You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘holiday’ tag.

Walpurgis Night

Walpurgis Night at the Heidelberg Thingstätte

Tonight is Walpurgis Night (AKA Saint Walpurgis Night or Eve) which is celebrated on the night of 30 April and the day of 1 May.

It is the eve of the Christian feast day of Saint Walpurga, an 8th-century abbess in Francia, and commemorates her traditional canonization date and the movement of her relics to Eichstätt on 1 May in the year 870.

But the origins of the Christian holiday date back to earlier pagan celebrations of fertility rites and the coming of spring. After the Norse were Christianized, the pagan celebration became combined with the legend of St. Walburga which was a common way to transition pagans to Christianity. It is likely that the shared date allowed people to celebrate both events under church law without fear of reprisal.

Saint Walpurga was believed to have cured the illnesses of many local residents and battled pests, rabies and whooping cough, as well as witchcraft. In Germanic folklore, Hexennacht (Dutch: heksennacht), literally “Witches’ Night”, was believed to be the night of a witches’ meeting on the Brocken, the highest peak in the Harz Mountains, a range of wooded hills in central Germany.

Christians prayed to Saint Walpurga for her intercession to protect them from witchcraft. Bonfires on the Eve are meant to ward off evil spirits and witches.

Local variants of Walpurgis Night are observed throughout Europe in the Netherlands, Germany, the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Sweden, Lithuania, Latvia, Finland, and Estonia. In Denmark, the tradition of using bonfires to ward off the witches is observed as Saint John’s Eve.

My soundtrack for the Eve is Procol Harum’s “Repent Walpurgis.”
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=21UCojHGt9k

Advertisements

chaucer-courtly-love

Valentine’s Day, Grandparent’s Day, Sweetest Day, Mother’s Day and Fathers’ Day all fit the “Hallmark Holiday” definition of a holiday. The word “holiday” comes from the Old English word hāligdæg. The word originally referred only to special religious days. The word derived from the notion of a “Holy Day”, but has evolved (or more accurately devolved) to its current form. Valentine’s Day is the second biggest card-giving day of the year in the U.S.

It’s a bit sad that it has all turned into cards and candy and restaurants charging extra that day for the same old food. So much guilt and obligation about buying or forgetting to buy gifts.

Those ancient Romans loved festivals. They had a fertility festival in mid-February called Lupercalia. It honored Lupa, the wolf who saved Romulus and Remus, who then founded the city of Rome.

Lupercalia was a pagan festival and included sacrifices of goats and dogs. The festival was still very popular even when the Roman Empire was officially Christian. Of course, the Church wanted to replace it with something more acceptable. Something with a saint would be nice.

That early Christian priest, St. Valentine, who was martyred on February 14 in 269 A.D. actually has a good story. According to legend, due to a shortage of soldiers enlisting, Emperor Claudius II forbade single men to get married in order to increase his army. Valentine rebelled in his priestly way by performing secret wedding rituals. He was discovered, imprisoned, and sentenced to death. While awaiting his beheading in jail, he fell in love with the daughter of a guard who visited him. On the day he was executed, the priest left a note for the woman professing his love and he signed it “Love from your Valentine.”

But Chaucer often gets credit for making St. Valentine’s Day more of a secular and romantic day. When he wrote in the 14th-century his “The Parlement of Foules” he returned to that springtime idea that “on seynt Valentynes day” the goddess Nature watched all of the birds choose and seduce their mates. (“Foules being fowls or birds not “fools” – though these days the latter may be a better description for our behavior on this day.)

Chaucer wrote the poem for a patron poem to honor the marriage of Richard II to Anne of Bohemia. There are no records of St. Valentine’s Day festivities in the English court until after Chaucer’s time. he nicely blended the nature and fertility associations, especially the rural English belief that birds choose their mates on February 14th, to the courtly love conventions of the day.

This put pressure on us (mostly males, as with the birds) to choose, seduce, including with gifts.

In Japan, Valentine’s Day is observed by women who present chocolate gifts (handmade ones are considered better) to men.

Honmei choco (“true feeling chocolate”) has also become “obligation chocolate” as women are expected to not only gift boyfriends, prospective boyfriends, and husbands, but bosses and almost any guy who has done them some favor.

The Honmei chocolate is higher-quality and more expensive than giri choco (“obligation or courtesy chocolate”) which is given to male coworkers and other men to whom the woman has no romantic attachment.

Don’t get mad ladies. There is also a reciprocal “holiday” called White Day which is celebrated one month later on March 14th when men buy candy and gifts for women. This is also observed in South Korea and Taiwan.

On White Day, males who received a honmei-choco on Valentine’s Day are expected – obligated – to return the favor by giving gifts, usually more expensive. Popular White Day gifts are cookies, jewelery, white chocolate, white lingerie and marshmallows.

Would you be surprised to find that White Day is a modern holiday first celebrated in 1978, or that it was started by the National Confectionery Industry Association?

But wait – there’s also Black Day a month after White Day (April 14) which appears to be more of a South Korean informal tradition for single people.  Not being a big candy eater, I like this day when singles get together and eat jajangmyeon (white noodles with black bean sauce). It’s a day for those who did not give or receive gifts on Valentine’s Day or White Day.

So many  “Hallmark holidays” (a disparaging term that is not encouraged by the Hallmark card company) designed to sell things and make us feel guilty for being alone or not a loving as we should be. Next to New Year’s Eve, I would say that Valentine’s Day (now more often used without the Saint part) is a day that splits people between happiness and sadness.

halloween-picture

Samhain (pronounced SAH-win, not Sam Hain) is a Gaelic festival marking the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter or the “darker half” of the year.

It is celebrated from sunset on October 31st until sunset on November first and was chosen because it was the midpoint between the autumn equinox and the winter solstice. If you are wondering if this has some connection to our Halloween, then read on.

Along with Imbolc,  Beltane and Lughnasadh it makes up the four Gaelic seasonal festivals. I have written before about Beltane, the ancient Celtic festival meaning “May First.” It was traditionally celebrated with large bonfires to mark spring transitioning to summer.  Cattle were driven through the Beltane bonfires for purification and fertility.

The day was once seriously observed in Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man and kindred festivals were held at the same time of year in other Celtic lands such as Wales, Cornwall) and Brittany.

In Modern Irish the name is Samhain, in Scottish Gaelic Samhainn and in Manx Gaelic Sauin. These are also the names for the month of November in each language, shortened from other forms.

These names all come from the Old Irish samain, samuin or samfuin all of which referred to November first and the festival and royal assembly that was held on that date in medieval Ireland. It seems to have been translated as “summer’s end.”

If you read Sir James George Frazer’s The Golden Bough: A Study in Magic and Religion, he says  that May 1 and November 1 may not have been important to European farmers, but they were important to herdsmen. The May date would be the beginning of summer and the time when herds could be driven to the upland summer pastures. November 1 would mark the beginning of winter and the time to bring them back. Frazer suggests that this halving of the year comes from the time when the Celts were mainly a pastoral people dependent on their herds.

In medieval Ireland Samhain marked the end of the season for trading and a time for tribal gatherings.  It was a time for storytelling and Samhain appears in the pre-Christian Irish literature.  Many important events in Irish mythology happen or begin on Samhain.

In the 9th century, the Roman Catholic Church shifted the date of All Saints’ Day to 1 November first, while  the next day later became All Souls’ Day.

Over time, the last night of October came to be called All Hallows’ Eve (or All Hallows’ Even). Samhain influenced All Hallows’ Eve and the Eve influenced the celebration of Samhain and the two eventually morphed into the secular holiday known as Halloween.

Since the late 20th century, Celtic neopagans and Wiccans have observed Samhain, or something based on it, as a religious holiday.

Today is Labor Day in the United States. It’s another holiday that seems to have lost a lot of its meaning.  Like some other holidays – Veterans Day, Memorial Day, some would even say Christmas – we now view this as a day off and a long weekend. Many children associate today with the end of summer and going back to school.

The first American Labor Day was marked on a Tuesday – September 5, 1882 – organized by the Central Labor Union in New York as a day of rest for working persons.

The Haymarket Riots (or Haymarket affair or Haymarket massacre) was a demonstration on Tuesday, May 4, 1886, at the Haymarket Square in Chicago. It started out as a rally in support of striking workers. Someone threw a bomb at police as they dispersed the public meeting and that resulted in gunfire from the police, the deaths of eight police officers (most from friendly fire) and some civilians.

The legal proceedings that followed got international press and eight “anarchists” were tried for murder. Four men were convicted and executed, and one committed suicide in prison, although the prosecution conceded none of the defendants had thrown the bomb.

U.S. President Grover Cleveland supported moving the holiday to a September date to avoid associations with the Haymarket riot and Socialist May Day associations. He signed a bill into law making the September Labor Day observance a federal holiday in 1894.

Most other countries celebrate workers on May first of each year. “May Day” refers to several public holidays but is associated with International Workers’ Day, or Labour Day, a day of political demonstrations and celebrations organized by unions and other groups.

Americans don’t really do much to celebrate work or workers today. We have barbecues, backyard blowouts, watch early college football games. And yet, now is not a good time for workers. Unemployment is high and businesses are cutting back. It’s not a good time for labor unions either. There are lots of demands for concessions by unions on their contracts and some politicians are calling for an end to unions.

America is a work-obsessed culture and it seems a shame that this holiday doesn’t have more of a connection to the positive aspects of work and workers.

Today is labeled on my calendar as Columbus Day and it is a federal holiday in America. But 22 states don’t celebrate Columbus Day. And protesters turn up at many Columbus Day parades and events.

What is going on with this man and this holiday?

Groups have suggested renaming it Italian Heritage Day or Indigenous Peoples’ Day, or moving it on the calendar and reclaiming the second Monday in October as “Native American Day.” (South Dakota already calls it that.)

Even schools are shying away from Columbus lately. Some of the lesson plans I experienced as a child on that day have evolved to a more balanced perspective of what happened after Columbus reached the Caribbean and the suffering of indigenous populations.

Posthumous portrait of Christopher Columbus by Ridolfo Ghirlandaio. There are no known authentic portraits of Columbus.

Still, Columbus’ life and discoveries should be studied and taught – though perhaps a bit differently. He risked his life to explore an unknown world and created new connections between Europe and the Americas.

Of course, he also took slaves back to Spain. He launched a trend that conquistadors would follow and they would kill many of the Native Americans.

We were taught that he discovered America, but the land he accidentally came upon was already occupied by people who had discovered it much earlier.  Columbus landed on islands in the Caribbean. He never set foot in any part of the land now referred to as the United States.

But, are we judging a 16th century man by 21st century standards?

Some things that my own elementary Columbus Day lessons never included…

Columbus fulfilled his contractual agreement to the King and Queen of Spain by bring back from his from his first voyages with a few spices, some gold he taken native peoples’ ear lobes. He also had 350 newly enslaved men and women. He would have had another 250, but they died on the voyage to Spain.

The King and Queen were satisfied, so they backed a second expedition in 1493. Remember that from school? Probably not. That second voyage had 17 ships with 1200 men. He had a full cavalry troop. he had 6 priests.

They raided and plundered the Caribbean islands. He returned with large expeditions in 1498 and 1502 that actually did the greatest damage to the indigenous peoples of the Caribbean.

Hispaniola was his home base. It had a population of eight million in 1492. After his raids, executions, enslavements (both on the islands and with those taken to Europe) and because of the European diseases the crews introduced, in 4 years the population is estimated to have dropped by half to 4 million.

His legacy continued after his last voyage. By 1508 the number was 100,000 and by 1535, the native population was for all purposes extinct.

Many historians say that the genocides of the twentieth century against Armenians, Jews, Gypsies, Ibos, Bengalis, Timorese, Ugandans and more,  still don’t come close to the number of people or as large a percentage of a population destroyed as Columbus’ voyages and occupations.

On 20 May 1506, at about age 55, Columbus died in Spain. He was comfortably wealthy from the gold taken from Hispaniola. Did you know that at his death he was still convinced that his journeys had been along the east coast of Asia?

There is an online petition that says:

To: The President of The United States, The U.S. Congress, The U.S. Senate

We, the undersigned, petition the President of the United States, The U.S. Congress, and The U.S. Senate to hereby change “Columbus Day” to “Native American Day”.

Christopher Columbus did not discover America, he discovered Native Americans living peacefully in their homeland. And, as history has taught us, Mr. Columbus was not even the first to visit America from Europe.

So, then why do we continue to disgrace Native Americans by throwing this “National Holiday” up in their faces? It’s about time we realize that as Americans we are continuing the hate cycle by allowing this to continue. We should be thanking Native Americans for taking us in and sharing with us their ancient wisdom.

We have never had a Native American holiday in the U.S. and that is truly a shame. We deem anything we want as a “Federal Holiday” if only for the benefit of government employees having yet another 3-day weekend.

Let us give credit where credit is due. We urge you to change “Columbus Day” to “Native American Day”.

What do you think?

Today is Michaelmas, a feast day in the Christian world for the archangel Michael. It was once a very important day in the year, but now is hardly even noticed.

Because it occurred near the equinox which initiates the darkening of our days (in the northern hemisphere) and the end of the harvest, it was important in farmers’ real life calendar year. Farmers needed to make some important decisions about which animals could be fed through the winter and which ones would need to be sold or slaughtered.

If you survived by fishing, that season was probably ending. But it is the beginning of hunting season.

I wrote about Michaelmas earlier and why you don’t eat blackberries after “Old Michaelmas Day” (which occurs in October).

Michaelmas was once the day in England for settling rents and accounts for farmers, which required having your harvest in and sold or the sale of livestock.

michaelmas-daisyWant to celebrate with a traditional Michaelmas meal? Then a roast stubble goose would be the meal.  That was once a commoner’s fancy meal, but today a roast goose would qualify as a luxury.

You might want to pick a bouquet of asters, also known as Michaelmas daisies. they are perennial flowers that usually bloom in late summer or fall in clusters of white, blue, deep purple (the traditional Michaelmas color) or pink with a center of gold. They are easy to grow, carefree plants.

Add to this a bit of literary trivia: Because it is the feast of Saint Michael, it is also marked as the birthday of Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, author of Don Quixote and Spain’s greatest literary figure. Cervantes’s exact date of birth is unknown, although it was the custom in Spain to name a baby for the feast day on which he was born, and given that Cervantes was baptized just 10 days later, on October 9th, it is probable that today was his birthday.

Visitors to Paradelle

  • 374,084

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 1,289 other followers

Follow Weekends in Paradelle on WordPress.com

Archives

I Recently Tweeted…

Tweets from Poets Online

Recent Photos on Flickr

Other Blog Posts That Caught My Eye

Advertisements
%d bloggers like this: