Armed Forces Day is celebrated annually on the third Saturday of May and Armed Forces Week begins on the second Saturday of May and ends on the third Sunday of May. It was this past weekend. I think this is another holiday that has been forgotten or misunderstood by many Americans.
I don’t think many Americans could tell you the difference between Memorial Day, Armed Forces Day, and Veterans Day. They may think first of Memorial Day as the start of summer. Memorial Day honors all military dead. Veteran’s Day honors all those living who served in the military. Armed Forces Day honors all who currently serve in the military.
I was in high school and college in the days of the Vietnam War and the military draft, and the armed forces were not spoken of very highly by most young people. War was not something anyone wanted and many of us questioned why we were in Vietnam. The wars we studied in history from WWII and earlier seemed somehow more justified than Vietnam and Korea.
In the United States, it was first observed on May 20, 1950, and had been created under President Harry S. Truman who led the effort to establish a single holiday for citizens to come together and thank military members for their patriotic service. It celebrates the five U.S. military branches – the U.S. Army, U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Air Force, and U.S. Coast Guard.
The first Armed Forces Day was celebrated by parades, open houses, receptions and air shows. I saw no celebrations anywhere near me. The longest continuously running Armed Forces Day Parade in the U.S. is held in Chattanooga and this year marked its 74th parade.
Poets aren’t the only people who sometimes crave solitude. I find the solitude of isolation to be a good thing occasionally and I pursue it. Loneliness is not something I pursue, but sometimes it finds me.
the state of being alone, solitary, by oneself; a deserted place, aloneness but not loneliness which is a feeling of depression from being alone without companions. a place or time devoid of human activity. And then there is that obsolete meaning: A desire to be alone; a disposition to solitude. Not obsolete to me.
“Si sol splendescat Maria purificante, major erit glacies post festum quam fuit ante.” *
Today is the exact halfway point between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox. Yes, it is Groundhog Day and I have written about that here before. But how many different ways can you explain the origin of our tradition of expecting an animal to predict the coming weather? I can always explain to people my love of the film Groundhog Day, but I’ve done that here too.
Today I’ll just write about the winter midpoint, also known as a cross-quarter day. No matter what that groundhog (or a badger, as the original German tradition had it) or any animal does when he pokes his head out from hibernation today, be optimistic. We are halfway through winter.
The Wheel of the Year is an annual cycle of seasonal festivals, observed by many modern Pagans. It can be considered to have either four or eight festivals. Some people celebrate the four solstices and equinoxes, which are known as the “quarter days.” Some also celebrate the four midpoints between, such as today, which are known as the “cross-quarter days.”
Festivals celebrating the cycle of the seasons were far more important to people in the past. You might also hear Wiccans refer to these festivals as sabbats, a term from the Middle Ages. It was probably taken partially from the Jewish Shabbat.
Today is Imbolc on the wheel, the first cross-quarter day. It is supposed to be a time for purification and spring cleaning in anticipation of the year’s new life.
In Ancient Rome, this was a shepherd’s holiday. Among Celts, this day was associated with the onset of ewes’ lactation, prior to birthing the spring lambs. Celtic pagans dedicated this day to the goddess Brigid.
The Winter Solstice was the shortest day of the year with the fewest sunlit hours. But after that, the Sun started its return journey back toward us in the Northern Hemisphere. You didn’t notice that move back in December, but after today you can actually see and feel this gradual reappearance of the light.
Maybe you will pick up a hint of the coming of spring. Look for the first tiny buds. Some snowdrops will push their fragile blooms above the frosty soil or even through the snow.
Yes, hibernating animals are stirring in their dens and underground nests. They may even go out at night and grab a meal and then return to their winter tunnel.
If Groundhog Day seems silly, think of this as the Celtic Imbolc, or as the Chinese Li Chu’un, or the Christian Candlemas.
The Latin quote at the top of this essay is translated as a rhyme: “If Candlemas Day be fair and bright, winter will have another flight. If on Candlemas Day it be shower and rain, winter is gone and will not come again.” In other words, good weather today is a bad omen. Bad weather is a good sign. Reminds me of that groundhog. He sees his shadow if it is a sunny day, but that means more winter, though it would seem to indicate spring.
So, don’t be concerned with midwinter divinatory practices. Spring is six weeks away. Some of those days to come will be wintery; some will be springlike. It’s okay to hibernate for another six weeks and feel like the universe has decided that’s the way it should be.
* That quote at the top of this post is open to greater interpretation as far as the weather ahead. It literally translates as: “If the sun shines with Mary the mother of purifying, after the feast of ice will be greater than it was before.”
Tonight, the December Full Moon will be full in my part of the world at 11:08 p.m. For other places, it will be officially full in the early morning of December 8.
This month’s Full Moon is often called the rather dull and generic Cold Moon. December is when winter really begins in most of the Northern Hemisphere. Of course, parts of the U.S. and the world have already had significant snowfall and cold weather. In Paradelle, there hasn’t been snow yet, but we have had nights below freezing and almost all the plants have died or gone into their winter phase and the trees have lost their leaves. It is no surprise that in our hemisphere most of the ancient names for this Full Moon are related to the low temperatures and darkness. Long Nights Moon is another fairly common name. The Anglo-Saxon name was the Moon Before Yule, anticipating the ancient celebration around the winter solstice.
The winter solstice is still two weeks away, but ancient people were more likely to track the changing seasons by following the lunar month rather than the solar year. The Moon is much easier to observe and the 12 months in our modern calendar are based on that observation.
The Moon names used by the many Native American tribes are usually more interesting (and sometimes harder for me to find etymologies for) and vary based on geography and climate. The cold brings the Hoar Frost Moon, Moon of the Popping Trees, Winter Maker Moon and Drift Clearing Moon. The Choctaw people’s ancestral homeland spanned from most of central and southern Mississippi into parts of eastern Louisiana and western Alabama, so it is not surprising that in November it was the Sassafras Moon and December brings the Peach Moon.
The Anishnaabe (Chippewa, Ojibwe) people called this twelfth moon the Little Spirit Moon. It is a time of healing and recovery when we might receive both visions of the spirits and good health.
For many people, winter is a time to stay indoors and turn our attention to different tasks. Sailors might be mending sails and nets. Farmers might be repairing tools, preserving foods, storing meat and planning for spring planting. Warm-weather athletes might be recovering from injuries and training for a new season. Now that I can’t work in my garden and do outdoor projects, I turn inside with home projects and also increase my writing and painting.
It is a good time to walk the Red Road with pure intentions. The Red Road is a modern English-language concept of the right path in life. Though inspired by some Native American spiritual teachings, the term is used more in the Pan-Indian and New Age communities than amongst traditional Indigenous people. When I read Black Elk’s words, the metaphoric red road was a spiritual way of life. Oglala Sioux medicine man and holy man, Black Elk, saw everyone on the red road as being one interconnected circle of people. It is a sacred hoop that while you need to walk it alone, many others walk with you.
The metaphor had been adopted and adapted by groups from the Christian church to some modern addiction treatment programs. The idea of the Red Road as a way to recovery connects to the Little Spirit Moon.
This is a short follow-up to my post about day books (AKA a book of days). Are you ready to start one? You don’t need to wait for the new year. It can be your poem-a-day book, but that is pretty ambitious. Or it can be like more traditional day books, recording events of the day.
You could use any notebook, but I am a big fan of bound books for these kinds of projects. One that I found online is specifically a day book blank book designed with 365 pages. Actually, the one I was looking at has pages numbered 1–366. Day 366 is for leap years, like 2024. It has 370 unlined pages so you can write and sketch and paste in pictures, plus a title page and three notes pages – one at the start for your intro and two at the end to wrap things up.
You don’t need a theme or special project to start recording your thoughts, memories, changes, and progress for 365 days. It could be for you but it could be a book to leave for someone else. Record the first year of a baby’s life.
The numbered pages can be a bit of motivation for keeping at the practice, though the blank page shouldn’t be frightening. I know someone whose day book is composed of all images hand drawn and cut out of magazines, mail, or found. Another friend did a gratitude journal as her daily prompt.
Another blank day book I found online has a lock on it. That reminds me of a diary my older sister had when I was a kid. The lock might have protected it but it also made the contents all the more appealing. Day books are not diaries. More almanac than a diary or intimate journal. More log book than confessional.
McGovern’s is a real old-fashioned tavern. I’m sure there are those who think of it as an Irish pub and Esquire magazine called it one of the country’s best bars. But it is a tavern.
I started going there in the early 1970s when I had a summer job in Newark during college.
It had Guinness on tap, murals of Irish scenes in a back room, old photos on the wall, patches from police organizations, and the clientele was made up of city workers, cops, and firemen, prosecutors and attorneys, students from nearby Rutgers-Newark and a lunchtime crowd from the downtown offices.
And all of that is still there. Few changes in half a century. Maybe not much different since 1936. They have a half-hearted website. I guess you don’t have a choice these days – you have to have something online – but it seems appropriate that they don’t seem to really care. They are on Facebook and it looks like they are getting some bands in there.
I’m not sure if the write-up in Esquire works for or against the place. I don’t really see McGovern’s crowd as big Esquire readers.
The menu is still good but basic. I usually get some Chili Con Kearny (as in Kearny, NJ), a McGoo burger or maybe a Scully burger with some Jersey Taylor ham. There’s no other place I go to where I would order a liverwurst sandwich and lava fries.
I’m not around New Street in Newark much these days, but it only takes a few minutes in here for me to feel comfortable. No one yells, “Ken!” when I enter, like on Cheers, but it feels as much like home as I want from a tavern.
Yeah, it’s a tavern – from the Latin taberna and the Greek ταβέρνα/taverna. In Renaissance England, a tavern was distinguished from a public ale house because it was run as a private enterprise. So, drinkers were “guests” rather than members of the public.