Boxing Day

December 26 is St. Stephen’s Day, honoring the first Christian martyr, Stephen. It also known as Boxing Day. Boxing Day is a holiday in the United Kingdom and all former colonies except the U.S.
Leading up to Boxing Day, tips from employers would be collected in pottery boxes with coin slots. On Boxing Day these boxes would be broken and the tip money collected. These boxes were the forerunner to the modern piggy bank.
Boxing Day is a traditional day for the aristocratic sport of fox hunting as well as the common sport of wren hunting.
Wrens are considered to be the king of birds and not to be hunted on any day but Boxing Day. Now wren hunting is very rare and the wrens are captured and released rather than exterminated on Boxing Day.
Boxing Day has long been a traditional day for outdoor sporting events. This tradition dates back to at least the Middle Ages when jousting tournaments were held on Boxing Day (and during the 12 Days of Christmas generally).

Thanksgiving Parade

(From Tom Turkey’s Thanksgiving Trivia Challenge):

For many people part of the their Thanksgiving includes attending or watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.  When was the first Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade?

A.  1904

B.  1924

C.  1944

Constitutional Convention ended on this day in 1787

Sunday the 17th is the 230rd anniversary of the end of the Constitutional Convention. This convention met in the summer of 1787 with the purpose of amending the Articles of Confederation, the document that had governed the United States since 1781 when all states had ratified it. The convention moved quickly from amending to creating a new governing document – the Constitution.

The Articles of Confederation protected states’ rights. The Articles can be viewed as creating a league of friendship between the states. (In fact Article III describes it as a “league of firm friendship”). Cooperation was required. The central government was very weak, lacking the power of taxation. States had to voluntarily contribute money and no state ever gave the full amount asked of it. The Articles did not provide for executive or judicial branches. The Articles required 9 out of 13 states approval to pass legislation or for Congress to otherwise act.

Generally the Constitution (plus the Bill of Rights) has worked well to address the shortcomings of the Articles of Confederation. The Constitution gave the federal government greater control over key economic issues such as currency and regulating trade. It is easier to pass legislation (although far from automatic). The Bill of Rights has strengthened the protections of customary individual freedoms from stronger government.

Mexican Independence Day

It has been a long summer break.  Back to work.

Today is Mexico’s Independence Day:

Mexico celebrates Independence Day on September 16. On September 16, 1810, a priest named Father Miguel Hidalgo gave a speech to the villagers in the village of Dolores calling for independence. Mexico achieved its independence from Spain in 1821. Independence did not free Mexico from the class struggles that had occurred under Spanish rule and during the next one hundred years Mexico was marked by repeated religious, political and social upheavals.

-From the international section of my book “Thomas Jefferson’s Independence Day Trivia Challenge”

Friendly fire

As Flag Day and Independence Day draw closer, there will be a greater frequency of posts relevant in some way, close or tangential, to those holidays.

Friendly-fire has long been an issue in wars. During the Revolutionary War, the Pennsylvania Militia discovered that the red and blue color scheme on their uniforms was similar to that of the Hessians. Similarly, a British artillery unit modified its hats to be more distinct at a distance because both British and American gunners wore blue coats.

One of the most famous friendly-fire casualties of all-time occurred during the Civil War when Confederate general “Stonewall” Jackson was accidentally shot by a nervous picket when Jackson was returning to camp.

Civil War General Robert E. Lee’s father, Henry “Light Horse Harry” Lee, was a cavalry officer with the the Virginia Dragoons during the Revolutionary War. Cavalry were mostly used for raiding and scouting during the Revolutionary War because both sides had a terrible time accumulating enough horses and fodder for large scale cavalry actions. In 1779 Light Horse Harry led 300 troops (a mix of cavalry and infantry) on a successful raid on a fort at Paulus Hook, New Jersey, that led to the capture of 159 British troops with the loss of only 2 Americans.


False.  Cinco de Mayo is not the equivalent of Independence Day in Mexico.  Mexican Independence Day is celebrated on September 16th.


A popular musket during the Revolutionary War was named for which monarch?

A. Charles I

B. Elizabeth I

C. James I

Cinco de Mayo

May 5th is the celebration of Cinco de Mayo or the Fifth of May.  It celebrates a military victory of Mexico against France.  It is a popular celebration in the United States, in some ways it is a lot like the way that St. Patrick’s Day is observed by people who are neither Catholic nor Irish.  Cinco de Mayo celebrations are most common in the United States in areas with large Mexican-American populations.


The Haymarket Square in Chicago was the scene of a major labor battle.


True or False.  Cinco de Mayo is the Mexican equivalent of the Fourth of July?

Knights soon

I can’t find the piece of paper that I had the answer to my most recent trivia question written down on.  Once I find it, I will repost the question and answer.

In the meantime another question:

Which of the following best describes chain mail armor made of hundreds of links of chain riveted together to form a steel sweater?

A. Extra weight on the wearer’s hips with chain mail

B. Extra weight on the wearer’s shoulders with chain mail

C. The weight for chain mail is evenly distributed

Palm Sunday

Today (April 9th, 2017) is Palm Sunday.  Palm Sunday has been observed since at least the 300s.  The ceremony of the blessing of palms dates back to the 800s.  Palm Sunday commemorates the events of Matthew 21:1-11.  (Jesus entering Jerusalem to “Hosannas” and a crowd of people waving palm branches).  To answer yesterday’s question, The palm in Palm Sunday refers to palm branches.


In the days before advancements in technology made it possible to have palm branches everywhere, what local plant was often substituted for palm branches on Palm Sunday?

A. Ash

B. Pine

C. Willow

More about Ukrainian eggs

“Ukrainian” eggs are also a folk craft in Poland.


Ukrainian eggs are decorated by melting wax.  Different colors of wax are dripped on the eggs.  Dye is also used to give the eggs color.  The eggs are made by alternating coats of wax with coats of dye.  Wax “locks in” a particular color of dye.

The eggs can also be made just by melting different colors of wax on them.  The traditional method involves melting white wax for each wax layer.  The wax is applied with a stylus.


What do the palms is Palm Sunday refer to?

A. Palm branches

B. Palms of hands

C. Palmyra

Yet more Easter Egg lore

While decorating Easter eggs is common in northern and central Europe, before the widespread availability of food coloring, there were many different ways to decorate Easter eggs.  In some places eggs were decorated with simple vegetable based dyes.  In Austria, ferns and plants are carefully attached to the eggs before the eggs are dyed.  After the eggs have been dyed the plants are removed and eye-catching leaf/plant patterns remain on the egg in white.


Around 1300 King Edward I of England gave out more than 450 gilded Easter Eggs to his staff.


What color of Easter Egg is most common Greece?

A. Blue

B. Green

C. Red

Easter symbols: lambs

The answer to yesterday’s question is lamb.  Lambs are symbols of Easter.  Jesus’ sacrifice at Easter is often represented by a lamb.   (Jesus as a sacrificial lamb).  This important symbolism has meant both good things and bad things for lambs at Easter.  It is traditional for lambs to be blessed at Easter.  Lambs are sometimes eaten at Easter.  Fortunately for the lambs there has been a more recent tradition of making pastries in the shape of lambs instead.  In the past it was considered to be a sign of good fortune to see a lamb at Easter by chance encounter.


In what part of Europe did Easter eggs become popular?

A. East

B. North

C. South

D. West

Fire, water and spring

There are many folk rites connected with spring that involve fire or water.  Some of these include, blessing of holy water on Holy Saturday, the tradition that being touched by running water on Easter brings good fortune, and bonfires that burn away winter.  These folk customs come from different parts of Europe and are not all observed everywhere or by everyone.


When were jelly beans invented?

A. 1700s

B. 1800s

C. 1900s

Daylight Savings Time

Daylight Savings Time was first suggested by Ben Franklin in 1784.  It was widely adopted during World War I.  It was repealed in many but not all countries after the war.  It was reinstated during World War II and then partially repealed.  It did not become widespread again until the 1960s and 1970s.

During two weeks of May in 1965 St. Paul and Minneapolis, MN were on different times.  St. Paul switched when most of the country switched times and Minneapolis switched at the time designated by state law.  Similar problems existed in other parts of the country due to irregular application of daylight savings existed such as: One year, 23 different pairs of DST start and end dates were used in Iowa alone. For exactly five weeks each year, Boston, New York, and Philadelphia were not on the same time as Washington D.C., Cleveland, or Baltimore–but Chicago was. And, on one Ohio to West Virginia bus route, passengers had to change their watches seven times in 35 miles! 

The benefits are greatest at the middle latitudes and less so at the equator and the extreme latitudes.  The benefits are also greater at the eastern side of a time zone compared to the western side of the same time zone.

Generally sports, tourism, and retail have supported daylight savings while agriculture and evening entertainment have opposed it.

Daylight savings saves energy although studies on this subject have had mixed findings about the extent of the actual savings.  It also saves on oil consumption.

Daylight savings reduces the number of muggings that occur.

The Romans did not have daylight savings but the water clocks that the Romans used had different lengths of hours depending on the seasons, so summer hours were longer than winter hours.

The date of Easter

Before 325, the date of Easter was calculated based on the Jewish Passover.  After the Council of Nicaea in 325, Easter was calculated independent of the Passover.  Generally Passover is only a few days before Easter but some years the two holidays are about a month apart.

It has been the general rule since at least the 700s that Easter is calculated as the first Sunday after the first full moon after the spring equinox.  However, the full moon is assumed to occur on the 14th day of the lunar month when it can actually occur +/- 0 to 2 days from that time.  Similarly the spring equinox is assumed in the calculation to always be March 21, when the equinox can also occur on the 19th or 20th as well.  These calculations yield a possible date range for Easter from March 22 to April 25.

The differences in the Julian and Gregorian calendars in determining Easter come from an error in the Julian calendar about the length of a year (the Julian year is .002% too long, gaining an extra 3 days every 4 centuries), and differences in how lunar months are calculated.  The Gregorian calendar is more precise and accurate than the Julian one.