Archive for the ‘holidays’ Category

Mothers Day, a Horror Story

May 11, 2014

Mothers Day, a Horror Story

This is a tale of love, obsession, madness, candy, and carnations. It is the story of Mother’s Day.

The holiday was passionately promoted by single-minded spinster Anna Jarvis (1864-1948), described by Michael Farquhar as “… a woman of fierce loyalty and tireless enterprise and a total raving lunatic.”

Miss Jarvis worshipped her mother’s memory, and no wonder. Her mother, Ann Maria Reeves Jarvis (1832 – 1905), was truly a saint. Daughter of a clergyman, Ann Maria Reeves married merchant and minister Granville E. Jarvis and gave birth to 11 children, only four of whom survived into adulthood.  In 1851 Mrs. Jarvis, a Sunday School teacher, founded Mothers Day Work Clubs in West Virginia. These met in local churches but were no parish sewing circles.  The clubs dealt with health care, disability, infant mortality, poverty, employment, worker safety, food safety, and sanitation issues. Mrs. Jarvis’ brother, James E. Reeves, MD, a public health authority, was a supporter and frequent club lecturer.

The Civil War divided West Virginia communities and families, but Mrs. Jarvis kept Mothers Day Work Club members together. The women treated wounded soldiers on both sides and helped combat typhoid fever and measles epidemics.  After the war Mrs. Jarvis organized an annual Mothers’ Friendship Day to help reunite neighbors who had supported opposing sides. People honored mothers with carnations. After her husband died in 1902, Mrs Jarvis (and her daughters) moved to Philadelphia and lived with her son Claude, a prosperous businessman.


Seis de Mayo

May 6, 2014

Last night, the 5th of May, millions of people commemorated the Mexican victory at the Battle of Puebla (1862) with volleys of shots — of tequila — bravura barrages of beer, and murderous margaritas. Unsurprisingly, this morning finds heads held hostage and stomachs seared from nacho napalm. Today’s Spanish vocabulary lesson: crudo means ” hangover.”

If you celebrated Cinco de Mayo with cerveza, celebrate Seis de Mayo this morning with el desayuno de los campeones, the Breakfast of Champions. The traditional Mexican hangover cure is menudo  tripe soup or stew.


El Cinco de Mayo, un día de fiesta grande en los Estados Unidos

May 5, 2014

El Cinco de Mayo, un día de fiesta grande en los Estados Unidos

Cinco de Mayo, the 5th of May, is the biggest Mexican holiday in the entire United States. Oh sure, the holiday commemorates the 1862 Battle of Puebla, so kids in that Mexican city get the day off to watch a parade, and gringo-infested beach resorts get a little loco, but the rest of Mexico carries on as usual.

North of the border, it’s a different story. The community-based Mexican-American celebrations were co-opted by marketers for big multinational brewers, tequila importers, and mega-food purveyors. In other words, St. Patrick’s Day with mariachis. Is this a great country, or what?


“Cinco de Mayo: A History Obscured by Beers and Burritos,” Jason Ruiz, Long Beach Post

“U.S. Marketers Turn Cinco de Mayo Into Pan-Ethnic National Celebration, Joel Millman, Wall Street Journal

“Does Mexico Celebrate Cinco De Mayo? Find Out How Holiday Became Mainstream,” Susmita Baral, Latin Times

“Why is Cinco de Mayo More Popular in America Than in Mexico?” Brian Greene, U.S. News & World Report


Passover Seder: Greek Symposium?

April 15, 2014

Passover Seder: Greek Symposium?T

The Haggadah (הַגָּדָה‎) is a Jewish text that sets forth the order of the Passover ritual meal, the Seder.

“There’s a reason the haggadah feels goyish: Formally speaking, it’s Greek. It’s a Judaicized version of a Greek genre called ‘symposium literature’. Plato loved the form. So did Xenophon. The symposium enshrined the most appealing traits of the Hellenic personality: conviviality, Epicureanism, a love of good conversation.”

–”Platonic Form,” Judith Shulevitz, Tablet Magazine

The ancient Greek symposium (συμπόσιον) was a drinking party; drinking four glasses of wine is a Passover obligation. Diners are supposed to recline while they do so, just like the Greeks.


The Macaroons of Moses

April 14, 2014

The Macaroons of Moses

Tonight many Jewish families hold the Seder, the ritual meal celebrating the holiday of Passover. Many Americans are unfamiliar with the customs of this dinner, such as recounting the Exodus story as told in the ancient Maxwell House Haggadah and the obligation to drink four glasses of wine (oh, the sacrifices …).

One seasonal custom puzzling to Gentiles is the appearance of canned Kosher cookies in American supermarkets. Many Jews are puzzled as well, since the cookies are macaroons made with coconut, chocolate, and other ingredients not prominent in the Old Testament.


DC: Shamrocks in the Snow

March 17, 2014

DC: Shamrocks in the Snow

Faith & Begorra! Break out your green parkas. It’s a snowy Saint Patrick’s Day in Washington DC. Maybe they can hold a parade on the Metro. On the Green Line, of course.


Short link:

Photo (“Leprechaun on the Metro”) by Mike Licht. Download a copy here. Creative Commons license; credit Mike Licht,

Comments are welcome if they are on-topic, substantive, concise, and not boring or obscene. Comments may be edited for clarity and length. Yes, we know the parade was on Sunday.

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More Daylight. Less Sleep.

March 8, 2014

More Daylight. Less Sleep.

At 2:00 AM this Sunday morning people in most of the United States will set their clocks ahead one hour as we begin began Daylight Saving Time. Many households will also change changed the batteries in their smoke detectors. In Arizona, where they don’t believe in Daylight Saving Time, people mark the day by putting fresh ammunition in their handguns.


lnternational Women’s Day

March 8, 2014

March 8, 2014 is International Women’s Day. The century-old observance has its origin in social demonstrations for voting rights and political representation, but the facts of economic inequality were always obvious and acknowledged. That’s why we prefer the IWD video (above) by the nonprofit Kiva microfinance group to the better-known, token Doodle Google (below).


Happy Birthday, Charlie Darwin

February 12, 2014

Happy Birthday, Charlie Darwin

Charles Darwin was born on February 12, 1809. His birthday has evolved into a worldwide celebration, Darwin Day.

The complete works and manuscripts of Charles Darwin are available online, free.

Best Darwin Day graphic.

Bonus: Darwin, the comic book.


Short link:

Image by Mike Licht. Download a copy here. Creative Commons license; credit Mike Licht,

Comments are welcome if they are on-topic, substantive, concise, and not obscene. Comments may be edited for clarity and length.

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Super Bowl Stories You May Have Missed

February 2, 2014

Super Bowl Stories You May Have Missed

“In Brutal Contest of Strength and Strategy, a Culture Is Revealed,” Joshua Keating, Slate

“Company Attempts World Record For Largest Mozzarella Football,” CBSNewYork

“Groundhog Day and Super Bowl Coincide for 1st Time,” AP via ABC News

“8 NFL Facts That Will Piss You Off During The Super Bowl,” Nic Halverson, Discovery News

“Pot Will See Sales Spike For Super Bowl, Just Like Pizza,”  Sean Gregory,

“How Your Pizza Delivery Guy Is Getting Stiffed This Super Bowl,” Dave Jamieson, Huffington Post

“An Advertising Legend Rates 2014’s Top Super Bowl Commercials (And One Instant Classic You Won’t See On Sunday),” Allen St. John, Forbes 

“The Best Super Bowl Drinking Games 2014,” Christopher Zara, International Business Times



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