Should old acquaintance be forgot?

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is almost New Year’s eve! Although most people are happy to be saying goodbye
to the year 2020, it has certainly been a year to remember! Of course, when we
talk about New Year’s eve, the words of Auld Lang Syne will surely come up! Why
is that? What’s the song about?

song’s melody is synonymous with the new year (and the theme of change) in the
English-speaking world, despite nearly incomprehensible words. The problem is
that the text on which the song is based is not in English at all — it’s
18th-century Scots, a similar but distinct language responsible for lyrics in
the song such as “We twa hae run about the braes / and pou’d the gowans
fine” that are utterly incomprehensible to Americans.

the story of how an 18th-century Scottish ballad became
synonymous with the new year is tangled, involving both Calvinist theology’s
traditional aversion to Christmas and the uniquely central role that watching
television plays in American New Year’s celebrations. Bridging the gap is a
once-famous, now-forgotten Canadian big band leader who for decades defined New
Year’s Eve and transformed a Scottish folk custom into a global phenomenon.

old acquaintance be forgot?” is a rhetorical question the song asks?

answer is that it’s a rhetorical question. The song is asking whether old
friends should be forgotten, as a way of stating that obviously one should not
forget one’s old friends. The version of the song we sing today is based on
a poem published by Robert Burns, which he attributed to “an old
man’s singing,” noting that it was a traditional Scottish song. 

remember to not forget about your old friends! And on that note, let’s dive deeper
into the cultural history of New Years.

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Assarhadon – Babylon

earliest recorded festivities in honor of a new
year’s arrival date back some 4,000 years to ancient Babylon.
For the Babylonians, the first new moon following the vernal
equinox—the day in late March with an equal amount of sunlight and
darkness—heralded the start of a new year. In 45 B.C., New Year’s Day is
celebrated on January 1 for the first time in history as the Julian calendar
takes effect.

after becoming Roman dictator, Julius Caesar decided that the traditional
Roman calendar was in dire need of reform. Introduced around the seventh
century B.C., the Roman calendar attempted to follow the lunar cycle but
frequently fell out of phase with the seasons and had to be corrected. In addition,
the college of priests, the Roman body charged with overseeing the calendar,
often abused its authority by adding days to extend political terms or
interfere with elections.

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Chinese New Year

of the oldest traditions still celebrated today is Chinese New Year, which is
believed to have originated over 3,000 years ago during the Shang Dynasty. The
holiday began as a way of celebrating the new beginnings of the spring planting
season, but it later became entangled with myth and legend. According to one
popular tale, there was once a bloodthirsty creature called Nian—now the
Chinese word for “year”—that preyed on villages every New Year. To frighten the
hungry beast, the villagers took to decorating their homes with red trimmings,
burning bamboo, and making loud noises. The ruse worked, and the bright colors
and lights associated with scaring off Nian eventually became integrated into
the celebration.

traditionally last 15 days and tend to center on the home and the family.
People clean their houses to rid them of bad luck, and some repay old debts as
a way of settling the previous year’s affairs. To encourage an auspicious start
to the year they also decorate their doors with paper scrolls and gather with
relatives for a feast. Following the invention of gunpowder in the 10th
century, the Chinese were also the first to ring in the New Year with
fireworks. Since Chinese New Year is still based on a lunar calendar that dates
to the second millennium BC, the holiday typically falls in late January or
early February on the second new moon after the winter solstice. Each year is
associated with one of 12 zodiacal animals: the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon,
snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog, and pig. Modern
celebrations of the Lunar New Year include the tradition of giving the
gift of a bright, beautiful red envelope (known as hóngbāo) to your
friends and family. These envelopes are filled with money – and symbolize good
wishes, luck, and prosperity for the new year ahead.

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Nowruz Table

Iran and other parts of the Middle East and Asia, the roots of Nowruz (or “New
Day”) reach far back into antiquity. Often called the “Persian New Year,” this
13-day spring festival falls on or around the vernal equinox in March and is
believed to have originated in modern day Iran as part of the Zoroastrian
religion. Official records of Nowruz did not appear until the 2nd century, but
most historians believe its celebration dates back as far as the 6th century
B.C. and the rule of the Achaemenid Empire. Unlike many other ancient Persian
festivals, Nowruz persisted as an important holiday even after Iran’s conquest
by Alexander the Great in 333 B.C. and the rise of Islamic rule in the 7th
century A.D.

observances of Nowruz focused on the rebirth that accompanied the return of
spring. Traditions included feasts, exchanging presents with family members and
neighbors, lighting bonfires, dyeing eggs, and sprinkling water to symbolize
creation. One unique ritual that arose around the 10th century involved
electing a “Nowruzian Ruler”: a commoner who would pretend to be king for
several days before being “dethroned” near the end of the festival. Nowruz has
evolved considerably over time, but many of its ancient traditions—particularly
the use of bonfires and colored eggs—remain a part of the modern holiday, which
is observed by an estimated 300 million people each year.

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the same region, ancient Egyptian culture was closely tied to the Nile River,
and it appears their New Year corresponded with its annual flood. According the
Roman writer Censorinus, the Egyptian New Year was predicted when Sirius—the
brightest star in the night sky—first became visible after a 70-day absence.
Better known as a heliacal rising, this phenomenon typically occurred in
mid-July just before the annual inundation of the Nile River, which helped
ensure that farmlands remained fertile for the coming year. Egyptians
celebrated this new beginning with a festival known as Wepet Renpet, which
means “opening of the year.” The New Year was a time of rebirth and
rejuvenation, and it was honored with feasts and special religious rites.

unlike many people today, the Egyptians may have also used this as an excuse
for getting a bit tipsy. Recent discoveries at the Temple of Mut show that
during the reign of Hatshepsut the first month of the year played host to a
“Festival of Drunkenness.” This massive party was tied to the myth of Sekhmet,
a war goddess who had planned to kill all of humanity until the sun god Ra
tricked her into drinking herself unconscious. In honor of mankind’s salvation,
the Egyptians would celebrate with music, revelry, and—perhaps most important
of all—copious amounts of beer.

you look toward 2021, no matter how you choose to celebrate, we at High Touch
High Tech – Science Made Fun, wish each one of you a safe, happy, and joyous
New Year!

And if
you’d like to kick off the new year with your very own fireworks, try out our
at-home experiment, “Exploding Colors”!

Find a list of what you need and instructions here:

You can
also watch our “How To” video here:

Spice Up Your Winter….with these Winter Spices!

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kitchen has always been a place where people would gather – at birthday
parties, celebrations, holidays, and family gatherings. The act of breaking
bread around a table is more than just a tasty experience, it is a way to provide
nurturing and show love. We see these same traits reflected around the globe in
many different cultures.

When we prepare a meal for special occasions,
especially during the holiday season, there are always certain spices that feature
in our winter dishes. So, let’s talk about herbs and spices. Generally, herbs come
from the green leaves of plants or vegetables. Spices come from other
parts of plants and trees. For example, cinnamon comes from the hard outer
cover of cinnamon plants. The spice ginger comes from the part of the ginger
plant that grows underground!

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It is hard to imagine, in an era where spices can be found in almost every supermarket, how valuable they once were. Wars were fought, fortunes made and lost, new worlds discovered, and civilizations built for the spice trade. Spices were central to all important aspects of life: beauty (as perfume), health (as medicine), spiritual life (via their role in ritual), and, of course, sustenance (as a seasoning). From the regal orange pistils of saffron to the warm, woody bark that rendered cinnamon, they made food memorable and delicious. The fact that they came from faraway places added value. Exotic spices evoked foreign lands and stirred the imagination.

Historically, the lack of fresh produce in the winter months led people to rely more on spices. The winter months can be characterized by the rich, filling, and warming fragrances created by a selection of classic spices known as winter spices, or also commonly referred to as pie spices. Included under this title are anise, allspice, nutmeg, mace, green cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, and ginger.

take a deeper dive into these spices! Each spice is explained below along with
a suggested use.

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Native to Sri Lanka, cinnamon can also be found in India, Myanmar, and South America. This popular spice is brown in color, has a fragrant aroma, and a warm sweet flavor.

Cinnamon can help in relieving
indigestion and nausea. The next time you feel sick or
overwhelmingly full from a huge meal, try some cinnamon tea! Just simmer three
or four cinnamon sticks in two cups of water and sweeten with some honey.

Cloves are the unopened flower buds of the clove tree. Native to Indonesia and India, the clove tree produces flower buds in clusters. These clusters are pale in color at first, then become green, and then bright red when ready for harvesting.

Have you run out of candles this holiday season? Let cloves be your hero by sticking some into oranges and placing them around the house as decorative air-fresheners. You might also want to try chewing on a clove to get rid of bad breath, but do not swallow it! If you find yourself with muscle or joint pains, roast some cloves for a couple minutes, wrap them in a towel and apply to sore spots for relief.

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Nutmeg is the spice made from a seed that grows on a tropical evergreen tree. The tree is native to the Spice Islands of Indonesia. The spice nutmeg has a distinctive pungent fragrance and a warm slightly sweet taste. Did you know that the name nutmeg is also applied in different countries to other fruits or seeds, including Jamaica, Brazil, Peru, and Madagascar.

helps digestion, settles stomach aches and helps you fall asleep. Just add a
small pinch of ground nutmeg to a cup of warm ginger tea to help with stomach
problems. On nights you can’t fall asleep, heat up some milk and sprinkle in
some ground nutmeg.

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Native to southeastern Asia, ginger’s use in India and China has been known from ancient times. The spice has a slightly biting taste and is used, usually dried and ground, to flavor breads, sauces, baked goods, and many other foods. In Japan, slices of ginger are eaten between dishes or courses to clear the palate.

helps increase circulation and relieves congestion and nausea. Make ginger tea
to help reboot your system. Steep one or two teaspoons of freshly grated
ginger or ½ teaspoon of powdered ginger in a cup of boiling water for 10
minutes. But beware, ginger can be pretty spicy! You can always make things
sweeter with a touch of honey.

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Peppermint is a hybrid mint, a cross between watermint and spearmint. Native to Europe and the Middle East, the plant is cultivated all over the world. Peppermint has a strong sweetish odor and a warm pungent taste with a cooling aftertaste. Mint flowers are often dried and used to flavor candy, desserts, beverages, and other foods. Its essential oil is also widely used.

Peppermint can be very helpful as it stimulates digestion, eliminates nausea and toxins, and helps freshen your breath. If taking after-dinner mints or mint gum is not enough, try a cup of freshly brewed mint tea. Take two cups of fresh mint leaves and steep them in a pot of boiling water for a good 8-10 minutes and enjoy! 

as you plan your holiday menu, which of these winter spices will make the cut and
appear in your favorite dishes? The benefits of using these spices go beyond
simply tasting great, but also provide plenty of health benefits too!

High Touch High Tech wishes you and your family a happy, healthy, warm, and spicy holiday season! And if you would like to keep the kiddos busy with some FUN, at-home science experiments during the holiday season, check out our STEM Gingerbread House Building Challenge. Find a list of what you need and instructions here:


First in Flight – Kites

Join High Touch High Tech in celebrating
First in Flight
December 17, 2020

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What comes to mind when you hear this phrase? Orville & Wilbur Wright? The State of North Carolina’s motto and bragging rights? The movie Top Gun? We are taking this theme quite literally, trying to discover the actual first in flight. The answer is the kite!  They are certainly little flying machines that have astounded Man for centuries. There are millions of people around the world, that look up to the skies to watch or fly a kite. “What easier way to get from the ground to the sky”, said Benjamin Franklin when he was trying to figure out the nature of lightning. Kites set people’s imaginations wild.

earliest written account of kite flying was about 200 B.C. when the Chinese
General Han Hsin of the Han Dynasty flew a kite over the walls of a city he was
attacking to measure how far his army would have to tunnel to reach past the
defenses. Knowing this distance his troops reached the inside of the city,
surprised their enemy, and were victorious. How clever?

flying was eventually spread by traders from China to Korea, and across Asia to
India. Each area developed a distinctive style of kite and cultural purpose for
flying them.

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Marco Polo

Polo carried stories of kites to Europe around the end of the 13th century.
Illustrations of the period show non-flying dragon kites on military banners.
Sailors also brought kites back from Japan and Malaysia in the 16th and 17th
centuries. Kites were regarded as curiosities at first and had little impact on
European culture.

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons
Benjamin Franklin

back in the Americas, men like Benjamin Franklin and Alexander Wilson used
their knowledge of kite flying to learn more about the wind and weather. Sir
George Caley, a very important figure in aeronautics, who quite fancied
aviation himself, Samuel Langley, an astronomer, Lawrence Hargrave, an engineer
and explorer, Alexander Graham Bell, an inventor and scientist, and the Wright
Brothers, the aviation pioneers! All of these people have experimented with
kites and contributed to the development of the airplane, and our understanding
of flight. They have all contributed to man’s desire to reach for the skies,
and ultimately the stars.

its invention, there have been many adaptations to the kite by various cultures
around the world. The kite you probably flew as a kid looks a bit different to
the original Chinese kites and even the kites of modern China. 

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons
Chinese Dragon Kite

A Chinese kite in ancient times would have used simple materials such as wood and cloth. They were often made to resemble the shapes of birds. Today, elaborate and large designs can be seen flying above parks in China. They will often resemble real animals and members of the Chinese Zodiac. Some kites will have LED lights attached to allow for night flights and fun light shows. There is even a kite museum where you can view designs and learn more about the history of kites through the ages!

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons
Weifang Kite Museum, China

how do kites actually fly? What is the science behind them?

let’s talk about airplanes.  An airplane
flies because the wings create lift. The air going over the wing is moving
faster than the air going under the wing, and this creates a low-pressure causing

terms of kites, lift is generated by differences in air pressure, which are
created by air in motion over the body of the kite. Kites are
shaped and angled so that the air moving over the top moves faster than the air
moving along the bottom. To launch a kite into the air the force of
lift must be greater than the force of gravity, just like airplanes!

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Who’s ready to fly a kite? If you’re ready, check out our at-home experiment: Chinese Kite! Grab your materials and follow along with the lesson plan to make your very own kite!

Poinsettia Day

Join High Touch High Tech in Celebrating
Poinsettia Day
December 12, 2020

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Poinsettia Day – Yay! What is this day all about? It all started with a

Roberts Poinsett was a botanist, a scientist who specializes is plants and
trees. He was also a physician, and the 1st United States Ambassador
to Mexico. Poinsett introduced these beautiful red, white, or pink plants, that
were named after him, poinsettias. This man sent poinsettias from Mexico back
to greenhouses that he owned in South Carolina. Before its renaming as the
poinsettia, the plant was known as the “painted leaf” or the “Mexican flame
flower.” Its scientific name is Euphorbia pulcherrima.

Spain, Puerto Rico, and other Central America countries the
poinsettia is known as Flor de Pascua or Pascua, meaning Christmas
Flower. Poinsettias have served important roles throughout
history, for example: The Aztecs used the plant to produce reddish-purple dye
and as an antipyretic (fever reduction) medication.

Christmas time, and what do you see in the storefront of just about every shop
you pass? Besides sprigs of holly and bright, twinkling lights, you are likely
to see colorful arrangements of poinsettias too.

These breathtaking flowers are common during
the holiday season. However, do you know why? The poinsettia has a deep
cultural and symbolic meaning. Seen as a symbol of purity by the Aztecs, in
today’s language it symbolizes cheer, success, and brings wishes of mirth and
celebration! Recognized as the birth flower for December, poinsettias
are used as decorations to create a festive atmosphere throughout the
entire world, particularly in Europe, but also in the USA, Canada, South
Africa, and Australia.

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Paul Ecke Jr is considered the father of the poinsettia
industry due to his discovery of a technique which caused seedlings to branch.
This technique allowed the poinsettia industry to grow! The Paul Ecke Ranch in
California grows over 70% of the poinsettias sold in the USA! The Ecke family
had a secret technique that caused every seedling to split and branch,
resulting in a fuller plant.

A poinsettia fun fact is that in 1952 the NCAA College football
arena in San Diego was named the Poinsettia Bowl! Interestingly, the poinsettia’s main attraction is not its flowers, but its
leaves! The flowers of the plant are the yellow clustered buds in the center
(termed “cyathia”). The colored leafy parts are bracts or modified leaves, that
turn color in response to the plant forming flowers. When buying a poinsettia,
make sure it has the buds, preferably not yet open.

Interested in learning more about plants in general? Check out our Smarty Plants at-home experiment to see if you can extract the chlorophyll out of a plant leaf. If your poinsettia has any green leaves, you can test them for chlorophyll too! Grab your supplies & check out our lesson plan here: