The Jewish High Holy Days begin with Rosh Hashana and continue until Yom Kippur. Yom Kippur, the “Day of Atonement,” or more correctly Yom ha-Kippurim (Leviticus 16), goes back to Jewish antiquity almost 4,000 years to the time of Moses. This most solemn occasion of the Jewish Festival cycle was the season for annual cleansing from sin, but in time its significance was deepened so that it acquired personal meaning and filled a private need. It is observed on the 10th day of Tishri, the seventh month, and is the climax of the whole penitential season.
Originally, on one day of the year, the high priest would enter into the innermost part of the Tabernacle (and later the Temple in Jerusalem). He would enter the Holy of Holies with the blood of the sacrifice which was for the sin of the people as a congregation, and sprinkle it upon the ‘mercy seat’ of the Ark of the Covenant (made famous by the movie “Raiders of the Lost Ark” :-). This would “cover” the sin of the people, as this is what the Aramaic (and Hebrew) root “kaphar” (atonement) means. With the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D., later Rabbinic legislation adapted the old ritual to the synagogue. The blast of the ‘shofar’ the ritual ram’s horn trumpet, signify, among other things, the inarticulate cry of the soul to God.
With the following words and many others, President George W. Bush designated September 11 to be regarded as Patriot Day or America Remembers:
By the President of the United States of America
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.”
Rosh Hashana designates the beginning of the Jewish new year, starting today — which according to the Jewish calendar began at sundown last night. “Rosh” is Hebrew for “head” and Rosh Hashana refers to the head of the year on the 1st day of Tishri, the seventh month. Judaism has a solar/lunar calendar system, in which the lunar reckoning predominates. The first in the cycle of months is Nissan (which has nothing to do with the automobile manufacturer), the month in which Passover occurs. However, solar years are reckoned to begin at Rosh Hashana. The new year is heralded with the blowing of the shofar or ram’s horn by the “baal t’kiah” (meaning master of the shofar-blast).
HISTORY OF STAR TREK
Star Trek premiered on NBC TV September 8, 1966… 52 years ago. It is my favorite show; I was glued to the TV for the first episode and every one after that. It had a major influence on my life in my choice of a career in technology. It represented an optimistic vision of the future where challenges of poverty and hunger had been addressed, but many other issues — relevant to the ’60s — were still being wrestled with centuries into the future. The Original Series showed a utopian view of science fiction that is rather different from current dystopian sci-fi TV and movies today.
Star Trek did not just envision the future, it imagined it and helped drive it. It inspired generations of scientists, engineers, and technologists around the world. Many scientists today will say that it was Star Trek that influenced the projects they are working on, especially in the areas of space exploration, physics, optics, electronics, computing, and communication — as I’ll recount near the end of this article. Though the original show ended in 1969 the dream of exploration did not die, it lived on: six weeks later, Neil Armstrong stepped onto the Moon: one small step for man, where no man had gone before.
Two years ago to celebrate the 50th anniversary, many celebrated the influence Star Trek has had on our lives:
- Facebook celebrated with Trek “like” buttons.
- Twitter had lots of celebratory tweets
- SyFy Channel celebrated Star Trek Day by offering a tutorial on how to do the Vulcan Salute.
- Seattle’s EMP Museum has a major new exhibit with original sets, props, uniforms, communicator, phaser, and tricorder
- The US Postal Service released commemorative stamps
- Smithsonian Institution’s Air & Space Museum in Washington D.C. spent four months again refurbishing the original 11-foot filming model of the USS Enterprise
- History Channel had a show on “Building Star Trek”
- Gizmodo talked about the anniversary
- USA Today covered the celebration
- NASA talked about the science
- The Telegraph discussed the celebration
Labor Day is the day we celebrate the process our mothers went through in order to deliver us at birth. Sorry, wrong holiday. Labor Day in the U.S. is the day we celebrate the achievements of the American labor movement. While it is still disputed whether the holiday was first proposed by Peter J. McGuire, the leader of the Brotherhood of Carpenters, or Matthew Maguire, a machinist — observances of the holiday go back over a century.
The first Labor Day celebration was September 5, 1882, in New York City and was organized by the Central Labor Union. The legislature of New York first deliberated a bill to establish a regular holiday, but Oregon was the first to pass it on February 21, 1887. It was first proposed as “a street parade to exhibit to the public the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations.”
In other countries, it’s often celebrated as International Workers’ Day on May Day.
You may have noticed that September sounds like the Latin word for Seven. And you’d be perceptive — septem is the Latin word for seven and this month used to be the seventh month of the ancient Roman calendar. This Latin numbering follows with the remaining months of the year, as I’ve highlighted below: eight/oct, nine/nov, ten/dec.
Legend has it that this calendar was started by Romulus, the first king of Rome, at around 753 BC. The months counted up as follows:
- Martius – 31 Days
- Aprilis – 30 Days
- Maius – 31 Days
- Iunius – 30 Days
- Quintilis – 31 Days
- Sextilis – 30 Days
- September – 30 Days
- October – 31 Days
- November – 30 Days
- December – 30 Days
HISTORY OF THE HOLIDAYS
Welcome to this year’s edition of the History of the Holidays. I’m Bill Petro, your friendly neighborhood historian. From now through the Spring or vernal equinox, we celebrate most of the major secular and sacred holidays. This is a series that recounts the history behind the major American holidays, some of the minor ones, and a few international ones as well.
Sacred and Secular
Many of the sacred holidays in our American “Judeo-Christian” heritage have secular associations, while many of the seemingly secular holidays actually have religious roots.
One example of the mixture of sacred and secular was that in ancient Rome the death and resurrection of Attis, the god of vegetation, was celebrated on March 24 and 25, corresponding to the vernal equinox.
HOW I SPENT MY SUMMER VACATION
I spent an extended two-week period this summer in New England and Canada, particularly Maine and Prince Edward Island. Here is my travel log.
Day 1: Maine
My first time in Maine.
Motto of the Interstate “Camp in the woods, not the left lane.”
It only took 4 hours to drive here from Boston Logan Airport. Got here fast and now taking it slow.
Lake cabin, or as they call it here “Lake Camp.”
HISTORY OF THE CALIFORNIA GOLD RUSH
On August 19, 1848, the New York Herald reported the news along the American East Coast of the California Gold Rush. It was not new news to those further West, as the gold rush had started in January and was publicized in San Francisco in March. However, the New York Herald was the most profitable and popular newspaper in the US at that time, and by the dawn of the American Civil War the newspaper claimed a circulation of 84,000 copies and called itself “the most largely circulated journal in the world.” In any event, the news of the gold rush spread to a much larger audience than previously and spread the gold fever much wider than before.
James Marshall discovered gold along the American River in North-central California at Sutter’s Mill on January 24, 1848. Despite trying to keep the discovery a secret the news spread in all directions — initially to Oregon, Hawaii, Mexico, Central America, Chile, Peru and as far as China. By mid-June about three-quarters of the male population of San Francisco had left for the gold fields. By the end of 1848, around 20,000 had come to California to seek their fortune. By 1849 the number had grown to over 100,000. These “49ers” (named after the San Francisco football team) passed through what was to be called the “Golden Gate” of the San Francisco Bay. The bridge that now spans from San Francisco to Marin County gets its name from that gate. Prospectors could make a fortune — nuggets might be found lying on the ground on in streams — if they came early. Some 750,000 pounds or billions of dollars worth of gold was extracted from the mining area which peaked in 1852.