Although today is referred to as “President’s Day” it is not a federal holiday by that name. It is officially designated as Washington’s Birthday under federal law. There was a movement to combine both Washington and Lincoln’s birthday (since they occur days apart) or honor the office of president. That never came to be. Instead in 1968 the Uniform Monday Holiday Act was passed and came into force in 1971. That shifted most federal holidays to a Monday if it fell during the week. Washington’s Birthday name was not changed and so under federal law it is still Washington’s Birthday. However many states issue their own proclamations celebrating not only Washington but Lincoln and others from their own state. Advertisers have caught on as well. So today many call it President’s Day but who it commemorates beyond George Washington is up to the state governors.
The unity of Government, which constitutes you one people, is also now dear to you. It is justly so; for it is a main pillar in the edifice of your real independence, the support of your tranquility at home, your peace abroad; of your safety; of your prosperity; of that very Liberty, which you so highly prize.
President George Washington,Farewell Address, 19 September 1799.
Valentine’s Day is used by many to show their affection or love for someone they care about. It has spawned an industry for greeting card makers, candies, and of course flowers. However there is a real religious component as many Christian denominations celebrate it as feast day, commemoration, or optional for the local diocese (such as the Catholic Church). Valentine was the name of many Christian martyrs in the early Church resulting in them all being remembered for their acts of sacrifice for the faith. Some denominations, such as Eastern Orthodox Church, celebrate a particular St. Valentine on two different days.
The association with romantic love could be linked to an ancient Roman festival has been made but there is no evidence of any link. Most seem to believe the link began with Chaucer’s Parlemont of Foules where he indicates birds choose their mates on St. Valentine’s Day, although 14 Feb might not be the day Chaucer was referring to. Other poems made the association of love and St. Valentine’s Day in the medieval period and English Renaissance. For those who needed love verses but lacked the ability to compose them, publishers starting offering them. Then putting them on paper and sending them became possible. Paper valentines became very popular in 19th century England resulting in their industrial production. They became popular in the United States as well. With such cards being popular, you needed other things to accompany a card. Roses and chocolates became popular, likely due to skillful marketing to associate them with the day. And so Valentine’s Day became a very major day for greeting card companies, chocolate makers, and sellers of flowers (roses being the most popular flower for the day).
Of course we ought to remember that it is based upon Valentine, who became a saint after he was martyred in Rome in 269 and buried on Flaminian Way. He is the patron saint of Love, Young People, Happy Marriages.
On 12 February 1809, future president Abraham Lincoln was born in Hodgenville, Kentucky. Growing up in a poor family in Kentucky and Indiana, he only attended school for one year. However, he was determined to improve his mind and read books to increase his knowledge. As an adult in Illinois, he held a number of jobs from postmaster to shopkeeper before entering politics by serving in the Illinois legislature from 1834-1842. He then served in Congress from 1847-1849. He married Mary Todd in 1842 and had four sons by him.
During the 1850’s he returned to politics and was an important leader in the new Republican Party. Slavery had been a major issue especially when new states or territories were being added. Though not an advocate for slavery, he sought to avoid conflict by limiting the expansion of slavery into new states but allowing it to remain where it was already practiced. The secessionist movement though was rising, and he argued that such a division would divide them and destroy the union created in the formation of the United States.
His oratory won him praises and recognition of his status as a leader. And it helped to cool the secessionists for a time. Though he did not seek the abolition of slavery in the South, when he was elected president in 1860 many states began seceding and war would soon commence between the United States and the Confederate States of America. Lincoln became fully committed as a result to the abolition of slavery. He would sign the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 that freed slaves in the Confederate States. It did not apply right away to the entire nation (which was resolved by the 13th Amendment that outlawed for the entire nation).
Lincoln was known for his dry wit, his impressive stature at 6′ 4, and he also loved animals as well. During his time in the Whist House there were a variety of pets that included a pet turkey and a goat. His humor hid from people his depression at times as to what was going on with the war. He was plagued early on with military defeats and some generals who were more used to parade grounds than actually conducting military operations. Pro-Confederacy newspapers mocked him mercilessly. And Confederate sympathizers called him a despot for signing the Emancipation Proclamation. He was killed after the wars end by John Wilkes Booth on 14 April 1865. His favorite horse, Old Bob, was part of the funeral procession.
He is remembered as the Great Emancipator for under his presidency the United States fought to abolish slavery. While many criticize him for his moderate views in his early years, he became totally committed to its abolition during the war. While the 13th Amendment was passed by Congress before his assassination, it was not formally ratified by the states until December 1865.
January has been sent to the exit and we welcome February. February is the second month on the current Gregorian and the old Julian calendar. The month is the shortest on the calendar: 28 days in regular years and 29 during a leap year. Meteorologically speaking, it is the last month of winter in the Northern Hemisphere. However, winter can and often does continue after February no matter what a certain groundhog indicates. February comes from Februa, a Roman ritual of cleansing.
Why the leap year?
The old Roman calendar was ten months, which began in March and ended in December. When January and February were added it meant February became the last month of the year. That meant the month had to have 28 days to fit into the calendar. A leap month was introduced every few years after February to make room for the thirteenth month. This meant February had to be shortened. As you might guess, this made things a bit confusing. Julius Caesar introduced the new calendar in 46 BC (named for him of course). He abolished the 13th month and introduced the leap year so that every fourth year, February would have 29 instead of 28 days. Thus, the leap year was born and became part of the Gregorian calendar as well.
February has some important events in it. There is Groundhog Day (Feb 2) where a groundhog comes out of its burrow in Punxsutawney Pennsylvania, and its behavior determines–if he goes back in or stays out–whether winter will last six weeks more, or spring will start early. German immigrants used to see hedgehogs coming out of hibernation as a sign of winter ending back in Germany. Unfortunately, hedgehogs are not found in the wild in Pennsylvania (or most of North America except as domesticated pets where allowed) so the groundhog became the substitute.
For many Americans, Superbowl Sunday is the big event where two top teams in the NFL duke it out. It is one the biggest sports events of the year and millions tune in to watch. Fast food places get lots of orders for delivery on that day and bars showing the game are often overflowing. And the ads for the game itself are specially tailored for the event. For everyone else (like some friends of mine), watching the original Star Wars IV, V, and VI or The Godfather I & II are that Sunday afternoon.
Of course, the other big day is Valentine’s Day on February 14 which is celebrated in the U.S. and around the world as well. Restaurants, florists, and chocolate makers all are major beneficiaries of this day set aside to show our affection to our wives, girlfriends, and others close to us.
The symbols for February are:
The birthstone is amethyst. It symbolizes piety, humility, spiritual wisdom, and sincerity.
Since the Tik Tok viral video claiming Titanic was switched with Olympic, many are asking if the claim has any validity. Judging from comments posted around the Internet, some are certainly thinking it is a possibility. Reaction from those in the Titanic community-organizations and scholars-has not been seen as much but has been reported by news outlets. Now as said in another posting, this claim is nothing new. There have been many conspiracy theories about the disaster over the years (including a mummy’s curse) and for the most part debunked. Most Titanic historians do not spend a lot of time discussing them (except in directed conversations about them). When they do pop up from time to time, then you hear from them on the validity of the claims.
This time this theory got the social media treatment, so it spread far and wide faster than what happened in the past. The response from the Titanic community was left running catch up with this chetah as it spread quickly around the world. The fact so many readily found it believable was shocking to say the least. Now there is an effort to set the story straight. The Associated Press wrote up a fact check on the switch theory. Amongst the things they found:
–Both ships were inspected by British authorities prior to sailing and met the required specifications.
–Each ship had a specific yard number (400 for Olympic, 401 for Titanic) which was put on metal and wood panels throughout the ship. Many of the artifacts brought up from the wreck bear the yard number 401 on them. When Olympic was retired, its fittings went up for auction and they bore the number 400 on it.
–In order to pull off the switch, it would require considerable labor and a place to do it in. You would need a large place like where it was built (Belfast) to do just that. You could not do this quickly since you need to remove a lot of fittings and markings from one ship to the other. And with all that labor needed, it would be hard if not impossible to keep it a secret.
In other words, pulling off such a switch for a rather paltry insurance payment (Titanic was not insured at full value) would hardly seem feasible nor practical. Nor would you sink the ship just to kill 3 people as some theories would suggest. To sum up, artifacts from Titanic and looking at the wreck itself confirm it is RMS Titanic that sank in 1912. Even the great detective Sherlock Holmes would agree with this finding.