A May Day by Any Other Name …

May 1, 2012

Although May 1st may pass without notice by many of us in the US—probably because we don’t have the day off—the day has a long history of celebrating Spring, and in some places, Summer. The May Day holiday goes by many names with varying methods of celebration around the world. Here is a brief list of a few of them.

  • Walpurgis Night: A celebration of Spring of Germanic origin, which includes music and bonfires on May Day eve.
  • Beltane: The Celtic festival of fire and fertility, also beginning on May Day eve.
  • The Catholic Feast of St. Joseph the Worker.
  • May Day: Traditional European folk festivals celebrated with the crowning of the May Queen and dancing around the Maypole.
  • International Workers’ Day: A celebration of the labor movement through parades and organized demonstrations. (The Occupy Movement has several protests planned for today throughout the US. Europeans are protesting economic austerity measures.)

And because I love old photos, I perused the Library of Congress website to share a bit of history with you.

May Day parade/demonstration, 1900 New York—Library of Congress (I believe the banner says, Org. Aug. 7th 1900, so this is probably May 1901.)

Children at a May Day festival in Battery Park, NY, 1908—Library of Congress

May Day Parade, NY 1910—Library of Congress

A May Day "exercise" at Sweet Briar College in Virginia—Library of Congress (There was no exact date listed. Anyone want to take a guess?)

Here’s to a Happy May Day!


The Official End of Summer?

September 1, 2011

Stamp issued Sept. 3, 1956 to commemorate Labor Day

So, what do you know about Labor Day other than you’re not supposed to wear white after it? Or that you’re going out of town for the weekend? Or that local police are cracking down on drunk driving?

The fashion dictum about white, which most people don’t pay attention to anymore, probably originated in the South and had to do with white shoes. The basic idea was don’t wear summer clothes when it’s not summer. But have you been to the South? It’s still freaking hot here in Texas. We’ve had triple digits this week. But, I digress.

If you’re curious about the history of the actual holiday, the HISTORY Channel website has put together a succinct video on the subject here.  All I have to say about that is—Canada? Who knew? (Probably those better educated in history. :D)

Sept. 6, 1909, New York City

Going to a parade? Above is a photo taken during the 1909 Labor Day parade in New York City of the Women’s Auxiliary Typographical Union float.

Below is one of a Labor Day parade in Buffalo, New York, around 1900.

Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Detroit Publishing Company Collection

Going to a picnic? If so, I hope you don’t have to dress as nicely as they did in the 1955 movie “Picnic” starring William Holden and Kim Novak. Can you tell if anyone is wearing white shoes?

Whatever you do this holiday weekend, have a great time!

Image courtesy mptvimages.com

Halloween (historical) Facts

October 28, 2009

In the spirit of Halloween here are some fun facts on Halloween’s origins:

  • Halloween was originally a Celtic holiday celebrated on October 31.
  • Jack-o-lanterns originated in Ireland where people placed candles in hollowed-out turnips to keep away spirits and ghosts on the Samhain holiday.
  • It is believed that the Irish began the tradition of Trick or Treating. In preparation for All Hallow’s Eve, Irish townsfolk would visit neighbors and ask for contributions of food for a feast in the town.
  • The ancient Celts thought that spirits and ghosts roamed the countryside on Halloween night. They began wearing masks and costumes to avoid being recognized as human.
  • A pumpkin is a berry in the cucurbitaceae family, which also includes melons, cucumbers, squash and gourds. All these plants are native to the Americas. (so this last on isn’t technically historical but it’s cool!  And it does give you an idea of when pumpkins were introduced to Halloween.)
  • halloween-jackolantern-1

    Happy Halloween from the Damsels

Fourth of July Trivia

July 4, 2009

Here’s a little Fourth of July Trivia for you to help you celebrate the holiday! Stay tune for a post on what the 4th of July was like for a typical family living in the 1830s in New England.

Question 1
In what year did the first fireworks display occur in the United States to celebrate the Fourth of July?
a) 1805
b) 1825
c) 1873
d) 1912

Question 2
In what year was the Fourth of July declared a federal legal holiday in the United States?
a) 1921
b) 1936
c) 1941
d) 1947

Answers below the cut.

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