The Scottish Saltire

The Scottish Saltire

Monday, March 24, 2008

How Did The Easter Bunny Become Part of a Religeous Holiday?

Borrowed from Ask Yahoo.....

The Easter bunny has a long history as a pagan symbol that
predates the
Christian holiday. In fact, our sources suggest
that early Christians
purposefully co-opted the pagan hare
to popularize their own holiday.

Quite a few pagan cultures hold celebrations in the spring.
It's the time of year when plants return to life after being
dormant all winter and when animals mate and procreate.
These festivities celebrate the renewal of life and promote
the fertility of crops, animals, and even people, which
was important in these agrarian communities. The Saxons
believed in a maiden goddess of fertility named
Eastre or Eostre
(Oestre in Latin) and honored her with
a spring festival. Hares and rabbits were considered
sacred to Eastre because they are notoriously fertile

In the second century A.D., Christian missionaries tried to
convert northern European tribes. To help make
Christianity attractive, the missionaries turned pagan
festivals into Christian holidays. The pagan Eastre festival
occurred around the same time as the Christian celebration
marking Christ's resurrection so the two celebrations
blended into one, rabbit and all.

Over time, Eastre became Easter, and the symbolism
changed as well. Instead of the Easter rabbit symbolizing
fertility, the rabbit may symbolize an innocent, vulnerable
creature that can be sacrificed, similar to the lamb. To
Christians, these innocents are tokens of Christ and the
sacrifice he made.

The Easter bunny we know today was influenced by German
traditions dating back to the 1500s. German children
believed that the Oschter Haws (a magical rabbit) would leave
them a nest of colored eggs at Eastertime if they were good.
Pennsylvania Dutch settlers brought this tradition to America
in the 1700s.

On a related note, eggs have long been a symbol of rebirth and
associated with spring celebrations. In the 600s, Pope
Gregory the
Great forbade the eating of eggs during Lent (the
40 days proceeding
Easter), and this helped make eggs a
special treat at Easter. Many
European cultures also have old
customs of decorating eggs and giving
them as gifts.


One of my funniest Easter memories is from about 1989. Dave and
Nena had joined us in coloring eggs with the kids the evening
before Easter. After the kids went to bed the four of us spent an
enjoyable few hours polishing off several bottles of wine. About
11pm we realized that we had forgotten to hide the eggs! You can
imagine the scene. It was dark outside and we were, well, not
exactly sober. The kids were about 8 and 9 years old so they were
pretty good at finding Easter eggs. We couldn't just put them
anywhere. We had to actually *hide* them. It got to be pretty
funny . Four drunks stumbling around in the dark, trying to be
quiet (it was late and we did have neighbors) and trying to find
three dozen different little hiding places in the front and back
yard. I think we had more fun laughing and hiding the eggs than
the kids did hunting for them the next morning .

Under normal circumstances, if they couldn't find all of the eggs,
Wade and I could give the kids some hints to help them out. That
particular Easter morning, though, we were as clueless as they
were! We looked at each other and giggled when we saw how
obviously some of the eggs had been *hidden* and then helplessly
joined in the hunt when the final count totaled only about 33 eggs.
I think in the end we still came up one egg short.....

The moral of this story? Don't open the wine until after you have finished your Bunny duties! Happy Easter, everyone!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Drivers (and pedestrians) Beware!

Look out Pittsburgh! Steven Ray Phy became a licensed driver today! This is a really big day in the life of just about every teenager and it's no different for Steve. He has been on a high all day long. The first thing he did was (of course!) to beg the car from his mother. First pick up his cousin Billy, before driving to his grandparents' house, to show off his newly acquired level of independence. I don't think he stayed too long. He spent the rest of the afternoon chauffeuring his friends around the suburb of Mt. Lebanon. When dinnertime came Steve asked for pizza. So guess who volunteered to go pick it up? Sherry is trying to convince him that the car still belongs to her and that he is not going to be able to just jump in and go whenever he pleases. I can just see them now...thumb wrestling for the car keys! I've actually let Steve drive my car several times since I've arrived. He's a pretty good driver for a beginner but then I've only seen him drive with an adult sitting next to him. The real question is... How does he drive on his own? Only time and the Mt. Lebanon police department will tell!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Family I Never Knew

When I met my dad in 1995, not only did I begin to learn about him, but about his family too. He showed me lots and lots of pictures and told me lots and lots of stories. The first time I went to CA to visit him I got to meet his brother, Larry and two of his brother Norman's sons, Darryl and Greg. My cousins and I hit it off right away and I went home knowing that I was and always had been part of a really great family. And I knew I loved my father and that he had always loved me. A couple of years later I met my dad's only sister and her husband. My Aunt Carmen and Uncle Dick live in Las Vegas. It was kind of startling to meet my aunt and see my eyes looking back at me. She showed me pictures of their two children; more cousins for me.

My dad and I didn't get to have a lifelong relationship but at least we had 12 years. Those of you who know my dad's story know that he was an amazing man. At least I know I come by my stubborn sense of determination and self reliance honestly! This man lived his life on his own terms and I think he even decided when it was his time to bow out.

That day came on the 11th of August last year. He had let it be known that he didn't want any kind of a service. He wanted his family to all get together and have a barbecue at Spring Lake, a local recreation area near his home in Santa Rosa. So that's what we did. I flew into San Fransisco where my Aunt Carmen and Uncle Dick, picked me up. Their son, Paul, who had flown in from VA the day before, was with them. My cousin, Paul was the first of many new relatives I was to meet that day. We drove the 2 hours from San Fransisco to Santa Rosa and I enjoyed listening to the gentle banter between the three of them. When we pulled into the picnic area I started to get kind of nervous about meeting all of these strangers. Would they like me? Would I like them? I wished my dad was there. By ones and two I met my family that day. It wasn't too hard to keep the names straight because I had heard Dad talk about most of them. The second cousins got a little confusing but everyone was really nice and very welcoming. I tried to imagine what it would have been like to grow up with all of these people and to have a shared history with them.

I heard lots of stories about my dad that day. I even had a few to share myself. Every story was told with lots of laughter and love. One of the most surreal parts of the day was to talk with those aunts and uncles who had known my mother. She died when I was seven, so my own memories of her are rather sparse and hazy, but here were people who knew her when she was barely more than a teenager and in love with my father. It was like seeing a wrinkle in time. What my life would have been like if my parents had stayed together and my mother had not died at the age of twenty-eight. I would have played with these cousins as a child at family gatherings and known these aunts and uncles as the "grownups" in my life. I'm not sorry for the childhood that I did have. My maternal grandmother, who adopted and raised me, also gave me as much love as any child could ask for. But I never really had much of an extended family. And yet I did and here they were. This was what would have been if my life had not taken me down that other fork. It was a lot to try to absorb in a single afternoon. Occasionally when I would start to feel a little overwhelmed by it all I would find Carmen or Dick or Paul. They unknowingly served as my emotional safety net that day. I flew back to Tucson the next day knowing a little more about who I am and where I come from. And I missed my dad even more.

Someone once told me that most people lose family as they get older. He said I was the only person he knew who gained family. If anyone is interested in seeing the pictures from that day you can find them under The Colors of My World on the sidebar.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Éirinn Go Brách

The Irish "Declaration of Independance"

The Proclamation which was read on Easter Sunday 1916, from the General Post Office in Dublin is as follows:


IRISHMEN AND IRISHWOMEN: In the name of God and of the dead generations from which she receives her old tradition of nationhood, Ireland, through us, summons her children to her flag and strikes for her freedom.

Having organised and trained her manhood through her secret revolutionary organisation, the Irish Republican Brotherhood, and through her open military organisations, the Irish Volunteers and the Irish Citizen Army, having patiently perfected her discipline, having resolutely waited for the right moment to reveal itself, she now seizes that moment, and, supported by her exiled children in America and by gallant allies in Europe, but relying in the first on her own strength, she strikes in full confidence of victory.

We declare the right of the people of Ireland to the ownership of Ireland, and to the unfettered control of Irish destinies, to be sovereign and indefeasible. The long usurpation of that right by a foreign people and government has not extinguished the right, nor can it ever be extinguished except by the destruction of the Irish people. In every generation the Irish people have asserted their right to national freedom and sovereignty; six times during the last three hundred years they have asserted it to arms. Standing on that fundamental right and again asserting it in arms in the face of the world, we hereby proclaim the Irish Republic as a Sovereign Independent State, and we pledge our lives and the lives of our comrades-in-arms to the cause of its freedom, of its welfare, and of its exaltation among the nations.

The Irish Republic is entitled to, and hereby claims, the allegiance of every Irishman and Irishwoman. The Republic guarantees religious and civil liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities to all its citizens, and declares its resolve to pursue the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation and all of its parts, cherishing all of the children of the nation equally and oblivious of the differences carefully fostered by an alien government, which have divided a minority from the majority in the past.

Until our arms have brought the opportune moment for the establishment of a permanent National, representative of the whole people of Ireland and elected by the suffrages of all her men and women, the Provisional Government, hereby constituted, will administer the civil and military affairs of the Republic in trust for the people.

We place the cause of the Irish Republic under the protection of the Most High God. Whose blessing we invoke upon our arms, and we pray that no one who serves that cause will dishonour it by cowardice, in humanity, or rapine. In this supreme hour the Irish nation must, by its valour and discipline and by the readiness of its children to sacrifice themselves for the common good, prove itself worthy of the august destiny to which it is called.

Signed on Behalf of the Provisional Government. Thomas J. Clarke, Sean Mac Diarmada, Thomas MacDonagh, P. H. Pearse, Eamonn Ceannt, James Connolly, Joseph Plunkett

Easter Rebellion Martyrs

The seven signatories of the Irish Proclamation (from left): Padraig Pearse, James Connolly, Thomas Clarke, Thomas MacDonagh, Sean MacDermott, Joseph Plunkett and Eamonn Ceannt. All of the above men were executed by the British Government for their part in the Easter 1916 Rebellion.


It would be another six years before The Free State of Ireland would be recognized by the British Government and a full thirty years after the original Proclamation before The Republic of Ireland gained full Independence from Britain.

In the last sixty years Ireland has gone from being one of the poorest countries in Western Europe to one of the most successful with the second highest gross domestic product (GDP) per capita within the European Union, after Luxembourg. Recent contributors to the rise of the Celtic Tiger have been Ireland's success in the Information Technology Industry and an explosion in tourism. In 2007 an estimated 7.8 million foreigner visitors (including me!) discovered the wonders and beauty of The Emerald Isle.

Here's to that little Bit 'o the Irish in us all! Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

This and That...

"I am pleased to say that the College offers you an unconditional place on the above course..." So begins the letter that came in the mail today! I think I've read it about twelve times already. Even though I knew the letter was coming it was still really cool to get it. That was the exciting part of my day.

The not-so-exciting part came later in the day; being followed home by the local police. It turns out that the window tinting on my car is *illegal* in Pennsylvania. The officer was very nice about it and even talked about his visit to Tucson a few years ago. But the fact remained that the tinting had to go (Waaa! I like it!). Who knew the stuff just peals right off? Maybe you did, but I didn't. I do now, though. My little car looks naked without its shades but I'm sure I'll get used to it. Since I'm going to be here for the next six months I also have to get a PA driver's license and register the car locally. That I did know, but it's now moved to the top of my To Do list.

So I've worked out a pretty good walking route to get in my eight miles each day. My turn around point is the closest mall just like it was in Tucson. I really like looking at the houses along the way. Pittsburgh homes seem to be predominately red brick or natural stone, two story with full basements and big front porches. I never really cared for Southwest architecture and it's nice to see more imagination and variety in the neighborhoods here. Although I realize that building styles are largely dictated by local weather and culture and these houses would be impractical and completely out of place in Tucson. As would a flat roof adobe house in Pittsburgh!

It's still cold here but the snow is gone. We are supposed to actually reach the mid 50's tomorrow. Woo Hoo!

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Dublin Revisited

I just watched a show on PBS called Historic Pubs of Dublin. Frank McCort, author of Angela's Ashes, was the host and he visited more than just the pubs of this wonderful city. It was fun to see so many of the places in and around Dublin that we explored last summer....Christ Church, St. Stephen's Green, Grafton Street, St. Patrick's Cathedral, Trinity College and The Book of Kells. And, of course, the pubs! Oliver St. John Gogarty's, The Ha' Penny, O'Neills, The Boar's Head. We were in Dublin for a week and managed only a sampling of the wonders offered by Ireland's capital city. But that taste of the Emerald Isle was enough to confirm my determination to return to the country that has fascinated me since I was twelve years old. I've chosen to move to Scotland in the fall but I plan to travel as much as possible while I'm there. There is so much I want to see throughout Scotland, England and of course beautiful Ireland. You cannot study the history of any one of these countries without intersecting that of one or both of the other two. I would live in all three countries simultaneously if I could. But since that's obviously not possible I'll just have to spend my spare time wandering through all of the British Isles soaking up as much as I can as often as I can. Anyone who wants to jumps the pond is welcome to join me!

Oh, that reminds me of a cool website I heard about on NPR a while back called People looking for a place to stay are matched up with others who are willing to offer their couch or spare room. There are people registered from all over the world. A lot of people alternately play both roles: host at home and guest when they travel themselves. What a great way to meet the locals when you travel and then turn around and welcome others to your own town. I think I'm going to give it a try!

Friday, March 7, 2008

Happy Birthday Nena!

December 5th, 1987...the day I arrived in Germany and the day I met one of my lifelong best friends. Today is Nena's Day! I love you and your adorable hubby. Thanks to both of you for being such wonderful friends over the last twenty years.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Settling In

I've been in Pittsburgh two weeks already! To make myself useful while I'm here I'm playing parental stand in for Sherry while she is at work. Since she is a flight attendant, she's gone for several days at a time and in the past Steve has either gone to his grandparents' house or to Sherry's sister, Sue. But now that he is in his second year of high school it gets a little more complicated because he has more going on than just getting to and from school. Sherry has a large extended family so someone always steps in when the need arises and Steve always manages to get where he needs to go, whether it's to baseball practice or to a game or whatever. But with me here it just makes everything much simpler. Sherry can just go to work when she needs to and Steve can stay at home. No special arrangements need to be made. It's been a long time since I've dropped anyone off at school in the morning or had to think about making dinner for anyone else but myself! But I'm happy to do it. It's good to know that I can make myself useful while I'm here.

Have I mentioned that they actually experience a real bonafide WINTER in Pittsburgh? Thank the stars that we're at the tail end of it. As much as I hated Tucson summers, I really liked Tucson winters. Average daytime high in Jan-Feb.....mid 60's. When I arrived in Pittsburgh....freezing rain and icy roads. Within a couple of days.....several inches of snow. About the third day that I was here I was driving to the store and the snow flakes coming down were so big and fluffy and the snow on the ground was so soft and floofy that it felt like I was traveling through a Christmas card. It was just beautiful. Thankfully, the city is really on top of things and the snow plows and salt trucks were out in force. So driving has been fine. The weather is trying change, though. It was actually in the 60's on Monday but then dropped back down to the 30's on Tuesday. Today was sunny and in the 40's. But we're supposed to get more snow this weekend. I've been trying to remind my body parts that we lived in Central Europe for 6 years and didn't freeze, but my nose, toes and fingers are not buying it. After 15 years in the Desert Southwest I'm afraid I've become a winter weather wimp! But Spring is right around the corner. And then Summer. It's going to be so nice to actually enjoy June, July and August. But after that comes next the Scottish Highlands!! Am I CRAZY!? Why, yes...yes I am. Why do you ask?

I had so much to do the last couple of months before I left Tucson that I wasn't able to keep up with my daily walking. And as much as I have missed it, though, it has been just too damn cold here most days to even entertain the thought! With the exception of a couple of days this week. I got in a good 6 mile walk on Monday and did my normal 8 miles today. It felt really good to put on my tennis shoes, turn on my IPod and get lost in a Jane Austin novel as I set off down the street. Ah, simple walking....not only good exercise but great personal therapy!