Saturday, February 16, 2013

Presidents Day

(Feb. 16, 2013) Monday, Feb. 18, is Presidents Day, a state holiday in New Jersey, also known as Washington's Birthday, a federal holiday. Governmental offices are closed and there is no postal service. Most schools close for the day or more for a mid-winter recess, but this year, because of school closures due to Superstorm Sandy in October, some days off have been rescinded.

The holiday, observed on the third Monday of February, honors presidents of the United States, including George Washington, the nation's first president. His birthday actually is Feb. 22.

Some states pay particular attention to Abraham Lincoln, another notable president, as his birthday is close in time, Feb. 12. In the weeks or days leading up to the holiday, schools often organize events and lessons for students about the U.S. presidents, Lincoln and Washington in particular. It is a popular day for stores to hold winter sales.

Check your Recorder Community Newspapers for ads about Presidents Day sales and activities. Enjoy the weekend!


Thursday, February 14, 2013

Sunday, February 10, 2013

What a full week!

(Feb. 10, 2013)  Today marks the Chinese New Year; Tuesday is Mardi Gras, the day of feasting before the start of Christians' penitential season of Lent on Ash Wednesday; then Thursday is Valentine's Day for lovers. However, none of these days are official national holidays requiring close of business or lack of service.

According to the Chinese calendar, in 2013, Saturday, Feb. 9, was the last day of the Year of the Dragon, while Sunday ushers in the Year of the Water Snake. The dates change each year thanks to the specifics of the calendar, which is based on solar/lunar happenings – though most Chinese people use the Gregorian, or western calendar, for daily life, the traditional calendar is still employed for major holidays like Chinese New Year, also known as Lunar New Year.

Celebrated by more than a billion and a half people around the world, the Year of the Snake marks the halfway point through the 12 Chinese astrological signs. The symbolic animal is believed to impart certain characteristics on those born during that year, and people born during previous snake years (like 1917, 1929, 1941, 1953, 1965, 1977, 1989 and 2001 – but bearing in mind lunar calendar dates) can expect good fortune during 2013.

The specific attributes of "snakes" aren't all that different from how they're perceived in Western culture: careful and stealthy, planning out details before they make moves, with a preference for working alone. And then, of course, there's their charismatic side, which easily seduces others to do their will.

But as for the celebrations, expect to see the traditional dragon dancing, lighting of fireworks and yes, snake motifs in Chinatowns and Chinese communities. And if you happen to be lucky enough to be part of these celebrations? Don't forget to wish people "Gung hay fat choy," or "Sun leen fai lok," two Cantonese phrases hoping for prosperity for the new year.

Mardi Gras, French for Fat Tuesday, is another celebration day. Also known as Shrove Tuesday, it is the last day of Carnival feasting before the 40 days of Lent begin on Ash Wednesday. New Orleans is known for its days-long Mardi Gras festivities featuring a colorful concluding parade of costumed revelers.

In days of old, Shrove Tuesday was the day all households were to use up all milk, eggs and fat to prepare for the strict fasting of Lent in preparation for Easter Sunday. These ingredients were made into pancakes, a meal which came to symbolize preparation for the discipline of Lent, from the English tradition. “Shrove” comes from the verb “to shrive” (to confess and receive absolution) prior to the start of the Lenten season. Another name for the days before Lent is Carnival which means "farewell to meat."

Ash Wednesday, in the calendar of Western Christianity, is the first day of Lent and occurs 46 days before Easter, the celebration of Christ's Resurrection. It is a movable feast, falling on a different date each year because it is dependent on the date of Easter, this year on March 31. It can occur as early as Feb. 4 or as late as March 10.

Christians will start their observance of Lent this year on Wednesday, Feb. 13. Lent will continue until Holy Saturday, March 30. “Lent” comes from the Anglo-Saxon word "lencton" – meaning “spring” or “lengthening” from the time of year when the days grow longer. The season covers 40 days (excluding Sundays which are little feasts of the Resurrection).  Some believe that the word “Lent” may derive from the Latin "lentare," which means “to bend.” This understanding reinforces a sense of Lent as a time of preparation for personal and collective transformation.

In the early church, Lent was the time of preparation for the Easter, Pascha (Christian Passover) baptism of converts to the faith. Persons were to receive the sacrament of “new birth” following a period of fasting, penitence and preparation. Just as the children of Israel had been delivered from the bondage of Egyptian slavery, Christians are delivered from the bondage of sin. On Ash Wednesday, many Christians have ashes (prepared from the previous year’s palms) put on their foreheads as a sign of repentance and mortality.

St. Valentine's Day, commonly known as Valentine's Day, is observed on Feb. 14 each year. It is celebrated in many countries around the world, although it remains a working day in most of them. The feast began as a liturgical celebration of one or more early Christian saints named Valentinus. The most popular story associated with St. Valentine was that he was imprisoned for performing weddings for soldiers who were forbidden to marry and for ministering to Christians, who were persecuted under the Roman Empire; during his imprisonment, he is said to have healed the daughter of his jailer Asterius. Legend states that before his execution he wrote "from your Valentine" as a farewell to her.

Today, Valentine's Day is associated with romantic love following the lead of Geoffrey Chaucer in the High Middle Ages, when the tradition of courtly love flourished. Lovers exchange valentines, usually greeting cards or notes of love, as well as sweets and other presents.

For more information on these special dates and others, check Recorder Community Newspapers and their blogs right here online at Anyone interested in becoming a Recorder blogger is invited to call me at (908) 832-7420 or e-mail

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Early spring?

(Feb. 6, 2012) Saturday was Groundhog Day when, according to legend, Punxsutawney (Pa.) Phil comes out of his burrow to check for his shadow. If he sees it, that sight predicts six more weeks of winter. Well, Phil, along with a lot of other predictors, did not see his shadow so spring is on its way soon. It can't come fast enough for me. The current cold temperatures are bone-chilling.

For more than 120 years, Punxsutawney Phil annually has offered his predictions, based on whether he sees his shadow (more winter) or not (an early spring) after emerging from his burrow in Punxsutawney, Pa, located outside of Pittsburgh and part of Jefferson County.

While the rest of the nation was becoming more urban, Jefferson County remained more rural with only one eighth of the population living in places with 2,500 people or more (compared to nearly half statewide and more than a third in the U.S.). Many Jefferson residents worked in the farming industry.

Groundhog Day originally was called Candlemas, a day that Germans said the hibernating groundhog took a break from slumbering to check the weather. If the creature sees its shadow, and is frightened, winter will hold on and hibernating will continue, but if not, the groundhog will stay awake and spring will come early.

The first official Groundhog Day celebration took place in 1887 and Phil has gone on to star in a blockbuster film, dominate the early February news cycle, and even appear on Oprah. He also has his own Beanie Baby and his own flower.

Fun facts like these can be found in Recorder Community Newspapers and their blogs right here online at Any local individual or organization representative who would like to join the growing list of Recorder bloggers is welcome to call me at (908) 832-7420 or e-mail for details on this simple, free communication tool.