Sunday, January 31, 2010

A holiday Dedicated to our Favorite Fuzzy Friend

When I was a little kid we used to celebrate Groundhog Day in elementary school. I really do mean little, since most of my memories were when I lived in California, which is pre 7 years old. I remember one year we made a cardboard cut out of our favorite weather animal, and stuck him on a stake and in a bucket of sand, to observe whether this cut out produced a shadow.

Two things related to this memory: 1. It is really strange that the only memory I have is this far back, and nothing post move. 2. Why did we worry about winter in CA? It is pretty nice there most of the time, so I don’t think a shadow really means winter weather for any longer amount of time.

But in all honestly, seeing that Tuesday marks Groundhog Day made me smile a little. This is one of those holidays that really doesn’t mean much in the grand scope of things. And ultimately, whether the little animal sees a shadow or not, I highly doubt it will determine what the weather will be like. In fact, it usually snows well into April here in Colorado, so I really don’t think it qualifies here at all. Nonetheless, this holiday actually has a pretty old tradition, and is somewhat worth noting for this week.

So, what is the history of Groundhog Day? Another old European tradition is Cadlemas day, where a sunny day signified six more weeks of winter. A cute quote I fond on this topic was "If Candlemas Day is bright and clear, there'll be two winters in the year."

According to the History Channel website, this holiday was adapted from a European Holiday of the same sort, however instead of a groundhog Europeans would use hedgehogs. The use of hedgehogs was apparently a German tradition, and German immigrants brought the tradition to America.

I have also fund that Groundhog Day is a holiday that is only celebrated in the U.S. and Canada. For those who don’t know, if it is sunny, the Groundhog sees its shadow and gets scared and runs back into his hole, predicting six more weeks of winter. But if it is cloudy, the groundhog does not see his shadow, predicting spring coming soon. The groundhog behaves accordingly, going back into his hole if winter is still here, or staying above ground if it will be spring soon. The first official Groundhog Day was celebrated February 2, 1886 in the U.S., actually Punxstawney, Pennsylvania to be exact. And I do believe it is still celebrated today.

Now, as an adult thinking on this tradition, I have to wonder why if it is sunny this weather signifies that winter will last six weeks. I also wonder why it is six weeks and not four weeks. Oh the silly traditions we celebrate. Regardless of what the Groundhog says, I guarantee it will still be winter in Colorado up until April because the weather here likes to screw us all over. Whatever, I like the snow, so six more weeks of winter really doesn’t bother me all that much. Happy Groundhog Day!

Addition on 2/2/10: This morning Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow, meaning we will have six more weeks of winter. This has been the third year in a row our friend has been frightened by his shadow predicting six more weeks of winter for us. Just saw on the TV that it is snowing lightly in PA where Phil is located. Smart little critter, I'd want to get back inside too! Happy Day everyone!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Germany in Transition

“What doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger” is a common phrase I say to myself whenever I know my life is about to get very difficult. This is what I’ve been saying to myself all week, since as the days go by I realize the magnitude of my semester.

With two senior classes, and three different history classes I will probably be averaging 300 pages a week of reading. So, I am going to pre apologize for the next few months, since I will probably be pulling a lot of material from my three history classes: Reconstruction and the New South, Ancient Israel and the World of the Bible and Europe in Crisis 1914-1945.

On the topic of Europe in Crisis, I was very happy to see a familiar topic happening this week. Perhaps it’s the exhaustion speaking, but I feel totally in my element seeing that Friday January 29 marks the anniversary of Hitler being appointed chancellor of Germany by von Hindenburg. Now, the next most interesting thing I found was that in 1858 the wedding march was played for the first time at Queen Victoria of England’s daughter was married.

Back to the subject of Hitler, which is a dark one indeed. His appointment to chancellor in 1933 signified his ultimate rise to power as the ultimate ruler of Germany. In fact, this week also signifies the anniversary of Germany and Poland’s non-attack peace treaty the two countries signed on January 27, 1934. The peace agreement stated the two countries would not attack one another for 10 years. One year later after he was appointed chancellor, and Europe was already worried about Hitler’s power in Germany. In fact, the peace would formally end in 1939 when Germany broke the peace agreement it had signed only five years earlier by invading Poland. This would also signify the formal start of WWII.

Do I really need to explain to everyone why this event is important to today? Unless you’ve been living under a rock, everyone knows about Hitler, at least I would hope you know about him. His rise to power ultimately led to Germany gaining most of Europe either through treaties or war, and WWII, as well as the Holocaust. The ramifications of the war we still feel today; one of my favorite random bits of knowledge about the war is that after WWII many of the European countries drifted towards more liberal leaders. The Cold War between the USSR and USA also came about because of the war, leading to the Iron curtain in Europe until the 80’s.

I know, I kinda slacked this week. I am really lucky it is a topic I know well through personal interest and my WWII in Europe class last spring. Oh well, just my luck, and I’m not complaining! Until next week everyone.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Henry VII

This week I wanted to blog about something different. And something I knew really well. And after looking over the events that happened this week on a different site than usual, I found some promising leads. Like Monday, January 19, was the day that Thomas Crapper patented the toilet. While that is a worthwhile thing to note, since the toilet was and still is an important invention, I don’t know that I really want to research how the toilet came about. So instead I will be blogging about how on January 18, 1486 King Henry VII married Elizabeth.

At the very end of the semester of my Medieval England History class we learned about King Henry VII as a conclusion of the war of the Roses and a tie in to the Tudor family and High Middle Ages.

For those who don’t know, the War of the Roses was a battle between the Lancastrian and York families in England, basically both part of the same family, descendants of King Edward III. But since he had 12 children, this formed two branches of the family vying for the thrown. After Edward III death, young Richard II (a York) inherited the thrown. He was the grandson of Edward III, his father Edward the Black Prince was the eldest son of Kind Edward III, but died from dysentery months before Edward III own death. Thus, based on feudal law Richard, not one of his Uncles, inherited the thrown.

Now, I hope that everyone here sees that this should cause problems. Here we have a young, minor King ruling in place when there were several elder Uncles fit for the job. But the Feudal System set in place by William I, or William the Conqueror (or William the Bastard as he was known before. As my teacher said, being a bastard in the Middle Ages wasn’t the worst thing, and William had a serious upgrade in name when he invaded England) when he became King of England and brought over the French customs.

So, within a few years the Uncles got angry and the Lancastrians decided to fight Richard II, and when they won, Henry IV became King of England. So for the next 30 years the Lancastrians were the Kings in England, until the York’s saw their chance and took the thrown with Edward IV. Instead of living a long time though, he died with a minor son. In England a minor King is never a good thing since he acts through regents until he reaches his maturity. His uncle Richard saw this as a weakness for the York’s, and in order to keep the power in his family he made the decision to take the crown of England.

May I say while Richard was breaking Feudal Law by taking the crown of England, prior to William I invasion in 1066 the Anglo Saxon Kings after Alfred the Great inherited brother to sons. So, this was a previous tradition in England, but the English people then, as of now, didn’t like the idea of a King who killed the rightful heir (a child even) to gain the crown. He was extremely unpopular, and there was another claimant to the thrown other than Richard: Henry Tudor.

After about three years of reigning the rebellion against Richard, Henry Tudor finally came to England. In the climax of fighting Henry Tudor killed Richard III. This signaled his uncontested rise to be the next English King, and in many ways he used traditional Germanic means of fighting to gain the thrown. In the early days of England, when there were the seven German kingdoms, the King was chosen as the most skillful fighter, so this rise to power was similar to the early German Kings in England. Henry Tudor was the next King of England.

And now we come back to the original reason for writing: his marriage to Elizabeth. Henry was a descendant of Katherine, the wife of John of Gaunt, a Lancastrian. Thus, Henry associated more with the Lancastrians, and in order to bridge the gap between the two families, Henry decided a marriage between the two households was the best way to bridge the gap. So, he married Elizabeth a descendant of Kind Edward IV, and York (and also a woman that Richard III wanted to marry as well, but if you want to know more about that I suggest reading Shakespeare’s play Richard III).

King Henry VII was the last king before the High Middle Ages, and he brought England back to glory. He was considered one of the new reform Kings in Europe, along with Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand of Span, and through treaties and building up the treasury by staying out of war, he was able to rebuild England and leave it a wealthy country in peace. But, unlike father, Henry VIII would not keep the peace for long, but that is another history lesson entirely.

So now comes the fun part; why is this relevant to today? King Henry VII reigned from 1485-1509, a long time ago, so he hardly seems relevant. Perhaps it was that King Henry was able to take England and rebuild the country. Before he became King, the country was in debt from the Hundred Years War, and had internal turmoil due to the fighting between the two families. King Henry, through treaties, was able to keep England out of war with France, allowing the treasury to grow again. When he died, Henry left England financially stable and at peace with the world. The best I can think is that it was this foundation that allowed England to grow into the world power it would be during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I and on. With her defeat of the Spanish Armada, Spain would no longer be a threat. And her exploration into North America with the colonies would lay the foundations for the United States and Canada. I imagine that if Henry VII hadn’t laid the foundations for her, the world may have turned out quite different.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Football's Greatest Day

It has always been my plan to blog about the history of the Super Bowl, football’s greatest day; the day when the AFC, or American Football Conference takes on the NFC, or National Football Conference. However, my original plan was to do it a little closer to the actual Super Bowl date of February 7. But when looking for historical events this week, I found that the first Super Bowl was actually played this week, January 15 in 1967.

So, football will be my topic this week, especially considering the only other event of any interest to me was the Knights Templar’s creation. But because I know little about them (for now, hopefully my Ancient Israel class next semester will change that) I decided now was as good as any other time for a blog dedicated to Football, one of America’s favorite past times.

According to on January 15, 1967 the Green Bay Packers took on the Kansas City Chiefs, winning 35-10. 60 million viewers apparently watched this sporting event, and today the tradition lives on.

But I think the greater historical question at this point is what is football, and how did st sport originate?

Football originated from the Ancient Greek sport called harpaston, a game described as brutal in nature in classical literature. The rules rewarded a team that got the ball across a line either by kicking, throwing or running. The other team stopped this by any means possible. Sounds like modern football to me, minus the specific field length and lack of drives.

But modern football originated in England during the 12th Century. The sport became so popular the kings of the time actually banned football because it was taking interest away from the traditional sports of archery and fencing.

Football was picked up again in the 1800’s in seven English colleges. Six of the schools played one way, which evolved into soccer (or football as the rest of the world calls it) and the seventh school played by carrying the ball instead of kicking it, which turned into Rugby. Honestly, I don’t follow either Soccer or Rugby, so the rules seem foreign to me. So I’m just going to leave it at that, because I may be boring you all enough already.

November 6, 1869 was the birth date of American Football when teams from two colleges, Rutgers and Princeton, met for a game. In 1873 the Intercollegiate Football Association was formed to establish rules for the game, since many of the current rules were taken from soccer. Now we insert the rules of carrying the ball a certain distance, with a certain number of tries.

The American Professional Football Association was created in 1920, and in 1922 it was renamed and reorganized into the National Football League. The professional league grew from 10 teams, to 26 in the 70’s when the NFL merged, creating the NFC and AFC. Today there are 30 teams in eight conferences with four teams in each conference.

But what about the fate of the Super Bowl? Since it’s beginnings in 1967 the Super Bowl has grown in importance in American culture. Today the Super Bowl is a huge event with a halftime show and economic importance because of the audience the event draws. Super Bowl means big bucks for TV, and companies. The Wall Street Journal has several articles about big companies dropping out of the Super Bowl ad line up, and buying spots.

So, on February 7, millions will sit down to see two teams face off. The Who is set to rock the half time, so there hopefully won’t be another “wardrobe malfunction.” And after their game against the Cardinals on Sunday, unfortunately the Green Bay Packers will not be participating this year.

So who will be playing? Only time will tell. And after the game, it will be history.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Telegraph

It is time once again for me to update my readers about what has historically happened during this week in history. Now, while history is my passion, I do have another major that I am pursuing while in college: journalism.

This last semester I was able to take a media history class, learning about the way media has evolved over time in America. Because of this I was excited to see that in my research January 6 marks the day that Samuel Morse demonstrated his telegraph system in 1838.

The telegraph was revolutionary because it allowed information to be transmitted quickly over great distances. The telegraph was the first real modern information system, and allowed the nature of news to change forever.

Before the telegraph was invented, information took weeks to reach people, and with the creation of mores code information could be distributed much faster. The AP was created to spread news on a national level via the telegraph.

But really why was the telegraph so influential? It was the first mass media that was able to travel across the nation, and eventually the world. It was the first media to be electric even, paving the way for radio later, then TV and now the Internet.

Another interesting tid-bit about the telegraph: because it was a new technology, it was expensive to use. Just like the satellite when it first became available to TV, information cost a lot to transmit, so reporters had to choose what they sent back to headquarters to be included in articles. A long story cost a lot of money to send via telegraph, so usually only facts were sent, and the reporters at headquarters usually added the details later. But since these reporters did not see first hand, a lot of these details were false, which may have led to the rise of sensational reporting in America.

Along with the rise of the telegraph came the rise of mores code, used in the states for 160 years, although now it is pretty much extinct except for historical reenactments.

So that’s the news for this week; the telegraph, something everyone knows about, but may not give the credit it deserves. Like many things it paved the way for communication today, leading all the way up to the Internet and the information you are reading as we speak.