Current Events, Special Days and Historic Anniversaries Brought to Life by Teddy Bears, Pandas and Other Cuddly Creatures
Monthly Archives: February 2014

FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE

by Elspeth

I was on holiday for most of the Winter Olympics but, the moment I returned, The Bears in the Windows insisted that they should mark the four yearly sporting event which somehow never quite manages to create the same excitement and sense of patriotism in this country as the Olympics do.  A panda, dressed in a bright red outfit, skates round her neck (I suspect not quite as graceful as Jayne Torville when she performed the magical Bolero with Christopher Dean 30 years ago), and a polar bear, champion of the ski slopes, were the central figures in the window which also featured a cosily dressed bear holding the Olympic flag, a Cossak dancer, an accordion-playing polar bear and Misha, the brown bear who shot to fame as the mascot of the 1980 Olympics held in Moscow in 1980.  

 

Appropriately, it was a polar bear that was chosen to be one of the mascots for the Sochi Winter Olympics, somehow managing to make an appearance at every event and showing his emotions on a number of occasions.  For example, the dejected white bear was seen sitting, head in hands, alone in the stand, after the Russian men’s hockey team performed so miserably in front of the home crowd and, as the Olympic flame was extinguished at the closing ceremony, a tear rolled down his cheek!

 

As the United Kingdom won their first gold medal on snow at the Sochi Olympics, here are some fascinating facts about the white stuff!

Did you know that the word ‘snow’ dates back to the 9th century, the average snowflake falls at 3mph or that, when it melts, an inch of snow produces less than a tenth of an inch of water?  I know it’s hard to believe, but enough snow fell on the UK on 2nd February 2009 for the entire population to make 251,800 showballs each!  Finally, there’s a word for fear of snow – chionophobia! 

 


FROM TEDDY WITH LOVE!

by Elspeth

Every year, on 14th February, we send cards, flowers, chocolates and often teddy bears in the name of Saint Valentine.  However, strangely enough, Valentine’s Day actually has its origins in the ancient Roman festival of Lupercalia, which wasn’t the least bit romantic.  On the day before the festival began (14th February), the young women would write their names on slips of paper and the young men would take it in turns to draw the name of the person who would be their sweetheart for the next year.  In other words, Lupercalia was like a raffle with women as the prizes!

The romantic side of Valentine’s Day began in 269 AD, when a priest called Valentine defied the Emperor Claudius II, who had outlawed marriage for young men believing that single men made better soldiers, by continuing to marry young couples.  While in prison, Valentine fell in love with his jailor’s daughter and, on the eve of his execution on 14th February, he sent her a note signed ‘From your Valentine’.  When the early Christian church abolished all pagan festivals, Lupercalia was replaced with a day to honour Valentine who, in 496 AD, became the patron saint of lovers.

Most of you will be familiar with the blue and white willow pattern which tells the story of a Mandarin’s daughter called Koong-Se who, although betrothed in marriage to a wealthy older man, falls in love with Chang, her father’s secretary.  The couple use a pair of turtle doves to exchange secret messages and finally run away to be together.  There are various versions of the legend but one is that the Mandarin uses the doves to find Koong-Se and Chang and then throws them into a maze where they eventually die in each other’s arms.  However, the story does have a happy ending as the couple are turned into lovebirds and live together for eternity.  I have a delightful ursine version of the willow pattern story, consisting of two little bears dressed in authentic Chinese costumes who, thanks to the ingenious use of magnets in their noses, appear to be kissing! 

Thanks to the popularity of films like ‘A Night To Remember’ and ‘Sleepless in Seattle’, it’s claimed that the word ‘love’ is spoken at the top of the Empire State Building over three million times every year!  On Valentine’s Day, 100 lucky couples are married on the Observatory floor and, that evening, the tower’s lights (which are usually white) turn red to mark the most romantic day of the year.

While in New York in 2002, my husband and I decided that the iconic building was the perfect place to go on our 6th wedding anniversary which was six days before Valentine’s Day.  We travelled there in style in a horse-drawn carriage, but the journey was by far the most romantic part of the evening as, although the views of Manhattan’s fantastic skyline were breathtaking, the viewing platform itself wasn’t at all romantic!  All was not lost, though, as Jim bought me a cute little Empire State Building teddy as a memento of that special day! 

Although, for us, New York was perhaps not quite as romantic a destination as Paris, Rome or Venice, love was definitely all around.  From the windows of our hotel room on the 40th floor we could see the Love sculpture which stands on the corner of 6th Avenue and 55th Street.  This all-year-round monument to love was a much photographed spot and I even managed to persuade one of my bears to venture out of our hotel room into the bitter cold and snow to have his photograph taken though, I must admit, we had a few strange looks from passers-by! 

The stores were full of cuddly teddies – some dressed in sweaters bearing loving messages and others decorated with red hearts or flowers.  There were even bears holding bags of chocolate kisses, just perfect for chocoholic arctophiles!  Many stores also had teddy-themed Valentine displays like FAO Schwarz where ‘love was in the air.’  However, despite the obvious popularity of Valentine’s Day in America, it’s apparently the people of Great Britain who send more Valentine cards than any other country.

As you’ll see, the Bears in the Windows are real romantics and, believe it or not, for the last few years, have received a Valentine from a secret admirer!  This year, some of the bears have taken a trip to romantic Paris, while some prefer to celebrate what’s supposed to be the most romantic day of the year at home. Giving someone a teddy bear is the perfect way to show how much you care as, when the chocolate box is empty, the champagne has lost its fizz and the red roses have wilted, a teddy will be a permanent huggable reminder of how you feel!


HAPPY ANNIVERSARY

by Elspeth

Eighteen years ago today, Jim and I were married at Lake Eola in Florida and, this year, The Bears in the Windows decided to dedicate a window to us!

We chose Lake Eola for its beautiful setting – the lake, the fountain, the red bridge, the Oriental pagoda and the swans, some of them black, all providing perfect photo opportunities to remember this very special day – and because it was the complete antithesis of all the razzamatazz of Disney.

THE CHINESE PAGODA, LAKE EOLA

Given the months of organising and agonising that most brides experience when planning their weddings in this country, ours was incredibly easy to arrange.  Having bought the licence the day we arrived, we then found a notary public, a photographer and a florist, collecting my bouquet of pink roses on the way to the ceremony.    

While Jim opted for a more informal look, the ursine groom looks dapper in his top hat and tails and, while I wore a twenties style ivory dress (the only thing organised in advance) with a garland of roses in my hair, my ursine lookalike looks lovely in a traditional white wedding gown.  On one side of the teddy twosome is a little bear holding a congratulatory balloon and, on the other, to commemorate the fact that we were married in Orlando, the home of Disneyworld, is Winnie the Pooh!  I couldn’t find a black swan to complete the picture and so, instead, Holly, our little black dog, takes pride of place in the official wedding photo!  

     

 


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