Category Archives: Holidays

Books Bands and History this Summer

Can reading make you happier?

Effective use of graphics. – Library of Congress collection

Text and book summaries of popular books

Bands on the Blvd are back at the Minnesota Historical Society – Tuesdays in July

For those that seek to learn about some of our important and darker past:
The Poetic Hannah Arendt

The Convict Leasing System: Slavery in its Worst Aspects


Memorial Day – Resources


Today in history – Tulsa Day Massacre – from the Library of Congress

Things to Remember about Memorial Day – from Mental Floss


Open Book – 1011 South Washington, Minneapolis or on Facebook

Downtown Minneapolis Street Art Festival – August 12-14, 2021. Press Release


PBS – American Masters

Films that are streaming right now.

Minnesota Digital Library  

Photographs, maps, documents and more contributed to MDL by cultural heritage organizations across the state.

DPLA – Digital Public Library of America 

Online collection of four 40 million free digital materials from libraries, archives and museums.  Digital exhibitions and primary sources cover “everything from the 1918 influenza pandemic to the golden age of comic books….

Poetry Archive

Not-for-profit organization that produces, acquires and preserves recordings of poets reading their own work.  Excerpts from recording sessions freely available online through the website and through the related Children’s Poetry Archive

EBooks Minnesota  

Award-winning and/or nominated books or about Minnesota authors.  Fiction and non-fiction for children, teens and adults.  No cost to Minnesotans  

Shrove/Fat Tuesday – Not just for pancakes anymore

Those have a short Lent who owe money to be paid at EasterBenjamin Franklin

The challenge to focus – to decide if we, as individuals and as a culture, are celebrating Ash Wednesday or Valentine’s Day…is an existential question troubling good people around the globe.

My choice is to focus on neither, i.e. to learn more about Fat Tuesday, aka Shrove Tuesday.  It’s less controversial and because Fat Tuesday precedes either Valentine’s day OR Ash Wednesday.…

It’s also an overlooked opportunity to celebrate the gustatory elegance of pancakes – not to mention the glories of Mardi Gras.

About Shrove Tuesday – It’s got to do with having been “shriven” of one’s sins, a good thing to do before Lent starts the next day (Ash Wednesday).  Knowing that Lent means forty days of fasting this is not simply an occasion to bulk up a bit. As a matter of fact, the tradition comes from the truth that people had to rid their larders of eggs, milk and other fattening ingredients – off the diet for Lent but key ingredients of pancakes!  And therein lies the story of “Fat Tuesday” – not so much a day to celebrate obesity as a day to rid the pantry of fats.  Fat Tuesday/Shrove Tuesday – it’s the day to ready the cupboards/frig/diet for Lent.

Also, a day to celebrate!  Mardi Gras tops the charts!  Mardi Gras in Rio is not a day but a grand celebration of traditions, music, dance and, best of all, The Parade!

On the outside chance you won’t make it to this year’s Mardi Gras, plan to join family and friends for a pancake feast to honor and learn more about the global meaning of the day.  Mardi Gras is a grand celebration of traditions that encompass biblical, liturgical, ethnic, even local chauvinism and the human affinity for pancakes – possibly fueled by the 40 days of Fast that follow…

Ash Wednesday, Shrove Tuesday, Fat Tuesday, Valentine’s Day – each has its own tradition that enriches this mid-winter week with meaning.  Have a pancake to celebrate our shared heritage!

*my favorite Lenten quote….

Minnesotans honor Indigenous People’s Day

Although we are in different boats you in your boat and we in our canoe we share the same river of life. Oren Lyons

The second Monday in October presents a dilemma for some Americans.  In some states and cities  — and with advertises – the day continues to be commemorated as Columbus Day, a federal holiday.  For Minnesotans,  Monday, October 9, 2017, is officially commemorated as  Indigenous People’s Day.   The historic designation resulted from protracted deliberations about the inconsistency of celebrations of Columbus Day.  St Paul and Minneapolis were early adopters of the change; eventually the State of Minnesota declared that the second Monday in October officially honors the heritage of the indigenous people whose lives and wisdom are imbedded in the culture of the state.

To learn more about the evolving day of recognition, Wikipedia offers further clarification:  MPR offers a recap of the decision here: .

Since the first celebration of Indigenous People’s Day communities throughout the state have sponsored a variety of commemorative events that have helped Minnesotans to learn about our heritage and to appreciate the refocus of the feast.   Some sample local initiatives:

For those of us who continue to struggle with our knowledge of the state’s history, the State of Minnesota Indian Affairs Council helps to fill the gap with this informative and readily accessible background piece: “Overview of Indian Tribes in Minnesota.”

In recent months, the Minnesota History Center has hosted a major program and exhibit that shares the talents and artistic work of American Indian artists who have been in residence at MHC for several months.  The exhibit is currently open at the History Center.

Also from the vast resources of the Minnesota History Center staff members have suggested a few books of particular relevance to Minnesotans’ commemoration of Indigenous People’s Day:

Towns, cities and community throughout the state will join in a host of programs and activities on Indigenous People’s Day 2017.  Some examples of the many planned activities:

You cannot destroy one who has dreamed a dream like mine. (Gaa wiin daa-aangoshkigaazo)   



August 9 – The United National also sponsors the International Day of the World’s Indigenous People – Learn more here:

November 4 – Native American Family Day at the Minnesota History Center – Noon-4:00.  Free admission, featured speakers and artists from local Native American community.  “Renewing What They Gave Us” exhibit of original beadwork, birth bark and textile pieces by American artists from the Upper Midwest.



Labor Day Tribute and Gratitude to Musicians

Every job from the heart is, ultimately, of equal value. The nurse injects the syringe; the writer slides the pen; the farmer plows the dirt; the comedian draws the laughter. Monetary income is the perfect deceiver of a man’s true worth. ― Criss Jami 

Labor Day has a way of getting lost in the shuffle – the end of summer, the beginning of the school year (back in the day, at least), the last day of the Fair…. At times we forget to honor Labor Day and the Who and Why of the cause we celebrate on the First Monday in September.  This year in particular we need to think about the dignity, as well as the paycheck, of working people of every trade, profession, and line of work.

Here’s one of many brief histories of the rights of laborers and origin of Labor Day as a national holiday. A contemporary piece, written by Colette Hyman, was published in MinnPost last Friday.(

Since Labor Day has become just another free day from school it’s an opportunity to explain why we have a holiday so early in the new school year – try this:

In the past week I have spent four days at the Great Minnesota Get-Together – excessive, perhaps, but educational and inspiring.  As always, frequent visits to the Labor exhibits are a feature of my days. Listening to a mix of exhibitors I learn about the variety of missions, challenges and aspirations of the various unions represented – I love the stories, the swag, and the energy generated by the mix of union spokespersons.  There are always stories  I want to share!

This season I learned about the Twin Cities Musicians Union, with focus on the story of the ways in which the talents and time of Union musicians result in the SPCO’s Listening Library.   As many listeners know,  the digital Listening Library offers access to 250+ full-length worksThe Library is recognized as “the most expansive online listening library in the world.”

As I thought about the story told by the representative of of the Musicians Union who was staffing the exhibit I realized that what I too often lose in listening to the music is the story of the musicians themselves.  Though many audience members know the stories and the musicians, I’m thinking that we who are more casual listeners, we who depend on the Listening Library, are less aware of the musicians – but we can begin to be more aware by reviewing their brief bios:

For those who can’t make it to Labor Day at the Fair, this would be a good day to relax and listen to beautifully recorded concerts featuring SPCO musicians, soloists and guest artists.   Better yet, learn about the music by reading the published program notes – then sign up to be added the mailing list to receive announcements about future recordings.

Your Labor Day listen to the talented members of the TC’s Musicians Union will make you more aware of and thankful for the talented musicians who interpret the music that reaches our less trained ears….

Since it’s Labor Day you might want to read and think a bit about the long and recent history of the labor relations as they continue to evolve within the Minnesota music world.  Here are a couple of starting points:

More Than Meets the Ear, by former SPCO member Julie Ayer, is “the story of a grassroots movement that transformed labor relations and the professional lives of U.S. and Canadian symphony musicians.”  The book offers an “unprecedented overview of the profound effect the musician’s labor movement has had on the profession.”

Doug Grow writing in  MinnPost piece describes and interprets the labor disputes with both the SPCO and the Minnesota Orchestra.

Happy Labor Day and Thank You to Minnesota’s finest musicians and those who  enjoy, appreciate and support their contributions to our world!

Chinese New Year–Roosters,dragons, lanterns, spring!

ADDENDUM — Saturday, January 28 – Be sure to click on today’s Google back story – great info on Chinese Lunar New Year – Year of the Rooster!


Something to crow about!” caught my eye as perhaps the best promo line for a Chinese New Year celebration! It’s posted by the Harriet Alexander Nature Center in Roseville, announcing their Year of the Rooster celebration! Read more about the fun family event here. (

Roseville’s event is just one of scores of ways in which Minnesotans join in the traditions of the Chinese New Year, a grand celebration rich with ritual, stories, customs and legends. Though dates vary slightly, many agree that Chinese New Year 2017 begins January 28 and continues through February 3. This new year is something to crow about because it’s the Year of the Rooster!

The Calendar: And here it gets a little complicated. According to the traditional Chinese solar calendar the zodiac year begins with ‘Start of Spring’ on February 3rd in 2017. However, most Chinese tend to name a zodiac year from Chinese New Year according to the traditional Chinese lunar calendar, thus the 2017 lunar year of the Rooster starts on January 28th.   To add to the complexity, actually Start of Spring occurs twice in lunar year 2017. As lunar year 2017 starts on January 28th 2017 and finishes on February 15th 2018, there will be two ‘Starts of Spring” one on February 3th 2017, and another on February 4th 2018.

Moreover, to keep the Chinese lunar calendar within half a month of the traditional solar calendar, there will be a leap month in 2017 (a second lunar month 6 starting July 23rd). So there are 13 lunar months instead of 12, which means there are 384 days in Rooster year 2017.

Year of the Rooster: Roosters played a major role in the daily lives of people living in ancient times – so important that they were regarded as mascots because they ate harmful insects. They also served as timepieces, announcing the hours of the day. The term “rooster hours” actually refers to the early evening, 5:00-7:00 p.m., when the roosters would go back to their roosts.

Roosters are characterized by five virtues — literary, military prowess, courageous, benevolent, and trustworthy. People born in the year of the Rooster are said to be active, popular, outspoken, happiest in groups – probably in a group celebrating Chinese New Year! They’re also healthy and maybe a little moody!

Customs: A few highlights offer just a hint of the rich cultural tapestry. The first three days of the New Year are celebrated as public holidays.

The sea-dwelling monster Nian shows up on New Year’s Eve to eat people and livestock. Fear of Nian once sent folks scurrying for shelter until an old man visited to the village, saving the villagers by pasting red papers on doors, burning bamboo to make threatening noises, lighting candles and wearing red clothing. The old man’s techniques worked so well that the villagers adopted the firecrackers, red clothing, and other tools that have forever become the hallmarks of the new year festivities.

There was also a demon named Sui that showed up to terrify children while they were sleeping. Legend is that the children who were touched by the demon would be too frightened to cry out; thus, to keep children safe from Sui parents would light candles and stay up with the little ones. On one New Year’s Eve the parents gave their child coins to play with in order to keep him awake and alert to the treacherous demon.   The child wrapped the coins in red paper, opened the packet, rewrapped it, and reopened it until he fell asleep at which point the parents placed the red packet under his pillow. When Sui tried to touch the child’s head, the coins emitted a strong light, which turned out to be a cadre of fairies who scared the demon away. Of the many New Years customs this money-centric culture places special focus on the red packets so that today there is an entire etiquette of financial exchange.

There are layers upon layers of wonderful traditions, most revolving around family reunions and customs. Prominent among the traditions is the dragon, a popular and omnipresent symbol of strength and good luck.   Giant dragons, animated by teams of humans, are the main feature of every New Year parade. Another fascinating custom is the “spring couplet”   – not so much a literary effort but a poetic weapon designed to scare evil things away – long story.

The wrap-up of the New Year celebration is the Lantern Festival, a time to enjoy the beauty of holiday lanterns and the taste of sweet rice dumpling soup.   The best way to join in one of the many local Lantern Festivals is to check local online and print calendars – you may be surprised at just how many ways there are to share those red packets of coins and the fun of joining in the many and varied Chinese New Year customs.







Latest Plans for MLK Day 2017

Though we have yet to drop the crystal ball announcing the new year or to officially launch the new regime, this season more than most it seems wise to plan ahead for Martin Luther King Day, set for Monday, January 16, 2017. The message of hope that MLK shared with the world is needed at this hour.

One way to think ahead is to recall the contributions and leadership of MLK. And a way to do this is to immerse oneself in the era and to reflect on the issues is to listen to or read the words of MLK here: The I Have a Dream Speech (1963) or to read the Letter from Birmingham Jail:

The story of the long struggle to establish the MLK Holiday was is a saga in itself. Many articles have been written about that history – for a brief chronology look to the MLK Center’s website:

In weeks to come schools and libraries, nonprofits, the faith and academic communities and corporations will all be announcing plans for celebrating the life, work and words of Martin Luther King.  To learn about more about local MLK Day happenings follow the website and FaceBook sponsored by the Governor’s Council on the Martin Luther King Celebration:’s%20council%20on%20the%20mlk%20day%20celebration%20photos

Because plans are in-the-making keep on clicking during the next couple of weeks.

Some activities are already well set and posted. The day begins with a Youth Rally and March beginning at the State Capitol at 9:00 on Monday, January 16. The March will lead to the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts for a program on civil rights, social justice and social consciousness.   Keynote speaker is Caroline Wanga, Chief Diversity Officer and VP of Diversity and Inclusion at Target Corporation.

Across the river hundreds of folks will gather for the annual Martin Luther King Day Breakfast. Keynote speaker this year is Myrlie Evers-Williams, a journalist and civil rights activist. Evers-Williams, who was married to murdered civil rights activist Medgar Evers, chaired the NAACP from 1995-1998. She also wrote of her experience during the struggle for civil rights in several books including For Us, The Living and, Watch Me Fly: What I Learned on the Way to Becoming the Woman I was Meant to Be.

The MLK Day Breakfast has been sponsored for over a quarter century by The General Mills Foundation and The United Negro College Fund. The event is carried live on TPT/Channel 2 and replayed several times during MLK Day and again on following Sundays. Check TPT for specifics.

In recent times there has been a push to promote the idea of community service as an important aspect of MLK Day. To learn more about service opportunities, check with the Corporation for National Service.

And yet, all of these are examples of what others are doing, things people can attend. The reason to post this reminder at the start of the new year is to get readers thinking about taking the initiative locally. A challenge today is to generate ideas, to engage community not only in mega-events but also in local discussions of the message of Dr. King and the history of civil rights, voting rights, human rights. The challenge is to examine how we are doing in 2017.

A wise friend made me understand many years ago that MLK is one national holiday that is devoted not to family or parades or patriotism. It is instead a day for people to gather within their own circles, to get to know each other, to plan to work together to do what needs to be done in memory of Dr. King. To honor Dr. King we reach out within our local circle to understand, to collaborate, and to create a better community. In the spirit of MLK Day we are charged share ideas and energy with neighbors, co-workers, fellow-worshipers or learners, people we don’t even know yet – to work to create a common vision of a just society that recognizes and honors the rights of all.


NOTE – added event:  the East Side Freedom Library will sponsor a special screening on the evening of MLK Day — a screening of the recent documentary “Love and Solidarity.” (2014)  The film explores  nonviolence and organizing through the life and teachings of Reverend James Lawson.  Lawson provided strategic guidance during his work with MLK in southern struggles for civil rights, including the Memphis sanitation strike of 1968.  Lawson continued his  work in support of nonviolent protest  in Los Angeles where he organized community and and worker coalitions that played a role in the LA labor movement of that era.

NOTE – added event:  Love Hope Rise 2017 brings energy and ideas to this community’s Martin Luther King remembrance with a Solidarity March set for Saturday, January 14. In the spirit of the community celebration sponsors extend a special welcome to families with children and first-time demonstrators.


Theme of the Solidarity March is the basic principle of “treating others as you want to be treated.” There will be an indoor pre-march program, sign-making on the positive values of justice dignity, equality, freedom, stewardship and peace.

Check the Facebook event page to keep up with details and developments.

The East Side Freedom Library, co-sponsor of the March, will join the Love Hope Rise solidarity march as its regular Solidarity Saturday initiative.



Reflections on Kwanzaa at Fifty – A timely message

Kujichagulia (self determination) is the principle honored today, the second day of Kwanzaa. Kuichagulia calls on us to define and name ourselves, as well as to create and speak for others. Today many Americans of every race celebrate the seven-day holiday, first celebrated by people of African descent around the globe. This year marks the “golden” (50th) anniversary of Kwanzaa.

Founded by Maulana Karenga, ( then a graduate student, Kwanzaa encourages people to reflect and rejoice in their family, their community and their African culture. Each day focuses on one of seven principles (Nguzo Saba): On the first day, the focus is on Umoja (unity), today we reflect on self-determination. In the days that follow, the emphasis is on these principles, named in Swahili, the recognized language of Pan-Africanism:

  • Day 3 – Ujima (collective work and responsibility)
  • Day 4 – Ujamaa (cooperative economics)
  • Day 5 – Nia (purpose)
  • Day 6 – Kuumba (creativity) and
  • Day 7 – Imani (faith)

To be politically correct remember that the appropriate greeting for each day of Kwanzaa is unique, reflective of the principle of the day.

To learn more about Kwanzaa you might want to view the documentary that Maya Angelou narrated The Black Candle. Learn more here:

This site features a bit from a Sesame Street Kwanzaa video.

More Kwanzaa basics here: Or here

Needless to say, there are countless books about Kwanzaa written for children – here is one list selected by librarians, not book sellers:

To learn more about African American history, culture and leaders on an ongoing basis, you might want to follow the Schomburg Library here:

Note: In this Post Truth era know that there are unconfirmed rumors about Karenga that cast a shadow on what has come to be celebrated as a joyous week to reflect on the important things in life.


Wren Day (St. Stephen’s Day)-Before the age of gift-returns

Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat

Please put a penny in the old man’s hat

If you haven’t got a penny, a ha’penny will do

If you haven’t got a ha’penny then God bless you!

Though the nursery rhyme suggests that Christmas yet to with Wren Day – the ditty actually refers to the day after Christmas, aka St. Stephen’s Day. If you’ve spent the Christmas holidays on the Dingle Peninsula on the West Coast of Ireland, you may have joined in the Wren Day festivities. If not, here’s the short version of the custom.

Back in the day, long before the advent of ASPCA, the Celtic custom was to celebrate the day after Christmas with a sort of wren hunt….Though there are many versions of the roots of the tradition the Christian version was that God established a competition to identify the king of all birds, to be determined, logically enough, by the bird that flew he highest. One might expect that the eagle would have the edge, but according to legend the infallible eager got tired and lost altitude – to be saved by the competitive little wren that had been hiding under the eagle’s wing. With a little help from the wren, the eagle triumphed.

As usual there are countless versions of the origins of the custom. Some suggest that the Celtic tradition goes back to the Druids who celebrated midwinter (Samhain) with a sacrifice to mark the end of the past year; the wren became the symbol of the old year, possibly because the little bird was known to sing all winter. More than a few wrens may have perished in the traditional Wren Day festivities over the centuries. Young boys did indeed chase and capture the hapless wren that was captured, hoisted on a pitchfork, and paraded in triumph; mummers joined the parade, monetizing it with the passing of the hat memorialized in the nursery rhyme. Over time Wren Day was softened with a stuffed bird replacing the real thing and young girls and even adults joining the celebration.  Today Wren Day is celebrated in fact as well as memory – most notably in Dingle (

One wonders how the modern tradition of post-holiday gift-returning will be honored by future generations.


Honoring the heritage of Native Americans at Thanksgiving

As too few Americans are aware, the day after Thanksgiving is not only about excessive mindless shopping, it is the day on which thoughtful Americans pause to celebrate National Native American Heritage Day. (

The origin of Native American Heritage Day goes back to President George W. Bush who signed the legislation that designated the day after Thanksgiving as Native American Heritage Day. With time the Day has morphed into the establishment of the month of November as Native American Heritage Month. Though the distinction between the month and the day is nuanced, November 25, 2016 offers a timely opportunity to pause, learn and reflect on the narrative and heritage of Native Americans.

President Obama’s proclamation declaring the month of November 2016 is an excellent starting point for understanding the import of the day and/or the month.

Numerous federal agencies have contributed to a mother lode of resources ranging from descriptions of parks to art to poetry to personal memories of Native Americans’ life experiences. Though the content is presented in calendar format, the films, audiotapes, photos and stories are not date specific. Let your fingers to the walking this amazing wealth of authentic resources!

Related info:

A guide with specific relevance to individuals interested to explore their personal American Indian heritage: A Guide to Tracing American Indian & Alaska Native Ancestry

A hot-off-the-press report with great relevance, less than mass reader appeal, is a report rom a recent conference related to Indigenous Archives, Libraries, and Museums organized by the Association of Tribal Archives, Libraries, and Museums