Monday, January 21, 2008

Morning Medieval Miscellany

A lot of people have done link round-ups over the last few days. It seems weird to be linking to other people linking to me linking ... it's an infinite regression of linkage! So, in order to prevent this from being entirely superfluous, I'll have a few non-medieval comments at the end.
And now, for my promised non-medieval anecdote: A friend who works with international students told me that they wanted to know where all the parties were this weekend. She was puzzled, and asked what parties they were talking about. They wanted to know where all the Martin Luther King, Jr. parties would be, and what exactly Americans did to celebrate that day.

Therefore, I propose the following MLK day traditions: Little boys all dress up like MLK (little girls like Rosa Parks) and go door-to-door. When people open the door, the children cry out, "I have a dream!" and the adults have to fill their bags with goodies. Then, that night, when all the kids are asleep, Rosa Parks will drive a bus full of gifts into the neighborhood, and MLK will slide down the chimney and leave gifts under the MLK Day shrubbery (purchased from Roger's Shrubbery on Highway 8). Instead of sending cards, we'll send each other letters postmarked from Birmingham jail.

Of course, there will also be local variations. For example, the Chicago River will be dyed rainbow colors, McDonalds will have seasonal shakes, and in New Orleans all the boys will dress up like Rosa Parks and all the girls like MLK.

So, now, if any foreigners ask you how we celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, you'll have a ready answer. Perhaps when Labor Day rolls around I'll have some suggestions for that one too.


  1. I have a Canadian friend who loves to explain to Americans the "moose hatcheries" visible near major highways (They are storage domes for salt and sand.)

    Then there's the Italian spaghetti tree festival.

    More seriously what national holidays do Americans actually celebrate? I know lots of people who have family 4th of July picnics, and there are civic fireworks displays. Anything else?

  2. Oh, there are lots, with varying degrees of celebration. For example, I've never celebrated Arbor Day, but I know the way one celebrates is to plant a tree.

    Running quickly through the calendar, we celebrate, to a greater or lesser degree:
    New Year's Day
    Groundhog Day
    St. Valentine's Day
    St. Patrick's Day
    April Fool's Day
    Mothers' Day
    Memorial Day
    Fathers' Day
    Independence Day

    Of course, celebrations can be regional, or depend on other things. For example, Mardi Gras is more regional, and most of us celebrate Groundhog Day by paying close attention to the weather. When I was younger, we used to use Memorial Day to go place flowers on the grave of my grandfather, but now all the spouses of dead servicemen are dead themselves, so my family doesn't really celebrate that any more, but we probably will once again if (God forbid) we lose one of the younger generation to war.

    Some holidays seem to exist mostly to honor particular people or events, and aren't really celebrated much: President's Day, Labor Day, Columbus Day, Veteran's Day, etc.

  3. Some holidays seem to exist mostly to honor particular people or events, and aren't really celebrated much: President's Day, Labor Day, Columbus Day, Veteran's Day, etc.

    No celebration of Labor Day? The day when laborers celebrate not laboring? Always big in my family, it included croquet or badminton and picnics. Now (at least for me as an academic) it has the added poignancy of usually being the last piece of summer before teaching again, so it's full of wistfulness as well as potato salad.

    And Columbus Day has long been replaced by Leif Ericsson for many of us!