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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

Ottawa families give mixed reviews for online schooling

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So, how’s it going with online school? Families reached by CBC Ottawa seem to have mixed reviews. 

Masuma Khan is a mother of two. Her seven-year-old, Hana Wyndham in Grade 2, is attending French immersion virtual school. Masuma is grateful it’s an option, but can’t help notice a lot of down time.

“There’s a lot of, ‘are you on mute?’ In terms of the amount of learning that’s actually happening, it does seem to be not that high,” said Masuma.

Parents who kept their children at home this fall are in the minority, but they still form a significant chunk of families in Ottawa.

In the city’s largest school board, the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board (OCDSB), about 27 per cent of elementary students and 22 per cent of high school students chose online learning. The Ottawa Catholic School Board says roughly a quarter of its students are online.

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Top environment official urges Canadians to back Ottawa’s ambitious plans to tackle plastic trash

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The second in command at the federal Environment Ministry challenged Canadians to continue to speak up about the problem of plastic pollution and push elected officials, scientists and businesses to do more.

Quebec MP Peter Schiefke, parliamentary secretary to the minister of Environment and Climate Change Canada, made the comments online at Vancouver’s annual zero waste conference on Friday.

He said most Canadians want solutions to curb the tens of thousands of tonnes of plastic garbage that ends up as litter each year on the country’s beaches, parks, lakes and in the stomachs of animals. 

“Making sure that message is heard with industry stakeholders, elected officials and make sure that they are constantly putting pressure on it … so we notice that this is something that Canadians want, the backing of Canadians to go and undertake these huge challenges,” he said.

Schiefke filled in for  Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson at the last minute after Wilkinson was called away to meet with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

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OC Transpo’s monthly bus pass one of the most expensive fares in Canada

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OTTAWA — OC Transpo’s monthly bus pass is one of the most expensive passes in Canada, and transit riders are facing another 2.5 per cent hike in transit fares on New Year’s Day.

Ahead of Wednesday’s Transit Commission meeting on the 2021 budget, CTV News Ottawa looked at the cost of a monthly adult bus pass at transit services across Canada. Ottawa ranks behind the TTC in Toronto, Mississauga’s “MiWay”, Brampton Transit and Vancouver “TransLink” Zone 2 access to the suburbs for most expensive transit fares in Canada.

The cost of an OC Transpo adult monthly bus pass is currently $119.50 a month.

The 2021 City of Ottawa budget includes a proposed 2.5 per cent hike in transit fares. If approved, an adult monthly transit pass will increase $3 to $122.50, while a youth pass will increase $2.25 to $94.50 a month.  The cost of an adult single-ride cash fare would rise a nickel to $3.65.

The TTC is the most expensive transit service in Canada, charging $156 a month for an adult fare. MiWay charges $135 a month, and the cost of an adult monthly pass with Brampton Transit is $128.

Metro Vancouver’s transportation network “TransLink” has three fare zones. The monthly bus pass cost for “Zone 1”, which covers Vancouver, is $97 for adults. The “Zone 2” fare, which covers Vancouver and the suburbs of Richmond and Burnaby, is $131 a month.

Edmonton Transit Service, which includes a Light Rail System with 18 stations on two different lines, charges $97 a month for an adult monthly bus pass.

An adult monthly bus pass in Calgary costs $109 a month.

The survey by CTV News Ottawa of transit fares across Canada shows Gatineau has higher transit fares than Montreal and Quebec City. The STO charges $99 a month.

A monthly adult bus pass costs $88.50 in Montreal and $89.50 in Quebec City.

The cheapest adult monthly bus fare is in Charlottetown, at $58.50 a month. A monthly bus pass in Whitehorse costs $62 a month.

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