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Tortoise Tales: Newsletter of the 

Hi-Desert Nature Museum


 Wishing you and your family Happy Holidays from the staff
at the Hi-Desert Nature Museum!
Lynne, Stefanie, Janine, Crystal 

Winter Lecture Series

The Weird, Wild and Wonderful of Astronomy


There's no doubt that the science of astronomy has led us to amazing discoveries.  There are weird, wild and wonderful things to learn about our universe and our own solar system.  Dr. Stephenie Slahor, a speaker at our 2012 Starry Nights Festival, will present a lecture sure to delight you as you come to have fun learning about our sky and the worlds beyond our own.  


Thursday, January 3, starting at Noon
Free to the public and coffee will be served
**December 6th Winter Lecture, "Santa's Workers: The Story of Elves"

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Call to ArtistsPacer Mandala 

The local community is invited to contribute artwork made from recycled or reused materials for display in our "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle" exhibition.  Paintings, sculpture, mixed media creations, photographs of recycled products, or any other art-related objects can be loaned to the museum for display in the exhibit.  Individual and group projects are welcome and children are particularly encouraged to participate.  (Shown here, "Pacer Mandala" by Gloria White) 

An information sheet regarding participation in the "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle" exhibit is available at the museum during operating hours or you can click here to view it on our website.  Please call the museum at (760) 369-7212 for additional information.

In conjunction with "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle," the Morongo Basin Cultural Arts Council will be displaying "All Things with Wings."  Visit their website at for information on submitting artwork.  

Both Exhibits on Display January 25 through April 26
Opening Reception Friday, January 25, 5:00 - 7:00 p.m.
Free to the Public

Current Temporary Exhibit

Ride 'em Cowboy! The West in Popular Culture

John Wayne PosterToday America's colorful wild west history continues to resonate in our popular culture.  From the dime novels of the 1800s to radio, movies and television, the ideal solitary and righteous hero was characterized in the stories of the American West, saving communities from the evils of an untamed wilderness. "Ride 'em Cowboy!" presents information on the romanticizing of the West since the Louisiana Purchase and its influence on American popular culture including movies and television shows, some filmed locally in Pioneertown. 


On Display through January 19, 2013


Science Saturdays: Way Cool Science! 

Chuckwalla - Red

The Hi-Desert Nature Museum brings hands-on learning and the thrill of scientific discovery to children with the popular "Science Saturdays" activities.  This series of science programs is designed to ignite curiosity by presenting information and performing experiments relating to biological and physical sciences.  It is recommended that children be of school age for this program.   


January 12: Desert Creatures                 January 26: Insects
No programs in December  

MBHS Presents

MBHS LogoThe Hi-Desert Nature Museum is pleased to partner with the Morongo Basin Historical Society in hosting their series of history programs.  Each month a new topic related to our colorful local history will be presented by an experienced speaker.


2nd Wednesday of the Month, 5:30 - 7:00 p.m.

$5 donation to the MBHS at the door



The December 12th program has been cancelled.  Join us on January 9th when Steve Hanson presents "The Hospital House."


We're Going International!
Museum LogoThe Hi-Desert Nature Museum worked with Dan O'Dowd to produce the museum's You Tube video in three foreign languages - French, German and Spanish.  


Click here to choose which language version of the video you would like to view 
Gecko Gift ShopRed Gecko  
If you are looking for unique gift items for the holidays come to the museum's Gecko Gift Shop.  We carry a variety of desert-themed novelties, books, apparel, and souvenirs. 
Remember - Museum Members get a 10% discount!
Click here for information on membership.

An Outlaw Christmas
Dickens Christmas carolThe pilgrims, English separatists who came to America in 1620, were orthodox in their Puritan beliefs and did not celebrate Christmas. From 1659 to 1681, the celebration of Christmas was actually outlawed in Boston. Anyone exibiting the Christmas spirit was fined five shillings. By contrast, in the Jamestown settlement in what is now Virginia, Captain John Smith reported that Christmas was enjoyed by all. After the American Revolution, English customs fell out of favor, including Christmas. It wasn't until the 19th century that Americans began to embrace Christmas as a holiday. In 1843, Charles Dickens created the classic holiday tale, "A Christmas Carol." The story's message of the importance of charity and good will struck a powerful chord in the U.S. and England and showed members of Victorian society the benefits of celebrating the holiday. As Americans began to celebrate Christmas as a family holiday, old customs were unearthed and incorporated into the festivities including decorating trees and gift giving.  


Christmas Fun Facts

* In the Middle Ages, Christmas celebrations were rowdy and raucous - a lot like today's Mardi Gras parties.

* Each year 30-35 million real Christmas trees are sold in the U.S.

* "Silent Night" was written when a choir's organ broke down.

* Holly berries are poisonous, but contrary to popular belief poinsettia plants are non-toxic.

* If you received all the gifts in the song "The 12 Days of Christmas" you would get 364 presents, and in 2012 they would cost $107,300.

* With 50 million sold, Bing Crosby's "White Christmas" is by far the best selling single of all time. 


The Holy Grail & the Knights Templar
Holy GrailThe legend of the Holy Grail is one of the most enduring in Western European literature. Known as the cup Jesus drank from at the Last Supper, and the vessel which received the blood of Christ at the Crucifixion, it is said to have magical powers which can heal any wound. Stories relate that it was brought to Britain by Joseph of Arimathea, where it lay hidden for centuries.  In legend the search for the vessel became the principal quest of the knights of King Arthur. Some believed the Grail was kept in a mysterious castle surrounded by a wasteland and guarded by a custodian called the Fisher King. The Holy Grail first appears in a written text in Chretien de Troyes' French romance, the "Conte del Graal (Story of the Grail)," circa 1180. The Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ of the Temple of Solomon, known as the Knights Templar, were among the most famous of the Western Christian military orders which existed for nearly two centuries during the Middle Ages. They began in 1120 as a band of modest monks who protected pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem. The knights were handsomely rewarded for their services by rich patrons and they amassed great wealth and power. Templar knights, in their distinctive white mantles with a red cross, were among the most skilled fighting units of the Crusades. Many of the Templar legends are connected with the Order's early occupation of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem and speculation about what relics the Templars may have found there, such as the Holy Grail and the Ark of the Covenant. Adding to the legend of the Templar Knights was their secret initiation ceremonies and their violent disbanding in 1312 by King Philip when he declared them heretics, hunted them down, and raided their vast treasuries. Stories of the quest for the Holy Grail became increasingly popular in the 19th century and continue to fascinate us in contemporary stories such as "The DaVinci Code" and "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade."     


HanukkahDecember 8th begins the eight-day Jewish celebration known as Hanukkah which commemorates the rededication during the second century B.C. of the Second Temple in Jerusalem, where according to legend Jews had risen up against their Greek-Syrian oppressors in the Maccabean Revolt. According to the Talmud, one of Judaism's most central texts, Judah Maccabee and the other Jews who took part in the rededication of the Second Temple witnessed the miracle of the oil.  Even though there was only enough oil to keep their flames burning for a single day, the candles continued for eight nights.  Hanukkah, which means "dedication" in Hebrew, begins on the 25th of Kislev on the Hebrew calendar and usually falls in November or December. Often called the Festival of Lights, the holiday is celebrated with the lighting of the 9-branched candelabrum called a menorah; eating traditional foods such as latkas (potato pancakes) and sufganiyot (jam-filled donuts); playing games including the dreidel, a four-sided spinning top; and gift giving. 

Visit the Museum
The Hi-Desert Nature Museum is located in the Yucca Valley Community Center Complex at 57116 Twentynine Palms Highway.  The museum is open Tuesday - Saturday, 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.  Admission is free; donations support the educational mission of the museum.  The Hi-Desert Nature Museum is operated by the Town of Yucca Valley. 
**The Hi-Desert Nature Museum and Town of Yucca Valley offices will be closed from Monday, December 24th through Tuesday, January 1st, for the holidays.  We will reopen on Wednesday, January 2nd.

For more information on our programs and events contact the museum at (760) 369-7212 or visit our website at  


To view a full schedule of Yucca Valley events, sports programs and recreation classes visit the Town's website at