The Year was 1441

O tannenbaum, o tannenbaum… We know this is Oh Christmas Tree, oh Christmas tree…and in fact the Christmas tree comes from early German Protestant celebrations of Christmas. But where did the Lutherans get this idea of decorating greenery in the middle of winter? The Vikings made green bows part of their celebration of mid-winter, perhaps…

The Year was A Date Lost in Antiquity

It was a pagan holiday. Now, the first day of November is called All Soul’s Day. According to various religions, this is the day to pray for the dead. In the Roman Catholic Church tradition, those who have gone to Heaven are Saints. Those who still have a chance to get into Heaven, who have…

The Year was 1969

You have seen him on TV. Maybe thousands of times. He has done more than 4,000 shows. But you would not recognize him. If he was introduced to you, you would not recognize his name. It is Caroll Spinney. He just retired this week as, yes, Big Bird. Caroll met fellow puppeteer Jim Henson at…

The Year was 1896

What is May Irwin famous for? The very first kiss every filmed. May Irwin was born in Canada and named Georgina May Campbell. When she was 13, her father died. Her mother, in need of money to support herself and her two daughters, Adeline and Georgia, had them do a vaudeville act as “The Irwin…

The Year was 1937

The brothers were born two years apart. The younger one died in 1937, when he was 38. The older one lived to be 86. Yet it is the younger one who became the most famous. He was George Gershwin, born in 1898 in Brooklyn. Their parents had emigrated from Russia. They wanted Ira, the first…

The Year was 1939

July 4th 1939 was Lou Gehrig Appreciation Day. It was a double header against the Washington Senators. Yankee Stadium was jammed with almost 62,000 fans. During the break between games, the fans heard a lot of people speak as Gehrig stood there, silent. He had said he would not speak. Lou’s mother, a German immigrant…

The Year was 1956

“Do not focus your cameras below his waist.” This was the directive to the cameramen on the Ed Sullivan Show Sept. 9, 1956. You could do that on television. In a live concert, there was no way to censor Elvis’s gyrations. Whatever Ed Sullivan and the show’s producers expected, they were surprised by the polite…

The Year was 2010

The oldest (verifiable) person in the world just died. Tajima Nabi was born in 1900, in a small town on an island in Japan. She lived 117 years and 260 days. She is succeeded by another Japanese woman, 116-year-old Miyako Chiyo. The oldest living man, 112-year-old Masazo Nonaka, is also Japanese On any given day,…

The Year was 1151

Did King Arthur actually live? Or Guinevere? Merlin, Mordred – were any of them real? Vaguely real? Their tales of quests, of magic, of forbidden love, of betrayal were sung in ballads for hundreds of years before Geoffrey of Monmouth, a professor at Oxford from 1129 to 1151, included Arthur (books 9 and 10) in…

The Year was 1923

An upscale real estate developer decided he needed to advertise his property in a big way. He commissioned a sign be built – 13 letters, each one 50 feet tall, and set on the hillside overlooking his development. The letters were so big that telephone poles were used to secure them in place. And then…