Традиции и праздники в США
American Holidays and Traditions
It's Another New Year... (January 1)
...but for what reason?
"Happy New Year!" That greeting will be said and
heard for at least the first couple of weeks as a new year gets under way. But
the day celebrated as New Year's Day in modern America was not always January
ANCIENT NEW YEARS
The celebration of the new year is the oldest of all
holidays. It was first observed in ancient Babylon about 4000 years ago. In the
years around 2000 BC, the Babylonian New Year began with the first New Moon
(actually the first visible cresent) after the Vernal Equinox (first day of
The beginning of spring is a logical time to start a new
year. After all, it is the season of rebirth, of planting new crops, and of
blossoming. January 1, on the other hand, has no astronomical nor agricultural
significance. It is purely arbitrary.
The Babylonian new year celebration lasted for eleven days.
Each day had its own particular mode of celebration, but it is safe to say that
modern New Year's Eve festivities pale in comparison.
The Romans continued to observe the new year in late March,
but their calendar was continually tampered with by various emperors so that
the calendar soon became out of synchronization with the sun.
In order to set the calendar right, the Roman senate, in 153
BC, declared January 1 to be the beginning of the new year. But tampering
continued until Julius Caesar, in 46 BC, established what has come to be known
as the Julian Calendar. It again established January 1 as the new year. But in
order to synchronize the calendar with the sun, Caesar had to let the previous
year drag on for 445 days.
THE CHURCH'S VIEW OF NEW YEAR CELEBRATIONS
Although in the first centuries AD the Romans continued
celebrating the new year, the early Catholic Church condemned the festivities
as paganism. But as Christianity became more widespread, the early church began
having its own religious observances concurrently with many of the pagan
celebrations, and New Year's Day was no different. New Years is still observed
as the Feast of Christ's Circumcision by some denominations.
During the Middle Ages, the Church remained opposed to
celebrating New Years. January 1 has been celebrated as a holiday by Western
nations for only about the past 400 years.
NEW YEAR TRADITIONS
Other traditions of the season include the making of New
Year's resolutions. That tradition also dates back to the early Babylonians.
Popular modern resolutions might include the promise to lose weight or quit
smoking. The early Babylonian's most popular resolution was to return borrowed
The Tournament of Roses Parade dates back to 1886. In that
year, members of the Valley Hunt Club decorated their carriages with flowers.
It celebrated the ripening of the orange crop in California.
Although the Rose Bowl football game was first played as a
part of the Tournament of Roses in 1902, it was replaced by Roman chariot races
the following year. In 1916, the football game returned as the sports
centerpiece of the festival.
The tradition of using a baby to signify the new year was
begun in Greece around 600 BC. It was their tradition at that time to celebrate
their god of wine, Dionysus, by parading a baby in a basket, representing the
annual rebirth of that god as the spirit of fertility. Early Egyptians also
used a baby as a symbol of rebirth.
Although the early Christians denounced the practice as
pagan, the popularity of the baby as a symbol of rebirth forced the Church to
reevaluate its position. The Church finally allowed its members to celebrate
the new year with a baby, which was to symbolize the birth of the baby Jesus.
The use of an image of a baby with a New Years banner as a
symbolic representation of the new year was brought to early America by the
Germans. They had used the effigy since the fourteenth century.
FOR LUCK IN THE NEW YEAR
Traditionally, it was thought that one could affect the luck
they would have throughout the coming year by what they did or ate on the first
day of the year. For that reason, it has become common for folks to celebrate
the first few minutes of a brand new year in the company of family and friends.
Parties often last into the middle of the night after the ringing in of a new
year. It was once believed that the first visitor on New Year's Day would bring
either good luck or bad luck the rest of the year. It was particularly lucky if
that visitor happened to be a tall dark-haired man.
Traditional New Year foods are also thought to bring luck.
Many cultures believe that anything in the shape of a ring is good luck,
because it symbolizes "coming full circle," completing a year's
cycle. For that reason, the Dutch believe that eating donuts on New Year's Day
will bring good fortune.
Many parts of the U.S. celebrate the new year by consuming
black-eyed peas. These legumes are typically accompanied by either hog jowls or
ham. Black-eyed peas and other legumes have been considered good luck in many
cultures. The hog, and thus its meat, is considered lucky because it symbolizes
prosperity. Cabbage is another "good luck" vegetable that is consumed
on New Year's Day by many. Cabbage leaves are also considered a sign of
prosperity, being representative of paper currency. In some regions, rice is a
lucky food that is eaten on New Year's Day.
AULD LANG SYNE
The song, "Auld Lang Syne," playing in the
background, is sung at the stroke of midnight in almost every English-speaking
country in the world to bring in the new year. At least partially written by
Robert Burns in the 1700's, it was first published in 1796 after Burns' death.
Early variations of the song were sung prior to 1700 and inspired Burns to
produce the modern rendition. An old Scotch tune, "Auld Lang Syne"
literally means "old long ago," or simply, "the good old
days." The lyrics can be found here.
Valentine's Day! (February 14)
Not Like it Used To Be
February 14 is Valentine's Day. Although it is celebrated as
a lovers' holiday today, with the giving of candy, flowers, or other gifts
between couples in love, it originated in 5th Century Rome as a tribute to St.
Valentine, a Catholic bishop.
For eight hundred years prior to the establishment of
Valentine's Day, the Romans had practiced a pagan celebration in mid-February
commemorating young men's rite of passage to the god Lupercus. The celebration
featured a lottery in which young men would draw the names of teenage girls
from a box. The girl assigned to each young man in that manner would be his
sexual companion during the remaining year.
In an effort to do away with the pagan festival, Pope
Gelasius ordered a slight change in the lottery. Instead of the names of young
women, the box would contain the names of saints. Both men and women were
allowed to draw from the box, and the game was to emulate the ways of the saint
they drew during the rest of the year. Needless to say, many of the young Roman
men were not too pleased with the rule changes.
Instead of the pagan god Lupercus, the Church looked for a
suitable patron saint of love to take his place. They found an appropriate
choice in Valentine, who, in AD 270 had been beheaded by Emperor Claudius.
Claudius had determined that married men made poor soldiers.
So he banned marriage from his empire. But Valentine would secretly marry young
men that came to him. When Claudius found out about Valentine, he first tried
to convert him to paganism. But Valentine reversed the strategy, trying instead
to convert Claudius. When he failed, he was stoned and beheaded.
During the days that Valentine was imprisoned, he fell in
love with the blind daughter of his jailer. His love for her, and his great
faith, managed to miraculously heal her from her blindness before his death.
Before he was taken to his death, he signed a farewell message to her,
"From your Valentine." The phrase has been used on his day ever
Although the lottery for women had been banned by the
church, the mid-February holiday in commemoration of St. Valentine was still
used by Roman men to seek the affection of women. It became a tradition for the
men to give the ones they admired handwritten messages of affection, containing
The first Valentine card grew out of this practice. The
first true Valentine card was sent in 1415 by Charles, duke of Orleans, to his
wife. He was imprisoned in the Tower of London at the time.
Cupid, another symbol of the holiday, became associated with
it because he was the son of Venus, the Roman god of love and beauty. Cupid
often appears on Valentine cards.
the dates of March 22 and April 25)
Traditions of Easter
As with almost all "Christian" holidays, Easter
has been secularized and commercialized. The dichotomous nature of Easter and
its symbols, however, is not necessarily a modern fabrication.
Since its conception as a holy celebration in the second
century, Easter has had its non-religious side. In fact, Easter was originally
a pagan festival.
The ancient Saxons celebrated the return of spring with an
uproarious festival commemorating their goddess of offspring and of springtime,
Eastre. When the second-century Christian missionaries encountered the tribes
of the north with their pagan celebrations, they attempted to convert them to
Christianity. They did so, however, in a clandestine manner.
It would have been suicide for the very early Christian
converts to celebrate their holy days with observances that did not coincide
with celebrations that already existed. To save lives, the missionaries
cleverly decided to spread their religious message slowly throughout the
populations by allowing them to continue to celebrate pagan feasts, but to do
so in a Christian manner.
As it happened, the pagan festival of Eastre occurred at the
same time of year as the Christian observance of the Resurrection of Christ. It
made sense, therefore, to alter the festival itself, to make it a Christian
celebration as converts were slowly won over. The early name, Eastre, was
eventually changed to its modern spelling, Easter.
The Date of Easter
Prior to A.D. 325, Easter was variously celebrated on
different days of the week, including Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. In that
year, the Council of Nicaea was convened by emperor Constantine. It issued the
Easter Rule which states that Easter shall be celebrated on the first Sunday
that occurs after the first full moon on or after the vernal equinox. However,
a caveat must be introduced here. The "full moon" in the rule is the
ecclesiastical full moon, which is defined as the fourteenth day of a tabular
lunation, where day 1 corresponds to the ecclesiastical New Moon. It does not
always occur on the same date as the astronomical full moon. The ecclesiastical
"vernal equinox" is always on March 21. Therefore, Easter must be
celebrated on a Sunday between the dates of March 22 and April 25.
The Lenten Season
Lent is the forty-six day period just prior to Easter
Sunday. It begins on Ash Wednesday. Mardi Gras (French for "Fat
Tuesday") is a celebration, sometimes called "Carnival,"
practiced around the world, on the Tuesday prior to Ash Wednesday. It was
designed as a way to "get it all out" before the sacrifices of Lent
began. New Orleans is the focal point of Mardi Gras celebrations in the U.S.
Read about the religious meanings of the Lenten Season.
The Cross is the symbol of the Crucifixion, as opposed to
the Resurrection. However, at the Council of Nicaea, in A.D. 325, Constantine
decreed that the Cross was the official symbol of Christianity. The Cross is
not only a symbol of Easter, but it is more widely used, especially by the
Catholic Church, as a year-round symbol of their faith.
The Easter Bunny
The Easter Bunny is not a modern invention. The symbol
originated with the pagan festival of Eastre. The goddess, Eastre, was
worshipped by the Anglo-Saxons through her earthly symbol, the rabbit.
The Germans brought the symbol of the Easter rabbit to
America. It was widely ignored by other Christians until shortly after the
Civil War. In fact, Easter itself was not widely celebrated in America until
after that time.
The Easter Egg
As with the Easter Bunny and the holiday itself, the Easter
Egg predates the Christian holiday of Easter. The exchange of eggs in the
springtime is a custom that was centuries old when Easter was first celebrated
From the earliest times, the egg was a symbol of rebirth in
most cultures. Eggs were often wrapped in gold leaf or, if you were a peasant,
colored brightly by boiling them with the leaves or petals of certain flowers.
Today, children hunt colored eggs and place them in Easter
baskets along with the modern version of real Easter eggs -- those made of
plastic or chocolate candy.
St. Patrick's Day! (March 17)
Customs and Traditions
The person who was to become St. Patrick, the patron saint
of Ireland, was born in Wales about AD 385. His given name was Maewyn, and he
almost didn't get the job of bishop of Ireland because he lacked the required
Far from being a saint, until he was 16, he considered
himself a pagan. At that age, he was sold into slavery by a group of Irish
marauders that raided his village. During his captivity, he became closer to
He escaped from slavery after six years and went to Gaul
where he studied in the monastery under St. Germain, bishop of Auxerre for a
period of twelve years. During his training he became aware that his calling
was to convert the pagans to Christianity.
Patrick was quite successful at winning converts. And this
fact upset the Celtic Druids. Patrick was arrested several times, but escaped
each time. He traveled throughout Ireland, establishing monasteries across the
country. He also set up schools and churches which would aid him in his
conversion of the Irish country to Christianity.
His mission in Ireland lasted for thirty years. After that
time, Patrick retired to County Down. He died on March 17 in AD 461. That day
has been commemorated as St. Patrick's Day ever since.
Much Irish folklore surrounds St. Patrick's Day. Not much of
it is actually substantiated.
Some of this lore includes the belief that Patrick raised
people from the dead. He also is said to have given a sermon from a hilltop
that drove all the snakes from Ireland. Of course, no snakes were ever native
to Ireland, and some people think this is a metaphor for the conversion of the
pagans. Though originally a Catholic holy day, St. Patrick's Day has evolved
into more of a secular holiday.
One traditional icon of the day is the shamrock. And this
stems from a more bona fide Irish tale that tells how Patrick used the
three-leafed shamrock to explain the Trinity. He used it in his sermons to
represent how the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit could all exist as
separate elements of the same entity. His followers adopted the custom of
wearing a shamrock on his feast day.
The St. Patrick's Day custom came to America in 1737. That
was the first year St. Patrick's Day was publicly celebrated in this country,
Groundhog Day! (March 20)
How Did the Groundhog Get a Day of His Own?
The lowly groundhog, often called a woodchuck, is the only
mammal to have a day named in his honor. The groundhog's day is February 2.
Granted, it’s not a federal holiday; nobody gets off work. But still, to have a
day named after you is quite a feat.
How did the groundhog come by this honor?
It stems from the ancient belief that hibernating creatures
were able to predict the arrival of springtime by their emergence.
The German immigrants known as Pennsylvania Dutch brought
the tradition to America in the 18th century. They had once regarded the badger
as the winter-spring barometer. But the job was reassigned to the groundhog
after importing their Candlemas traditions to the U.S. Candlemas commemorates
the ritual purification of Mary, 40 days after the birth of Jesus.
Candlemas is one of the four "cross-quarters" of
the year, occurring half way between the first day of winter and the first day
of spring. Traditionally, it was believed that if Candlemas was sunny, the
remaining six weeks of winter would be stormy and cold. But if it rained or
snowed on Candlemas, the rest of the winter would be mild. If an animal
"sees its shadow," it must be sunny, so more wintry weather is
If Candlemas be fair and bright,
Winter has another flight.
If Candlemas brings clouds and rain,
Winter will not come again.
The groundhog and badger were not the only animals that have
been used to predict spring. Other Europeans used the bear or hedgehog--but in
any case the honor belonged to a creature that hibernated. Its emergence
symbolized the imminent arrival of spring.
Traditionally, the groundhog is supposed to awaken on
February 2, Groundhog Day, and come up out of his burrow. If he sees his
shadow, he will return to the burrow for six more weeks of winter. If he doesn’t
see his shadow, he remains outside and starts his year, because he knows that
spring has arrived early.
In the U.S., the “official” groundhog is kept in
Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. Every February 2, amid a raucous celebration early
in the morning, “Punxsutawney Phil” as the groundhog is called, is pulled from
his den by his keepers, who are dressed in tuxedos. Phil then whispers his
weather prediction into the ear of his keeper, who then announces it to the
Of course, this is for show. It’s a fun celebration and a
great tradition. But Phil's keepers secretly decide upon the
"forecast" in advance of the groundhog's arousal.
Besides, spring always arrives on or near March 21, so
whether the groundhog decides to return to his den or remain above ground, the
sad fact is spring will always have to wait at least six more weeks.
April fool’s day! (April 1)
Unlike most of the other nonfoolish holidays, the history of
April Fool's Day, sometimes called All Fool's Day, is not totally clear. There
really wasn't a "first April Fool's Day" that can be pinpointed on
the calendar. Some believe it sort of evolved simultaneously in several
cultures at the same time, from celebrations involving the first day of spring.
The closest point in time that can be identified as the
beginning of this tradition was in 1582, in France. Prior to that year, the new
year was celebrated for eight days, beginning on March 25. The celebration
culminated on April 1. With the reform of the calendar under Charles IX, the
Gregorian Calendar was introduced, and New Year's Day was moved to January 1.
However, communications being what they were in the days
when news traveled by foot, many people did not receive the news for several
years. Others, the more obstinate crowd, refused to accept the new calendar and
continued to celebrate the new year on April 1. These backward folk were
labeled as "fools" by the general populace. They were subject to some
ridicule, and were often sent on "fools errands" or were made the
butt of other practical jokes.
This harassment evolved, over time, into a tradition of
prank-playing on the first day of April. The tradition eventually spread to
England and Scotland in the eighteenth century. It was later introduced to the
American colonies of both the English and French. April Fool's Day thus
developed into an international fun fest, so to speak, with different
nationalities specializing in their own brand of humor at the expense of their
friends and families.
In Scotland, for example, April Fool's Day is actually
celebrated for two days. The second day is devoted to pranks involving the
posterior region of the body. It is called Taily Day. The origin of the
"kick me" sign can be traced to this observance.
Mexico's counterpart of April Fool's Day is actually
observed on December 28. Originally, the day was a sad remembrance of the
slaughter of the innocent children by King Herod. It eventually evolved into a
lighter commemoration involving pranks and trickery.
Pranks performed on April Fool's Day range from the simple,
(such as saying, "Your shoe's untied!), to the elaborate. Setting a
roommate's alarm clock back an hour is a common gag. Whatever the prank, the
trickster usually ends it by yelling to his victim, "April Fool!"
Practical jokes are a common practice on April Fool's Day.
Sometimes, elaborate practical jokes are played on friends or relatives that
last the entire day. The news media even gets involved. For instance, a British
short film once shown on April Fool's Day was a fairly detailed documentary
about "spaghetti farmers" and how they harvest their crop from the
April Fool's Day is a "for-fun-only" observance.
Nobody is expected to buy gifts or to take their "significant other"
out to eat in a fancy restaurant. Nobody gets off work or school. It's simply a
fun little holiday, but a holiday on which one must remain forever vigilant,
for he may be the next April Fool!
Mother's Day! (May
History of Mothers' Day
Some Motherly Advice
What the Bible says about Mothers
M... is for the million things she gave me,
O... means only that she's growing old,
T... is for the tears she shed to save me,
H... is for her heart of purest gold;
E... is for her eyes, with love-light shining,
R... means right, and right she'll always be.
Put them all together, they spell "MOTHER,"
A word that means the world to me.
--Howard Johnson (c. 1915)
History and Customs...
In the U.S. Mothers' Day is a holiday celebrated on second
Sunday in May. It is a day when children honor their mothers with cards, gifts,
and flowers. First observance in Philadelphia, Pa. in 1907, it is based on
suggestions by Julia Ward Howe in 1872 and Anna Jarvis in 1907.
Although it wasn't celebrated in the U.S. until 1908, there
were days honoring mothers even in the days of ancient Greece. In those days,
however, it was Rhea, the Mother of the gods that was given honor.
Later, in the 1600's, in England there was an annual
observance called "Mothering Sunday." It was celebrated during Lent,
on the fourth Sunday. On Mothering Sunday, the servants, who generally lived
with their employers, were encouraged to return home and honor their mothers.
It was traditional for them to bring a special cake along to celebrate the
In the U.S., in 1908 Ana Jarvis, from Grafton, West
Virginia, began a campaign to establish a national Mother's Day. Jarvis
persuaded her mother's church in Grafton, West Virginia to celebrate Mother's
Day on the anniversary of her mother's death. A memorial service was held there
on May 10, 1908 and in Philadelphia the following year where Jarvis moved.
Jarvis and others began a letter-writing campaign to
ministers, businessmen, and politicians in their quest to establish a national
Mother's Day. They were successful. President Woodrow Wilson, in 1914, made the
official announcement proclaiming Mother's Day a national observance that was
to be held each year on the 2nd Sunday of May.
Many other countries of the world celebrate their own
Mother's Day at different times throughout the year. Denmark, Finland, Italy,
Turkey, Australia, and Belgium celebrate Mother's Day on the second Sunday in
May, as in the U.S.
Memorial Day. (May 31)
Rest Haven Cemetery in Edinburgh, Indiana
is the final resting place of many war veterans.
Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, is a day to
remember those who have died in our nation's service. After the Civil war many
people in the North and South decorated graves of fallen soldiers with flowers.
In the Spring of 1866, Henry C. Welles, a druggist in the
village of Waterloo, NY, suggested that the patriots who had died in the Civil
War should be honored by decorating their graves. General John B. Murray,
Seneca County Clerk, embraced the idea and a committee was formed to plan a day
devoted to honoring the dead. Townspeople made wreaths, crosses and bouquets
for each veteran's grave. The village was decorated with flags at half mast. On
May 5 of that year, a processional was held to the town's cemeteries, led by
veterans. The town observed this day of remembrance on May 5 of the following
year as well.
Decoration Day was officially proclaimed on May 5, 1868 by
General John Logan in his General Order No. 11, and was first observed
officially on May 30, 1868. The South did not observe Decoration Day,
preferring to honor their dead on separate days until after World War I. In
1882, the name was changed to Memorial Day, and soldiers who had died in other
wars were also honored.
In 1971, Memorial Day was declared a national holiday to be
held on the last Monday in May.
Today, Memorial Day marks the unofficial beginning of the
summer season in the United States. It is still a time to remember those who
have passed on, whether in war or otherwise. It also is a time for families to
get together for picnics, ball games, and other early summer activities.
Father's Day.( June
History of Fathers' Day
Quotes About Dad
Play Fathers' Day Word Search Online
Send a Father's Day Card
Fathers' Day Links from Yahoo!
Father's Day Gift Ideas
FATHERS' DAY HISTORY
Sonora Dodd, of Washington, was one of the first people who
had the idea of a "father's day." She thought of the idea for
Father's Day while listening to a Mother's Day sermon in 1909.
After Sonora became an adult she realized the selflessness
her father had shown in raising his children as a single parent. It was her
father that made all the parental sacrifices and was, in the eyes of his
daughter, a courageous, selfless, and loving man. Sonora's father was born in
June, so she chose to hold the first Father's Day celebration in Spokane,
Washington on the 19th of June, 1910.
Even before Dodd, however, the idea of observing a day in
honor of fathers was promoted. Dr. Robert Webb conducted what is believed as
the first Father's Day service at the Central Church of Fairmont, West Virginia
in 1908. It was Dodd's efforts, however, that eventually led to a national
President Calvin Coolidge, in 1924, supported the idea of a
national Father's Day. Then in 1966 President Lyndon Johnson signed a
presidential proclamation declaring the 3rd Sunday of June as Father's Day
Fourth of July.
The history of the United States of America began long
before the Colonists declared their independence. The Magna Carta, written in
1215 in order to try to convince King John of England to give the people
certain rights, is generally considered to be the touchstone of liberty, upon
which later documents are based.
The links below will take you to America's Historic
Documents. These are the pieces of history upon which our nation was founded,
and within which our current liberty is rooted. All the documents are complete
and unabridged, including George Washington's Farewell Address.
Labor Day. ( September
Labor Day is a national legal holiday that is over 100 years
old. Over the years, it has evolved from a purely labor union celebration into
a general "last fling of summer" festival.
It grew out of a celebration and parade in honor of the
working class by the Knights of Labor in 1882 in New York. In 1884, the Knights
held a large parade in New York City celebrating the working class. The parade
was held on the first Monday in September. The Knights passed a resolution to
hold all future parades on the same day, designated by them as Labor Day.
The Socialist Party held a similar celebration of the
working class on May 1. This date eventually became known as May Day, and was
celebrated by Socialists and Communists in commemoration of the working man. In
the U.S., the first Monday in September was selected to reject any
identification with Communism.
In the late 1880's, labor organizations began to lobby
various state legislatures for recognition of Labor Day as an official state
holiday. The first states to declare it a state holiday in, 1887, were Oregon,
Colorado, New York, Massachusetts, and New Jersey. Then in 1894, Congress
passed a law recognizing Labor Day as an official national holiday.
Today, Labor Day is observed not only in the U.S. but also
in Canada, and in other industrialized nations. While it is a general holiday
in the United States, its roots in the working class remain clearer in European
It has come to be recognized in the U.S. not only as a
celebration of the working class, but even more so as the unofficial end of the
summer season. In the northern half of the U.S. at least, the summer vacation
season begins with Memorial Day and ends with Labor Day.
Many colleges and some secondary and elementary schools
begin classes immediately after Labor Day.
State parks, swimming pools, and campgrounds are all quite
busy on Labor Day, as vacationers take one last advantage of the waning hot
season. September is the month that marks the beginning of autumn. And, because
of that, the average daytime maximum temperatures take a plunge during the
month in most of the U.S.
Columbus Day! (October 12)
CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS discovered America in 1492. At least
that is what all elementary school children were always taught: "In 1492,
Columbus sailed the ocean blue." Of course, Columbus never did
"discover" North America, and the regions he did explore were already
inhabited. He only discovered them from the viewpoint of the Europeans. Yet his
first voyage did prove one thing for sure, that the earth was not only round,
but that it was bigger than he had thought, Eratosthenes notwithstanding.
One of the first known celebrations marking the discovery of
the "New World" by Christopher Columbus was in 1792, when a ceremony
organized by the Colombian Order was held in New York City honoring Christopher
Columbus and the 300th anniversary of his landing in the Bahamas. Then, on
October 12, 1866 the Italian population of New York organized the first celebration
of the discovery of America. Three years later, in 1869 Italians in San
Francisco celebrated October 12 calling it C-Day.
To mark the 400th anniversary of Columbus' voyage, in 1892,
President Benjamin Harrison made a commemorative proclamation. But it was
Colorado, in 1905, that became the first state to observe a Columbus Day. Since
1920 the day has been celebrated annually, and in 1937 President Franklin
Roosevelt proclaimed every October 12 as Columbus Day. That's where it remained
until 1971 when Congress declared it a federal public holiday on the second
Monday in October.
Christopher Columbus (1451 - 1505)
Columbus, the son of a wool merchant and weaver, was born in
Genoa, Italy and went to sea at the age of 14. Following a shipwreck off the
coast of Portugal in 1470, he swam ashore and settled in that country.
Between 1477 and 1482 Columbus made merchant voyages as far
away as Iceland and Guinea. But in 1484, his "Enterprise of the
Indies" idea fell on deaf ears when he presented it to King John of
Portugal. Shortly thereafter, he moved to Spain, where King Ferdinand and Queen
Isabella became more interested in his adventuresome ideas.
To the New World
On August 2, 1492, Columbus set sail in search of the East
Indies. The voyage was financed by Ferdinand and Isabella by making the city of
Palos pay back a debt to the crown by providing two of the ships, and by
getting Italian financial backing for part of the expenses. The crown had to
put up very little money from the treasury.
Columbus and 90 crewmen boarded the three ships that were to
make the first voyage to the New World, the Niña, Pinta, and the
flagship, Santa Maria. On October 12, 1492, Columbus first saw the islands of
the new world, landing in the Bahamas. Later in the month, he would sail to
Cuba, and to Hispaniola (now Haiti). He thought he had reached the East Indies,
the islands off Southeast Asia.
Contrary to popular belief, most educated individuals in the
15th century, and especially sailors, already knew that the earth was round.
What was not realized by Columbus, however, was just how big a globe it was.
Columbus seriously underestimated the size of the planet.
The menu for Spanish seamen consisted of water, vinegar,
wine, olive oil, molasses, cheese, honey, raisins, rice, garlic, almonds, sea
biscuits, dry legumes such as chickpeas, lentils, beans, salted and barreled
sardines, anchovies, dry salt cod and pickled or salted meats (beef and pork),
Food, mostly boiled, was served in a large communal wooden
bowl. It consisted of poorly cooked meat with bones in it, the sailors
attacking it with fervor, picking it with their fingers as they had no forks or
spoons. The larger pieces of meat were cut with the knife each sailor carried. Fish
was eaten most often. On calm days, the crew would fish and then cook their
Return to Spain and Additional Voyages
On Christmas Day, 1492, the Santa Maria sank off Hispaniola.
Columbus departed for Spain on January 16, 1493 on the Niña, arriving
there on March 4.
Columbus made three additional voyages to the New World. The
second voyage set sail in September, 1493, with 17 ships. During his
expeditions, he helped to colonize Hispaniola, and discovered the South
American mainland. He did not, however, see mainland North America during any
of his voyages.
He returned to Spain for the last time on November 7, 1504.
He died at Valladolid, Spain on May 20, 1506, at the age of 55.
Much controversy exists over Columbus' expeditions and
whether or not one can "discover" an already-inhabited land. The
natives of the Bahamas and other islands on his journey were peaceful and
friendly. Yet many of them were later enslaved by the Spanish. Also, it is
known that the Vikings explored the North American coast 500 years before
Nevertheless, Columbus' expedition was unique and important
in that it resulted in the first intertwining of Europe with the Americas,
resulting in the first permanent European colonies in the New World.
Halloween is an annual celebration, but just what is it
actually a celebration of? And how did this peculiar custom originate? Is it,
as some claim, a kind of demon worship? Or is it just a harmless vestige of
some ancient pagan ritual?
The word itself, "Halloween," actually has its
origins in the Catholic Church. It comes from a contracted corruption of All
Hallows Eve. November 1, "All Hollows Day" (or "All Saints
Day"), is a Catholic day of observance in honor of saints. But, in the 5th
century BC, in Celtic Ireland, summer officially ended on October 31. The
holiday was called Samhain (sow-en), the Celtic New year.
One story says that, on that day, the disembodied spirits of
all those who had died throughout the preceding year would come back in search
of living bodies to possess for the next year. It was believed to be their only
hope for the afterlife. The Celts believed all laws of space and time were
suspended during this time, allowing the spirit world to intermingle with the
Naturally, the still-living did not want to be possessed. So
on the night of October 31, villagers would extinguish the fires in their
homes, to make them cold and undesirable. They would then dress up in all
manner of ghoulish costumes and noisily paraded around the neighborhood, being
as destructive as possible in order to frighten away spirits looking for bodies
Probably a better explanation of why the Celts extinguished
their fires was not to discourage spirit possession, but so that all the Celtic
tribes could relight their fires from a common source, the Druidic fire that
was kept burning in the Middle of Ireland, at Usinach.
Some accounts tell of how the Celts would burn someone at
the stake who was thought to have already been possessed, as sort of a lesson
to the spirits. Other accounts of Celtic history debunk these stories as myth.
The Romans adopted the Celtic practices as their own. But in
the first century AD, Samhain was assimilated into celebrations of some of the
other Roman traditions that took place in October, such as their day to honor
Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruit and trees. The symbol of Pomona is the
apple, which might explain the origin of our modern tradition of bobbing for
apples on Halloween.
The thrust of the practices also changed over time to become
more ritualized. As belief in spirit possession waned, the practice of dressing
up like hobgoblins, ghosts, and witches took on a more ceremonial role.
The custom of Halloween was brought to America in the 1840's
by Irish immigrants fleeing their country's potato famine. At that time, the
favorite pranks in New England included tipping over outhouses and unhinging
The custom of trick-or-treating is thought to have
originated not with the Irish Celts, but with a ninth-century European custom
called souling. On November 2, All Souls Day, early Christians would walk from
village to village begging for "soul cakes," made out of square
pieces of bread with currants. The more soul cakes the beggars would receive,
the more prayers they would promise to say on behalf of the dead relatives of
the donors. At the time, it was believed that the dead remained in limbo for a
time after death, and that prayer, even by strangers, could expedite a soul's
passage to heaven.
The Jack-o-lantern custom probably comes from Irish
folklore. As the tale is told, a man named Jack, who was notorious as a
drunkard and trickster, tricked Satan into climbing a tree. Jack then carved an
image of a cross in the tree's trunk, trapping the devil up the tree. Jack made
a deal with the devil that, if he would never tempt him again, he would promise
to let him down the tree.
According to the folk tale, after Jack died, he was denied
entrance to Heaven because of his evil ways, but he was also denied access to
Hell because he had tricked the devil. Instead, the devil gave him a single
ember to light his way through the frigid darkness. The ember was placed inside
a hollowed-out turnip to keep it glowing longer.
The Irish used turnips as their "Jack's lanterns"
originally. But when the immigrants came to America, they found that pumpkins
were far more plentiful than turnips. So the Jack-O-Lantern in America was a
hollowed-out pumpkin, lit with an ember.
So, although some cults may have adopted Halloween as their
favorite "holiday," the day itself did not grow out of evil
practices. It grew out of the rituals of Celts celebrating a new year, and out
of Medieval prayer rituals of Europeans. And today, even many churches have
Halloween parties or pumpkin carving events for the kids. After all, the day
itself is only as evil as one cares to make it.
Veteran’s Day. (Nov. 11)
This is my tribute to my father, and to all veterans. I
thank God every day for him and veterans like him, without whom we wouldn't
have the freedoms we've grown accustomed to. Freedoms that too many Americans
take for granted. War is a horrible thing, and I in no way am attempting to
glorify it. However, in some cases it is necessary.
My father is a World War II veteran. Joining the Navy when
he was just 17, he was stationed aboard the U.S.S. Pensacola (CA-24), where he
served bravely until the war's end in 1945. The Pensacola was a heavy cruiser,
part of the screen of ships protecting the carrier U.S.S. Hornet, and later the
Enterprise. The Pensacola saw much action, and earned 13 Battle Stars for her
part in 13 major battles fought in the Pacific, including Midway, Iwo Jima, and
The Pensacola's armament consisted of 20mm and 40mm
anti-aircraft guns, and 5 inch and 8 inch guns. My father was a gunner on a 5
inch mount. The 5 inch guns were multi-purpose, used for ship-to-ship,
ship-to-shore, and anti-aircraft. My father has related to me that his scariest
moments were during Kamikaze attacks, when the enemy planes had to be literally
"blown from the sky", or centrifigul force would carry them into the
ship. Fortunately, no Kamikaze planes hit the Pensacola, but she was strafed,
bombed, shelled, and torpedoed.
She survived the war, only to be sunk off the coast of
Washington State during nuclear bombardment testing in the late '40s. An
unmagnanimouse end to a grand career. She was a proud ship, and her officers
and crew fought with unwavering courage.
As an aside, I just want to say that I abhor the treatment
our Vietnam Veterans have received by this country. Vietnam was a
"dirty" war in my opinion, created I believe, by miss-guided
politicians. The men and women who fought there were simply doing their duty,
answering the call from our armed forces. In my eyes they are all heroes. I
Thursday in November)
Find Out What You Know About Thanksgiving!
This page is dedicated to the holiday that encourages us to
step back and give thanks for all the blessings we have. On this holiday site,
you will discover some unusual things about the history of Thanksgiving, and
you can take a fun little quiz to find out how much you know.
Take the quiz first, then read about the history of
Thanksgiving to find out about the answers you missed! When you're finished, I
would appreciate it if you would sign the guestbook to let me know what you
Pearl Harbor Day (December 7)
At dawn on Sunday, December 7, 1941, naval aviation forces
of the Empire of Japan attacked the United States Pacific Fleet center at Pearl
Harbor, Hawaii and other military targets. The goal of this attack was to
sufficiently cripple the US Fleet so that Japan could then attack and capture
the Phillipines and Indo-China and so secure access to the raw materials needed
to maintain its position as a global military and economic power. This would
enable Japan to further extend the empire to include Australia, New Zealand,
and India (the ultimate boundaries planned for the so-called "Greater East
Asia Co-prosperity Sphere"). The prevailing belief within the Japanese
military and political establishment was that eventually, with the then
expected German defeat of Great Britain and Soviet Russia, the United States'
non-involvement in the European war, and Japan's control of the Pacific, that
the world power structure would stabilize into three major spheres of
Christmas (December 25)
At Christmas, people remember
when Jesus Christ was born and the Christian religion started. Jesus was born
in the town of Bethlehem, about two thousands years ago. The people who
followed Jesus' teaching were the first Christians.
Today, Christmas is a very important time in the Christian
year, but it is also very important to those who do not go to church. It is a
time for buying and giving presents, having parties, and being with family.
People start to get ready for Christmas in late October or
early November. Shop - keepers decorate their shops with lights, trees and
other decorations, and shoppers start to look for presents. Shops get very busy
and stay open later. People with family and friends in other countries often
send them cards and presents, and everyone begins to make plans for the coming
The Christmas holiday begins on 24 December: Christmas Eve.
People often stop work early and have a drink together, or finish their
Christmas a shopping. They cover the presents in special papers, and put them
under the tree.
Many people go to church at midnight on Christmas Eve. They
hear the Christmas story and sing carols.
Christmas Day ( 25 December ) is a holiday. Children usually
wake up very early. They look in their stockings to see what Santa put there
for them. After breakfast they open their other presents around the tree.
Christmas dinner is in the afternoon and is the biggest meal
of the day. Before they start to eat, people pull crackers. The crackers make a
loud noise, and have a small game and paper party hat inside.
Dinner is usually turkey with lots of winter vegetables and
then hot mince pies or a Christmas pudding.
At three o'clock many people in Britain turn their
televisions on because the Queen say
"Happy Christmas " to everyone.
A lot of people go for a walk in the afternoon or play with
their new games.
In the evening, people eat cold meat, and Christmas cake ( a
kind of fruit cake ), fruit and nuts, but they are usually not very hungry
because of t5heir big dinner.
Another British Christmas tradition is the pantomime. A
pantomime is a kind of play with a children's story ( like Cinderella or
Aladdin ) and lots of music and songs. Children like pantomimes because they
can join in and make a lot of noise. They often go with their school or family.
The Christmas season ends on the twelfth day after 25
December, which is 6 January. Most people take down their Christmas trees and
decorations by this date, and some people think it is bad luck not to do that.