Not a day goes by, save Sundays, when I don’t receive some solicitations in the mail, typically four or more (my one-day record is eight) where organizations are seeking financial assistance.
While I do pick some each month and reach for my checkbook, many go to the trash receptacle. However, every envelope gets opened to see if there’s a gift. Over time, I’ve, of course, received more address labels than there are addresses in Allen County in addition to items such as pens, notepads, greeting cards, calculators, small flashlights, thin blankets, socks, gloves and even a level which, as the president of the Unhandy Men of American Club, gave me a real chuckle.
Among the items I’ve pulled out of envelopes, there’s occasionally some interesting reading material. That was the case when the Boys Town organization, one I have supported financially, sent me a 2019 abridged version of The Old Farmer’s Almanac, a publication that traces its beginnings back to 1792.
Over time, the book has been a veritable cornucopia of practical information providing weather forecasts, phases of the moon, tips on gardening and planting, home remedies, recipes and much more. Often on colonial shelves, there were only two books displayed, the Bible and a copy of this almanac.
In perusing the booklet, I noticed it was divided into the 12 months, so for this week’s offering to herald what we hope to be our gateway to wonderful weather, I thought I’d left ye old almanac do the heavy lifting and provide you some interesting tidbits related to May’s two big holidays, the ones devoted to those that loved us first and those that loved the country enough to die on her battlefields.
As for Mother’s Day, it was President Woodrow Wilson who, in 1914, established the second Sunday in May as a day to honor “the best mother in the world, your mother.”
However, some of the groundwork for the eventual holiday we celebrate does indeed trace back far earlier, to 16th century England, when there was a day set aside called Mothering Sunday, a day when all were supposed to visit their moms. The eldest son or daughter was supposed to bring a “mothering cake” for all to share, and on this day, one with a definite family reunion feel to it, the children were expected to perform all the typical household chores, including, of course, providing a big meal.
That tradition of keeping moms out of the kitchen continues to this very day in our country. According to the National Restaurant Association, Mother’s Day tops the list when restaurant revenues are at their highest.
As for Memorial Day, of course the epicenter of the holiday has always been paying respect to those who gave their lives for their country, which is a tradition that goes back thousands of years. Despite that type of antiquitous homage to fallen warriors, you might be surprised just how young the actual designation of Memorial Day really is. Actually, it wasn’t until 1971 that Congress acted and designated the last Monday in May as a federal holiday.
Prior to that official designation as a federal holiday, the day was more often referred to as Decoration Day, a term I remember well in my growing up years in the 1960s.
Of course, Memorial Day is the day for displaying a flag, and my gifted Farmer’s Almanac listed 20 rules for its proper display. Space constraints won’t permit me to list all 20, but I did find some quite interesting.
As for raising a flag at day’s beginning, it should be done briskly, while at the end of the day, it should be lowered at a much slower pace, reverentially and ceremoniously. Now, if we’re talking about a parade, a flag should never be part of a float unless it’s displayed on a staff. Keep an eye out for that one should you go to a Memorial Day parade.
For flags that are displayed over streets, there are rules that govern their display as well. The flag should be suspended vertically with the union to the north above an east-west thoroughfare but to the east when above a north-south one.
And, in the case of a flag on a casket, the union should always be at the head and over the left shoulder of the fallen patriot.
Finally, when it comes to something that seems to be far more common now than when I was younger — the flag displayed at half staff — at day’s beginning, the flag should be first hoisted to its peak and then lowered to half staff. And, before lowering the flag at day’s end, a half-mast flag should be raised to its peak first before being lowered and properly folded.
Hopefully, as it did for me, this year’s Farmer’s Almanac provided some enlightenment on the two days many see as the month’s most important. For this former school teacher, this was indeed my absolute favorite month, a time to wrap up and post those final numbers for my students and seek what we always claim we want, closure before summer fun.
Welcome May! Enjoy the smell of fresh-cut grass and the smoldering charcoal on an outdoor grill, and allow those aromas to remind you of what makes this month so special after a long, bleak winter.
John Grindrod is a regular columnist for The Lima News, a freelance writer and editor and the author of two books. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.