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!)
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!)
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
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.
Rosenberg, Jennifer. “How FDR Changed Thanksgiving.” ThoughtCo., 2017. https://www.thoughtco.com/how-fdr-changed-thanksgiving-1779285.
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
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.
On July 4, 1776, birds chirped joyously as a light breeze made its way through the Philadelphia hill country. The townsfolk watched anxiously as prominent men in shiny black loafers made their way toward the Pennsylvania State House. Among the men walked Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Roger Sherman, and Robert R. Livingston. Leading the pack was none other than ginger-headed Thomas Jefferson – Congress’ most eloquent writer who led the composition of the Declaration of Independence. The men made their way into the large, opulent building, and the slamming of the doors behind them resounded through the town. Little did these men know that the events that were to take place in that big state house would change the trajectory of American history forever.
The Fourth of July is a popular patriotic holiday which allows U.S. citizens to celebrate the publication of the Declaration of Independence from Great Britain in 1776. Beginning the year after the Declaration was adopted, Americans started celebrating Independence Day. Early Fourth of July festivities included concerts, bonfires, parades, and the firing of cannons and muskets. This was usually accompanied by the reading of the Declaration of Independence. Things have changed a little; although we still celebrate by shooting fireworks, attending concerts, and throwing parades, we also organize family reunions, have barbecues and picnics, and go to baseball games.
The freedom found in the love of Christ offers the utmost liberation and freedom. Romans 6:6-7 tells us, “We know that our old self was crucified with Him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin” (NIV). Though America is bountiful in blessings and freedom, it pales in comparison to the deliverance of Jesus. Sin ensnares the lives of all people; however, under grace, liberation from sin does not come from a written declaration, but rather a living crucifixion. Because of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, we are no longer slaves to fear and sin, but rather living, liberated children of God.
Written by Lindsey
Nothing says “Happy Halloween” quite like black hooded figures chanting in a strange language, a creepy old castle, and runaway nuns. Well, maybe not the nuns, but all these things do have something in common with Martin Luther, and believe it or not, Martin Luther has something to do with Halloween. Christians are quick to dismiss Halloween as a holiday for heathens and unclean liberals, but next to Easter and Christmas, October 31 should be one of the most important anniversaries on the Protestant calendar.
The story starts with Luther as a lowly Augustinian monk. Luther joined the monastery after a near-death experience with a thunderstorm prompted him to make an irretractable vow to Saint Anne to spare his life at the price of becoming a monk. This is why we don’t play in lightning, kids; you might end up selling all your possessions and donning a wicked-awesome hooded robe while you recite rhythmic Latin prayers. Anyway, as a monk, Luther had time to study Scripture and noticed discrepancies between the actions of the Church and the actual commandments of the Bible. For instance, the Pope cannot take money from people in exchange for the pardoning of sins. The Church should not be the biggest oppressor of the poor. The realization of the rampant presence of these atrocities prompted Luther to nail a list of 95 complaints against Christian leaders to the door of a church in Wittenberg, Germany on—you guessed it—October 31, 1517.
Stopping the story here would be like offering a bowl of carrots to trick-or-treating children: misleading and highly disappointing. Luther is most famous for helping reform Christian theology, but that is only a fraction of his story.
Despite furious backlash from the Pope and his goonies (is that sacrilegious to say?), Luther stuck by his claims and successfully got himself excommunicated and outlawed, which meant anyone could beat, rob, or kill him without any legal consequences. To protect Luther, a friend hid Luther in his (creepy, old) castle under the alias of Knight George. When Luther got bored playing hopscotch and skittles—which are actual medieval pastimes, look it up—he translated the New Testament into German, the common vernacular of the people.
Impressive as that was, Luther was determined to do more. He returned to Wittenberg where he spent the next decades of his life preaching the truth of the Bible, composing hymns, writing passionate books, penning history-altering laws, and occasionally helping Catholic-turned-Protestant nuns escape their convents and assimilate into normal society, usually by introducing them to suitable husbands. One of these runaway nuns was named Katarina, and the suitable husband Luther found for her was himself. Katie proved to be not only a faithful wife, but also a savvy business partner and exceptional encourager for Luther’s reoccurring seasons of depression. Without Katie’s support, the Reformation could have died after the translation of the Bible.
This is only a fraction of Martin Luther’s story, yet its implications for believers and non-believers today are too many to name. Luther was looking for an academic debate when he nailed his grievances, but what he got was a spiritual, social, and political revolution that deeply affects our lives. Luther’s translation of the New Testament empowered the masses to read the Bible, and the study of Scripture skyrocketed the literacy rate, which then in turn prompted the creation of universal education and boosted the economy. Luther’s relationship with Katie also radically shifted the cultural perspective on marriage and family. Gone were the days of celibate church leaders parading themselves as holier-than-thou. Women were given the potential to become spiritual leaders in their homes, and children found a new place of honor and discipleship.
Little actually changed in Germany on Halloween of 1517, but without the events of that day and the decades of radical transformation that followed, the world as of Halloween 2017 might be totally unrecognizable. So if you still want to hate Halloween, that’s fine. Somebody else can wear this fabulous Martin Luther costume. But do take a minute or two to learn something about Martin Luther and the Reformation because it matters to you as a literate Christian living in a country with free education and protected women’s rights. I think you’ll be surprised how important black hooded figures, creepy old castles, and runaway nuns are to your life.
Written by Savanna
Image credit: Savanna Mertz