March 21, 2017

#05-020: A Potpourri of March Holidays

old wall with four arched openings occupied by mission-style bells; to right is statue of a Franciscan priest and a native boy
Capistrano Mission will ring these Bells when the first swallows appear.

Note: Johnny Appleseed, π, Saint Joseph, and the announcement of Jesus's birth--March has a lot going on!

Get Ready: When do you celebrate Father's Day? Why that day, and not some other?

Here's a potpourri of unusual or interesting days in March.

On March 11, Americans celebrate the folk hero known as "Johnny Appleseed." John Chapman (1774-1845) was a real enough person, a nurseryman who promoted the cultivation of apple trees over a large area. But he has become a legend, portrayed as a vagabond who went around planting trees, rather than as a solid businessman.

Another fun day, only a few decades old, is "Pi Day," celebrated on March 14. Can you guess why? "March 14" is written "3/14" (American style, in the month-day format), which reflects the first three numbers in pi (π), which is 3.14159 etc. There's another holiday on July 22 called "Pi Approximation Day," since 22/7 (the date written in the day-month format) is the closest this irrational number can come to being expressed as a fraction.

March 19 is Saint Joseph's Day. It's not really such a big deal; there are lots of saints' days. But because Joseph kindly accepted the role of being Jesus' step-father, it is celebrated as Father's Day in Spain, Portugal, Belgium, Italy, Honduras, and Bolivia.

A more interesting observance is based on the allegation that this is the day the swallows return to the old Catholic mission church in San Juan Capistrano, California. That the birds return around this time to begin nesting is a fact; but a whole industry has grown up around their supposed targeting of March 19. There's a yearly week-long fiesta with a parade and street market.

And in 1940 a composer named Leon René wrote the chart-topping song, "When the Swallows Come Back to Capistrano."

Finally for now, on March 25 the Church celebrates the Feast of the Annunciation, the day when an angel supposedly appeared to a young girl named Mary to announce that she would be the mother of Jesus. The date is simply nine months before Christmas, which, as we have said, is the fabricated birthday of Jesus. This day is Mother's Day in Slovenia. It's called "Lady Day" in the U.K., and is one of the "Quarter Days"--church holidays falling near the solstices and equinoxes.


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Practice: Match the term to its definition below:

  1. allegation
  2. chart-topping
  3. cultivation
  4. fabricated
  5. fiesta
  6. fraction
  7. irrational number
  8. nurseryman
  9. potpourri
  10. vagabond

  1. Spanish for "festival" or party
  2. made up
  3. a number that cannot be expressed as a fraction
  4. a person who grows plants for sale
  5. a collection of unrelated objects
  6. the raising of plants
  7. an assertion made with little proof
  8. reaching the highest rank in sales (of music)
  9. a person who wanders from place to place
  10. a number expressed as a ratio, like 1/2 or 5/4

Answers are in the first comment below.

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for March 21, 2017

1 comment:

  1. Answers to the Practice: 1. g; 2. h; 3. f; 4. b; 5. a; 6. j; 7. c; 8. d; 9. e; 10. i