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How many people know about the Battle of Lepanto?

In the 1970s, when Western education was still decent, I took a year of World History in high school. If we covered it, it must have been a footnote.

I read about it in depth only six years ago, when someone from the West Indies had a WordPress blog, since deleted. The writer was Catholic and explained the religious, historical and cultural significance of October 7, 1571, the date of the victory over the Ottoman Empire.

The victory was important to Mediterranean Europe. Inland, the Battle of Vienna took place just over a century later, on September 12, 1683, led by the indomitable King Jan (John) III Sobieski of Poland. Lepanto was to the Mediterranean what Vienna was to the rest of Europe.

On to the Battle of Lepanto and October 7, which Catholics venerate as the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. In 2017, Polish Catholics assembled nationwide to pray the Rosary on that day. The Daily Mail has more (emphases mine):

Hundreds of thousands of Polish Catholics are expected to descend Saturday on the country’s borders to recite the rosary “to save Poland and the world” from the dangers facing them, organisers say, but others claim the event is aimed at protecting Europe from what they term a Muslim onslaught.

The episcopate insists that the “Rosary to the Borders” is a purely religious initiative, but some Catholics view it as a weapon against “Islamisation.”

The date was not chosen at random. October 7 is when Catholics celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, marking the 1571 victory of Christianity over the Ottoman Turks at the Battle of Lepanto.

A victory attributed to the recital of the rosary “that saved Europe from Islamisation”, the Solo Dios Basta foundation said on the website of the event it is organising.

Many Poles see Islam as a threat. The conservative government, which enjoys the backing of a sizeable portion of the population, refuses to welcome migrants to Poland, which has very few Muslims of its own.

Twenty-two border dioceses will take part in the event, whose faithful will congregate in some 200 churches for a lecture and mass before travelling to the border to say the rosary.

The goal is to have as many prayer points as possible along the 3,511 kilometres (about 2,200 miles) that make up Poland’s borders with Belarus, the Czech Republic, Germany, Lithuania, Russia, Slovakia, Ukraine and the Baltic Sea.

Fishing boats will join in at sea, while kayaks and sailboats will form a chain along rivers and lakes. Prayers will also be said at the chapels of a few international airports …

The goal is to pray for world peace, according to Father Pawel Rytel-Andrianik, spokesman for the Polish Bishops’ Conference.

“The initiative obviously received the approval of Poland’s bishops,” he told AFP, emphasising that it would be wrong to view the event as a prayer against the arrival of Muslim refugees.

“It is not a matter of closing ourselves off to others. On the contrary, the point of bringing the rosary to the borders is to break down walls and open ourselves up to Russians, Belarussians, Slovaks, Ukrainians and Germans,” he said

In 2018, on October 7, Italy’s interior minister, Matteo Salvini, appeared on a talk show saying that the influx of immigrants arriving by boat are not true refugees. He estimates that only 10 per cent are. He recommends taking in only women and young children. He objects to turning Italy’s public housing over to immigrants arriving by boat and says that local and regional governments should continue to reserve these flats and houses for Italians. Currently, Angela Merkel is trying to transfer immigrants who had arrived in Germany via Italy back to Italy:

RMC (French talk radio) had a lengthy segment on immigration from Africa on the morning of Monday, October 8. Opinion was strongly divided as to whether and how many more immigrants France — especially Paris — should accommodate. It was a lively discussion with no conclusion. One point that did stand out was that French people were being pushed down the queue for social housing for recently-arrived immigrants. So, the French housing situation is like Italy’s, which is like Germany’s and Sweden’s.

Besides the religious and 21st century significance of the Battle of Lepanto, there is a historic one. It took place at a time when the invasion of hordes of groups of people — not just those from the Ottoman Empire — were invading not only Europe but also Asia.

I had always wondered how these groups had been stopped. A considered essay, ‘The Significance of Lepanto’, explains what happened from that point through to the 18th century.

First, we need to consider the main group of players in Europe’s Holy League. These nation-states also controlled various parts of the Mediterranean, including islands such as Corsica, Cyprus and Crete. Trade and strategic ports were important to the Spanish, the Venetians and to the Vatican, which also controlled territory in this part of the world:

The Battle of Lepanto has a major place in the symbolism of the Western-Islamic relationship, and Niccolò Capponi’s recently published Victory of the West: The Story of the Battle of Lepanto treats the battle as a major encounter between the Islamic Ottoman empire and the forces of Western Christendom.

Lepanto was the last great battle that could be described as a simple clash between Christendom and Islam. Fought on October 7, 1571, it saw the fleet of the Ottoman empire pitted against an alliance of Spain, Venice and various other minor players to form a Holy League under the leadership of Don Juan of Austria, the illegitimate half-brother of Philip II of Spain.

The battle was the response of the Christian powers to the invasion of the Venetian possession of Cyprus. At stake was control of the Mediterranean. If the Ottomans had won then there was a real possibility that an invasion of Italy could have followed so that the Ottoman sultan, already claiming to be emperor of the Romans, would have been in possession of both New and Old Rome. The Pope could have become as much a tool of the Ottoman sultan as his Orthodox counterpart the Patriarch of Constantinople already was.

Yet, as Capponi points out, the Holy League was hardly a model of Christian solidarity. The Spanish and the Venetians had different strategic objectives—the Spanish were concerned primarily with Italy, North Africa and the Western Mediterranean, while Venice was anxious to recover Cyprus and protect its interests in the eastern Mediterranean. The Spanish were not keen for a battle that might lose them precious resources, particularly as Philip II, with interests as well in northern Europe, was usually on the verge of bankruptcy. The Spanish were also concerned that the Venetians were in the process of cutting a deal with the Ottomans. Just a few days before the battle there was a conflict between the Spanish and Venetians that almost tore the fleet apart. Nevertheless the alliance held and the League fleet scored a stunning success.

Lepanto reshaped the religious bent of the Mediterranean:

The cultural shape of the lands around the Mediterranean was confirmed with a largely Islamic East and South staring across the waters at a Christian North and West.

The Ottoman Empire gradually lost territory and influence from that point until it collapsed with the Great War (1914-1918). That said, we are still dealing with the aftermath a century later:

The Ottoman empire, like the ancient Roman empire and the Byzantine empire before it, was left with the task of defending its ever diminishing borders over the next three centuries. When it did finally “fall” after the First World War the ramifications were enormous, and we are still attempting to cope with them from Bosnia to Iraq.

The Europeans defeated the Ottomans because of advanced naval battle tactics and weaponry. They also had more advanced trade and inventions, such as the printing press, which the Ottomans were slow to adopt:

The League won because it used innovative tactics. The usual form that galley warfare took was to ram the enemy ships and then take them by storm. The Venetian ships attempted a new and different tactic. Using a larger and modified form of galley known as galleasses, they filled these ships with cannons and attempted to blow as many of the Ottoman galleys as possible out of the water. League ships carried many more cannon and its troops made much greater use of firearms. Many of the Ottoman troops preferred to use bows, although these were not necessarily inferior to the clumsy arquebus of that time …

In the longer term, however, the future belonged to the new commercial instruments of the West rather than to the bureaucratic machinery of the Ottomans. In her study of seventeenth-century Crete, A Shared World, Molly Green demonstrates that the commercial techniques and practices used by the Venetians were much more sophisticated and developed than those of the Ottoman regime that replaced them in mid-century. It was also the case that the Ottomans were slow to take to make use of printing, with the “printing revolution” that swept the West in the sixteenth century not really taking off in the Islamic world until the nineteenth century.

Europe and Asia had been beset by invaders for centuries, especially during the perilous Dark Ages.

In Europe, during the latter days of the Roman Empire:

Rome, and the Roman empire, had to face an almost continuous set of threats, beginning with the Celts, then moving through to the Germans, Huns, Avars, Arabs and Turks. The Ottoman Turks simply delivered the coup de grâce to what had become little more than a living corpse.

In Asia:

China built its “great wall” to protect itself from nomadic predators, while the damage inflicted by the Mongols on the settled Islamic world, including the sack of Baghdad, was staggering.

These invasions happened because invading tribes of people envied the civilisation of settled societies:

A settled civilisation, by creating a measure of comfort and a settled way of life, makes itself a target for those living outside their boundaries who are drawn by what it has to offer.

Large-scale invasions ended in the 18th century, probably thanks to the Chinese:

the Qing Chinese empire in the eighteenth century successfully conquered and subdued the last of the great nomadic empires of Eurasia. For the first time in millennia no barbarian horsemen, no Huns, no Avars, no Mongols, surged across the great plains of Eurasia to sack and pillage Europe, China and the great civilisations of the Islamic world and India.

When a new barbarian empire emerged powerful enough to threaten the Ottomans, and by this I mean the Russian empire, it was successfully checked by the jealousy of the other European powers. It was also into this world … of empires that were not revitalised by new sets of barbarians, in the Middle East, in India and in China, that the European empires were able to make such inroads from the eighteenth century onwards.

Lepanto, as with so many other advances of that era, helped to usher in modernity to Europe with an emphasis on trade rather than war:

Lepanto can be seen as symbolic of that transition, described by the nineteenth-century French liberal philosopher Benjamin Constant, from the age of war to the age of commerce. Or as others might say, it can be considered as the birth of modernity. Even the overwhelming use of firepower can be found in the pages of Constant as a feature of the utilitarian approach to warfare favoured by commercial nations. The irony was that the somewhat ramshackle empires of sixteenth-century Europe, with their disorganised finances and administrative apparatuses much inferior to those of the Ottomans, would within 300 years come to dominate the world not because of their superior asabiya or virtue but because of their capacity to create modern efficient institutions far superior to the slave bureaucracy of the Ottomans, and because of their ability to deliver superior firepower.

This new European and commercial form of empire supplanted an older, more traditional imperial form. What this meant was that the old rules of empire, of an imperial expansion dictated by the need to conquer to attain booty and slaves and a decline governed by the need to protect its settled possessions from new predators, would give way to a new set of rules. These are the rules of the export and import of capital, as described by Niall Ferguson in his recent studies of the English and American empires.

Looking at present day developments in Europe, there does seem to be an envy of others to have what we Europeans have without contributing to our respective nations. When well-intended private and state generosity is met with Marxist-driven violence and disregard for the host citizenry, it is no wonder that many think of Lepanto.

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Well done, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), for using Scripture to refute cries for another immigration amnesty.

Lamar Smith wrote a column for Breitbart, posted on July 11, 2018. Any bleeding hearts saying that the Bible supports uncontrolled immigration would do well to read ‘Rep. Lamar Smith: Scripture Opposes Amnesty‘. Excerpts follow, emphases mine.

First, St Paul told Christians that they should obey the law:

The Scriptures clearly indicate that God charges civil authorities with preserving order, protecting citizens, and punishing wrongdoers. A prime passage is Romans 13:1-7: “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities.” Neither God nor the Bible ever rewards lawlessness (1 Timothy 1: 8-10).

Secondly, the Bible does not advocate amnesty:

Consider Leviticus 19:33-34, frequently cited by amnesty advocates: “When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.”

The law God laid down for Israel allowed legal distinctions to be drawn between natives and non-natives.

Also, the Hebrew term for “sojourn,” as well as the dictionary definition, means “temporary stay.” A related term used in some scriptural translations is “stranger.” So this passage offers no scriptural sanction for allowing millions of illegal immigrants to remain permanently in the United States. In the New Testament, the word “stranger” denotes one who is simply unknown (The New Westminster Dictionary of the Bible), not someone who is a foreigner.

Finally, the Bible mentions borders in a number of places. God mandated such borders. Smith cited the following references, which I’m quoting in full:

And you shall set limits for the people all around, saying, ‘Take care not to go up into the mountain or touch the edge of it. Whoever touches the mountain shall be put to death.  Exodus 19:12

When the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance,
    when he divided mankind,
he fixed the borders[a] of the peoples
    according to the number of the sons of God.[b]  Deuteronomy 32:8

Do not move the ancient landmark
    that your fathers have set. Proverbs 22:28

In conclusion:

Americans need not apologize for wanting to uphold the rule of law. We have every right to be a sovereign nation. Our nation has a wonderful tradition of welcoming newcomers. Furthermore, we admit more than one million legal immigrants a year, far more than any other country.

There is a difference, though, between those who play by the rules and come in the right way and those who don’t. And the Bible’s commentary on strangers and foreigners makes that clear.

Europeans can — and should — refer to those verses as well, particularly given the immigration crisis that started in 2015 and, unfortunately, continues apace.

Last week, SpouseMouse went to London and, on the way back, stopped by Leonidas for a box of chocolates and received a free 250g bag of their Easter eggs, given to customers who spend £20 or more.

These are so good, that it’s worth mentioning to my European readers. Even if you cannot get a free bag this year, make a note to buy a box for next Easter. In 2018, a 250g box cost £6.15 or €6.95, which, given the incredibly high quality of Leonidas chocolate and fillings, is remarkable value for money.

This page shows how many different Easter eggs they have (scroll to the bottom).

Hands down, Leonidas is the best luxury chocolate on the market — and the best value for money — in the world.

We have been fans of Leonidas for many years. Their chocolate is sublime and the fillings are uniquely unctuous. A box goes a long way, because the quality of the product is so satisfying.

I would recommend that those who enjoy chocolates from the major Belgian luxury chocolatier buy a box of Leonidas and taste for themselves. In store, the staff are accustomed to putting together customised boxes. They are also very courteous.

Leonidas is a great hostess present and all-occasion gift. Be sure to buy some for yourselves, too.

On Sunday, January 7, 2018, Peter Sutherland died at St James’s Hospital in Dublin.

He had been ill since he suffered a heart attack in September 2016. The Irish Times reports:

“He was substantially impacted by this and was in hospitals in London and Dublin since then. Despite great efforts by his medical staff and his own indomitable spirt, he succumbed to an infection,” the family said.

The paper had a thorough obituary, which began with his background:

Peter Sutherland, the former European commissioner, attorney general and chairman of Goldman Sachs International, has died. He was 71.

Mr Sutherland served in a number of senior positions in the worlds of law, business and government during his career. Most recently, he was the United Nations special representative for international migration.

In a long career, he also held the positions of director general of the World Trade Organisation; chairman of the London School of Economics; a member of the UN commission on human security; chairman of the European Institute of Public Administration and chairman of British Petroleum.

Born in Dublin in April 1946, Mr Sutherland was educated at Gonzaga College in Ranelagh before going on to study law at University College Dublin. He worked as a senior counsel for more than a decade before being appointed attorney general in 1981 by the Fine Gael-Labour coalition, the first of two spells in the role.

Many of us in the UK will remember him as a globalist, particularly with regard to migration policies. A number of YouTube videos discuss his views. In fact, he was considered to be the ‘father of globalisation’.

He disliked European culture and wanted more immigration from non-European countries.

In 2012, the BBC reported that he disliked Britain’s immigration policy, which was and is quite open, then and now:

He also suggested the UK government’s immigration policy had no basis in international law.

He was being quizzed by the Lords EU home affairs sub-committee which is investigating global migration.

Mr Sutherland, who is non-executive chairman of Goldman Sachs International and a former chairman of oil giant BP, heads the Global Forum on Migration and Development , which brings together representatives of 160 nations to share policy ideas.

He told the House of Lords committee migration was a “crucial dynamic for economic growth” in some EU nations “however difficult it may be to explain this to the citizens of those states”.

An ageing or declining native population in countries like Germany or southern EU states was the “key argument and, I hesitate to the use word because people have attacked it, for the development of multicultural states”, he added.

“It’s impossible to consider that the degree of homogeneity which is implied by the other argument can survive because states have to become more open states, in terms of the people who inhabit them. Just as the United Kingdom has demonstrated.”

He also said that European countries were biased against immigrants:

The United States, or Australia and New Zealand, are migrant societies and therefore they accommodate more readily those from other backgrounds than we do ourselves, who still nurse a sense of our homogeneity and difference from others.

And that’s precisely what the European Union, in my view, should be doing its best to undermine.

Never mind the countless millions of immigrants European countries take in every year. He made it sound as if we are insular, which could not be further from the truth.

It turns out he was a devout Catholic. In 2015, he became president of the International Catholic Migration Commission (ICMC).

People like Peter Sutherland don’t have to live with the consequences of their policies. The Irish Times obit says he attended Mass at Brompton Oratory in London, which implies he lived in one of the richest boroughs of the capital — Kensington and Chelsea.

Peter Sutherland did average Europeans a great disservice. That’s putting it politely.

Watching children with their parents in southern France fascinates me.

Even toddlers there are well behaved.

Families walk along the beach together late at night, and it’s a beautiful sight to behold.

The children are also good in restaurants. They eat an amazing variety of seafood and know how to use their utensils properly.

So I was fascinated to read an article in The Telegraph, ‘No kids allowed: is Britain becoming an anti-child society?’

Excerpts follow:

Eileen Potter, owner of Treacle’s Tea Shop in Winchmore Hill, north London, recently found herself in hot water when she banned pre-schoolers, to the fury of many parents. In response, she explained: ‘We can not continually afford to replace crockery. We are not a family establishment’ …

Italy is famed for being especially family-friendly, but Marco Magliozzi of Rome fish restaurant, La Fraschetta del Pesce, imposed the same restriction. ‘Children throw olive oil on the floor, they send the salt cellar flying across the room and, above all, they hate fish,’ he complained.

Well, I have not seen that in the south of France.

Part of the problem perhaps is letting children rule the roost at home. Another is not eating at the kitchen or dining room table every night. I can remember pretty far back and recall eating with my parents at table from the time I was three. I had my dad’s children’s cutlery set so I could eat properly. No special meals. I ate what my parents ate. Mom did have to cut my pork chops up for a while, but other than that I never had a problem.

However, there is another difficulty here with children since the smoking bans came in force across much of Europe. Every adult establishment now seems to be child-friendly. Pubs and continental cafés are no longer for adults.

The Telegraph points this out:

Several of my London friends (in their 40s and 50s, with no kids) complain that their long-held ritual of a quiet, lazy weekend pub lunch is now impossible.

‘Every decent pub in my neighbourhood is full of children running wild, and that’s if you can get through the door, which is invariably barricaded by buggies,’ says one who wants to remain anonymous. She now eats out only in the evening: ‘But even at 8pm or 9pm, there are often loads of children. Is nowhere sacred?’

Another seethed her way through a recent restaurant outing: ‘There was a toddler on his scooter, whizzing around the dining room, weaving between the tables, tripping up the staff. His parents ignored him and carried on drinking their wine.’

Those ladies would be fine in Cannes, where, somehow, even in the most cramped restaurant, no one notices buggies since they are always thoughtfully placed. Children also look forward to the restaurant experience there. It seems to make them feel more grown up.

The solution is for parents to bring up their children from infancy to be as quiet and calm as possible so as not to be a nuisance to others.

Unfortunately, most parents think of their children as entertaining little darlings when many certainly are not.

The Telegraph gave several examples of places in Britain and Italy that are going child-free. It is regrettable that well-behaved children will have to wait several years before they can enjoy such places themselves, but indulgent parents have only themselves to blame for this inevitable outcome.

More Americans are walking away from Big Media, whether its mainstream news or printed periodicals.

Those Americans are going online and reading or viewing alternative media, which, at least, seem to be doing a good job of investigation.

This is one small example of why traditional media outlets are losing their grip:

Now a Harvard study of media outlets covering President Donald Trump has proven Americans are correct in their perceptions of bias.

The study, ‘News Coverage of Donald Trump’s First 100 Days’, shows the extent of anti-Trump coverage.

American coverage

This chart gives us a summary of the findings from the Harvard Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy:

It is also worth remembering the 2016 campaign and the many journalists who were in the tank for Hillary Clinton. The Democrats held a few get-togethers for them, which the Podesta WikiLeaks revealed:

European media

Three European media sources were also included: Britain’s Financial Times (FT) and the BBC as well as Germany’s ARD.

Of the European sources, ARD was the worst offender, giving Trump astoundingly negative coverage 98% of the time.

The FT came next with 84% negative coverage. The BBC’s output was negative 74% of the time.

Basic findings

A summary of and excerpts from the study follow. Emphases mine below.

Trump was the star of the news during his first 100 days.

In the United States:

Trump was the topic of 41 percent of all news stories—three times the usual amount.[15] It was also the case that Trump did most of the talking (see Figure 1). He was the featured speaker in nearly two-thirds (65 percent) of his coverage. Members of the administration, including his press secretary, accounted for 11 percent of the sound bites. Other Republicans, including Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan, accounted for 4 percent. Altogether, Republicans, inside and outside the administration, accounted for 80 percent of what newsmakers said about the Trump presidency.

Trump supporters were unhappy about the lack of coverage given to violent leftist protests against the president. The Left accused them of being cry babies. However, was Trump’s base right or wrong? They were right. With regard to news coverage:

Participants in anti-Trump protests and demonstrations accounted for … 3 percent.

On the other hand, television coverage did not give the Russian hacking scandal as much time as many of us might have thought:

Immigration was the most heavily covered topic, accounting for 17 percent of Trump’s coverage.[19] Health care ranked second (12 percent), followed by the terrorism threat (9 percent), and Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election (6 percent). Presidential appointments, global trade, Trump’s family and personal life, and the economy were the other topics that received 4 percent or more of the coverage.

Even though they loathe the president, cable news channels know he’s good for their ratings:

News ratings were slumping until Trump entered the arena.  Said one network executive, “[Trump] may not be good for America, but [he’s] damn good for [us].”[18]

In Europe, media coverage focussed on international issues but not on Russia:

Although, like their American counterparts, immigration was at the top of the agenda, they gave relatively more space to international trade, military, and foreign policy issues, a reflection of the extent to which Europe is affected by U.S. policies in these areas. On the other hand, Russia’s interference in the U.S. election received considerably less attention in the European media than in the U.S. media.[1]

The three European outlets also discussed Trump’s fitness for office much more than their American counterparts did:

Only 3 percent of Trump’s U.S. coverage explicitly explored the issue of Trump’s fitness for office. European journalists were less restrained with the exception of BBC journalists, who are governed by impartiality rules that prohibit such reporting.[21] Journalists at ARD, Germany’s main public broadcasting outlet, are not governed by the same rules, and Trump’s suitability for the presidency was ARD’s leading topic in January, accounting for a full fifth (20 percent) of its Trump coverage. ARD stayed on the issue in its February coverage, when it consumed 18 percent of its Trump coverage. In March and April, Trump’s fitness for office got less attention from ARD, but it nonetheless accounted for about 10 percent of ARD’s coverage. Even that reduced amount exceeded the level of any of our seven U.S. outlets in any month. And ARD’s journalists were unequivocal in their judgment—98 percent of their evaluations of Trump’s fitness for office were negative, only 2 percent were positive.

Historical perspective

The Harvard study provides history about news coverage of American presidents.

Until the early 1960s, television news gave equal time to stories about Congress and the president.

In 1963, television news expanded to half-hour broadcasts on each of the three networks (CBS, ABC and NBC). This new type of news programme facilitated the hiring of the correspondents and camera crews needed to produce picture-driven news.

This resulted in an increased coverage of the president:

who, in any case, was easier than Congress to capture on camera. Newspapers followed suit and, ever since, the president has received more coverage in the national press than all 535 members of Congress combined.[12] The White House’s dominance has been such that, on national television, the president typically accounts for roughly one-eighth of all news coverage.[13]

The study points out that the president is not only the focus of media but also their target:

Although journalists are accused of having a liberal bias, their real bias is a preference for the negative.[22] News reporting turned sour during the Vietnam and Watergate era and has stayed that way.[23] Journalists’ incentives, everything from getting their stories on the air to acquiring a reputation as a hard-hitting reporter, encourage journalists to focus on what’s wrong with politicians rather than what’s right.[24]

Furthermore, the traditional honeymoon period no longer exists:

That era is now decades in the past. Today’s presidents can expect rough treatment at the hands of the press, and Donald Trump is no exception (see Figure 4). Of the past four presidents, only Barack Obama received favorable coverage during his first 100 days, after which the press reverted to form. During his second 100 days, Obama’s coverage was 57 percent negative to 43 percent positive.[26]

Even so, television news coverage of Trump hit a new low in negativity:

Of news reports with a clear tone, negative reports outpaced positive ones by 80 percent to 20 percent. Trump’s coverage was unsparing. In no week did the coverage drop below 70 percent negative and it reached 90 percent negative at its peakThe best period for Trump was week 12 of his presidency, when he ordered a cruise missile strike on a Syrian airbase in retaliation for the Assad regime’s use of nerve gas on civilians. That week, his coverage divided 70 percent negative to 30 percent positive. Trump’s worst periods were weeks 3 and 4 (a combined 87 percent negative) when federal judges struck down his first executive order banning Muslim immigrants, and weeks 9 and 10 (a combined 88 percent negative) when the House of Representatives was struggling without success to muster the votes to pass a “repeal and replace” health care bill.

No wonder Trump is unhappy with the media

When Trump rails against the media, he has fact on his side:

Trump’s coverage during his first 100 days was not merely negative in overall terms. It was unfavorable on every dimension. There was not a single major topic where Trump’s coverage was more positive than negative

Trump haters have been spending too much time watching and reading Big Media. Wake up, folks! The Harvard study has news for you:

Research has found that familiarity with a claim increases the likelihood people will believe it, whether it’s true or not. The more they hear of something, the more likely they are to believe it.[34]

Here is the Harvard breakdown of print and television media negativity:

Trump’s attacks on the press have been aimed at what he calls the “mainstream media.” Six of the seven U.S. outlets in our study—CBS, CNN, NBC, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Postare among those he’s attacked by name. All six portrayed Trump’s first 100 days in highly unfavorable termsCNN and NBC’s coverage was the most unrelenting—negative stories about Trump outpaced positive ones by 13-to-1 on the two networks. Trump’s coverage on CBS also exceeded the 90 percent mark. Trump’s coverage exceeded the 80 percent level in The New York Times (87 percent negative) and The Washington Post (83 percent negative). The Wall Street Journal came in below that level (70 percent negative), a difference largely attributable to the Journal’s more frequent and more favorable economic coverage.

There was no relief.

Looking at this another way:

Studies of earlier presidents found nothing comparable to the level of unfavorable coverage afforded Trump. Should it continue, it would exceed even that received by Bill Clinton. There was not a single quarter during any year of Clinton’s presidency where his positive coverage exceeded his negative coverage, a dubious record no president before or since has matched.[29] Trump can’t top that string of bad news but he could take it to a new level. During his first 100 days, Clinton’s coverage was 3-to-2 negative over positive.[30] Trump’s first 100 days were 4-to-1 negative over positive.

Interestingly:

Media failing the American people

Although this was not its only conclusion, the study said that the media need to step up and report more about Americans:

Journalists would also do well to spend less time in Washington and more time in places where policy intersects with people’s lives. If they had done so during the presidential campaign, they would not have missed the story that keyed Trump’s victory—the fading of the American Dream for millions of ordinary people. Nor do all such narratives have to be a tale of woe. America at the moment is a divided society in some respects, but it’s not a broken society and the divisions in Washington are deeper than those beyond the Beltway.

True. This is what a Michigan supporter had to say on Friday, May 19. He doesn’t mention the media, but he has a positive message for the president and his fellow supporters:

The man interviewed said that he supported Donald Trump from the beginning. He canvassed door-to-door for him. He got verbally attacked by … family and friends. People on whose doors he knocked sometimes physically assaulted him.

Big Media bear much of the blame for that gentleman’s abuse.

They don’t care about that man. They don’t care about Americans. They do not care one iota about you.

This is what lies ahead, less than a month from now:

The media will fuel the flames then not report on it, just as they ignored the riots earlier this year.

Tune out. Cancel the newspaper subscription. You can read the obituaries online.

If you want to know what’s really happening at the White House, follow the Twitter feed.

Bruce Bawer — an American who has lived in Europe for nearly two decades — wrote an excellent essay for PJ Media, ‘What Happened in France?’

It offers a post-mortem of Emmanuel Macron’s victory on Sunday, May 7, 2017 and explains how it happened.

With an upcoming parliamentary election taking place in Britain on Thursday, June 8, it seems apposite to look at voting patterns in the two countries.

Before I excerpt Bawer’s editorial, I, too, have noticed a certain voting behaviour in France and the UK, two countries I know well. I live in the UK and see that voters are reluctant not so much to go to the polls as they are to actually vote in a way that reverses globalism. People in other parts of Europe, e.g. France, are similarly skittish.

The hive mind is a powerful thing in Europe. The globalists created it through politically correct thinking and make jolly good use of it via the media and pollsters.

Two recent British shockers were David Cameron’s victory in May 2015 and the referendum vote for Brexit in 2016. Both results surprised everyone. This is because we were under constant onslaught by print and broadcast media to vote against the Conservatives and Brexit.

Even now that Theresa May is the occupant of No. 10, politics remains a touchy subject. As I’ve said many times before, it’s not something I discuss much with people I know, even with fellow Conservatives, some of whom are quite wet — squishy, for my American readers — about Brexit. They think voters should have gone for Remain last June.

Howeverand this is something Bruce Bawer did not mention in his pieceEuropeans do not have a well developed online alternative media universe comprising independent journalists, citizen journalists and political fora. This, to me, is the principal difference between the UK and Europe.

Bawer’s article is well worth reading and passing along to friends. I’ll try to excerpt as little as possible, because it probably took him a long time to write.

Americans are probably still scratching their heads over 2017 election results, not only in France but in the Netherlands. Both resulted in preserving a self-destructive status quo, one that increases terror and diminishes national identity.

Bawer says that Europeans feel a collective guilt about their former colonies and political movements. Therefore, they feel the need for perpetual atonement (emphases mine below):

One way of trying to answer it is to look at countries one by one. For example, the Brits and French feel guilty about their imperial histories, and hence find it difficult to rein in the descendants of subject peoples. The Germans feel guilty about their Nazi past – and the Swedes feel guilty about cozying up to Nazis – and thus feel compelled to lay out the welcome mat for, well, just about anybody. The Dutch, similarly, are intensely aware that during the Nazi occupation they helped ship off a larger percentage of their Jews to the death camps than any other Western European country, and feel a deep need to atone.

Then there’s postmodernism:

According to postmodern thinking, no culture is better than any other – and it’s racist to say otherwise. No, scratch that – other cultures are, in fact, better than Western culture. Whites, by definition, are oppressors, imperialists, and colonialists, while “people of color” are victims.

We are in denial about terrorist attacks:

The plainer the truth got, in fact, the more fiercely they resisted it. And as skilled propagandists began to represent Muslims as the mother of all victim groups, many Westerners were quick to buy into it all …

But – and this is a fact that some of us are thoroughly incapable of identifying with, and thus almost thoroughly incapable of graspingsome people don’t want to know the truth. And if they do know the truth, they want to un-know it.

These are not intellectuals or socio-political elites, but ordinary people of various income groups and educational levels:

I’m talking about people who, in everyday life, come across as thoroughly good and decent – but who, when push comes to shove, just don’t want to rock the boat. That’s a lot of people. Maybe most. People who are nice so long as it’s easy to be nice

There are kind people who, the minute there’s any hint of trouble – which means, way before the death-camp round-up begins – prefer to lie low. Their highest value isn’t truth or virtue or beauty or even long-term security for them and their families but the ability to buy another day without major trouble.

You’d think they’d be able to look forward at least some distance into the future and dwell on that grim prospect. Able to see their children, their grandchildren, and so forth, living under sharia law. If, indeed, lucky to be living at all.

But I think it needs to be recognized that for some people, seeing that far into the future is just beyond their intellectual grasp. Or beyond what they dare to envision

Bawer posits that a lot of these people can see what is actually happening to Europe but they are ‘terrified’ to do anything about it, even at the ballot box.

This is why a Conservative victory in 2015 and Brexit victory in 2016 were so significant for Britain. I had hoped our continental neighbours would follow suit this year, but, alas, it was not meant to be. The Germans are likely to see Angela Merkel continue her chancellorship later this year.

Bawer says that Europeans are now so cowed into submission, even a private vote can’t help:

You might think that, once in the voting booth, these people would be able – and not just able but eager, desperate even – to stand up against the powers above them that have turned their countries upside down and assert their power as citizens. But everything around them has conspired all their lives to render them incapable of feeling that power – or, perhaps, has rendered them incapable of feeling that they have the moral right to exercise that power in the way that their gut is begging them to.

That still, quiet voice in their heads, which I would describe as a voice of plain reason and common sense, is up against the resounding voices of all the higher-ups shouting in unison – the leading voices of politics, business, the academia, the media, and so on – that they’ve been bred from infancy to respect and take seriously. To, indeed, obey

So it is that even in a secret ballot, it takes European voters a remarkable amount of nerve to resist the thunderous chorus of voices from above urging them to vote against their own interests; it feels like nothing less than an act of treason to heed the meek little voices in their own heads begging them to do the opposite – to do what’s actually best for themselves and their loved ones.

Bawer nails it perfectly in his next sentence:

They’ve been psychologically manipulated to the point where they truly believe, on some level, at least in some Orwellian doublethink kind of way, that acting in clear defense of their own existence, their own culture, their own values, and their own posterity, is an act of ugly prejudice.

Yes — that’s it in a nutshell.

I see it here in the elderly — people old enough to know better — and I see it in the middle-aged and the young.

Europeans must wake up and vote for what is right and good.

I sincerely hope that Britain will do so again on June 8.

On April 6, voters in the Netherlands participated in a referendum on an EU treaty for closer ties with Ukraine.

Nearly two-thirds — 61% — voted no. Thirty-eight per cent voted for the EU-Ukraine association agreement. The percentage of people voting was 32%, two points over the validity threshold.

Regardless of the results, in a way, it is almost a moot point. First, the referendum result is non-binding on the Dutch government. Secondly, Prime Minister Mark Rutte and his coalition parliament plan to modify their terms of the treaty to satisfy public opinion or risk losing in national elections to be held early in 2017. Thirdly, trade parts of the agreement are already in force and 27 out of 28 EU governments have already approved the treaty.

The big picture here is the disenchantment many Dutch have with the EU project. It’s not so much an agreement with Ukraine, although that is part of it, but the popular change of heart of one of the six founding nations of the European Union towards the bureaucratic behemoth.

‘No’ voters say the EU is undemocratic and lacks transparency. They dislike the power Brussels has over their lives. They are worried about their own economic situation.

The Guardian explained that, for the Dutch government — as well as Ukraine’s president Petro Poroshenko, who wrongly predicted ‘Yes’ would win — the fear is, as Poroshenko said, this will result in:

an internal Dutch discussion about the future of the European Union.

The article went on to state:

The referendum’s Eurosceptic Dutch organisers have admitted the vote is essentially not about Ukraine but a handy hook to push a broader anti-EU agenda and “give citizens more say in Brussels”.

It was triggered after organisers used new legislation allowing citizens to voice opinions on legislative decisions if they garner more than 300,000 signatures.

On April 13, The Guardian interviewed several voters from the Netherlands to find out why they voted against the EU-Ukraine agreement. These are not old, fusty-dusty people, by the way. I highly recommend the interviews, which are considered reflections of both sides of the EU argument. Excerpts follow.

Joanne, a law student in Leiden, said she was happy with the result:

Euroscepticism in the Netherlands has lingered from the moment the 2005 referendum result was ignored and we lost power over our foreign policy. People have sensed that they still have the power to control their own fate and that they can punish politicians for acting against our national interests.

She also alluded to the dissatisfaction she had with the coalition government which played a part in her ‘No’ vote.

Hannah, a regional archivist in Noord-Brabant, also took exception to the policies of the coalition government and was worried about the economic situation as well as cuts in state care for the vulnerable and meddling with the educational system. As for the EU, she echoed Hannah in the growing Euroscepticism since 2005 and added:

There was a majority no vote in Noord-Brabant, although it was also the province that ended up having the lowest overall voter turnout … Many people believe that the needs of the EU are put above those of individual member states. On the other hand I do think many Dutch people understand there needs to be some European unity, just not necessarily in its current state. 

Claudia, an assistant professor in Amsterdam, was also happy with the result. She grew up in a rural area, where Euroscepticism is more pronounced than in the cities. Overall:

That result also shows that Eurosceptic sentiments have been present for a long time. I do not necessarily see an increase. Instead, there might be more awareness among politicians that Dutch voters are sceptic about a political union with other countries, especially countries we lack common ground with …

The Netherlands does not have a single-issue, anti-EU party. Those who would like to vote against the EU have to choose between the far-right of Geert Wilders or the far-left parties. For voters like me, who thoroughly disagree with other opinions held by members of these parties, a referendum is a great opportunity to express anti-EU sentiments and to deliver the message that something has to change.

… The referendum is a great example of a bottom-up initiative to change national policy and I feel it is incredible over 30% turned up to vote for something most politicians did not bother paying proper attention to. 

Marinus from Groeningen said:

A lot of people would in fact support much greater EU integration as long as it is done right. Even no voters in this referendum have admitted that they would support the EU, if it were a better EU.

I agree with all of these people, especially Marinus, with regard to our own Brexit referendum coming up on June 23, 2016.

None of us dislikes Europe and nearly all of us — except for radicals — feel we should uphold our own civilisation, regardless of the conflicts we have had over the centuries from the Dark Ages to the Second World War.

Although we have our cultural and linguistic distinctions, we are united in our greater common heritage.

However, a growing number of us no longer wish to be associated with unelected, unknown Brussels bureaucrats who have the power to impose laws on the member states which gradually erode our national sovereignty and personal freedoms.

Of Europe, we say: take it seriously but wear it lightly. Let the EU nations manage their own affairs and come together only for large member-wide decisions on trade and security that affect us all.

Yes, a decade of referenda by member states voting one by one to leave the EU would stop the Brussels gravy train in its tracks. That’s what many in government — even at national level — fear: cuts in grants and the shrinking of elite job opportunities at EU level.

That is why the media narrative, which largely centres on scaremongering about loss of trade, supports the status quo: staying in the EU.

No one opposing the current bloated European project says it will be easy to leave it. However, spending a few years roaming in the wilderness is a price worth paying when we emerge stronger and more sovereign than before.

Last year I finally got around to writing about the history of Valentine’s Day.

(Graphics credit: FünMunch)

Since then, a bit more information has come in!

Let the story continue …

The French site l’Internaute has quite the summary of everything we always wanted to know about February 14, and is the source for the next few sections below.

Lupercalia

In ancient Rome Lupercalia was held every year on February 15. It was a year-end celebration of Faunus Lupercus, the god of fertility, shepherds and their flocks. It was also a rite of purification prior to the New Year, which fell on March 1.

The festival had three ceremonies. The first involved the pagan priests sacrificing a goat in the grotto of Lupercal, the wolf who nourished Romulus and Remus, founders of Rome.

The remains of the goat were then used in the ritual which followed. The priests daubed young members of noble families with the goat’s blood which was a purification rite, representing a symbolic cleansing of the shepherds.

No doubt other animals were sacrificed, because the priests kept the blood and the skins for a race through the streets of Rome. They daubed themselves in blood, as they had done to the young noblemen. The skins served as a covering and switches. The priests and noblemen wore some of the skin and carried switches with which to whip people as they ran down the streets. Women were particularly eager for this, because it was said that a whipping was said to give a happy pregnancy and painless childbirth. (This is not the only pagan tradition in Europe where men used to whip women in late winter or early Spring. Central Europe has Dyngus Day, which takes place on Easter Monday and may extend to Easter Tuesday, when women get their own back on the men. No doubt there were more.)

Lupercalia culminated in a great banquet, where men chose their dining partners. This sometimes led to marriage.

It is also worth remembering that the story of Cupid and Psyche was part of Roman mythology.

Pope Gelasius I

Even once most Romans had converted to Christianity, Lupercalia continued to be celebrated.

In the 5th century, Pope Gelasius I wanted to put a stop to the festivities. He wrote a letter to Senator Andromachus in which he listed his objections to the pagan revelry. Gelasius criticised the immoral behaviour displayed and pointed out that the pagan worship and rituals did nothing against the disease epidemics which plagued the city 20 years before.

However, Andromachus was fond of Lupercalia and refused to forbid the celebrations.

Gelasius had no choice but to urge Christians to turn the day into one of true love. He chose February 14 to commemorate St Valentine as the patron saint of lovers. However, Wikipedia says that Gelasius initiated Candlemas — February 2 — and encouraged devotion to Mary, recalling her purity. Incidentally, February comes from februare, meaning ‘to purify’.

Middle Ages

February 14 was not widely celebrated in Europe until the Middle Ages.

No doubt the notion of chivalry which was popular at that time gave rise to gentleness and honour on the part of men towards women.

Some pagan elements remained, even though the Continent was Christian by this time. A ‘love lottery’ took place in several European countries. Young people drew names of a partner of the opposite sex and wore that person’s name on their sleeves for the following week. On the first Sunday of Lent, the Bonfire Festival took place. A ‘knight’ — a Valentine (see my post for an explanation) — from the February 14 draw was appointed to head the festival. He was accompanied by a young woman. They led a procession around their town or village. The people carried small torches to burn weeds and smoke out garden pests, such as moles, in order to ensure a good crop during the summer months. The festivities concluded with a bonfire.

It was also during this era that young women paid attention to the birds they saw during this time. Some species were said to indicate what sort of men they would marry. A robin indicated a sailor. A sparrow designated a man of modest means who would keep her happy. A goldfinch was said to presage marriage to a wealthy man.

The cross as ‘x’ — and a kiss

The ‘x’ has been used by Christians since the earliest days of the Church.

Initially, an ‘x’ at the bottom of a message indicated a thousand kisses.

The ‘x’ recalled the cross on which St Andrew, the apostle, died. He, like St Peter, did not consider himself worthy to die the same way our Lord did. Also like Peter, Andrew died as a martyr. He had gone to preach in what is now the Balkans and was crucified in Patras in the Peloponnese. During his lifetime, he had travelled all the way to what, today, is Kiev. Therefore, it is not surprising that after his death a great devotion arose to him.

The custom of the illiterate signing their names with an ‘x’ began in the Middle Ages. Those who did so had to then kiss that cross as a sign that they were telling the truth in court or another situation involving the law. Remember, the printing press was still to come, so Bibles were rare.

From this and from the earliest days of the Church, the ‘x’ came to symbolise a kiss.

Shakespeare

Last year’s post looked at Valentine’s customs through the Renaissance.

The source for the following material comes from The Telegraph’s 2010 article, ‘History of Valentine’s Day’.

By the early 17th century, February 14 was widely celebrated as a day of love. Shakespeare made a reference to it:

in Ophelia’s lament in Hamlet: “To-morrow is Saint Valentine’s day,/All in the morning betime,/And I a maid at your window,/To be your Valentine.”

Mid-18th century

In England, men began writing love notes on St Valentine’s Day. In 1797, a book, The Young Man’s Valentine Writer, appeared. It advised on which phrases, rhymes and words to use in these messages, which were precursors to the Valentine’s Day card.

When sending messages by post became affordable, the possibility of sending Valentines anonymously became standard — and still is today in the UK.

19th century

By the beginning of the 19th century, sending Valentines was so popular that English factories began to mass-produce them.

In the United States, Esther Howland of Worcester, Massachusetts, began making and selling Valentine’s Day cards in 1847. She was able to use a new innovation — paper lace — to adorn her cards.

20th century

Valentine’s Day became commercialised with Hallmark Cards’ Valentines in 1913. February 14 is one of the company’s big card-selling occasions.

Then there was the St Valentine’s Day massacre in 1929.

By the 1980s, a whole industry emerged around Valentine’s Day. What used to be an occasion for a card and flowers or chocolates went upmarket when diamonds were marketed as the most desirable gift a woman could receive on February 14. Jewellery has since remained a popular gift.

21st century

In 2009, American retail figures showed that people spent an estimated $14.7 billion (£9.2 billion) on Valentine’s Day cards and gifts.

In 2010 — nearly a century after Hallmark’s Valentines appeared — 1 billion cards were sent around the world.

Enjoy your Sunday and best wishes for a happy Valentine’s Day!

In 2016, Shrove Tuesday is on February 9 and Ash Wednesday on February 10.

Epiphany gospel readings – Year C

Before going into the ancient history behind Shrovetide, let’s look at what denominations following the  Church calendar currently call the season of Epiphany.

Churches following the three-year Lectionary readings are using those for Year C until the first Sunday in Advent, when Year A readings begin.

The Lectionary readings for the Sundays after Epiphany normally focus on Jesus’s divinity and ministry. In 2014, I excerpted an excellent explanation of the Epiphany season from St Paul’s Lutheran Church (Missouri Synod) of Kingsville, Maryland. The church has since taken the page down, but my post has the salient points, among them (emphases mine):

Epiphany is … a season that lasts until the beginning of Lent and encompasses four to nine Sundays, depending on the date of Easter.

… the church concentrates on several of the other incidents from Scripture that show how Jesus manifested God’s love to the world through His ministry of preaching, miracles, and healings.  What is common to each of these epiphanies is that in one way or another they make known the identity and mission of Jesus Christ: True Man and True God, born into this sinful world to be the Lord and Savior of all humanity.

This year, Sunday gospel readings included Jesus’s baptism by John the Baptist (Luke 3:15-17, 21-22), His first creative miracle at Cana (John 2:1-11), His preaching at the synagogue in Nazareth when they wanted to throw Him off a cliff (Luke 4:14-21Luke 4:21-30) and the Transfiguration (Luke 9:28-36, (37-43a)). Be sure to read the missing and optional verses!

Shrovetide

Before the post-Vatican II liturgical changes occurred in the Catholic Church and before similar adjustments occurred in Anglican and Lutheran churches, these denominations observed what was called Shrovetide.

Shrovetide begins on Septuagesima Sunday and comprises Sexagesima Sunday and Quinquagesima Sunday (commonly called Shrove Sunday). My post, ‘The Sundays before Lent’ explains what each of these ancient names mean and what they signified in terms of spiritual disciplines. In brief, they mark the days before Easter: 70, 60 and 50, respectively. Centuries ago, some Christians began Lenten fasting the day after Septuagesima Sunday.

The word ‘shrove’ is the past tense of ‘shrive‘, an archaic verb meaning:

Present oneself to a priest for confession, penance, and absolution.

Christians were supposed to go to confession during this time, a customary practice before Lent began. In England, Abbot Aelfric instituted this practice in 1000 AD.

Even into the 20th century, people took Shrovetide seriously. In the 1960s, I knew a Catholic lady who explained that these Sundays were meant to exercise the consciences of the faithful, get them to focus on their sinfulness and decide on the appropriate spiritual disciplines they would need to undertake during Lent.

Carnival

The final days of the season are Shrove Monday and Shrove Tuesday.

Of course, by then, Carnival, where celebrated, is in full swing. In some countries, it lasts for a week. In others, it starts on the final weekend of Shrovetide. In both cases, the festivities climax and end on Shrove Tuesday.

According to Wikipedia, Carnival was an ancient pagan time of revelry. Certainly, early Church councils and synods attempted to curb the excesses which took place at this time. Wikipedia tells us:

Many synods and councils attempted to set things “right”. The statements of Caesarius of Arles (470–542), which protested around 500 CE in his sermons against the Pagan practices, seemed to have formed the building blocks of the Indiculus superstitionum et paganiarum (small index of superstitious and pagan practices), which was drafted by the Synod of Leptines in 742 in which the Spurcalibus en februario was condemned.

Pope Gregory the Great (590–604) decided that fasting would start on Ash Wednesday.

He did this in order to draw a clear line of demarcation between Carnival and Lent.

My post ‘Lent, denominational differences and freedom in Christ’ has more on Carnival, including the origin of the word which:

derives from the Latin carne vale, or ‘farewell, meat [literally, ‘flesh’]’.  In England, the word valete is still used occasionally in formal academic announcements (parodied in the satirical magazine Private Eye); valete is the plural of vale and is used when bidding farewell to more than one person or thing.

Shrove Monday

In addition to Carnival celebrations, Shrove Monday was also a time to eat foods that would need to be either consumed straightaway or abstained from during Lent:

Centuries ago, as Lent approached, flour from the previous year was near its expiry date, so to speak.  Similarly, eggs, milk and meat fat (e.g. lard) would also have to be eaten or discarded before the fast. No household threw out food.  Therefore, the European custom prior to Lent was to use up these foodstuffs.

Centuries ago, the British called this day Collop Monday. Collop means sliced or minced meat. It was a final opportunity to eat meat prior to Lent. The meal was often a breakfast, in which eggs also featured. If bacon was used, the cook or housewife reserved the fat for the pancakes served the following day.

Shrove Tuesday

Nearly all European countries mark Shrove Tuesday with a special food item or fat-laden feast, a final opportunity for enjoyment before Lent begins on Ash Wednesday.

These customs are centuries old and spread to other countries around the world with European exploration and settlement.

The Reformation could not put paid to old pre-Lenten customs which live on today. The British and many Commonwealth nations still call Shrove Tuesday Pancake Day. In Scandinavia and parts of Northern Europe, people enjoy semla, a sweet bun filled with frangipane and topped with whipped cream. People in Iceland celebrate Bursting Day by eating salted meat and peas.

Many countries celebrate Carnival or hold other ancient festivities on Shrove Tuesday.

In Britain, a number of towns in Britain hold pancake races, which date back to the 15th century:

The tradition is said to have originated in 1445 when a housewife from Olney, Buckinghamshire, was so busy making pancakes that she forgot the time until she heard the church bells ringing for the service. She raced out of the house to church while still carrying her frying pan and pancake, tossing it to prevent it from burning.[17][18] The pancake race remains a relatively common festive tradition in the UK, especially England, even today. Participants with frying pans race through the streets tossing pancakes into the air and catching them in the pan while running.

The most famous pancake race,[19] at Olney in Buckinghamshire, has been held since 1445. The contestants, traditionally women, carry a frying pan and race over a 415-yard course to the finishing line. The rules are strict: contestants have to toss their pancake at both the start and the finish, as well as wear an apron and a scarf. Traditionally, when men want to participate, they must dress up as a housewife (usually an apron and a bandanna). The race is followed by a church service.[17]

Another popular Shrove Tuesday tradition in England was the local football match. This has died out over the centuries, and the Royal Shrovetide Football Match in Derbyshire appears to be the sole survivor.

Yet, in the 12th century, a cleric, William Fitzstephen, wrote about a football match he witnessed in London. By the late Middle Ages, other towns and cities around Britain also held Shrovetide ball games. The types of games varied by region and tradition.

The Royal Shrovetide Football Match:

is a “mob football” game played annually on Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday in the town of Ashbourne in Derbyshire, England. 

The match has specific rules and takes place not on a pitch but all over town:

The ball is rarely kicked, though it is legal to kick, carry or throw it. Instead it generally moves through the town in a series of hugs, like a giant scrum in rugby, made up of dozens if not hundreds of people.

Shops board up their windows and people park away from Ashbourne’s main thoroughfares.

The match gained royal assent in 1928 when the future Edward VIII (the abdicator!) attended. In 2003, it was given royal assent a second time when Prince Charles opened the match.

Conclusion

It is fascinating to discover how ancient, widespread, varied and enduring these pre-Lenten traditions are.

This history provides food for thought on how our ancestors might have spent the days preceding Lent.

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