The poinsettia, Euphorbia pulcherrima, is the birthday plant for today. The generic name may be related to the Greek euphoreo = “bring forth abundantly” and/or phorbe = “pasture, fodder, forage”. The latter is more unlikely as most plants in this genus bear a poisonous sap. The plant is long associated with the festivities of Christmas and the bright red “flowers” are the bracts (highly coloured leaves) that surround the small and rather insignificant flowers. The plant signifies in the language of flowers: “All that shines is not gold”.
Today is the birthday of:
Henry VI, king of England (1421);
John Eberhard, pencil maker/industrialist (1822);
Joyce Kilmer, poet (1886);
Lynn Fontanne, actress (1887);
Ira Gershwin, US lyricist (1896);
Gunnar Myrdal, Swedish sociologist (1898);
Agnes Moorehead, US actress (1906);
Dave Brubeck, pianist (1920);
Henryk Mikolaj Górecki, Polish composer (1933);
Chelsea Brown, actress (1947).
It is St Nicholas’s Feast Day today. St Nicholas was a bishop of Myra in Asia Minor in the 4th century. Even as a baby, legend recounts, he was so pious that he would not suckle milk on Wednesdays and Fridays, the Days of Penance. He is reputed to have saved three maidens from prostitution one night by throwing to them through their window three golden balls, which they used as dowry. He also revived three murdered boys that were thrown in a brine tub. He is thus considered the patron saint of children. The connection with the brine may also account for his patronage of sailors in some countries (e.g. Greece). Pawnbrokers also claim the saint as their own, using the three golden balls recounted in the saint’s story as an emblem.
Today is also Finland’s Independence Day (since 1917). Finland is a Nordic country situated in the Fennoscandian region of Northern Europe. It is bordered by Sweden to the west, Norway to the north and Russia to the east, while Estonia lies to the south across the eponymous Gulf of Finland. An estimated 5.4 million people live in Finland, with the majority concentrated in its southern regions. In terms of area, it is the eighth largest country in Europe and the most sparsely populated country in the European Union. Politically, it is a parliamentary republic with a central government based in Helsinki, local governments in 336 municipalities and an autonomous region, the Åland Islands. From the 12th until the start of the 19th century, Finland was a part of Sweden. It then became an autonomous Grand Duchy within the Russian Empire until the Russian Revolution and Russia’s withdrawal from World War I in 1917. This prompted the Finnish Declaration of Independence, which was followed by a civil war where the pro-Bolshevik “Reds” were defeated by the pro-conservative “Whites” with support from the German Empire. After a brief attempt to establish a monarchy in the country, Finland became the republic that it remains today. Finland joined the United Nations in 1955, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in 1969, the European Union in 1995 and the eurozone at its inception in 1999. During this time, it built an extensive welfare state. Finland presents both eastern and western European attitudes to global politics and economics. According to some measures, it has the best educational system in Europe and has recently been ranked as one of the world's most peaceful and economically competitive countries. It has also been ranked as one of the world’s countries with the highest quality of life.
And if you want to prepare for tomorrow, it will be International Civil Aviation Day which is annually observed December 7 to raise awareness of the importance of international civil aviation and the role that the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) plays in international air transport. The organization is a United Nations (UN) body responsible for developing international standards for aviation safety. ICAO, with support from governments, organisations, businesses and individuals, actively promotes International Civil Aviation Day through various activities and events. This day is celebrated globally, especially in countries such as South Africa, through various activities such as seminars, published material, educational lectures, classroom activities, and news announcements on international civil aviation topics related to the day.