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From Queen Victoria to modern technology: The history of the Christmas tree

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In the story of St. Boniface, a Thunder Oak decorated with lit candles and gilded apples was glowing in the dark forest one Christmas day in 8th century Germany. The pagan god Thor was to be appeased with a human sacrifice. But Wynfred, an English Christian missionary later to be known as St. Boniface, split the giant oak into four parts with one stroke of an axe, revealing a small fir tree nearby … the first Christmas tree, perhaps.

SOME ARBOREAL HISTORY

The exact origin of the Christmas tree isn’t known, but for centuries, people have had the urge to decorate trees at this time of year.

In ancient Rome, decorated trees were part of the festival of Saturn, celebrated beginning Dec. 17. The Paradise Tree of the Middle Ages was a fir tree hung with red apples, a prop used in the Biblical play telling the story of Adam and Eve. That tradition was moved into homes after the “miracle plays” were banned in the 15th century. In Germany, a written record from 1604 describes trees decorated with paper roses, apples, and figures of Adam and Eve and a serpent.

The custom of decorating trees at Christmas gained popularity in the British Empire in 1841 when Queen Victoria and Prince Albert celebrated the birth of their first son with a decorated tree at Windsor Castle.

AND NOW FOR SOME LIGHTS

In the late 19th century, gas jets and then electric lights were tried as replacements for candles.

According to the National Electrical Contractors Association, the first electric Christmas lights were lit in 1882, three years after the incandescent bulb was invented. Edward Johnson, a friend and partner of Thomas Edison, hand-wired 80 “patriotic” red, white and blue bulbs and wound them around a rotating evergreen tree in his home. In subsequent years, publicity (such as Grover Cleveland lighting the White House tree with electric lights) and electrification in rural areas made electric Christmas tree lights more popular.

THE TREE

The “technology” of the tree itself has also advanced over the years, mostly to adapt to warmer and drier homes. Firs, spruces and some pines were found to be the best evergreens at holding onto their leaves under these conditions, both for looks and to reduce the fire hazard from dry leaves indoors.

Another way to offset the effects of today’s drier homes is to put the tree in the coolest spot, or at least not right where an air duct spills hot air out into the room. Spraying the tree with an anti-transpirant such as Wilt-Pruf also helps. Keeping the base of the tree in water — after making a clean cut — allows water to enter the base to replace moisture lost through the needles. A couple of tablespoons of bleach in the water inhibits bacterial growth which clogs the stems.

Still, Christmas trees — and Christmas — don’t last forever. You may be heartened to know that the residents of Christmas, Florida, live up to their name by maintaining a year-round Christmas tree.

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LIFESTYLES

University of Windsor establishes first Canadian transportation cybersecurity centre

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The University of Windsor will be the site of Canada’s first organization dedicated to countering threats to the connected transportation marketplace.

The SHIELD Automotive Cybersecurity Centre of Excellence will focus on developing the skills, innovations and policy to secure connected and autonomous vehicles.

Researchers will partner with industry, government and community stakeholders.

Co-founding and heading up the centre will be Dr. Mitra Mirhassani of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Dr. Ikjot Saini of the School of Computer Science.

In the past year, the two University of Windsor professors were both recognized as being among Canada’s top talents in the automotive cybersecurity field.

“Hardware and software vulnerabilities could put personal information and vehicle safety in jeopardy,” said Mirhassani.

“Transportation systems are especially susceptible to attacks from malicious actors due to the complexity, implementation costs and lifecycles of equipment and platforms.”

The SHIELD centre is a continuation of the Windsor region’s focus on developing its cybersecurity ecosystem.

The province has already designated the area as the regional tech development centre for cybersecurity and border logistics.

The cybersecurity centre got a further boost this week with the announcement of a memorandum of understanding with the Automotive Parts Manufacturing Association (APMA).

APMA and SHIELD will collaborate to develop market-based technologies to meet the needs of producers and consumers and build academic programs to address industry’s evolving requirements.

“We hope that this partnership will help to advance a cybersecurity culture shift in the industry in Canada,” said APMA president Flavio Volpe.

“There is much work to be done to protect our collective interest in advancing this country’s globally competitive automotive sector.”

The centre will also promote the sharing of knowledge among parties to advance standards and enhance policies in the field.

Part of the plan is to offer micro credentialing through the university’s Continuing Education programs.

“We plan to offer consultation and test services to small- and medium-sized Canadian companies that will help them stay up to date,” said Dr. Saini.

“Open-access publications and public webinars will widely share the latest information.”

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Hamilton police charge ‘Hugs Over Masks’ protest organizers in two separate events

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TORONTO — Hamilton, Ont., police say they have charged two organizers of an anti-mask protest group for holding events that allegedly violated public health rules.

Police say the events were held in downtown Hamilton on Jan. 3 and Jan. 10.

The force alleges that 40 people attended first event and 60 attended the second.

Current provincial restrictions limit gatherings to a maximum of 10 people outdoors.

Police say they informed the “Hugs Over Masks” organizers that the planned Jan. 10 gathering would result in charges, but they went ahead with the event.

They say a 27-year-old man and 38-year-old woman are facing charges under the Reopening Ontario Act that carry a minimum fine of $10,000 if convicted.

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Ontario issues stay-at-home order to start Thursday as Ford declares state of emergency

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Premier Doug Ford is declaring another state of emergency, effective immediately, in response to surging COVID-19 infection rates.

In a news conference on Tuesday, Ford announced Ontario is issuing a stay-at-home order, effective 12:01 a.m. Thursday.

It requires people to stay home except for essential activities such as accessing health care or shopping for groceries.

The new measures also include restricting the hours of operation for non-essential retail stores such as hardware stores to between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m.

Addressing big box stores, which are allowed to remain open, Ford said an inspection blitz is coming to ensure they are following proper protocols.

“I’m going to come down on them like an 800-pound gorilla,” he said.

Schools in Hamilton, Toronto, York, Peel and Windsor-Essex will not return to in-person learning until Feb. 10.

Other public health regions, including Halton and Niagara, will find out when students can return to class by Jan. 20.

Schools will now require students in grades 1-3 to wear masks and masks will be required outside where physical distancing can’t be maintained.

Child-care centres for non-school aged children will remain open.

The premier announced the restrictions shortly after the province released new projections that show the virus is on track to overwhelm Ontario’s health-care system.

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