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Meghan Markle vows to break these bad habits in her New Year's resolutions

Before she joins the royal family, Meghan Markle has some work to do on becoming more “ladylike,” according to the New Year’s resolutions she makes every year.

>> Royal family goes to church for first Christmas with Meghan Markle

In 2016, the now bride-to-be wrote about her New Year’s resolutions on her blog. Among them are two that she said she has to make “every single year”: “Stop biting my nails. Stop swearing.”

“The swearing comes in lulls triggered by being overworked or feeling mighty cheeky after a couple drinks,” she wrote at the time. “And when it comes to the biting of the nails – well, it still happens with a turbulent flight or a stressful day. It’s unladylike. But then again, so is the swearing."

>> On Rare.us: It looks like Meghan Markle’s father isn’t pleased Prince Harry called the royals the family she never had

With plans to marry Prince Harry, it looks like Markle might actually have to follow through with those resolutions this year. In fact, she’s taking royal etiquette lessons in preparation — with instruction from her fiance, Prince Harry himself.

>> PHOTOS: Meghan Markle through the years

Part of her training will include the politics of curtsying. The actress and bride-to-be will reportedly be expected to curtsy to the queen, her soon-to-be sister-in-law, the Duchess of Cambridge, Princess Anne, Princesses Eugenie and Beatrice (though, if Harry is not in the room, they will be expected to curtsy to her). In addition, she will have to learn how to handle herself at a state dinner, how to properly address dignitaries and royal table etiquette — and we have a feeling nail-biting and swearing won’t be looked upon too kindly in such scenarios.

Markle and the prince are set to tie the knot this May. They announced their engagement at the end of last month.

>> Read more trending news 

“The marriage of His Royal Highness Prince Henry of Wales and Ms. Meghan Markle will take place at St. George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle in May 2018,” Kensington Palace announced. “Her Majesty The Queen has granted permission for the wedding to take place at the Chapel.”

New Year's resolutions: 4 tips for avoiding gym membership scams

The holidays are over and it’s time to get back in shape, but officials are warning consumers about potential gym membership scams.

>> Read more trending news 

In 2017, the Ohio Attorney General’s Office received about 140 complaints involving fitness or health club memberships. Top problem areas included cancellation and billing issues. Under Ohio’s Prepaid Entertainment Contracts Act, consumers generally have three business days to cancel a contract for gym memberships and other “health spa services,” martial arts training, dance studio lessons, or social referral services (such as a dating service).

>> How to keep your New Year’s resolutions this time

“This is a time when many people are thinking about joining a gym, and that can be a great way to get in shape. We just want consumers to understand what they’re signing up for,” said Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine. “A little bit of prevention can go a long way.”

>> PHOTOS: Most controversial figures from 2017

DeWine’s tips for avoiding scams include the following:

1. Research the gym. Look for complaints on file with your local attorney general’s office or Better Business Bureau, and check online reviews for feedback from current or past customers. Pay attention to how a business addresses customer complaints.

2. Read contracts carefully. Make sure verbal agreements are put in writing. Otherwise, they are not guaranteed.

3. Watch out for extra fees. Determine the total cost of your membership. Find out if there are any extra fees for services like fitness classes or personal training. Also find out if payments will be withdrawn automatically from your account.

4. Check the cancellation policy. Understand what you would need to do to cancel your contract and how far in advance cancellations must be made. Many contracts renew automatically, so be sure to check the total length of the contract. 

5 facts about New Year’s Eve

As the roller coaster year that was 2017 comes to a close, plans for New Year’s Eve celebrations are underway.

>> Read more trending news 

Before “Auld Land Syne” begins to play, here are five facts about New Year's Eve:

New Year's Eve wasn’t always Dec. 31

Different cultures celebrated the new year at different times of the year. CNN reported that some cultures considered the autumn equinox, or winter solstice, to be the start of the new year. Babylonians held an multi-day festival to celebrate the new year around the spring equinox.

The first New Year’s Eve celebration in what is now Times Square was in 1904

According to PBS, New Year's Eve celebrations moved to the New York Times building in 1904 in Manhattan. There was no big time ball, but there was a midnight fireworks display. Prior to the move, spectators rang in the new year at Trinity Church in Manhattan as bells chimed and marked the end of one year and the beginning of another.

The time ball tradition in NYC emerged when fireworks didn’t go very well

Fireworks from efforts of The New York Times Company to bring spectators to its building caused hot ash to descend on the city streets. The New York Police Department banned fireworks soon after, and The New York Times' chief electrician created the time ball for the celebrations instead. The first ball drop celebration occurred December 31, 1907, on top of what was at the time the Times Tower and One Times Square.

Different foods have different meanings when cooked around this holiday

In the southern United States, collard greens and black-eyed peas are prepared for money and good luck, respectively. Similar meanings hold true for leafy greens and legumes in Ireland, Germany and Italy.

In Japan, long noodles are an indicator of a long life. Ring-shaped cakes in Mexico, Greece and other places around the world indicate the year has come full-circle.

“Auld Lang Syne” was never meant to be a holiday song

Most experts say the song “Auld Lang Syne” written by Robert Burns in 1700s, according to ABC News. The song was popularized by Guy Lombardo when it was used as a segue between radio shows at midnight in 1929, although the midnight timing was not on purpose.

Metro Detroit church gives away cars for Christmas

A church in metro Detroit gave away gifts on four wheels this Christmas.

Triumph Church in Southfield gave away the previously-owned cars to those in need, WXYZ reported. The recipients included a single mother, a single father, a college student and a family. The cars were presented to the recipients on Christmas Eve.

>> Need something to lift your spirits? Read more uplifting news 

The church also gave away free groceries to a 1,000 families and a shopping spree to 1,500 children and their parents. Triumph Church officials told WXYZ it's not the first time they've given cars away. They've seen such a gift change the lives of their church members and hope they can set an example for other organizations.

Fiona the hippo celebrates Christmas to the perfect song for her

Fiona the hippo is celebrating her first Christmas, and keepers at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden couldn't help but playing the perfect song while she opened her gift.Fiona was born six weeks premature in January and her survival against all odds has become an international sensation.

>> Read more trending news 

The holiday video was posted on the zoo's Facebook page, where Fiona has her own show. Fiona played with her holiday-decorated box and ate treats while "I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas" played in the background.The zoo wrote on its Facebook page, "We got a hippopotamus for Christmas!"

5 unique Christmas facts and traditions from around the world

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas! With decorations popping up and cooler temperatures, the season is definitely upon us.

While you prepare for the holiday, with last minute shopping, finding the right tree and coordinating with family and friends, billions of others around the world will also be prepping for the season. Find out some interesting Christmas facts and how other nations around the world celebrate the season.

>> Read more trending news 

1. Lebanon

Home to 18 recognized religious groups, including several major Christian sects, Lebanon actually marks Christmas twice each year. Maronites, Protestants and Catholics celebrate the holiday on Dec. 25, as in the U.S. However, Lebanese Orthodox and much of the country's sizable Armenian population mark the day according to the Gregorian calendar, meaning the day is celebrated on Jan. 6. Both dates are official holidays in the country.

While the country also has a large Muslim population, the entire country lights up for the holiday. Beirut, the capital, annually features a prominent Christmas tree in the city center, next to a large mosque and cathedral, which stand side by side. Colorful lights illuminate neighborhoods throughout the country, and Christians and many Muslims mark the holiday by spending time with their families.

2. Venezuela

While it may be normal for Christians around the world to attend church on Christmas Day, residents of Caracas have decided to add a special twist. Each Christmas Eve, Venezuelans in the capital head to church ... on roller skates. Streets are shut down, just to make way for the mass of roller skaters making their way through the city.

Throughout the country, Venezuelans begin celebrating on Dec. 16, with special programs and church services happening each day until Christmas Day.

3. Philippines

Each year, on the Saturday before Christmas Eve, the city of San Fernando hosts The Giant Lantern Festival (Ligligan Parul Sampernandu). The festival has led to the city being dubbed the "Christmas Capital of the Philippines." Visitors from throughout the country and around the world come to take part in the festivities. As it's also a fierce competition, 11 barangays (villages) work tirelessly to build the most elaborate lanterns, attempting to outdo their neighbors.

The tradition comes from simple paper Japanese lanterns, no bigger than half a meter in diameter. Now, due to the competition, the lanterns can be made from a variety of materials and are up to six meters in size. Instead of candles, electric bulbs are used, sparkling in colorful designs.

4. Ghana

In Ghana, where more than 30 languages are spoken, each group has its own unique traditions associated with Christmas. However, overall, the population celebrates from Dec. 20 through the first week of January. What kid wouldn't love two weeks of Christmas?

Although there are celebrations during the entire Christmas season, the biggest parties take place on Christmas Eve. Church services, which people attend wearing their colorful traditional clothing, feature drumming and dancing, as well as nativity plays and singing in languages understood by most people.

5. Sweden

Ever since 1966, the Swedish city of Gävle has erected a massive 40-foot-tall Yule Goat in Castle Square to prepare for Christmas. But the goat doesn't always survive until the holiday.

The bizarre tradition has led to a related one, where city residents attempt to burn the goat. These efforts have been successful 29 times, with the most recent success being last year. 

Will the goat survive the 2017 season? When it goes up on Dec. 1, there will be a live stream so you can keep tabs for yourself.

Professor says 'Jingle Bells' is rooted in racism

It's one of the most famous Christmas carols, but a Boston University professor is calling it racist.

BU theater historian Kyna Hamill makes the argument in a research paper published earlier this year, “The story I must tell:" "Jingle Bells" in the Minstrel Repertoire.

"Jingle Bells" is a hometown favorite for people from Medford. It was written by James Lord Pierpont, and there's a plaque in the city commemorating where he wrote the song.

>> Read more trending news 

But Hamill said she looked into the history of the song, and of Pierpont's life. She said there's a different story entirely behind it.

"I don't have the definite answer to where he sat down and wrote the song," Hamill said in an interview for BU Today. "But—and this is where my town is going to be mad at me—it was absolutely not written in 1850 at the Simpson Tavern in Medford."

Hamill tracked down Pierpont's history, and found he was living in California in 1850, which is the year the song was allegedly written in Medford.

And that's not all, Boston25News reported.

Hamill found a playbill from the Harvard Theater Collection that shows the first time the song was performed was at Ordway Hall on Sept. 15, 1857, in blackface, during a minstrel show.

"The legacy of ‘Jingle Bells’ is, as we shall see, a prime example of a common misreading of much popular music from the nineteenth century in which its blackface and racist origins have been subtly and systematically removed from its history," Hamill argues in her research paper.

Hamill's research paper was published in September, Boston25News

Woman with dementia enjoys heartwarming visit with Santa

Santa Claus paid a special visit to a great-grandmother with dementia in New Mexico, proving that the magic of the season delights those of all ages.Santa stopped by The Hartsocks’ Photography studio in Albuquerque Dec. 9 to spend time with one of his older fans. Karen, a great-grandmother who has dementia, posed with Santa for several heartwarming photos. The photo shoot was arranged by her daughter-in-law, Linda Rangel, KRQE reported.

 >> Read more trending news 

Rangel said that even though her mother-in-law is in the latter stages of dementia, her love of Santa Claus has remained. The photo studio wrote on its Facebook page that Karen has visited Santa at the mall for years, and even sleeps with a Santa doll, which she speaks to in her native Japanese. Karen recently entered hospice care, and her family wanted to capture her love for Santa in a photo shoot.Santa gave Karen a busy blanket, designed to reduce restlessness and agitation in those with dementia.The Hartsocks’ Photography studio posted photos from Karen's visit with Santa on its Facebook page. 

Kwanzaa: 7 things to know

Kwanzaa is a relatively modern holiday that began just over 50 years ago. Since then, Kwanzaa has grown in popularity and has been commemorated with postage stamp designs and mentioned by several presidents as part of their holiday greetings. Unless you celebrate Kwanzaa, you may not be aware of the traditions and philosophy that are important to its meaning and celebration. Here are seven things to know about Kwanzaa.

>> Read more trending news Why and when it was created Kwanzaa was created in 1966 by Maulana Karenga, a black nationalist who became a college professor. He created the holiday in the aftermath of the Watts riots in Los Angeles as an effort to unite and empower the African-American community, and it was first celebrated that year. The origins of its name Inspired by traditional harvest festivals, Kwanzaa takes its name from a Swahili phrase, “matunda ya kwanza,” which means “first fruits.” Over 2,000 languages are spoken in Africa, so Swahili, which is spoken by millions, was chosen since it’s a unifying language. An extra “a” was added to the end of the original word because seven children each wanted to represent a letter at the first Kwanzaa celebration. Who can celebrate KwanzaaBecause it’s celebrated from Dec. 26 to Jan. 1, some people assume that Kwanzaa is an alternative to Christmas. It’s a cultural celebration that has a spiritual quality, but the holiday is not a religious one. And although it celebrates African culture, people of any race or ethnic background can participate in the holiday’s events and customs. Why it lasts for seven daysEach of the seven days of Kwanzaa is dedicated to a principle, which gives each day a specific meaning and purpose on which to focus. The seven principles are: unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith. The colors of KwanzaaThe colors of Kwanzaa are black, red and green, and they’re used to represent unity for people of African descent worldwide. Black represents the people, red for their noble blood that unites them and green for the rich land of Africa. The meaning of the candelabraA seven-branched candelabra called a kinara is used to help discuss and celebrate the principles, with a new candle being lit each night. One is black, three are red and three are green, and the black candle is placed in the center. The black candle, which represents unity, is lit on the first day of Kwanzaa. Red candles are placed to the left and green to the right and are lit in that order. The order of the candles indicates that the people come first, followed by the struggle and then hope. The importance of foodFood is an important part of many holidays, and Kwanzaa is no exception. Many people celebrate with their favorite African-American dishes – along with traditional African, Caribbean and other appropriate recipes – throughout the week. The holiday culminates with a feast (known as Karamu) on Dec. 31, with dishes meant to symbolize the past as well as the current growth of African culture. 

Christmas 2017: Top ugly holiday sweater ideas

In recent years, the combination of Christmas and tacky sweaters has taken on a life of its own. Festive people aspire to wear the ugliest holiday sweater possible. Whether it’s including as many adornments as possible, breaking out a ratty and worn polyester pullover or sporting animals in full holiday cheer, here’s a roundup of ugly Christmas sweater ideas to inspire you. Shiny wreathWhat’s says Christmas more than a wreath with a little shine? Take your Christmas tackiness to a new level with a shiny wreath pinned to your red or green sweater. For a little extra bling, string some lights to the wreath and load with a battery pack to keep it shining. The fireplaceIf the coziness of sitting by a blazing fire in the winter tickles your fancy, you’ll love this ugly Christmas sweater idea. This sweater can be pre-purchased with a trimmed fireplace and a pocket in the middle of sweater for your phone. Download an app on your phone to provide virtual flames. Trim the treeGet your craftiness ready to whirl with this shiny and embellished sweater. You’ll need shiny garland, small ornaments and lots of glue, but the end result is a tree to inspire even the grinchiest with a smidge of Christmas spirit. By the way: Don’t forget the ornament to top the tree.

>> Read more trending stories Stuffed stockingNeed some wine or sweet treats to keep you going through the holiday season? This stocking stuffer sweater is just what you need. A beer lover’s ChristmasYet another DIY ugly Christmas sweater idea, this one entails the usage of hundreds of bottle tops to make a Christmas tree. Take a red or green sweater and gather all your bottle tops. Arrange them on the sweater and glue them into the shape of a tree. Top off the tree with a metallic bow for a touch of glitz. Snow globeBring the wishes of a White Christmas to life with this ugly Christmas sweater in the fashion of a snow globe. Take a plastic tablecloth and fold in half, being careful to stuff it with the insides with a pillow to look like artificial snow. An ugly tie tree For this creation, all of the old ugly ties of Christmases pasts can be put to good use. Gather your ugly Christmas ties and arrange them in a tree pattern on an old sweater. Easy peasy Christmas sweater to don at all your holiday parties in the season. Matching couple sweaters Want to look tacky as a pair? Wear the ugliest Christmas sweater connected to one other person to have double the fun and double the tackiness. Rudolph the Red-Nosed ReindeerPay homage to Santa’s favorite reindeer and favorite helper of them all with this Christmas sweater. Start with a black sweater vest and decorate with big eyes and a red nose. Layer a brown long-sleeved shirt underneath the sweater vest, attaching stems to look like antlers on your sleeves.

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