In Canada and the United States our observances are based on Christian beliefs due to the beliefs of the colonists who settled here. Valentine's Day is no exception.
The origin of Valentine's Day is at best, spotty. It's allegedly based on a man named Valentinus who lived under the Roman empire. He was imprisoned for apparently performing weddings for Christians. At this particular time in history, the Roman empire was heavily against Christianity. Valentinus was executed but before he died he sent a note to a special girl that ended with, "from your Valentine".
To be honest, it all seems a little too convenient to be true. Especially since the story isn't agreed upon. There were quite a few men named Valentine around that particular time period and different churches across Europe claim ownership to Valentine relics. That's the thing about Christianity, in my opinion it appears to be less about fact and more about ideals of morality.
Regardless of the alleged origin, Valentine's Day has evolved from religious worship by some to a commercialized "Hallmark" holiday observed by many. In the U.S. alone it is estimated that every year 190 million valentines are sent. In the U.K. they spend around 1.3 billion pounds (over 2 billion dollars) on Valentine related gifts annually. It is without a doubt a very profitable holiday for greeting card companies.
This reason might be why many are disenchanted with observing Valentine's Day. Coupled with being single can also be disheartening. I would argue and I'm sure some people would agree, that Valentine's Day is not just about celebrating romantic love. When I was younger every year my parents bought me Valentine gifts to show their unconditional love. Apparently I'm not the only child who receives such gifts since half the valentines in the U.S. are delivered to family members, typically children.
Despite the commercialization of Valentine's Day, I appreciate celebrating a day of love. You don't have to purchase an expensive greeting card or the typical chocolates and what-not. You can do what you like! That's the beauty of it. There are no rules. You're not required to do exactly the same thing as everyone else. You can make the day special by celebrating however you like. If you're single you could do any number of things. You could celebrate your friendships or family. If you're particularly touchy about Valentine's Day and prefer to be alone, then why not make it a day appreciating yourself? Make your favourite meal, watch your favourite movie. I'll be honest, when I was single I paid no attention to it. It was just another day. Mind you, I haven't been single in awhile and I think I would spend it a little differently now.
It doesn't matter how you choose to celebrate the day or if you ignore it altogether. It's your choice. I just like the idea of celebrating love. Love is truly beautiful in all its forms. So take the opportunity to tell someone you love them.
I love you, my readers! Here's a painting I did just for you! Have a great Valentine's Day!
P.S. If you feel like giving some loving back, please fill out my brief 5 question survey by clicking on this link. (No worries, it's still on my site.)
Undoubtedly you've heard of static electricity, well today is National Static Electricity Day! To better explain how it works, I've picked a Bill Nye video. Trust him to explain things simply and in a humourous manner.
To celebrate today you could do any number of things. Rub your socked feet against a carpet and shock someone. You could also inflate some balloons, rub them against your hair and put them on the wall. It really does work! Whatever you do, make sure you have fun. After all, this only comes once a year!
Today we commemorate a strange holiday called, "National Roof Over Your Head Day". No one knows the exact origins of this holiday but I think it's an important thing to consider since many people do not have the luxury of shelter.
Every time I encounter a homeless person I feel such sorrow and shame. Sorrow because it's a very difficult situation and it's even harder to solve. Shame because I feel like I could be doing more but I don't know what that more could possibly be.
Last year my partner and I purchased our first home together. It was a large investment but we both felt that it made the most sense. Every day I'm grateful for the wonderful home I'm living in. It's warm, comforting and it's always there. I know I'm incredibly lucky. Before we decided on purchasing a place we looked at renting. It's outrageously expensive, unstable, the neighbours are not always pleasant and your rights are very limited. Living in a rented space is very common and for some a stepping stone.
Long before I ever met my partner I had lived in an apartment with my first boyfriend. It was a nice location but the apartment was a humble bachelor suite - in other words no bedroom. While it wasn't a bad size I can tell you it's not all that great for two people. Perhaps for one person it's quite reasonable but for a couple, it can make things tense and stressful. I suppose what made it more trying in my situation was the fact we didn't have a stable income. I worked and he worked but he would inevitably quit. Over and over and over again. This made it difficult to get enough money for rent and utilities, never mind food or recreation. So we barely lived from paycheque to paycheque. Sometimes we borrowed ahead on our paycheques or went to the local grocery store where every cart returned meant one dollar.
When I think back on how hard it was in that little bachelor apartment I remember thinking how close we were to being homeless. The months we couldn't pay the rent on time and begged the landlord for patience and compassion. It wasn't easy. In fact it inspired me to go to university. More than ever I appreciate the fine line between having a place to call your own, no matter how small and sleeping in a cardboard box.
So today I celebrate how lucky I am to have a roof over my head.
Yesterday was November 11, Remembrance Day. It's a time when everyone thinks back and thanks the soldiers who gave their lives. It began initially after WWI and continues to this day not only to commemorate the lives of the fallen but the survivors. What's unfortunate is that there have been many wars since and I'm sure that many of those soldiers believed they were fighting for peace. Peace may still be a long time from now.
Whenever I think about Remembrance Day I think about my grandfather. (Both of my grandfathers were in WWII but my paternal grandfather passed away before I was born.) I only knew my maternal grandfather for a short time but the time I do remember was special. When I was a little older I learned more about him. He was a top sniper and participated in some of the worst known battles. I think about what it must have done to him, to be forced to kill strangers, strangers with families. Strangers with lives and dreams, never being fulfilled because he was forced to take their lives. It was kill or be killed.
I knew him as a sweet man with a generous nature and infinite compassion. I can't imagine how he must have felt. He left behind poetry he had written during the war and I was fortunate enough to see some of it. Written in neat cursive he recalls moments, some of them heart warming and others heart breaking. In one poem he writes about witnessing his best friend dying in front of him. War is a dirty, horrible thing.
On Remembrance Day I think about everyone who has ever sacrificed to protect their loved ones and I think about the day war is a thing of the past. I hope that happens sooner rather than later.
Remember, remember the 5th of November,
The Gunpowder Treason and Plot.
I see no reason why Gunpowder Treason should ever be forgot.
Today is Guy Fawkes Day, a memorable moment in history for Londoners. In 1605 Guy Fawkes (Guido Fawkes) and accomplices, all Catholics, planned and failed an attempt to destroy Parliament along with the Protestant King James. They had disagreed with his heartless political actions so they sought to assassinate him and replace him with who they considered to be the rightful heir, his daughter Princess Elizabeth.
Guy Fawkes had been prepared to set alight barrels of gunpowder when Parliament was back in session however as left his station the night before he was arrested. Following procedure he was tortured until they were able to obtain a guilty plea under duress. His punishment would not be a merciful one. He was to be hanged, drawn and quartered along with some of his co-conspirators. (If you're unsure what that means, I suggest not looking it up. It would make most people squeamish. I can guarantee that it was the worst way to die.) Guy Fawkes knew of the horrible death that awaited him so with the noose around his neck, he jumped. This caused him to break his neck, killing him instantly.
In my opinion Guy Fawkes and the others must have had an excellent reason for attempting assassination and destroying the entire parliament. They were prepared to destroy the very symbol of their government, most likely in hopes that the government to replace him would be significantly better.
King James was by no means an innocent man. He was like most royalty: cruel, narcissistic and arrogant. For example, he was personally involved in torturing young women who were accused of witchcraft. He must have been a very unjust leader since in his first year of reign alone there were 2 separate conspiracies against him, one to kidnap him and the other to remove him and replace him with his cousin Arabella Stuart. One reason that Guy Fawkes might have been personally motivated to remove him from power were the heavy fines levied at Catholics who did not attend the Church of England (Anglican Protestant currently). Not to mention the Anglo-Spanish war that never seemed to end.
Guy Fawkes to this day has remained a notorious figure. On Guy Fawkes Day in England they commemorate the event with fireworks and burning an effigy of Guy Fawkes. This serves as a warning that the treason will never be forgotten.
In recent years the image of Guy Fawkes has transformed from heinous conspirator to folk hero. This change in perspective is due to the popularity of a film entitled, "V for Vendetta" based on an American comic book of the same name. The story features a dashing, mysterious figure named "V" who seeks to undermine and uproot the fascist dictatorship in a futuristic England. He re-tells the story of Guy Fawkes, explaining the necessity to destroy government when it is working against the people. This film has become so popular that Guy Fawkes masks (featured on V) have been used in protests against governments and other organizations. Guy Fawkes has become a symbol for freedom from tyranny and oppression.
I simply love the movie "V for Vendetta". In honour of Guy Fawkes Day I will be watching it and remembering why the Gunpowder Treason should never be forgot. To my readers, always be suspect of your government, they don't always have your best interests at heart.
"Voilà! In view, a humble vaudevillian veteran, cast vicariously as both victim and villian by the vicissitudes of Fate. This visage, no mere veneer of vanity, is a vestige of the vox populi, now vacant, vanished. However, this valorous visitation of a by-gone vexation, stands vivified and has vowed to vanquish these venal and virulent vermin vanguarding vice and vouchsafing the violently vicious and voracious violation of volition. The only verdict is vengence; a vendetta, held as a votive, not in vain, for the value and veracity of such shall one day vindicate the vigilant and the virtuous. Verily, this vichyssoise of verbiage veers most verbose, so let me simply add that it is my very good honor to meet you and you may call me V."
- V for Vendetta (2005)
Halloween wasn't always a time for trick-or-treating in costumes (or in snowsuits if you live in Canada). Throughout the years Halloween has transformed dramatically, so much so that it's practically unrecognizable from its roots.
It all began with a Gaelic event called, "Samhain" which marks the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter. There would be rituals and bonfires along with the slaughtering of livestock for the cold months ahead. There was a belief that Samhain was a time when otherwordly beings could enter from beyond to take part in the feasts. Of course they didn't just see the possibility for dead kin to visit, they realized there might be negative spirits as well. So people took precautions to protect themselves, perhaps even changing their appearance.
As with most holidays adopted by Christianity they stamped out their Pagan roots. From Samhain came All Saints' Day. Depending on the specific sect of Christianity they may honour Saints or Christians, alive and dead. This casts a striking similarity to Gaelic Samhain which invites the dead in order to honour them with feasts. In Mexico it coincides with the first day of the Day of the Dead celebration, Day of the Innocents which honours deceased children.
In North America Halloween wasn't celebrated until Irish and Scottish immigrants brought their customs and beliefs in the 19th century. The act of trick-or-treating is still rather new with barely any record or mention of it until the 1930s. Halloween certainly has come a long way, from celebrating the harvest, to honouring the dead, to going door to door for candy. It's definitely one of my favourite holidays. What's not to love about a little frivolity and fun?
Ahoy! It's that time of year again! Are you all ready to talk like a pirate? If you're not, I recommend visiting the official site of Talk Like A Pirate Day. They'll give you some pointers like using the lingo in different languages and links to name generators to get a pirate name. Some of my generated pirate names are: Captain Grace Rackham, Keeper Aetheflaed the Cutthroat, Pirate Deb the Pink, Iron Charity and Hook Handed Sarah.
For the rest of this post I will be talking like a pirate and using my pirate name, Captain Grace Rackham.
Avast, me hearties! I'll be doing this smartly so pay attention or I'll give you a taste of the cap'n's daughter. Cap'n Rackham has a code of conduct on her ship:
1. Cap'n Rackham always be right.
2. Cap'n Rackham gives no quarter to land lubbers, so they best be on their way 'less they be wantin' to walk the plank to visit Davy Jones' locker! Arrr!
3. And more importantly, Cap'n Rackham always be right.
Pass me the grog, you bilge rat and let's drink to me ship, the Crimson Curse. She be a fine ship. I'll keelhaul any scurvy dog that says different! Arrr. Weigh anchor and blow me down! Cap'n Rackham be headin' to her cabin to see me beauty lad.
Teddy Bear Day! What a beary wonderful day! I could go on about Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th president of the United States and how his persona created the "Teddy" bear after a hunting trip in 1902 Mississippi, following the mercy killing of an injured bear. A toy maker, Morris Michtom heard the story and thus created a toy bear in his name. Instead I want to discuss cute Teddy bears!
In North America it is common for every child to own a Teddy bear at one point in their lives. Some own many. Some hold on to their Teddy bears into adulthood. Most likely because they come to signify many adolescent memories and an attachment to their inner child. To the left is a photo of a StarCraft 2 e-sport commentator, Day9 and his Teddy bear, "Manfred".
Day9 is not the only adult who still cherishes their Teddy bear. I personally love mine. Her name is Matilda and she's a mouse. I've literally owned her since the day I was born, in my eyes she is my age. I dragged her everywhere as a child. I was so enamoured with Matilda as my best friend that my mother made up a song about her and I. At one point I even requested to make one of my middle names Matilda!
So take this day to celebrate the Teddy bears we know and love or the ones we no longer have.
In 1965 the U.N. declared September 8 International Literacy Day. I think it's a superb idea but like many U.N. initiatives it's ineffective and ignored. So today I decided it was time to bring attention back to a very important idea.
Let's look at some statistics from UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) about literacy rates. The adult male literacy rate internationally is higher than the adult female literacy rate, 88.6% compared to 79.7%. That's quite a difference between adult men and women. If I were to explain why there is such a disparity between the sexes I would explain the differences between the lives of men and women. Men generally inhabit the public sphere, working in areas that demonstrate a necessity to be literate while women generally inhabit the private sphere such as the home. Globally speaking there is a common trend for men to be more educated than women. Luckily the youth literacy rate is higher, 92.2% for male youths and 87.1% for female youths. One might be surprised due to the prevalence of texting but in many parts of the world there are programs put in place to teach children literacy. Thank goodness.
Now here are the really important statistics, 775.4 million adults and 122.2 million youths are illiterate worldwide. Assuming that there are approximately 7 billion people in the world, that means over 13% of the world is illiterate. It's a scary thought. I think it brings up the question, how can we improve illiteracy awareness and/or increase literacy? One preventative solution is to nurture our youth. Helping a child learn how to write and read at an early age is crucial. Even more important is encouraging children to be passionate about writing and reading. Lucky for me my mother made it one of her top priorities when she raised me. She's a voracious reader and so am I. It's a proven statistic that parents who value reading are more likely to have children who enjoy reading as well.
So take this opportunity to educate others about illiteracy and maybe even read a book to a child. I would recommend Dr. Seuss, Robert Munsch and Roald Dahl.
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