Monday, November 21, 2011

Thanksgiving Facts To Chew On; Bearing Beer on the Mayflower; Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin Mix It Up Over the Turkey

The First Thanksgiving by Jennie Brownscombe.
This weekend, while visiting our son, daughter-in-law and grandchildren in Dedham, Mass., I proposed a timely visit to Plymouth about a 45 minute drive. The weather was good and the Plymouth website promised a parade with floats, a children's activity tent and a viewing of the famous 'rock' inscribed with the date 1620. After a few delays, the parade started and we had a great viewing spot for our six and four year old grandsons. Bagpipers, fife and drum bands went by and an old green World War 2 bomber flew low over our heads, but just as a float carrying a re-creation of the Mayflower was in sight, a group of marchers fired some rifles repeatedly as part of a demonstration. The boys started screaming and our parade viewing came to a speedy and tearful conclusion.

Guns? I thought pilgrims were a peace-loving people?

While we were there we noticed two different spelling of the word was also spelled Plimoth when referring to the recreated plantation nearby. Plymouth, it seems, is the more modern spelling. Plymouth is a lovely New England village with beautiful homes sitting cliff side overlooking Cape Cod Bay, worth a return visit perhaps in the spring.

We never did get to see the rock!

Dates to Remember
The first American Thanksgiving celebration was in 1621 in Plymouth, Massachusetts. The pilgrims arrived a year earlier in December 1620.

Thanksgiving Day is celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November in the United States.

Thanksgiving Day is celebrated on the second Monday in October in Canada.

President George Washington issued the first national Thanksgiving Day Proclamation in the year 1789 and again in 1795.

The state of New York officially made Thanksgiving Day an annual custom in 1817.

Sarah Josepha Hale, an editor with a magazine, started a Thanksgiving campaign in 1827 and it was result of her efforts that in 1863 Thanksgiving was observed as a day for national thanksgiving and prayer.

Abraham Lincoln issued a 'Thanksgiving Proclamation' on third October 1863 and officially set aside the last Thursday of November as the national day for Thanksgiving. Before that,  the presidents used to make an annual proclamation to specify the day when Thanksgiving was to be held.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt restored Thursday before last of November as Thanksgiving Day in the year 1939. He did so to make the Christmas shopping season longer and thus stimulate the economy of the state.

Let's Talk Turkey
Toms or male turkeys gobble. Hens or female turkeys make a clicking noise.

North Carolina produces the most turkeys annually.

The turkey was originally domesticated in Mexico and Central America.

Benjamin Franklin wanted the turkey to be the national bird of the United States. But it was Thomas Jefferson who opposed him. It is believed that Franklin then named the male turkey as 'tom' to spite Jefferson.

June is National Turkey Lovers' Month.

Californians are the largest consumers of turkey in the United States.

Since 1947, the National Turkey Federation and the Poultry and Egg National Board have given a turkey to the President of the United States at a White House ceremony. Presidents have been more likely to eat the turkey rather than give it a reprieve. In 1963, President Kennedy, referring to the turkey given to him, said, "Let's just keep him." The first Thanksgiving of President George H.W. Bush was the first time a turkey was officially pardoned.

From 1989 through 2004, the turkeys were given to Kidwell Farm, a petting zoo at Frying Pan Park in Herndon, Virginia. In 2005 and 2006, the turkeys were flown to Disneyland in California where they served as honorary grand marshals for Disneyland's Thanksgiving Day parade. After that, they spent the rest of their lives at a Disneyland ranch.

On November 24, 2010, President Obama gave two turkeys named Apple and Cider a last-minute reprieve. Obama made light of the event. "Let me say that it feels pretty good to stop at least one shellacking this November," he said, referring to the drubbing that Democrats took in the midterm elections, which Obama described as a "shellacking."

Israel consumes the most turkey per year per capita.

The best way to defrost a turkey is in the refrigerator.

Domesticated turkeys cannot fly. Wild turkeys can fly for short distances up to 55 miles per hour and can run 20 miles per hour.

90 percent of American homes eat turkey on Thanksgiving.

50 percent of American homes eat turkey on Christmas.

Turkeys weren't introduced into Europe from the Spanish colonies in South America until 1523. However, by 1524, turkeys, imported from South America, were eaten at the court of King Henry VIII of England.

The skin that hangs from a turkey's neck is called a wattle.

The turkey trot ragtime dance is characterized by a springy walk with the feet well apart and a swinging up-and-down movement of the shoulders.

A mature turkey has about 3,500 feathers.

Minnesota produces the most turkeys annually.

Pilgrims and Indians
The Mayflower left Plymouth, England on September 6, 1620 and sighted land off Cape Cod on November 9, 1620 and first landfall was made November 11, 1620

The voyage from Plymouth, England to Plymouth Harbour  across the Atlantic Ocean is about 2,750 miles, and took 66 days.

The pilgrims sailed on the ship called the 'Mayflower'.

By the fall of 1621 only half of the pilgrims, who had sailed on the Mayflower, survived. The survivors, thankful to be alive, decided to give a thanksgiving feast.

The Pilgrim saga began with a group of religious dissidents who believed it was necessary to separate from the Church of England. Persecuted in England, these "Separatists" moved to Holland in 1607/1608.

The group, joined by other colonists recruited by the venture's financial backers, began the move to America in 1620.

The Wampanoag Indians taught the Pilgrims how to cultivate the land.
Gov. Bradford

The Pilgrim leader, Governor William Bradford organized the first Thanksgiving feast and invited the Wampanoag Indians to the feast. There were about 90 indians present. The feast lasted three days!

The drink that the Puritans brought with them in the Mayflower was the beer.

102 Pilgrims were on board the Mayflower.

The Wampanoag chief's name was Massasoit.

William Penn, who founded the state of Pennsylvania, was a pilgrim.

First Santa float in the Macy's Parade, 1924.
Other Thanksgiving Facts
The annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade tradition began in the 1920's.

The Jewish holiday of Shabuoth or Shavuoth is similar to Thanksgiving. In biblical times the festival was a thanksgiving for the grain harvest. Later tradition associates the holiday with the giving of the Law on Mount Sinai.

Kwanzaa, also similar to Thanksgiving, has its roots in the ancient African first-fruit harvest celebrations from which it takes its name. However, its modern history begins in 1966 when it was developed by African American scholar and activist Maulana Karenga.

The Virgin Islands rejoice in the end of the hurricane season on Oct. 25

At the First Thanksgiving, it was acceptable to spit on the ground, throw bones into the hearth and eat with your hands.

Pumpkin pie was not served at the First Thanksgiving.

The cornucopia (a horn-shaped basket overflowing with fruits and vegetables) is a typical emblem of Thanksgiving abundance that dates to ancient harvest festivals. Many of the images commonly associated with Thanksgiving are derived from much older traditions of celebrating the autumn harvest.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Etiquette For Social Situations: Who Goes First in a Revolving Door and the Lost Art of Other Gentlemanly Gestures

Last night my husband and I were in Manhattan for dinner with another couple. As we were entering the hotel where the dinner was to be held, the question came up about who goes first in a revolving door: the man or the woman. I'd never thought about and and promised to investigate. In our case, the husband of the other couple went first and he thought that was correct since males are usually physically stronger, and have an easier time getting the door spinning.

He was exactly right according to tradition and Peggy Post (great granddaughter-in-law of the venerable Emily Post) and while this is still a courteous thing to do, some of today's women would prefer to get the door moving themselves not to appear helpless. It's OK to do either but not OK to embarrass a man or woman who would prefer to get the door started themselves. Some variations are: Man and man: Whoever arrives first goes first. If you arrive together, the man who is younger would let the elder man go first, unless the elder man needed assistance with the door. Woman and woman: Whoever arrives first goes first. If one of the women is elderly and needs assistance, the younger woman goes first to push the door. Adult and child: The adult goes first. Boss and employee: The higher ranking person enters first.

It got me to thinking about other rules of etiquette so I investigated further. Here are some rules, antiquated perhaps,  and often forgotten:

No cursing in public
Swearing is a big no-no. It shows that you don't have the vocabulary to express your thoughts appropriately. Furthermore, it is always very crude and impolite to be vulgar. Good luck with that one!

Speak softly in public
When you speak loudly, it raises the stress level among others in earshot. It always implies that you can't reason with people and also draws negative attention. This is particularly true on public transportation.

Hold your temper
When you lose your temper it implies that you can't control your emotions. If you can't even control yourself, then how can you possibly control anything else? Keep your cool and people will take positive note of your levelheadedness.

Do not stare
Ogling someone is the equivalent of psychological aggression. You don't want to intimidate people for no reason.

Do not interrupt
Let people finish what they are saying before adding your comments. Interrupting others is a sign of poor etiquette and a lack of social skills. If you want to come across as egotistical, you can do so by constantly interrupting.

Do not spit
A lot of men do this almost subconsciously. Spitting is very crude and not pretty to look at. Do not spit in public unless you want to look like you were raised in a sewer.

Respect your elders
In fact, you should respect all others as you would like them to respect you.

Do not laugh at others' mistakes
This is one of the cruelest things you can do. The last thing anyone wants is ridicule.

Remove your hat indoors
This rule seems to have gone out the window. You should remove your hat upon entering a building. Additionally, keeping your hat on while at the dinner table reflects very poor etiquette.

Wait for all to be seated before eating
When sitting down for a meal, you should wait until all the guests are properly seated and ready to commence the meal before eating. Everyone should start dining at the same time; this is a subtle but very important rule.

Open doors for others
This is perhaps the most basic rule of male etiquette out there. It is also one of the easiest to follow so you have no reason to forget it. Whether a female is about to enter your car, restaurant, club, or anyplace with a door, you should always hold it open. If there are many doors, then hold them open one after the other. Variations: Man and man: Again, the person who arrives first opens the door and holds it, unless one of the men happens to be elderly or his arms are full with packages. Woman and woman: Same as man-man. Man who insists on opening the door for a woman: The woman may think the courtesy is dated, but it's still a courtesy. She should say, "Thank you." Elderly person and younger adult: The more capable person opens the door. Boss and employee: Rank does apply here. Junior executives open doors for senior executives. If your boss happens to reach for the door ahead of you, be gracious, don't fight over who gets to open door and remember to say, "Thank you."

Put on her coat
Help a lady to put on her coat is a simple but powerful action.

Help with her seat
If an unaccompanied lady is sitting next to you, it is important that you help her be seated by pulling her chair out for her and gently pushing it back into place, with the lady seated of course.

Give up your seat
If a lady arrives at the table and there are no available seats, you should stand up and offer yours to her.

There are lots more but the above are often neglected in social situations today.

But the revolving door etiquette has been cleared up!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Sistine Chapel Opened 499 Years Ago Today; 'The Divine One' Was The Original Renaissance Man; Contemplating the Cadavers

499 years ago on November 1st, 1512, the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Rome, one of Italian artist Michelangelo's finest works, was exhibited to the public for the first time. The magnificent work cannot be justly described and is a 'must-see' by anyone interested in art or art or church history. Here's some trivia about one of the most celebrated artists and frescos of all time.....

The Early Years
Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni (right) was commonly known as Michelangelo Buonarroti.

Michelangelo was born on March 6, 1475 in Caprese near Arezzo, Tuscany but was raised in Florence.

Michelangelo lived during the Italian Renaissance.

In addition to being a painter and sculptor he was also an architect, poet and engineer.

Michelangelo's father sent him to study grammar with the humanist Francesco da Urbino in Florence as a young boy. He showed no interest in school, however, preferring instead to copy paintings from churches and spend time with painters.

Michelangelo was apprenticed in 1488 to the painter D. Ghirlandajo. Michelangelo's father managed to persuade Ghirlandaio to pay the 14-year-old artist, which was highly unusual at the time.

When he showed a genius for sculpture he attracted the attention of Lorenzo the Magnificent who arranged for him to study at the Academy of Ancient Art in the Medici Palace with Bertoldo di Giovanni. 

While studying at the Academy of Ancient Art,  Michelangelo was struck with a mallet by his rival, Torregiano, crushing his nose and disfiguring him for life.

In 1489, Florence's ruler Lorenzo de' Medici asked Ghirlandaio for his two best pupils to attend his school; Ghirlandaio sent Michelangelo and Francesco Granacci.

In the Chapel

Silver stars on a plain blue field was on the ceiling of the Vatican's Sistine Chapel before Michelangelo painted his famous fresco.

In 1508, Pope Julius II commissioned Michelangelo to undertake the fresco decoration of the Sistine Chapel. The ceiling is a vaulted 150 feet in length by 50 feet in breadth.

The Sistine Chapel took 4 or 5 years (between 1508 and 1512) to complete and is considered the most stupendous single achievement of modern art.

The ceiling is located in the large Papal Chapel built within the Vatican between 1477 and 1480 by Pope Sixtus IV after whom it is named and is the location for Papal Conclaves and many important services. 

The large fresco The Last Judgment (above), also by Michelangelo, is located on the sanctuary wall.

Other wall paintings by leading painters of the late 15th century include Sandro Botticelli, Domenico Ghirlandaio and Pietro Perugino.

A set of large tapestries by Raphael illustrate much of the doctrine of the Catholic Church. 

Within the ring of prophets and sybils are nine panels on biblical history. Three panels are devoted to the Creation, three to the story of Adam and Eve, and three to the story of Noah and the great flood.

Central to the ceiling decoration are nine scenes from the Book of Genesis of which the Creation of Adam is the best known, having an iconic standing equalled only by Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa, the hands of God and Adam being reproduced in countless imitations.

Although the serpent in the Fall of Man is presumed to be Satan, Michelangelo depicted it with a woman's head and breasts.

Other Works
In 1505 Michelangelo was asked to design the tomb of Pope Julius II. Originally it was to include almost 80 oversized figures but the final plans were reduced dramatically. Michelangelo made only one figure for the tomb, Moses, his last major sculpture from a block of marble that had been deemed unworkable by earlier sculptors.

Two other best-known works, the Pietà (left) and the David, were sculpted before he turned thirty. La Pietà means pity in Italian. This was not the first Pietà, but perhaps the most famous. The Pietà depicts the Virgin Mary cradling the dead body of Jesus after his Crucifixion, and has been produced numerous times in art. Michelangelo's interpretation is different from most earlier pietà statues, which were usually small and made of wood. The Virgin is also more youthful-looking than usual.

In Irving Stone's novel, 'The Agony and the Ecstasy', it is noted that Michelangelo painted the Sistine Chapel on a on a scaffold. Pope Julius II, Michelangelo's patron and hard-driving taskmaster, mounts the scaffold in absolute fascination to see the great artist's depiction of God Himself. Looking into the face of God, Pope Julius asks Michelangelo: 'Is that how you see Him, my son?'. How do you see Him? It is my prayer that you will see Him, this morning, as One who will not break the bruised reed, will not quench the smoking flax - and that your soul too will be quieted, soothed, comforted, encouraged and healed."

Michelangelo was also often called Il Divino ("the divine one").

Michelangelo studied human anatomy by examining corpses at the Church's hospital even though this was strictly forbidden, Michelangelo was permitted to do so when he created a Wooden crucifix and gave it as a gift to the prior of the church of Santa Maria del Santo Spirito.

Michelangelo had a special relationship with Vittoria Colonna (right), who lived in a convent but often went to Rome to visit Michelangelo and discuss with him poetry and religion. She inspired some of Michelangelo's finest poetry and several of his images of Mary are believed to be based on her appearance. It was a terrible blow to him when she died in 1547.