April 18, 2017

#05-032: May Potpourri

two pretty, dark-haired girls dance in colorful dresses with huge skirts
A Cinco de Mayo celebration in the U.S.

Note: May plays host to everything from the Mexican fiesta of Cinco de Mayo to the silly Star Wars Day, as well as Russia's end-of-school  celebration, "The Last Bell."

Get Ready: How do you (or did you) celebrate the end of the school year?

I've been looking for a word to describe unusual holidays. For previous months I've used "odd," though some are not so odd, and "frivolous," though many unusual holidays are quite serious.

Let's try "potpourri," a word describing a mixture of dried flower petals and spices placed in a bowl to add scent to a room, and now used to describe any pleasant assortment.

Here's a potpourri of holidays in May.


The first is very new: May 4th has been declared the international observance of Star Wars Day. Dating only to 2011, within two years it was being recognized by such global brands as The Walt Disney Company.

The holiday is based, of course, on a bad pun. (Are there any good puns?) One of the catchphrases from the movie "Star Wars" was "May the Force be with you." So on May 4th, people say: "May the Fourth be with you" (ugh) and have Star-Wars-themed events.


The next day is the Mexican celebration of Cinco de Mayo, meaning simply May the Fifth. On that day in 1862, Mexican troops triumphed over French invaders at the Battle of Puebla. Though the French eventually won the war and seated an emperor in Mexico City for three years, it was seen as a great achievement that 4,000 outnumbered Mexican soldiers beat a better-equipped French army of 8,000.

Today the holiday is celebrated well beyond Mexico's borders, including in the American Southwest. The food, drinks, and music of Mexico are promoted, especially by bar owners. This has led some to mistake Cinco de Mayo for Mexico's Independence Day, which it is not. That day occurred on September 16 in 1810, many years before the French invasion, when Mexico cast off the colonial yoke of Spain.


Finally, there is "the last bell," a Russian school celebration. Occurring between the last day of classes and the start of final exams, it usually falls on May 25th. The school bell is rung by the smallest female student in the first grade, carried on the shoulders of the tallest graduating student. Other activities, such as a school ball, also happen around this time. It is unclear how widely these rituals are still followed.


Read more:

Practice: Match the term to its definition below:

  1. better-equipped
  2. cast off
  3. catchphrases
  4. invaders
  5. outnumbered
  6. pun
  7. seated
  8. triumphed
  9. ugh
  10. yoke

  1. enemy soldiers who have entered a country
  2. having better weapons and supplies
  3. a joke based on similar sounds
  4. repeated sayings or slogans
  5. oppression; servitude
  6. sound of disgust, sometimes jokingly
  7. obtained a victory
  8. faced a larger army
  9. got rid of
  10. placed in power

Answers are in the first comment below.

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for April 18, 2017

1 comment:

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