HISTORY OF ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST DAY
The Feast of St. John the Baptist, or the Nativity of St John the Forerunner, sometimes called St. John the Baptist Day, is celebrated on June 24 in many places around the world, though no much in the United States, as we’ll see below. Celebration of the feast of the Nativity of John the Baptist goes back at least a millennium and a half. At the Council of Agde it mentions the feast in 506 AD in its list of festivals. Most saints’ festivals are tied to their death, but John’s is an exception, being tied to his birth.
This famous painting of John the Baptist at left by Leonardo da Vinci, believed to be his last painting, hangs in the Louvre Museum in Paris.
Who was St. John the Baptist?
John the Baptizer (he wasn’t a member of the Baptist denomination) was a contemporary of Jesus and the son of Jesus’ mother’s sister Elizabeth, making him Jesus’ cousin. As he grew up he became a prophet in the tradition of Old Testament prophets. No prophet had been recorded since the time of Malachi some 400 years earlier. His ministry attracted large crowds and his message, in preparation of the coming of the Messiah, was:
“Repent, for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand.”
He operated along the Jordan River in the province of Judea some 2,000 years ago. When people responded to his call for repentance he baptized them in the Jordan River. (more…)
The word Solstice comes from the Latin solstitium meaning “Sun, standing-still.” This year the Summer Solstice occurs on June 21 at 15:54 UTC, or Coordinated Universal Time, or Zulu Time, or roughly Greenwich Mean Time.
This is also known as the Northern Solstice as the Sun is positioned directly above the Tropic of Cancer in the Northern Hemisphere. This time of year is known as Midsummer, though the official Midsummer Day is actually celebrated on June 24, thanks to differences between the Julian and Gregorian calendars. Christian festivals during this time of year are related to the Birth of St. John the Baptist. In Bolivia and Peru, it’s called the Festival of San Juan.
June Nineteenth, or Juneteenth, marks the celebration of the emancipation of African-American slaves in 1865. While the annual celebration started in Texas in 1866 — and became an official Texas state holiday there in 1980 — this formerly obscure holiday it is now observed across the United States, and around the world, and is an official holiday in most states. It is now celebrated with church-centered celebrations, parades, fairs, backyard parties, games, contests, and cookouts. Originally it began in Galveston, Texas to mark the arrival of Union Army Major General Gordon Granger who arrived two months after the end of the American Civil War to read General Order Number 3 which announced that “all slaves are free.” It read:
The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.
HISTORY OF FATHERS DAY
[NOTE: I wrote a longer and more serious version of this article for CBS.com a couple of years ago. It has been published on their network of sites for major cities around the country. You can find an example here.]
The celebration of Father’s Day goes back all the way to the beginning, actually to the Garden of Eden when Abel gave his father Adam a razor while his brother Cain gave his father a snake-skin tie. This was the beginning of Cain’s downward slide.
Scholars have debated for ages why Mother’s Day seems to be more honored than Father’s Day. A parallel has been drawn between this phenomenon and that of the difference in popularity between the Irish patron saint and the Italian patron saint.
HISTORY OF FLAG DAY
June 14 is the day the United States celebrates Flag Day. While it may not be as widely celebrated as other American holidays, it is one of the oldest. It was resolved by the Second Continental Congress in 1777, even before the conclusion of the American War of Independence, the Revolutionary War.
In 1885, BJ Cigrand, a Wisconsin schoolteacher initiated a “Flag Birthday” for his students on June 14. His continual promotion of this “Flag Day” inspired New York kindergarten teacher George Balch in 1889 to have similar observances for his students, and the State Board of Education for the state followed suit. The Betsy Ross House in Philadelphia had a Flag Day in 1891 and the following year so did the New York Society of the Sons of the Revolution. Other state organizations in New York, Pennsylvania, and Illinois followed suit.
The Feast of Pentecost is taken from the Greek word πεντηκόστη which means “the 50th,” referring to the fiftieth day after Passover and Easter. In the Jewish calendar, this would coincide with the harvest festival Shavuot the “Feast of Weeks.” In the Christian calendar, Passover played a part in a number of visits Jesus made to Jerusalem, but most famously, it marked the coming of the Holy Spirit, as “tongues like as of fire” upon the Disciples of Jesus along with the sound of rushing wind, as told in the New Testament Book of Acts Chapter 2.
This marked the beginning of the work of the Church following the Resurrection of Jesus. Indeed, as the New Testament tells us that Jesus remained with his Disciples for 40 days following his Resurrection before his Ascension into heaven (celebrated last Sunday), this would mark 10 days following the Ascension of Jesus. This event was associated with the Disciples speaking in other languages. Many visitors to Jerusalem, who were likely there for the Feast of Passover, were curious about the meaning of the flames, wind, and foreign tongues — some familiar to them. The Apostle Peter gave his first sermon and the Church in Jerusalem grew in size from 120 believers to 3,000.
HISTORY OF D-DAY
Why has D-Day captured the imagination of American consciousness for three-quarters of a century? #DDAY75
Seventy-five years ago, on June 6, 1944, the Allies launched an offensive on the Normandy coast of France to liberate continental Europe from the Nazi German occupation. D-Day was the largest invasion by sea in all of history, literally turning the tide. It was the beginning of the end of the War. General Eisenhower, Supreme Commander of Allied Forces, sent the troops out that day:
“You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you. I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty and skill in battle.”
Within two months the 77-day Normandy campaign led to the liberation of France and, in less than a year to the defeat of the Nazi forces and the end of World War II in Europe. Between these two events, my father visited Paris while his US Army division was moving through France toward the Battle of the Bulge, and the liberation of the Dachau concentration camp in Germany.
June represents the halfway point of the year, being the sixth of the twelve months of both the Gregorian calendar which we use currently in the West… and also the earlier Julian calendar, named for Julius Caesar, the namesake of July. Where do we get the name for June?
What’s In A Name?
Ovid, author of that bi-millennial best-selling magnum opus “Metamorphoses” — where he takes the stories of the Greek myths and gives them Roman names — suggests two possible etymologies. The first and more likely origin is the Roman goddess Juno, wife of Jupiter, who was referred to as Hera by the Greeks. She is the patroness of marriages, and most marriages happen during June. It was considered good luck to get married during June, though the good weather and school vacation could have something to do with it now.
The second possibility Ovid suggested is that that the month was named for Iuniores which is Latin for “young people” in the same way that May is named for “elders” or Maiores. And as we all recall from “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” there was no J in Latin in the 1st century.
HISTORY OF THE GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE
This week we celebrate the 82nd anniversary of the opening of the Golden Gate Bridge. On May 27, 1937, the bridge opened to traffic after taking over five years to build. I remember asking my father when I was young:
“Why isn’t the Golden Gate Bridge golden?”
He didn’t have an answer, other than his observation that it was expensive to paint.
What he didn’t know is that the steel for the bridge, which came from Bethlehem Steel foundries in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, originally came coated with a red led primer. Color studies by consulting architect Irving Morrow arrived upon what’s now become known as Golden Gate Bridge International Orange, a unique “red terra cotta” version of the International Orange standard. But there were other competitors, as pictured above. “Warm grey” was a distant second choice. If you like the color, you can obtain it from Sherwin Williams, the supplier as “Firewood” (color code SW 6328). (more…)