HISTORY OF PRESIDENTS’ DAY
During my lifetime, two American holidays got consolidated into one. In 1971, a day between both Lincoln’s Birthday on February 12 and Washington’s Birthday on February 22 became a single holiday, Presidents Day — 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.
When I was a school child, both Washington’s and Lincoln’s pictures were typically displayed prominently in school rooms. School children in many states have felt cheated out of an extra day off of school ever since with the two Presidents’ birthdays being combined into one holiday. Is this a way of consolidating holidays for advertisers for “Presidents Day Sales?” Certainly, some state and local governments observe it as Presidents Day. The Uniform Monday Holiday Act of 1971 established more three-day weekends. Nevertheless, Washington’s Birthday is still observed by U.S. Federal employees, though it rarely falls on Washington’s actual birthday. His birthday was officially recognized as a holiday back in 1885. Lincoln’s Birthday on February 12 is not a Federal holiday, though some states observe it, going back to 1873 or 1874 in Buffalo, NY. (more…)
HISTORY OF ST. VALENTINE’S DAY
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 festivals fall on February 14, the one, a Roman priest, the other, bishop of Terni.
It would appear from legend that both lived during the reign of Emperor Claudius II (Gothicus) around 270; that both died on the same day; and that 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. Claudius the Cruel had banned his soldiers from getting married, believing that unmarried members were more reliable on foreign military campaigns. Valentine was beaten and beheaded because he secretly married soldiers to their wives contrary to the ban.
It seems that the first celebration of the Feast of St. Valentine was declared to be on February 14 by Pope Gelasius I in 496. Valentine is the patron saint of beekeeping, epilepsy, as well as the plague, fainting, and traveling. And of course, he’s also the patron saint of engaged couples and happy marriages. Many authorities believe that the lovers’ festival associated with St. Valentine’s day comes from the belief that this is the day in spring when birds begin their mating. But there is another view.
HISTORY OF CHINESE NEW YEAR
Today marks the beginning of Chinese New Year. This is the oldest, longest, and most important social and economic holiday in China. Chinese New Year, which begins the first day of the Chinese lunisolar calendar. It starts this year on February 5, though the celebrations continue for around two weeks. Chinese New Year is also known as 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 and in many other parts of Asia with people of Chinese descent. About 20% of the planet observe this holiday. In the West, it roughly corresponds to the end of the winter season and the beginning of Carnival.
Because the Chinese lunisolar calendar — which dates back to the Shang Dynasty in the 14th century B.C. — is different from the western Gregorian calendar, this festival begins with the New Moon, typically the second new moon after the Winter Solstice and can occur on dates between January 21 and February 20. The lunar cycle is approximately 29.5 days so to synchronize with the solar calendar the Chinese insert an interstitial month seven years out of a 19-year cycle.
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. It is the most important holiday of the year in America some will say. While it is ostensibly a secular holiday, others argue that it is truly a religious holiday. And there are several reasons why. It has:
- A liturgy
- Multiple prayers
- Formal rituals that have developed throughout history
For example, it used to be that commercials were the part of the service that was intended for taking a bio break, but not in recent years. The commercials are now the most important part (for some) of the service, and indeed some (like me) watch Super Bowl specifically for the advertisements. (more…)
Groundhog Day comes from Candlemas Day, observed for centuries in parts of Europe on February 2 where the custom was to have the clergy bless candles and distribute them to the people. This seems to have derived from the pagan celebration of Imbolc — the Feast of the goddess Bridget, or in Christian Ireland St. Bridget’s Day and alternatively “The Purification of the Virgin” commemorating the time when St. Mary presented Jesus at the Temple at Jerusalem. It comes at the mid-point between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox. The Roman Legions, it is said, originally brought the tradition to the Germans.
HISTORY OF THE DAY THE MUSIC DIED
On February 3, 1959, a plane crash occurred in Iowa during a snow storm shortly after 1 am which killed three young rock and roll singers who would go down in history: Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson.
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, and 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 AUSTRALIA DAY
Did you know that the history of European Australia is tied to the American Revolutionary War?
Back when America was part of the British Commonwealth, it was convenient for England to transport its convicts to the Colonies. Indeed, it was considered more humane to “transport” prisoners than to execute them, and there were getting to be so many convicts.
Following the 1730s, the population began to increase, and with the rise of the Industrial Revolution crime was becoming a greater problem in England. What to do with all the prisoners? Even the debtor prisons were swelling. America seemed like a likely landing place. In 1732, a royal charter was granted to a group of philanthropists interested in helping the “worthy poor.” Specifically, it was granted to the Trustees of the Province of Georgia.
Born on January 15, 1929, we celebrate a holiday in honor of a man who was not a president, nor an explorer, nor a saint; rather he was a Baptist minister and an American leader of the 1960s civil rights movement who was named for the Protestant Reformer Martin Luther, after his father was inspired by a trip to Luther’s Wittenberg. Though President Carter awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom posthumously in 1977, it was not until 1986 that a day was established on the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. as a federal holiday.
The only other American federal holidays that honored individuals have been for Jesus, President Washington, and Christopher Columbus.
We know this polymath as a writer, publisher, printer, merchant, scientist, moral philosopher, international diplomat, and inventor. Musically he invented the glass harmonica, but he also invented the Franklin stove and started the first lending library and fire brigade in Philadelphia.
He did experiments in electricity and developed the lightning rod.
Born on January 17, 1706*, in Boston, he was one of the earliest and oldest of the American Founding Fathers. He served as a lobbyist to England, was first Ambassador to France, and has been called “The First American.”