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Happy May Day!

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May Day hosts many kinds of celebrations, from political marches associated with International Workers’ Day, to pagan festivals celebrating fertility and featuring maypoles and May Queens. Click HERE to read a short article I adapted from Wikipedia, dealing with May Day in the UK and Finland.

As regards Finland, May Day includes parades of special vehicles. Here are some American cars from last year:

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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Casual Girl hearts 1

Photo copyright Dreamstime.com

Adapted from Wikipedia:

In the West

Europe

In the UK, sending cards, flowers, chocolates and other gifts to prospective or current romantic partners is traditional. However, in Wales, many people celebrate Dydd Santes Dwynwen (St Dwynwen’s Day) on January 25 instead of (or as well as) Valentine’s Day. The day commemorates St Dwynwen, the patron saint of Welsh lovers.

Read more:

New Year’s logic

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The New Year hasn’t always begun on January 1st. According to Wikipedia, it was only relatively recently that January 1st again became the first day of the year in Western culture. Until 1751 in England and Wales (and all British dominions) the new year started on March 25th – Lady Day, one of the four quarter days (although the change to January 1st took place in 1600 in Scotland). Since then, January 1st has been the first day of the year.

640px-Fireworks_in_Rio_de_Janeiro_-_Copacabana_-_Brazil_-_2012

New Year’s Eve at the Copacabana in Rio de Janeiro
Photo credit – Alex Rio Brazil – Courtesy of Wikipedia

From my point of view, if I was to start the new year in the northern winter, I would have chosen December 21st, the winter solstice. However, it would seem more logical to me to start the year on March 21st, the spring equinox. It would coincide with new life, new hope, not months of darkness and dormancy.

Homonyms – Bight and Bite and Byte

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Now here’s an interesting trio of homonyms. The first spelling is by far the less known of the two, and has two meanings.
And, of course, a bite is the one you accomplish with your teeth :-), and a byte will be familiar to you from computer terminology, normally consisting of 8 bits of information and being the smallest memory segment address. The byte was originally created so that each keyboard button had a unique signature, a concept which has expanded greatly.

230px-Great_Australian_Bight_map 1. A bight is an opening in a coastline, such as a bay or cove, and the name describes the shape, like a loop. Such bights can be as large as the Great Australian Bight, or as small as a local cove with no name.

BightLoopElbow2. The second meaning is similar, and refers to a loop made in a rope, usually prior to  making some kind of knot. Here is a picture showing a bight, and a few other rope-users’ terms. Knot tying is such an old and complex subject that much of the terminology is known only to sailors and other people who spend a lot of time with rope. If you are interested in this ancient art, I recommend “The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Knots and Ropework” by Geoffrey Budworth.

I love the sea and sailing, and incidentally love working with ropes too. Even when I was driving lorries when I was young, I much preferred to secure my load with ropes, rather than the straps which were beginning to take over. I don’t even know the correct name for the knot I used ( as the ‘trucker’s hitch‘ is a little different), but it was taught to me by an old hand and worked like a winch, hauling the rope much tighter than I could have done by my own strength.

April Fools Day

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April Fools’ Day is celebrated in many countries on April 1st every year. The first I can remember is when I was a child and the BBC ran a very serious looking news item about spaghetti trees in Italy. Spaghetti was still quite a new item on the British menu and not many people actually knew where it came from, or that it was just a kind of pasta. Most newspapers, TV channels and other popular media run such jokes on April 1st, and it’s fun to try to spot the fake article. 

This year, both YouTube and Gmail posted really well-made videos as an April tease.

According to Wikipedia: In Italy, France and Belgium, children and adults traditionally stick paper fishes on each other’s backs and shout “pesce d’aprile!poisson d’avril! or aprilvis! (April fish) respectively. Such fish feature prominently on many French late 19th to early 20th century April Fools’ Day postcards. Many writers suggest that the when January 1st was restored, by Pope Gregory XIII in the 16th Century, as New Year’s Day of the Gregorian Calendar (New Year had previously been April 1st in the Julian calendar – and more logical in my opinion) – jokes were played on those members of the population slow, or unwilling, to catch up with the change.

Valentine’s Day in different countries

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Casual Girl hearts 1

Photo copyright Dreamstime.com

Adapted from Wikipedia:

In the West

Europe

In the UK, sending cards, flowers, chocolates and other gifts to prospective or current romantic partners is traditional. However, in Wales, many people celebrate Dydd Santes Dwynwen (St Dwynwen’s Day) on January 25 instead of (or as well as) Valentine’s Day. The day commemorates St Dwynwen, the patron saint of Welsh lovers.

Read more:

Boxing Day (26th December)

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Today (26th December) is known as Boxing Day, and dates back to the Middle Ages at least. The reason for this name is pretty much lost in time, but there are several theories:
1. Boxing Day is the same day as the Feast of St Stephen, on which metal boxes were put outside churches to collect money for the poor.
2. In Britain, it was a custom for tradesmen to collect “Christmas boxes” of money or presents on the first weekday after Christmas as thanks for good service throughout the year. This is mentioned in Samuel Pepys’ diary entry for 19 December 1663.
3. Since they would have to wait on their masters on Christmas Day, the servants of the wealthy were allowed the next day to visit their families. Their employers would give each servant a box to take home containing gifts and bonuses, and sometimes leftover food 😉

Boxing Day shoppers crowding a store.

Boxing Day shoppers crowding a store.

In the UK, Australia, Canada and some other ex-colonial countries, Boxing Day is an important day for sports including Rugby, ice-hockey, horseback hunting, football and cricket.
Boxing Day in these countries is also a major shopping day, with sales opening often very early in the morning and shoppers camping out in queues outside their doors, in order to claim massive reductions on some products.

Thanks to Wikipedia for details.

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