History of the Aspens

Aspen GoldHISTORY OF THE ASPENS

Every year about this time, Fall is ushered in by a flush of Aspen trees as their leaves turn to gold. Where I live in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, the particular aspen is called the trembling or quaking aspen. The broad leaf and the flattened stem cause them to flutter in the breeze. It is a type of poplar tree called populus tremuloides. As tourists visit New England in Autumn for Leaves and Lobsters, visitors come to Colorado to leaf peep as the aspens change to dramatic yellows and reds. I did so yesterday along the Continental Divide.

Aspen YellowThe change in color occurs first at the highest altitudes. For example, at 9800 feet, the aspens “peaked” their color change and the leaves begin to fall at the end of September. Where I live at 6500 feet, the edges of the aspen leaves are just beginning to turn from green to gold. At this time of the year the production of chlorophyll which gives the leaf its green pigment slows to a standstill and the yellow, orange and red pigments of carotenoids and anthocyanins show in the leaf.

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History of Fall: What is the Autumnal Equinox?

EquinoxHISTORY OF FALL

This time of year represented New Year’s Day, according to the French Republican Calendar. However, since that calendar was only in use from 1793 to 1805, following the fall of the French monarchy in 1792, very few still celebrate this day.

Instead, September 22 or 23 marks the beginning of Fall or Autumn following the Equinox. This word is made up of two Latin root words aequus and nox meaning “equal night” referring to the fact that day light and night time are equal in duration.

This year, the astronomical autumnal equinox (Fall) occurs on September 22 at 14:21 UTC. This means Temps Universel Coordonne, or Coordinated Universal Time if you don’t speak French, roughly equivalent to Greenwich Mean Time if you’re British, Zulu Time if you’re a pilot. The Vernal Equinox occurs 6 months later. Since each equinox occurs at the same time whether in the northern hemisphere or the southern hemisphere, though the seasons are reversed, it is becoming common to call the (northern) vernal equinox the March Equinox and the Autumnal Equinox the September Equinox, thereby avoiding that annoying Northern Hemisphere bias.

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History of Talk Like a Pirate Day

Talk Like a PirateHISTORY OF TALK LIKE A PIRATE DAY

The International Talk Like A Pirate Day began not back in the Golden Age of Pirates in days of yore, but in 2002. Celebrated each year on September 19, though it started in the United States, it is now celebrated internationally across the Seven Seas.

Pirate GuysThe legend goes that its origin was June 6, 1995 during a racquetball game between John Baur and Mark Summers, when Pirate expletives were uttered following an injury. But because this is the observance of D-Day, the date was set instead for September 19, the birthday of the ex-wife of one of the two founders. It was celebrated in relative obscurity by John, Mark and their friends until one fateful day.

In 2002, the American humor writer and Pulitzer Prize winner Dave Barry wrote a newspaper article about it and promoted the idea. The rest, as they say, is history. Unlike some of the newer Geek Holidays — like Pi Day, Foursquare Day, or Towel Day — this holiday has gained traction among a larger audience with growing media coverage, books, T-shirts, merch, and other booty. The trademark has been non-restricted, and we like to think of it more of a guideline than a rule. The fact that Hermione Granger’s birthday in the Harry Potter books is on September 19 contributes to the fact that this parody holiday has gone viral.

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History of Ethiopian New Year: What is Enkutatash?

HISTORY OF ETHIOPIAN NEW YEAR: WHAT IS ENKUTATASH?

Why is your friendly neighborhood historian writing about the Ethiopian New Year? A couple of years ago the Washington Post interviewed me for an article they were publishing on the subject. The Washington D.C. area has over 200,000 Ethiopian-Americans who celebrate the holiday this year on September 9. A group of local Ethiopian activists and businessmen want to make the day, known as Enkutatash in Ethi­o­pia, a part of the American roster of holidays, in a way that is very similar to St. Patrick’s Day or Cinco de Mayo. Columbus Day, for example, was popularized out of Denver, CO back in the mid 19th century as a way of promoting Italian culture.

  • Meaning

Enkutatash is the name for the Ethiopian New Year, and means “gift of jewels” in the Amharic language. The story goes back almost 3,000 years to the Queen of Sheba of ancient Ethiopia and Yemen who was returning from a trip to visit King Solomon of Israel in Jerusalem, as mentioned in the Bible in I Kings 10 and II Chronicles 9. She had gifted Solomon with 120 talents of gold (4.5 tons) as well as a large amount of unique spices and jewels. When the Queen returned to Ethiopia her chiefs welcomed her with enku or jewels to replenish her treasury.

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History of Patriot Day: 9/11

HISTORY OF PATRIOT DAY: 9/11

With the following words and many others, President George W. Bush designated September 11 to be regarded as Patriot Day, or by the name America Remembers:

By the President of the United States of America

A Proclamation

On this first observance of Patriot Day, we remember and honor those who perished in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. We will not forget the events of that terrible morning nor will we forget how Americans responded in New York City, at the Pentagon, and in the skies over Pennsylvania — with heroism and selflessness; with compassion and courage; and with prayer and hope. We will always remember our collective obligation to ensure that justice is done, that freedom prevails, and that the principles upon which our Nation was founded endure.

The President inaugurated this observance on September 4, 2002 and repeated it the next year, following a joint resolution approved December 18, 2001 along with the US Congress, intending that it be firmly planted into the consciousness of the American people, and each year recalled to our memory “that more than 3,000 innocent people lost their lives when a calm September morning was shattered by terrorists driven by hatred and destruction” on September 11, 2001.

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