A Holiday Beauty
Did you know the poinsettia, one of America’s most colorful holiday decorations, is not technically a flower? It’s a fact. The poinsettia is an unusual plant that grows wild in Central America but got its American name from the man who brought it here from Mexico around 1830.
Since the plant normally reaches full bloom during the holiday season, it has been called the “flor de pascua”-Christmas flower by Spanish-speaking people for centuries.
The plant caught the attention of J.R. Poinsett when he was serving as U.S. Ambassador to Mexico. He packed several of the plants in his belongings and brought them to the United States when his tour of duty in Mexico ended. An enthusiastic gardener and horticulturist, Dr. Poinsett planted this holiday beauty in his garden in Charleston, S.C. The plant flourished and was later named in his honor.
The colorful leaf-like fronds at the top of the poinsettia are not the petals of a flower but are called bracts. They surround a central cluster of tiny bead-like flowers. Since Dr. Poinsett introduced the plant, it has been grown in many parts of North America and changed dramatically by horticulturists. Florists now cultivate white, pink mottled and striped poinsettias. Even so the brilliant red of the first poinsettias remain the favorite.
The timeless beauty of the poinsettia can remind us of the true meaning of the holidays. But we should also remember that the season brings distractions and hazards that demand special safety precautions.
Be aware that hazards increase during the holidays. Poinsettias and other holiday decorations must be kept clear of fireplaces and other sources of heat. Check all decorative lights for signs of frayed cords or exposed wires, and be sure to turn them off before leaving the house or going to bed.
Watch for hazards that could lead to a slip, trip, fall or pinch. Use your on-the –job safety know-how at home to inspect indoor and outdoor decorations for defects. Dispose of used wrappings safely to prevent fire.
Practice safe driving. Driving can be especially dangerous during the holidays because of the extra traffic and extra hours of darkness. Always allow plenty of time for your trip, buckle up and adjust your speed for weather and traffic conditions. Never drink and drive. Keep the joy in your holiday and the spirits under control.
Just as a centuries-old-holiday decoration still fits our modern lifestyle, we need to remember that safety is always in season. Keep the beauty and joy in your holidays this year by following the time-tested rules of accident prevention.
WISHING YOU A SAFE & JOYOUS HOLIDAY SEASON
*COPYRIGHT 2005 Harkins Safety B206
Did you know that our word “holiday” actually comes to us from ancient times when it meant “holy day”, a time of rest and devotion?
In many cultures and in many lands, the beginning of winter-the winter solstice-is honored as a special holiday. This is the time when earth is the farthest from the sun, resulting in the shortest day of the year. Here are just some of the ways people around the world celebrate the winter solstice.
Some experts say that the Mesopotamians were the first to mark the winter solstice over 4,000 years ago. They took part in a 12-day festival to honor the god Marduk.
The native Americans also celebrated the winter solstice and they marked the event with rock paintings. The paintings, by the Chumsuh Indians who occupied coastal California thousands of years before the Europeans arrived, still exist.
China and Tibet also observe the beginning of winter with merry-making and feasting in their winter solstice celebration. It’s part of their cultural heritage and has been for centuries.
The early Germans, in their winter solstice celebration, built a stone altar to Hertha, the goddess of domesticity and the home to mark the beginning of winter. When a fire was lit on the altar, Hertha was able to descend on the smoke and foretell the future of those assembled at the feast in her honor.
However you choose to celebrate the winter holidays you’re taking part in a tradition that is as old as the mists of history. At this time of year when we count our blessings and enjoy the company of family and friends, it’s vital to make safety a part of every day. That’s especially important in the days leading up to the holidays. You don’t want to ruin your celebration with an accident because your mind was elsewhere.
So pay extra attention to the safety rules and guidelines that you follow throughout the year. Stay alert, practice good housekeeping and keep an eye out for fire hazards, especially around holiday decorations. Take extra care when traveling home for the holidays. Watch for hazardous road conditions and don’t drink and drive. Also be courteous to other holiday travelers on the road so everyone can enjoy the holidays. Remember staying safe is the best way to keep your holidays happy.
CELEBRATE THE HOLIDAYS SAFELY
*COPYRIGHT 2006 HARKINS SAFETY (B221)
The Gift of Giving
Did you know that the holiday tradition of collecting donations in the Salvation Army’s red kettles was started by a man who wanted to give a free holiday meal to the poor? Here’s the story.
In 1891 Salvation Army captain, Joseph McFee wanted to give a free Christmas dinner to the San Francisco area’s poor, but he had limited resources and needed a creative solution. McFee remembered his days as a sailor in Liverpool, England where he recalled a large pot being displayed on the stage landing. This pot was called a “Simpson’s Pot” and passers-by would toss in donations of a coin or two to help the poor.
With the city’s permission, McFee placed a similar kettle at the Oakland ferry landing at the foot of San Francisco’s Market Place with the sign ”Keep the Pot Boiling”. In this busy spot, the kettle drew attention from the people going to and from the ferryboats. In no time at all, McFee had the funds to provide a free meal for the needy and a holiday tradition was born.
By 1895 some 30 Salvation Army Corps on the West Coast had adopted the practice. When two Army officers, McIntyre and Lewis were transferred to the East Coast they took the idea with them. Initially they were met with a lack of enthusiasm. Some of their fellow officers feared they would be “making a spectacle of themselves” and refused to support the idea.
Undaunted, William McIntyre, his wife and his sister set up three kettles at Washington Street in the heart of the city. The idea was a success. That year in Boston and other cities nationwide 150,000 holiday dinners were served for the needy.
In 1901, contributions in New York City funded the first great sit-down dinner in Madison Square Garden, a tradition that continued for many years.
Today the needy are still invited to share holiday dinners at the thousands of Salvation Army centers throughout the country. In addition, many poor families are given grocery vouchers so they can prepare their own dinners at home.
Those familiar red kettles remind us of the spirit of giving we associate with the holidays. The best gift you can give your family is your safety every day of the year.
As the holidays draw near, don’t become distracted on the job thinking about holiday parties, spending time with family and friends, buying gifts and putting up decorations. That moment of inattention could lead to an accident. Remember to take extra precautions when driving too. The long hours of darkness, bad weather conditions and drivers who may have had too much to drink require special attention. At home, look for possible fire hazards and use common sense when it comes to candles, fireplaces and holiday decorations. Keep your holidays happy by staying safe on and off the job.
SAFE WORK DAYS BRING HAPPY HOLIDAYS
*COPYRIGHT 2004 HARKINS SAFETY (B190)