Category Archives: Miscellaneous

Welcome to April

April, Brevarium Grimani fol. 5v (Flemish)
Circa 1510
Venedig, Biblioteca Marciana
Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

April is the fourth month on the current Gregorian but the fifth month on the old Julian calendar. In the Northern Hemisphere, April is the beginning of spring in many places. In the Southern Hemisphere, April is the equivalent of October. The name April comes from the Latin word Aprilis and was the second month on the old Roman calendar that used to begin in March.

April was seen as a month of both sun and growth by the Romans, which may be how they came up with the name Aprilis. There may be some connection to the Greek goddess Aphrodite as well. Whatever its origin, the name stuck and has come to us as April. With winter over for most in the Northern Hemisphere, it was a time of joy. It started getting warmer, the cold days of rain, snow, and frost receded and replaced by much nicer days.

There are countless festivities in April to celebrate this time of year to be chronicled here. April Fools Day (1 April) is celebrated around the world as a day of playing pranks. It possibly goes back to a time when people, happy to see winter come to an end, would play joyful pranks on their family and friends. Whatever its source, it has become ingrained into culture and tradition. Easter and Passover are often celebrated in April as well.

For those interested, the birthstone for April is the diamond and the birth flowers are the daisy and sweet pea.

Welcome to March

St. Patrick’s Day postcard, 1912 of “Old Weir Bridge” at Dinis Cottage, in Killarney National Park, Ireland.
Public Domain/Wikipedia

March is the third month on both the old Julian and current Gregorian calendar. It is the month that begins spring in the Northern Hemisphere and autumn in the Southern Hemisphere. March is believed to be derived from the Roman god Mars (Greek equivalent Ares). Before the advent of the Julian calendar, Romans considered March the first month of the new year. With winter over, it was also the start of military campaigns to resume. Festivals were also held at this time in ancient Rome to honor Mars as well.

The March equinox is usually around March 21-22. Many spring festivals take place in March. Passover and Easter may take place in March, but not always as it is dependent upon very specific calculations and can change from year to year. St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated on March 17. If it falls on a Friday, Catholics are given dispensation to eat meat on that day (at least in Ireland and in areas where the feast is celebrated) If it falls on a Sunday, the diocese that observes the day will do so on Monday. For Ireland, since St. Patrick is its patron saint, it will be celebrated on Sunday replacing the normally observed day of Lent.

The famous Ides of March (March 15) was once a day to pay debts in Rome, but it became infamously associated with the assassination of Julius Caesar on that day in 44 BC. Daylight Saving Time begins in the U.S. and Canada on the second Sunday in March. For most of Europe, this will occur on March 31. The first full moon of March is often called the Worm Moon as many earthworms are being noticed in the Northern Hemisphere.


Welcome to February

February by Leandro Bassano,1595/1600
Public Domain (via Wikimedia Commons)

February is the second month on the current Gregorian calendar (and the same on the old Julian). It is the shortest month of the year with 28 days except in leap years when it is 29. The name is derived from Februarius, a purification ritual that was held around 15 February on the old Roman lunar calendar. Until the calendar was reformed under the Julian, January and February were the last two months of the year (although originally there were no months after December as the Romans considered the time a month less period until spring). For the southern hemisphere, the seasons are switched so they are heading towards Autumn, so it is the equivalent of August for them.

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With shorter number of days, it is the one month that can pass without a full moon (it happened in 2018). There are many fascinating names used during the month such as Snow Moon to indicate snow is on the ground. Some Native American tribes call it the Hunger Moon due to limited food sources during winter.

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.

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Today is the Winter Solstice

The Winter Solstice occurs usually between December 20-23 with the sun directly overhead the Tropic of Capricorn. This results in the North Pile being tilted the furthest away making it the shortest day of the year followed by the longest night. The further north you live during winter means less daylight during the winter. Some areas in Alaska or Scandinavia can be nearly dark or near dark during this period. By contrast, those in the Southern Hemisphere celebrate the Summer Solstice, as it marks the beginning of summer. Which is why while people shiver in Philadelphia and New York for Christmas but down in Australia, Christmas is celebrated outdoors with a barbeque.

Solstices and Equinoxes
Image: NASA


Many cultures observed the Winter Solstice as it marked an important time in the agricultural cycle. By this time all crops and livestock had been prepared for winter. Important foodstuffs were stored for the months when virtually nothing grew. Wine and beer, which had been fermenting during the year, was ready. Cattle and pigs would often be killed at the start of winter so they would not have to be fed during this time. The early months of winter were tough in many places and often called the “famine months” since little food was to be found. Many cultures observed the Winter Solstice as a renewal or that the year was reborn. For out of the seeming withdrawal of the sun, it would come back just as strong and powerful as before. Thus, the Winter Solstice was seen by many as the start of a new year such as the old Roman Feast of the Unconquered Sun (Sol Invictus) which happened around the 25th of December.


For more information:

“Winter Solstice – Date, Definition and Traditions | HISTORY.” HISTORY, 21 Sept. 2017,

“Winter Solstice | Definition and Diagrams.” Encyclopedia Britannica, 21 Dec. 2023,

Donvito, Tina. “13 Fascinating Winter Solstice Traditions Around the World.” Reader’s Digest, 20 Dec. 2023, Accessed 21 Dec. 2023.



Happy Sunday and Standard Time (5 Nov)

Daylight Savings Time ended at 2am this morning. If you did not set your clock back one hour, now is the time to set your clocks back. On an old episode of Match Game, one of the panelists forgot to do this and this didn’t show up when they began taping. And it can become terribly embarrassing to admit to an employer or to a school that you forgot to reset your clocks.

The debate over changing how we set the hours in a day has been going on for a long time. In olden times, people pretty much went by the sun and its position in the sky. Then as we got more sophisticated, we developed devices that measured how time passed during the day. To help people who did not have such devices, churches or government buildings rang bells hourly. Ships had bells that chimed off the watch so the crews knew exactly what time it was. The standardization of time was encouraged by railroads and steamships that needed to have accurate schedules for trains to run. That led to international standards being developed and time zones created.

Most were fine with standard time, which simply put is when the sun comes up and goes down according to the astronomical calendar. That generally means more sunlight in spring and summer and less sun in the autumn and winter. It was during World War I that the first use of what is called Daylight Savings Time. Germany introduced to conserve fuel by extending the clock by one hour. The US introduced it as well in 1918 which had it begin in March 1918 and end in October. Once the war was over though, the law was repealed. Daylight Savings was unpopular in many areas (mostly rural). Some cities kept though (like New York City). Nationwide Daylight Savings was reintroduced in 1942 but made year-round during the war. After the war, many states adopted the use of Daylight Savings as summer Daylight Savings Time. Not all did though, which led to confusion with transportation timetables. Pressure was brought to bear on the federal government to act.

In 1966 the Uniform Time Act was enacted imposing nationally both Standard and Daylight Savings Time. Starting in 1967, clocks were advanced one hour on the last Sunday in April and fell back one hour on the last Sunday in October. States were given the option whether to change their clocks or not. Daylight Savings was once again imposed nationally during the Arab Oil Embargo between 1973-1975. It started out popular but quickly faded. My mother didn’t like it since mornings were very dark in the winter during this time. Its popularity dropped and it came to an end. In 2007 the start of Daylight Savings was changed to starting on the second Sunday in March and ending on the first Sunday in November. The downside was and still is that some areas have sunrise during Daylight Savings as late as 8:30 am.

Various states and groups have sought for the reintroduction of national Daylight Savings Time to avoid the changing of the clocks. Many cite the hassles and the fact it causes problems adjusting to changing forward and back. States passed laws in support of the change. In 2022 the U.S. Senate passed the Sunshine Protection Act to impose Daylight Savings nationally. It went to the House of Representatives but a lot of groups protested the change and it was not put to a vote so it ended up dying at the end of the legislative session. I think the simple way was the easiest. Just stay on standard time year round and do not mess with it.

Autumn is in full splendor if you live in an area where the trees change colors allowing for some breathtaking scenes. Alas if you live in an area that has lots of evergreen trees, palms, and assorted others those annual changes are not seen much accept in areas where those trees grow. Fortunately the Internet does allow us to travel and see the colors in many areas.

Have a nice Sunday everyone.

Fall by Lisa Runnels(

Welcome to November

Le Très Riches Heures du duc de Berry-November
Jean Colombe (1430–1493)
Public Domain (Wikimedia)

November is the last month of Autumn in the Northern Hemisphere, and the last month of Spring in the Southern. The name November comes from the Latin novem, which means nine. This was its position on the old Roman calendar as that calendar only had ten months. The name remained despite it becoming the 11th month of the newer Julian and later Gregorian calendars. Daylight Savings Time, if it has not come to an end already, ends for everyone in the Northern in November. The annual Leonid Meteor Shower is usually around November 17-18. The first full moon of November is often called the Beaver Moon since many beavers build their dams around this time. In the United States, the major holiday is Thanksgiving celebrated on the last Thursday of the month.

The symbols for November are the topaz (birthstone that symbolizes friendship), and its flower is the chrysanthemum.

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

Headless Horseman pursuing Ichabod Crane
The Headless Horseman Pursuing Ichabod Crane, 1858
John Quidor (1801–1881)
Public Domain
Smithsonian American Art Museum artwork ID 34285

The dominant spirit, however, that haunts this enchanted region, and seems to be commander-in-chief of the powers of the air, is the apparition of a figure on horseback without a head. It is said by some to be the ghost of a Hessian trooper, whose head had been carried away by a cannonball, in some nameless battle during the Revolutionary War, and who is ever and anon seen by the country folk, hurrying along in the gloom of night, as if on the wings of the wind. (Washington Irving, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow)

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow is a unique American story written by Washington Irving in 1820 and remains popular to this day. The story takes place in a small village in New York called Sleepy Hollow. There in this idyllic location that seems full of enchantment and magic is where the action takes place. And it is here that a wandering teacher arrives to teach the children of the farmers the basics they need to know. Ichabod Crane is a figure of some amusement to the people. He is exceedingly lanky with long arms that came out of sleeves and feet that could be shovels reminding one of a scarecrow, only this one walked. To cap it off he had a small head with large ears with a long nose to boot.

“…tall, but exceedingly lank, with narrow shoulders, long arms and legs, hands that dangled a mile out of his sleeves, feet that might have served for shovels, and his whole frame most loosely hung together. His head was small, and flat at top, with huge ears, large green glassy eyes, and a long snipe nose, so that it looked like a weather-cock perched upon his spindle neck, to tell which way the wind blew.” (The Legend of Sleepy Hallow)

Teaching paid just barely enough for him and as was the custom of the time, he was boarded and lodged with the parents of the children for a week at a time. He wants most desperately to advance and get well situated so he will not starve or be poor again. And he sees in Sleepy Hollow just such a chance in perhaps currying favor with locals and marrying into a family of means. He also considered himself expert on the supernatural having read the important books of his day. He would share is knowledge of it when attending dinners or other events relating interesting anecdotes along the way. And he would hear the story of the Headless Horseman, a Hessian soldier who lost his head in a nameless battle during the Revolution, who rides to and fro at night in search of it and perhaps to collect one from the living.

Crane becomes attracted to Katrina Van Tassel, the daughter of Baltus Van Tassel. He begins courting her in the hopes of marrying her and enjoying the life of a gentleman farmer. He has images in his head of his future life with her and seems confident he will win her heart. Alas there is one wrinkle in the form of Abraham “Bram Bones” Van Brunt, the town rowdy, who wants to marry her. Despite his efforts to humiliate or punish him, Ichabod is undaunted. It is at a harvest festival where things come to a head. He apparently asks her to marry him but alas, it did not go as planned. He leaves the harvest festival “with the air of one who had been sacking a enroots, rather than a fair lady’s heart.” Ouch. It turns out that Katrina was courting him to increase Brom’s desire for her. So, Ichabod leaves feeling quite desolate and not in any hurry to get home.

“Gigantic in height, and muffled in a cloak, Ichabod was horror-struck on perceiving that he was headless! But his horror was still more increased on observing that the head, which should have rested on his shoulders, was carried before him on the pommel of his saddle!” (The Legend of Sleepy Hollow)

It is on his way home that Ichabod encounters the Headless Horseman, who gives him chase as Crane pushes the old stead Gunpowder to move fast. He gets to the bridge where it is said the ghost cannot cross but alas Ichabod does not make it. The Horseman throws his head at him knocking Ichabod off the horse. The horse is found the next day and backtracking they find his hat near the old bridge along with a shattered pumpkin. He is never seen again but many believe he was carried off by the Headless Horseman. However, the account also indicates that Ichabod, frightened by his encounter and not wanting to face his angry landlord (and probably not wanting to see Katrina much again), left that night for parts unknown. It is related he may have become a judge. Meanwhile Katrina marries Brom. And whenever the subject comes up about Ichabod Crane, seems to be “exceedingly knowing” and laughs. Whether he just upped and left or was taken by the Headless Horseman remains a mystery. And makes the tale, now internationally popular, wonderful to read each Autumn and on Halloween.

Screen Adaptations (Selected List)

There is a 1992 silent film called The Headless Horseman and has a young Will Rogers as Ichabod Crane. It was filmed on location in New York’s Hudson Valley. I saw this on Amazon Prime and it was pretty good. It was mostly faithful to the story and well done considering the limitations of the time.

Disney did an adaptation of in its 1949 the Adventures of Ichabod ad Mr. Toad. This light-hearted version has Bing Crosby as the narrator and singing most of the songs. It tones down the story to make it family friendly. The famous chase scene at the end is very well done and longer than the book. And in this adaptation, there really is a ghost Headless Horseman rather than Bram Bones dressed up as the ghost. So, it leaves you in the end with the possibility he was indeed spirited away although rumor may suggest otherwise.

Tim Burton went a very different route in his 1999 movie Sleepy Hollow. He decided to change the story entirely making Ichabod Crane a police constable from New York sent to Sleepy Hollow to investigate the murders of several people who had been beheaded. The Horseman is a real ghost raised from the dead and being used to kill those who are claimants for the Van Tassel property. Like the book, Ichabod falls for Katrina (who practices some white magic) and Bram Bones is more sympathetic and gets brutally killed by the Horseman. An excellent movie and has all the usual touches of a Tim Burton movie-whimsy mixed with horror. Note: this movie is not for young children and is very violent at times.

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