Saturday, March 17, 2018

St. Patrick's Day

Of course, to understand St. Patrick's Day, we first have to know something about the man  the holiday is named for.

Saint Patrick

St. Patrick
There are many stories about things Patrick supposedly did during his life. Most of which are nothing more then stories. The most famous example of one of these stories is probably that story that he drove all the snakes out of Ireland. (The snakes weren't there for him to banish.) Besides the stories (you can call them folk tales if you like), there's not much we know about his life.

What we do know is that he was born to wealthy parents in Britain, not Ireland, most likely near the end of the 4th century CE (AD to us older folks.) Even though his father was a Christian deacon, there is no evidence that he came from a deeply religious family.

When Irish raiders attacked his family's estate when Patrick was 16, he was taken prisoner and brought to Ireland and was in captivity for the next 6 years. While he was in captivity, he was put to work as a shepheard away from people. This is when he really turned to religion and became a devout Christian.

After the 6 years of captivity, he escaped and made his way back to Britain. After getting back, he began 15 years of religious training. At the end of the training, he was made an ordained priest, and sent back to Ireland with 2 missions. 1 to cater to the Christians that were already there, and the second to convert as many non-Christian Irish to Christianity as he could. Since he was already familiar with the language and culture, he chose to incorporate those native traditions into Irish Christianity. (He wasn't the first to incorporate "pagan" beliefs into Christianity to convert people.)

His death is believed to be 17 March 461 CE


The St. Patrick feast day has been celebrated in Ireland since about the 9th or 10th century. However, the first St. Patrick Day parade took place 17 March 1762 in New York City. It was organized by Irish soldiers serving in the British military to reconnect with their Irish roots and to connect with fellow Irish soldiers. The holiday and parades grew from there.

After the Great Potato Famine in 1845, almost 1 million poor, uneducated Irish immigrated to the US in an attempt to escape starvation. Despised for having unfamiliar accents and different religious beliefs, they had trouble finding jobs, and were portrayed in political cartoons as drunk, violent monkeys.


There are several traditions surrounding St. Patrick's Day. Some that cross borders, and others that are particular to a city.

Parades have already been touched on, and is one tradition that crosses borders. Multiple cities in the US have St. Patrick's Day parades. A parade is even part of Dublin's St. Patrick's Festival. At least in my part of the US, wearing green on St. Patrick's Day and pinching people who don't wear green that day is a tradition. Others include drinking Guinness (an Irish beer) and eating corned beef and cabbage.

Perhaps the most famous city specific tradition is Chicago's tradition of  dyeing the Chicago River green

Some of the symbols on the day are Shamrocks, leprechauns.
Some of the places where the holiday is celebrated


  • More information on traditions can be found here
  • St. Patrick's day in Old Ireland

Wednesday, February 28, 2018



Purim is the Jewish holiday that celebrates the 14th of Adar. It celebrates the story of the nations salvation over 2 millennia ago. It starts tonight at sundown, and goes to March 1st most places, but March 2nd in Jerusalem. The name of the holiday (Purim) translates to lots, which refer a part in the story.

Story of Purim

In the 4th century BCE (BC to us older folks), the Persian empire was expansive, and included the land where the Jewish people lived. King Ahasuerus had his wife killed for not following his orders and organized a beauty pageant to find his next wife. Esther, a Jewish girl, caught his fancy and became his wife, refusing to tell her nationality.

Haman, was the King's Prime Minister, and asked the king to order the death of all Jews. His reason, Mordechai, Esther's cousin, refused to bow down to him. The King agreed. The date, 13th of Adar, was chosen by a lottery.

Mordechai asked his fellow Jews to repent, fast, and pray to God. Esther asked both the King and Hamman to a feast. At the feast, she revealed the fact that she was Jewish. The King order the death of Haman, and chose Mordechai to take Haman's place. The Jews were granted the right to defend themselves from those still desiring the massacre, and killed many trying to kill them on the 13th of Adar. The following day, the rested and celebrated.

How Purim is celebrated

Jews have several traditions when it comes to celebrating Purim. Many go to the synagogue to hear the Megillah (aka the Christian "Book of Esther") read in it's entirety. Both on the night of Purim, and the following morning. Noisemakers can be used whenever Haman's name is mentioned in the reading.

Other traditions include: giving to the needy (Matanot L'Evyonim), sending gifts of food to friends (Mishloach Manot), feasting on Purim day (the 14th of Adar, 15th in Jerusalem), special prayers, and a masquerade.

There are also several tradition to prepare for Purim. Examples are: reading the Zachor, the Fast of Esther (day before Purim), and giving 3 coins in 1/2 denominations (ex. half dollar coins) to charity (Machatzis HaShekel).

Some ancient walled cities (including Jerusalem) celebrate Purim on the 15th of Adar (Shushan Purim). They do so to celebrate the battle at the walled city of Shushan, where the battle extended an extra day.


  • The BBC's page on the holiday
  • There's also plenty of information on
  • Information on the Fast of Esther at chabad
  • Judaism 101's site
  • My Jewish Learning's site
  • Reform Judaism's site includes recipes

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Valentine's Day

Today is Valentine's Day. Since anybody reading this likely already knows the day's traditions, I'll focus on the history of the holiday.

From what I can find, the exact origins of Valentine's Day are lost to history. However, it likely comes from the ancient Roman feast of Lupercalia in February. Lupercal began with a sacrifice of male goat(s) and a dog along with spreading the blood from the sacrifice onto 2 nude Luperci. (Male goats were symbols of sexuality.) Then, the actual feast. After the feast, the Luperci cut strips from the hide of the sacrificed goat, ran around nude (or nearly nude), whipping women with the strips. At some point, men drew the names of local women to find out who they'd be coupled to for the duration of the festival, sometimes longer. Over time, Lupercalia's nudity was replaced with everybody being fully clothed.


In the 3rd century CE (AD to us older folks), there's a tradition stating that Emperor Claudius II executed a man named Valentine on 14 February after Valentine tried to get Claudius to convert to Christianity. There's another legend stating that Claudius had 2 men named Valentine executed on the 14 February, but in different years. Despite the lack of records confirming the legend, Valentine was made a saint by the Catholic church. I couldn't find a date in my quick search though. However, Pope Gelasius outlawed Lupercalia and declared 14 February Valentine's Day in the 5th century CE.

Valentine's Day was romanticized by both Chaucer and Shakespeare in their writings. During the middle ages, the tradition of handmade cards became popular. During the Industrial Revolution, factory made cards were first created and gained popularity.

My Sources
To finish this off, here's a map with the countries that celebrate Valentine's Day in pink.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Tu B'Shevat


Tonight begins the Jewish holiday of Tu B'shevat. Tu B'shevat is the Jewish New Year for Trees, 1 of 4 New Years on the Jewish calendar. On the day of Tu B'shevat, starting at sundown tonight and ending at sundown tomorrow, Jews typically eat fruits associated with the Holy Land. the holiday gets it's name from it's date on the Jewish calendar (15th of Shevat). Due to the nature of the Jewish calendar, this is a holiday that changes dates on the secular calendar.

The holiday is used to count the age of trees for tithing purposes. In the Torah*, Leviticus to be more precise, it states that one shouldn't eat the fruit from trees it's first 3 years and that the fruit of the 4th year should be gifted to God. People are free to eat the fruit from the tree on following years.

The day naturally comes with a few traditions. One is to eat a new fruit on this day. Another is to eat all 7 of the spices mentioned in the Torah as abundant spices in Israel. Another tradition is to plant trees or collect money to plant trees in Israel. It's also customary to recite a blessing on the fruit eaten on the day.


* The Torah is roughly equivalent to the Christian Old Testament (OT). For the most part, it has the same books, but in a different order. Some of the book the Christian OT has are lumped together in the Torah also. Resulting in the Torah having 24 books compared to the either 39 or 46 in the OT. (Catholics have some OT books Protestants don't have.)

Monday, January 15, 2018

Martin Luther King, Jr Day

Today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. The day we celebrate the man who fought to end segregation and racism in general. The quote on The King Center's page from his wife that I feel best represents what he fought for and, thus, represents who and what we celebrate today is, "We commemorate Dr. King's inspiring words, because his and his vision filled a great void in our nation, and answered our cellective longing to become a country that truly lived by its noblest principles." MLK (Martin Luther King, Jr.) not only spoke up for his vision of a county without racism, he also put his life on the line in his fight. He faced threats, jail, and beatings as results of his advocacy. While he didn't achieve his dream, his actions did result in some long overdue changes towards racial equality.

Now I won't go into great detail about MLK's life, both personal and as what many today would call a Social Justice Warrior, I will give some information here and provide links for anybody that wants to know more about the man and his mission.

I (mage source   quote's validity source
A Brief History on the Holiday Itself

  • Martin Luther King, Jr Day is celebrated on the 3rd monday in January.
  • The first legislation introduced to create the holiday was brought forth on 8 April 1968, 4 days after his assassination, by Congressman John Conyers (D-MI).
  • The day wasn't an official holiday anywhere in the US until Illinois made it a state holiday in 1973, followed by Massachusetts and Connecticut the following year.
  • His wife (Coretta Scott King) testified in front of both the Senate Judiciary Committee and Joint Hearings of Congress in favor of creating the federal holiday we have today in 1979, but the Conyers King Holiday bill was defeated in a floor vote in the House that November. (Note, it was defeated by only 5 votes.)
  • Mrs. King again testified for the holiday in 1982, but before the House Committee on Post Office and Civil Services's Subcommittee on Census and Population.
  • She again testified before Congress in favor of the King Holiday Bill in June of 1983.
  • The bill was signed by President Reagan in November of 1983, creating the federal holiday we currently have.

With his family. Source

A Brief History on Martin Luther King, Jr.
Martin Luther was born in 1929 as Michael Luther King, jr, but later changed his name to Martin. He attended segregated schools as a child and got his B.A. in sociology from Morehouse College in 1948. He then went on to receive his B.D. degree from Crozer Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania. He followed that with going to Boston University for his graduate studies. He finished his graduate studies in 1953, and was awarded the degree in 1955. Boston is also where he met and married his wife Coretta Scott. The couple had 3 children.

MLK was on the executive committee of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) by 1954. He accepted the role of leader in the 382 day Montgomery Bus Boycott in December of 1955, which resulted in the US Supreme Court ruling segregation on busses unconstitutional. Between 1957 and his death in 1968, King traveled the country and spoke where there was injustice, protest, and action, as well as leading many protests himself and writing 5 books.

King was the youngest man to win the Nobel Peace Prize when he was told he was to be the winner at 35. In 1968, at 39, he was assassinated in Memphis, TN.

  • read any of the books on his biography page at (link in the sources)
  • his biography at The King Center's website
  • his biography at
  • his entry at
  • you can also read his autobiography which is available at both Amazon and Google books. You can also find it in a library with worldcat


Sunday, January 7, 2018

Orthodox Christmas

I decided I'm going to go through the year writing posts about each of the holidays for Christians, Jews, & Muslims. Each post will give a brief overview of the holiday, including what the holiday celebrates and how people celebrate. I'll even include where for holidays like today's that are primarily in specific areas/countries. My sources will be included at the bottom on each post for anyone that wants to check my sources, or get some more information.
Today, January 7th, is Christmas Day in many Eastern Orthodox Christian churches. The difference in dates between the Orthodox Christmas and Christmas for non-Orthodox Christians is a result of using different calendars. Most of the world has adopted and follows the Gregorian calendar (proposed 1582), while the Christian Orthodox church still uses the Julian calendar (created 45 BC). The 2 calendars differ by 13 days, resulting in Orthodox Christmas being 13 days after Christmas for the rest of Christianity and Epiphany being on January 19th vs January 6. Some Orthodox churches have adopted a version of the Julian calendar that puts Christmas on December 25, but not all. For example, 85% of Orthodox Christians in Russia celebrate Christmas today.

The Orthodox Christian churches that celebrate Christmas today are primarily in Belarus, Bulgaria, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Georgia, Israel, Kazakhstan, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Russia, Serbia, and Ukraine. The map below shows the location of each country in yellow.
Source of blank map

The story that is celebrated at Christmas is pieced 2 together from 2 different accounts in the books of Matthew and Luke in the Bible (Christian holy book). That story is the story of Jesus's birth. Christians see Jesus as the son of God, who was born to a virgin named Mary. Mary was engaged to a man named Joseph, who was also a carpenter. Luke contains the story of an angel visiting Mary to tell her she was to give birth to Jesus, as well as the story of Mary and Joseph travelling to Bethlehem and shepherds being led to the manger that was used as newborn Jesus's cradle. While Matthew contains the story of wise men following a star to see baby Jesus and present him with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

The date of Christmas was set in the 4th century C.E. (previously known as AD) by Pope Julius I in an attempt to Christianize the pagan festivals that already took place around the winter solstice. From these pagan festivities came some of the traditions celebrating Christmas that Christians still follow today, including decorating the home in greenery and gift giving from the Roman Saturnalia.

The Christmas season is celebrated a little differently in the western, non-Orthodox Christian churches and the Eastern Orthodox churches. For starters, the Eastern Orthodox church doesn't have Advent. Instead they fast for the 40 days before Christmas and a very strict fast on Christmas Eve (Jan. 6). The fast is from meat and dairy, but the strict fast on Christmas Eve is from everything but water. Also, the Christmas Eve service begins with singing of the Royal Hours. The traditions of a Christmas tree and gift giving are commonly shared among Orthodox and non-Orthodox Christians however.

Want more information on some aspect, here's the links I found for you.


Sunday, August 31, 2008

Shopping Politely

OK. I'm just getting started w/ this blogging thing. I'd like to put out a few shopping courtesies for people to use when shopping. They are ways to be polite to both the employees at whatever store you're at and the other people (customers) who are shopping, too.

1. If you take your cart out of the store to put your purchases in your car put your cart in the cart corral. Look at it this way...if you don't and the cart you left somewhere hits another car, they can sue you to repair the damage. Also, putting it in the corral makes it easier for whoever is collecting the carts to bring inside.

2. Remove your garbage from the cart before leaving it. If you don't you don't have to right to complain about any garbage that is in a cart you grab, it could be your own. The people who collect carts tend to have plenty to do and don't have time to go through the carts to remove garbage. They also are NOT your parents.

3. When you change your mind about something you were going to buy either give the item to an employee, or put it back where it belongs. Employees have plenty to do. They don't need to be doing price checks because you put an item in the wrong place and someone wants to get it for less then it is because of it.

4. Please don't be talking on your cell phone while in line. It's part of the cashiers job to tell you you're total. They CAN'T do that politely when you're on the phone. They also can't ask you how much something is when it's not on file, or ask for your ID if they need it. At the very least, tell whoever you're talking to that you need to set the phone down for a few minutes cause you're checking out then actually do it. You can pick it right back up after you get all of your bags.

Those are just a few suggestions to keep in mind. If you want to know if the people doing the jobs appreciate it, ask anyone who has ever worked retail.