Au Fil Des Mots
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Courons le Poisson d’avril
Sans certitude aucune, on croit que la journée du Poisson d’avril remonte en 1534 alors que le roi de France, Charles IX, changea le calendrier, pour que l’année débute alors le 1er janvier au lieu du traditionnel 1er avril.

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History
In the News
april-fools
april-fools

This postcard suggests that you can be cordial and sweet with someone, but hide your own rotten feelings towards them.

Although we can’t be certain, we believe that April Fool’s Day dates back to 1534 when King Charles IX of France changed the calendar so the year would begin on January 1st rather than the traditional April 1st.

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History
Music
Music Mondays
st-patrick-header
St. Patrick depicted in a stained glass window at St. Benin's Church, Ireland (image by Andreas F. Borchert)

St. Patrick depicted in a stained glass window at St. Benin’s Church, Ireland (image by Andreas F. Borchert)

St. Patrick’s Day is March 17, the date of Patrick’s death. While it has come to be a secular celebration of Irish culture and, perhaps, more identified with nationalist and Republican sentiment, it began as a religious feast day. It was an official Protestant holiday in Ireland beginning in 1783. Probably by no coincidence it came during Lent where an exception to the prohibition on celebratory eating and drinking alcohol was welcomed and led to the embrace of St. Patrick’s Day by all. Four Christian denominations observe the holiday: Anglican, Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and Lutheran.

St. Patrick himself, the patron saint of Ireland, goes back to AD 387-461 and the arrival of Roman Catholic Christianity in Ireland. Then there’s the thing about the snakes but we won’t go there.

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History
immigrants-irish
history of st patricks day (public domain).

Early Irish immigrants carrying all their possessions from their homeland (photo by Bruce Catton, public domain).

Father of Confederation D’Arcy McGee. Benjamin Cronyn, first Anglican bishop of Huron. Edward Blake, Ontario’s second premier. Eugene O’Keefe, founder of O’Keefe Brewing Co. Former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney. Jean Charest, premier of Quebec. Former senator Eugene Whelan.

These prominent Canadians have more in common than a place in Canadian history. They, like nearly four million Canadians, are of Irish heritage. Perhaps the luck o’ the Irish contributed to their success! When we observe St. Patrick’s Day on March 17, we do more than honour St. Patrick, who promoted Christianity in Ireland; we celebrate the Irish presence in Canadian history.

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Film
valentine-film-header
sandra_oh_last_night

A still from the 1998 film “Last Night” starring Sandra Oh and Don McKellar.

Canadian filmmakers have long maintained an uneasy relationship with romantic films – comedy or drama – at least in their classical form. If the Hollywood version ends by finding stability in couples (and the famous last kiss), the typical Canadian romantic comedy leaves its lovers alone and somehow unfulfilled. They tend to be off-kilter, with only a few actually telling a romantic tale straight up. In a country more famous for producing seriously deranged love stories such as Lynne Stopkewich’s Kissed and David Cronenberg’s Crash, notable Canadian romantic movies have been few and far between. Here’s a sampling of the best half-dozen for your Valentine’s Day viewing – and some even have a happy ending.

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History
Literature
Reading In Canadian
Civil War Christmas Thomas Nast
Civil War Christmas, Thomas Nast 1863. Note Santa climbing into the chimney at top left and Santa in a sled pulled by reindeer at top right (public Domain).

Civil War Christmas, Thomas Nast 1863. Note Santa climbing into the chimney at top left and Santa in a sled pulled by reindeer at top right (public Domain).

Christmas holidays: the perfect time to find another reason – if one is ever needed – to settle into a warm corner on a winter’s night with a book. Perhaps with the wood stove on, the tree lights glinting in the corner and a warm mug at my elbow. I’ve been mulling on “the classic” Canadian Christmas story, and have found myself surprised, and then unsurprised, by the difficulty of locating one.

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History
singing-tree
A Christmas tree for German soldiers in a temporary hospital.

A Christmas tree for German soldiers in a temporary hospital.

On December 25, 1943, the acrid smell of cordite hung over the rubble barricades of Ortona, Italy, where Canadians and Germans were engaged in grim hand-to-hand combat. Even amid the thunder of collapsing walls and the blinding dust and smoke darkening the alleys, the men of The Seaforth Highlanders of Canada and The Loyal Edmonton Regiment were determined to celebrate Christmas. They chose the abandoned church of Santa Maria di Constantinopoli as their banquet hall.

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Music
Music Mondays
Halloween_Songs
"Do They Know It's Halloween?"

A still from the North American Halloween Prevention Initiative’s “Do They Know It’s Halloween?”

In anticipation for Halloween, I have assembled the ultimate scary mixtape comprised of my favourite Canadian musicians. Get ready for a spooky musical tour of Canada’s finest!

1. Buck 65 – “Zombie Delight”

Buck 65 has been making music since the 1990’s. If you listen to the CBC then you should recognize him as Rich Terfry, the voice of CBC Radio 2 Drive. “Zombie Delight,” from his record 20 Odd Years, was just released early this year. The music video was filmed in Halifax, Nova Scotia, just outside of Buck 65′s hometown in Mt. Uniacke. This song offers an informative examination and deconstruction of the characteristics of a zombie. If you didn’t know that zombies are excellent dancers, then it’s best you have a listen to this.

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History
Thanksgiving Frobisher
Sir Martin Frobisher

Frobisher discovered the bay now named for him on Baffin Island, but was deceived by the pyrites, which he took for gold (courtesy Bodleian Library, Oxford).

It has become common knowledge that the first Thanksgiving in North America was held by Martin Frobisher and his crew in the eastern Arctic in 1578. There are those—mainly Americans upset at having their holiday co-opted—who argue that it wasn’t a “real” Thanksgiving. I would counter that Frobisher had reason to give thanks, and that giving thanks was an important aspect of Elizabethan society, so it would have been a natural thing for him and his men to do.

Sir Martin Frobisher, mariner, explorer, chaser of fool’s gold, made three voyages from England to the New World in search of a passage to Asia. He discovered the bay that is named for him and returned with tons of dirt that he thought contained gold. Each expedition was bigger than the preceding one and on his third, in 1578, he commanded a flotilla of 15 ships and more than 400 men. They set sail on May 31 for Baffin Island, where they intended to establish a gold mining operation and the first English colony in the New World. On July 1, they sighted Resolution Island, but they were driven by storms across the entrance to Hudson Strait, the fleet was dispersed and one ship, which carried their prefabricated barracks, was sunk by ice. Another ship deserted the flotilla and sailed back to England. The remaining ships assembled at the Countess of Warwick’s Island, which is known today as Kodlunarn Island, a tiny speck of land in Frobisher Bay. They established two mines on the island and set up shops to test the ore from other mines. The mine sites and the ruins of a stone house are still clearly visible.

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History
In the News
saint-jean-baptiste-header
Drapeau-Carillon-Sacré-Coeur

Drapeau Carillon Sacré-Coeur: A Carillon flag waved by people on Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day from its creation in 1902 until 1948. The current Flag of Quebec is based on this design, and was adopted in 1948. (Creative Commons)

Every year, French Canadians celebrate their cultural pride and heritage through parades and parties on June 24 marking, Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day. These festivities combine the ancient rites of the summer solstice with traditional celebrations in honour of the Patron Saint of French Canadians, Saint John the Baptist. How did Saint John come to be the patron saint of French Canada? The Canadian Encyclopedia offers some clues:

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Literature
Reading In Canadian
Al Purdy
Al Purdy

George Bowering, Angela Bowering, and Al Purdy at the Purdy home in Ameliasburgh, Ontario, 1967. Photo by Eurithe Purdy.

February, the season of cold and of love, is upon us. Not that easy, natural, bursting love that blooms in June and washes into August, but love deepened by hardship, metaphorical and actual chill winds, love recovered and deepened through humour, and self-mockery, and the need to go on.

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Au Fil Des Mots
Français

Oh-Non

Comme je déteste l’Halloween ! Je me souviens de mes efforts, lorsque mes fils étaient jeunes, pour arriver à avoir une certaine contenance durant cette journée. J’aurais pu me mériter tous les Césars, Oscars et cie tellement ma performance était remarquable. Et pourtant…

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