HISTORY OF PRESIDENTS DAY
During my lifetime, two American holidays were consolidated into one. In 1971, a day between Lincoln’s Birthday on February 12 and Washington’s Birthday on February 22 became a single holiday, Presidents Day. It is 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 and to get a three-day weekend.
HISTORY OF ST. VALENTINE’S DAY
The day we associate with love and romance has a history that traces back almost three millennia to ancient Rome but winds through Roman North Africa, England, and the United States.
St. Valentine was martyred on February 14. However, Valentine or Valentinus is the name of at least three martyred saints. The most celebrated are the two martyrs whose festival days fall on February 14. One was a Roman priest, the other a bishop of Terni.
Historical Context of St. Valentine
Legend would indicate that both lived during the reign of Emperor Claudius II (Gothicus) around 270; both died on the same day. Both were buried on the Via Flaminia, but at different distances from the city of Rome. A third Valentine was a martyr in the Roman province of North Africa, about whom little is known.
This Claudius the Cruel had banned his soldiers from marrying, believing that unmarried members were more reliable on foreign military campaigns. Valentine was beaten and beheaded because he had secretly married soldiers to their wives, contrary to the ban.
In the Western church, the first day of Lent is called Ash Wednesday, derived from the ceremonial use of ashes as a symbol of penitence in the service prescribed for the day. It follows Mardi Gras, also known as Shrove Tuesday, and ends with Easter 40 days later, not counting Sundays.
It is practiced by Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian, and Anglican denominations, Roman Catholics, and some Baptists. The Eastern Church practices the Great Lent during the 40 days preceding Palm Sunday, with fasting continuing during the Holy Week of Orthodox Easter. The ash represents repentance and a reminder of death. The 40 days represent the duration of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness.
HISTORY OF MARDI GRAS
In French, Mardi Gras means “Fat Tuesday.” It is celebrated the day after Shrove Monday and the day before Ash Wednesday as a last “fling” before the 40 days of self-denial 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 and is a period in the liturgical calendar. It seems to parallel the 40 days of fasting in the wilderness that Jesus experienced following his baptism at the Jordan River.
Origin of Mardi Gras
Historically, Lenten fasting became mandatory, especially abstinence from eating meat. The first Council of Nicaea in 325 AD spoke of fasting for 40 days before Easter. 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 last weeks before Easter. In the early 7th century, Pope Gregory the Great declared that fasting should begin on Ash Wednesday.
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, specifically the last Sunday before Ash Wednesday, which marked the beginning of Lent.
Shrove is the past tense of shrive, an Old English word meaning “to repent.” Repentance from sin was a common practice during this season.
The Royal Shrovetide Football Match is typically played on Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday in Ashbourne, Derbyshire, England, tracing back to the time of Henry II in the 12th century (think of the play/movie “The Lion in Winter.”)
HISTORY OF CHINESE NEW YEAR
Today marks the beginning of the Chinese New Year. This is China’s oldest, longest, and most important social and economic holiday. Chinese New Year begins on the first day of the Chinese lunisolar calendar.
It starts this year on February 10, though the celebrations continue for around two weeks. Chinese New Year is also known as the Spring Festival and ends with the Lantern Festival on the fifteenth day of the first month of the Chinese calendar.
It is celebrated across China as a national holiday and in many other parts of Asia with people of Chinese descent. About 20-25% of the planet observes this holiday. In the West, it roughly corresponds to the end of the winter season and the beginning of Carnival.
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.
Some will say it is the most important holiday of the year in America. While it is ostensibly a secular holiday, others argue it is truly a religious holiday. And there are several reasons why. Super Bowl has:
- A liturgy
- Multiple prayers
- Special foods
- Formal rituals that have developed throughout history
- 100 million celebrants in front of their TV for worship
HISTORY OF THE AVOCADO: THE SUPER BOWL FOOD
Why are avocados, especially guacamole dip, considered a required food for Super Bowl Parties? What’s the background?
California, which has 60,000 acres of avocado orchards, has an avocado growing season running from March through August… not exactly friendly to the date of the Super Bowl. The popular “Hass” variety does not ripen until March. So, where do Super Bowl Avocados come from?
HISTORY OF THE BEATLES
On February 7, 1964, The Beatles landed at JFK Airport in New York. The airport had recently been renamed by a mourning country in honor of President Kennedy, who had been assassinated just 77 days earlier. The airport was now full of 4,000 greeters.
Not realizing why there was such a crowd, Paul McCartney wondered aloud, “Who is this for?” as the screaming fans rushed the gates to meet The Beatles. Two days later, on Sunday night, they would appear for their first of three consecutive Sunday night appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show.
HISTORY OF PETER PAN
All of this has happened before,
and it will all happen again.
So begins my favorite Walt Disney animated movie, Peter Pan, which debuted 71 years ago on February 5, 1953. The original movie poster said:
“It will live in your heart forever”
…and indeed it has. Why was this turn-of-the-century tale one of Disney’s favorite stories?
HISTORY OF THE DAY THE MUSIC DIED
On February 3, 1959, a plane crash occurred in Iowa during a snowstorm shortly after 1:00 AM, killing three young rock and roll singers who would go down in history: Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson. They were part of the 24-day “Winter Dance Party” tour.
Their story would later be captured as “long, long time ago” in the 8 1/2 minute hit song “American Pie” by Don McLean, released twelve years later in 1971.
Many attempts have been made to decrypt the lyrics of this abstract song. Though never explicitly stated — except that the song is dedicated to Buddy Holly — these musicians appear to represent:
“the three men I admire most, the Father, Son, and the Holy Ghost… the day the music died.“
HISTORY OF GROUNDHOG DAY
Groundhog Day comes from Candlemas Day, observed for centuries in parts of Europe on February 2. The custom was to have the clergy bless candles – representing how long winter would be – and distribute them to the people.
A Pagan Holiday
This seems to have derived from the pagan celebration of Imbolc — the Feast of the goddess Bridget.