylord Nelson. Using the zest and motivation from the students and people holding anti-war protests against the Vietnam War, Nelson decided to create a national day in honor of environmental awareness; this day is known as Earth Day.


When the first Earth Day occured in 1970, it was a huge hit. According to The History of Earth Day article, 20 million Americans took part in rallying and cleaning the Earth. Many schools would even hold demonstrations teaching people about the effects of pollution. From there, Earth Day became an annual event that is always celebrated on April 22.  


The next big celebration of Earth Day took place in 1990. On this year, Earth Day spread from only being honored in America, to being honored worldwide. The number people that celebrated Earth Day grew from 20 million to 200 million throughout 141 countries.


Today, Earth Day is celebrated by over a billion people all over the world. Within our school, there are several people who are planning on commemorating this day. For instance, the James Buchanan Student Council is planning a service event for Earth Day. One of the co-chairs of the Community Service Committee, Claire Kriner (10), hopes to clean waste around the school or even the town of Mercersburg during the weekend.


“Every month, the Community Service Committee co-chairs have to come together and scheduled an event or activity which the student council has to participate in,” Kriner said. “For April, we saw Earth Day as a perfect opportunity to give support to the environment and clean up trash.”


A teacher at James Buchanan, Mr. Michael Mele, is a huge advocate for the environment. Every year, Mele and his family always take time out of the day to recognize how important a clean and healthy environment is.


“Protecting the environment is one of the most important things we can do as people, not just for ourselves, but for our kids and then their kids and so on,” Mele said. “Every year, my wife and I recognize Earth Day and talk about it with our kids and tell them the importance of protecting the environment. Then we usually plant a tree every Earth Day.”


  Many people view the Earth’s environment and how important it is differently. However, Earth Day brings many people together to honor our one and only home, Earth.


Seasons Greetings from Japan

The Story of Christmas in the Land of the Rising Sun


With the holiday rush in full swing, it’s hard to make time for relaxation. When taking a step back from the Christmas chaos, people may begin to think about how to escape the craziness. Why not run off to Japan? It wouldn’t seem like a candidate for causing holiday insanity, but as it would stand, they’ve even got their own Christmas traditions, too.


Buddhist monks, Kentucky Fried Chicken, and fantastic light shows are all great things, but aren’t quite the “merriment and Christmas traditions” most households have in mind.


In Japan, only about 1% of the entire population is Christian, so the practice had not been an established holiday for very long. According to Muza-chan, it was not until 1552 when Christmas was first practiced. At that point, Christmas was practiced very traditionally, but with slight alterations to the ornaments on their trees adapting to Japanese culture.


By 1635, Muza-chan notes, the practice had been banned by Japanese authority under the Sudoku Edict, a ban placed against all things Christian.


In 1875, Christmas time made a non-religious resurgence thanks to yuletide stories like Santakuro, which taught children of Santa Claus, and his jolly gift-giving nature. According to Muza-chan, other tales of Old Chris Cringle depicted him as a brave samurai and even the monk god of contentment, Hotei.


Over time, Hotei evolved into Hoteiosho, the Japanese Santa Claus. He is described as a jolly and round monk, who gives presents to children who have been good that year. It is also said that Hoteiosho has eyes on the back of his head, making him able to see if the children have been bad or good.


Now, Christmas in Japan is bigger than ever, although many of the traditions practiced in the U.S. don’t fly overseas.


To start, Christmas is seen as a couple’s holiday, much like Valentine’s Day, and is often celebrated by young partners and newlyweds as a day to appreciate having each other. Couples commonly give each other gifts and go on dates to celebrate the season of cheer.


As for children and parents, the holiday is more similar to Christmas in the U.S. than for couples. In Japan, the holiday is spent at home with family, everyone opens presents from under the tree. Often times friends and extended family will visit for Christmas dinner.


Christmas dinner in Japan does not include the traditional prime cuts of roasted ham, beef, goose, or turkey. There are no pies, plum puddings, or Christmas cookies, either. Instead, approximately 3.6 million people flock to KFC, according to Eric Barton’s article for the BBC. The rush is so great that many people order weeks in advance to avoid waiting in line for hours.


KFC for Christmas started off as a discount party barrel as well as Colonel Sanders dressed as Colonel Santa, but over time it changed into a family-sized package of fried chicken, wine, and cakes. For extra fees, the meal can be upgraded to a premium edition, with an entire roast chicken and sides.


Aside from Christmas dinner, many holiday-themed treats and collectibles are made just for the season of giving.


The most common treats are Christmas cakes; small sponge cakes decorated with candy scenes of Santa Claus. The cakes are decorated in a similar manner to gingerbread houses and are put on display like gingerbread houses like them as well.


Other Christmas treats include seasonal mochi: small rolls of semi-firm bean paste that are sweetened and powdered then decorated to look like Santa Claus and other mascots. Thematic bento boxes are organized meals that usually consist of sushi, sashimi, tempura, rice, and soy sauce. During the holidays, many bento boxes are made to look like Christmas trees as well as other symbols of the holidays.


There are also many practices taken to spread merriment, but the biggest of all are illuminations, massive light shows that are synchronized and worked on for months prior.


The largest of the illuminations is in the Tokyo Skytree Town, which has the tallest Christmas tree in the world. The illuminations last from Dec 1 to Dec 25.


From monks to light shows, Christmas in Japan is as unique and chaotic as Christmas in the US. Still yet, many people partake in the merriment and cheer of the season, in one way or another.

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