Expert advice for the holidays from UBC

The holiday season is upon us, and UBC experts are offering a gift
of their knowledge and advice. Ask them about shopping for the best
gifts for children, choosing the tree they’ll be placed under, or
the story behind today’s festivities and traditions.

Ain’t nothing like the real thing

Are you really doing the environment a favour by opting for an
artificial Christmas tree over the real McCoy? Peter Sanders, director
of UBC’s Research Forests, thinks not. Despite the advantages of
a reusable tree, Sanders says that when it comes to the environment,
opting for a real tree has some definite advantages.

  • Contact: Peter Sanders, Director, UBC Research Forests,

O little supernova of Bethlehem

Science is full of suggestions as to what might have caused the
Star of Bethlehem to burn so brightly that night 2,000 years ago.
Was it a coming together of Jupiter, Mars, Saturn and Venus? There
was such an inter-galactic gathering around 7 AD. Or was it a supernova?
UBC astronomer Harvey Richer has some ideas.

  • Contact: Prof. Harvey Richer, Dept. of Physics and Astronomy,

Don’t toy with your child’s creativity

Despite what advertisers tell you, toys don’t have to be expensive
to be durable and fun, says Charles Ungerleider, a professor in
the Faculty of Education. Parents shopping for gifts to place under
the Christmas tree should avoid fads and instead invest in their
child’s imagination with toys–many of them traditional favourites–that
spur creativity.

  • Contact: Charles Ungerleider, Associate Dean, Faculty
    of Education, and Professor, Dept. of Educational Studies, 604.822.5244

The very, very first Noel

When did people first start celebrating Christmas? And what resemblance,
if any, did it have to our present-day holiday? Paul Burns, an assistant
professor of Religious Studies whose area of research is Christian
tradition and thought, says the celebration of Christmas has its
origins in the fourth century.

  • Contact: Asst. Prof. Paul Burns, Dept. of Religious Studies,