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Are You at Work?

Today is the third Monday of February, and it’s a national holiday. Some choose to call it Washington’s birthday, but others, especially retailers, prefer the moniker Presidents Day. Many think it’s supposed to be “Presidents’ Day.” Historical events and the fickle nature of Americans caused the confusion. Now, before you get all bent out of shape at the accusation “fickle,” let’s take a short (really short because this writer has no dog in the race) gander at some history. We’ll go way, way back, all the way to 1732.

On February 22, George Washington was born. No doubt his parents wanted good and wonderful things for him, but they could not have foreseen that he would become the President of the United States of America. Heck, the U.S. didn’t exist as an entity when Washington entered the world. I’ll bet they didn’t even give him a toy musket for his birthday or worry that he’d shoot his eye out if he got one!

In the brief history, the next date that counts is 4 July 1776. I’ll bet you all know that epoch and why it matters so much. Yep. That is the day the Second Continental Congress decided that this country should break free from England and her taxes. The Declaration of Independence was actually written two days earlier, but all the t’s were crossed, i’s dotted, and signatures affixed on July 4, so that’s the day we celebrate.

Washington died in 1799, and the entire country grieved. It was decided, by the power of Congress or the People, that his birthday should become a day of remembrance. In 1879, that honoring became a real holiday through the stroke of President Rutherford B. Hayes’ pen, but only the District of Columbia got the benefit of the law. Finally, the entire country was extended the same pleasure in 1885.

Of course, you’d have to have lived your entire life under a rock not to know that good old George Washington was elected in the first presidential race that soon followed. But this story isn’t all about Washington. There is at least one more president important enough to mention by name: Abraham Lincoln. That tall, bearded icon entered the world on 12 February 1809. You all know that he wanted to unite the North and South and that he wrote the Gettysburg Address, and you also know we’ve never (really) stopped arguing since the first president. But that’s another story altogether. Lincoln is certainly important enough to celebrate.

Now we come around to some more disagreements. First of all, not every state thought we should add Lincoln’s day to the official holidays. Though it was observed in some states, it never became a national holiday. Still, school children already knew Lincoln’s birthday, and many people thought it should get stronger recognition. Nevertheless, Congress did nothing to add Lincoln’s birthday to the national roster of holidays.

What Congress did do was listen to labor unions, voices in the private sector, and employers who thought that moving holidays to Mondays and creating some three-day weekends would reduce employee absenteeism. Retailers loved the idea, knowing they could capitalize on it and create targeted sales when people were free to shop. Many suggested that Washington’s birthday be renamed Presidents’ Day to honor both Washington and Lincoln. Congress ignored that request, too. Calling it the Uniform Monday Holiday Bill, Congress passed the measure in 1968, and in 1971, it took effect.

The population, though, preferred Presidents’ Day, and most people see it as an opportunity to honor all men who have served in the White House as the nation’s top executive. In truth, many of us see it as a day to shop. Not all employers add it to the official holidays they honor.

So, what are you doing today? Are you honoring Washington and Lincoln and other presidents? Are you shopping? Or are you, like me, at your desk working? No matter what you’re doing, at least you know why you don’t get any mail today. Some people are off celebrating our presidents.

Sources:

https://nationaltoday.com/presidents-day/

https://www.britannica.com/topic/Presidents-Day

https://www.timeanddate.com/holidays/us/washington-birthday

https://www.history.com/topics/holidays/presidents-day

Written by Kā

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Celebrating Love

Ironically, the eldest person in our office is writing about, conceivably, the most romantic day of the year, at least according to Hallmark and retail candy/flower sales. Is Valentines Day really a construct of card companies? What is the history, and why on Earth do we celebrate the idea of love on what sometimes feels like a random day in February? History.com tells us that it’s possible to date the origin of this day all the way back to 6 Century B.C. and a festival called Lupercalia, where dogs and goats became sacrificial devices in fertility blessings. Women bore the brunt of what we’d now see as strange and horrific: they actually lined up to be literally hit with the bloody hides and enter a lottery allowing them to live with a particular man for a year!

As if that isn’t shocking enough, NPR and LifeHacker inform us that Pope Gelasius I desired to stop the pagan rituals. Toward that end, he dubbed the formerly bloody day for two Christian martyrs, Valentine of Rome and Valentine of Terni. The two men coincidentally lost their lives years apart, but on the same date in the 3rd Century A.D. What are the chances?  Perfect apparently!

So, how did we get from the bloody fertility rites to the romantic ideas we entertain today? There are several answers to this question. First, and most simply, some think that the two Valentines were actually one man, who was responsible for performing illegal marriage rites for soldiers.  Others, Reader’s Digest included, point to the Normans and their celebration of Galatin’s Day. Since “galatin” means “lover” or “gallant,” the idea of romance is introduced both from the actions of St. Valentine and the language of the Norse. Geoffrey Chaucer underscored the romantic aspect of the day with his flowery words written to commemorate the engagement of King Richard II to Anne of Bohemia. In any case, people began to pen their own lovelorn notes by 1415. Among those who scribbled notable verses or letters are Duke of Orleans Charles, “A Farewell to Love,” and Shakespeare’s words embedded in “Hamlet.”

The Industrial Revolution brought a new spin on the practice, ushering in machine-made, mass-produced, straight-from-the-factory-to-the-retail-store cards that could be easily mailed. Hallmark Cards got in on the action in 1913, and Valentine’s Day (Keep that apostrophe, please! The day belongs to an actual person.) was reborn as a commercial holiday.

Chances are that if you’ve stuck with me thus far, you’re beyond the days of decorating lunch bags or shoe boxes and being mad that you must give a card to every classmate or none of them. Here’s guessing you might want some ideas for celebrating with your own loved one. Of course, you can always fall back on the standards: heart-shaped boxes of chocolate, store-bought cards, and red roses (Now we know why red ones signify love, don’t we? It harkens back to those pagan practices!). Or, you can stay with me, and I’ll offer you a couple of alternate ideas.

First of all, there is a plethora, well, at least a handful of Dallas excursions that include chocolate. Woohoo! Let’s go! Choose from these tours:

  • My Heart Belongs to Chocolate
  • Chocolate in Your Heart
  • The Vintage Valentine’s
  • Decadent Valentine Dreams Chocolate
  • “My Funny Valentine” Dinner and Comedy Show
  • Winery, Chocolate, Pizza, and Jazz
  • Tacos, Margaritas, and Valentine’s Celebration, or
  • Valentine’s Champagne and Chocolate

Tours not your thing? Got a pocketful of cash? How about a flight over the Dallas skyline at sunset and dusk followed by a fabulous meal for two? Or, consider a hot-air balloon flight at sunrise or sunset that comes complete with champagne and photos for your scrapbook. Flying gives you the jitters? Little to no cash in your tattered jeans? Visit TripSavvy (https://www.tripsavvy.com/unique-valentines-day-ideas-1004736) or the City of Dallas website (http://www.dallascitynews.net/six-ways-celebrate-valentines-day-dallas) for more ideas. Prefer Fort Worth to Dallas? Here are two websites for things to do in Cow Town: Brumbaugh’s, an iconic furniture store for over 50 years, has some ideas, (https://brumbaughs.com/6-unique-places-to-go-on-valentines-day-in-fort-worth/) and so does Eventbrite (https://www.eventbrite.com/d/tx–fort-worth/valentines-day-events/. Whatever you do, be glad that bloody rituals have ended and soldiers are no longer confined to the single life. Have fun and enjoy precious time with your loved one.

Written by Kā

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Recognizing the Work 24-Hour Period Holiday: Labor Day

It is that time of year again: the first Monday in the month of September. “What do you want to do? I don’t know, what do you want to do?” Sound familiar? Every year, for the past fifteen or so years, this has been the conversation that has plagued my family. Despite prolonged deliberations, we arrive at the same solution. The van is quickly loaded and off to Ellen’s Amusement we go! Alright, let me backup just a smidge. This chosen day of fun falls on Labor Day! Honestly, I have never known or cared why most people get this day off from school/work until I did a bit of digging. (Googling like crazy!) Putting my family tradition aside, here are a few things I discovered about Labor Day.

What does Labor Day even celebrate? Great question, but don’t overthink it. Honestly, it is as simple as it sounds. Labor Day is the celebration and recognition of Americans in the workforce.

The first Monday of September is designated as Labor Day. Yes, this is another one of those holidays that switches dates from year to year. Ironically, Labor Day was first celebrated on Tuesday, September 5, 1882, in New York. However, the holiday was not nationally recognized until President Grover Cleveland signed off on it in 1894. For you math people, that was nearly twelve years later.

Peter McGuire of the American Federation of Labor and Matthew Maguire of the Central Labor Union are no doubt tied closely to the holiday’s formation. However, there is still an open debate about which, if either, was the first to propose this holiday. Essentially, the origins of the holiday are chalked up to the contributions of group efforts made by the CLU and the AFL.

Hopefully, after reading this blog through entirely, you have learned a thing or five about Labor Day. As a final parting thought, remember to not wear white after Labor Day, a phrase everyone has probably already heard and may never know why. (I still do not understand why!)

Written by Jodan

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What St. Patrick’s Journey Teaches Us About Adversity

Before writing this blog, my knowledge of St. Patrick’s Day read thus: it’s on March 17th,  something Ireland, and if you don’t wear green, you will be assaulted. If you live in America, I assume your knowledge of the holiday is about the same as mine. However, after doing some digging of my own, I have come to understand that Saint Patrick had to endure a fair share of hardships. Looking at his complete timeline, I now realize just how significant each one of his tribulations was to the cultivation of his impact and the legacy we see today. So, in the spirit of knowledge and cultural awareness, let’s take a look at the adversities of St. Patrick and what they teach us about our own struggles.

Saint Patrick (full name Maewyn Succat) was born in Britain near the end of the 4th century (386 AD). There is little information regarding his childhood, but when he was sixteen, he was enslaved by Irish pirates. He was then forced to tend sheep in Ireland as a slave for six years. As he became more accustomed to the Irish language and practices, Patrick began to grow in his faith. He started to pray daily and began to see his captivity as a test from God. One night, he heard a voice telling him to escape and return to his homeland. This led him to board a boat with a group of sailors venturing to Britain, and he was reunited with his family after being lost at sea for approximately a month. After escaping imprisonment, Patrick received a vision of the Irish people reaching out to him and was inspired to bring the Gospel to the citizens of Ireland. Although the people didn’t embrace him upon his initial return, Saint Patrick went on to become the most influential Christian figure in the history of Ireland, converting and baptizing individuals across the nation. He continued working with, and establishing, churches throughout Ireland until his death towards the end of the 5th century (between 461-93 AD).

As you can see, Saint Patrick endured a lot during his lifetime, but his faith carried him through such hardships. He possessed a mindset that didn’t allow him to give up when things seemed impossible to overcome. But, of course, I’m sure everyone has heard the phrase “don’t give up!” a million times in a variety of different environments. Every adult is aware of the importance of perseverance and developing a strong work ethic. The question is this: how? How can I build a mindset that helps me push through rough times? How can I look at adversity in a new light that helps me move past it? How do I not give up?

For starters, I would suggest ridding yourself of the preconceived notion that adversity has to be a bad thing. The words “adversity” and “hardship” can often come to our minds with negative connotations, which makes us want to avoid them. However, hardships can be viewed in ways that are less negative. For example, Saint Patrick viewed his enslavement as a test of his faith from God. Of course, the word “test” might also have a negative connotation for many people, but Saint Patrick understood that all good things come from God. With this in mind, he was able to view his adversity in a different way.

This transitions nicely into the next question people may have: how can I view my adversity in a truly positive light? As previously mentioned, understanding God’s goodness can certainly help us see our struggles positively. The Bible also specifically lays out how adversity leads to goodness in Romans: “we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope” (Rom. 5:3-4). If we begin to view our tribulations more as opportunities for character development and less as burdens we have to carry, it is more likely that we will have greater hope and energy when approaching such trials. When our hopes are high, we can garner the strength and energy to tackle whatever may be in front of us.

This leads us to the last, and certainly most important, question: where do I find hope? Saint Patrick makes the source of his hope very clear in his confession, written shortly before he died: “thus I give untiring thanks to God who kept me faithful in the day of my temptation, so that today I may confidently [offer] my soul as a living sacrifice for Christ my Lord” (“The Confession of Saint Patrick”, par. 34). Because Saint Patrick put his hope in Christ, he had a renewed sense of energy when approaching adversity; he even began to view adversity more positively, which drove him to not give up when his tasks seemed impossible to overcome.

So, today as we’re pinching our friends and showing off our horrendous Irish accents, I hope this holiday can serve as a reminder of where our hope comes from. Even in our most troubled times, God is constant. We just have to remember to look up and know He’s there. Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!

Written by Ryan (NEW: Click on author’s name to learn more about him or her!)

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The Unique History of Thanksgiving

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, it’s time to prepare for family, feasting, and football. Timeless traditions surround this holiday, and it seems as though every American is aware of its origins. As a kid, I remember dressing up as a Pilgrim or Native American to celebrate a Thanksgiving feast just as they did in 1621. We learned that these two very different people came together to celebrate and feast together, which is the reason why we celebrate the same thing today. But, there are many facts about this historical event that the average person, including me until I wrote this blog, does not know.

When the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag tribe joined together to feast in Plymouth, Massachusetts, they had no intentions of celebrating on a yearly basis. For them, it was just a big get-together where everyone brought a dish of food to share. So, this was technically the first American potluck during the colonial days. The Pilgrims often dedicated days of thanksgiving to God when harvests or other good things occurred. When they finished feasting on their harvest with the neighboring Indians, they dedicated themselves to acts of thanksgiving.

This custom grew as the colonies expanded, and by the 19th century, many U.S. States adopted the holiday as an annual event. Abraham Lincoln selected the final Thursday of November as the day to celebrate Thanksgiving in 1863, but Franklin D. Roosevelt changed it to the fourth Thursday of November in 1939 to increase the shopping days before Christmas. Every U.S. president has delivered a Thanksgiving proclamation of some sort. However, the common pardon that is given out to one turkey did not begin until 1989 with George H.W. Bush. This tradition calls for the U.S. president to pardon a domesticated turkey from the Thanksgiving Day festivities for the rest of its life. Ever since, the turkey pardon has been an entertaining and enjoyable tradition for all to watch, unless you’re a turkey.

The large amounts of food are one of the best parts of Thanksgiving. Every year, I eat far too much and usually regret it, but isn’t that what Thanksgiving is all about? Every family dines differently on this day, but the most popular food for Thanksgiving is turkey. I grew up eating turkey every Thanksgiving, so I cannot imagine one without it. Despite this popular practice, there is no record of turkey being eaten by the Pilgrims in 1621. Instead, they ate venison as the main dish. Also, the popular Thanksgiving dessert, pumpkin pie, was not on the menu during the first Thanksgiving either. The Pilgrims were really missing out.

Perhaps the oddest part about the history of Thanksgiving is the various towns that claim to have started the Thanksgiving tradition before the Plymouth settlers. A small town in Texas called San Elizario makes claims for having the first Thanksgiving in America. In 1598, a Spanish explorer led a group of settlers across the Mexican desert. When they finally reached the banks of the Rio Grande River, they celebrated with thanksgiving. This Texan town is not the only place to declare its Thanksgiving claims. Berkeley Plantation in Virginia also argues that they started the tradition in 1619, just two years before the Plymouth settlers celebrated. Both towns reenact their own Thanksgiving Day events and defend their claims as the original location of Thanksgiving.

Regardless, thanksgiving has been a huge part of our culture. Many things have changed, but the values remain the same. It’s a time when we can relax with others and slide into a coma from all the delicious food. More importantly, it’s a time when everyone can reflect on their lives and give thanks for what they have been blessed with.

Written by Jack

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Works Cited:

Shenkman, Rick. “Top 10 Myths About Thanksgiving.” History News Network, 2001. https://historynewsnetwork.org/article/406.

History.com Editors. “Mayflower Myths.” HISTORY, 2009.https://www.history.com/topics/thanksgiving/mayflower-myths.

Bathroom Readers Institute. “6 Things Everyone Believes About Thanksgiving That AreAbsolutely Untrue.” Reader’s Digest, 2018. https://www.rd.com/culture/thanksgiving-myths/.

Monkman, Betty C. “Pardoning the Thanksgiving Turkey.” The White House Historical Association, 27 September 2018.  https://www.whitehousehistory.org/pardoning-the-thanksgiving-turkey.

Rosenberg, Jennifer. “How FDR Changed Thanksgiving.” ThoughtCo., 2017. https://www.thoughtco.com/how-fdr-changed-thanksgiving-1779285.

Veteran’s Day and the Ethics of Honor

President Wilson’s words at the commemoration of the first Armistice Day in 1919 ring true to this day: “To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations.” Germany and the allied nations signed a peace treaty known as the Treaty of Versailles, ending World War I on November 11th. That day was declared a day to not only remember World War I veterans, but to observe and maintain world peace as well.

Armistice Day gave birth to Veteran’s Day in 1954. Though many hoped and even proclaimed that World War I would be “the end of all wars,” World War II followed and brought that hope to a tragic end. Furthermore, a great number of soldiers, airmen, sailors, and several other military personnel were deployed for this war, leading the 83rd Congress to replace the word “Armistice” with “Veterans” to honor veterans of all wars.

Veteran’s Day is often easily confused with Memorial Day. While Veteran’s Day is a day to honor the living veterans of all wars, Memorial Day was established a year after the Civil War to honor those who fell in active duty. Both holidays are celebrated in a similar way and can even be interchangeable, but what they each stand for possesses distinct uniqueness. Moreover, Veteran’s Day honors men and women who have served in the military, regardless of whether it was in combat or not. Several people go out of their way to celebrate Veteran’s Day; from decorations and gatherings, to free goods and services for veterans, there are many ways people choose to express their gratitude and appreciation.

Most people agree that war is brutal and ugly, but when a nation is faced with the question “why are we going to war?” the answers vary, which makes it a rather controversial topic that garners some serious reactions from people across the political spectrum. Though Veteran’s Day is a national holiday, those who served aren’t always treated with the honor and respect they deserve. For instance, veterans of the Vietnam War were not fortunate enough to get a festive reception. This was due to the fact that the US neither had an objective or declared war beforehand, which caused the rise of an extremely contentious political climate during the war.

Students on university campuses and in the academic society started an anti-Vietnam War movement; soon, protests became more prominent and drew people’s attention to the reality of the war. When the soldiers that fought in the Vietnam War returned home, they didn’t get a hero’s welcome. Several veterans testified about being mistreated, insulted, and in some cases, assaulted. Another war that was ethically, morally, and politically controversial was the Iraq War. In 2003, the US invaded Iraq due to their alleged possession of “weapons of mass destruction,” an idea that was not clearly verified. Both wars took so many lives and nearly destroyed nations for reasons that are not clear to this day, which is why many felt the need to protest and oppose.

Some might begin to wonder if there is an instance where one should or shouldn’t honor a veteran. Most of the people that decide to either protest or refrain from celebrating holidays like Veteran’s Day have probably wondered the same thing as well. The answer to the question depends on the individual, but there are some factors we can consider to help guide us towards it. Sometimes, men and women in armed forces can decided whether or not they wish to serve; however, like in the Vietnam War, many had no choice but to serve and were simply following orders from their superiors. Therefore, despising them and blaming them for everything doesn’t change the situation.

Everyone has the right to agree or disagree with the government’s decisions on wars, and they have the freedom of speech to express that too. However, political criticism should be the last thing veterans get considering the several challenges they face that are often unique to their circumstances and background as former military personnel. On Veteran’s Day, the focus should be on the bravery and will of the human spirit displayed through ordinary men and women who exhibit extraordinary courage. The least we can do is to put our politics aside, take time out of our day to give back, and help make them feel appreciated.

Written by Kenean

Sources

Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs. “Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs.” Learn to Communicate Assertively at Work, 20 Mar. 2006, www.va.gov/opa/vetsday/vetdayhistory.asp.

IowaPublicTelevision. “Experiences of Vietnam Veterans Returning Home from War.” YouTube, YouTube, 21 Oct. 2015, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b6t9jchhVRg.

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