Friday, April 30, 2010

The Origins of May Day


May Day! May Day!

(not to be confused with the international call of distress “M’aider! M’aider!” French for: Help me! Help me!)

There are two distinct May Days.

One is political and American. The other pagan and Greek.

If you walk into Union Square tomorrow you might come across both.

You’ll see posters on light poles announcing the annual May Fair at the Grace Church Sunday School and you’d see a demonstration for Equality in Worker’s Rights.

Let’s talk politics first.

Happy May Day Comrades.
May Day was invented in the United States and yet we are one a handful of industrialized nations that neglects to celebrate it.

On May 1, workers around the world will celebrate their Labor Day with rallies and speeches, picnics, demonstrations and maybe a riot or two.

Not many Americans realize that the celebrations being held in foreign lands, like the May Day Parade in Moscow, actually commemorate historical events here in the United States.

On May 1st, 1886, the American Federation of Labor declared a national strike to demand an eight-hour workday. At the time, six-day weeks and 14 hour workdays were the norm. (Kind of sounds like the Advertising Business doesn’t it?)

In Chicago there were riots and slayings of strikers. The police tried to break up a rally in Haymarket Square, a bomb was thrown. A policeman was killed. The Police fired wildly into the crowd wounding 200 and killing four strikers and apparently a few of their fellow policemen. 8 labor leaders were put on trial with absolutely no evidence they had any connection to the bombing. Most of them were executed.

The trial enraged labor groups and protests were held around the world.

In 1889, the Socialist International declared May 1st a day of demonstrations, and since 1890 these have been held annually worldwide.


Labor leaders in America lobbied for a national holiday to recognize workers. By the 1890’s May first was officially being celebrated in several states and was called “Labor Day”

In 1893 Federal Troops, ordered by President Cleveland, violently suppressed the Pullman Strike. Grover, in a bid to restore his tarnished image, declared a national holiday in honor of workers and intentionally chose a September date to keep it months away on the calendar from the Socialist “May Day – Labor Day”

This didn’t stop May Day celebrations in the United States. The biggest one every year was held in Union Square Park, which in the 1920’s got the nickname Red Square.

During the Red Scare days of the Cold War Congress officially declared May I, “Loyalty Day”. It was an all American anti American Communist Party kind of party.

During the 1950s, the largest Loyalty Day parade in the country was here in New York City. Its job was to distract attention from the Union Sq. rallies and Communist Party march on the same day.

By the time the Vietnam War entered the picture Loyalty Day Parades petered out, but so did May Day Parades. So I guess they had done their job.

So on this May Day I exhort the workers of New York to Unite, link arms head over to Union Square and see if you can hear the long dead ghosts of Labor leaders crying out to masses. Failing that, the Farmer’s Market is open so grab yourself some nice organic produce.

Comrade Dan

The Other May Day:

Here’s the skinny on the more ancient randy celebrations of the first of May.

The merry old month of May gets its name from the Greek goddess Maia daughter of Zeus and mother of Hermes (The Romans called him Mercury – he’s the guy standing on top of Grand Central Station).

The first of May --May Day --was midway between the vernal equinox and the summer solstice. Agricultural/fertility celebrations were held to mark the time.

At Greek festivals to honor Dionysus ( the god of wine and fertility) folks in togas drank wine and danced around a large phallus. The Romans would change the name from Dionysus to Bacchus and from that we get the expression “bacchanalian feast.”

Somehow this morphed into a custom in the Middle Ages where on May 1st commoners would erect a large pole (You don’t have to be Freud to get the symbolism there) attached vines or ribbons to it and the young studs and lovelies of the village would dance around the pole until they all became intertwined. (Think -- Medieval Twister©.)

There would be a character present called Robin Goodfellow (sometimes called the Green Man) who was the Lord of Misrule for this day. He would thumb his nose at authority and act as a mock minister and declare the lustful couples “officially” married and they’d head off into the green together.

Any resultant offspring from the merrymaking were called “Merry- begats”. These love children were said to have been fathered by god, a rather convenient excuse for the men folk don’t you think?

I also think it quite fitting that the political May Day is a day to question "the establishment." A bit of serendipitous synchronicity.

Eventually the festivities were banned, but as we’ve seen before folklore and tradition have a way of sneaking things back in disguise and so the character of Robin Goodfellow came back as the legend of Robin Hood, a man in green who understood the desires of common folk and would thumb his nose at repressive authority.

Robin Goodfellow had a companion; her name was the May Queen.

She was chosen from the local beauties –kind of a Medieval Home Coming Queen. The May Queen herself was a replacement for a pagan goddesses who was always associated with the festivities.

When Robin Hood replaced Robin Goodfellow – Maid Marian subbed for the pagan Goddess.

And that’s why today in England, Maid Marian the Queen of the May, mounted on a white horse is the central figure of festivities.

The Irish had their own May festival called "Bealtaine" On the eve of May 1st bonfires were lit on the hills to draw the sun back to earth. Villagers jumped over the bonfires in search of good luck or in help finding a mate.

According to Irish superstition the woman who washes her face with morning dew on May Day will be beautiful; the man who washes his hands will be skilled with knots and nets. And if you lived near water, you were supposed to make a garland and cast it into a lake or river to honor the water spirits. (It’s not too late to get a bouquet over at Union Square and chuck it into the Hudson.)

When the Romans arrived in the British Isles they brought their own traditions to the party. They already had a celebration from April 28th -May 2nd called Floralia. It was in honor of the goddess of flowers named --you guessed it --Flora. As part of the festivities, women and homes were decked out in flowers.

All of this stuff melded together. And eventually organized religion outlawed the randy stuff and made the whole fertility fest a cute little celebration where innocent children sometimes dressed in togas wearing flowers dance around a Maypole. And nowadays the closest that we come to honoring fertility in May is when we give mom a card on Mother’s Day the second Sunday in the month named for the Mother of Hermes.

Have a Merry May Day, a beautiful Bealtaine, and a festive Floralia everyone.

Medieval Twister© anyone?

Dano

Lord of Misrule

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Origins of Earth Day


They say it’s your Earthday.

On your Day Planner (printed on partially recycled paper one would hope) you may notice that April 22nd is officially called Earth Day.

You’d figure there would be a pretty straightforward explanation of the origins of Earth Day but noooooooooooo.

Earth the planet may have one mother but a lot of people are claiming paternity for Earth the Day. The two leading folks are former Senator Gaylord Nelson and a chap named John McConnell, founder of the Earth Society.

Back in 1962 Senator Nelson claims he persuaded JFK to go on an unheard of environmental tour of the country (in his gas guzzling, smog-belching stretch Cadillac no doubt.) He claims that he wanted to make the environment a political issue. To quote Nelly:

Six years would pass before the idea that became Earth Day occurred to me while on a conservation speaking tour out West in the summer of 1969

In 1969 he watched anti-war demonstrations and noticed that campus teach-ins were an effective way to educate and organize American youth. He thought the same could be done for the environment. And thus in his words:

At a conference in Seattle in September 1969, I announced that in the spring of 1970 there would be a nationwide grassroots demonstration on behalf of the environment and invited everyone to participate.

On Oct 3rd 1969 a scant week or two after Gaylord’s speech and a few hundred miles south in San Francisco -- the other paternity suspect John McConnell got the Mayor of San Francisco to read a proclamation penned by McConnell that introduced the notion and the precise words “Earth Day”:

Here’s the proclamation:

WHEREAS; As Earthians we need a day to celebrate our global unity and

destiny, and WHEREAS; The observance of EARTH DAY will alert concern and interest for

our planet -- with its precious treasure of living things, and WHEREAS;

EARTH DAY is to remind each person of his right, and the equal

right of every other person, to the use of this global home and

at the same time the equal responsibility of each person to

preserve and improve the Earth and the quality of life thereon,

BE IT THEREFORE RESOLVED;

That in the City and County of San Francisco March 21st (Vernal

Equinox) be the designated EARTH DAY - a special day to remember

Earth's tender seedlings of life and people; a day for planting

trees and grass and flowers, for cleaning streams and wooded

glens. That to further these purposes a Silent Hour For Peace (a

time for quiet reflection or prayer) be observed on Earth Day at

19:00 G.M.T. (11:00 a.m. P.S.T.). That on EARTH DAY the EARTH

FLAG, which portrays in its center our "Beautiful Blue Planet;"

be flown to encourage mutual respect for Earth and all its

people.

There are a few interesting nuggets in there if you Earthians look closely enough. One of which is that Earth Day was to be celebrated on the Vernal Equinox, not as it is today on April 22nd. Aside from the fact that symbolically the Vernal Equinox has always been a welcome home Mother Nature type celebration, the date itself was something the entire planet earth could synchronize its calendar to.

The April 22nd date came from the Gaylord faction, they had the Washington Beltway clout to declare a National Environmental Day. That particular date was chosen because it happened to be convenient for organizing. Aside from that – the March date could still be rather chilly in the East and Midwest. April promised nicer weather for folks planning on going out into nature. Some right wing wackos (but I repeat myself) claim the April 22nd date was chosen because it is also Lenin’s birthday. (I thought Lenin was a member of the Red Party not the Green Party.) Somehow in their DDT addled brains, being a friend of the environment makes you an enemy of democracy. I can hear them now –“Karl Marx was a tree-hugger. Saddam Hussein recycled!” They’d be shocked to learn it was Richard Nixon who started the Environmental Protection Agency.

The other interesting nugget is the mention of an “Earth Flag” flying above City Hall. How was there an Earth Flag before there was an Earth Day? This is where it becomes clearer that McConnell may have been the first Earthian.

For those of you too young to remember, or not yet a gleam in a parent’s eye, 1969 was one wacko year in one very disturbing decade.

JFK was assassinated in 63, Malcolm X in 65, MLK in 68, RFK in 68. There was rioting in the streets. The Days of Rage in Chicago, the Long Hot Summers with Newark and Detroit burning in July of 1967.

The war was raging in Vietnam. The nightly news had footage of American troops using napalm and Agent Orange to defoliate the jungles. The skyline of most major cities couldn’t be seen through the smog, America’s great rivers oozed with mercury.

69 was the culmination. There was the Woodstock Festival and the My Lai massacre. And Man actually walked on the moon. Some claimed the lunar landing threw the universe out of orbit (which would explain how the ‘69 Mets won the World Series.)

The moon thing was key though. Before the lunar landing we had unmanned missions to orbit the moon. Those missions sent back pictures of the earth as well as the moon. It’s hard to explain to people nowadays how shocking it was to see a real-time picture of Earth from space. The Earth looked blue and beautiful and delicate and small. Small enough to break.

That sight had an effect on Mc Connell:

When the first photo of Earth appeared in Life (magazine) in 1969, I was deeply stirred -- as were many other people -- by what I saw. … In viewing the first photo from space, thereby sharing in part the experience of the astronauts, we experienced in a deep and emotional way a new awareness of our planet. As I looked at the Life photo it occurred to me that an Earth flag could symbolize and encourage our new world view and that the Earth as seen from space was the best possible symbol for this purpose.

NASA sent him a transparency of the photo used in Life and he copyrighted the Earth Flag in 1969.

McConnell again:

Our first 500 flags were produced in a hurry, in order to use them at the "Moon Watch" at Central Park in New York City. This was the big event where we watched and celebrated the first landing on the Moon on 20 July 1969.

The key thing is he had copyrighted the name and produced the flag months before Sen. Gaylord’s Seattle Conference or had officially introduced the idea of a global holiday called Earth Day at a UNESCO Conference on the Environment.

So McConnell looks like the real Earth Day daddy.

Of course, the advent of Earth Day itself was the culmination of a long series of events.

The true mother of the modern environmental movement would have to be Rachel Carson author of the seminal work “Silent Spring”. Published in 1962 it foretold a day when there were no songbirds in spring.

Another notable year on the environmental timeline would be 1967 --a group of volunteers on Long Island halted the spraying of DDT and formed a group called The Environmental Defense Fund. They would eventually get the FDA to ban the use of DDT in 1969.

Earth Day itself went from being a local celebration in San Francisco in March of 1970, to a national celebration in April of 1970. It was celebrated all over the earth on March 21, 1971 when Secretary General U Thant proclaimed the first worldwide Earth Day.

Earth Day was celebrated by most of the Earth last month. Wha?

Yep, San Francisco, Berkeley and Denver also celebrated the original Vernal Equinox date.

Here in the rest of the U.S. this is officially Earth Week and Sunday is Earth Day. I don’t think the world really cares when we Americans celebrate Earth Day. But, it’s fairly important to our fellow earthlings that we do contemplate the environment. After all, we Americans make up only 4% of the world’s population; yet consume 25% of its resources.

By the way, you might be surprised to learn that in relation to the rest of the country you New Yorkers who live in this concrete jungle are comparatively Green. This is mainly due to the fact that Gothamites are walkers, who don’t own cars or lawns, nor require lawn mowers, pesticides nor fertilizer. And the city grows vertically instead of sprawling horizontally.

If you’re looking to get involved in environmental issues here’s a site with long-term projects where you can help out:http:// www.epa.gov/earthday/

Here in New York there are lots of events this weekend in Central and Prospect parks. To find events go to www.earthdayny.org

So my tender seedlings of life, I exhort you to put on your Earth Shoes and get out and spend some time with your mother this weekend. You haven’t communed with her in a while, have you?

Your Fellow Earthian,

Dano

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Origins of Secretary's Day


Subject: Happy Secretary's...errrr. Administrative Assistant's. err.... Administrative Professional’s Day

Wednesday April 21st is Administrative Professionals Day.


I'd suggest that you go outside now and stake out a good spot on the street for the annual Administrative Professionals Day Parade that goes down 5th Ave. This year several million folks are expected to attend.

I especially like the elaborate floats like the Swingline Stapler float, (They're so much more creative than the Bostich Stapler people) This year Xerox will unveil its patriotic "Not Collated we stand---America there is no duplicate" float. I'm disappointed that the 3M Corporation has done some cost-cutting this year and combined the Post-it Note and Scotch Tape floats into one float with a theme of "Tackiness through the ages." Keep your eyes peeled for the giant Office Depot "Dilbert" balloon. I think you would all agree with me that after the ninth or tenth marching band goes by you do get a little sick of hearing theme from "Nine to Five."
But hey, let's not rain on anyone's parade.

So some history then.....this is actually one "holiday" that has no pagan antecedent. The celebration/creation of Secretary's Day was an indication of how by the 1950's the American workforce had migrated from the farms, to the factories, to the office and eventually to the office cubicle.

The first National Secretaries Week was held in June 1952 in an effort to recognize secretaries for their contributions to the workplace.
The idea began with Mary Barrett, president of the (big surprise here) National Secretaries Association. Since then the word "Secretary" has fallen into disuse. Up until a few years ago it was known as Professional Secretaries Day. However Professional Secretaries Day changed its name a few years ago to: Administrative Professionals Day. Professional Secretaries Week has been renamed Administrative Professionals Week and Professional Secretaries Day has become Administrative Professionals Day.

Got all that?

Unfortunately the Administrative Professionals have to share their day with National Remembrance of Man's Inhumanity To Man Day, Hostage Heroes Day and (in Magnum, Oklahoma) Rattlesnake Day.

They also share their week with Big Brothers/Sisters Appreciation Week, Teacher Appreciation Week, and National Lingerie Week.

And of course during the month of April we'll all be celebrating
National Occupational Therapy Month,
Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Month
and one for Advertising folks---Stress Awareness Month.

In case you are wondering, Administrative Professionals aren't the only folks who officially have their own day. Other major days on the calendar are:

National Municipal Clerk's Week,
National Food Workers Week,
National Bookkeepers Week,
National Professional Pet Sitters Week
National Waitresses/Waiters Day,
National Public Employee Appreciation Day,
National Nurses Week,
Operating Room Nurse Week,

National Physical Therapy Week,

National Cardiovascular Technologists Recognition Day,


and of course, who could forget National Correction Officers Day.

So if you'll forgive me I have to run, I've gotta go pick up something nice for my Administrative Professional, as well as my Corrections Officer.

Happy Adminpro Day Everyone!
Dano

The origins of :Take our Brats to Work Day

Once a year many folks thank their Admins then the next day bring their kids into work and dump em on those very same Admins. Connection? You decide

The day formerly known as Take our Daughters to Work day is held on the fourth Thursday in April. Tomorrow.

Yeah, Yeah I know this "origins of" stuff is getting kind of ridiculous. However, I hear many people ask, with a good deal of indignation, "Why is it "Take our Daughters to Work day. Not take our Children"

There is or at least was a simple good reason. The day was begun by Ms magazine, a decidedly feminist publication. And, in fact, the title "Take our daughters to work day" was a registered trademark of the Ms magazine Foundation for Women.

The idea behind the day was to broaden a young girl's horizons and let her know what careers were available to women besides Nursing and the Convent.

In addition, they got to see what kind of work their mothers did and help dispel the Suzy Homemaker/ housewife depiction of women.

The idea was a good one. However, it has evolved into a more general Take your Child to work day. Or Let your kids skip a school day Day.

It seems that Ms. Mag has cracked under the pressure and has officially changed the name of the event to Bring our Daughters and Sons to Work Day. You can go to their site www.daughtersandsonstowork.org to get tips on activities for the kiddies.

For the record some groups and institutions have rejected the change and still celebrate the day as Take your Daughter to work day see below:

The Ohio State University is once again proud to offer “Take a Daughter to Work Day” The Office of Human Resources has chosen not to model after the Ms.Foundation's Take our Daughters and Sons to Work®, because in our opinion, there is still much work to be done to educate, engage and empower our young girls to become an equal force and voice in the academic and corporate worlds.

Personally, being the father of two girls I'd much prefer it if it were

Send Your Daughter To Work Day.

Enjoy.

dano


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Origins of 420 Day


SOME PEOPLE CALL ME THE GANGSTA OF LOVE



Whoaaaaaaaa Dude –happy highday.

Today is April 20th, the 4th month, 20th day of the year --420 Day.
Four Twenty Day is the High Holy Day of Stoners. The red-letter day* for Mother Marijuana. The happiest day of the year for smokers, jokers & midnight tokers.

*(Medieval Church Calendars had special Holy Days and Saint’s Feast Days printed in red ink. Thus --special days became known as “red-letter days.”

Last year I was scolded for not sending out a memo in time. (Dude, have another Twinkie and chill.) Friends recounted fond college memories of participating in Four Twenty Day ceremonies down at the Quad (interestingly enough, the best stories came from straight-laced Account People.) Some said tradition called for folks to light up at 4:20 am then again at 4:20 pm.

There's lots of folklore, urban myth and just plain whackjob stoner nonsense about the day.

Me, I'm too buzzed to research it all, so I'll just laze out and cut & paste the relevant truth from snopes.com.

Snagged from Snopes.com:

Claim: '420' entered drug parlance as a term signifying the time to light up a joint.

Status: True.


Origins: Odd terms sneak into our language every now and then, and this is one of the oddest. Everyone who considers himself in the know about the drug subculture has heard that '420' has something to do with illegal drug use, but when you press them, they never seem to know why, or even what the term supposedly signifies.

It's both more and less than people make it out to be. '420' began its sub-rosa linguistic career in 1971 as a bit of slang casually used by a group of high school kids at San Rafael High School in California. '420' (always pronounced "four-twenty," never "four hundred and twenty") came to be an accepted part of the argot within that group of about a dozen pot smokers, beginning as a reminder of the time they planned to meet to light up, 4:20 p.m. Keep in mind this wasn't a general call to all dope smokers everywhere to toke up at twenty past four every day; it was twelve kids who'd made a date to meet near a certain statue. It's thus incorrect to deem that '420' originated as a national or international dope-smoking time, even though the term began as a reference to a particular time of day.

These days '420' is used as a generic way of declaring one likes to use marijuana or just as a term for the substance itself. Its earliest connotation of having to do with the time a certain group of students congregated to smoke wacky tobaccy is unknown to the overwhelming majority of those who now employ the term.

And here are the whackjob, stoner,
totally bogus claims about 420 Day:

420 is the penal code section for marijuana use in California.

Untrue. Section 420 of the California penal code refers to obstructing entry on public land. The penal codes of other states list different entries for 420, but none of them matches anything having to do with marijuana.

However, on 1 January 2004 the Governor of California signed that state's Senate Bill 420 which regulates marijuana used for medical purposes. This bill comes years after the term '420' was associated with marijuana and indeed its number likely was chosen because of the existing pop culture connection. This is the tail wagging the dog, not the other way around.

It's the Los Angeles or New York police radio code for marijuana smoking in progress.

It's not the police radio code for anything, let alone that.

It's the number of chemical compounds in marijuana.

The number of chemical compounds in marijuana is 315, according to the folks at High Times magazine.

April 20 is the date that Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, or Janis Joplin died.

Though these performers were strongly identified with drug use during their brief lifetimes and the emerging drug culture after their demises, none of them kicked the bucket on April 20. Morrison died on July 3, Hendrix on September 18, and Joplin on October 4.

The 20th of April is the best time to plant marijuana.

There's no one "best time" -- that answer would change from one part of the country to another, or even one country to another.

It's the code you send to your drug dealer's pager.

Yeah, right. All drug dealers recognize a '420' page as "Please be waiting on the corner with my baggie of wildwood weed."

When the Grateful Dead toured, they always stayed in Room 420.

Untrue, says Grateful Dead Productions spokesman Dennis McNally.

Spurious etymologies and uncertain definition aside, '420' has slipped into a position of semi-respectability within the English lexicon. Various freewheeling cities annually celebrate "hemp fests" on April 20. There's a 4:20 record label in California, and a band called 4:20. Atlanta's Sweetwater Brewing Co. sells its 420 Pale Ale in supermarkets and opens its doors to the public at 4:20 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays. New York's 420 Tours sells low-cost travel packages to the Netherlands and Jamaica. Highway 420 Radio broadcasts "music for the chemically enhanced."

420s are routinely slipped into popular movies and television shows. In Fast Times at Ridgemont High the score of the football game was 42-0. Most of the clocks in Pulp Fiction are set to 4:20 (but not all — when the kid receives the watch it's set at 9:00). And there are many other instances, so keep your eyes peeled.

However, as amusing as it is to tie 420 to pot smoking and hunt for it in popular movies, the number has its dark side. Hitler was born on 20 April 1889, and the massacre of 13 victims at Columbine High School in Colorado took place on 20 April 1999.




That last bit was a bit of a buzzkill.

Happy 420 Day folks.

Dano
Resident Space Cowboy

And, since I bring it up…..

An interesting aside about the lyrics in the Steve Miller song The Joker,
its weirdo lyrics leave many folks mystified:


Some people call me the space cowboy, yeah
Some call me the gangster of love
Some people call me Maurice
Cause I speak of the pompitous of love


When asked the meaning of “pompitous” Miller claimed it was nonsense.
But music dicks did some sleuthing and found that Miller had lifted lyrics from a few old R& B tunes.

He swiped “pompitous of love” from a tune called “the Letter” written in 1954 by a guy named Vernon Green. Vernon apparently slurred his words but in his song he was singing about a puppet-tess of love. In Green’s words: “A term I coined to mean a secret paper-doll fantasy figure” A female puppet.

The song “the Joker” contains a double dose of lyrical larceny. It’s is also remembered for its memorable back end lyrics:

"I really love your peaches, wanna shake your tree.
Lovey dovey, lovey dovey, lovey dovey all the time."

They weren’t stolen from Vernon Green.
Nope, they were swiped wholesale from a 1953 hit by the Clovers’ called "Lovey Dovey" containing the lyrics:

"I really love your peaches wanna shake your tree
Lovey dovey, lovey dovey all the time.
"

Best part of all this is that in 1990 Steve Miller won a lawsuit against the Geto Boys for stealing “his” lyrics.

So “The Joker” was memorable, it just wasn’t original.
In other words, the Space Cowboy was a Cattle Rustler.
This blog entry is officially over. You can now go back to gazing at your navel.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

New Amsteryork. Dutch Treats. New York Streets.


In 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue.
In 1609 Hudson found the harbor fine.

It’s been over 400 years since the first wave of Eurotrash washed up on New York’s shores.

The French came for a quickie in 1524 when one of their ships, captained by an Italian---Giovanni da Verrazzano, sailed past the Narrows and thought: This would be a nice place for a bridge.

The Spanish came for a look-see in 1525. Stayed long enough to name the Hudson River –“The San Antonio River” and left with the outgoing tide.

But it was the Dutch who came ashore and founded a permanent colony as a fur trading post. Which is why the next time you see a NYC cop car take a good look at the city seal painted on the door and you’ll see a little watery rodent prominently displayed.

Even though they only ran the place for less than 50 years the Dutch gave New York its New Yorkiness.

You see, New York –the Capital of Capitalism, was founded by a corporation—the Dutch West India Company. They gave us our commercial DNA. The Dutch were more liberal than the other European nations. Nieuw-Nederland was certainly more open than Puritanland up in New England. (I prefer to think of the Puritans as the American Taliban, my apologies to John Walker Lindh.)

It wasn’t as if the Dutch corporation had a mission statement with a politically correct Diversity Program and Green Social Initiative on its website. The Dutch were practical, they’d allow in anyone who could help make them a buck. And so they took in the Jews and the Quakers and Anne Hutchinson’s break away religious group. But being good businessmen they put the last two groups out on the fringes of New Amsterdam, so they could act as canaries in the coal mine when the Injuns went on the warpath. Next time you’re driving on the Hutchinson River Parkway say a prayer for Anne and her followers who were killed in an Indian raid in 1643.

Once the Dutch settled in they began to make the place look like the Old Sod, or more correctly the Old Marshlands. They built dikes, dug canals and erected windmills. Broad Street, in what is now called the Financial District, is broad because it used to be a canal, with little wooden Old Amsterdam style bridges spanning the water. And yes, that’s how Bridge Street got its name. They built a wall at the northern end of the city to keep the English out. Today it’s called Wall Street. They named a wide street that is perpendicular to Wall Street :Breede Weg. And that was anglicized to Broadway. Maiden Lane got its moniker from the Dutch maidens who did their laundry at a brook along a spot the Dutch called Maagde Paatje. It’s no surprise that hints of the Old New Amsterdam still survive in the area of the original settlement, but what of the rest of the city?

One of the main roads out of the settlement lead to Pieter Stuyvesant’s farm. It was called the farm road. "The farm" in Dutch is: De Bouwerij. The Bowery. By the way, Old Pete is buried on the site of his farm at St. Mark’s church at 2nd Ave and 10th street.

Haarlem was an area just outside of Amsterdam and so they thought it’d be cute to have one just like it outside of New Amsterdam. Breuckelen ( broken land full of lakes and marshes )was another town near Utrecht and whammo. Brooklyn was born. And got the sister village of New Utrecht to boot. Not to mention Vlacke bos –Flatbush (translation: flat woodland.)

Tony Soprano had nothing on the Dutch West India Company; they were smart enough to give the Dutch government “a taste” of the spoils and so gave them a huge island and called it: The Island of the States General. Staaten is the Dutch word for State.

Some Dutch leftovers are easy to spot. Spuyten Duyvil (spouting devil) a turbulent piece of water north of Manhattan. Others have been anglicized. There was once a stream near 19th street that flowed to the Hudson. It was shaped like a crooked knife and so the Dutch called it that: Kromme Zee. When the Brits took over they said Kromme Zee-- sounds like Grammercy. And thus Grammercy Park got its name. The Quakers were allowed to live in Queens out in Vlissengen. The Brits said: Vlissengen? Sounds like Flushing.

When the Dutch arrived the first piece of land they took a gander at was an island full of rabbits and so called it Rabbit Island, Konjin island. Today you know it as Coney Island. They named prominent pieces of land jutting into the water “hoeks” One in northern Brooklyn they called Groen Hoek. Green hoek. Today that is known as Greenpoint. One in southern Brooklyn was Red Hoek, easier to spot as Red Hook.

The old Dutch word for a stream or river was “kill”. And so we wind up with places off Staaten Island called Arthur Kill, Kill van Kull and the ominously named Fresh Kills where the wreckage of the world Trade Center was brought. And even further north in the New Netherland colony --the Catskills. The Colony also claimed land in Pennsylvania, which is why Philadelphia has a river called the Schuylkill.

And, of course, Dutch families like the Vanderbilts, Roosevelts, Gansevoorts,Rensselaers and Schermerhorns have left their name and mark all over New York.

These are just a few of the treats the Dutch have left for us. And while we’re on the subject –in olden days when you wanted to float an IPO, you’d do it in the literal sense. You’d build a ship and make some guilders by sending it off to pick up trade. If you didn’t have enough to build the ship, Dutch bankers in Amsterdam --the Old World’s Financial Capital, would spot you the money but asked for a split of the profits. And thus a Dutch Treat.

My favorite treat left to us by the Dutch is the word for a “step”... stoep.
Next time you’re walking down a New York street and you see a stoop think of how New Amsterdam officially disappeared in 1664 but it still peeks its head out to this very day here in good old New Amsteryork.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Virginless New York


Some say history repeats itself.

Mark Twain said history doesn’t repeat itself, at best it sometimes rhymes. The exact same thing doesn’t happen, but rather something similarly related to it.

14th street and Broadway is one of those places where history rhymes like a Tony Orlando song.

That’s the thing about Manhattan, it’s such a small space that important things have happened in the exact same place century in and out.

Go stand at 14th street on the edge of Union Square Park looking down Broadway. Now look behind you. You’ll see good ole Georgie Washington astride his steed heading south. The statue is here because in 1783, after the Revolution, New York was the last place still occupied by British troops. Old Wooden Teeth waited up here outside of town for the Brits to blow town. Once they’d evacuated lower Manhattan he clip-clopped down Broadway and reclaimed the city.

Flash forward to the end of the Civil War. April 1865. Lincoln has been whacked. Before they bury him in Springfield his body goes on tour. Was this the very first Dead Tour? Since it was Easter his death was compared to the crucifixion. Banners lined the streets saying: OUR CHRIST HAS FALLEN. Somewhat odd since Old Abe never went to church. But then again, Jesus never set foot in a Christian church either. Abe’s casket moved solemnly along Broadway and Lincoln’s body rolled right over the spot where George Washington rode 82 years earlier.

But wait, don’t order yet!

In the picture above you see the intersection of 14th street and Broadway on the day of the procession. On the 2nd floor of that building on the corner you see an open window and two boys staring out watching the procession as it moves north on Broadway.

One of the boys is Teddy Roosevelt.

The building belonged to his grandfather. Teddy lived a few blocks uptown.
The building in the photo is gone. Replaced by the large office building.
But if you look at the carvings you’ll see the letter R for the Roosevelt family.

These are curious things that litter the streets of New York.

Now look to your left at the modern building with the odd sculpture attached to the fa├žade. (It actually has a reproduction of George Washington’s hand up top) One of New York’s last Virgins stood there on the corner. Here on this site the Virgin Megastore was murdered in broad daylight by iTunes.

A fitting place for the Music industry to evolve because this intersection at that very site was one of the places where the music industry let out its first furtive notes.

In the 1880’s 14th street was home to the very first Vaudeville houses, Tony Pastor’s was the very first. There’s a plaque where it stood on the wall of the Con Ed building. It was a new kind of entertainment with a variety of acts. Some magic acts, some comedy acts but primarily musical numbers. The shocking part was there were mixed gender audiences. Oh my! Songwriters ( who would eventually move further up Broadway and form Tin Pan Alley on 28th street) would try to get their ditties performed here in the Music Halls. They’d hire street children to stand in the audience and sing along to their songs --creating instant mega-hits. Of course what they were selling wasn’t LPs, 45s, 8 tracks or mp3s. They were selling sheet music so folks could play at home. Hey wanna hear me play that hot new John Phillip Sousa song? And it’s why 14th street was where all the great piano companies had their showrooms: Steinway ‘s was just a block away.

The stretch of 14th street from 4th Avenue to University was called the Slave Market, because that’s where the out of work performers would gather like so many Latino day laborers leaning against the walls hoping to get hired so they could fill in for one of the Vaudeville acts that had been booed off the stage.

Eventually talent agents appeared with offices nearby, so the talent didn’t have to stand out in the rain. By 1914 ASCAP the American Society of Composer, Authors and Performers was established on 14th street. And before long the music industry became a mega-hit itself.

Now over a hundred years later the “Slave” lines are gone, Virgin is gone and the music action is all online.

But the streets of New York remember the past is never gone, it just goes unnoticed.

Friday, April 2, 2010

What's with the bunny? The Origins of Easter, Passover and NoRuz.




What does a fuzzy little bunny have to do with a crucified King of the Jews?
That very question lead me to ask questions about religious celebrations, the connectivity of religions and the just plain weirdness of religions. What follows are some of the answers I found along the bunny trail.

It all begins with Spring.

Why is this season different from all others?
Because we get the Vernal Equinox and three major religious holidays: NoRuz, Easter and Passover, all around the same time.

March 20th Vernal Equinox
March 21st NoRuz
March 30-Apr 6th Passover
April 4th Easter (this year both Western and Orthodox)


The Vernal Equinox is when the Sun can be observed to be directly above the equator. The word equinox is derived from the Latin word aequinoctium (equal night). Basically the day is equally divided between light and dark. At this time of year the Southern Hemisphere is entering autumn while cultures in the Northern Hemisphere celebrate their spring festivals.


NORUZ
On March 20th in Iran and parts of India the festival of NoRuz was celebrated. NoRuz, meaning: New Day, is sometimes spelled NowRuz. So now you know that the English word “New” comes from the Indo-European word “Now.” Who knew? Other Iranian/Farsi words you would recognize in English are Shekar (Sugar),Sharbat (sherbet) Doktar (daughter) Madar (Mother). And if you play chess you use a Persian expression when you’ve checked the king. You yell SHAH MAT ! (the King is dead) Except, you pronounce it “checkmate!”

NoRuz, sometimes referred to as Persian New Year, is the spring festival of Zoroastrianism.

Zoroastrianism is one of the oldest religions still in existence, founded by Zarathustra (Zoroaster in Greek) somewhere around 1500 BC, 500 years or so before Moses. Reportedly the world's first monotheistic religion, its theology had a profound impact on Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Zoroastrianism introduced beliefs concerning the soul, God, Satan, heaven, hell, a savior born of a virgin who will raise the dead on judgment day and all sorts of familiar religious concepts.

Zoroastrians believe in a single god called Ahura Mazda.

They also believe there exists a pissed off potentate, an evil spirit of violence and death, Angra Mainyu, who opposes Ahura Mazda. Angra Mainyu is where we get the English word "Anger". To counter Angra Mainyu there is Spenta Mainyu –the Holy Spirit. There was also a demi-god named Mithra would mediate between Ahura Mazda and the earth.

One part of NoRuz is the feast called Chahar Shanbeh Soori, the Four Saturday Feast. It’s held four days after the last Wednesday of the year. The concept is the spirits of your ancestors pay a house call that day. So children, both boys and girls dress up in chadors (similar to the burka in Afghanistan.) These little ghosts knock on doors asking for treats. Sounds like “trick or treating” to me. By the light of a bonfire, they run through the streets with their New Year’s noisemakers, banging on pots and pans with spoons called Gashog-Zani to chase away the old year. If you’re a regular reader of my Holiday memos you’ll notice, I’m sure, the amazing similarity to the Celtic New Year --Samhain from which the modern Halloween celebration evolved. An even odder Irish/Iran connection is that the Persians have a trefoil plant with magical powers whose Farsi name is a Shabdar, when translated into Arabic it becomes Shamrakh.—sounds a bit like Shamrock, doesn’t it. Well, Shah and begorra! Actually, it’s not coincidental at all.. The Celtic language along with most European languages is called Indo-European. The prevailing theory being these languages spread from India to Iran and then on to Europe. You might remember that the Nazi’s claimed their ancestors were the Aryans. The Aryans were the peoples who moved west from India into Iran and then Europe. The name “Iran” means: Land of the Aryans.

One NoRuz belief is that whatever a person does at this time will affect the rest of the year. Sounds just like Chinese New Year doesn’t it? Women also make a New Year’s wish then go out on the street and eavesdrop. The first conversation they hear will be an answer to their wish. Like almost all cultures there is a Spring Cleaning ritual called Khaneh Tekani, which literally means, “Shaking the House.” Cleaning it the way you would shake out a rug.

Hadji Firuz.
One New Year’s noisemaker unique to Iran is Hadji Firuz. People dress up as Hadji in a red costume and blackface and dance through the streets beating tambourines to herald the coming New Year. It has something to do with the fact that slaves were once the entertainers in the Persian Court.

There’s a lot more symbolism and history in the festival than I’m able to get into here, check out this site if you want to know more: www.persianmirror.com/celebrations/NoRuz/NoRuz.cfm

But here’s the stuff germane to our little memo: a major part of the NoRuz New Year ritual is the family gathering around a special table for a feast called Haft Seen.

It consists of seven symbolic items that begin with the letter 'Seen,' the S in Arabic alphabet. There is Sombol (hyacinth) and Sekkeh (coins) and Sabzeh (sprouted greens) and Seer (garlic) and Senjed (a fruit only found in Iran), a mysterious gooey chocolaty brown stuff called Samanoo. And finally --Serkeh (vinegar). Originally it included wine (Sherab,) but that was replaced by vinegar when Iran became Muslim and alcohol was banned.

Other items found on the table are goldfish –symbolic of life, mirrors -- a symbol of self-reflection and a fertility symbol --eggs. The eggs are colored in bright reds, greens and yellows. Which brings us back to Easter & Passover

PASSOVER
It is, of course, no coincidence that Easter and Passover are celebrated at the same time. In Judaism the celebration of Passover commemorates the Hebrews liberation from slavery in Egypt and the "passing over" of the forces of destruction when the Lord "smote the land of Egypt" Smote, now there's a word you don't hear too often. The modern equivalent translation of "smote" is "to open up a can of Whoop-ass."

There's some conjecture that Passover is actually the melding of two separate Jewish celebrations, one involving a lamb from nomadic times, the other centered on grain from an agricultural celebration.

Passover today is a chance for Jewish families to gather at a communal dinner, a Seder (The Order) and recount the story of the Exodus while following a prescribed ritual.

For you goyim here's an explanation of the Exodus in 150 words or less:

3000 years ago.
Jewish captivity in Egypt.
Moses: "Let My People go"
Pharaoh: "Fuggedhaboudit".
G-d: "Special Delivery for Pharaoh - 7 plagues. We got your frogs, your vermin, your flies, mad cow disease, locusts, boils, hail, oh yeah and slaying of your first born (always a biggie in biblical times.)

The Jews mark their doors with lamb's blood so G-d knows not to come a knockin’. He passes over their homes.

Finally Pharaoh says "You wanna go, get outta here."

Jews have to leave in a hurry; don't have time to bake foccacia to snack on in their Ford Explorers as they head off-road across the desert towards Israel. They make unleavened bread - matzo. Pharaoh's Army chases them. They reach the Sea of Reeds (later mistranslated into The Red Sea); Moses whips out his Divine E-Z pass. Jews get across. Pharaoh's Army goes for a dip.

Pretty much covers it.
Charlton Heston fits in there somewhere but it gets way too confusing.

The Seder is the most important event of the 8 days of Passover. It takes place the first two nights. Similar to the Christian Mardi Gras /Pancake Day all non-kosher foods containing yeast are consumed or disposed of before the holiday begins, otherwise they're not as the saying goes "Kosher for Passover."

Glatt –- wat’s dat?
You may see the term “Glatt Kosher” on certain foods. Most folks think it implies this stuff is Extra-Strength Kosher, the best of the blessed. In fact, it just sorta means that the animal was a non-smoker. Huh? Glatt is Yiddish for smooth, it means that the lungs of the animal were smooth, without any adhesions, scars or punctures. Basically this law kept folks from eating diseased animals or leftover road kill. There is no such thing as Glatt kosher chicken, fish, or dairy, but that doesn’t mean you won’t see the G word plastered all over them. Which when you think about doesn’t seem quite Kosher.

Like the Haft Seen --The Seder plate contains 5 foods which all have symbolic meaning:

Haroseth, a mixture of chopped walnuts, wine, cinnamon and apples that represents the mortar the Jewish slaves used to assemble the Pharaoh's bricks.

Parsley to symbolize spring, dipped in salt to remind us of the salty tears of the slaves.

Egg, again to symbolize spring.

Lamb bone, okay we got that.

Bitter herbs to symbolize the bitter life the slaves led.

Jewish children ask the famous 4 questions. (One of them is not: When am I getting a Sony PlayStation? Questions like: Why do we lean on a pillow tonight?
Answer: To remind us that once we were slaves and uncomfortable but now we are free. The answers explain the symbolism of the objects and infuse a sense of history/culture.

At one point in the Seder the front door is opened to allow the Prophet Elijah in. After the meal children search for a piece of Matzo wrapped in cloth called the Afikomen (meaning: after dinner). The one who finds the Afikomen gets a prize.

EASTER
Which brings us up to Jesus. He was Jewish, presumably as a child he searched for the Afikomen. He was crucified during Passover. The Last Supper was a Seder. As mentioned, three foods served at this religious meal are shank bone, symbolic of the Paschal lamb, an egg and matzo bread. The symbolic use of the lamb and the egg both survive in the Christian Easter. Christ being considered the sacrificial lamb for man's sins and, of course, the Easter egg. Passover's unleavened matzo bread survives in the Christian Communion wafer. Some Christian groups contend Christ's body wrapped in linen in his tomb was the Afikomen for mankind. The gift/prize was revealed upon his resurrection.

Early Christians (whom I guess could be considered the very first Jews For Jesus) did not celebrate Easter. They continued to observe the Jewish religious holy days, though in a new spirit, thus Passover had a new concept added to it of Christ as the true Paschal Lamb. Paschal is from the Hebrew " pesach " (Passover) from the verb form "he passed over."

As the Christian faith evolved Easter came into its own.

But wait, we're all the way up to 400 AD or so.
Let's back up a bit.

Ancient Antecedents
By now you know there are some pretty well established pagan customs that we unknowingly follow to this day. So let's go back to some of the pagan origins of Christianity's most solemn holiday. Read on and discover the hidden origins of Sunrise Services, Lenten fasting, Easter Eggs, the Easter Bunny and even the word "Easter."

Easter in the Christian faith is a festival of resurrection, a celebration of Christ, the Son of God, rising from the dead. On another symbolic level it is also a celebration of nature returning from the dead, a welcome home party for the pagan Earth Mother or if you prefer "Mother Nature" who arrives in the form of spring.

It probably comes as no surprise to you that back there in BC, Before Christ, the Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians had festivals of resurrection in spring.

Babylonian Resurrection legends
Astarte was the mother goddess of the ancient Assyrians, she was
also known as Ishtar. Astarte was hatched from a huge egg that fell into the Euphrates. Astarte's husband Tammuz croaked. Astarte fasted for 40 days and went looking for him in the underworld and by her grief she was able to bring him back to life. In honor of Astarte, Babylonians considered eggs sacred and they were not eaten for the period of her mourning (which interestingly corresponds with the concept of giving something up for the 40 days of Lent.)

Egyptian Resurrection Mythology
The Egyptians influenced the Hebrews (look no further than Moses, which is an Egyptian name) and the Hebrews influenced the early Christians (Look no further than the Pope who wears a yarmulke.) So it's interesting to note an Egyptian resurrection legend that predates Christ. The Egyptian gods Isis and Osiris were not only sister and brother; they were husband and wife. Osiris was the Son of God. His daddy was Ra - the sun god. Did that make him the son of sun? Osiris is many times depicted with green skin --since he was the god of vegetation, which is why spring is an important time for him. Osiris is whacked by his brother, the god Seth. Seth chops us his body. Isis tries to put him back together. She finds everything but a fairly important component ---his penis. After one day and two nights she is able to bring him back to life but only temporarily. He rises from the dead at sunrise; after all he is the son of sun. It happens to be the day of the Vernal Equinox, the first day of spring. They make love (G-d knows how!) then Osiris returns to his father in the heavens. Osiris will eventually leave his father and become the god of the underworld. Hey if you lost your manly member you wouldn't be in too sweet of a mood either.

40 weeks after they do the big nasty Isis gives birth to a son, Horus. The date of his birth -- Dec 25th. You’re familiar with the date I’m sure and already know that Christians chose this date to venerate a son of God who returned to the right hand of his father ---in the hopes it would supersede pagan celebrations to Horus and another powerful god Mithra.

Mithra/Mithras
A fascinating god. He was Persian and as their empire spread he was introduced to new cultures. In India he became a Hindu God - Mitra. Eventually he would be worshipped throughout the Roman Empire. The fascinating thing about Mithra is the uncanny similarity to Jesus. He was worshipped 800 years before Christ but here’s Mithra’s bio: He was born of a Virgin, was part of a divine trinity, had twelve followers, who were baptized into the faith and ate bread and drank wine to symbolize the body and blood of god. They looked forward to a final day of judgment when true believers would rise from the dead and do battle until the forces of light triumphed over darkness. Mithras died and was resurrected. This compassionate god was known as the light of the world and was born on December 25. Holy Happenstance Batman!

It is also interesting to consider that Easter Sunrise Services have become more and more popular. On some subliminal level they harken back to Sun worship, which was one of the earliest religions. In ancient Babylon the sun was personified as Tammuz, the returning lover of Ishtar. It was at dawn that the Egyptian Osiris rose to join the sun god in the sky. Even today, Druids hold sunrise services on the summer solstice.


Greek Resurrection Mythology
In Greek mythology Demeter was the Earth Mother, goddess of the harvest. When her daughter Persephone was abducted by Hades (god of the underworld), Demeter spiraled into a depression. The plants died and there was no harvest. Zeus (who had a lot of money invested in crop futures) got p.o.'d and i.m.'d his brother Hades and told him to let Persephone the hell out of hell.

Hades tricks Persephone into swallowing some pomegranate seeds. Now that Persephone has accepted the seed of Hades she is symbolically his wife and is now Queen of the Underworld.

Hades agrees to let her go home to momma if she promises to agree to live with him for four months of the year. So every year, when Persephone lets herself go all to hell, Demeter pops some Prozac and the world lapses into winter. When Persephone is released and resurrected from death, Demeter's joy is expressed in the flowers of spring.

Roman Mythology
The Romans kept the story but changed the names to protect their lack of creativity. They changed Demeter’s name to Ceres. Ceres is the root word for cereal.

Chicagoans should find her familiar. She sits atop the Chicago Board of Trade where grain futures are sold. Persephone’s name was changed to Proserpine.


Teutonic Mythology
In Norse-Teutonic mythology there was a goddess of spring, in Scandinavian this Earth Mother's name was Ostara, in Saxony it was Eostre, also spelled Eastre. There is some belief that the name Ostara may be a corruption of Astarte, the mother goddess of the ancient Assyrians mentioned earlier. Eostre/Eastre is where we get the word "Easter." Eostre is also considered one of the possible root words for "estrus", from which we get the name estrogen, the female sex hormone.

Since Eastre was the goddess of fertility there was an extremely fertile animal associated with her, the highly reproductive critter was---drum roll please……..a rabbit. Her name was Oschter Haws. Holy Hasenpfeffer Batman!!!! Is that where we get the Easter bunny? Yup. Like the Yule log, the Christmas tree and holly, this pagan custom crept into Christianity when the Germans converted. The story goes that an injured bird was brought to Eostre; she was unable to fully restore it so she transformed it into a hare. The hare retained its ability to lay eggs and did so every spring in honor of the Goddess and the Earth's rebirth. Thus, the tradition of a bunny bringing eggs to children.

(If you want to scroll up about a mile to the illustration at the top on this post you'll see Eastre flying through the sky with a flying rabbit to her right.)

It's interesting (and weird) to note that an old expression for asking a woman if she was pregnant was: Did the rabbit die? An archaic pregnancy test consisted of injecting a woman's urine into a live rabbit. If it died you could expect a blessed event. In reality, the rabbit always died, however if the woman were indeed pregnant the rabbit's ovaries would bulge. This, of course, was determined post-mortem. Obviously Bugs Bunny heaved a sigh of relief when they invented E.P.T.

The Easter Bunny
When German immigrants came to America and unpacked their folklore baggage, the Easter bunny hopped out. It was widely ignored by other American Christians until shortly after the Civil War. German-American children believed that if they were good the "Oschter Haws" would lay a nest of colored eggs. The children would build their nest in a secluded place in the home, the barn or the garden. Boys would use their caps and girls their bonnets to make the nests. The use of elaborate Easter baskets was a later addition to the tradition.

Easter Tuesday?????
Prior to A.D. 325, Easter was variously celebrated on different days of the week, including Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. (Was Good Friday called Good Wednesday when Easter fell on a Friday?) In 325 the Council of Nicaea was convened by the Roman Emperor Constantine. It issued the Easter Rule, which states that Easter shall be celebrated on the first Sunday that occurs after the first full moon on or after the vernal equinox, or first day of spring. Is that why Easter Sunday is always hopping around? Uh-huh. The Greek Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church officially split in 1054 AD. The Greeks continued to determine the date of Easter using the Julian calendar even after The Romans Catholics switched to the Gregorian calendar. Thus their different dates for the same Holy Day. (The split between the two churches became irreparable in 1204 AD when Venetian bankers arranged with the Vatican to have an army of Crusaders sack Constantinople (Venice's business rival) on the way to the Holy Land. The Crusaders sacked the Holy Christian City of Constantinople (Istanbul) and that was that.

Easter Eggs
The egg of course is universally understood as a symbol of life.
In Pagan times the egg represented the rebirth of the earth. Winter was over; the flowers burst forth from the earth just as the chick burst out of its shell. (Is that why folks put Easter decorations up with pictures of chicks popping out of eggs?) With the advent of Christianity the symbolism of the egg changed to represent, not nature's rebirth, but the rebirth of man. Christians embraced the egg symbol and compared it to the tomb from which Christ rose.

There are many Eastern European legends about coloring eggs. One legend concerns the Virgin Mary holding a basket of eggs while crying at the foot of the Cross. Her tears fell upon the eggs leaving them with splashes of brilliant color.

During the Middle Ages the Brits were big on decorating and coloring eggs. In 1290 Edward I had four hundred and fifty eggs gold-leafed and colored which he presented as Easter gifts.

The world’s most famous Easter eggs were those made by the well-known goldsmith, Peter Carl Faberge. In 1883 Czar Alexander commissioned Faberge to make a special Easter gift for his wife, the Empress Marie. You, dear Gothamites, were once in a most envious position. The largest collection of Faberge eggs outside of Russia used to reside at The Forbes Museum at 62 Fifth Ave. But did you ever get off your keester and go over there when they were there? Unfortunately, they’ve been sold and now Forbes is fresh out of eggs.

Easter Parades
There is one other Fifth Avenue connection to Easter.

Historically in New York, Fifth Avenue is where each religious franchise plopped its flagship building i.e. St. Patrick's Cathedral, Temple Beth Israel. At Fifth Avenue and 52nd street (next to the Museum of Modern Art) you'll find St. Thomas Episcopal Church. It had a very, very well to do congregation. The opulent spring wardrobe worn by the women parishioners as they exited the church onto Fifth Avenue became known as the Easter Parade.

It has transformed into a somewhat pedestrian mall cum parade, kind of a weird Venice beach meets Fifth Avenue stroll.


So class to summarize:
We've taken an ancient agrarian festival celebrating the rebirth of the earth, reinterpreted it as a religious festival celebrating the resurrection of Christ and then turned that into a festival where a bunny rabbit sneaks into a house and leaves stuffed rabbits, chocolate lambs, colored eggs and chocolate scale models of ancient execution devices (crucifixes) for children. Unlike Santa, the rabbit doesn't check once, nor twice if you've been nice. He just gives you the goodies and hops back down the bunny trail.

And you wonder why kids today are so confused.

That's about all the trivia I've got. Now I must return to my research trying to uncover the Pre-Columbian origins of the marshmallow chick.

Happy NoRuz, Eostre-Passover, oh and welcome home Persephone.

Dano