The Origins of our Holidays

These thoroughly researched histories of our major American holidays approach the antics through history of what Carl Sandburg called “the little two-legged joker” with good humor, and often conclude with the gentle reassurance that the world is, in fact, getting better all the time.

I include them in my “Creative Non-Fiction” samples to further illustrate my writing style in narrating history, be it world history or yours.

Also, they’re fun to read, and you might discover a nugget or two of history that you never knew.

  • “Mother” —the most beautiful word in any language - The founder of Mother’s Day, Anna Marie Jarvis, spent every penny of her inheritance to stop the observance of the day.
  • A Postcard to the Universe - Earth is a fantasy land, the continents like theme parks for children. Earth is a postcard to the universe upon which we might write, “Having a wonderful time. Wish you were here.”
  • A Storybook World - A sense of urgency begins to creep over you. You shake your head, try to clear it, but it’s too late. You start skidding, heels first and screaming, into “the holiday season,” a succession of reenactments...
  • Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig oraibh! Gaelic for “St. Patrick’s Day Blessing Upon You” - St. Patrick’s Day is like a pagan orgy in this country...St. Patrick, who converted the pagans in Ireland to Christianity, would most certainly not have approved. It would appear, at least on St. Patrick’s Day, that the conversion was a failure.
  • Dancin’ ‘Round the Sun - Actually, we’re not really going round and round. We’re kind of swinging out in an elliptical orbit, like a girl dancing the jitterbug. At roughly 67,000 miles per hour. WHEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  • Felicissimus Novus Annus! (Happy New Year!) - You don’t have to know a lot of history to know that the Romans were, among other things, party animals. Their parties went on for days. I guess the last man left alive won.
  • Fort Valentine - Valentine’s Day and war seems a curious combination, and yet, the oldest known valentine still in existence today was written by a prisoner of war. The year was 1416.
  • Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? - If, on a russet November day, I were stepping out of my house carrying a platter of clams to set on the table outside and I saw ninety Indians coming, their faces painted black...
  • Jack - To frighten this evil figure (and other ghosts) away on All Hallow’s Eve (Hallow’een), the Irish began to carve scary faces into turnips or potatoes, light them with candles, and place them in their windows or on their doorsteps.
  • Our Infinite Capacity to Love - And who was Saint Valentine? He was a Christian priest who was secretly and illegally marrying soldiers to their sweethearts.
  • Over the Top - On November 11, 1918, Harry Frieman, with the U.S. 313th Machine Gun Company, was flattened against the dirt wall of a trench under steady fire from the Germans in their trenches only yards away. 
  • The Best Fathers on the Planet - Animals behave as they do because they are biologically programmed to do so. Humans are also biologically inclined, but we love consciously, with our minds and hearts. To be human is to be capable of unqualified love.
  • The Woman Who Invented Father’s Day - The man who inspired “Father’s Day” was William Jackson Smart. He was born in Arkansas on June 5, 1842.
  • The Wonder of Us - Haven’t you ever wondered how the Easter bunny carries the Easter basket, and of even more concern should be, why is a mammal delivering the unhatched babies of chickens? Rabbits don’t lay eggs, Mister.
  • To Die For - On Monday, the U.S. Marine band arrives and the rattling thrum of snare drums rolls across the furling, white-striped flag of the cemetery. At the full honor wreath-laying ceremony, a bass drum roll launches “The Star-Spangled Banner” and the white gloved hands of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment “Old Guard” whip, row upon row, to the visors of their dress uniform caps.

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