They say that the Eskimo and Inuit peoples have over 100 words for snow.
Is this actually true, or is it just a cliché?
There has been heated debate on whether the Eskimos really do have that many distinct words for snow. I consulted Giles Whittell’s 2019 book “Snow: A Scientific and Cultural Exploration” for information.
Whittell refers to a recent contribution to the question by the Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center. They determined that in Canada’s Nunavik region, the Inuit there have 53 distinct words for snow; in the Central Siberian Yupik dialect they counted 40.
Among the words listed in the Yupik dictionary are:
“kanevvluk” = fine snow “navcaq” = snow formation about to collapse “qanisqineq” = snow floating on water “utvak” = snow carved in a block, as for an igloo
Clearly, those living in the extreme north do have far more words to describe snow than those who makes their homes farther south.
As Whittell says, “…people learn to describe in greatest detail what matters most to them.”
I suppose that the number of words a culture has to describe something tells us a great deal about the importance they place on it.
It’s natural to divide your life into “before” and “after,” isn’t it?
We mentally calculate whether something happened before or after certain important events in our lives.
We might say that such-and-such happened before we moved to Boston, or after we got married. We may recall that another thing happened after we had our son but before the twins were born.
Ancient cultures did something similar. Those with monarchies would mark events in relation to what king was on the throne at the time. They’d say that something happened in the 9th year of the reign of King so-and-so.
Certainly, most of us will divide our lives into pre-and post-pandemic eras. March of 2020 was a clear demarcation point between our previous “normal” life and one dominated by COVID-19.
The dividing lines of our lives will be different for all of us, but what most of the world has in common is the use of the same calendar system to mark off years. This system has its own before-and-after pivot point.
For instance, most of us just celebrated the start of AD 2022.
What does the “AD” mean, anyway? Or “BC” for that matter?
The Faith Cafe will be taking a short break over the holidays, but I’ll look forward to seeing you again in the New Year.
In the meantime, I’ll leave you with this quotation:
“God grant you the light in Christmas, which is faith; the warmth of Christmas, which is love; the radiance of Christmas, which is purity; the righteousness of Christmas, which is justice; the belief in Christmas, which is truth; the all of Christmas, which is Christ.” (by Wilda English)
Remember, the best Christmas gift is to realize how much you already have!
Wishing you and your family peace, love, goodwill, and all the other blessings of Christmas, plus a happy and healthy 2022!
They say that it’s impossible for bumble bees to fly.
The theory goes that their weight and size are too great for their tiny wings to support, so according to the laws of aerodynamics they shouldn’t be able to get off the ground.
The only problem is, no one has told the bumble bees that.
They seem to have no difficulty in buzzing about in the air from flower to flower, collecting pollen and nectar to bring back to the hive.
So how do they do it, when physics would seem to suggest that they can’t?
For a long time, this was a mystery to us. Eventually we discovered that bumble bees actually don’t defy the laws of aviation: they simply fly in a different way than a plane or bird does.
We learned that the propeller-like way they beat their wings creates an invisible force above them, like a mini-tornado or -hurricane. This vortex actually sucks them upward, giving them lift in spite of their weight.
There was more going on than met the eye, which allowed the “impossible” to happen.
Likewise, when we believe in God, there is more going on in our lives than we’re aware of.
When God is working in your life, sometimes He will cause the impossible to happen, even when you can’t see how it could.
If you had to guess, what would you say is the most valuable thing in the world by weight?
If you’re a cook, you might pick costly foods like beluga caviar or white truffles. Or perhaps the spice saffron, which can go for thousands of dollars per pound.
If you’re a jewellery lover, your mind might go to precious metals like silver, gold or platinum. You’d know that gold has been revered since ancient times, and sometimes goes for thousands of dollars per ounce.
You’d be getting warmer if you worked in industry and knew that some substances used in things like catalytic converters are very costly indeed. Rhodium and palladium are even more valuable than gold.
These would all be good guesses, but not even close.
What about diamonds as the most valuable thing on earth by weight? Very rare coloured diamonds such as the red can be valued at millions of dollars per gram.
If you’re a scientist, you might get closer by guessing plutonium, used to fuel nuclear reactors. Or you might figure you’ve hit the jackpot by picking antimatter, which might power spaceships one day.
This substance requires inconceivable amounts of energy to generate. It’s estimated that antimatter costs tens of billions or even trillions of dollars per gram.
But there’s one thing on earth more valuable than even that…
What traditions does your family have when it comes to Christmas gifts?
Do some of your family members like to give “prank” gifts?
This seems to be the specialty of a lot of Dads. Kids unwrap a gift from Dad to find an iPad box, and squeal with glee. When they open the box, however, they discover that inside are a bunch of eye pads! Thanks, Dad!
Or perhaps your family likes to disguise what the gift really is by wrapping it in a way that leaves you guessing. You might receive a large box, but when you unwrap it you find that it contains a series of increasingly smaller boxes. The last one contains the real gift, which might be a tiny box with jewellery inside.
In my family, we always open our gifts on Christmas Eve, not Christmas Day itself. This tradition started when a certain little girl, who shall remain nameless, couldn’t wait until Christmas morning to see what “Santa” had brought her.
But no matter how a gift is wrapped or when it’s given, offering the gift is only half the equation.
It has to be received before the action is complete.
We seem to have difficulty being still these days, don’t we?
For many of us, life happens at warp speed. We’re always on the go, and have little downtime to pause and reflect on things.
But with all our constant motion, are we missing out on something?
Recently, I visited a park with a pond large enough to almost be a small lake. A slight breeze left ripples on the water, disturbing the reflection of the trees in the distance. The image on the water’s surface was wavy and impressionistic, not a true representation of the landscape nearby.
I then walked to a different part of the park where a river flowed lazily into the pond. The water was running slowly, and because it was sheltered from the breeze in this area, it was very still. The trees here were perfectly reflected in the water, giving a mirror image of their true forms.
I guess that to get the best reflection in water, stillness is the key.
Perhaps the spiritual lesson here is that if our lives are too frantic, it’s hard for us to reflect Christ.
One of the greatest natural events on Earth is now underway: the migration of the monarch butterfly.
Each fall, millions of these colourful insects set off from their summer breeding grounds in the northeastern U.S. and Canada for a gruelling journey. They travel thousands of miles across North America all the way to Mexico, where they’ll spend the winter.
Many people believe that the monarch butterflies which leave in the fall are the same ones which arrive back in the spring, but this isn’t so. Individual butterflies don’t make the entire round-trip journey. The ones which migrate from the northeastern part of North America in fall will never return.
Rather, their great-great-grandchildren are the ones who will arrive the following spring, as successive generations keep making their way north. The entire annual migration cycle of the monarch takes about four generations.
Perhaps I’m being fanciful, but I can imagine monarch butterflies telling their children of the awesome journey they’ll be undertaking. They may say that they’ll only be able to go part of the way with them, but to keep the faith and keep going.
Maybe they encourage their children to tell successive generations to keep believing in the promise of return. Because eventually, their descendants will see the promise fulfilled.
One of the wonderful things about chocolate (and there are many), is how well it pairs with other foods.
Chocolate seems to go well with just about everything. It marries happily with fruits like strawberries, raspberries, pears, cherries and bananas. It perfectly complements the flavours of nuts, such as peanuts, cashews, hazelnuts, almonds and macadamia nuts.
Chocolate cheerfully coexists with citrus, coconut, ginger, caramel, coffee, dairy or mint. It has even been known to blend with the flavours of chili and meat in some Mexican dishes.
Some adventurous people claim that chocolate goes well with broccoli (well, perhaps…if you held the broccoli).
You’ve got to hand it to a food that is uncompromising about its own flavour yet harmonizes with such a wide variety of other substances.
Did you know that the Bible implies that we should be a bit like chocolate? Not in so many words, of course, but the concept is still there.