HISTORY OF MARDI GRAS
In French, Mardi Gras means “Fat Tuesday” and is celebrated the day before Ash Wednesday as a last “fling” before the 40 days of Lent which precede Easter. Lent is a word that comes from the Middle English word “lente” which means “springtime” — so named for the season of the year in which it usually occurs. While the practice of Lent is not mentioned in the Bible, it has been a tradition in the Christian world since the mid 4th century. It seems to parallel the 40 days of fasting in the wilderness that Jesus experienced following his baptism.
Historically, Lenten fasting became mandatory, especially the abstinence from eating meat. While recommended by St. Athanasius, bishop of Alexandria in his Festal Letter III to his flock in Egypt in 331 AD, by the Middle Ages Lent was enforced throughout Europe, especially the forbidding of meat during the final weeks before Easter.
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HISTORY OF SHROVE MONDAY
The Monday before Ash Wednesday is known as Shrove Monday. The three days before Ash Wednesday is also known as “Shrovetide,” starting with Quinquagesima Sunday and ending on Shrove Tuesday, known more popularly as Mardi Gras. Quinquagesima meant the fiftieth day before Easter, or specifically the last Sunday before Ash Wednesday which marked the beginning of Lent. Shrove is the past tense of shrive and is an Old English word meaning “to repent.” Repentance from sin was a common practice during this season.
HISTORY OF PRESIDENTS’ DAY
During my lifetime, two American holidays got consolidated into one. In 1971, a day between both Lincoln’s Birthday on February 12 and Washington’s Birthday on February 22 became a single holiday, Presidents Day — alternately spelled President’s Day or Presidents’ Day — to be observed on the third Monday in February, to honor all the past presidents of the United States. Both Washington’s and Lincoln’s pictures were typically displayed prominently in school rooms. School children in many states have felt cheated out of an extra day off of school ever since with the two Presidents’ birthdays being combined into one holiday. Is this a way of consolidating holidays for advertisers for “Presidents Day Sales?” Certainly, some state and local governments observe it as Presidents Day. Nevertheless, Washington’s Birthday is still observed by U.S. Federal employees, though it rarely falls on Washington’s actual birthday. Lincoln’s Birthday is not a Federal holiday.
The Virginia native was known even during his lifetime as “the father of his country” though between him and Lincoln, Abraham looked more like the father and George’s long hair made him look more like the mother. Nevertheless, George was a natural leader, standing 6’2″ amongst troops that stood 5’9″. He appeared at the Continental Congress in uniform, the natural choice for military leader. Many of the Founding Fathers graduated from the finest colleges in the land — Jefferson and Monroe went to William and Mary, Adams and Hancock went to Harvard, Monroe and Madison went to Princeton (College of New Jersey), Jay, Livingston, and Hamilton went to Columbia (King’s College) — but Washington went to war. He had experience in battle in the French and Indian War in America, fighting for the English King George III, but the American Revolutionary War saw him fighting for independence against the same King that he had earlier served. He stood bestride two periods of American history, the end of the Colonial Period and the beginning of the National Period. He served only two terms as President of the new United States of America, though many would have supported his rule for life. Napoleon of France was amazed that Washington would step down when he didn’t need to.
HISTORY OF ST. VALENTINE’S DAY
Valentine or Valentinus, is the name of at least three martyred saints. The most celebrated are the two martyrs whose festivals fall on February 14, the one, a Roman priest, the other, bishop of Terni. It would appear from legend that both lived during the reign of Emperor Claudius II (Gothicus) around 270; that both died on the same day; and that both were buried on the Via Flaminia but at different distances from the city of Rome. A third was a martyr in the Roman province of North Africa about whom little is known. Claudius the Cruel had banned his soldiers from getting married, believing that unmarried member were more reliable on foreign military campaigns. Valentine was beaten and beheaded because he secretly married soldiers to their wives contrary to the ban.
It seems that the first celebration of the Feast of St. Valentine was declared to be on February 14 by Pope Gelasius I in 496. He is the patron saint of beekeeping, epilepsy, as well as the plague, fainting, and traveling. And of course, he’s also the patron saint of engaged couples and happy marriages. Many authorities believe that the lovers’ festival associated with St. Valentine’s day comes from the belief that this is the day in spring when birds begin their mating. But there is another view.
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HISTORY OF THE SUPER BOWL
The Super Bowl™ is a territory acquisition athletic contest played on a fixed agrarian grid using as a token an inflated porcine prolate spheroid. It is the most important holiday of the year in America some will say. While it is a secular holiday, others argue that it is truly a religious holiday. And there are many reasons why: it has a liturgy, lots of prayers, rituals, and indeed these rituals have developed throughout history. For example, it used to be that commercials were the part of the service that was intended for taking a bio break, but not in recent years. The commercials are now the most important part (for some) of the service, and indeed some (like me) watch Super Bowl specifically for the advertisements.
This year a 30-second advertisement spot on the Super Bowl runs an average of $5 million. Variety pointed out that the average cost of an ad in the Super Bowl has risen 76 percent over the last ten years, according to Kantar, a tracker of ad spending. Google observes that those companies that post their ads on YouTube before the game received 3.4 times more views last year than those who didn’t.
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