"May Day: America's Traditional, Radical, Complicated Holiday," from the Smithsonian NMAH blog. Part One, Part Two.
"... I love the version of the Thanksgiving story in the movie Addams Family Values, because I get to see the Indians win." [SLGuardian]
Vince Guaraldi's A Charlie Brown Christmas gets a whole lot of love, but for sheer musical enjoyment it shouldn't overshadow his work on A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. Here for your cooking-soundtrack pleasure are Thanksgiving Theme, Play it Again Charlie Brown (aka Charlie Brown Blues), Peppermint Patty, and Little Birdie (incidentally, Guaraldi's own vocal, and the first time any adult voice appeared on a Charlie Brown show). [more inside]
This weekend marks the time of the Hajj, a core pillar of Islam in which great tides of humanity venture to the ancient city of Mecca to honor God. Predating Mohammed's birth by centuries, the pilgrimage comprises several days of rites, from congregation like snow on Mount Arafat and the ritual stoning of Shaitan to the circling of the sacred Kaaba (the shrouded cubical monolith Muslims pray toward daily) and kissing the Black Stone (colored by the absorption of myriad sins, and believed by some to be a fallen meteorite). While the city has modernized to handle this largest of annual gatherings -- building highway-scale ramps, gaudy skyscrapers for the ultra-rich, and tent cities the size of Seattle -- it remains mysterious, as unbelievers are forbidden from entering its borders. Richard Francis Burton became famous for touring the city in disguise to write a rare travelogue, but contemporary viewers have a more immediate guide: Vice Magazine journalist Suroosh Alvi, who smuggled a minicam into the city to record The Mecca Diaries [alt], a 14-minute documentary of his own Hajj journey. Browse the manual to see what goes into a Hajj trip, or watch the YouTube livestream to see the Grand Mosque crowds in real time.
He was elected at the nadir of the worst depression in history; 25% of the workforce was unemployed, two million were homeless. Yet in the face of this, he made us an optimistic and far-reaching New Deal, creating among other programs a federal minimum wage, social security, and the FDIC. He pulled us out of dire financial straits and, when our country was called upon to fight in World War II, he brought us to the cusp of victory. In his unprecedented thirteen years in office, he cemented his undisputed legacy as one of the greatest presidents in American history. But before he could achieve any of this, Franklin Delano Roosevelt had a promise to keep — a promise to the "wet vote," whose indispensable support he had called upon in 1932 during his first presidential campaign when he promised to repeal the 18th Amendment and end Prohibition. And thus, as legend has it, immediately after his first fireside chat from the White House in March 1933, Roosevelt turned to his two top aides and said, "I think it's time for a beer." And yes, indeed, it was. [more inside]
Holidays on Display, currently on view at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History, offers an image-rich online exhibit as well, detailing the way businesses learned to capitalize on one of the country's largest celebrations. Peer into the artistry of holiday window design as well. [more inside]
June 8: The forgotten holiday of Pinkster. At first celebrated among the Dutch communities of New York and New Jersey, by the 19th century the holiday of Pinkster was heavily African-American, and cross-culturally infused. In Albany, the week-long observance began the seventh Sunday after Easter at Pentecost, corresponding with the Episcopal Whitsunday, by raising a large camp of temporary shelters at "Pinkster Hill." Crowds of blacks and whites would mass, waiting for the appearance of King Charles, "the chief character in a ceremony on a Dutch Holiday in America[...,] an African-born black wearing a British brigadier's jacket of scarlet, a tricornered cocked hat, and yellow buckskins." Successive nights included food, drink, sports and Toto, the Guinea dance, which included the "most lewd and indecent gesticulation, at the crisis of which the parties meet and embrace in a kind of amorous Indian hug, terminating in a sort of masquerade capture, which must cover even a harlot with blushes to describe."
Thanksgiving Bill of Fare - "If you will boile chickens, young turkeys, peahens, or any house fowl daintily, you shall, after you have trimmed them, drawn them, trussed them, and washed them, fill their bellies as full of parsley as they can hold; then boil them with salt and water only till they be enough." When sated with peahens and house fowl you might have enjoyed a taste of Pumpion Pie. Early colonial cuisine probably borrowed heavily from the New Booke of Cookerie from London and were no doubt greatly influenced by native recipes and cooking customs.
Cinco de Mayo is the biggest day of the year for avocados -- it is a Mexican holiday, but a minor one. It marks a May 5, 1862, victory by a small army of Mexican patriots and peasants over stronger French forces, but it's not Mexican Independence Day -- a common misconception among Cinco de Mayo partyers in the United States. In the United States, it's become the Latin version of St. Patrick's Day -- largely because makers of beer, chips, salsa and tequila promote it heavily as a reason to party.