History Articles

History of The Spring: What is the Vernal Equinox?

March 20, 2021 /
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SpringHISTORY OF THE SPRING

In Colorado we have a saying, we begin the first day of Spring in the same way we began the Fall: with snow. This symmetry is relevant as both the beginning of Spring and Fall coincide with the Equinox. This word is made up of two Latin root words aequus and nox meaning “equal night” referring to the fact that daylight and night time are equal in duration.

 

Date of Spring

This year, the vernal equinox (Spring) occurs on March 20 at 09:37 UTC. This means Temps Universel Coordonne, or Coordinated Universal Time if you don’t speak French, roughly equivalent to Greenwich Mean Time if you’re British, or Zulu Time if you’re a pilot. The Autumnal Equinox occurs 6 months later. Since each equinox occurs at the same time whether in the northern hemisphere as the southern hemisphere, though the seasons are reversed, it is becoming common to call the (northern) vernal equinox the March Equinox and the Autumnal Equinox the September Equinox.

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History of St Joseph’s Day: Why not more popular?

March 19, 2021 /
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St JosephHISTORY OF ST JOSEPH

Today, March 19, is Saint Joseph’s Day, or the Feast of St Joseph. It is celebrated by the Roman Catholic, Anglican, and Lutheran Churches worldwide. The terms feast and festival are often used interchangeably and often refer to a religious holiday.

What is the history of the holiday and of Joseph himself?

 

Why don’t we hear more about St Joseph’s Day?

I cannot think of St Joseph’s Day without recalling the skits from the ’70s Saturday Night Live by comedian and show writer Don Novello as the (fictitious) Father Guido Sarducci, papal legate and gossip columnist for The Vatican Enquirer. He talked about St Patrick as compared to St Joseph:

“You see, [St Patrick] was a good-a saint. But he wasn’t a great-a saint. Like-a Saint Joseph, the patron saint of Italy. He’s a great-a saint and not just a good-a saint. Saint Joseph’s named day is-a coming up-March 19th. But-a, there won’t-a be no parades, no parties, not even a song for Saint-a Joseph.

Father Guido Sarducci“And-a the reason is-a because of-a Saint Patrick. You know, it’s just like having a birthday two days after Christmas-you just don’t get-a the same attention. And it just-a breaks my heart that he was a great-a saint, and this good, mediocre saint gets all-a the glory…

“But-a you know, he did-a invent-a Saint-a Joseph’s Aspirins. Think of all-a the lives he’s-a saved with-a those tiny little aspirins. People take-a the Saint-a Joseph’s Aspirins to-a prevent-a the heart attack.”

While St Joseph’s Day is It is not a holy day of obligation (to attend mass) for Catholics in the United States, it is a big deal in Europe. It is celebrated as Father’s Day in Spain, Portugal, and especially Italy.

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History of St. Patrick: Was he British?

March 17, 2021 /
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St. PatrickHISTORY OF ST PATRICK’S DAY

Although much of the life of the patron saint and Apostle of Ireland is shrouded in legend, St. Patrick was probably born around the year AD 389. Stories are told of the many contests Patrick had with Druids, pagans, and polytheists, as well as the well-known but unlikely story of him driving the snakes from Ireland. More on that later. What we do know about him comes from his memoir, Confessio, which he wrote near the end of his life. It begins,

“I, Patrick, a sinner, most uncultivated and least of all the faithful and most contemptible to many, had for father the deacon Calpurnius, son of the late Potitus, a priest, who was of the village of Bannavem Taberniea.”

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History of the Ides of March: Who should Beware?

March 15, 2021 /
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Ides of MarchHISTORY OF THE IDES OF MARCH

According to the ancient Roman calendar, the ides fell on the 13th of the month with the exception of the months March, May, July, and October, when it fell on the 15th of the month. Something epochal occurred in 44 B.C.

Et tu, Brute?

Curia

Curia

It was on March 15, 44 B.C. that the Roman dictator Julius Caesar was assassinated after he had been warned by a seer that harm would befall him before the end of the Ides of March.

Contrary to popular belief, including William Shakespeare, Caesar was not assassinated in the Capitol, meaning the Curia Hostilia or Senate House in the Roman Forum at the foot of the Capitoline Hill (pictured at top).

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History of Pi Day: 3.14

March 14, 2021 /
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Pi Day HISTORY OF PI DAY

This holiday is often overlooked by those who do not speak Greek or those who do not speak Geek… but for the science major, this is a special celebration. Though it is an irregular constant number, regularly and annually on March 14, or 3/14, or 3.14 — we have the first three digits of “Pi.” If one wanted to be precise, and why not, it would be at 15:92 o’clock, or 4:32 pm… and 65.35 seconds, or slightly after 4:33 pm. You get the idea.

 

Origin of Pi Day

pi dayThe origin of this geek holiday has been traced to a celebration led by Larry Shaw at the San Francisco Exploratorium in 1988 where he was a physicist. No less than the US House of Representatives boldly stepped out and passed a non-binding resolution recognizing March 14 as Pi Day in 2009. Your tax dollars at work.

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

March 13, 2021 /
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Daylight Saving TimeHISTORY OF DAYLIGHT SAVING TIME

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, they’ve simply changed their clocks and then forgotten about it within two weeks. Actually, it was only back in November, or four months ago.

Recent Changes in Daylight Saving Time

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.

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History of the 1st Year of Coronavirus: It Ain’t Over Yet

March 11, 2021 /
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phases-of-disaster

Phases of Disaster, Zunin & Myers as cited in DeWolfe, D. J., 2000

HISTORY OF THE 1st YEAR OF CORONAVIRUS: IT AIN’T OVER YET

One year ago today, on March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the rapidly spreading Coronavirus a global pandemic.

It had noted in early January last year a cluster of pneumonia cases in Wuhan, China. Soon thereafter, it reported in their Disease Outbreak News of a new virus.

 

 

What happened then?

Lots of things happened that day. The President addressed the nation from the Oval Office. Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson had tested positive on the set of a film in Australia. The NBA, reeling from its own infections, would be the first pro sports league in America to suspend its season. Schools shut down, streets emptied, toilet paper disappeared from store shelves, airplanes flew with empty seats, people did Work From Home, hospital beds filled up, essential workers became heroes.

Remember how we were encouraged last year to “Flatten The Curve” so that hospitals would not be overwhelmed? Two weeks should do it… OK, another two weeks. Did we say weeks? We meant months.

It has lasted longer than almost anyone could have predicted, well past the end of 2020…

It changed work plans: we canceled the remainder of a 9-city training tour I was leading.

It changed vacation plans: no summer trips to Europe, no cruises to Hawaii.

It changed family plans: couldn’t visit loved ones for fear of exposure.

It has indeed been a roller coaster experience, as the picture at the top depicts, showing how the Disaster Technical Assistance Center’s manual is used by U.S. Department of Health and Human Services workers. (more…)

History of the 40 Martyrs of Sebaste: Roman Empire vs. Christian Soldiers

March 9, 2021 /
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40 MartyrsHISTORY OF THE 40 MARTYRS OF SEBASTE

A curious occurrence happened in the early 4th century Roman Empire. The early church historian Bishop Eusebius tells the story of the Roman Emperor Constantine, who, before a battle against his rival Emperor Maxentius in 312 AD at the Milvian Bridge outside of Rome, had either a dream or vision that he was to conquer in the sign of Christ.

chi-rhoExplaining this to his troops, they made a battle standard of the Greek letters chi and rho, the first two letters of Christ in Greek, and were victorious. Constantine converted to Christianity and, in 313 AD, put into law the Edict of Milan, making Christianity a legitimate religion with toleration toward Christians across the Roman Empire. This ended the Empire-wide Great Persecution of the church under the earlier Emperor Diocletian.

This is where it gets interesting. Constantine’s brother-in-law and co-ruler Emperor Licinius co-authored this edict, but civil war soon erupted between them. Licinius was Augustus in the East Empire (Balkans), and Constantine was Augustus of the West. Licinius began to persecute Christians in his provinces in 316 AD, perhaps fearing their mutiny to his rival Constantine who favored Christians. Licinius expelled Christians from his palace, interfered with internal church procedures and organization, and ordered the military to sacrifice to the Roman gods. (more…)

History of March

March 1, 2021 /
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March

HISTORY OF MARCH

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). Indeed, in French, the month is called Mars. 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 beginning 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 at least 153 B.C. when it was changed to December or January under different Roman rulers. Some parts of Europe continued to use March as the beginning of the year until the 16th century and Great Britain and her colonies into the 18th century when the West changed the calendar from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar.
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History of Erasing Unpopular Leaders: Damnatio Memoriae

February 25, 2021 /
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HeadlessNero

Statue of Nero with his head removed

HISTORY OF ERASING UNPOPULAR LEADERS: DAMNATIO MEMORIAE

During the early Roman Empire two millennia ago, an emperor might be deified after he died if he was popular and good. (Think: the Divine Augustus.) Alternatively, if he was unpopular and wicked, he was “erased” from society’s memory.

The Latin term Damnatio Memoriae means the condemnation of the memory of a person by the Senate. The practice of the abolition of a person’s name is ancient.

Is this similar to the modern “cancel culture?”

 

Q: Why haven’t we heard more about this?

Because it was erased! Well, not completely, and sometimes not permanently. You know of someone who was erased, but you probably didn’t realize it, as I’ll explain.

 

Divine Augustus

Augustus, the first Emperor of Rome, portrayed the empire as a family under the emperor’s benevolent rule, and he passed legislation penalizing divorce, adultery, and familial disobedience. In contrast, he conferred political advantages upon fathers of three or more children. Bachelors who shirked “the duty of marriage” were penalized in their right to inherit, and they could not even secure good seats at the games! The census he ordered, mentioned in the Nativity story, may have been to evaluate the result of his reforms.

Maison Carree, Temple of Augustus, Nimes, France

Maison Carree, Temple of Augustus, Nimes, France

Upon his death, in 14 A.D., he was deified with the divinely sanctioned authority of the Roman State. The Senate elevated him in the act of apotheosis (“to deify a human”). Temples throughout the Empire were built for him; an Imperial cult was developed around him. He even got a month named after him.

About 25 Roman emperors were deified or consecrated after their death.

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History of Amazing Grace, part 2: William Wilberforce

February 24, 2021 /
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William WilberforceHISTORY OF AMAZING GRACE, part 2: William Wilberforce

As I mentioned in my 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 of William Wilberforce

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.

William Pitt

William Pitt

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 23, 2021 /
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Amazing GraceHISTORY 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.

John Newton

John Newton

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 the trader’s black wife, who had descended from African royalty. At this time, he was described as

“a wretched-looking man toiling in a plantation of lemon trees in the Island of Plantains… 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 by appealing to his father in 1747. (more…)