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Thursday, April 27, 2023

May Day

                                                                          May Day

 The ancient Druids, Phoenicians, and Romans wanted Mother Earth to bring forth a fruitful season and drive away evil spirits responsible for the cold, darkness, barrenness, and illness.

 In Rome, the feast of Floralia lasted five days.

The Druids were sun-worshippers; to honor their god, they lit a fire on May 1st. It is called Beltun, which was the Celtic word for May Day. After a second fire was lit, the men and cattle were driven to symbolize good health and fertility. 

The Maypole comes from pagan worship of the mighty tree. The people believed supernatural beings lived in the tree, and as it produced buds, life, and growth were renewed.

Early Britons held that the night before May 1st was a dreadful night of evil spirits which rode through the air. To get rid of the evil, fires were lit around the village. On May 1st, at dawn, carolers left a wreath of green boughs and flowers at each doorstep. The good fairies would then bless the house, and the family would put out bowls of milk as a thank-you to the fairies.

The girls believed if they washed their faces in morning dew in the month of May, they would have beautiful complexions and lose their freckles.

The Maypole was brought into the village by ox cart and decked with flowers. A pretty girl was chosen to be the Queen of the May and sat on a throne. People danced around her, and bells were rung to awaken the soil and to make the seeds and roots come to life. The winding of ribbons around the Maypole came later.

The immigrants from England, Whales, and Ireland brought the idea of May celebrations to our New England. The custom began by decorating small baskets with crepe paper and bows. Fresh flowers and candy filled the baskets, which were hung on doors. The giver would run away after ringing the doorbell.

Native American Indians celebrated spring by dancing around a pole fastened by leather thongs to stand for the sun's rays.

Jingles began in ancient Rome and Greece. Examples are "Come out, dear sun," or "Rain, rain, go to Spain."

In some ancient Danish villages, the whole town would stay in the forest all night playing and gathering greenery on the eve before May Day. On the next day, contests of Nordic games were played to drive away winter, and spring would triumph. Sometimes the games got out of hand, and the contestants entered into hard brutal fighting. What a way to bring in spring. 

Will April showers bring us May flowers? Do you know any upcoming May Day Festivals? I so please share with us.

Tuesday, April 4, 2023

Easter has different meanings

              A Different Look at Easter Meaning

Christians observe a Sunday known as Easter to remember the resurrection of Jesus, Son of God, from the dead. It signifies that death is conquered. 

But Easter has an earlier meaning. It was once associated with sun-worship. A Norse goddess of life and Spring was Eastre (also called Ostara). A festival was held in her honor every Spring. The month was called "Eastre moneth"(sp) by the Anglo-Saxons. Easter was also called Pasch by the Greeks, similar to the Jewish Passover spring holiday.
A picture of an empty tomb. Wealthy Hebrews still use tombs for family members. 

The egg was a symbol of resurrection or the return of life. Easter eggs were colored to represent flowers that would soon appear. In ancient England, children would sing in the streets and be given hard-boiled eggs. The kids would roll the eggs down a hill. The child whose egg was the last to break would have good luck.

 In Egypt, the hare (bunny) stands for abundant life and fertility of the earth. As hares were born with open eyes, they were sacred to the "Open-eyed" moon. Still in Egypt today, Easter is a date set by the moon's orbit. In old Germany, the hare was sacred to the goddess Eastre and the parents told the children if they were good, the hare would lay eggs for them. An old superstition was that the head of the house divided a colored egg so each family member would get a piece. If any family member got lost, thinking of the family he shared the egg with would make the others think of him, and their thoughts would help him to find his way home.

Celtics said the sun danced on the day of the vernal equinox, which was the original New Year. Some folks in Ireland arise early on Easter morning to view the dance of the sun in a shimmering bowl of water. When Easter was New Year's Day, folks would throw off their old clothes and wear new ones to begin the new year. In northern Europe, wearing old clothes was discourteous to the Scandinavian goddess of Spring. They wore fresh clothes as the goddess Eastre was making the earth bloom. The Easter Parade on Fifth Avenue in New York helps this custom live on. In the early days, the Easter "bonnet" was a wreath of flowers or leaves. The crown stood for the sun's path, which made the return of Spring. The people also believe that wearing three new items would bring good luck.

The date for Easter is the first Sunday after the full moon, which appears on or next to March 21. Easter is observed one week later if the full moon is on that Sunday.  
The Christians' date for Easter was set by the Council of Nice in 325 A.D.   Because of what was determined, Easter varies on our calendar between March 22 and April 25

Glorious Easter to all Christians!

Happy Easter and Happy Spring to all!.


Saturday, April 1, 2023

April Fool

                             April Fool  

When and how did the idea of the "April Fool" start. And why would someone come up with such an idea?
No one really knows the answers, but some scholars say the idea is from Roman mythology. The story is this: Prosperina (or Persephone) was a fair young maiden playing in the Elysian meadow. She filled her lap with daffodils.  Along came Pluto, and he decided she would be his wife, whether she liked it or not. She did not. She screamed and hollered while he carried her down to the lower world.  
Demeter (also named Ceres) was Prosperina's mother.  She heard her daughter's screams and searched for her, and in her anger, she made the earth barren (like winter) until her daughter was allowed to spend two-thirds of the year with her. Hence we have Spring, Summer, and Autumn.

Legend says that when the mother was searching for her daughter, all she heard was the echo of her screams, but that it was a fool's errand since all she found was the echo. 

In India, people celebrate the vernal equinox by playing tricks on their friends. This festival happens on March 31st. 

According to Hebrew legend, the first April Fool's Day trick was Noah sending out the first dove before the waters receded.  The first day of the Old Hebrew month is our April 1st.

Some scholars say it started because of the uncertainty of the weather in April. 

Did you know there is an etiquette for April Fools?  It can only happen between early morning and must end by noon. 

Did you play an April Fool joke on someone?  Was an April Fool's joke played on you?.
Write and tell me about it, please.

Friday, March 10, 2023

                          Stalwart Arthur 

A branch of the Republican Party was called 'Stalwart.' Roscoe Conkling was a senator and the head of the Stalwarts. He got Chester Alan Arthur appointed to the position of customs collector in New York City. Chester was grateful and used his position to divert money to fill the party's coffers and help Conkling's agenda for the Stalwarts.  Chester Arthur raised illegal fundraising money and wielded patronage and bribes. Later, he became the Vice-President to Garfield's Presidency.

Before being a customs collector, he had a law practice in New York City.  A black woman, Lizzie Jennings, was removed from a streetcar as the company had a "whites only" policy.  Mr. Arthur sued the streetcar company and won. For many years after, the Colored People's Legal Rights Association celebrated the victory.

Chester Arthur was in the New York Militia. His wife's brother was a southern army soldier and prisoner of war. Mr. Authur secured his release from a Yankee prison.

Because of corruption in the customs department, Chester  Arthur lost his job. But the "Stalwart" Republicans got him on the ticket for Vice President for Garfield's nomination for President.

In my last post, I described how President Garfield was shot twice by Mr. Guiteau.  So, Arthur became President. Mr. Guiteau said he was a Stalwart Republican, and he sent President Arthur a letter in which he stated, "My inspiration is a Godsend to you...It raised you from a political cipher to the President of the United States."

Arthur's wife, Ellen Lewis Herndon Arthur, died before he became President. Later he placed a fresh bouquet beside his deceased wife's picture. His sister served as the White House hostess.  
Sister Mary Arthur McElroy was the White House Hostess.

After becoming President, he enacted the Pendleton Act to undo most of the spoils system he had used before going to the White House. He based appointments based on the merits of the candidates. He appointed Dorman B. Eaton as the chair of the first Civil Service Commission. He then cleaned up the Post Office Department to stop the fraud and ordered party officials to stop seeking graft for future campaign funds. This angered his Stalwart Republicans, so they did not nominate him for President at the next Republican Convention.

President Arthur held huge feasts and was nicknamed Elegant Arthur. He had to employ a full-time valet, for it is said he had eighty pairs of pants. He rode in his carriage, which had gold lace curtains and his coat of arms on the sides. 

He did not like the used furniture in the White House, so before he moved in, he had an auction. Twenty-four wagons of Presidential items were sold to a crowd on the White House lawn; an old pair of Lincoln's trousers and a hat that belonged to John Quincy Adams were mixed in with the other items of former Presidents and sold.

His term ended in 1885, and he went to Florida to fish. 

Chester Alan Arthur had been diagnosed with Bright's disease, which he kept from the public. The condition got worse, and according to one source, he contracted malaria while fishing.  Another source says Former President Arthur died of a stroke of apoplexy. He died in 1886, in New York City, just eight months after leaving the White House.

Note: Brights Disease was not too common in President Authur day, but there were several cases over the years.  One theory was it was contracted through a mountain tick bite.  In my historical fiction book that will come out this year, Texas Cakewalk, one of the characters was reported to have died from Brights Disease, but that was unusual.  There was a rumor that it was really strychnine.

This is the last blog on Presidents of the United States for this year.  I hope you enjoyed learning about some of our lesser-known Commanders in Chief.  

References: America and Its Presidents by Earl Schenck Miers
                    First Ladies of the White House by Gertrude Zeth Brooks
                   Secret Lives of the U.S. presidents by Cormac O'Brien 

Friday, February 24, 2023

President Garfield

 President Garfield Did Not Seek to be President.

James Garfield was respected as a professor of ancient languages, President of Hiram College, and a major general in the Union army. He had been elected to Congress when he was only thirty-two years old.

When he served in the army, his wife, Lucretia, discovered he had an affair with a woman known only as "Mrs. Calhoun." Garfield's wife sent her husband to see Mrs. Calhoun and get back every love letter he had sent. She told him to destroy any evidence of their relationship. The marriage between James and Lucretia became strong and remained until death. 

The Republican Party nominated him for the presidency, although he did not seek it. The Party thought he would be able to help bridge the gap that had developed between Congress and the executive branch. Congress and the Presidency were not getting along at all.

After Garfield was elected President, people would hound him for a federal office. Charles Guiteau was very persistent in being appointed as the Consul General of Paris.

Garfield said, "These people would take my very brain, flesh, and blood if they could."  Congress passed the Pendleton Act of 1883, which based appointments to the civil service on talent and seniority to help Presidents avoid office seekers.

As they walked by, Charles Guiteau would sit on a bench in Lafayette Park and ask cabinet members to further his petition for Consular General of Paris. Secretary of State James Blaine shouted at Mr. Guiteau, "Never speak to me again on the Paris consulship as long as you live!"  So, Guiteau started to go into the White House. Finally, the staff was told Guiteau was barred from entering.

Guiteau bought a pistol and had the salesman show him how to use it, then went to a local prison where he felt he would be sent in the future. He wanted to know where he would live. When President Garfield was waiting for a train at a railroad station, Guiteau walked up to him and fired twice. The first bullet grazed the President's arm, and the second lodged in his back.

It took eighty days for the President to die. Historians think it was not the bullet in his back that killed him, but the doctors' unsanitized medical instruments and fingers. Garfield was awake when they tried to find the bullet. Alexander Graham Bell was called to use his version of an early metal detector. They still did not find it. President Garfield suffered for eighty days in hot and humid weather. He was 49 years old and was President for only 4 months.

After President Garfield died, the bullet was found during the autopsy. Charles Guiteau wrote a letter to Chester A. Arthur, the Vice -President who became President at Garlield's death. Guiteau was hung on June 30, 1882.

Read the letter from Guiteau in the next blog.

Lucretia Rudolph Garfield was born in 1882 and was a widow for 37 years. She died in 1918. She and James Garfield had four sons and one daughter.

Saturday, February 18, 2023


                                        Which President Was This?

 After serving in the Civil War, this President said, "I have seen the dead piled up, and I do not want to see another."

However, he believed in Manifest Destiny. The President sent the battleship Maine to the Havana harbor when Cuba went to war with Spain. Suddenly the ship blew up, killing more than 200 Yankee sailors. The American people were outraged and wanted to retaliate against Spain.  Remember the Maine was the battle cry. The President instead had a commission investigate. Theodore Roosevelt, the Assistant Secretary of the Navy, said, "the President was a "White-lived cur." The Commission decided the ship hit a Spanish mine. ( Some historians think it was likely caused by a coal fire on the ship.)

In three months, America went to war and defeated Spain, and the US got Puerto Rico, the Philippines, and Guam in the treaty with Spain. And later, the President persuaded Congress to annex Hawaii. When the Philipines revolted, he immediately sent a troop to put down the revolt, and he sent troops to put down the Boxer rebellion in China as it was in the best business concerns of America.  

The idea of the Press Room for journalists started with this  President, and the journalist loved the idea and accepted the carefully chosen "news" he handed out. 

When he turned men down for an office, he made them think he was doing them a favor and presented them with a flower from his lapel. The Secretary of War said about the President, "He had a way of handling men so that they thought his ideas were their own."

Some Republican businessmen said they would fire employees who did not vote for their candidate. He won by a landslide.

His inaugural address was the first to be filmed.

He was devoted to his wife, Ida, who unfortunately had epilepsy. If her seizures hit at a state dinner, a public gathering, or a speech, the President would drape his handkerchief over her face. The darkness helped to calm her, and when the seizure passed, the couple acted as if nothing had happened.

The President's wife, Ida. 

They had two children; Katherine (Katie) died at age 3 from typhoid fever, and little Ida was born in 1873 and died four months later.

He was elected to a second term as President. In September 1901, he attended The Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York. Leon Czolgosz walked up to the President with a handkerchief wrapped around his hand. He had a gun concealed, and he fired two bullets. The President was hit in the breastbone and the abdomen. As the President fell to the floor, he said, "My wife, be careful how you tell her-oh, be careful,"

Eight days later, the President died. And Forty-five days later, Leon Czolgosz, an anarchist, was electrocuted. 

                           William McKinley  

                                        President 1897 -1901

Wednesday, February 15, 2023

Presidents Day - William Henry Harrison

                                                     Keep It Short!

Presidents' Day! We all know about famous presidents such as Washington, Jefferson, the two Roosevelts, and JFK.

But the other presidents had interesting lives too. Today let's look at our ninth president, William Henry Harrison.  

William Henry's father was a signer of the Declaration of Independence. William Henry was the last President born as a British subject. His father wanted William to be a physician, but William chose army life. He became an Indian fighter in the northwest territory. He tried twice to make peace with Tecumuseh, the Creek chief, who allied with the British.

Finally, Harrison led the troops that killed Tecumseh and defeated the British at the junction of the Tippecanoe and Wabash Rivers. After the war, he served in the US Senate and later as an ambassador to Columbia. Columbians nearly threw him in jail as he supported the uprising against the Columbian government.

He belonged to the Whig Party, and it was considered crass to campaign for yourself in that day. But he was a maverick and the first presidential candidate to campaign for himself with speeches, parties, banners, and parades. This idea has been followed by all the succeeding candidates.

His opponent was Martin Van Buren, portrayed as a snob and a dandy. Harrison's running mate was John Tyler, so the slogan was 'Tippecanoe and Tyler, Too'.   Harrison said of himself, "Some folks are silly enough to have formed a plan to make a president of th the U.S. out of this Clerk and Clod Hopper. 

The prominent Whigs thought Harrison would be easy to dominate and get the people they wanted into important positions, but he spoiled their plans. He told them where they could 'stick their suggestions.'

He became President in 1841. His wife, Anna Tuthill Symmes Harrison, was ill and could not travel to Washington.

He delivered his inaugural address on March 4th. It was a cold, windy day. He did not wear a coat or gloves. His speech was one hour and 45 minutes long ( It became the longest inaugural  speech ever given. So the moral is "Keep It Short.")

He came down with a cold and seemed to recover. Then he would go out to various government offices to look for inefficient Federal employees to fire. Also, early each morning, he left the White House to buy food at the local market. He did not wear a coat on these jaunts. A few days later, he had chills and a fever. The diagnoses were pneumonia and pleurisy. The doctors treated their patient with castor oil, calomel, ipecac, opium, camphor, and brandy. He soon had colitis, vomiting, and hepatitis. He died on April 4th, 1841, exactly one month after taking office.

The vice president became President. John Tyler was more challenging to dominate than Harrison.

Anna married William Henry against her father's advice. She lived with him on the frontier. They had ten children. A grandson, Benjamin Harrison, became the twenty-third President. Anna lived twenty years longer than her husband and devoted herself to church work. She was eighty-nine when she died peacefully.   

May Day

                                                                          May Day  The ancient Druids, Phoenicians, and Romans wanted Mother...