Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The origins of Thanksgiving -the American Holyday.

Cultures around the world have historically celebrated their harvests with thanksgiving ceremonies. The Greeks thanked Demeter, goddess of grain. The Romans had a similar goddess called Ceres, from whom we get the word cereal, her festival was called Cerelia and was held on Oct 8th. The ancient Egyptians celebrated their harvest festival in honor of Min, their god of vegetation and fertility. The Chinese celebrated their harvest festival called Chung Ch'ui. The Jewish autumnal celebration is called Sukkoth, the English have autumnal feasts, the Germans have Oktoberfest.

We Americans are the only turkeys who actually celebrate with turkeys.

So some history:
Thanksgiving is the preeminent American holiday. It deals with our forefathers being led by God to this virgin land and through hard work and fair play turning the wilderness into one of the world's great civilizations.

It's a nice story. However, several important things were left out of the story. It's pretty obvious that the Native Americans have their own version of events. But there’s another group left entirely out of the story -- the Spanish. They had settlements in the New World a full hundred years before the English. More to the point, the first known thanksgiving feast in North America was celebrated by Francisco Vasquez De Coronado when he dined with the Teya people in May of 1541--- in of all the non-New Englandy places but Texas.

French Huguenots in Jacksonville Florida held the 2nd Thanksgiving celebration in 1564. There were no known native guests but I’ll bet the Frenchies ate better than the Puritans up in New England. The third Thanksgiving was held by Spaniards right after they massacred those French Huguenots, when Admiral Pedro Menendez de Aviles put on a feedbag with the natives in St. Augustine, Florida in 1565.

Despite these facts, we nail our hat to the notion that America is a White Anglo-Saxon Protestant nation and so went looking for a proper English origin for our country and settled upon the Pilgrims. Yet even the English had earlier settlements than Plymouth. Jamestown, Virginia was founded 12 years prior. We don't trace our origins back to Jamestown because it was a disastrous failure ---those pilgrims feasted upon each other. Cannibalism makes a poor foundation to build a myth upon.

So selected history has skipped over the Spanish, the French and Jamestown and instead chosen the Pilgrims.

Okay, let's start with them.

They were called Pilgrims.


The term "Pilgrims," referring to religious travelers, wasn't used to describe the early Plymouth colonists until the early 1800s, when someone found a phrase used by the 2nd Governor of the Colony, William Bradford "they knew they were pilgrims" and that became their cleaned- up alias as we reinvented the Puritans. Before we discover why America needed to reinvent the Puritans, let’s find out a thing or two about them. By the way, a great way to learn about them is to read MAYFLOWER by Nathan Philbrick.

The Pilgrims were Puritans. Puritans were religious fundamentalists (Did someone say Taliban?) who believed that the Protestant Reformation hadn’t gone far enough to eradicate the influence of the Catholic Church in merry Ole England. They felt the Church of England was merely the Catholic Church dressed up in other vestments. They intended to purify the Church of England. The people we call Pilgrims called themselves ‘Separatists.” Because they were on the radical fringe of the Puritan sect. They didn’t believe that the Church of England could be made more “pure”. Instead they wanted to separate and form their own religious haven somewhere outside of England. First in the Netherlands and then the land of the free, home of the five-dollar footlong.

Puritans didn't celebrate standard Christian holidays, no Christmas, Easter, no nothin'. They celebrated the Sabbath and had two other religious days held whenever warranted. There was a day of fasting that was held when bad things happened. When good things happened, they had a day of thanks for God's providence. These two special days were never held on the Sabbath, instead they were usually held on meeting day - Thursday. Which is how Thanksgiving Day wound up on a Thursday.

They were also millenialists; people who believed the end times were at hand. And that in 1620, as foretold in Revelations, the world was entering into the Time of the Saints. In 1618 a comet had appeared across Europe. It was considered the starting gun for the end times. But first there would be a thousand year reign by Christ before the final judgment. At first they felt that England was the New Jerusalem and later decided that America was the New Jerusalem. (They wouldn’t be the last religious group to hold that belief. Joseph Smith, founder of the Mormons –another separatist who would take his congregation outside the United States to the Indian territory of Utah-- not only believed that America was the New Jerusalem, he thought it was also the old one. He claimed that the Garden of Eden had been in Missouri. Hmmm. Adam and Eve walked around naked; maybe that’s why it’s called the Show Me State.)

Oddly enough after they were settling in New England and lost half of their colony to disease, the plain old Puritans back in England actually took over the place. Oliver Cromwell one hard-ass Puritan defeated the Royal forces in the English Civil War, had the King executed and made himself Lord Protector and began instituting a Puritan nation. And as an aside he slaughtered untold tens of thousands in Ireland and Scotland. Cromwell was the cause of “The Troubles” in Ireland. He gave his protestant soldiers most of the land in Northern Ireland as payment for services rendered. He died and was buried in Westminster Abbey. When the Royalist took over again, his body was disinterred, beheaded, and left hanging outdoors for a few years.

So to wrap it up-- the name "Puritan" doesn't hold a lot of positive connotations. Their reputation wasn't enhanced much after the Salem Witch hunts. "Pilgrim" sounds so much nicer.

Americans have been celebrating Thanksgiving non-stop since T-1 back in 1621 

Their 1621 three-day potluck dinner was the first Survivor Cast Party.
Half the colony had died over their first winter. In 1621 thanks to the injuns they had a good harvest -- they’d live another winter, let’s party on down.

1622 went without a Thanksgiving.

Then in 1623 a drought ending rain sent by God was reason enough for a 2nd Thanksgiving party. It’s unclear if any Natives attended.

From then on it there wasn’t an annual autumnal feast, just the sporadic Day of Thanks when something good happened.

I’m getting the impression that some of what I learned about the first Thanksgiving isn't true.

Pretty much. But what's important isn't that you were taught a false history. The interesting thing is why you were taught this little morality play.

You undoubtedly learned back in grade school that:

A. The Pilgrims carved a civilization out of an uninhabited wilderness. 
The New World wasn't uninhabited land waiting to be settled. The estimated population of Europe at the time of Columbus was 70 million. The population of the Americas (North & South) is put at 100 million. History acknowledges the advanced societies of the Aztecs and Mayans and their vast cities. But we are told that the North American natives were wild savages. Did anyone ever tell you about Cahokia, Illinois, a Native American settlement with a population of 40,000? No, of course not, if the Natives had settlements then we really couldn't call the Pilgrims "settlers" could we?

The truth is there were no cloven-hoofed animals in the Americas and thus when the East Coast natives began having contact with European traders they had no immunity to the garden-variety anthrax and other diseases like smallpox that the Europeans brought with them.

(They did have some payback though, they gave Europeans venereal disease. In Native Americans it manifested itself as a minor flu virus. When it hit Europe it became deadly. So it's somewhat odd that the Europeans gave the disease a humorous name. The word “venereal” comes from Venus the goddess of love.)

In Massachusetts members of the well-established Wampanoag settlement had been wiped out by plague contracted from Europeans. King James II gave thanks to "Almighty God in his great goodness and bounty towards us for sending this wonderful plague among the savages." When the Puritans arrived they took over the homes, possessions and most important-- the already cleared fields. The remaining natives were kind to the Puritans because their decimated tribe desperately needed allies to protect them against their enemy, the Narragansetts. The Puritans had guns.
Actual Photo taken by Mayflower Passenger Ezikiah Kodak

B. The Pilgrims were headed for Virginia but a storm blew their tiny Mayflower off-course and God guided them to Plymouth. 

Well kinda.

They were headed for the future site of New York City, which the English considered the northern boundary of Virginia; the western boundary was the Pacific Ocean. But Henry Hudson working for the Dutch had already sailed up the river that bears his name in 1609. And the Dutch were already making plans to start a colony there. Which they did 4 years after the Puritans landed in Plymouth. While the Puritans were living in the Netherlands the Dutch offered them a patent to colonize New York. When the Puritans turned down the offer it’s believed that the Dutch sabotaged their efforts to sail, delaying their journey so that they arrived in winter.

They got lost along the way and couldn’t get the Mayflower to clear the shoals off Cape Cod and instead just went ashore.

There’s also an unlikely conspiracy theory out there that the Puritans were headed to New England all along. Remember Squanto from the story, the kind Indian who taught them how to place a fish in the ground when they planted corn? He really did exist. He had been kidnapped by sailors and brought to Europe as a slave. He learned English and met with Fernando Gorges, the leader of the Plymouth Company BEFORE they left England for Holland and told them about his beautiful village of Pawtucket, which the Puritans would later rename "Plimouth."

C. The Pilgrims set foot on Plymouth Rock.

Sorry. Never happened. The exploring party landed in Plimouth/Plymouth/Patuxet on December 21, 1620. Not one of them ever mentioned anything about a rock in their journals. William Bradford, one of those “pilgrims” wrote the seminal book: Of Plimouth Plantation. He never mentioned a rock. In later years the rock part was dreamt up to add a "Upon this rock I will build my church/ nation" twist to the story. This supported the theme that America was the New Jerusalem.

Whatareyatalkinabout? I’ve seen it. I’ve been to Plymouth Rock, stood on the marble altar looking down at it, the very bedrock of our nation.

Yeah, well that rock was plopped there in 1920. Remember that year when we talk about immigration later on in this post.   The first recorded mention of the rock was in 1741, a full 121 years after the supposed event. Some 94-year-old coot told folks that his pappy told him that a rock in the harbor was where the “Pilgrims” had set foot.  Townsfolk dug up a portion of the rock and put it into storage and forgot it. 300 years after the landing when the Pilgrims had been rediscovered it was rediscovered and placed at its present site. An “altar” was built around it so that Americans had a proper place to worship our newly minted origin myth.

D. Thanksgiving was the very first Woodstock

Peace and love between Whites and Natives. The Puritans were only slightly less brutal to the Native Americans than other colonists. They took a few shots at the first native they sighted. They then immediately looted the homes and graves of the natives. Up until the Mid-1800's the few visuals that depicted Puritans, were usually battle scenes. One you may have seen is of Puritans fleeing a shower of arrows. They didn't carry those cute little muskets for nuthin. Within 50 years of the Mayflower’s landing most of the New England natives were decimated. You know about the Mayflower carrying a ship full of colonists, but have you ever heard of the Seaflower? It was a ship that left Plymouth fifty years later loaded to the gills with Indians being sold as slaves to work in the sugar plantations of the Caribbean.

To recap: 
They weren't called Pilgrims, it wasn't called Plymouth, there was no Plymouth Rock, and they didn't get along too well with the natives. They didn't carve a civilization from out of the wilderness. And God didn't lead them there. There was however turkey and some tasteless sugar-free pumpkin pie if that makes you feel any better.

Okay, so then how did this one shot celebration of a few religious extremists become a beloved national holiday?

It's pretty simple. All cultures have an origin myth. Whether it is Romulus and Remus being raised by wolves and founding Rome, or Adam and Eve and the Garden of Eden. (And before I get comments from those who believe in the literal existence of Adam and Eve --remember the definition of a myth: a traditional story accepted as history that serves to explain the worldview of a people)

Anthropologists lay out certain rules for origin myths:

1. It constitutes the history of the acts of the founders
2. It is considered to be true.
3. It tells how an institution came into being
4. In performing the ritual associated with the myth (think of turkey, cranberries and pumpkin pie) one experiences knowledge of the origin and claims one's patriarchy.
5. Thus one lives "the myth" as a religion.

So Thanksgiving has become our quasi-religious holiday, where our families gather around the altar (the dining room table) and recount the story of how God gave this land to us Anglo-Saxon Protestants, or if you prefer –us White folk.

The odd thing is that the Father of our Country, George Washington would be totally lost if you invited him to your Thanksgiving Dinner with the cute little cardboard cutouts of Pilgrims on the table. Why? Because the Pilgrim story of Thanksgiving really didn't take hold in America until the late 1880's.

George would have known that up in New England they celebrated an autumnal feast. But it was strictly a regional celebration. There was good reason why Thanksgiving was big in New England. When the Puritans controlled the Colony, they disliked the pagan origins of Christmas celebrations and so for many years it was illegal to take off on Christmas Day in Massachusetts.

"For preventing disorders, arising in several places within this jurisdiction by reason of some still observing such festivals as were superstitiously kept in other communities, to the great dishonor of God and offense of others: it is therefore ordered by this court and the authority thereof that whosoever shall be found observing any such day as Christmas or the like, either by forbearing of labor, feasting, or any other way, upon any such account as aforesaid, every such person so offending shall pay for every such offence five shilling as a fine to the county."

From the records of the General Court,
Massachusetts Bay Colony
May 11, 1659 

In England the Christmas feast was traditional. So New Englanders who weren’t allowed to celebrate Christmas coped by turning the New England Thanksgiving celebration into a food feast, an oral orgy with traditional Christmas foods and pies.

Other regions of the country where Christmas was indeed celebrated began looking jealously at New England. Why couldn’t they have a food orgy in autumn too? It kind of reminds me of Christian children who complain that they don’t get 8 days of Hanukkah gifts, too.

If you Google Days of Thanksgiving the results are very confusing, because there were other days in other colonies called Days of Thanksgiving, but these had nothing to do with Puritans.

On Nov. 1, 1777 The Continental Congress suggested a National Thanksgiving be held. But it was in response to the defeat of the British General Burgoyne in Saratoga, New York. For that matter the Queen of England declared a Thanksgiving Day when the Spanish Armada was defeated.

After the War of 1812, New York State declared a Statewide Day of Thanksgiving.

But by the mid-1800’s other states began to celebrate a Thanksgiving Day. This had nothing to do with Pilgrims, Indians or the NFL. It was merely the growing popularity of a Yankee celebration that moved west with settlers from the Northeast. Kind of like the present day growing popularity amongst Anglos of the Mexican Cinco de Mayo celebration.

Which is where Sarah Josepha Hale comes into the picture.
She was a New England gal. A writer. You know one of her poems: Mary had a little lamb. She was the Martha Stewart and Oprah Winfrey of her day. She was also the editor of a very influential women’s magazine called Godey’s Ladies Book. It not only contained articles like “Refreshing Drinks for Summer ” It also introduced women readers to the likes of Goethe and Cervantes. She became a one-woman committee to make Thanksgiving a national holiday. She wrote non-stop letters to legislators. As tensions heated up before the Civil War she promoted a National day of Thanksgiving as a way to prevent hostilities. Didn’t work.

Here’s one of her editorials if you’re interested:

We are most happy to agree with the large majority of the governors of the different States -- as shown in their unanimity of action for several past years, and which, we hope, will this year be adopted by all -- that the LAST THURSDAY IN NOVEMBER shall be the DAY Of NATIONAL THANKSGIVING for the American people.
Let this day, from this time forth, as long as our Banner of Stars floats on the breeze, be the grand THANKSGIVING HOLIDAY of our nation, when the noise and tumult of wordliness may be exchanged for the laugh of happy children, the glad greetings of family reunion, and the humble gratitude of the Christian heart…

Let us consecrate the day to benevolence of action, by sending good gifts to the poor, and doing those deeds of charity that will, for one day, make every American home the place of plenty and of rejoicing. These seasons of refreshing are of inestimable advantage to the popular heart; and if rightly managed, will greatly aid and strengthen public harmony of feeling. Let the people of all the States and Territories sit down together to the "feast of fat things," and drink, in the sweet draught of joy and gratitude to the Divine giver of all our blessings, the pledge of renewed love to the Union, and to each other; and of peace and good-will to all men. Then the last Thursday in November will soon become the day of AMERICAN THANKSGIVING throughout the world.

During the Civil War the South declared a National Day of Thanksgiving after their victory at Bull Run. Not to be outdone, President Lincoln declared a National Day of Thanksgiving for April 13th, 1862 to celebrate the Union victory at Shiloh, and again on Aug. 6th, 1863 for the victory at Gettysburg.

But the idea of a national holiday where we sat down ate and gave thanks for our abundant blessings didn’t take traction until ole Abe declared a National Day of Thanksgiving for the fourth Thursday of November in 1863.

Here’s the Proclamation in Abe’s own words:

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle, or the ship; the axe had enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.

No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.

After Abe, every single President would annually declare a National Day of Thanksgiving. (It took many years before Thanksgiving became popular in the South. It was considered just another piece of Yankee cultural imperialism being forced upon poor Dixie.) The date of Thanksgiving would hop around. Eventually it fell upon the last Thursday in November. But more important, as you may have noticed in the above proclamation there was no mention of the first Thanksgiving, Pilgrims, Puritans or any of that crap.

They weren't mentioned until Hebert Hoover's proclamation in 1931.

How did the Pilgrims reappear after 300 years?

Beginning in the late 1800's the Puritans began to re-emerge, repackaged and repositioned. They were characterized as religious pilgrims on a divine mission to carve a civilization out of the wilderness. Considering the fact that the West had just been "won" and the Native Indian population wiped out, this was a very convenient myth to bandy about. It was our Destiny, our Manifest Destiny to own this land.

The myth of the Pilgrims (like the myth of Columbus) was rediscovered and refashioned to fit America's new concept of itself. The country was flush with money; many Americans were enjoying the fruits of the Industrial Revolution. It is no coincidence that by the late 1800’s the emerging Middle Class could afford factory made chairs and dishes and so hold a proper Thanksgiving Feast. Look at all these consumer goods –look at this civilization we’ve carved from the wilderness! Praise the Lord and pass the Sears-Roebuck catalog.

By the time old Herbie Hoover was in office in the 1930's the myth of the Pilgrims had taken hold.

In the early 1900's America was being overrun with immigrants. 1,280,000 entered the country in 1907. Worst yet, they were Catholics and Jews! The myth of different ethnic groups sitting down peaceably at the same table, a Protestant table no less, was mighty potent. And so the story was taught to American schoolchildren. The story became one of the most important founding myths of our nation. As schoolchildren we were all taught to take part in the myth by cutting up paper plates to make turkeys.

Ku Kluxgiving

In 1915, eight years after that peak year of immigration, the KKK came out of the linen closet.  There are two things about their re-emergence that are quite interesting.  One:  their first act was a lynching.  No big shock. But it was of a Jewish man, not a black man. And number two, they were officially and intentionally rededicated on Thanksgiving Day.

The second coming of the Klan was an anti-immigrant movement. It was anti-Catholic, anti-Jew, Pro-protestant.  The Thanksgiving story of the Puritan origins of America was proof positive to the boys in da ‘hoods that they were on a mission from God and so chose that as their born again birthdate.

1915 happened to be the year that D.W. Griffith’s Birth of a Nation was released.
In it the Reconstruction Era Ku Klux Klan is pictured as the protector of southern civilization and female chastity protecting civil society from savage black animals.  The film shows the use of burning crosses.

That was historically inaccurate. In reality many of the original founders of the KKK were Scots-Irish, descendants of Cromwell’s soldiers.  There weren’t uneducated rednecks.  Their organizational name is Greek, the language of the learned. In Greek, kuklos means circle. Take "Ku Klux" and add a little Scottish word to fill out the alliteration and you have Ku Klux Klan.  Their symbol was a circle with a St. Andrews Cross, an X  the flag of Scotland.  In Scotland when they wanted to gather the klans they would light these X shaped crosses on hilltops. (By the by, the Confederate flag is a St. Andrews cross.)

But the second coming of the Klan took that Hollywood mistake and used it as a branding symbol. The Fiery Cross, symbol of their Christianity, read “Protestantism”.

You had to be a white protestant male to belong to the KKK.  And this was no small, inconsequential movement.  There were 14 million KKK members out of a population of 114 million Americans. There were also Junior KKK members and a women's organinzation-- the WKK, who aren’t counted in that number

The Reconstruction Era Klan was called the Invisible Empire.  But you’ll notice no one is hiding his face in the 1926 photo above.  These folks considered themselves patriots, America firsters. God gave this land to White Anglo Saxon Males and they weren’t going to let some greaseballs, micks and hymies take it over.

And this wasn’t just some southern hick thing.  The KKK was huge in the America's northern cities and states
(Indiana was ground zero). It was also big  in the outlying areas of major cities that were full of immigrants. At this time 1 in 6 people on Long Island were Ku Klux Klan members.

The 2nd coming of the Klan died out just before World War Two, only to re-emerge in the 1950’s as an anti-civil rights organization.

But their connection to Thanksgiving is rather unsettling.It is the symbolism of Thanksgiving that were were trying to connect with.  In my opinion their biggest connection to Thanksgiving is that they were a bunch of turkeys.

So five years after the KKK is refounded on Thanksgiving Day, the Plymouth Rock is dusted off and immigrant children are spoon fed turkey, cranberries and a cute little story: that our forefathers were led by God to this virgin land and through hard work and fair play we turned the wilderness into one of the world's great civilizations. Pass the gravy.

Enough twisted history. The truth about the holiday is almost as depressing as the real story of Christmas which we'll learn next month.

So there you have it. 

Here we are approaching everyone's favorite holiday, one that centers on food, family and football.

You don't have to buy any presents, nor Valentine chocolates or flowers; all you have to do is buy into the myth of our Pilgrim forefathers.

But then, now you know better, you know the truth.

Gotta go, there are a bunch of cute little Pilgrims outside burning a woman alive at the stake.

Happy Bird Day Everyone.


New York Thanksgiving connections:

Within 30 years of the Puritans coming ashore in Plymouth they had spread south and were on the outskirts of the Dutch Colony of New Netherlands. They founded a city outside of New Amsterdam. They named it for the New Ark of the Covenant. You know that town as Newark. They also settled Suffolk County on Long Island and named one of their first towns after Oliver Cromwell’s birthplace: Huntingdon, England. Today, that town is known as Huntington, Long Island.

Of course NY’s biggest Thanksgiving Connection is The Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade. It began in 1924 when all those immigrants who had just flooded the island of Manhattan eagerly embraced the Pilgrim Myth. Macy’s immigrant employees marched down Broadway dressed like Indians. Herding a bunch of animals borrowed from the Central park zoo. Eventually the animals would be replaced by Animal balloons. The entire interesting history of the parade can be found www.macys.com/campaign/parade/history.jsp

The film A Miracle on 34th Street has wedded Macy’s to not only Thanksgiving but also the American Christmas celebration. The parade scenes were shot at an actual 1946 Macy’s parade, which looks downright dorky. You’ll remember that the film featured the rivalry between the two dept store giants: Macy’s & Gimbels. As in the phrase “Does Macy’s tell Gimbels?” The phrase is still alive but Gimbels isn’t, except for an old painted wall sign. Stand on the corner of 7th Ave at 31st street (near Penn Station) Look east and on your left up top you’ll see “Gimbels” calling out to you from Christmas past.

One other weird Macy’s thing. The Macy’s were an old whaling family. One of the first of the whalers had a star tattoo, which became the family emblem, and eventually Macy’s logo. When the whaling biz died out they turned their ships into cargo ships and brought goods to NY and sold them by the wharves of South Street. They did so well they opened a store. Then, many stores. And once a year you’ll notice that Macy’s still has “a whale of a sale” to honor their Whaling heritage. You are now one of six people in the world who knows this.

So what became of those cute little Puritans?
The United Church of Christ traces itself back to the Mayflower. Those Puritanical dudes dressed in black have become one of the most progressive, liberal congregations in America. A few years ago CBS refused to sell them air time on the Superbowl because the commercial showed, blacks, Latinos and gays in their congregation with the line Jesus didn’t discriminate, neither do we.
Apparently that was way too radical of an idea.

Liberal Puritans---- That’s something to be thankful for.

Friday, April 20, 2012

The origins of 4-20 day


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.

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.

Friday, April 6, 2012

The origins of Passover Noruz and Easter

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 over the course of a month we get the Vernal Equinox and three major religious holidays: NoRuz, Easter and Passover.

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.

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

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.

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.

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.
Eastre and the original flying Easter bunny.

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.

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.