National Days!

by Mary FireworksatWashingtonMonumentJo

Most countries of the world have national days that celebrate their identity. That usually usually means the day that independence was proclaimed, as in the US, or negotiated, as was the case in many countries that had been colonized like much of Africa. But there can be lots of variations.

Hungary, for example, celebrates St. Stephen's Day. The United Kingdom doesn't exactly have a national day, though sometimes the Queen's Official Birthday the second weekend in June is treated as such. (Her birthday is actually April 21st, but the weather is better for speeches and parades in June.) 

However, the UK is composed of four separate countries and they all have celebrations on the day of their patron saints: St. George for England, St. Andrew for Scotland, St. David for Wales, and St. Patrick for Northern Ireland.

A lot of countries have a Constitution Day since creating and affirming a constitution creates a nation in a real sense. (There are Americans who believe crafting and confirming the US Constitution was more vital than declaring independence, and they have a good case for that.)

There are other interesting national days. Albania celebrates Albanian DuckinCanada2Day on November 28th, for example, and it's a celebration of its independence. Alderney, one of Britain's Channel Isles, celebrates Homecoming Day on December 15, which was the day in 1945 when the German occupation ended and islanders who had fled were able to return home.

Our neighbor Canada has a neighboring national day as well: July 1st is Canada Day, which commemorates the 1867 joining of several British colonies into one, the AnniversaryFlagDominion of Canada. Happy 151st birthday, Canada!  Here's a picture of the giant rubber ducky that visited for last year's sesquicentennial celebration. (I love that duck. <G>)

France's national day is Bastille Day, July 14th, and it commemorates the storming of the Bastille in 1789, which is considered the beginning of the French Revolution.  France and the US have a lot of history in common Australia_Day 2004 by Philip Whitehouse  Wikipedia Commons

Australia Day is January 26th and commemorates the 1788 landing of the First Fleet of British ships when they arrived in New South Wales and raised the British flag in Sydney Cove, which became the site of the great city of Sydney.

Celebrations are similar around the world. Parades are always popular. In my Maryland county there are three Independence Day parades in different areas of the county, and the timing is staggered so that local politicians can attend all three, riding in convertibles and waving at their constituents, which is about as close as we usually get to them.  Fireworks are definitely popular world wide because–noisy and pretty, something for everyone.  <G>

There are floats and bands and social clubs marching together, but my very favorite local parade entry was the tattooed and bearded biker slowly cruising along on his hog, with his two very well behaved basset hounds draped over the big  fenders. Great fun!

The Fourth of July is also a time for family gatherings and barbecues with hot dogs, hamburgers, and watermelon. From what I've heard from friends in other EiffelTowerFireworks.Pierre.Caradoc.WikipediaCommonscountries, this kind of celebration is global, though the food and drink might vary. 

But mostly, national days are for honoring our countries and the best that is in them. What are your national days, and what do you do on them? Because all nations are special, and we are part of our nations.

Wherever you live, what are your special days and how do you celebrate them?  With pride and gusto, I hope!

Mary Jo


Brightening the Dark Days of Winter

LightNicola here. Today is known as Epiphany, Three Kings Day or Twelfth Day. For many the date marks the end of the Christmas festivities, the day people take down their decorations if they haven't already done so the day before. It’s also the last of the Word Wench festive posts for this season as we head out into 2017!

We’re lucky that these days we have artificial light to help us face the long, cold and dark days of winter. Candles and firelight may sound romantic but I imagine that if I was trying to read or write in that sort of light on a daily basis it would get very difficult. Travel, work, cooking, all the elements of daily life are aided by light. Importantly a lot of people also find their mood is affected by an absence of natural light and so the darkness can pull us down and at the start of the year in particular, when Christmas is over, it’s important to have things that lift our spirits.

Many of the events and entertainments that are going on at the moment have their roots far back in history. The fun fair, the Three kings
pantomime and the carnival were all winter activities designed to entertain people when life was bleak. Coming back to Three Kings Day, El Dia de Los Reyes, is a particularly important festival in Spain and Latin America, but there are celebrations on 6th January across the globe, ranging from pageants and parades to the creation of special bread to share at family and community meals.

Here in the UK it’s pantomime season (Oh no it isn’t!) The origins of the panto date back to the Middle Ages and over the years have incorporated lots of different traditions from Tudor masques to Victorian music hall. The pantomimes are nearly always based on well known children's stories such as Peter Pan, Aladdin, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty etc. Pantomimes are performed not only in the top UK theatres but also in village halls throughout the country. Our local one is Jack and the Beanstalk. Audience participation is a very important part of a pantomime and it’s all very silly and fun. The audience are encouraged to boo the villain whenever he enters the stage, argue with the Dame (who is always a man) and warn the Principal Boy (who is always a girl) when the villain is behind them by shouting out "He's behind you!" It’s completely eccentric but it gets us through the winter!

BreadThis evening I'll be making cheese and rocket bread, in honour of Three Kings Day. It's delicious eaten warm, with a bit of butter and extra cheese! Are you a fan of speciality breads? What would you recommend to share to celebrate Twelfth Day?