Winter Observances & Celebrations

A christmas tree.

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Myriad cultural, religious, artistic, mystical and spiritual observances of the winter season

The diversity of winter festivals and observances around the world reflect the myriad cultures celebrating them. Because winter comprises the Northern Hemisphere’s darkest and coldest months, fire and light are traditional symbols of celebrations in this half of the globe.

From candles flickering in Jewish homes to Christmas trees decorated with lights; from the burning of the Yule log to the lighting of the kinara, winter celebrations such as Hanukkah, Christmas, Yule and Kwanzaa incorporate light into the festivities.

In some countries, people take to the streets in celebration, such as in China, where the winter season is commemorated with lavish street festivals during the Lunar New Year. The Mexican tradition of Las Posadas is also a social event, celebrated with street parties and processions paying homage to Mary and Joseph’s search for lodging in Bethlehem. Some spiritual observations, like the Buddhist holiday Bodhi Day, are more meditative.

Other winter holidays are celebrated with feasts, such as Santerian saints’ days or Baha’i faith’s spiritual observances. Learn more about worldwide winter observances and celebrations in such articles and online destinations as:


1. All About Kwanzaa

2. All Is Not Calm over Decorations

3. 3 Military Chaplains Reflect on Holidays in the War Zone

4. By Jove! It’s Christmas

5. Myriad Faiths Celebrate Many Special Days


Hanukkah: From the Collections of the National Sound Archives

DHA May Not Slow Alzheimer’s

According to a recent study, supplementation with the fatty acid docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) may not slow cognitive decline in patients with Alzheimer’s disease.

Fatty acids, particularly omega-3 fatty acids like DHA, are important for the growth and functional development of the brain in infants. Earlier evidence has suggested that fish oil, which contains DHA and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), may help prevent cognitive decline in older adults.

The study, funded by Martek Biosciences (the manufacturer of the DHA pills used in the study) and the National Institute on Aging, included 401 adults with mild-to-moderate Alzheimer’s disease. The participants were randomly assigned to receive either 2 grams of DHA or placebo daily for 18 months. A total of 295 people completed the trial.

Cognitive function was evaluated using the Alzheimer’s Disease Assessment Scale and Clinical Dementia Rating and was found to be similar between both groups. When the researchers reviewed MRI scans in a subset of patients, they found that DHA did not appear to affect the rate of brain atrophy.

Although no benefit was reported in this study, fish oil has been shown to have various other health benefits. For instance, fish oil is commonly taken to help prevent heart disease, and supplementation has been shown to help lower triglyceride levels and blood pressure, reduce mortality rates and abnormal heart rhythms and prevent strokes and atherosclerosis. However, high doses may have harmful effects, such as increased risk of bleeding.

For more information about omega-3 fatty acids, please visit Natural Standard’s Foods, Herbs & Supplements database.


1.      Natural Standard: The Authority on Integrative Medicine.

2.      Quinn JF, Raman R, Thomas RG, et al. Docosahexaenoic acid supplementation and cognitive decline in Alzheimer disease: a randomized trial. JAMA. 2010 Nov 3;304(17):1903-11. View Abstract

Where do Snails come from?

Roman snail near Dourbes, Belgium. Diameter: ~...

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“Where do snails come from?”
Ray Harrison
Richmond Heights Memorial Library
Richmond Heights, MO

The Roman Snail is the largest European snail, with a globular shell reaching a diameter of 2 in. (5 cm), colored creamy white with pale brown spiral bands. Prized as food, especially in France, the species was farmed by the Romans. Considered a vineyard pest, the species is widespread in Central and Southeast Europe; it has been introduced into United Kingdom, Scandinavia, and Spain. Its courtship is elaborate, taking several hours and involving exchange of love darts. Batches of about 40 eggs laid in ground from late spring to summer hatch three to five weeks later, according to Grzimek’s Animal Life.

Since we no longer have Grzimek’s Animal Life one can find information about Snails in Science in Context. If you search for Snails you will find a main article on Snails. The following is from the article:

Snails have occupied practically every type of habitat that supports animal life. Dehydration appears to be the greatest danger for terrestrial snails, while predation is the greatest danger for marine snails. Bieler has estimated that 53% of all snail species are prosobranchs, largely marine, 4% opisthobranchs, entirely marine, and the remaining 43% pulmonates, terrestrial and freshwater. In intertidal zones, numbers of prosobranchs such as the common periwinkle Littorina littorea is immense. According to Abbott, Littorina probably reached North America from Europe on driftwood “before the time of the Vikings” (about AD 1000) and gradually extended its range from Newfoundland to Ocean City, Maryland. In exchange, about 100 years ago northern Europe was invaded by the common slipper shell Crepidula fornicata, which has proliferated to the point of being a pest of English oyster beds.

For younger students use Kids InfoBits or World Book For Kids

Gulf Oil Spill

The Deepwater Horizon oil spill (appearing as ...

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The Gulf oil spill may not be spewing oil anymore, but it continues to effect the environment, economy, and political arena.

Explore the Gulf oil spill in an new, interactive tool from Gale designed to engage students.

Check out Zoom: Gulf Oil Spill, and let us know what you think!

Memorable Battles in World History

It’s difficult to judge the lasting impact of current military events, as the true significance of particular battles can only be determined with the passage of time. And military victory is not the only metric for importance; conflicts may have far-reaching political, economic, and cultural consequences that only become apparent months, years, or even generations later.

Help your students analyze battles that changed the world with this FREE online resource – Memorable Battles in World History, loaded with the reliable reference content and primary sources you’ve come to expect from ABC-CLIO. Content includes:

  • A thought-provoking “Examine” Section containing a student activity that promotes critical thinking
  • A thorough “Need to Know” Essay written by leading expert Spencer C. Tucker
  • Over 80 images, maps, and reference entries that boost understanding of the significance of military battles.

You can find additional information on world conflicts in these Virtual Library’s online resources: