Penpalling & Letters

Thursday, 30 December 2010

New Year's Celebrations

January the 1st represents the fresh start of a New Year. This day was, traditionally, a religious feast, but since the 1900s has become an occasion to celebrate the night of December 31, called New Year's Eve. There are fireworks at midnight at the moment the New Year arrives in many countries of the world, but there are some other traditions. Let's see how some people are celebrating the arrival of the New Year:

Deirdre in the Netherlands: On the 31st most people work but if you have a nice boss you'll quit work early in the afternoon. In the afternoon we make "oliebollen" and "appelbeignets" and eat them! :) In the evening we watch TV (loads of standup comedians and special New Year's Eve programs on TV) and wait till it's almost 00:00. Then, we toast with champagne and run out to light fireworks and chat with the neighbors.

Angie in Germany: Here, in Germany (although I can talk only for my family, of course), we do celebrate usually with family or friends. Usually we prepare "Fondue or Raclette" for food, but this year I do something which doesn't need so much time to get prepared at all. ;) We do play games until midnight arrives and when it is 00:00 we are going to wish each other a Happy New Year. Most people do drink champagne and also we do watch the firework we bought some days before. Usually, after beeing stiff and frozen we eat "Goulash soup" and do lead pouring afterwards, to see what the New Year brings. :) "Lead pouring" (das Bleigießen) is an old practice using molten lead like tea leaves. A small amount of lead is melted in a tablespoon (by holding a flame under the spoon) and then poured into a bowl or bucket of water. The resulting pattern is interpreted to predict the coming year. For instance, if the lead forms a ball (der Ball), that means luck will roll your way. The shape of an anchor (der Anker) means help in need. There are of course even more meanings. It is a lot of fun. :)Well, this was a brief overview about how we celebrate here. ;)

Erika in Mexico: Here, in Mexico, it's maybe a bit different than in other countries since New Year is similar to Christmas. We have lunch with family and by night, in many clubs and bars, there are parties to say HELLO to the New Year. As for my family, we have lunch and by night we just have a small dinner and watch TV while we wait for midnight to make our twelve wishes by having twelve grapes :) This year I'm planning to make some Asian style noodles for New Year's eve :) hehe I think New Year's dinner is more casual and there are not very specific meals, but the MUST have are the GRAPES :) and some apple cider for the toast. :)

Kristi in Washington, USA: Here in Seattle there are many celebrations. There is a very large one at the "Space Needle" where they have traditional New Year's Eve fireworks. Thousands of people gather to watch the fireworks. In my family we stay off the streets due to the many drunk drivers. We just have a quiet evening at home.

Mary in Illinois, USA: We eat ham, beans, corn bread, fried potatoes, cabbage... Me and my hubby are going to watch the "Ball drop" at home.

Louise in Australia: My hubby is working at New Year's Eve so I will be home alone. :(

Karen in United Kingdom: I was going to go to a party but we are all ill, so we are going to stay in. Usually, people celebrate here partying and really drinking too much!

Ami in Thailand: I usually celebrate it in the "Gurudwara" (Sikh Temple). This year I'm travelling to Mae Sot (a town in western Thailand that shares a border with Myanmar to the west).

Thanaphon Bamrungkarn in Thailand: I will be watching the fireworks in the sky!

Lisa in Florida, USA: At home safe and warm with my daughter! Boy, am I getting old! LOL!

Teresa in Czech Republic: This year, me and my husband will go to our friends' place and celebrate - a bunch of people at a home-party. Nothing too wild. :) We will also watch fireworks at midnight over Prague! :)

Kris in Michigan, USA: At home relaxing!

Heather in Arizona, USA: Get drunk at a house party with my boyfriend and other friends! :)

Misae in Japan: About New Year's Eve... In Japan we are pounding steamed rice into the dough used for rice cakes (haha!). It's a traditional custom... It sounds funny, right!? Have a good New Year everyone!

Ramona in the Netherlands: We spend it at home... Some food on the table and blow some fireworks in the air!

Anita in the Netherlands: I will go to my sister-in-law and have dinner with her and her son while my boyfriend has to work till 23:00. :( After dinner we will go to a party of my boyfriends' uncle where a lot of other family members are comming, too. :D And as for New Year's Day I just don't know.

Aya in Japan: I celebrate it by eating noodles on New Year's Eve to wish for a long lasting healthy New Year (it's a Japanese tradition) and spend the New Year's Day with my family. :)

Darja in Germany/from Russia: It seems that in Germany people like to spend New Year's Eve quietly at home or go out to a big and loud party, but the most important thing is that around 12:00 pm people will go out and make fireworks! Russians also got to love this activity... Go on reading more about it by visiting Darja's Blog: "Starshine whirls make my head spin" where she explains about New Year's Traditions in Germany, Russia or even Japan!

If you are interested in reading more articles related to the Christmas time and New Year's, check the following:

- Sinterklaas
- The Saint Nicholas tradition
- The Christmas Season in Spain
- New Year's Celebrations
- The Three Kings Day or "Día de Reyes"

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

The Versatile Blogger Award!

Some time ago I received this prize from dear Ana! It was such a big surprise! This is the first prize I receive and since it is given by a lovely friend it makes the whole thing even more special. As Ana describes in her Blog when she got it, I also felt the same thrilled and honoured to receive it from her. ¡Muchas gracias querida amiga!

When receiving this prize some "stuff" has to be done, so here there are the steps to follow in the "Versatile Blogger Award":

1. Be sure to thank and link back to the person who gave you the award
2. Share seven things about yourself
3. Pass the award to other bloggers who you think deserve it
4. Be sure to let the bloggers know you chose them to receive the award

Number 1 is already done, so let's go on with step number 2, in which I have to share seven things about myself... Here they go:

1. So far I don't think I told much about myself, so now you know that my name is Beatriz. For short I am also called Bea, which is quite convenient, especially for international contacts. Many people still mistake my name with Beatrice, Béatrice or Beatrix because in their countries it is written like that. In Spanish language ends in z, though.

2. I come from "Galicia" in northwestern Spain, the magical land where "rías" meet the Atlantic Ocean, where there are smooth, sandy beaches and high cliffs, rocky shores, islands, rivers and streams, green woods, soft mountains, the land of "queimada", "empanada", "lacón con grelos, "marisco", "pulpo" and "filloas", of "muiñeiras" and bagpipes, of "cruceiros", "hórreos" and "pallozas", of legends and "meigas", where you can hear words like "vagalume", "fervenza", "orballo" or "bolboreta", where The Way of Saint James finds its end in Santiago de Compostela's Cathedral, where ancient history and monuments found their way until nowadays...

3. During my last year at University I had the chance to be an Erasmus exchange student in Germany. It was a fantastic and unforgettable time in my life. Curiously, I had never had any penfriend from Germany before living in this country. And now Germany is where I have more penfriends! ;)

4. I have always had a weakness for crayons and pens. I don't even know how many of them I have... but I love them! Luckily two of my most favourites activities have to do with pens and crayons: penpalling and drawing.

5. I like music! I love playing my piano. I like many composers, but if I had to choose three right now: Chopin, Bach and Beethoven. Obviously I also like listening to music. Again, among my favourites to be listened are classical as well as The Beatles, Dire Straits, Céline Dion and Coldplay.

6. I like libraries and bookshops. Once inside it is difficult to leave...

7. I love the beach, the sea, the ocean... everything which has to do with underwater, marine-life and marine sciences.

And now that I have finished my duty, I have to pass it to other fellow bloggers... I have remembered about some people who are into penpalling, too. Since we have this characteristic in common and all of them show their love and care for this fantastic world of letters, postcards... the award goes to:

- Bianca from Goodnight Little Spoon
- PostMuse from Orphaned Postcard Project
- Aga from Got That Swing
- Marija from Covers, postcards and letters sent in Montenegro
- Deirdre from Loved by You
- Nina from In Love with Snail Mail
- Samrana from Burst of Bubbles
- Joana from Ecological Storyteller
- Darja from Starshine whirls make my head spin
- Ilona from The Missive Maven
- Raia from Sandbook Net - PenPals and Swappers Site Blog
- Maxine from Penpal Magazine and from Friendship Books
- Fabi from Creative Corner

At the moment I cannot remember about anyone else... I don't mean to forget or neglect anyone, therefore, if you are into penpalling, letters, postcards... feel free to take the award and give it a try if you wish!

Finally, I would like to wish everyone a great 2011 and see you in the next post!

Friday, 24 December 2010

Christmas Time

As many of you know, Christmas is a holiday or festival which commemorates the birth of Jesus. Preparations start several days in advance, and the special environment you can feel in the air might start several weeks in advance, too! In late November streets and houses get decorated, Christmas trees are also decorated with lights, garland, tinsel, different ornaments... carols start to be sung, cards are exchanged and Nativity scenes are set up in houses, churches, institutional buildings...
The word Christmas originated as a compound meaning "Christ's Mass". It is derived from the Middle English: "Christemasse" and Old English: "Cristes mæsse", a phrase first recorded in 1038. "Cristes" is from Greek "Christos" and "mæsse" is from Latin "missa" (the holy mass). In Greek, the letter Χ (chi), is the first letter of Christ, and it, or the similar Roman letter X, have been used as an abbreviation for Christ since the mid-16th century. Hence, "Xmas" is sometimes used as an abbreviation for Christmas.
Christmas are celebrated in many lands all over the world, and the celebrations and traditions which take place are different from one place to another despite its original meaning. Through our Facebook group: Penpalling & Letters, many people wanted to tell how they are celebrating this time of the year, and I decided to put all words together here.

Teresa in Czech Republic: Hi all from Prague, Czech Republic! Over here we typically gather with the family for a dinner on 24th. We eat a fish soup (carp fish) followed by a fish (the same carp :)) and potatoe salad. Then go to the Xmas tree (which is, meanwhile, lit up and the presents are already placed underneath) and unwrap the presents, talk, watch Xmas movies, eat small snacks and sometimes people go to the midnight mass at the church... not so much for religious reasons, more as a tradition. :) 25th is a relatively calm day and if you have a bigger family (aunts, etc.) you visit them then for more gifts and food. :) Merry Xmas to everyone!

Angie in Germany: Here we give out presents already on Christmas Eve, in the evening, after having a dinner together. We do sing carols, pray in front of the tree and afterwards we do hand out presents to each other. Typical food for this day is fish, but since we don't like fish that much in our family we usually make something different. I chose "Cordon bleu" this year. On Christmas Day we usually do gather around and often do have goose with dumplings for food. And on Boxing day we usually don't do much so we do play games and such things. :)

Erika in Mexico: Here, in Mexico, we have a family dinner on December, 24th. The time depends of every person as for my family we have lunch with all my relatives (around fifty people... hehe! I have a BIG family!) around 3pm; and at night, a small dinner with my parents. Traditional dishes? In my family we will have: "Cod fish with olives and potatoes" ("Bacalao a la Vizcaína"), "Rosemary with some mole" ("mole" is a Mexican dish, which is a mix of about thirty ingredients and spices: chili, cinnamon, chocolate, bread, pepper, onion... etc.), sweet apple salad, some fruity salad, too, and turkey.

Deirdre in the Netherlands: Most people have family dinners on 25th, and 26th family dinners, too, or just a lazy day. The 24th is nothing, people have to work. The 25th and 26th we have the day off work.
Mirjan in the Netherlands: I have to work until 2 pm... Xmas eve some people are going to the church. We are celebrating Xmas on December, 25th and 26th. Our typical dish is turkey, beef.

Heather in Massachusetts, USA: I usually end up wrapping all my gifts on the 24th. At night I go to a family member's house and hang out. Typical Christmas dish here (all depends on the person): usually ham, lamb or roast beef is served for Christmas. People here tend to eat at around 1pm or 2pm. Then, have desserts about 4ish. Then, open gifts and all that happy Christmas stuff. My father's side of the family have a cake for Jesus, so they have cake along with everything else. Then, if you are hungry later there are a bunch of leftovers.
Mitzi in Arkansas, USA: When I was younger we would open one present on Christmas Eve and then wait til Christmas Day to open the rest... but with all the hype of PRESENTS my family opens them all at Christmas eve, although I would rather open them in the aim of Christmas day, enjoy the day with family and friends and have a feast that day.
Samantha in California, USA: At Christmas Eve we all get to open the smallest present before bed and drink hot chocolate. We also watch Christmas movies and wake up the next morning and open presents together. Right now my 6 year old and 4 year old are making Christmas ornaments out of paper for our tree. It is so cute!
Laurie in Illinois, USA: Christmas Eve we go up to my family in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. Then, Christmas morning we open our gifts to one another and the day we go to a sister in law's home. We usually have a ham, different salads, shrimp, cheese and crackers...
Marie in Florida, USA: We eat sausage on Christmas Eve and on Christmas Day, we eat antipasto, lasagna and cannolis.
Patti in Washington, USA: We prepare white nut fudge (divinity) each year. Hard to make but worth it!
Shiloh in Hawaii, USA: My Christmas celebration starts on the 24th of December. When I was living with my foster-family we celebrated Christmas on Christmas Eve. My foster family did that so we could spend Christmas with our own families. I still carry that tradition today. On Christmas Eve, we go to my in-law, or other family houses, but on Christmas Day we spend it at home for some great quality time.

Aga in Poland: Christmas in Poland in some points probably looks like in other countries, in others it differs. We decorate Christmas tree, buy gifts… *cough*… Santa brings gifts and we fest on Christmas Eve together with the whole family. But of course, we can’t start eating before the first star shines! And even before we sit by the table, we share an “opłatek” between us, wishing each person all the best in the coming year... Go on reading more about Christmas in Poland by visiting Aga's Blog: "Got that Swing" where she explains about Christmas Traditions in Poland.

Snjezana in Bosnia-Herzegovina: We celebrate Christmas on the 7th January - for Orthodox people - We roast a pig on a stick above the fire and we cook wheat with nuts and sugar. We also eat baked mash beans, sarma (sauerkrat leaves filled with rice and meat, or wine leaves), Greek baklava and we drink red wine, say our prayers and spend time with family and relatives on the 1st day. There are sweets for children in hay under the table or in the villages they go outside to haunt the treasure that adults hid around...

Beatriz in Spain: On the 24th December we are preparing for a family dinner in the evening. Before, we already have ready Christmas ornaments, the Christmas tree and the Nativity scene and might sing/listen to Christmas carols. The typical dishes depend on every Spanish region. Here, in Galicia, northwestern Spain, the most traditional meal is cod with cauliflower and boiled potatoes as well as shellfish (crayfish, different kinds of crabs, scallop shell, lobster, barnacles...). However, some people prepare roasted beef, capon, turkey, lamb, suckling pig, hake or octopus... On Christmas Day we have a family lunch, and some of the dishes you can eat are among the ones I named before. After dinner/lunch typical Christmas sweets are eaten like "turrón" (a kind of nougat candy typical in Spain in Xmas), "polvorones" (I heard it is similar to "shortbread" in New Zealand), "marzipan", "pasteles yema/gloria"... On the contrary to most countries in the world, we don't exchange gifts on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, but on the 6th January, the Epiphany or the "Three Kings Day". However, in the latest years, Santa is more present than ever, and still many children get something "little" either on the 24th or the 25th. ¡Feliz Navidad a todos!

If you are interested in reading more articles related to the Christmas time and New Year's, check the following:

- Sinterklaas
- The Saint Nicholas tradition
- The Christmas Season in Spain
- New Year's Celebrations
- The Three Kings Day or "Día de Reyes"

Monday, 20 December 2010

Mail Trivia VIII

Did you know that...

the term e-mail (short for "electronic mail") first appeared in 1982? The term snail-mail is a retronym that originated in 1983 to distinguish it from the quicker e-mail.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

The person behind the letter-writer

Writing letters is one of our favourite things to do and a shared one by many of the readers of this Blog, besides many other activities we might like. Which activities interest you besides letter-writing? What do you like to do? Surely everyone has some favourite stuff and hobbies in which likes to invest quality time. Also, there are people who have the ability to do a specific activity brilliantly: drawing, painting, knitting, playing and instrument, gardening, crafting, cooking...; other people like collecting stuff: from postcards to anything you can think about; what about those who lead a website, blog, an online shop...? It is great to see so many personal sites related to the penpalling world, letters, stationery, cute handmade stuff... Therefore, if you have something to tell, to show... I would like to hear from you and what you wish to tell us! Let's say you will be featured in Penpalling & Letters as well as your creations, abilities, collections, website or shop... If you would like to be a part of this project you can contact me at:


Check all the interviews: The person behind the letter-writer

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Sandbook Penpalling Magazine Issue 2

A few days ago, on the 11th of December, the issue number 2 of the Sandbook Magazine was published. The magazine is a creation of Sandbook.Net Penpal and Swappers Site and it all started last November, when the first issue came online coinciding with the anniversary of Sandbook.Net. The magazine is on digital format, and you can get it as a PDF file. If you are interested in reading, checking and enjoying it just click on this link to download it: Sandbook Magazine - Issue 2. If you did not read the previous magazine (Issue 1) and you are still interested in having a look at it you still can download it from: Sandbook Magazine Archive.

If you would like to take part in future magazines you should then check: "What to do to participate in Sandbook Magazine" and perhaps your contribution will be published in coming issues.

Finally, keep an eye on Sandbook.Net Penpal and Swappers Site as a third issue will be online on the 11th of January, with lots of interesting articles, tips, advices and many penpal ads!

Friday, 10 December 2010

"Write around the World" - Penpalling Project by Glass Completely Empty Productions

In this post I want to present a project I have just heard of. It is run by "Glass Completely Empty Productions" and it is about penpalling!

Read carefully the following text with explanations from "Glass Completely Empty Productions" so you know what this project is about:

- Are you crazy about letters?
- Do you enjoy the day when something other than a much dread bill comes through the door?
- Would you like to talk about your life in letters?
- Have you written a history of pen-palling which you would be willing to share with us?
- Have you written poems or essays about letter writing and pen-palling?
- Do you know the origin of Friendship Books, Label Bags and Decos?

If so, then we're looking for you!

Glass Completely Empty Productions is putting together an art project about the joy of pen-palling, allowing those who wouldn't normally know about our world a brief glimpse into it. "Write Around The World" will be unique in that the content will be completely user-generated. In other words you create what is seen in the film, from the interviews through to the letters, friendship books and other artefacts we would like to use.

How can you help?

Firstly, if you are part of Facebook, search for "Glass Completely Empty" and look for the pink glass. This is the current home of my production company and has sections to answer your questions. Please do not fret if you are not a part of Facebook; if you have any questions please feel free to send me an email.

The project is split into three sections, each of which will be revealed as we go along. This is as much about us having fun as it is about creating a wonderful and enchanting film.

For section 1 you need to be willing to give either a video or audio interview. Please, do not panic! You are in safe hands and we will show you how to get the best from whatever you have, be it a video camera, webcam or cassette recorder. However, in order to take part in sections 2 and 3, you have to be willing to take part in section 1. If you're nervous about speaking on film we will be accepting some typed responses, which we will record someone reading. But we would very much prefer video and audio interviews!

Are you ready to change the world one letter, one word, one frame at a time?

If you are, then it's time to take the first step and send me an email:


Write your email as if you're writing an introductory letter. Tell me about you, your loves and interests, your favourite films and music, where you live and what makes it special. Go on, impress me! Once we have 100 suitable applicants, then we shall begin...

If you run a store which sells pen-palling accessories (stationery, labels, etc...) or run a website which specialises in any aspect of pen-palling, then please get in touch as I would like to include you as well!

Please note: To take part, you must email me at:


Messages left on Facebook or another forum will NOT be accepted and neither myself nor Glass Completely Empty Productions can be held responsible for applications and messages left on other forums or sent to other email accounts. Thank you!

Please note 2: Interview questions will be sent to you in due course so please do not panic! Also, in order to take part in this project, you will have to sign a consent/release form. These will be e-mailed to you at the start of the project. If you are under 16, you will need to get a parent/guardian to sign it as well. Thank you!

Notice that the deadline for e-mailing "Glass Completely Empty Productions" / rae[at]glasscompletelyempty[dot]co[dot]uk to be involved in this penpalling project is 28th February, 2011.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

The Saint Nicholas tradition

The last story belonging to the Travelling around the World section took the attention of many people. Many got in touch to express how much they liked reading Deirdre's words. SandbookNet Team is one of them. They even wrote a summary of how Saint Nicholas is celebrated in their homeland in the comments section of "Sinterklaas" post. After some exchange of thoughts and ideas we decided to work on a compilation about how Saint Nicholas is celebrated in some countries all over the world. And here it is the result in this new post. Following Deirdre's celebration in the Netherlands, we have guests from Bulgaria, Croatia, France, Germany and Italy who wanted to share with all of us how Saint Nicholas is celebrated in their homelands.

St. Nicholas was born during the third century in the village of Patara. At the time the area was Greek and is now on the southern coast of Turkey. His wealthy parents, who raised him to be a devout Christian, died in an epidemic while Nicholas was still young. Obeying Jesus' words to "sell what you own and give the money to the poor," Nicholas used his whole inheritance to assist the needy, the sick, and the suffering. He dedicated his life to serving God and was made Bishop of Myra while still a young man. Bishop Nicholas became known throughout the land for his generosity to the those in need, his love for children, and his concern for sailors and ships. Under the Roman Emperor Diocletian, who persecuted Christians, Bishop Nicholas suffered for his faith, was exiled and imprisoned. He died December 6, AD 343 in Myra and was buried in his cathedral church, where a unique relic, called manna, formed in his grave. This liquid substance, said to have healing powers, fostered the growth of devotion to Nicholas. The anniversary of his death became a day of celebration, St. Nicholas Day, December 6th (December 19 on the Julian Calendar). [Information taken from St. Nicholas Center]

SandbookNet tells us that the tradition and celebration on December 6th in Bulgaria are a derivate from the St. Nicholas, "Sinterklaas" in the Netherlands. Here, the day is also known as Nikulden (den means day when translated from Bulgarian, Nikul is a derivate of the name of the Saint). Actually, Nikulden is an Orthodox Christian festivity for St. Nicolay Mirlikiiski - who is a patron of the sailors, travelers and bankers. An interesting fact is that the festivity is actually on December 19th (according to the Julian’s Calendar), but this is one of the traditions that are celebrated according to the new Gregorian’s Calender, which sets off the day to December 6th.

Carp - typical Bulgarian dish

In Bulgaria, the festivity is celebrated as a Name Day of all the people whose names are a derivate or close to the name Nicolay - Nicola, Neicho, Nicolina, Nicoleta, Kolio, Nicolas, etc... Names Days are popular among the Orthodox Christians. They are pretty much like a celebration of the person, who has a Name Day - it does sound a lot like a Birthday, minus the cake and the candles or the presents. The tradition states that on Nikulden you will have to prepare a meal from fish, usually the meal is carp with nuts.

Marina comes from Croatia and she tells us that in her country, the evening before St. Nicholas day, kids put their boots or some other shoes on the window, so that St. Nicholas can bring them gifts. This way, in the morning of St. Nicholas day they mostly find candies in their shoes.

However, if children are not good, they will receive a visit from "Krampus" who traditionally leaves a rod in their shoe, an instrument their parents will use to "discipline" them. But kids always get candies, something with a rod because maybe they weren't so good but that's only a joke in the end...

Krampus (demon-like creature) & St. Nicholas

Samia is from France and this is the story she wanted to share with us: "I live in the north-east of France, near the border of Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany. I think that St. Nicholas is more celebrated in this part of France (Alsace and Lorraine) than in any other. Generally, during the day, St. Nicholas and "Père Fouettard" visit schools. Then, in most cities, there's a parade (more or less big, given the size of the city) and all along the way, St. Nicholas gives out candies, sweets and chocolate. The most famous celebrations of that day in my area take place in the city of Nancy. I don't know if you'll be able to watch this but here is the video report about the parade that took place last Saturday in Nancy":

"Saint Nicholas Parade in Nancy"

Sabine is from Germany and this is how she lives the celebration in this country: "Coming originally from East Germany, there the children put their fresh cleaned boots in front of the door the evening of 5th December. During the night, St. Nicholas is filling the boots with some sweets, small gift, etc... The main thing is that nobody sees St. Nicholas. In the morning of 6th December, the children run to the boots to find their gifts.

Now I'm living near to the border to Switzerland, France and Austria, and here St. Nicholas is coming to visit the children in the kindergarten, it means he is visible here!

Shoes full of candy and sweets
Typical sweets from St. Nicholas

Our last guest is Sara, who comes from Italy. This is the story she shares with us about celebrations in Friuli: "Here, in Ligosullo, a tiny mountainous village situated in the North East of Italy, almost at the border with Austria, the arrival of "Saint Nicholas" is celebrated every year and all the kids wait for his arrival with particular impatience, too. "San Nicolò", as we call it in Italy, is also our patron saint, that makes the celebration even more important in our small village because in the morning there's a special Mass at the local Church, too, following our catholic traditions, and in the afternoon all families with children meet up in a room provided by the town council to wait for San Nicolò’s arrival. The kids get always very excited, of course, and usually the weeks before this day their mums and dads ask them to be good, otherwise San Nicolò won't bring them any gifts! San Nicolò arrives with a big basket full of presents, that obviously all parents and grandparents have given to him before the celebration, being sure to write the name of the kid so that the old Saint doesn't make mistakes. Ok, the saint is old and his sight is getting worse and worse, but mistakes like that aren’t accepted by children! He wears his typical outfit, a long dress, a sort of walking stick, his hat and has a very long beard. This year we celebrated it on Sunday 5th December, as being a Sunday all children weren't at school or kindergarten, and this way we could also have a lovely time afterwards, drinking hot chocolate some guys from our town had prepared for everyone and eating "pandoro" and "panettone", which are typical Italian Christmas season cakes".


If you are interested in reading more articles related to the Christmas time and New Year's, check the following:

- Sinterklaas
- The Saint Nicholas tradition
- The Christmas Season in Spain
- New Year's Celebrations
- The Three Kings Day or "Día de Reyes"

Friday, 3 December 2010


Deirdre is welcoming us in her land to tell us about a lovely tradition which occurs every 5th of December in her country. Those of you who come from this place already know where we are travelling today, but for those who still don't know, let me tell you some characteristics about it. Deirdre's homeland has a lot of land area gained to the sea, preserved by a system of polders and dikes. Most part of the country is very flat and 50% of its territory is lying less than one metre above sea level. This country is located in northwestern Europe and also has territories in the Caribbean. Typical stereotypes when people think about this land are tulips, mills, wooden shoes, canals or cheese but be sure that the Netherlands are much more than these!

Deirdre likes postcards very much and she presents her collection in her Blog: "Loved by you". Don't forget to have a look at it to check Deirdre's great postcard collection! Maybe she is interested in exchanging postcards with you!

Hello Deirdre! Thanks for taking part in Travelling around the World sharing Cultural Heritage, Folklore and Background section and of course, welcome to Penpalling & Letters! Could you tell us where do you exactly come from in the Netherlands?

Hello there! I'm living in Hellevoetsluis, which is a town in the province Zuid-Holland and has a population of 39,799 people. Hellevoetsluis is located on the Haringvliet and has always been connected with water. During the time of the United Provinces, Hellevoetsluis was the naval port of the Admiralty of de Maze (Rotterdam) and could accommodate an entire fleet within a special land-enclosed fortress with harbour and dockyard facilities, accessible through a canal. Thanks to its strategic situation the town grew from the beginning of the 17th century to be the homeport for the Dutch war fleet. In later years the port was fortified more and more and Hellevoetsluis therefore became a unique combination of fortified town and naval port. The Admirals Maarten Tromp, Michiel de Ruyter and Piet Heyn had their home base here and in 1688, during the Glorious Revolution, William III of Orange's invasion fleet departed from the port.

How did you discover penpalling, Deirdre? How long have you been into it?

I've just started with penpalling about one month ago. I've sent out several introduction letters and waiting on response at the moment. I'm an active postcrosser for over a year but sometimes I miss the further contact with others. When I stumbled upon your website I started thinking about penpalling. So thanks to you I started with penpalling! :)

How did you get to know Postcrossing? Have you been into it for a long time now?

I was an active blogger and through other bloggers I came in contact with Postcrossing. Since the moment I registered myself I loved it! Everywhere I go I buy postcards: on holidays, daytrips and even during shopping! I always buy, at least, a card for myself and one to send out when I'm visiting a city. I am busy with a photobook of cards so that I can look back at all the places I've visited.

Are you interested in these cute things related to penpalling as stationery, stickers, nice pens? Do you also collect other stuff?

Yes, I love everything what has to do with letters! I have a weak for all kind of cute stationary, postcards, stickers and deco tape... I even use stickers on my postcards! I love if I receive special stamps on the postcards, but I don't collect them. I collect addresses. I'm going to send everybody who mentioned their address on the postcard they have sent me a Christmas card!

Let's listen Deirdre now so she can tell us about "Sinterklaas" and how they celebrate it in the Netherlands.

Sinterklaas is a traditional winter holiday in the Netherlands. But it is not only celebrated here, but also in Belgium, Aruba, Suriname and Netherlands Antilles. It is celebrated every 5th of December in the evening (Saint Nicholas' eve). In Belgium it is celebrated on the 6th of December in the morning.
The feast celebrates the name day of Saint Nicholas, patron saint of Amsterdam, children and sailors. He is the basis of the mythical holiday figure of Santa Claus.
Saint Nicholas is also celebrated in some regions of France (Nord-Pas de Calais, Alsace, Lorraine) as well as in Luxembourg, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria, Croatia, Macedonia, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, the Czech Republic, in the town of Trieste and in the east of Friuli (Italy).

The modern tradition of Sinterklaas as a children's feast was confirmed with the illustrated children's book "Sint Nicolaas en zijn knecht" (Saint Nicholas and His Servant) written in 1850 by Jan Schenkman (1806–1863). He introduced the images of Sinterklaas delivering presents by the chimney, riding over the roofs of houses on a grey horse and arriving from Spain by steamboat.

It is said that throughout the year Sinterklaas lives in Spain together with his Zwarte Piet, who accompanies Sinterklaas and helps him delivering the gifts. Every year in the middle of November they come with the "stoomboot" to the Netherlands.

The entry of Sinterklaas occurs in a different Dutch city every year. In 2010 it will be in Harderwijk. Kids will gather together in Harderwijk and in front of the TV because the entry will be live on television!

When Sinterklaas is in the Netherlands all the kids are allowed to put their shoe by the door or chimney. They have to sing a song and put a treat in the shoe for Sinterklaas or his horse. The next morning there will be a small treat in the shoe for the kids. This can be a small present or candy. Typical Sinterklaas candy are: kruidnoten, peppernoten, chocoladeletters, taai taai, schuimpjes and a whole lot more!

Chocoladeletters, taataai and schuimpjes

When I was a child Sinterklaas always came after dinner, around 19:30. He knocked loudly on the door, I ran to the door and found a big bag of presents. The whole evening I unwrapped presents and played with my new toys!

So this is Sinterklaas for the Dutch!

Have everybody who celebrate it a nice Sinterklaas or Saint Nicholas! And see you soon sharing traditions from your part of the world! Maybe you are the next one!

If you are interested in reading more articles related to the Christmas time and New Year's, check the following:

- Sinterklaas
- The Saint Nicholas tradition
- The Christmas Season in Spain
- New Year's Celebrations
- The Three Kings Day or "Día de Reyes"

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Post Vehicles

Some time ago I posted about "Mailboxes" and "Post Offices". The idea was to collect pictures of mailboxes and post offices from countries all over the world and show them in the Penpalling & Letters albums so everybody can check them.

Every national Post service has a symbolic colour shown in mailboxes in the streets, in the post offices and in the vehicles they use to carry the mail. Also, any of them are that similar from one country to another even if the concept is the same.

This time I would like to start collecting pics of post vehicles, so if you would like to show us how vehicles to carry the post in your country look like it is very easy: just send me the pics and I will upload them in the corresponding album. The album is named "Post Vehicles" and you can check it on the right area of the Blog, under "Mail and Pics" section.

If you are interested in participating, send me an e-mail enclosing your name/nickname, city where you took the pic and country you come from to: penpallingandletters[at]gmail[dot]com

Here it is the link to the album where you can check the pics:

"Post Vehicles"

If you still would like to send pics of mailboxes or post offices of your country, they are still welcome. They will be uploaded to the following albums as soon as possible:

"Mailboxes around the world"

"Post Offices around the world"

If you are looking for advice on penpalling check: "Tips on letter writing".

Friday, 19 November 2010

Amarna letters

A few days ago I was reading about archaeology and I got to know about the existence of the "Amarna letters", written in the times of the ancient Egypt. We had already discussed that the art of writing and correspondence dates from those ancient times: Mail Trivia I and Mail & History I. However, I found fascinating to read about these letters and get to know all these information about them. Besides, isn't it wonderful that they made their way through so many centuries and we still have them nowadays so we can see how they are? I thought I would share the article here, in P&L. Below you can see where it was extracted from. Enjoy the reading!

The Amarna letters, "Amarna correspondence" or "Amarna tablets" are an archive of mostly diplomatic correspondence written on clay tablets, between the Egyptian administration and its representatives in Canaan and Amurru during the New Kingdom.
The letters were found in Upper Egypt at Amarna, the modern name for the Egyptian capital of Akhetaten (Akhetaton), founded by pharaoh Akhenaten (Akhnaton) during the Eighteenth dynasty of Egypt.

The Amarna letters are unusual in Egyptological research, being mostly written in Akkadian cuneiform, the writing system of ancient Mesopotamia rather than ancient Egypt. The known tablets currently total 382 in number, 24 further tablets having been recovered since the Norwegian Assyriologist Jørgen Alexander Knudtzon's landmark edition of the Amarna correspondence, "Die El-Amarna-Tafeln" in two volumes (1907 and 1915). The correspondence spans a period of, at most, thirty years.

These letters, consisting of cuneiform tablets mostly written in Akkadian – the regional language of diplomacy for this period – were first discovered by local Egyptians around 1887, who secretly dug most of them from the ruined city (they were originally stored in an ancient building archaeologists have since called the Bureau of Correspondence of Pharaoh) and then sold them on the antiquities market. Once the location where they were found was determined, the ruins were explored for more. The first archaeologist who successfully recovered more tablets was William Matthew Flinders Petrie in 1891–92, who found 21 fragments. Émile Chassinat, then director of the French Institute for Oriental Archaeology in Cairo, acquired two more tablets in 1903. Since Knudtzon's edition, some 24 more tablets or fragments of tablets have been found, either in Egypt, or identified in the collections of various museums.

The tablets originally recovered by local Egyptians have been scattered among museums in Cairo, Europe and the United States: 202 or 203 are at the Vorderasiatisches Museum in Berlin; 80 in the British Museum; 49 or 50 at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo; 7 at the Louvre; 3 at the Pushkin Museum; and 1 is currently in the collection of the Oriental Institute in Chicago.

The full archive, which includes correspondence from the preceding reign of Amenhotep III as well, contained over three hundred diplomatic letters; the remainder are a miscellany of literary or educational materials. These tablets shed much light on Egyptian relations with Babylonia, Assyria, the Mitanni, the Hittites, Syria, Canaan, and Alashiya (Cyprus). They are important for establishing both the history and chronology of the period.

Map of the ancient Near East during the Amarna period, showing the great powers of the period: Egypt (green), Hatti (yellow), the Kassite Kingdom of Babylon (purple), Assyria (grey), and Mittani (red). Lighter areas show direct control, darker areas represent spheres of influence. The extent of the Achaean/Mycenaean Civilization is shown in orange.

[Information taken from History of Science]

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

How to address an envelope

When interested in writing letters, there is the need to learn how to address an envelope. Why is it so important to know how to do it? Remember that the envelope is what your new penpal is going to see first, therefore, the first impression of your new friend on you. Also, take care when writing names and addresses of both sender and addressee. If you want your letter to make its way to your new pal, the address should be correct and also complete. Try to write neatly and clearly, this way not only your penpal will get a good impression, but everything will be in order at the postal service and the delivery of the letter will be satisfactory.

To address correctly an envelope, there are different possibilities depending on the country. In the English-speaking world these are the steps to follow:

- Return address: it is written on the upper left corner of the envelope as it can be seen in the pic.

- Delivery address: it is located in the centre of the envelope as presented in the image.

In both the return address and the delivery address you have to write the sender's name or the recipient's name in the first line. In the second line of the address the name of the street, street number and house/flat/apartment number. If the address is a post office box number (P.O. Box) replace the name of the street, street number and house/flat/apartment number for it in the second line of the address. In the third line you have to write the postal code (a series of numbers or numbers and letters depending on the country) and the name of the city. Finally, in the last line of the address you have to write the country where the letter is addressed to.

- Postage: the correct postage has to be attached in the upper right corner of the envelope as shown in the pic.

In Spain, the return address is located in the other area of the envelope as it can be seen in the images. Both the delivery address and the postage are situated in the same place on the envelope as described before.


- The envelope is always going to be the first impression your pal will get of you.
- To write the complete address correctly, so the letter can be delivered withouth any problem.
- To write neatly and clearly, so the address can be understood.
- To write the return and delivery addresses before putting the contents inside the envelope. This way, if you bear down on the pen, you avoid to leave a trace of it over the letter-papers.
- It is recommendable to use water proof ink as mail can be damaged or get wet during the process of sending/delivery.
- To attach the correct postage on the envelope to make sure the letter arrives.

Would you like to write a letter and learn how to structure it? Check the following tip: "How to write a letter"

If you are looking for advice on penpalling check: "Tips on letter writing"

Friday, 12 November 2010

Sandbook Penpalling Magazine is here!

Finally, the Sandbook Magazine was published on the 11th of November, coinciding with the second anniversary of Sandbook.Net Penpal and Swappers Site. The magazine is not on paper, but on digital format. If you are interested in reading it from the beginning to the end, you only have to check this link: Sandbook Magazine and download it from there to your PC. Get a nice cup of tea or coffee and enjoy reading the stories that Sandbook Magazine is offering us!

Do you like what you are reading? Are you interested in taking part in future magazines? Then check: "What to do to participate in Sandbook Magazine" and maybe your contribution will be published in the next issues.

Below you can see the topics of this first issue. Are you eager to read more? Go directly to Sandbook Magazine and get it now! Enjoy!

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Who was sending her a small bunch of violets every 9th of November?

She was happy in her marriage,
even if her husband was the very same devil
The man had a bit of a bad temper
and she was complaining he never was very affectionate

For longer than three years now
she receives letters from a stranger
Letters full of poetry
which have brought her happiness back

Who was writing verses to her? Tell me who was he...
Who was sending flowers to her in spring?
Who was sending her, every 9th of November,
as always, withouth a card, a small bunch of violets?

Sometimes she dreams and imagines
how this person who steems her so much will be
Would he be a man with grey hair
open smile and showing tenderness in his hands?

She doesn't know who is he, she suffers in silence
Who could be her secret love?
And she's living like this day after day,
with the illusion of being loved

Who was writing verses to her? Tell me who was he...
Who was sending flowers to her in spring?
Who was sending her, every 9th of November,
as always, withouth a card, a small bunch of violets?

And every evening, when his husband was back
tired of working, he looks at her out of the corner of his eye
He does not say anything because he does know everything
He knows she is happy this way

Because he is the one who writes verses to her
he is her lover, her secret love
And she, that does not know anything,
looks at her husband and remains in silence

Who was writing verses to her? Tell me who was he...
Who was sending flowers to her in spring?
Who was sending her, every 9th of November,
as always, withouth a card, a small bunch of violets?

Hope you enjoyed listening to this song "Un ramito de violetas" (A small bunch of violets). The lyrics are in Spanish but tried to do a translation to English so you could get an idea what it is about. Cecilia is the author of this touching song. She was a Spanish singer and songwriter whose real name was Evangelina Sobredo Galanes. She actually took her stage name from the song "Cecilia" by Simon and Garfunkel.

Cecilia was born in Madrid, but being the daughter of diplomats, spent her childhood in several countries. She got a Bachelor degree in Law before deciding to dedicate herself to music and composition. Her ironic and lyrical songs contributed to the existentialist and feminist movements of Spanish "canción protesta" ("protest songs") of the 1960s and 1970s.

She represented Spain in the OTI Festival in 1975 with the song "Amor de Medianoche" ("Love of Midnight"). Sadly, she died in a road accident when she was only 27. After her death there have been posthumous compilations and a re-edition of her songs sung by famous artists.

I have always enjoyed listening to this song as well as to "Dama, dama" ("Lady, lady") and "Mi querida España" ("My dear Spain"). I thought that today it is the perfect date to present this song; a song which also speaks about letters...

Friday, 5 November 2010

The City of Sudbury in Ontario, Canada

Finally we are changing continents today! Until now, all the adventures belonging to Travelling around the World sharing Cultural Heritage, Folklore and Background section took place in Europe, but today we are leaving the "Old World" to visit America. We are exactly located in east-central Canada, in the province of Ontario as Lyndsi is going to tell us about her homecity, Sudbury. Lyndsi has always liked postcards and collects them since she was little. She has been a Postcrossing member for nearly two years, too. Some interests of hers are music, writing, photography and travelling.

Hello Lyndsi! Welcome to Penpalling & Letters! Could you tell us where exactly Sudbury is?

Sudbury is located in northern Ontario, Canada. It is located within the boreal forest, so we've got a ton of trees, forests and lakes. Actually, there is a huge, beautiful lake right in the middle of the city.

What is the climate in the area?

We get fairly hot summers (20-28ºC) and extremely cold winters! The coldest winter that I have ever experienced was -60ºC. However, on average, winters usually will get as cold as -30ºC.

How many people do live in Sudbury nowadays?

In the city of Sudbury itself there are about 92,000 people. But a few years ago, the municipal government decided to take all the small towns surrounding Sudbury and make it one big city called Greater Sudbury which has a population of approximately 160,000.

Do you know when it was founded? Can you tell us some facts about its foundation?

Sudbury was founded in 1883 and wasn't called Sudbury at the time. It was actually called Sainte-Anne-des-Pins (Saint Anne of the Pines). It was originally a lumber and railroad town. When the workers were blasting some of the land to make room for more railroads, they found a large amount of nickel-ore. In 1893 Sudbury became known as Sudbury and it has been a mining city ever since!

Do you know why is it called "Sudbury"?

I sure do! Sudbury is called Sudbury after the hometown of the wife of one of the men who were working for the Canadian Pacific Railroad (CPR), who came from Sudbury in Suffolk, England.

What do people do for a living?

Sudbury is still primarily a large mining town, so a big majority of the jobs are surround the mine. Of course, we've got a University, two Colleges, and some government buildings.

Which are the remarkable features of the city?

I would have to say Lake Ramsey. We are very fortunate to have such a beautiful lake within our city. It is one of the main places that people go to when they come to Sudbury. It is especially beautiful in fall.

Do you have interesting monuments, museums, worship places, ancient buildings, parks... worth to be mentioned?

Well, I'm not sure if you would consider this to be a monument, but at one of the main mines, there is a giant "smoke stack" which is called "The Superstack". You can see it from everywhere in the city, and even quite a way outside of the city. Also, a couple of years ago, construction was working on rebuilding a bridge, which is now known as the "The Bridge of Nations". It has a flag on it from every country that people who live in Sudbury have come from. It's actually really nice. We've also got "The Big Nickel". It is a huge monument of a nickel which is to represent Sudbury's history as a mining community.

What are the attractions for tourists in Sudbury?

The lake, of course, is a major one. We've also got a science museum called "Science North". It is shaped like a snowflake, and it shows a lot of different interesting things that have been found in Sudbury, like animals, space stations, and all sorts of things. We've also got another called "Dynamic Earth". You can actually go underground here and see what it would be like to work in the mine.

How are the landscapes around the city?

Sudbury is a very rocky city. Billions of years ago, Sudbury was hit by a meteorite, so we live in what is known as “"Sudbury Basin". That is the reason why it is so rocky, and why there are so many minerals that are found in Sudbury. Nickel by far is the most common, and Sudbury is the Nickel capital of the world.

Which sports are practiced? Do you have some important teams?

Sudbury is a huge hockey town. We've got a city team called "The Sudbury Wolves" which travel all across Ontario and through some states playing.

Lyndsi, thank you very much for this interesting presentation of your city! Hope everybody enjoyed reading it! See you in our next trip around the world!

Note: If someone is interested in participating in this section, contact me and we will work on it!