Some Gave All
Memorial Day 2021
Whatever country you are from, there are people that you may or may not know, who sacrificed their lives for the cause of the many.
As holidays go, Easter is a strange one. We’re here today to look at Easter’s origins, and how it’s celebrated around the world. Just make sure to keep some chocolate on standby in case of cravings.
By far the most prolific explanation comes from the Anglo-Saxon goddess of fertility known as Eostre. The goddess had 10 variants of her name, including Ostara, Eostur and Austron — which made adding her as a contact on your phone a nightmare — but it’s agreed that the root of her name comes from “eastre,” meaning “spring.” This was adopted and used as a Christian celebration. Despite the fact that this is one of the top explanations, there’s a lot of debate over whether Eostre was even an actual goddess worshipped by people. You know, just to confuse you further.
Out of all the animals to be designated as the one who delivers chocolate eggs, why a rabbit? The tradition definitely has a back story, but which story you get depends on who you ask. There have been several claims for the origin of the iconic rabbit, and they span different religions and traditions.
One theory states that the Easter Bunny originated from our friend Eostre. The story goes that, once upon a time, Eostre stumbled upon a bird dying from the cold in the snow. She turned the bird into a hare, so that its fluffy coat kept it warm and safe. Because it was once a bird, it still laid eggs, so the rabbit decorated them and left them as gifts to Eostre for saving its life. This is also an explanation for the Easter egg hunt — looking for the eggs that the bird-rabbit hid. Although stealing gifts from a goddess is probably not the best idea.
Another story states that the Easter Bunny came about because, once upon a time, people believed that rabbits were hermaphrodites, making them able to give birth without losing their virginity. This has strong ties to the virgin birth of Jesus from Mary, so people began to relate rabbits to them. Some churches even sport a three hare motif, consisting of three hares connected by their ears running in a circle, a potential symbol of the Holy Trinity. However, these have been found all over the world, and their true meaning is unknown.
A third story points a finger to the first record of the Easter Rabbit in De ovis paschalibus, a German book that translates to About the Easter Egg. It states that the tradition had existed in the Christian-dominated Alsace, carried over to America with German immigrants in the 1700s, and sparked the annual chocolate gluttony ever since. There’s been no historic record yet that says people waited a day later to get eggs much cheaper, though.
Now that we’ve tackled the myths and legends behind Easter, we can look at the events that take place around the world leading up to, and on, the holy day. One is Semana Santa, held within cities across Spain.
Semana Santa means Holy Week, the period leading up to Easter Sunday. In it, all shops and stores except restaurants close, and the entire city is transformed.55 different churches take part in the festival, parading large floats that resemble Jesus in some way. The floats make their way from their church of origin to the cathedral, and then back again. While a sombre celebration, it’s one that draws tourists from all over the world to see its magnificence.
The Epitáphios Threnos is a tradition in Greek Orthodox religions that’s held on Good Friday. It means Lamentation at the Tomb, and is in essence a funeral service to respect the death of Jesus by re-enacting the way he was buried after his crucifixion. The Epitáphios Threnos takes place in churches, where an epitaphios is placed atop something representing the tomb of Christ. The epitaphios is a highly-adorned piece of cloth that represents the shroud Jesus was wrapped in. The tomb is decorated with flower petals and rosewater before hymns are spoken. Interactions with this tomb vary depending on tradition — some will hold it over the church entrance so that believers pass under it, a symbol of entering the grave alongside Christ.
A prolific theory behind the Easter ham resides in Christianity. The story states that a wicked queen named Ishtar gave birth to a son called Tammuz. This son would become a hunter, but his career was cut short when he was killed by a wild pig. Presumably out of spite, and maybe with a love for bacon mixed in, Ishtar designated a Sunday on which people consumed pig.
Another theory states that, while lamb was usually the go-to dish for its symbolism with Passover, ham would be used because pigs were considered a symbol of good luck. Killing and eating symbols of good luck seems to be a bad idea, but at least it got ham on the table.
Another source gives a more practical approach. Before the invention of refrigeration, pigs were slaughtered in the fall and preserved during winter. Should some of the meat not be consumed during the winter months, it would be cured so it could be eaten during springtime. When did the curing finish?Around Easter, making it an ideal dish for the season. It’s a less exciting origin, but it makes good sense.
In the United Kingdom, a select few people are given money the day before Good Friday. These coins, known as Maundy Money, have a long history. It began when Jesus gave the command “that ye love one another” after he washed the feet of his disciples, who probably felt they could get used to that sort of treatment. This became a fourth century tradition where the poor have their feet washed and are given clothes. This stopped around the eighteenth century, and was replaced by an allowance to give the poor the chance to buy food and clothing. Thus was born the Maundy Money.
Today, a selection of elders receive a red and white purse. The red one contains legal currency, while the white one contains special symbolic Maundy coins. These people are selected by the amount of Christian service they have performed, so if you see some senior citizens suddenly taking a great interest in the church and goodwill approaching Easter, now you know why.
Painting eggs on Easter is always fun. But it doesn’t have to be child’s play — the Ukrainian Easter tradition of Pysanka eggs are a craft all by themselves. These highly-decorated eggs have been made during Holy Week for generations. Even when Easter is nowhere near, people can’t resist making them. While people once made eggs to ensure fertility and avoid fires and nasty spirits, today they take to the art form for the aesthetic allure.
How do Pysanka eggs differ from regular ones? The preparation, mostly. After designing a pattern on an uncooked or empty egg, it’s then dipped in a colored dye. Between the dyeing stages, the craftsman draws patterns on the egg with wax, so as to seal the color currently on the egg and create the intricate patterns you see on the final product. In short, if the rabbits you paint on Easter eggs end up looking like the one out of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, perhaps consider purchasing Pysanka eggs instead.
After a busy Easter, it’s easy to imagine that people are sick to death of anything based around eggs. It would be a good idea for them to stay away from Haux in France, whose Easter traditions are just dying to have egg-based puns written about them. Every year on Easter Monday, the residents create a large omelet. This isn’t the kind of large omelet you get when you drop a box of eggs on the floor — it’s not unheard of for the final result to come in at three yards wide to feed 1,000 people. One year’s omelet saw 5,211 eggs, 21 quarts of oil, and 110 pounds of bacon, onion and garlic, which sure beats what you get at Denny’s. You could even call it eggstreme, if you wanted us to come over there and smack you.
One of the longest running traditions of Easter is the Passion Play. Because a lot of people in medieval times couldn’t read, plays were a great way to educate the masses about the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection. There are passion plays held all over the world, but one of the most famous is the Oberammergau Passion Play. Its roots began during the black plague, when the residents of Oberammergau were on high alert to keep the disease out. A farmer coming home from a nearby village brought the plague back with him, which killed one-fifth of the town. With the disease ravaging the town, the elders declared that the church would hold a passion play every 10 years in exchange for God’s blessing and protection (you’d think they’d try every 10 days considering the circumstances, but whatever). The play has been performed every 10 years since 1633, with only a ban in 1770, World War I, and World War II stopping three shows. Thankfully, no outbreaks of plague happened on those years.
If you’re discussing what you do on Easter with a friend, and they reveal that what they love most about it is the part where people with blackened faces perform a folk dance down the streets, you may have just met someone from Bacup, England. Every Easter, The Britannia Coco-Nut Dancers, or Nutters, perform a folk dance from one town boundary to the other. What makes these dancers unique is their blackened faces, but no one is sure of their origins. It might be from medieval times to hide the faces of those who participated to stop evil spirits from getting their revenge, or it may have ties to the mining industry. Either way, the custom has come under fire for its potential racist nature, with the Nutters swearing that the blackened faces have no racial aspect whatsoever. Like every dispute around Easter, we hope this one can be solved with chocolate.
When we think about harvest festivals, we automatically think of Thanksgiving in the United States. But there have always been harvest festivals everywhere – autumn celebrations jubilantly thanking the gods for their gracious, abundant bounty, and praying for their blessing to live and thrive for another year.
Mehregan, the Festival of Autumn, is the Persian version of Thanksgiving. It is a Zoroastrian festival that goes back to the 4th century BC, long before Persians become Muslims. It takes its name from Mehr, the Zoroastrian deity of love and friendship. Much of this Harvest Holiday has changed since antiquity, largely after the rise of Islam. But Mehregan is still celebrated by many modern Persians, especially since its revival in the 1960′s when the Postal Service of Tehran, to commemorate the Mehregan Festival, issued a special limited edition of postage stamps, now considered rare collectibles.
Mehregan includes family reunions across the country, prayers in front of large mirrors, and an lavishly-decorated dinner table adorned with old fashioned silver plates and disks, flowers, incense, wild marjoram, and silver coins. There’s lots of traditional food, served with sherbet, rosewater, almonds, sweets, apples, pomegranates, and lotus seeds. The extravagant settings give you the feeling that you are back in ancient Persia
This is an ancient version of Thanksgiving, and even though it isn’t celebrated today, we can’t overlook its historical significance and the role this holiday played in Ancient Rome. Cerelia was dedicated to Ceres, the Roman Goddess of grain. It was celebrated every autumn on October 4th, so this Harvest Festival is also called the “Autumnal Festival.”
The Romans loved to party, and Cerelia was no exception. The festival included parades, sporting events in front of the ecstatic Roman crowd, and splendid Thanksgiving feasts, held either privately in the homes of the wealthy, or publicly, organized by the municipality. Revelers feasted on roasted pigs and the first products of the autumn harvest – all dedicated to Ceres as sign of gratitude. Along with the mountains of food to eat, citizens also drank rivers of wine, which helped fuel a common Roman custom not mentioned in your schoolbooks – lots of sex and orgies.
Chuseok, also known as the Korean Thanksgiving, is a major holiday in Korea. Its date is determined by the lunar calendar, so it is held on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month. The holiday usually lasts three days, and like most Harvest festivals, it includes family reunions. In Korea, families gather at their ancestral homes to give thanks and to feast on delicious traditional food, like delicate rice cakes steamed on a bed of pine needles.
After the holiday meal is over, family members visit their ancestors’ graves for Beolcho – the customary act of clearing away any weeds that may have grown up over the burial mound. They also play traditional folk games such as Ganggangsullae – a kind of dance that goes back five thousand years. In Korea, gift-giving is part of the Harvest festival, and it’s common to give attractively boxed gifts of a popular food –spam.
Fans of steak and BBQ probably value this day more than even Christmas or Easter, and there’s a good reason for that. In Greece there’s nothing similar to Thanksgiving except Tsiknopempti, the closest thing the country has to a Harvest Festival. It’s one of the traditional celebrations of February’s Carnival season in Greece. It always falls on a Thursday, and this is where it gets its name, since Tsiknopempti loosely translated means “Barbecue Thursday.” It’s the time for the Greeks to thank the Lord for the bounties He gave them during the year, and to gain strength for the next forty days of fasting, the Lenten days before Easter.
So during Tsiknopempti the mouth-watering aromas of barbecuing meats fill every corner of every street in Greece. At night, the hosts of the family reunions lay out vast amounts of souvlaki, gyros, lamb, and pork. Add lots of wine, and the night ends with plenty of high-spirited plate smashing and joyous dancing.
The Brazilian version of Thanksgiving is similar to the American one, and there’s an historical explanation for this. Thanksgiving was established in the country of coffee in the late 1940′s by Brazilian President Gaspar Dutra after he heard the Brazilian ambassador to the United States describe the American holiday. Originally the Brazilian version of Thanksgiving was almost identical to the American one; in 1966, Brazil even officially designated the fourth Thursday of November as Thanksgiving Day, just as it is in the United States. Brazilians, however, have a colorful and diverse culture of their own, and through the years they have greatly changed the holiday, so that now it’s quite different from the American Thanksgiving.
The influence of the American Thanksgiving in Liberia is really obvious. In fact, this holiday, along with the Canadian Thanksgiving, is one of the versions of Thanksgiving most like the American one. That has a reasonable explanation, since Liberia was established as an official state only in 1822, mainly by freed African-American slaves. Naturally the former Americans carried many cultural elements of their previous country to their new land, and one of them was Thanksgiving, now celebrated in Liberia every year on the first Thursday of November. Over the years, however, aspects of African culture – and more specifically Liberian culture – were added to the American traditions, and the holiday shows the changes.
For one thing, Liberians offer their gratitude that they are free people today, and no longer slaves. But some of the biggest differences are in the food. Liberians prefer chicken to turkey, and mashed cassava is served instead of mashed potatoes. Liberians really love their food all hot and spicy, so Thanksgiving dishes are made with plenty of cayenne and fiery peppers.
The Crop Over summer festival is the biggest harvest holiday festival in Barbados. As early as the 1870′s, the people of Barbados organized Crop Over festivals to thank God and to rejoice in another year of bountiful sugar cane harvests. But the celebration faded away for many decades after the decline of sugar production that began the mid-1940′s.
Then in 1974 the holiday was revived, with more elements of Barbadian culture added. The Crop Over festival nowadays includes parades and colorful carnivals, with big doses of calypso music and dancing, and even bigger doses of local food, candy, and excessive alcohol – all more reminiscent of the carnivals of Brazil than of Thanksgiving in the United States.
This festival is one of the most important holidays in modern Ghana, celebrated mostly by the people of Ga, as they are known – the most adventurous and exploratory ethnic group in Ghana. The people of Ga once traveled all across Africa before finally settling in Ghana. During this migration they endured many hardships, including a terrible famine. From those memories Homowo (meaning “to jeer at hunger”) was born.
Homowo starts in May with the traditional sowing of millet by priests, and commemorates the day the ancestors won victory over hunger. After the harvest in August and September, the people feast on traditional favorites such as palm nut soup with fish. Famine is hooted at and ridiculed with songs and dancing, and the revelers praise God for the good fortune that guided them to the blessed land of Ghana.
Germans celebrate their own version of Thanksgiving, but in their own unique way. The main difference between similar holidays around the world and Germany’s Erntedankfest is that in Germany it’s not a holiday that most Germans combine with family reunions. It’s a religious holiday which differs regionally depending on each location’s history and cultural traditions.
Erntedankfest, which means “Harvest Festival,” is usually celebrated in late September or early October. It’s a Protestant holiday in which the church plays a large role. An Erntedankfest celebration in a big city like Berlin typically includes volunteer work for the poor and attending Mass, followed by music, dancing, and lots of food in and outside the church. The festival is especially popular with the youngsters because it peaks with torch-lit parades and fireworks.
The Moon Festival, also known as the Mid-Autumn Festival, is the Chinese version of Thanksgiving. It is considered one of the most significant traditional celebrations in China, going back to antiquity. Legend says that the Goddess Chang’e flew to the moon, where she would stay forever. Now she is considered the Goddess of the Moon, and the Moon Festival is dedicated to her.
The children love such fairytales and myths, but the Moon Festival is also a great opportunity for family reunions, and every year, on the evening of August’s Harvest Moon, most Chinese families find a way to get together to enjoy the full moon, eat delicious pastries called “moon cakes,” dance, sing, and recite traditional “Moon Poems.’’
Unmarried people consider the Moon Festival a perfect opportunity for romance. All over the country, young men coax their best girls to slip away for a moment for a conversation commonly held on this romantic evening – a proposal of marriage under the beautiful moon.
Figures such as Santa Claus definitely have more than one interpretation. They also tend to evolve. Generally though, whenever Norman Rockwell put an illustration on the Saturday Evening Post, it quickly became definitive. Rockwell’s Santa would start appearing on covers of the Post in the 1920’s. This is important in that Rockwell’s paintings would go on to influence even more influential representations of Claus later in the century. Their widespread use would even go on to serve as an inspiration for Coca-Cola’s 1930’s Christmas campaign, which many (falsely) consider to be the birth of the modern Santa Claus.
Tadahito Mochinaga was a pioneering stop motion animator, who worked in both China and Japan. However, it is his work with the company headed by Arthur Rankin and Jules Bass which earns him a spot on this list. The actual animation for the Rankin/Bass specials of the 1960’s was farmed out to Asian studios. This would mean that, when you watch the distinctive look and animation for Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer, the look and animations were actually done by Mochinga. In that way, Mochinga influenced many of the other Rankin/Bass Christmas specials to come. His works also continue to influence how we see Christmas to this day.
When 8-year-old Virginia O’Hanlon wrote to the New York Sun in 1897, asking if there was a Santa Claus, Francis Church had an iconic response at the ready. His famous answer of, “Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus,” originally published on September 21, has gone on to become the most re-printed editorial of all time. While he doesn’t come out and say whether Santa is a physical being or not, he still challenges the reader (and Virginia) to imagine a world without Santa, fairies, or basically goodness and imagination at all.
“Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus” has also provided a way for parents to answer a child’s delicate question with hope. It has also become a catchphrase, especially during the holiday season. It is hard to believe, but rather appropriate, that initially Church never signed his name to it. It wasn’t about him, after all. It was about something much bigger.
Quick trivia question: what was the highest-grossing domestic movie of 2000? That would be Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Though many likely look back with regret on their decision to give Jim Carrey their money for that thing, it’s proof positive that the Grinch name carries a megaton of weight.
How The Grinch Stole Christmas was originally released as a book by Theodore “Dr. Seuss” Geisel in 1957. Subsequently, generations would grow up on the animated special directed by Chuck Jones narrated by Frankenstein’s Boris Karloff. Ostensibly, Grinch is a rallying cry against the crass commercialization of Christmas. However, Grinch goes a little deeper into the psyche of what has become a universal holiday. While Grinch is certainly against commercialization,Grinch also does not seem to endorse any specific religious interpretation of the holiday. Rather, Grinch argues that Christmas has managed to develop a spirit all its own, which crosses all barriers and beliefs. In that, Christmas is allowed to bring out the best of humanity, regardless of our origins or beliefs.
Robert L. May was working as a copywriter for the department store Montgomery Ward in the late 1930’s, when he received a curious assignment from his bosses. Montgomery Ward wanted to hand out a picture book at Christmas time in their stores, and it was May’s job to write one. May’s daughter, Barbara, was entranced by the deer at a Chicago Zoo, and her love of the creatures inspired Robert to write about a previously-unknown puller of Santa’s sleigh.
Haddon Sunblom was a noted illustrator throughout his life, who would even go on to do some risque material for Playboy. However, in the 1930’s, Sundblom was commissioned by the Coca-Cola company to draw Santa Claus for a campaign. The Coca-Cola Santa Claus would go on to become a definitive representation of Santa Claus for generations world-wide. The charm of Sundblom’s Santa is that he would use actual models to establish the grandfatherly appeal of the Coca-Cola Santa. Sundblom based his Santa initially on a friend of his named Lou Prentiss, a retired salesman. Sundblom would later base Santa on himself. While Sundblom was not the first illustrator to do the Coca Cola Santa, his is considered the most definitive.
Most artists would probably consider themselves lucky to have one song associated with them decades after it has been recorded. Gene Autry (the singing, acting, baseball team-owning cowboy) has two of the great seminal hits in the history of Christmas songs. Autry sang both Here Comes Santa Clausand Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer. Autry is also the voice behind the classic recording of Frosty The Snowman. If you add in Peter Cottontail, then Autry is nothing less than the classic singing voice of every holiday occasion. The only way he could have been any more awesome, would have been to fight robots and aliens in his films, all while dressed as a singing cowboy of course.
Everyone knows the classic Charles Dickens tale A Christmas Carol. The story of Ebeneezer Scrooge has been told and retold through every major media form that we have several times over. The one thing we often don’t think about is how Christmas was celebrated before A Christmas Carol. Before Dickens’s work, Christmas was a community celebration. After Dickens, it was much more of a family and personal celebration.
Also, Dickens’s 1843 novel describes a white Christmas, which was supposed to demonstrate the bleakness of everybody’s lives thanks to Scrooge and his scrooginess. As a matter of fact, eastern England is very rarely subject to such conditions in December. Nevertheless, a more optimistic, idealized interpretation of snow on Christmas prevailed, and dreaming of a White Christmas is a thing to this very day. This is all thanks to Dickens, even though he didn’t mean it that way.
Thomas Nast was a political and cultural cartoonist in the 19th century. In addition to satirizing New York City politicians, Nast also gave us our earliest depictions of what Santa Claus should look like. Nast depicted Santa bandying about on rooftops (an idea which was first shared with Americans by Washington Irving,) and gave us the classic idea of how Santa should be dressed. To this day, the very idea of Christmas seems to recall 19th century Americana, as well as Victorian England. This is largely due to the influence of Nast. Later illustrators simply put Nast’s cartoons in a modern setting.
Clement Clark Moore was a professor of Divinity and Literature at an New York Episcopal college when, in 1822, he sat down to write a Christmas poem for his family. Moore never intended for the poem (originally titled A Visit From St. Nicolas) to even be published. It was only at his family’s begging and insistence that Visit was published a year later. Under its revised title, The Night BeforeChristmas, the poem became an immediate smash success, one that’s still succeeding close to 200 years later.
The story of a man catching Santa Claus late at night is so well-known, that many do not realize its groundbreaking nature. Moore, in one little poem, all but invented Christmas mythology. He named the reindeer, was the first to call St. Nicolas an “elf,” cemented the idea of Santa going from rooftop to rooftop, and codified most every concept about Santa entering your home to leave gifts. Outside of milk and cookies, there is virtually nothing about the legend of Santa that was not influenced by this poem. There’s a good chance at least some of these ideas were already popular circulation, but the fact that Moore took the time to write them down means he is the reason we’re all celebrating Christmas today.
In the United States, the modern Thanksgiving holiday tradition is commonly, but not universally, traced to a poorly documented 1621 celebration at Plymouth in present-day Massachusetts. The 1621 Plymouth feast and thanksgiving was prompted by a good harvest.Pilgrims and Puritans who began emigrating from England in the 1620s and 1630s carried the tradition of Days of Fasting and Days of Thanksgiving with them to New England. Several days of Thanksgiving were held in early New England history that have been identified as the “First Thanksgiving”, including Pilgrim holidays in Plymouth in 1621 and 1623, and a Puritan holiday in Boston in 1631. According to historian Jeremy Bangs, director of the Leiden American Pilgrim Museum, the Pilgrims may have been influenced by watching the annual services of Thanksgiving for the relief of the siege of Leiden in 1574, while they were staying in Leiden.In later years, religious thanksgiving services were declared by civil leaders such as Governor Bradford, who planned a thanksgiving celebration and fast in 1623. The practice of holding an annual harvest festival did not become a regular affair in New England until the late 1660s.
Thanksgiving proclamations were made mostly by church leaders in New England up until 1682, and then by both state and church leaders until after the American Revolution. During the revolutionary period, political influences affected the issuance of Thanksgiving proclamations. Various proclamations were made by royal governors, John Hancock, General George Washington, and the Continental Congress each giving thanks to God for events favorable to their causes. As President of the United States, George Washington proclaimed the first nation-wide thanksgiving celebration in America marking November 26, 1789, “as a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favours of Almighty God”.
In modern times the President of the United States, in addition to issuing a proclamation, will “pardon” a turkey, which spares the bird’s life and ensures that it will spend the duration of its life roaming freely on farmland.
“We will discuss your father’s crazy idea after dinner, when the guests leave.”
“I get the hint, Mother. Feel free to torture me.”
“Oh, by the way, we invited Frankie, from…”
“The Dry Goods Manager, from store #3? You really must think I am desperate!”
“Your Father invited him to Thanksgiving, at the last minute. Seems he never had a father and his mother died two weeks ago.”
“Yes, I remember, very sad, but I do not view him as a possible suitor.” She is still somewhat of a prize, but should the classically endowed “Gibson Girls” go out of favor, 25 pounds will need to be shed.
“Don’t get the wrong impression, Agnes. He is a nice man, not altogether without merit, but he does not represent our desires for you. Be yourself around him; make him feel at home, that’s all we ask of you.”
“You always manage to keep me grounded,” Agnes admits.
“Now Cyril Odz, he is a different story. We continue to hear nothing but good things about him from your brother.”
James has been on the lookout for possible mates for years and he has informed Martha that the Gadsden County Sheriff fits all the criteria.
“Look who is here, dear.” John ushers Ziggy into the kitchen, along with the bag of beets and rutabaga stalks he insisted on contributing. They will need special attention to fit in with meal, but no one will be the wiser.
While Doc Ziggy is in his eighties, his mind is still sharp as a tack, as adept are his arthritic hands. So don’t you dare — walk with bare — feet that is. “Martha, you must improve your posture,” he places a hand on the smallest of her back and one on her left breast, while lifting. If he were anyone else, a slap across the brow would be in order. “Laura, Alpha and Maggie Lou vill be by shortly and do not throw out za greens from za beets, boil zem is salt vater.” Advanced age does have its privilege.
That afternoon, after all have assembled at Hillside Estate, there is so much to be thankful for. John Ferrell speaks for them all, with an inspirational grace for the ages, lifted to the heavens and direct from his heart. Unbeknownst to him, his prayer strikes a deep cord with Frankie, leading him to accept Jesus as his Savior. Agnes had wondered why he had been invited, this is her answer. The plans of man are mere pieces of the great plan of God.
John ponders Scotish aid.
‘I wonder if he wants to go see where his family has its roots.’ She knows John is eager, knee-deep in his new project, but a look that would stop a charging bull in its tracks, halts his notion there and then. ‘No, I suppose he has better things to do… busy, busy, busy, always something,’
Thanksgiving is the next day.
“And please do not spoil Thanksgiving dinner with too much talk of Scotland. It will be difficult enough dealing with the extra guests.” She is in the kitchen, preparing to prepare enough food to feed the Third Scottish Regiment, with Agnes’ help… as soon as she wakes up.
“Ziggy is old and alone.” John insists.
“He is not the problem. Neither is his friend, Doctor Alpha. It is who will be with them.”
“We buried? No, I have learned to forgive your adultery, but I may never understand your complete devotion to that child, I mean we could have paid Laura off and sent them away. Instead, they live across the lake and you spend as much time with them as you do me.”Martha is letting her true feelings surface for the first time.
There is the welcome sound of footsteps coming down from upstairs, much to John’s relief. “Agnes, darling, you’re up early, good, your mother needs help peeling the vegetables, I am going to stoke the stove. Let’s make this the best Thanksgiving ever!”John heads for the woodshed for enough fuel to cook six separate dishes and a 25 pound turkey.
“Daddy is unusually lively this morning, Mother. Did we put too much starch in his underwear again?”
“I will let him tell you himself, but suffice it to say he has a new project to work on, something to do with the war in Europe.”
“How exciting! Do you think I could help?” Agnes could use a little spice in her life as well.
“No, I mean yes, no I mean maybe.” It is hard for her to be clear, without appearing to oppose the one man whom Agnes overtly adores. “We will discuss this after dinner, when the guests leave.”
It was American involvement in the Second World War which led to the selection of the site known to the world as Camp David as a presidential retreat. President Hoover had established a rustic camp in Virginia during his administration, purchasing it with his own money and donating it to the government, but the camp was too rustic for FDR. Accommodating his wheelchair was impossible. FDR preferred to relax on the presidential yacht during his first two terms, but when German U-boats cozied-up to the American coastline the Navy was horrified of the threat to the president they presented. Another site near Washington for the president to relax away from the White House was needed.
The site, selected by Roosevelt personally after considering several options, was one of a series of camps in the Catoctin Ridge, the northernmost extension of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Called Hi-Catoctin by the Works Progress Administration that built it, FDR renamed the camp Shangri La. It was initially staffed by officers and crew of the USS Potomac, the presidential yacht, and has been operated by the Navy ever since as Naval Support Facility Thurmont, from the name of the Maryland town near the base of the mountain upon which it sits. Since then it has been updated, modified, and changed to reflect the personalities and needs of the president’s who have resorted to it, and has appeared on the world stage as the site where major decisions affecting world history have been made. Here are just a few of the roles it has assumed in its over 75-year history.
8. Winston Churchill loved the place for the seclusion it afforded
During World War II, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill made several trips to the United States – the first only weeks after Pearl Harbor – and stayed as a guest at FDR’s White House. In May 1943 the war had progressed to the point that another conference between FDR, Churchill, and their delegations was conducted in Washington. During the meetings at the Washington Conference – code named Trident – FDR invited Churchill to spend a weekend at Shangri La. By accepting, Churchill became the first foreign leader to visit the presidential retreat, where the two leaders went fishing, worked on FDR’s stamp collection, and continued their discussions of the situation in Europe, including plans for the invasions of Sicily, Italy, and across the English Channel. An aide commented they were protected from mosquitoes by cigar and cigarette smoke.
Between planning for the liberation of Europe, and discussing the situation in the Pacific, FDR and Churchill relaxed over the brief visit. A longstanding story in the nearby town of Thurmont is that Churchill visited a local establishment and became intrigued with what Americans call a jukebox, feeding it coins on at least one occasion. Whether true or not (some dispute it, though it would not have been out of character) his visit to Shangri La in the spring of 1943 marked the first time the presidential retreat was the site of discussions between world leaders which led to decisions that altered world history. It was during the Trident Conference the decision to invade France in the spring of 1944 was made.
7. Harry Truman hated it because his wife did
Harry Truman was not fond of Camp David. The views from the mountaintop were not pleasing to the Missouri farmer in him, but the real reason he infrequently used the camp was that his wife, Bess, did not like it. She found it boring and dull. It was Truman, however, who designated the site as an official presidential retreat, on land owned by the National Park Service. He also had the camp winterized by installing steam heat in the cabins, and enlarged its grounds. US Navy Construction Battalions – Seabees – did the bulk of the work. Yet he visited only 10 times during his presidency. He preferred the Little White House at Key West.
Despite his lack of enthusiasm for the camp, it was Truman who made it available for the president’s use year-round, and the improvements led to it playing a much larger role in subsequent presidencies. When he did visit, he used the paths throughout the camp and on the mountains to indulge himself in his favorite form of exercise. He took long walks, enjoying the seclusion. Truman, who supposedly once recommended people get a dog if they wanted a friend, had a dog named Feller which he received as a gift and had kept at the camp. He seldom, if ever, asked to see it during his visits, and when he left the presidency to return to Independence, Missouri, the dog remained behind.
6. Eisenhower gave it the name of Camp David
Initially Eisenhower was not enamored of the expense of maintaining a presidential retreat for infrequent use, especially one so near his Gettysburg farm, only about thirty miles away. He planned to get rid of Shangri La, as well as other presidential “luxuries.” His Attorney General, Herbert Brownell, persuaded him otherwise. It wasn’t long before Eisenhower was using the facility frequently, for both business and relaxation. He expanded the camp, held cabinet meetings and conferences there, and installed a three-hole golf course. He renamed it Camp David (in honor of both his father and grandson), stating that the name bestowed by FDR was a bit “fancy.” Numerous world leaders were brought there as the Cold War grew chillier, including France’s Charles de Gaulle, and Britain’s Harold MacMillan.
He also decided to invite the leader of the Soviet Union, Nikita Kruschev, to visit the facility in 1959. The word camp carried different connotations in the Soviet Union, and Kruschev was at first reluctant. During his visit, which was the first of any Russian leader to the Western Hemisphere, Kruschev toured the country for nearly two weeks, the last two days being spent in private meetings with Eisenhower at Camp David. In Eisenhower’s view the meeting accomplished little in concrete terms, but the press coined the phrase “the spirit of Camp David” as a result of the outwardly friendly nature of the relationship between the Soviet and American leaders. Eisenhower disliked the phrase.
5. Jackie Kennedy loved it because she could ride horses without photographers stalking her
Eisenhower found himself returning to Camp David early in the administration of his successor, John F. Kennedy. Ike made the brief trip down from his farm to meet with JFK in the aftermath of the Bay of Pigs invasion. By the time of JFK’s abbreviated presidency many of the facilities were somewhat run down, and the rustic nature of the site did not seem to mesh with the glamorous nature of the Kennedy’s, especially Jackie. But she quickly came to love the facility. Unlike in Washington, or at some of the various Kennedy compounds, she could do as she wished on the grounds without the constant presence of photographers hounding her.
Jackie rode about the estate with other members of the extended Kennedy family, including the president, and the First Couple enjoyed using the skeet range during their visits. Kennedy also allowed family members and officials serving in his administration to use the facility when he was not staying there. President Kennedy once personally went by car, accompanied by a Secret Service agent, to retrieve a wayward guest who had gotten lost on a hike – Supreme Court Justice William Douglas. Kennedy also enjoyed the opportunity to drive his own golf cart, a mode of transportation offered to all at the camp. The president’s cart is referred to as Golf Cart One.
4. Nixon decided to resign after considering his situation there
It was Richard Nixon who had installed the seemingly above ground swimming pool outside the presidential cabin, Aspen. The pool was built above the underground shelter and command post at Camp David, and thus was erected above ground, with landscaping completed to make it appear to be in-ground. As president, Nixon visited Camp David frequently, sometimes on extended stays, and conducted business while relaxing at the facility. He found the setting more conducive to his work than the Oval Office. In 1973 he hosted Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev at the camp, giving him a welcoming gift of a 1973 Lincoln Continental.
According to Nixon’s memoirs, the Soviet was thrilled with the car, and the two leaders took off with Brezhnev driving at high speed on the narrow roads, narrowly avoiding an accident. While at Camp David the two leaders made progress on the Strategic Arms Limitations Talks (SALT) and agreed that “an objective of their policies is to remove the danger of nuclear war.” But in the back of Nixon’s mind was undoubtedly the unraveling scandal of Watergate. He used the site as the scene for firing John Erlichman and H.R. Haldeman in hopes of containing the scandal. In August 1974, Nixon informed his family that he was resigning the presidency after pondering his fate over a weekend at Camp David.
3. Carter kept Israeli and Egyptian leaders secluded there until they reached a peace agreement
On September 5, 1978, Menachem Begin, Prime Minister of Israel, and Anwar Sadat, President of Egypt, joined American President Jimmy Carter at Camp David for peace talks which led to the Camp David Accords. Begin and Sadat did not like one another, and often refused to speak to each other. Carter and his aides had to conduct a shuttle diplomacy between Camp David’s cabins, with Carter prodding the incalcitrant leaders closer to a mutually acceptable position. The talks ground on for nearly two weeks. There were several instances of Begin and Sadat calling off the talks, only to be enticed to continue by Carter.
Carter refused to allow statements to be issued by the delegations from either side, with all information to the press given by his own spokesman, Jody Powell. Neither the Egyptians nor the Israelis were comfortable at the camp; several wrote of its foreboding appearance. The press was kept in nearby Thurmont, but leaks of the tensions between the parties appeared nonetheless. Carter persevered. Though the Camp David Accords have been criticized by many as a failure, there have been no wars between Egypt and Israel since they were signed in 1977.
2. Clinton tried to do the same with leaders including Yasser Arafat
In 2000, President Bill Clinton brought Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and Israeli leader Ehud Barak to Camp David to negotiate a settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. The Palestinians had not been represented in the earlier Camp David talks under Carter, and Clinton hoped to build upon the earlier Accords to arrive at a solution leading to further progress in the overall Middle East peace process. During the talks Barak made concessions, delivered to the Palestinians by Clinton, and later withdrew them. Barak arrived at the summit having failed to observe the conditions of earlier agreements. Arafat believed a meeting of senior leadership was doomed to fail.
The Israelis offered no written proposals, instead delivering them verbally as possibilities contingent upon Palestinian concessions. The 2000 Camp David Summit did not lead to an agreement between the contending parties, and in the aftermath Israeli settlements expanded in the disputed territory, and another Palestinian “intifada” began in October. The implication that the talks failed due to Palestinian intransigence led to the Israeli claim there was no Palestinian desire for a peaceful resolution of the issues dividing the two, and violence continued, worsening by the end of 2000. Two decades later the same issues divide the parties.
1. It was where Dick Cheney took refuge on 9/11
On September 11, 2001, Vice President Dick Cheney spent the majority of the day following the terrorist attacks in the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC) beneath the White House. After President Bush returned to Washington that evening, a meeting was held in the PEOC chaired by the president. From that evening on, for several days, the American public was told that the Vice President had been moved to a “secure location,” though he returned to the White House for meetings several times. That secure location turned out to be Camp David. He arrived by helicopter (Marine 2) that evening, having taken off from the south lawn of the White House, a violation of normal protocol, but one of many that day and night.
When he arrived at Camp David, the VP and his family took up residence in Aspen Cabin, the residence of the president at the camp — another violation of protocol. The president arrived at Camp David on September 15, expressed displeasure that someone had been using his cabin (without his knowledge), and over the weekend brought his closest advisers and their aides to the facility to conduct meetings to discuss the American response. September 11 and its aftermath proved that since it opened as a presidential resort camp in 1942, Camp David, operated by the Navy, secured by United States Marines and the Secret Service, has become an integral part of the apparatus of the United States government. It has become vital to the maintenance of the president’s physical and mental health, and the execution of his office.