History Articles

History of Shrove Monday

February 24, 2020 /
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Shrovetide FootballHISTORY 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, 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.”)

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History of Amazing Grace, part 2

February 23, 2020 /
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HISTORY OF AMAZING GRACE, part 2

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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HISTORY OF AMAZING GRACE, part 1

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…)

History of Presidents Day: More than just Washington and Lincoln?

February 17, 2020 /
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lincoln.gifwashington.gifHISTORY 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.

History

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 only one holiday. Is this a way of consolidating holidays for advertisers for “Presidents Day Sales?” Indeed, 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.

Black History Month

Though Black History Month finds its origin in 1926 as “Negro History Week,” and in the 1970s as Black History Month, it traces its history back to celebrations of Lincoln’s Birthday in the late 1800s. (more…)

History of St. Valentine’s Day

February 14, 2020 /
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HISTORY OF ST. VALENTINE’S DAY

St. Valentine

St. Valentine

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. One was a Roman priest, the other, bishop of Terni.

Context

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. This 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.
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History of The Beatles

February 7, 2020 /
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The BeatlesHISTORY 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 the President, who had been assassinated just 77 days earlier. The airport was now full of 4,000 greeters. Not realizing who they were for, 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.

First American Record Album

Meet The Beatles was the first record album I ever bought. A monochrome cover and a dozen monophonic songs opened with the clap-track augmented I Want To Hold Your Hand, then followed by I Saw Her Standing There, both were already massive hits in the US. To get a glimpse of the kind of cultural impact it had in America, watch the Tom Hanks movie “That Thing You Do.”

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History of Peter Pan: the Disney Classic

February 5, 2020 /
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Peter Pan PosterHISTORY 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 67 years ago today 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?

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History of The Day The Music Died

February 3, 2020 /
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Day the Music DiedHISTORY 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.

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History of Palindrome Dates: 02/02/2020

February 2, 2020 /
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HISTORY OF PALINDROME DATES: 02/02/2020

Today, February 2, 2020, is considered a palindrome date meaning that it reads the same forward and backward. The Greek word palindromos means running back again.

Of course, there are lots of palindrome dates, even within the last century. I’ve written about 07/07/07 and 08/08/08.

But today’s type of palindrome, with a four-digit year where the two-digit month and day are the same — no matter what culture you’re in, whether MM/DD or DD/MM — is unique and happens only about every millennium. Except for 12/12/2121 which is only 101 years away. Stay tuned for that article.

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