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Saturday, October 27, 2012

Birthday Fun

Make a wish!
Today is my birthday, and like any newly-minted 26 year-old, I found myself wondering about the origin and history of the birthday party.  As I started researching, was I hoping I would come across some long lost oil painting of Thomas Jefferson crushing it at a bday party like an Anti-Federalist Scott Disick?  Maybe. Obviously, that did not happen.  

Way back in the day, birthday parties weren't much of a thing (I'm talking way way back, like before there were calendars, so no one knew when their birthday was.  No wonder they weren't popular.)  Even after dates became more standardized, birthdays were more of a thing for royalty, or the super-rich.  Poor peasants, no one brought them a cupcake.

Like many traditions (see: Christmas), the modern bday party owes most of its origins to the Victorians, who borrowed it from Germany - Germans are credited with coming up with "kinderfeste" (literally "child celebration"), the first instance of kids' birthdays becoming a big deal.  (Kids of all ages, Germans.  Let's not be ageist.) 

Unfortunately, the Victorians also adopted the German tradition of a birthday fruit cake, which is just not my favorite.  But it was the origin of the birthday cake, which has now evolved into something much more delicious - like red velvet cake.  Hollaa! 

Victorian birthday parties had a lot to do with showcasing the wealth of the parents, so good job, Real Housewives of Beverly Hills:  you are right on track.  Cake, party games: these are all bday classics we owe to rich Victorian people, and the the servants who made it all happen.  

Of course, Pin the Tail on the Donkey would not become popular until the 1950s, and we all know a birthday's not a birthday without some Pin the Tail action.  

Thursday, October 25, 2012

October Distractions

I know there's lots going on exciting in history (there always is)...but I can't seem to focus on anything but Halloween (going to be Peter Pan!), my birthday (CAKE), and Jessica Biel's pink wedding dress (OBSESSED.)

Hopefully November will be a month full of focus.  Focus on history and writing, not celebrity wedding dresses.  Obviously. 

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Hasty Pudding

You know how in America we have Civil War Reenactments?

photo courtesy
I just found out that in England, you can reenact an even older part of history - the Battle of Hastings!

photo: Carl de Souza/AFP/Getty Images

photo courtesy
Is it just me or does that look incredibly dangerous?  I mean, they are charging at each other with sticks!  Sure, I guess Civil War reenactors fires guns at each other (they're blanks, so no worries there), and I'm sure these are like blunted poles and arrows sans arrowhead or whatnot, but still.  At least modern (Civil War-era) weaponry lets you keep a healthy distance between your reenacting opponent. 

The Battle of Hastings took place on October 14th in the year 1066.  (The oldest date this blog has ever discussed.  Historic!)  William the Conquerer (who was from Normandy, which is in France) defeated King Harold II of England, ending the line of Anglo-Saxon kings and beginning the reign of Norman kings in England.  This battle is notable for being really long and bloody, and because Harold II allegedly died thanks to an arrow in his eye.  Grisly.

So the reenactment?  Happens every year as close to the 14th as possible!  Some years are bigger than others (there were 3,400 reenactors registered in 2006), but it does happen every year - except not right now.  Unfortunately, it was cancelled today due to extreme weather conditions.  Sigh.

Oh well.  There's always next year!