Saturday, May 25, 2013

Memorial Day

(May 25, 2013) Monday, May 27, is Memorial Day, formerly known as Decoration Day, when Americans remember their war dead. Towns usually celebrate the federal holiday, the last Monday of May, with parades and speeches, while families follow those observances with picnics and/or short getaways. Most government offices and schools are closed.

The holiday originated after the American Civil War to commemorate the Union and Confederate soldiers who died in that war. Their graves were decorated (hence Decoration Day) with flags and flowers. By the 20th century, Memorial Day had been extended to honor all Americans who have died while in military service. Families remember also other deceased members of their families by visiting their graves.

The day too typically marks the start of the summer vacation season, while Labor Day, the first Monday in September, marks its end. And usually the threat of frost is over here and garden planting is in full swing.

Keep abreast of important holidays and more by reading Recorder Community Newspapers and their blogs online at Anyone interested in joining the growing group of Recorder bloggers is invited to call me at (908) 832-7420 or e-mail me at to find out about blogging, a free, simple communication tool.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Belated wishes

(May 13, 2013) I was having such a fun Mother's Day yesterday I forgot to wish all mothers a happy day, too. So, a day late, belated happy Mother's Day greetings to all mothers and those who serve as mothers! You're the best.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Cinco de Mayo

(May 5, 2013) Today is Cinco de Mayo, Spanish for "fifth of May." It is celebrated in the United States and regionally in Mexico, primarily in the state of Puebla, where the holiday is called El Día de la Batalla de Puebla ("The Day of the Battle of Puebla"). It originated with Mexican-American communities in the American West as a way to commemorate the cause of freedom and democracy during the first years of the American Civil War, and today the date is observed in the United States as a celebration of Mexican heritage and pride. People celebrate primarily with Mexican food and music.

In Puebla, the date is observed to commemorate the Mexican army's unlikely victory over French forces at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862, under the leadership of Gen. Ignacio Zaragoza Seguín.

Cinco de Mayo has its roots in the French occupation of Mexico, which took place in the aftermath of the Mexican-American War of 1846-48, the Mexican Civil War of 1858 and the 1860 Reform Wars. These wars left the Mexican Treasury nearly bankrupt. On July 17, 1861, Mexican President Benito Juárez issued a moratorium in which all foreign debt payments would be suspended for two years.

In response, France, Britain and Spain sent naval forces to Veracruz to demand reimbursement. Britain and Spain negotiated with Mexico and withdrew, but France, at the time ruled by Napoleon III, decided to use the opportunity to establish a Latin empire in Mexico that would favor French interests. Late in 1861, a well-armed French fleet stormed Veracruz, landing a large French force and driving Juárez and his government into retreat. Moving on from Veracruz toward Mexico City, the French army encountered heavy resistance from the Mexicans near Puebla, at the Mexican forts of Loreto and Guadalupe. The 8,000-strong French army attacked the much smaller and poorly equipped Mexican army of 4,500. Yet, on May 5, 1862, the Mexicans managed to decisively crush the French army, then considered "the premier army in the world."

Since the Battle of Puebla, no country in the Americas has been invaded by any other European military force.

Some historians have argued that France's real goal was to help break up the American Union, at the time in the midst of a civil war, by helping the southern Confederacy. The Mexicans had won a great victory that kept Napoleon III from supplying the Confederate rebels for another year, allowing the United States to build a powerful army. This grand army smashed the Confederates at Vicksburg and Gettysburg just 14 months after the battle of Puebla, essentially ending the Civil War. The Mexican victory on Cinco de Mayo denied Napoleon III the opportunity to resupply the Confederate rebels for another year.

Cinco de Mayo is not Mexico's Independence Day — the most important national patriotic holiday in Mexico — which is celebrated on Sept. 16.

Keep abreast of important dates and more by reading Recorder Community Newspapers and their blogs online at Anyone interested in joining the growing group of Recorder bloggers is invited to call me at (908) 832-7420 or e-mail me at to find out about blogging, a free, simple communication tool.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

May Day

(May 1, 2013) Today, May 1, is May Day, a traditional spring holiday in many cultures. Usually the weather (without the threat of frost) allows the beginning of flower and crop planting.

May Day is related to the Celtic festival of Beltane and the Germanic festival of Walpurgis Night. May Day falls exactly half a year from Nov. 1, another cross-quarter day which is also associated with various northern European pagan and the year in the Northern Hemisphere, and it has traditionally been an occasion for popular and often raucous celebrations.

As Europe became Christianized, the pagan holidays lost their religious character and either changed into popular secular celebrations, as with May Day, or were merged with or replaced by new Christian holidays as with Christmas, Easter, Pentecost and All Saint's Day. In the 20th and continuing into the 21st century, many neopagans began reconstructing the old traditions and celebrating May Day as a pagan religious festival again. Some countries celebrated the date as Labor Day.

A more secular version of May Day continues to be observed in Europe and America. In this form, May Day may be best known for its tradition of dancing the maypole dance and crowning of the Queen of the May.

The day was a traditional summer holiday in many pre-Christian European pagan cultures. While Feb. 1 was the first day of spring, May 1 was the first day of summer; hence, the summer solstice on June 25 (now June 21) was midsummer.

In the Roman Catholic tradition, May is observed as Mary's month, and in these circles May Day is usually a celebration of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In this connection, in works of art, school skits and so forth, Mary's head will often be adorned with flowers in a May crowning.

Fading in popularity since the late 20th century is the giving of  May baskets, small baskets of sweets and/or flowers, usually left anonymously on neighbors' doorsteps. The person receiving the basket tries to catch the fleeing giver. If they catch the person, a kiss is exchanged.

Modern May Day ceremonies in the United States vary greatly from region to region and many unite both the pagan and labor traditions.

May 1 is recognized in the U.S. also as Law Day.