Be An ELF*


Tis the season to consider giving thoughtful gifts, that can keep giving throughout the year!

A Friends’ membership not only gives  a 20% discount in our Bookstore, every shopping day of the year, but also gives early entry into our special book sales throughout the year.
We also have gift cards in any denomination from $5 to help with your holiday shopping!
We have many literary activities that are great fun throughout the year, from morning coffees to author visits to teas and treasure hunts. You never know what we will think up next! There are many volunteer opportunities in both the Bookstore and the Library too.

Thank you for your support!

Fourth of July

Today is Independence Day. On this day in 1776, the Second Continental Congress unanimously adopted the Declaration of Independence, and the United States officially broke from the rule of England. War began more than a year earlier in Lexington Massachusetts; it would not end for another 7 years (1783). The colonists were trying to persuade other nations of Europe to be on their side, so they included a long list of complaints about the king. The document said of the king, in part, “HE is, at this Time, transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to complete the Works of Death, Desolation, and Tyranny, already begun with Circumstances of Cruelty and Perfidy, scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous Ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized Nation.”

In 1804, the explorers Lewis and Clark had the first Fourth of July celebration west of the Mississippi. They were traveling through a part of the Midwest that is now Kansas. They stopped at the mouth of a creek on July 4th, and named it Independence Creek in honor of the day. To celebrate, they fired their cannon at sunset and distributed an extra ration of whisky to the men.

It became a popular holiday after the War of 1812. On the frontier, it was the only time of the year when everyone in the countryside gathered together in one place. There would be parades and speeches, and the prettiest and most wholesome girl in the village would be named the Goddess of Liberty. Politicians would get up and call the king of England a skunk and challenge him to a fight. Drunk men in the streets would get into fights and call each other Englishmen. Soon, events like groundbreaking ceremonies for the Erie Canal and the Baltimore and Ohio Railroads were scheduled to coincide with July 4th festivities. In 1870 Congress passed a law declaring it a federal holiday. These days, almost all communities — from small towns to major metropolitan areas — have 4th of July parades and set off fireworks. Washington, D.C., has a parade down Constitution Avenue and fireworks above the Washington Monument. In Boston, the Boston Pops Orchestra performs a free concert that ends with fireworks over the Charles River. Chicago, New Orleans, Houston, and Philadelphia also have huge festivities. But the longest-running 4th of July parade in the country takes place in Bristol, Rhode Island, a town of just over 20,000, which has had a parade every year since 1785

John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, both died on July 4th 1826, the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. Jefferson wrote the Declaration, and John Adams was its strongest supporter in the Continental Congress.

On this day in 1845, Henry David Thoreau moved into his cabin on Walden Pond. It was 10 feet wide by 15 feet long, had an attic and a closet, two windows, and a fireplace.

On this day in 1855, the first edition of Whitman’s Leaves of Grass was printed. It consisted of 12 poems and a preface. “Grass” is a printer’s term; it refers to a casual job that can be set up between busy times.

On this day in 1931, James Joyce married Nora Barnacle at the Kensington Registry Office in London.

The Holidays

When I discovered libraries, it was like having Christmas every day. Jean Fritz
Support your local library this year, give generously.

A donation (remember those taxes!), a donation in someone’s name (a great gift!), a ticket to Wit Wisdom and Wine (January 15th), a book purchase in the Friends’ Bookstore, a Friends membership purchase (early entry into our book sales, Winterfest is next!), a bottle of wine or the Balvenie Single Malt Whisky (in December at Andy’s)  are all ways to contribute just a little more to benefit the entire community. You benefit as well!

May Day, Beltane

May Day is a pagan festival to mark the return of spring in ancient Celtic/Gaelic traditions. Quarter day festivals mark the change of seasons, each with special rituals and symbols (Imbolic, Beltane, Lagnnasadh, Samhuinn). May first was the first day of summer (hence the solstice June 21st is Midsummer), and many bonfires were lit to mark a time of purification and transition. The community bonfire also supplied the flame to renew each home hearth with hope of good harvest, health and to bring good luck. It was the second most important festival of the Druids.

Various traditional May Day celebrations included the gathering of wildflowers and green branches, the weaving of floral garlands, Morris dancers (who wake Jack in the Green), crowning the queen of May, and decorating the Maypole, around which people danced. This holiday with its roots in the fertility celebrations of pre-Christian Europe is associated with much raucous activity. May Day, is a day on which you should wash your face with morning dew at sunrise to keep yourself looking young and beautiful. You should also gather wildflowers and green branches, make floral garlands and bouquets with ribbons to decorate your home and village. May baskets were a particular charm, small bouquets that were left anonymously on a doorstep (if you caught the person, you got a kiss). Lily of the valley and violets were often used; the lily of the valley is also commonly called May flower and is a lucky charm.

At Oxford University, otherwise intelligent young scholars jump off the Magdalen Bridge into a section of the Cherwell River that is two feet deep, even though the bridge is closed off as a precautionary measure. At St. Andrews in Scotland, students gather on the beach the night before May Day, build bonfires, and then at sunrise they run (occasionally naked) into the frigid North Sea. In Edinburgh Scotland, it is customary to climb Arthur’s Seat to greet the sunrise (and the all important dew), with dancing Druids and song. Since the late 1980s, there has been a Beltane Society which revived and developed Beltane as a Community Arts Project with street performances, including bonfires, drumming and revelry on Calton hill. Over 15,000 people annually attend. In the United States, the Puritans frowned on this celebration, but many customs are still followed on the east coast. In Hawaii, there’s hula dancing to the “May Day is Lei Day” song. In Minneapolis, there’s the May Day Parade that marches south down Bloomington Avenue. It’s organized by the In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre, now in its 37th year and attracting about 35,000 people.

Europe christianised many pagan holidays, but not this one. To celebrate this popular holiday, workers stayed home against their employers’ wishes. It became known as a people’s holiday. A conference of world Socialist parties held in Paris voted May 1, 1890, as a day of demonstrations in favor of the eight-hour day. May first is also the Feast of St Philip and St James, so they became the patron saints of workers. May Day is also called Labor Day for much of the world, a day to commemorate the economic and social improvements of workers. In the US, President Cleveland moved Labor Day to September to disassociate it with the radical left as it evolved from the 1886 Haymarket Square riots. In 1958, U.S. Congress under Eisenhower proclaimed May 1 “Loyalty Day” and also “Law Day” – two holidays that have not caught on. May Day is still a prominent holiday in communist countries like Cuba and the People’s Republic of China.

NB the international distress signal code word “Mayday” has nothing to do with Beltane. It’s derived from the French m’aider, meaning, come help me.

Comic Books, Humour, Humor, Funnies

Today is April Fools’ Day, a holiday celebrating practical jokes of all kinds. The British collection of folk wisdom known as Poor Robin’s Almanac(1662) says: “The first of April, some do say, Is set apart for All Fools’ Day.”

One theory about the origin of April Fools’ Day is that it started in France in 1582. Up until then, New Year’s Day was celebrated on April 1st, but when Europe adopted the Gregorian calendar, New Year’s Day was moved to January 1st. At the time, news of such things traveled slowly, and it took many years for everyone to get up to speed. People who continued to celebrate New Years on April 1st came to be known as April Fools.

John Updike said, “Looking foolish does the spirit good.”

On this day in 2004 that Google released Gmail to the public. Many people thought it was a joke: It offered a whole gigabyte of storage, which was exponentially greater than what was offered by other free e-mail services at the time.

Gmail has played a number of memorable pranks on April Fools’ Day. On April 1, 2006, Google announced a new dating service, called Google Romance. They said, “When you think about it, love is just another search problem.”

The news media have been responsible for some of the greatest April Fools’ Day pranks in history. In 1977, the London newspaper The Guardian published a seven-page supplement commemorating the anniversary of the independence of San Serriffe, a completely imaginary small island nation located in the Indian Ocean. The article described the geography of the nation – it consisted of two main islands, which together formed the shape of a semi-colon; the northern one was called “Upper Caisse” and the southern one, “Lower Caisse.”
The island’s natives were of “Flong” ethnicity, but there were also the descendents of Europeans settlers who had colonized the nation: “colons.” The two groups had intermarried over the years; their offspring were “semi-colons.”
The capital of the nation was Bodoni and the national bird, the “Kwote.”
In the supplement, there were even advertisements from real companies. Texaco announced a contest whose winner would receive a two-week vacation to the island’s Cocobanana Beach. Kodak placed an ad saying, “If you have a picture of San Serriffe, we’d like to see it.”
The Guardian was flooded with calls for more information. Travel agents complained to the editor because the news had been disruptive to their businesses – customers refused to believe that the islands were only imaginary. The Guardian has reused the prank on a few other April Fools’ Days – in 1978, 1980, and 1999 – and each time the island has changed location, moving from the Indian Ocean to the South China Sea to the North Atlantic.

On this day in 1992, National Public Radio announced that Richard Nixon was running for president again. The news came on the show Talk of the Nation and included excerpts of Nixon’s speech announcing his candidacy, in which he said, “I didn’t do anything wrong, and I won’t do it again.” It also featured analysis from real political experts. Manypeople expressed their indignation. In the second half of the show, it was revealed a practical joke, and that Canadian comedian Richard Little had impersonated Nixon.

We have many excellent joke books, a good humour/humor section, and much more in the Friends’ Bookstore. See you there!