From 05/18: What’s the spiritual season?

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What’s the Spiritual Season?
(May 18 to 24, 2009)
By Stephanie Fenton

This is a slow week as we make seasonal transitions in fits and starts. Hollywood thinks we’re already several weeks into the official “summer movie season.” In Canada, summer unofficially starts with a special Monday holiday. Americans wait another week for our Monday milestone, Memorial Day—although you can share your thoughts about veterans right now over at

ON MONDAY, turn to the North and salute the Canadians—particularly Canadians proud of their ties to the UK. It’s Victoria Day, a three-day weekend that generally kicks off summer “up north.” Now, here’s a bit of Canadian lore you can share with friends. The holiday sometimes is called “May Two-Four” and here’s why, thanks to an overview of the holiday in Philadelphia’s Bulletin: “In some parts of Canada, Victoria Day is known as May Two-Four,
which has two meanings. The holiday always falls near the date of May
24 and a two-four is Canadian slang for a case of 24 bottles of beer.
Drinking beer on this long weekend is a popular activity.

ON WEDNESDAY, we can make a case that there are spiritual associations with blue jeans. That’s right: blue jeans. What would Baby Boomer culture and the entire Summer of Love 42 years ago have been without them? May 20, 1873, is the date that drygoods merchant Levi Strauss and tailor Jacob Davis got U.S. Patent No. 139121 for their ingenious pattern of copper rivets that sturdily held together the pockets of their denim work pants. (Here are some historical resources provided for “students and teachers” by the Levi Strauss company online.)

ON THURSDAY, “more than 1 billion Christians around the world” mark the Feast of the Ascension, an observance that dates back to the early centuries of the church and is celebrated by both Western and Eastern branches of Christendom. (This year, Orthodox Christians celebrate a week later, because the feast falls on the 40th day after Easter—and their Easter was a week later than the Western Easter this year.) The word “ascension” refers to the Christian belief that Jesus rose into the heavens. For centuries, this has been one of the great themes in painting and sculpture. The image at right is by Salvador Dali (you can click on it to see the painting a bit larger). Customs vary around the world and, although this day isn’t a big part of American culture, it is a federal holiday in Germany! That’s because Germans have linked other celebrations to Ascension Day, including Father’s Day and in some parts of Germany a sort of springtime Men’s Day—when guys go out and do manly things like hiking, eating and drinking together.

ON THURSDAY, you might also salute Clara Barton, who founded the Red Cross on May 21, 1881, in Washington D.C. As Americans, we tend to overlook the crucial contributions of women throughout our history, so you might want to take a few minutes this week to find out about the life of this amazing woman who began her large-scale nursing work during the Civil War, rushing from one battlefield to another. Here’s one online tribute to Clara that’s got a solid summary of her life. Once you know a bit about her life, the National Park Service provides these links to “primary sources”—transcripts of actual texts from Clara’s life spanning the late 1800s up until a trip in 1902 to St. Petersburg, Russia, for an international Red Cross conference.

ON FRIDAY evening and then on Saturday, Baha’is around the world will remember The Declaration of the Bab. Baha’is see their faith as a completion and union of worldwide religions. The Bab played an essential role in the eventual founding of their particular faith by Baha’u’llah. For Christian readers trying to understand the Bab, it’s helpful to think of him as serving much like John the Baptist in the New Testament. In fact, Baha’is say that both the Bab and John the Baptist were forerunners, proclaimers of a major figure to come. The Bab declared his mission on May 23, 1844.

SATURDAY is the anniversary of the dramatic end of one of history’s great “spellbinders”—the Italian preacher Savonarola, who was executed on May 23, 1498, after preaching too much fire and brimstone in Florence. At the height of his powers, he popularized “bonfires of the vanities” in which people carried their prized belongings—books, beautiful garments, tapestries and paintings—into the streets and set them afire. Tragically, Savonarola wound up burning in the same spot where he had destroyed many of the treasures of Florence.

REMEMBER THAT MEMORIAL DAY is coming on Monday. If you’re already thinking about the men and women in U.S. military service, you might want to stop by this week to share some thoughts with Dr. Wayne Baker and his readers. They plan to reflect on the way the U.S. treats our veterans all this week.

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