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- Xiangtan University, Online Postgraduate (Masters Degree) English Lesson Plans, Lesson Material and Ideas...
Speaking Lesson: DISCUSSION: BRITISH
AND CHINESE HOLIDAYS & FESTIVALS
Guy Fawkes' Day
Many of the holidays in the UK are religious holidays, such as
Christmas or Easter. There are also other celebrations, such as Guy
Fawkes Night, which celebrates the night when Guy Fawkes tried to blow
up the Houses of Parliament in London. National Holidays in the UK are
known as "Bank Holidays."
The following are holidays throughout the United Kingdom:
January New Year's Day
January Bank Holiday (Scotland only)
March St Patrick's Day (Northern Ireland only)
First Monday in May, May Day Bank Holiday
Last Monday in May Bank Holiday
July Battle of the Boyne Day (Northern Ireland only)
First Monday in August Summer Bank Holiday (Scotland only)
Monday in August Summer Bank Holiday (except Scotland)
December Christmas Day
December Boxing Day (St Stephen's Day for Roman Catholics)
falling on a weekend are celebrated on the Monday following. If two
consecutive holidays fall on a Saturday and Sunday, they are observed
on the Monday and Tuesday following. Scottish clearing banks observe
the British, not the Scottish Bank Holidays.
will be an extra day's holiday on Monday June 3rd, 2002 to mark HM
Queen Elizabeth II's Golden Jubilee (50th year of accession to the
throne). The bank holiday normally held one week earlier will be held
on June 4th.
Moveable Public Holidays
Friday (Either - 28th Mar, 10th Apr,
2nd Apr, 21st Apr, 13th Apr, 29th Mar, 18th Apr, 9th Apr)
(Either - 30th Mar, 12th Apr, 4th Apr,
23th Apr, 15th Apr, 31st Mar, 20th Apr, 11th Apr)
Monday (Either - 31st Mar, 13th Apr,
5th Apr, 24th Apr, 16th Apr, 1st Apr, 21st Apr, 12th Apr)
January WWII Genocide Memorial Day (from 2001)
February Valentine's Day
March St. David's Day (Patron Saint of Wales)
Monday in March Commonwealth Day
April, April Fool's Day
April St. George's Day (Patron Saint of England)
Sunday in June Fathers' Day
November Guy Fawkes' Day
November Remembrance Day (2 minutes silence at 11 a.m.)
November St. Andrew's Day (Patron Saint of Scotland)
Day - Either 11th Feb, 24th Feb, 16th Feb, 7th Mar, 27th Feb, 12th
Feb, 4th Mar 24th Feb
Sunday - Either 9th Mar, 22nd Mar, 14th Mar, 2nd Apr, 25th Mar, 10th
Mar, 30th Mar, 21st Mar
is celebrated throughout the whole of the UK. People decorate their
houses with Christmas trees, streamers and pictures of
"Santa." Christmas is commonly known as
"Xmas" and is a period when schools are closed for 2 - 3
weeks. People exchange presents on Christmas Day, 25th December. A
large Christmas Dinner is traditional, which includes eating a Turkey.
People also send each other Christmas cards. Due to the weather in the
UK, Christmas is normally a cold time of year, and there is commonly
snow around Christmas time. Christmas is full of tradition!
word Christmas comes from the words "Cristes maesse", or
"Christ's Mass." Christmas is the celebration of the birth
of Jesus for members of the Christian religion. Most historians peg
the first celebration of Christmas to Rome in 336 A.D.
Why does everyone give each other
presents on Christmas day? The tradition
of gifts seems to have started with the gifts that the wise men (the
Magi) brought to Jesus. As recounted in the Bible's book of Matthew,
"On coming to the house they saw the child with his mother Mary,
and they bowed down and worshipped him. Then they opened their
treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of
myrrh." However, no one was really in the habit of exchanging
elaborate gifts until late in the 1800s. The Santa Claus story
(described below) combined with an amazing retailing phenomenon that
has grown since the turn of the century has made gift giving a central
focus of the Christmas tradition.
December 25th really the day Jesus was born?
No one really knows. What is known is that Christian leaders in 336
A.D. set the date to December 25 in an attempt to eclipse a popular
pagan holiday in Rome (Saturnalia) celebrating the winter solstice.
Originally, the celebration of Christmas involved a simple mass, but
over time Christmas has replaced a number of other holidays in many
other countries, and a large number of traditions have been absorbed
into the celebration in the process.
is there a small evergreen tree in your living room?
This is a German tradition, started as early as 700 A.D. In the 1800s
the tradition of a Christmas tree was widespread in Germany, then
moved to England and then America through Pennsylvanian German
immigrants. In Victorian times, people had already started decorating
trees with candies and cakes hung with ribbon. In 1880 "Woolworths"
department store first sold manufactured Christmas tree ornaments, and
they caught on very quickly. Martin Luther, in the 16th century, is
credited as being the first person to put candles on a tree, and the
first electrically lighted Christmas tree appeared in 1882. Calvin
Coolidge in 1923 ceremoniously lit the first outdoor tree at the White
House, starting that long tradition.
has apparently been used as a decoration in houses for thousands of
years and is also associated with many pagan rituals. Many years ago,
the church forbade the use of mistletoe in any form. As a substitute,
it suggested holly. The sharply pointed leaves were to symbolize the
thorns in Christ's crown and the red berries drops of his blood. Holly
became a nativity tradition. The Christian ban on mistletoe was in
effect throughout the Middle Ages. Surprisingly, as late as the 20th
century, there were churches in England that forbade the wearing of
mistletoe sprigs and corsages during services." For
Scandinavians, the goddess of love (Frigga) is strongly associated
with mistletoe. This link to romance may be where our tradition of
kissing under mistletoe comes from.
fruitcakes: According to "The Joy of
Cooking" by Irma Rombauer and Marion Becker, "Many people
feel that these cakes improve greatly with age. When they are well
saturated with alcoholic liquors, which raise the spirits and keep
down mold, and are buried in powdered sugar in tightly closed tins,
they have been enjoyed as long as 25 years after baking."
Why are there oversized socks hanging on
your mantel? According to a very old
tradition, the original Saint Nicholas (Santa) left his very first
gifts of gold coins in the stockings of three poor girls who needed
the money for their wedding dowries. The girls had hung their
stockings by the fire to dry. See this page for a version of this
story. Up until lately, it was traditional to receive small items like
fruit, nuts and candy in your stocking, but these have been replaced
in the last half-century by more expensive gifts in many homes.
are Christmas cards scattered all over the coffee table?
Christmas cards started in London in 1843 and in America in 1846.
Today about two billion Christmas cards are exchanged every year in
the United States.
Carols: There is a set of songs that are
played continuously during the Christmas Season. Here's a pretty
In A Manger
Carol of the Bells
Deck The Halls
God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
Joy To The World
Hark, The Herald Angels Sing
Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas
I'll Be Home For Christmas
It Came Upon A Midnight Clear
Little Drummer Boy
O Come All Ye Faithful
O Holy Night
O, Little Town of Bethlehem
Rudolf the Red Nose Reindeer
Santa Claus Is Coming To Town
The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire)
The First Noel
The Twelve Days of Christmas
We Wish You A Merry Christmas
What Child Is This?
exactly, are the 12 days of Christmas?
The 12 days of Christmas are the 12 days that separate Christmas day
on December 25 from Epiphany, which is celebrated January 6. Depending
on the church, January 6 may mark Christ's baptism (the Catholic
tradition), or it may mark the day that the wise men visited the baby
Jesus with their gifts.
the past, there was a tradition of giving gifts throughout the 12
days, rather than stacking them all up on the morning of December 25.
That tradition, as you might imagine, has never really caught on in
America! We just aren't that patient. The song, however, demonstrates
that some people once stretched out their gifts (and gave some fairly
elaborate gifts...) over the full 12 days.
is the day before Christmas, Christmas Eve, celebrated?
Christmas Eve is a big deal for religious reasons, such as the
midnight mass, and also for retail reasons. 1867 was the first year
that Macy's department store in New York City remained open until
midnight on Christmas Eve.
is this Santa Claus? It is amazing but
true that the common, popular view of Santa that we all have today,
along with all the crazy things around Santa like the sleigh, the
reindeer and the chimney, all came largely from two publishing events
that occurred in the 1800s and one advertising campaign in this
century. Clement Moore wrote "The Night Before Christmas" in
1822 for his family. It was picked up by a newspaper, then reprinted
in magazines and it spread like wildfire. Moore admitted authorship in
1838. If you read the poem you will find that he names the reindeer,
invents the sleigh, comes up with the chimney and the bag of toys,
between 1863 and 1886, Harper's Weekly (a popular magazine of the
time) ran a series of engravings by Thomas Nast. From these images
come the concepts of Santa's workshop, Santa reading letters, Santa
checking his list and so on. Coca-Cola also played a role in the Santa
image by running a set of paintings by Haddon Sundblom in its ads
between 1931 to 1964.
red and white suit came, actually, from the original Saint Nicholas.
Those colors were the colors of the traditional bishop's robes.
is this one reindeer at the front named Rudolf?
The whole story of Rudolf appeared, out of nowhere, in 1939. Santas at
Montgomery Ward stores gave away 2.4 million copies of a booklet
entitled "Rudolf the Red-Nose Reindeer." The story was
written by a person in the advertising department named Robert May,
and the booklet was illustrated by Denver Gillen. The original name of
the reindeer was not Rudolf, according to the book Extraordinary
Origins of Ordinary Things by Charles Panati. The original name was
Rollo, but executives did not like that name, nor Reginald. The name
Rudolf came from the author's young daughter! In 1949, Gene Autry sang
a musical version of the poem and it was a run-away best-seller. The
Rudolf song is second only to "White Christmas" in
Boxing Day: The
holiday's roots can be traced to Britain, where Boxing Day is also
known as St. Stephen's Day. Reduced to the simplest essence, its
origins are found in a long-ago practice of giving cash or durable
goods to those of the lower classes. Gifts among equals were exchanged
on or before Christmas Day, but beneficences to those less fortunate
were bestowed the day after.
various times, the following "origins" have been loudly
asserted as the correct one:
ago, ordinary members of the merchant class gave boxes of food and
fruit to trades people and servants the day after Christmas in an
ancient form of Yuletide tip. These gifts were an expression of
gratitude to those who worked for them, in much the same way that
one now tips the paperboy an extra $20 at Christmastime or slips
the building's superintendent a bottle of fine whisky. Those
long-ago gifts were done up in boxes, hence the day coming to be
known as "Boxing Day."
celebrations in the old days entailed bringing everyone together
from all over a large estate, thus creating one of the rare
instances when everyone could be found in one place at one time.
This gathering of his extended family, so to speak, presented the
lord of the manor with a ready-made opportunity to easily hand out
that year's stipend of necessities. Thus, the day after Christmas,
after all the partying was over and it was almost time to go back
to far-flung homesteads, serfs were presented with their annual
allotment of practical goods. Who got what was determined by the
status of the worker and his relative family size, with spun
cloth, leather goods, durable food supplies, tools, and whatnot
being handed out. Under this explanation, there was nothing
voluntary about this transaction; the lord of the manor was
obligated to supply these goods. The items were chucked into
boxes, one box for each family, to make carrying away the results
of this annual restocking easier; thus, the day came to be known
as "Boxing Day."
years ago, on the day after Christmas, servants in Britain carried
boxes to their masters when they arrived for the day's work. It
was a tradition that on this day all employers would put coins in
the boxes, as a special end-of-the-year gift. In a closely-related
version of this explanation, apprentices and servants would on
that day get to smash open small earthenware boxes left for them
by their masters. These boxes would house small sums of money
specifically left for them.
dual-versioned theory melds the two previous ones together into a new
form; namely, the employer who was obligated to hand out something on
Boxing Day, but this time to recipients who were not working the land
for him and thus were not dependent on him for all they wore and ate.
The "box" thus becomes something beyond ordinary
compensation (in a way goods to landed serfs was not), yet it's also
not a gift in that there's nothing voluntary about it. Under this
theory, the boxes are an early form of Christmas bonus, something
employees see as their entitlement.
in churches for seasonal donations to the needy were opened on
Christmas Day, and the contents distributed by the clergy the
following day. The contents of this alms box originated with the
ordinary folks in the parish who were thus under no direct obligation
to provide anything at all and were certainly not tied to the
recipients by a employer/employee relationship. In this case, the
"box" in "Boxing Day" comes from that one gigantic
lockbox the donations were left in.
Halloween: On Halloween, 31st October,
children and adults alike love being scared! Another strange thing
about the tradition of Halloween is its unique mix of secular and
religious elements. In recent years, the holiday has stirred up a lot
of controversy because it offends some Christian groups, which, in
turn, upsets many modern-day Wiccans and Druids. Halloween is
celebrated throughout the UK, as well as in America.
Does "Halloween" Mean? One very
obvious question about Halloween is what on earth does the word itself
mean? The name is actually a shortened version of "All Hallows'
Even," the eve of All Hallows' Day. Hallow is an Old English word
for "holy person," and All Hallows' Day is simply another
name for All Saints' Day, the day Catholics commemorate all the
saints. People began referring to All Hallows' Even as Hallowe'en and
then simply Halloween. Taking from the Jewish tradition, Christians
have traditionally observed many holy days from sundown on one day
until sundown on the following day. This is where we get the practice
of celebrating Christmas Eve, New Year's Eve, etc. Modern-day
Halloween's direct predecessor is the festivity that began All Saints
Day, at sundown on October 31.
jack-o'-lanterns, hollowed-out turnips with embers or candles inside,
became a very popular Halloween decoration in Ireland and Scotland.
Folk tradition held that they would ward off Stingy Jack and other
spirits on Halloween, and they also served as representations of the
souls of the dead. Irish who emigrated to America brought the
tradition with them but replaced the turnips with pumpkins because
they were more plentiful. Pumpkins were easier to carve than turnips,
and people began to give their jack-o'-lanterns frightening faces.
for Apples: All Hallows' Eve has long
been a time to look into the future, and traditional festivities
included several divination rituals. These come mostly from folk
traditions from the British Isles, and may have their roots in the
ancient Samhain festivities. A lot of marriage divinations had to do
with apples, perhaps because in Celtic tradition the fruit was
associated with female deities who controlled the ways of love.
of the most popular divinations was for young unmarried people to try
to bite into an apple floating in water or hanging from a string. This
is something like the bouquet toss that still plays a part in wedding
receptions -- the first person to bite into the apple would be the
next one to marry.
children, the main event of Halloween is still to dress up and go
trick-or-treating door to door. Most households in the United States
and Canada participate, and those who don't hand out candy run the
risk of petty vandalism. Many adults even dress up themselves, to go
out with their children or to attend costume parties and contests. But
a number of other Halloween activities now fill the whole month of
Controversy: Although Halloween comes in
part from Christian tradition, many Christian groups want nothing to
do with the holiday because of its pagan elements. Many Halloween
figures, such as witches and ghouls, carry an uncomfortable satanic
connotation to some Christians, and they do not want to expose their
children to these images. Some groups are also disturbed by the
origins of the holiday, as it is a common belief that the Samhain
festival was a celebration of a god of the dead called Samhain, who
was a sort of devil figure. Most evidence suggests that this is not
actually the case -- the main documentation for such a god comes from
material apparently produced by the Catholic church hundreds of years
ago, as a means of converting people away from Druidism.
groups are also disturbed by rumors that modern day Wiccans and Druids
observe Halloween as an occasion to worship Satan or other evil
forces. The established organizations of these groups completely
disavow all knowledge of such practices, though they do say that
Halloween is an important day of the year in their religion. Every
year there are some reports of satanic rituals and even animal
sacrifices, but there is good evidence that many of these stories are
fabrications and that actual incidents are the practices of
individuals and smaller extremist groups, operating outside any larger
Wiccans, modern day witches, get upset around Halloween because they
feel that they are misrepresented by a few Christian spokesmen and the
news media. They want to separate their religion from the popular
notion of witches as evil figures in league with the Devil. They say
that modern witchcraft is based on ancient Wiccan and Druid beliefs
that had nothing to do with Satan or other figures from
Judeo-Christian theology. Wiccans want people to know that their
religion is based on a connection to nature and the universe and not
dark forces and evil spells, as the popular idea of a witch suggests.
Wiccan leaders cite historical documents that show that the popular
notion of witches arose from Catholic propaganda hundreds of years
generally, Halloween is controversial because many people think it is
an inappropriate, possibly dangerous holiday for children. Children
are in some physical danger when they go trick-or-treating because
they are walking around neighborhoods in the dark, accepting candy
from strangers. Some people also believe that the frightening imagery
surrounding Halloween is too disturbing to children, noting that
younger trick-or-treaters have a hard time distinguishing between
fantasy and reality and may be completely overwhelmed by people in
monster costumes. In recent years, more and more parents have steered
away from trick-or-treating, taking their children to school or church
Halloween parties instead.
is a tough issue for parents because they often have very fond
memories of trick-or-treating when they were children, but don't feel
comfortable taking their own kids out. They say that Halloween was
less frightening when they were kids because it was mostly about
dressing up in fun costumes and children weren't exposed to so much
disturbing imagery in popular culture. Modern horror movies have
become a particularly sore point for concerned parents, as they are
usually extremely violent.
note that many aspects of Halloween are very important to children.
Dressing up can give shy children a boost of self-confidence and
trick-or-treating may create a healthy feeling of community in a
neighborhood. Most of all, adults who love Halloween would hate to see
their favorite traditions phased out, because they remember how much
they enjoyed them. At this point, Halloween does seem to be headed for
some changes, but there are many different ideas of what these changes
do People Love Halloween? So now that we
know where the different elements of Halloween come from, the question
remains: Why do we revel in a celebration of death and supernatural
related questions are:
do we enjoy being scared?
Why do we enjoy dressing up as scary figures?
All of these pleasures seem to be universal human traits, with
death-related festivals and costume parades popping up in many
cultures. As human beings, we are acutely aware of our own mortality
and death in general. Human cultures are obsessed with death because
we cannot possibly understand it, yet it looms over everything we do.
It is one of the most frightening mysteries we face in life. One way
to feel more comfortable with this unknown realm is to make light of
it with a festival. This brings all the frightening ideas out in the
open, where we can work through our fears more comfortably, enjoying
ourselves with other people instead of contemplating mortality on our
addition to working through uneasiness about death and supernatural
mysteries, people like to feel frightened for purely biological
reasons. When we watch a scary movie or take a ride on a roller
coaster, our body releases adrenaline and other hormones because it
thinks we are in some danger and we need extra energy do deal with the
situation. When you're actually in danger, of course, you don't enjoy
the feeling of these hormones, you simply use them to fight, escape or
take some other action. When the danger is simulated, though, your
mind knows you're actually safe and you enjoy the energy the hormones
give you. Intentional, contained fear is fun for most people because
it gives us a hormone rush and helps us work through our general fears
in a safe environment.
dressing up as our fears, we embrace them even more closely, taking
control of them to some extent. This can be particularly effective
with children. They usually don't fear mortality so much as they do
sinister figures like monsters and ghosts. Once they've dressed
themselves up as a monster and played that character, they cut through
some of the monster's mystery, making it less ominous.
is not all about dressing up as frightening figures, of course. Just
as often, children dress as a favorite cartoon character or a future
occupation. The pleasure in this is simply play-acting -- kids look
forward to Halloween because they get to inhabit a character, whether
it be a frightening figure or an idolized superhero. Adults enjoy
dressing up for similar reasons, and this is why the masquerade plays
a part in so many festivals from different cultures. Putting on a mask
lets people drop their inhibitions and step outside of themselves for
an evening. People in costumes often say and do things they would be
very hesitant to say or do in their everyday life. It's very
satisfying to step into another character for a while, even for a
obviously serves a valuable function for many children and adults. It
continues to be so popular because it fills our basic need to address
the mysteries that frighten us, and even celebrate these mysteries. It
is a real testament to the power of Halloween traditions that they
have been passed down and embraced by so many generations.
Commercial Easter Celebrations: In addition to the religious
celebrations and observances of Easter, many countries also celebrate
Easter with sweets and baked goods. Eggs, a traditional symbol of new
life, are hard-boiled and dyed. Chocolate candies of all shapes and
sizes are bought. Cakes and breads are baked and carefully decorated.
And in many homes, families celebrate Easter with a gathering of
family for an elaborate Easter dinner.
Easter Bunny: Chocolate eggs (and
bunnies) are popular Easter treats these days. Rabbits are a powerful
symbol of fertility and new life, and therefore, of Easter. The Easter
Bunny, like Santa Claus, has become a popular children's character.
But it may be that the Easter Bunny is something of a historical
mistake. Hares were sacred to the pagan festival of Eostre. At some
point, the hare was replaced by the rabbit (some say that this is
because it is difficult to tell hares and rabbits, both long-eared
Cross Buns: According to the book Dates
and Meanings of Religious & Other Festivals," hot cross buns
"... used to be kept specially for Good Friday with the symbolism
of the cross, although it is thought that they originated in pagan
times with the bun representing the moon and its four quarters."
custom of eating hot cross buns goes back to pre-Christian times, when
pagans offered their god, Zeus, a cake baked in the form of a bull,
with a cross upon it to represent its horns. Throughout the centuries,
hot cross buns were made and eaten every Good Friday, and it was
thought that they had miraculous curative powers. People hung buns
from their kitchen ceilings to protect their households from evil for
the year to come. Good Friday bread and buns were said never to go
moldy. This was probably because the buns were baked so hard that
there was no moisture left in the mixture for the mold to live on. Hot
cross buns and bread baked on Good Friday were used in powdered form
to treat all sorts of illnesses.
Tuesday, Ash Wednesday and Lent: If you
live outside the UK, you probably haven't heard of Shrove Tuesday. But
you probably know it by its other name, Mardi Gras. Pancakes were
originally eaten on Shrove Tuesday -- the Tuesday before Lent -- to
use up eggs and fat before the fast of Lent. Today, these pancakes are
generally made of eggs, milk and flour. The word "shrove"
comes from "shrive," meaning "the confessions of
sins" -- something done in preparation for Lent.
Wednesday is a day of fasting that gets its name from the practice of
sprinkling ashes over those engaging in the fast of Lent. Has anyone
ever apologized to you by saying, "Let me put on my ashes and
sackcloth..."? This is where that saying originated. Those
wishing to receive the sacrament of penance were known as
"penitents." They wore sackcloth and were required to remain
apart from the Christian community until Maundy Thursday. This
practice fell into disuse during the eighth, ninth and 10th centuries,
when the beginning of Lent was symbolized by placing ashes on the
heads of the entire congregation.
Christians have a cross put on their forehead in ashes. The ashes are
usually made from the previous year's blessed palm fronds from Palm
Sunday, and are usually wet with holy water before being used.
name Lent comes from the Middle English "lenten," meaning
"spring." Lent signifies 40 days of fasting in order to
imitate the fast of Jesus Christ after his baptism (the Epiphany).
Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, 46 days before Easter Sunday, when it
Sunday: Palm Sunday is the sixth and
final Sunday of Lent. In many churches, it is the beginning of Holy
Week, a week of observances leading up to Easter Sunday. Palm Sunday
occurs one week before Easter and marks Jesus' entry into Jerusalem
when his supporters waved palm fronds to celebrate his arrival. Today,
many people use the ashes from palm fronds used on the previous year's
Palm Sunday to mark a cross on the forehead of penitents on Ash
Thursday: The word "maundy" may
have come from the maund (or mand) basket used by the fishermen in the
English counties of Norfolk and Suffolk. Centuries ago, there was a
fair held on this day in Norwich (Norfolk), at which vendors sold
horses, cattle and general merchandise. Some of the fisher-folk
brought their maund baskets filled with items to sell, including fish.
Clothing and hats were sold, as it was customary to buy a new item of
clothing for Easter Sunday. This may well have been the origin of the
Easter bonnet and the notion of wearing new spring attire for Easter.
Friday: The Friday before Easter is
called Good Friday, and is a somber observance of Christ's crucifixion
on the cross. Christians believe that the death of Jesus Christ on the
cross made it possible for them to know peace with God. They wanted to
celebrate their peace rather than observe Friday as a day of mourning
name may also be derived from God's Day, since in the first two
centuries, the word "good" would only ever have been used as
a description for God. The Saxons and Danes called this day Long
Friday, and Good Friday in Danish is Langfreday.
Sunday: Easter Sunday celebrates Jesus'
resurrection. Along with Christmas, Easter is considered one of the
oldest and most joyous days on the Christian calendar. Religious
services and other Easter celebrations vary throughout the regions of
the world and even from country to country. In the United States, many
"sunrise services" are held outside on Easter morning. These
early services are symbolic of the empty tomb that was found early
that Sunday morning and of Jesus' arrival in Jerusalem before sunrise
on the Sunday of his resurrection.
not be alarmed,' he said. 'You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who
was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they
laid him.'" (Mark 16:6, NIV)
It is important to understand that Easter was not celebrated or
mentioned in the Bible. Rather, the three days from Good Friday
through Easter Sunday has become a traditional observance of when
Christians believe that the crucifixion, burial and resurrection of
It's not difficult to figure out the connection between the heart and
Valentine's Day. The heart, after all, was thought in ancient times to
be the source of all emotions. It later came to be associated only
with the emotion of love. (Today, we know that the heart is,
basically, the pump that keeps blood flowing through our bodies!) It's
not clear when the valentine heart shape became the symbol for the
heart (we all know the heart isn't really shaped like that). Some
scholars speculate that the heart symbol as we use it to signify
romance or love came from early attempts by people to draw an organ
they'd never seen. Anyway, here are some of the other valentine
symbols and their origins:
roses were said to be the favorite flower of Venus, the Roman goddess
of love; also, red is a color that signifies strong feelings.
has long been used to make women's handkerchiefs. Hundreds of years
ago, if a woman dropped her handkerchief, a man might pick it up for
her. Sometimes, if she had her eye on the right man, a woman might
intentionally drop her handkerchief to encourage him. So, people began
to think of romance when they thought of lace.
knots have series of winding and interlacing loops with no beginning
and no end. A symbol of everlasting love, love knots were made from
ribbon or drawn on paper.
Lovebirds, colorful birds found in Africa, are so named because they
sit closely together in pairs -- like sweethearts do! Doves are
symbols of loyalty and love, because they mate for life and share the
care of their babies.
about the "X" sign representing a kiss? This tradition
started with the Medieval practice of allowing those who could not
write to sign documents with an "X". This was done before
witnesses, and the signer placed a kiss upon the "X" to show
sincerity. This is how the kiss came to be synonymous with the letter
"X", and how the "X" came to be commonly used at
the end of letters as kiss symbols. (Some believed "X" was
chosen as a variation on the cross symbol, while others believe it
might have been a pledge in the name of Christ, since the
"X" or Chi symbol, is the second letter of the Greek
alphabet and has been used in church history to represent Christ.)
some controversy regarding Saint Valentine, for whom the famous day is
named. Archaeologists, who unearthed a Roman catacomb and an ancient
church dedicated to St. Valentine, are not sure if there was one
Valentine or more! Today, the Catholic Church recognizes at least
three different saints named Valentine or Valentinus, all of whom were
martyred on Feb. 14 -- at least two of those in Italy during the 3rd
century.) The most popular candidate for St. Valentine was a 3rd
century Roman priest who practiced Christianity and performed secret
marriages against direct orders from Emperor Claudius II, who believed
single soldiers were more likely to join his army. Legend has it that
Valentine sent a friend (the jailer's daughter) a note signed
"From Your Valentine" before he was executed on Feb. 14 in
270 A.D. (That phrase is still used prominently on today's cards!)
variety of interesting Valentine's Day traditions developed over time.
For example, hundreds of years ago in England, children dressed up as
adults on Valentine's Day and went singing holiday verses from door to
door. In Wales, wooden love spoons, carved with key, keyhole and heart
designs, were given as gifts.
gift of flowers on Valentine's Day -- along with Mother's Day, the
busiest floral holiday of the year -- probably dates to the early
1700s when Charles II of Sweden brought the Persian poetical art
called "the language of flowers" to Europe. Throughout the
18th century, floral lexicons were published, allowing secrets to be
exchanged with a lily or lilac, and entire conversations to take place
in a bouquet of flowers. The more popular the flower, the more
traditions and meanings have been associated with it. The rose,
representing love, is probably the only flower with a meaning that is
universally understood. The red rose remains the most popular flower
bought by men in the United States for their sweethearts. In more
recent years, people have sent their sweethearts their favorite
flowers, rather than automatically opting for roses. Also making the
list of valentine favorites are tulips, lilies, daisies and
early valentine gifts were candies, usually chocolates, in
heart-shaped boxes. Companies like Godiva Chocolatiers have made high
quality chocolate in artistic designs and elegant wrappings a
traditional valentine's gift. (If you're a chocolate connoisseur,
check out Godiva's chocolate glossary and try a few of their
Valentine's Day recipes!)
gifts of chocolates and flowers haven't replaced carefully chosen
cards on Valentine's Day. Since 1915, Hallmark, the undisputed leader
of the greeting card industry, has manufactured cards to be mailed in
envelopes. Founder Joyce Hall started selling greeting postcards from
two shoe boxes as early as 1910. The Norfolk, Neb., teenager with the
big ideas built a Kansas City business/global empire he hardly could
have imagined! Today, Hallmark makes a tremendously diverse range of
cards in 30 languages and sells them in more than 100 countries.
people still make their own valentines and most parents think these
are the best kind. And if you're not sure what to write in your
valentine, look at this Web site of love quotes.
modern valentine card has become increasingly sophisticated, keeping
pace with popular technological advances. For example, there are cards
that let you record a romantic message, "scratch-and-sniff"
cards (chocolate smells would be nice!) and cards that play romantic
of course, you can send e-mail valentines. Some sites even offer free
personal use of their illustrations or cards. Other technology allows
you to send a romantic fax or videotape with a personal valentine
message. But choose your valentine carefully -- some people find fax
and e-mail missives too impersonal -- and not private enough -- for
this holiday of love! Sometimes the best ideas are the simplest!