Blog Posts

History of Starkbier Festival

March 13, 2020 /
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Today, March 13 begins the Starkbierfest. The heart of this festival is in Munich, Germany, specifically at Paulaner am Nockherberg Brewery, where it all began, and lasts about two weeks. It is unlike its more well-known sibling Oktoberfest in a few ways.

Little Known

Outside of Germany and Munich in particular, it’s not widely known, except to German ex-pats or beer lovers. Or historians who have visited Munich in the Spring.

Narrowly Observed

There are perhaps half a dozen locations in Munich that celebrate it.


What is Starkbierfest?

It’s the festival for Starkbier.

What is Starkbier?

It’s German for strong beer.

What is Strong beer?

Starkbierfest Poster

Some assume the name refers to it’s higher alcohol content, but that’s not the case, though it is more alcoholic, about 6.5% to 9% by volume. Instead, the name is due to the higher gravity, or Stammwürze of the beer, with its concentration of solids like proteins, starches, and sugars… the wort. Starkbier contains 180g of solids or the equivalent to a third of a loaf of bread. It was originally dubbed flüssiges Brot, or “liquid bread” by the monks who created it. It’s liquid nourishment. (more…)

History of Daylight Saving Time: Why do we Spring forward?

March 6, 2020 /
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It seems like only yesterday that we discussed the end of Daylight Saving Time, or DST, a brilliant campaign to convince people that we’re getting more daylight each day when in reality, we’ve simply changed our clocks and then forgotten about it within two weeks. Actually, it was only back in November, or four months ago.

Recent Changes

Indeed, the new rules for DST that began in 2007 meant an extra four or five weeks of DST each year. There are now a total of 238 days of DST, compared to a total of 210 days of DST back in 2006 under the previous rules. This means the U. S. remains on DST for about 65% of the year. So if you think about it, DST will be in effect for most of the year, Standard time is no longer the standard. It might be more significant to recognize Daylight Losing Time.


History of March

March 1, 2020 /
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March - Mars


The month that can come in “like a lion and out like a lamb” is named after Mars, the Roman god of war (and agriculture). March or Martius as it was known in ancient Rome is the first month of Spring and was considered a favorable season for travel, planting, or to begin a military campaign. March 1st in the Northern hemisphere marks the beginning of the meteorological Spring and was the original New Year’s Day of Rome until that was changed to December or January under different rulers. Some parts of Europe continued to use March as the beginning of the year until the 16th to 18th centuries when the West changed the calendar from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar.


History of Leap Year

February 28, 2020 /
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The Leap Day, February 29, depicts a day that occurs only once every four years, every Leap Year or intercalary year when an extra day is inserted. But not every fourth year, if that year ends in “00” like 1900, then it is not a Leap Year. Except if that year ending in 00 is also divisible by 400 then it is a Leap Year. Unless it is a Tuesday and it is dark. OK, I made up that last rule. So, years like 2008 are Leap Years, being divisible by 4. 1900 is not a Leap Year as it ends in 00. In the year 2000, you’ll remember, the famous Y2K, when computer programmers only obeyed the first two rules and assumed that it wasn’t a Leap Year so that all the computers failed and the world came to an end? That was a Leap Year, as it was divisible by 4, and though it ended in 00, it was divisible by 400 (indeed, it’s divisible five times, if you’re still with me.)

Calculation Correction

How did we get into this calculation conundrum? It has to do with a cumulative rounding error in trying to reconcile the Julian calendar with the tropical or astronomical calendar. The Julian calendar, established by Julius Caesar in 46 B.C. lasted from 45 B.C. until A.D. 1582 and stipulated that the year should be 365 days for 3 years in a row, with every 4th year having 366 days. This meant that an average year was 365.25 days. But according to the tropical calendar, the year has 365.24219 days.


History of Ash Wednesday: Where does the Ash come from?

February 26, 2020 /
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In the Western church, the first day of Lent is called Ash Wednesday 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 40 days later with Easter. The custom is still retained in the Roman Catholic Church as well as the Anglican, Episcopal, Lutheran and some Orthodox Churches. The ashes, obtained by burning the remains of the palm branches blessed on the previous Palm Sunday, are placed in a vessel on the altar and consecrated before High Mass. The priest then invites those present to approach and, dipping his thumb in the ashes, marks them as they kneel with the sign of the cross on the forehead, with the words:

Remember, man, thou art dust and unto dust thou shalt return.


History of Mardi Gras: Why is it called Fat Tuesday?

February 25, 2020 /
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In French, Mardi Gras means “Fat Tuesday” and 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. It seems to parallel the 40 days of fasting in the wilderness that Jesus experienced following his baptism at the Jordan River.


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.

History of Shrove Monday

February 24, 2020 /
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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.

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 Amazing Grace, part 2

February 23, 2020 /
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As we mentioned in our first article on the History of Amazing Grace, this is the story of the lives of two men and that one song. In the first part, we discussed the life of the song’s author John Newton. The 2007 film “Amazing Grace,” however, is about the life of one of Newton’s protégés, William Wilberforce. Wilberforce was a man well known to the Framing Fathers of the American Revolution. He became in his day, not just a politician, philanthropist, and abolitionist, but also a writer of such popularity at the time as C.S. Lewis was in the 20th century.

William Wilberforce was born to privilege and wealth in 18th century England and though physically challenged, worked for nearly 20 years to push through Parliament a bill for the abolition of the slave trade in the British Empire 200 years ago.

Early Life

Born in 1759 in Hull in Yorkshire, upon his father’s death in 1768, he was sent to live with an aunt and uncle in Wimbledon. While there, he came into contact with the great evangelist George Whitefield. He was also influenced by the former slave-trading sea captain, pastor John Newton. However, his mother and grandfather wanted him away from Newton’s influence, which they thought was too evangelical and “Methodist,” much too enthusiastic for respectable Anglicans, and returned him to Hull.

Following private school, Wilberforce took both his B.A. and M.A. at St. John’s College in Cambridge — where he began a lasting friendship with the future Prime Minister, William Pitt the Younger. Still, Wilberforce was not a serious student, and he was given to late nights of drinking, gambling, and card playing. At the youngest age at which one could be elected, at 21, he was elected to Parliament. He was noted for his charm and eloquence; indeed, his phenomenal rhetorical skill caused the young Prime Minister William Pitt to later challenge Wilberforce with a considerable undertaking — the abolition of slavery. (more…)

History of Amazing Grace, part 1

February 22, 2020 /
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On February 23, 1807, the British parliament passing a bill banning the nation’s slave trade. In these two articles, we’ll explore the lives of two men and one song that played a large role in that effort.

John Newton‘s devoted Christian mother dreamed that her only son would grow up to become a preacher. But he lost his mother when he was six years old, and at the age of eleven followed his sea-captain father to the sea. He did not take to the discipline of the Royal Navy and deserted ship, was flogged, and eventually discharged.

In looking for greater liberty, he ended up on the western coast of Africa in Sierra Leone, where he worked for a slave trader who mistreated him and made him a virtual slave of his black mistress. At this time, he was described as “a wretched-looking man toiling in a plantation of lemon trees in the Island of Plaintains… clothes had become rags, no shelter and begging for unhealthy roots to allay his hunger.” After more than a year of such treatment, he escaped the island through an appeal to his father in 1747. (more…)