January 19 – Epiphany in Georgia

Posted on January 19, 2018

Throughout the Christmas and New Year's Season, I have acknowledged the different dates for holidays followed by folks following the "Western calendar" (the Gregorian calendar) and those following - for the sake of religious holidays, at least - the Eastern Orthodox or Julian calendar.

Here is another of those differences.

One thing that is weird about some people using the older Julian
calendar: it keeps getting more and more out of synch with the
regular (Gregorian) calendar that we use for regular (NOT religious
holidays) life. Way back when, there was a 10-day difference, and now
it's up to a 13-day difference.

In places like Austria and Finland and the U.S., Epiphany is on January 6.

But in Georgia (the nation, not the U.S. state) and Russia and Ethiopia - places that still use the Julian calendar for holy days and holidays - today is Epiphany.

Okay, you say - what is Epiphany?

In Western Christianity, Epiphany commemorates the coming of  three non-Jewish kings or magi (wise men) to see and acknowledge the birth of Jesus. Its name varies; some countries call it Three Kings Day or something like that.

On the other hand, in Eastern Orthodox tradition, Epiphany commemorates the baptism of Jesus. Baptism is a ritual that involves dunking a person into water or sprinkling a baby with water. In Georgia, there are baptisms of hundreds of children on this day. Also, the Black Sea is blessed by an Archbishop, and masses of people take part in "the Epiphany dip," braving the cold water in the middle of winter to take part in the religious rite. 

I guess it's a pretty quick dip! I mean - this isn't Hawaii! Here are some photos of Georgia in winter:

Also on this date:

January 18 – An Unusual Man Does the Unusual

Posted on January 18, 2018

Today's historical anniversary touches on something that is very sad - the death of a baby. 

A Welsh doctor named William Price named his son Iesu Grist, which was Welsh for Jesus Christ. This is a really unusual name for a child, but Price was an unusual man - he was really into Welsh nationalism, he worked for social justice and equal rights, he founded a religious group based on the ancient Druid religion, and he disliked long-established customs such as marriage and in-ground burials.

He also cultivated an unusual style of dress. He wore green and a fox hat, and he let his hair and beard grow long.

When he was younger, and he was first
learning medicine and becoming an
accomplished surgeon, Price looked a
lot more ordinary:

Tragically, Price's infant son died, and since he didn't believe in burial, he tried to cremate his son. His neighbors were horrified, and the police rescued him from an angry mob but then arrested him for what they assumed was an illegal disposal of a corpse.

Price argued in court that, although there was no law allowing cremation, there was ALSO no law making it illegal. The judge agreed with him on this date in 1884, and thus legal precedent for cremation was set.

Price was eventually (a couple of months later) able to cremate his son with his own version of Druidic prayers. Ten cremations are recorded in the following year, and in the 1890s several crematoria were opened and the Cremation Society of Great Britain was founded. By 1902, Great Britain passed a Cremation Act.

Price was an unusual guy, but he did do important work and
contributed efforts to good causes - such as the rights of workers.

Many people cheered his advocacy of cremation, and about
20,000 people attended Price's own cremation! Wow!

This statue of Price is located in Llantrisant, Wales,
where Price lived much of his later life.

January 17 – Popeye Day

Posted on January 17, 2018

I know a few things about Popeye:

He was a Sailor Man with a TV show and a rather annoyingly catchy theme song called "I'm Popeye the Sailor Man."
He adored Olive Oyl.
His nemesis was Bluto.
He got his strength from spinach. Actually, he got his strength from what I think is the very worst form of spinach: canned spinach. It was usually eaten straight from the can in a crushed-tin-can geyser that plops down into his eager throat!

Here are some things I didn't know:

* Popeye was introduced on this date in 1929 as just a very minor character in a newspaper comic strip named Thimble Theater.

* Popeye was so popular, he quickly became the main character of that strip. And that strip then went on to become one of the most popular and profitable strips of its time.

* About nine years after Popeye's introduction to the world, his creator died; Thimble Theater (which was eventually changed to the name Popeye) was carried on by several other writers and artists.

* Over the years, Popeye also appeared in comic books,  theatrical and TV cartoons (as I mentioned above), arcade and video games, ads, and products like spinach. He was also the inspiration for radio shows and a 1980 live-action movie Popeye!

* The movie set for the movie Popeye is now a tourist attraction called Popeye's Village.

Also on this date: