Celebrate National Library Week!

April is a very special month for libraries! First and foremost, the second week of the month is National Library Week! Not only that though, April is also School Library Month and it contains National Library Workers Day, National Bookmobile Day, and Support Teen Literature Day! [All of which happen during National Library Week.] PLUS both America’s first dictionary Webster’s American Dictionary of the English Language (1828), and Peter Roget’s Thesaurus (1852) were first published in April as well! 

(Personally speaking, I find it rather cool that The Bard himself was born in April too! Keep an eye out for our up-coming blog!)

What/When is National Library Week?

National Library Week is a national observance sponsored by the American Library Association (ALA) and libraries across the United States each April, typically the second full week.

Why do we have National Library Week?

National Library Week is an annual celebration highlighting the valuable role libraries, librarians, and library workers play in transforming lives and strengthening our communities. 

So… How did National Library week start?

According to the American Library Association, in the mid-1950s, research showed that Americans were spending less money on books and more on radios, TVs, and musical instruments. In 1954, concerned that Americans were reading less, the ALA and the American Book Publishers Council formed a nonprofit citizens organization called the National Book Committee. The committee’s goals were ambitious. They ranged from “encouraging people to read in their increasing leisure time” to “improving incomes and health” and “developing strong and happy family life.” 

In 1957 the National Book Committee recommended the establishment of a National Library Week, hoping that it would motivate people to read and to support libraries. The first National Library Week was observed May 16-22, 1958 with the theme “Wake Up and Read!” National Library Week was observed again in 1959, and the ALA Council voted to continue the annual celebration. When the National Book Committee disbanded in 1974, ALA assumed full sponsorship. The 60th anniversary of National Library Week was celebrated in 2018.

[Metered mail provided a great vehicle for promoting by the ALA.]

Now, the National Book Committee were not the first ones to either suggest, or hold, a library appreciation week, though! In fact, the first time it was officially suggested was in 1922 at the Detroit Conference of the American Library Association by the Publicity Committee of the American Library Association. The recommendation of the Publicity Committee was prompted by other organizations/locations’ success. Indiana, Missouri, Ohio, Louisiana, California, and even Hawaii were all states that celebrated a Library Appreciation Week prior to the current national version.

Each year the week follows a certain theme. For example: the theme of the first sponsored week in 1958 was “Wake Up and Read!” In 2008, the week’s 50th anniversary the theme was “Join the circle of knowledge at your library,” and this year, 2022, the theme is “Connect with your library!

You can view a list of all the past themes here: https://www.ala.org/aboutala/1958/national-library-week-history#themes

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For more information:

http://www.libraryhistorybuff.com/libraryweek.htm

https://www.ala.org/aboutala/1958/national-library-week-history

http://www.ala.org/news/press-releases/2017/03/take-action-libraries-day-launch-during-national-library-week

https://americanlibrariesmagazine.org/2018/03/01/national-library-week-60th-anniversary-libraries-lead/

 

Happy St. Patrick’s Day

It’s March 17th! You know what that means, right?

Happy Maewyn Succat Day!

Wait… What? Don’t know who in the world Maewyn Succat is? Well then, let us explain!

St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated on March 17, no matter the day of the week. This day was chosen for the holiday because it is the anniversary of St. Patrick’s death. This year, St. Patrick’s Day is Thursday, March 17, 2022.

The history of St Patrick, the apostle of Ireland, who was born in the second half of the 4th century, is incredibly, and perhaps inevitably, vague. There has always been controversy over his place of origin, his birthname, and his ancestry (English, Welsh, or Scottish). Even the years of his birth and death are still matters of speculation. What little we do know of Patrick’s early life comes from his own pen in two surviving documents: “Confessio” (Confession, a spiritual autobiography) and his much shorter “Epistola to Coroticus”(Letter to Coroticus, a denunciation of British mistreatment of Irish Christians.)

You can read these two works in English here:

A little caveat:

According to Edward O’Donnell (Associate Professor of History at Holy Cross College) contrary to popular belief, St. Patrick was not the first Christian missionary in Ireland. Some evidence exists of missionaries traveling through Ireland by the late fourth century A.D., but they seemed to have enjoyed little success. The best-known missionary before Patrick was Palladius, sent by Pope Celestine to minister to “the Irish who believe in Christ.” Many scholars believe that at least some of the deeds and accomplishments later attributed to St Patrick were more likely those of Palladius. Some scholars believe that Palladius and Patrick are one and the same individual, while most believe Palladius was unsuccessful (possibly martyred) and Patrick was sent in his place.

(Confessio of St Patrick, edited by Sir James Ware, 1656.)

Saint Patrick’s real name was probably Maewyn Succat, pronounced as My Win. (“Magonus Succetus” in Latin.) It is uncertain exactly when Maewyn (henceforth Patrick) was born, but it is believed to have been between 385-390 A.D., in the village of Bannaven of Taberniae. Which was somewhere along the north-west coast of the Roman province of Britannia. The actual location of “Bannaven of Taberniae.” has never been securely identified.

Patrick’s father, Calpornius (or Calphurnius, or Calpurnius), was a Roman-British army officer and a decurio (deacon) from a Roman family of high social standing. Patrick’s grandfather, Pontius, was also a member of the clergy, and according to legend, his mother was Conchessa, a niece of the famous St. Martin of Tours (316-397 CE).

For more information on St. Martin of Tours please visit: https://www.britannica.com/biography/Saint-Martin-of-Tours

Surprisingly, despite his family’s connection to the church, Patrick himself was not raised with a strong emphasis on religion, nor education apparently. In his “Confessio”, Patrick describes his youth as “not very religious and not very studious“. Later in life, this would become a source of embarrassment for him, he would write “That is why, today, I blush and am afraid to expose my lack of experience, because I can’t express myself with the brief words I would like in my heart and soul.

When Patrick was 16 years old, he was captured by Irish pirates. They brought him to Ireland where he was sold into slavery in Dalriada. He was sold to a man named Milchu (or Miluic, or Miliue), who was a high priest of Druidism, a Pagan sect that held major religious influence over the country at the time. Patrick worked as a shepherd on Slemish Mountain located in County Antrim. [There is some speculation that Patrick spent his confinement in County Mayo near Killala.]

~~ I was taken into captivity in Ireland, along with thousands of others. We deserved this, because we had gone away from God, and did not keep his commandments. We would not listen to our priests, who advised us about how we could be saved. ~~

During his years of captivity Patrick came to view his enslavement as God’s punishment for his lack of faith, and he became deeply devoted to Christianity through constant prayer. “I prayed frequently during the day. More and more the love of God increased, and my sense of awe before God. Faith grew, and my spirit was moved, so that in one day I would pray up to one hundred times, and at night perhaps the same. ” (It is also believed that Patrick first began to dream of converting the pagan Irish people to Christianity during his captivity.)

Around 408 A.D., after more than six years as a prisoner, Patrick received a sign that it was time for him to return to his family. Patrick wrote in the Confessio that an angel appeared in a dream and told him, “You have fasted well. Very soon you will return to your native country.” The angel told him of a Scottish ship leaving Ireland, “I heard a someone saying to me: ’Look – your ship is ready.’”


(Pat Nicolle)

Patrick re-counts that upon waking from the dream, he immediately set out on foot toward the coast. The young man walked across 200 miles of peat bogs and forests before arriving at a port. He then tried booking passage on a merchant ship heading to Britain but was refused. However, after he was turned away, he prayed for help, and the captain of the ship sent for him to come on board. Three days later they landed on the shores of Britain. Eventually, he was reunited with his family.

Patrick’s family was over-joyed to have him home. “They welcomed me as a son, and they pleaded with me that, after all the many tribulations I had undergone, I should never leave them again.” So, there he remained, at the home of his parents, until another visionary dream moved him to leave. The people of Ireland were calling him back to minister to them about God. However, not feeling prepared for such a mighty task, Patrick sought higher training.

~~ I saw, in a vision in the night, a man whose name was Victoricus coming as it were from Ireland with so many letters they could not be counted. He gave me one of these, and I read the beginning of the letter, the voice of the Irish people. They called out as it were with one voice: “We beg you, holy boy, to come and walk again among us.” This touched my heart deeply, and I could not read any further; I woke up then.~~


St Patrick being taught by St Germanus

Patrick went to Autissiodurum, Gaul (modern day Auxerre, France) where he studied and entered the priesthood under the guidance of the missionary Saint Germanus (Germain in French.) After a period of religious training, he was ordained a deacon around 418 A.D. and in 432 A.D. he was ordained and consecrated as a bishop to Ireland with the name Patricius, which became Patrick.

Upon his arrival in Ireland, Patrick was initially met with resistance, but his knowledge of Ireland’s language and customs facilitated his work in converting Druid priests, chieftains and aristocrats by the thousands. Patrick managed to spread Christian teachings far and wide (along with other missionaries) through preaching, writing and performing countless baptisms.

Throughout his missionary work, Patrick traveled around Ireland supporting church officials, creating councils, and founding/establishing churches, monasteries and schools. By the time of his death, believed to be March 17, 461 (or 493, depending on which scholars you side with), he had organized Ireland into dioceses and left an ordered Christian church in Ireland as his legacy.

After 40 years of living in poverty, teaching, traveling and working tirelessly, Patrick passed in Saul, where he had built his first church. It is generally accepted (but not proven) that Saint Patrick is buried at Saul Roman Catholic Churchyard Downpatrick, County Down, Northern Ireland. His grave was marked in 1990 with a carved memorial stone of Mourne Mountain Granite.

And so, every March 17 this is why Ireland, the Irish around the world, and those who love the Irish spirit, celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. Happy Maewyn Succat Day!

https://www.irish-genealogy-toolkit.com/history-of-st-patrick.html

https://www.biography.com/religious-figure/saint-patrick

https://www.britannica.com/biography/Saint-Patrick

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What is Mardi Gras?

 

What is Mardi Gras?

Mardi Gras (also known as Fat Tuesday or Shrove Tuesday) is a Christian holiday (and now a popular cultural phenomenon) that dates back thousands of years to pagan spring and fertility rites. It’s celebrated in many countries around the world on the day before the religious season of Lent begins.

Carnival, Shrove Tuesday, Fat Tuesday

-The term “Carnival” technically refers to the period of revelry and feasting that begins on January 6 (the Feast of the Epiphany) and ends on Mardi Gras. [The derivation of the word Carnival is uncertain, though it possibly can be traced to the medieval Latin carnem levare or carnelevarium, which means to take away or remove meat.]

(Pieter Bruegel the Elder: The Fight Between Carnival and Lent)

 

-The name “Shrove Tuesday”, comes from the practice of “shriving”— confessing ones sins—prior to Lent. For many Christians, Shrove Tuesday is a time to receive penance and absolution.

– In French, Mardi Gras means “Fat Tuesday.” (Mardi/Tuesday and gras/fat.) At one time the rules around abstinence during Lent was much stricter than it is today. In the past, Catholics were forbidden from consuming meat byproducts as well as from meat. The name “Fat Tuesday” comes from the tradition of using up all of the milk, eggs, butter, and other fats in one’s home before Lent.

 

When is Mardi Gras?

Mardi Gras changes dates each year because it is connected to *Easter, which also changes dates each year. Mardi Gras always falls exactly 47 days before Easter (the 40 days of Lent plus seven Sundays). For example, this year, Mardi Gras falls on March 1st, 2022 and Easter falls on April 17th 2022

The Carnival season however, is much longer than just one day. Carnival begins on The Feast of Epiphany/Three Kings Day (January 6th) and ends on Mardi Gras (this year March 1st) which is always the day before Ash Wednesday and the start of the Lenten season in the Christian faith.

(*Easter is traditionally celebrated on the first Sunday following the full moon; the “Paschal Full Moon.” that lands on or after the spring equinox. The Christian calendar states that the vernal equinox (spring equinox) always falls on March 21. [Scientifically the date of the equinox varies between March 19 and March 22.] This year, the first full moon after the vernal equinox won’t happen until April 16th, which means Easter falls on the following Sunday, April 17. If the first full moon falls on a Sunday, Easter is celebrated the following Sunday.)

 

Short History of Mardi Gras

The historical origin of Carnival is somewhat obscure. According to Laurie Wilkie, an archaeologist at the University of California at Berkeley, Carnival celebrations began before Christianity as a pagan fertility festival.

Some scholars believe it may have been linked to the raucous Roman pagan feast, Saturnalia, which honored the god of agriculture and time: Saturn. Others believe it may have been linked to Lupercalia one of the oldest Roman festivals, conducted annually in early February, meant to: celebrate love, purify the city from evil spirits, and to aid with fertility. (You might remember this name from out Valentine’s Day Blog!) Others still, believe there is no connection and the customs may come from much older Indo-European spring lore and perhaps the folklore of the Germanic and Slavic races rather than from Rome.

When Christianity arrived in Rome, in the hope of curtailing certain beliefs, the Church found a way to incorporate them into their religious calendar; which was much easier than trying to abolish them all together. And so, the carnival practices in Rome continued within the framework of the Church.

Mardi Gras is believed to have arrived in North America on March 3, 1699, when the French-Canadian explorers (and brothers) Jean Baptiste Le Moyne Sieur de Bienville and his older brother Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville camped about 60 miles downriver from the future site of New Orleans. Knowing it was Fat Tuesday they held a small celebration and dubbed their landing spot Pointe du Mardi Gras.

Bienville also established “Fort Louis de la Louisiane” (which is now Mobile, Alabama) in 1702. While New Orleans may be most known for Mardi Gras in the U.S. today, the tiny settlement of Fort Louis de la Mobile celebrated America’s very first Mardi Gras in 1703.

Mardi Gras was celebrated in New Orleans soon after the city’s founding in 1718. The first recorded Mardi Gras Street parade in New Orleans took place in 1837. In 1856 the Krewe of Comus was formed, and they introduced the idea of floats in parades the very next year: 1857. Now a major metropolis, New Orleans is the city most known for its extravagant celebrations with parades, dazzling floats, masked balls, cakes, and of course large quantities of alcohol.

Mardi Gras Traditions

Krewes

A krewe – pronounced like “crew” – is a private social club/organization that puts on a parade, ball, or other such festivity during the Carnival season. The term is believed to have been coined in the early 19th century by an organization called Ye Mistick Krewe of Comus, the group that put on the first parade in the city with themed floats — the model for future parades — in 1857. The Mistick Krewe of Comus itself was inspired by the Cowbellion de Rakin Society who had annual parades in Mobile, Alabama starting in 1830.

Learn more about the Krewes here: https://www.mardigrasneworleans.com/parades/krewes

Masks

Masks are one of the most popular Mardi Gras traditions, and an integral part of the Mardi Gras culture. During early Mardi Gras celebrations hundreds of years ago, masks were a way for their wearers to escape class constraints and social demands; remaining anonymous, hiding their status, gender, age, and even their religion. Masks gave attendees the ability to engage in deviant behavior without retribution. (Unless you were a woman, then you ran the risk of damaging your reputation either way.)

Today, everyone wears masks during Mardi Gras. In fact, float riders are required by law to wear masks.

(Cavalier Alumni Association)

Parades/Balls

Parades (organized by the krewes) are a huge part of the festivities, and there are dozens of them throughout the month of February leading up to the day of Mardi Gras. During the parade, each krewe has a signature “throw,” (such as beads) that they throw out to the parade watchers.

After a krewe finishes its parade, they often throw a lavish ball or party. Typically, an invitation is required to attend the party, but anyone can sit and watch the parades.

The official Mardi Gras: New Orleans website has videos from past Mardi Gras that give you an idea what the parades/balls/etc. are like: https://www.mardigrasneworleans.com/videos

Beads or Throws

Throws, as the name implies, are exactly that: trinkets that krewe members on floats throw to parade-goers. Throws often include the ever-popular beads, as well as doubloons, cups, custom-designed medallions, even coconuts! The idea for throws likely took inspiration from the tradition of “throws” by the Twelfth Night Revelers in the early 1870s.

Though the distribution of small gifts had existed in a trivial capacity in New Orleans parades since the Twelfth Night Revelers in the early 1870s. the Rex Organization, which parades on Mardi Gras Day, dramatically expanded this practice in the late 1890s/early 1900s with each individual float tossing items to eager onlookers.

Through the 1950s and 60s, parade riders enticed crowds with glass beads primarily made in (what was then) Czechoslovakia. The market then jumped from Czechoslovakia to Japan with the popularity of the much cheaper “bugle bead,” before again shifting to China where almost all of the modern production occurs.

*IMPORTANT: Remember when it comes to celebrating Mardi Gras: flashing for beads is NOT considered a tradition by the locals. Police officers might be somewhat lenient about that sort of behavior on Bourbon Street, but it isn’t tolerated along the parade routes. Parade-goers leave Mardi Gra with a ton of beads by just giving a smile, a wave, or a “Throw me something, mister!”

 

Royalty/Rex, King of Carnival

Mardi Gras is filled to the brim with royal court parodies. Most krewes select a royal court each year, consisting of a king, a queen, dukes, and maids. The method of selecting a king varies from krewe to krewe. Some krewes hold random drawings, while others invite a celebrity guest to be their king. For example: Endymion, the city’s largest krewe, picks its king by lottery at its coronation ball.  Twelfth Night Revelers and Okeanos announce their queens the night of the ball, and the society clubs, most of which do not parade, select their queens and maids from the annual coterie (the in-crowd) of debutantes.

However, only one king reigns supreme: Rex (Latin for King) is considered the King of Mardi Gras and the leader of the festival celebrations. Rex is chosen by the School of Design, who sponsors the Rex parade, and is always a prominent member of the krewe with a long history of community service. His identity is revealed the day before the parade.

The annually-selected monarch receives a symbolic golden key to the city, and he in turn decrees that it’s time for the city to shut down and celebrate. The King of Mardi Gras sits on his throne during the Rex Organization’s parade and he and his Queen preside over the Rex Ball, Carnival’s glittering conclusion.

Purple, green, and gold

The colors of Mardi Gras (purple, green, and gold) were selected by the Krewe of Rex (aka the Rex Organization, aka the School of Design), in 1872. Some believe that the colors were chosen in honor of the Russian Duke, Alexei Alexandrovich Romanoff, but really the history behind the colors is a mystery.

During the 1892 “Symbolism of Colors” parade, the Mardi Gras King assigned a meaning to each color. The colors are now recognized as: Purple for justice, green for faith, and gold for power.

Here’s a deeper look at the meaning behind the colors: https://www.mardigrasneworleans.com/history/traditions/colors

 

 King Cake

Only eaten during the Carnival season, a King Cake is an oval-shaped cross between a French pastry and a coffee cake, topped with icing and sugar/luster dust and decked out in Mardi Gras colors (purple, green, and gold.)

According to Caluda’s King Cake shop the first King Cakes were made in Europe in celebration of the Catholic Epiphany, also known as Three Kings Day, the day when the three wise men/kings were said to have visited baby Jesus and showered him with gold, frankincense, and myrrh. It is believed that the King Cake was brought to New Orleans by the French in 1870.

A miniature plastic baby, which represents baby Jesus, is placed inside of each cake. Tradition says whoever gets the piece of cake containing the baby is supposed to provide the king cake for the next gathering.

“Mardi Gras Guide” publisher Arthur Hardy claims more than 750,000 King Cakes are sold each year in New Orleans during carnival season, and thousands more are ordered from special bakeries and shipped to celebrants around the country.

 

For more information: