Revealing the Truth Behind St. Patrick’s Day

by Nareen Pogozelski, sophomore writing coach

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Who Was Saint Patrick?     

The Feast of Saint Patrick, more widely referred to as Saint Patrick’s Day around the world is a day to celebrate Saint Patrick who is one of the patron saints of Ireland. It is believed that he was captured by Irish Raiders and taken from his home in Roman Britain as a young adult to serve as a slave. After 6 years of captivity, he escaped and returned back home, where he entered the church and soon became a missionary who ministered Christianity within Ireland throughout the fifth century. A popular legend surrounding the Saint that he rid Ireland of snakes, (which possibly symbolizes druids and other pagan worshippers of snakes and/or serpent gods), has been proven false and was a result of exaggerated storytelling. His death on March 17, around the year 460 A.D. is now regarded as a religious holiday, a Roman Catholic feast day.

 

How Did the Holiday Get to America?

Emigrants who fled to other countries, particularly America, popularized numerous Irish customs and transformed Saint Patrick’s day into the secular holiday it presently is. The first Saint Patrick’s Day parade is shown to have been held in the Spanish colony of what is now St. Augustine, Florida on March 17, 1601; the colony was under the direction of an Irish vicar, Ricardo Artur. Over a century later in 1737, homesick Irish soldiers who were serving in the English military held a celebration in Boston and created the Charitable Irish Society which still holds an annual dinner every year. Similar to Boston, New York was the next American city to celebrate the Saint in 1762, and as a result, they created the everlasting tradition of holding a parade in honor of him. The parades and other celebrations allowed Irish immigrants who were prejudiced and discriminated against by nativist and anti-catholic agendas to show strength in numbers and pride for their heritage and culture. After the civil war, attitudes towards Irish Catholics softened, and as Irish-Americans soon assimilated to American culture the holiday has transformed into a celebratory and festive day for everyone.

 

What Represents Saint Patrick’s Day?

Contrary to popular belief, green was not always associated with Saint Patrick’s Day, but rather blue. Early depictions of Saint Patrick show him wearing the color blue, however, the country’s nickname of the “Emerald Isle”, the green landscape, and the green within the flag influenced the change in colors during the 18th century. Wearing green was widely believed to make you invisible to leprechauns, who like to pinch anyone they see. The green is also used to signify shamrocks, which was used to explain the Holy Trinity to the Pagan Irish, and is also regarded as good luck by not only the Irish but many people around the world as well. 

 

How is it Celebrated?

March 17th is a day for people around the world to celebrate the memory of Saint Patrick, and it’s done in numerous different ways. Large Irish-American communities celebrate by eating traditional Irish cuisine including corned beef, corned cabbage, coffee, soda bread, potatoes, and shepherd’s pie. A large tradition that many adults participate in is drinking; the holiday allows Christians to put aside their Lenten restrictions on food and alcohol consumption and break their fast, which is why excessive drinking is heavily associated with the day. An additional tradition that is widely recognized within America especially is dyeing water and beer green. The most popular example of this is the dyeing of the Chicago River, a tradition that started in 1962 when Mayor Richard J. Daley suggested it. Throughout the first few years, approximately 100 pounds of oil-based fluorescein were poured into the river; however, after an environmental protest in 1966, the city switched to using 25 pounds of a more eco-friendly vegetable-based powder that left the river green for nearly a whole day, rather than a whole week. Even the White House started a tradition to dye their fountain green in 2009 when former President Obama decided to bring a hometown tradition to former first lady, Michelle Obama- a Chicago native. As stated earlier, wearing green and/or a shamrock are other common traditions within America, and even Ireland has started to adopt some of these traditions for the benefit of tourists.

Is Spring Here?

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by Alex Arnold, senior writing coach

Some so-called “calendar experts” claim that there are four seasons: spring, summer, fall, and winter. Others claim that there are only two: winter and construction.

Both of these are false. There are 12 seasons that our friends at 103.7 “The Loon” have so conveniently documented and named using the most advanced, scientific data and instruments known to mankind. I’ve also included my personal ratings just in case you don’t want to form your own opinions. They named all the seasons (I shamelessly stole those) and wrote their own commentary, which I highly encourage you to not read after you enjoy my much better and superior version. You’re welcome.

Winter: We escaped this one. It’s when it’s negative forty and you feel like your fingertips are about to fall off. Best time to nordic ski, 10/10 season.

Fool’s Spring: This happened a few weeks ago. It’s when you’re about to break out the shorts for a few days and wonder when you can finally hit the beach with the boys. Warm, 7/10 season.

Second Winter: It was -20 degrees like a week ago. That was awful. 0/10 season.

Spring of Deception:  If you think we’re almost in real Spring right now you are a fool and a coward. Be ready. 10/10 would be betrayed again.

Third Winter: Remember that blizzard we had two years ago when it dumped two feet of snow on us in late April? Got trapped in Iowa for a weekend 0/10 season.

The Pollening: I don’t have allergies to pollen, but I like to laugh at people who do. 11/10 season.

Actual Spring: Remember how it was warm and nice out? Get ready for rain all day everyday because it’s about to be a wild ride. 6/10 a little too moist.

Summer:  No school and time to bool. Get your bug spray and swim all day. 5/10 too much sun.

Heck’s Front Porch: WELCOME TO THE THUNDERDOME, IT’S TIME FOR SOME TORNADOS. I LOVE COWERING IN MY BASEMENT 9/10 SEASON.

False Fall: Why did it get cold all of a sudden? It’s still August and school hasn’t started so it LEGALLY cannot be under 60 degrees out. And that’s a meteorological fact. 0/10 illegal season.

Second Summer: Time to fill up at the State Fair with a deep fried-gummy worm wrapped-twinkie on stick. Or seven. 10/10 put all my food on sticks.

Actual Fall: School time! The leaves turn colors and start to fall. You can go for a walk in the park or spend time with the family raking leaves and taking artsy pictures. Just a good time to relax before school starts to pick up. 7/10, it’s a little colder, but I still enjoy it quite a bit.

I hope you’re all now properly educated on how seasons work. Again, you’re welcome.

Read More: The 12 Seasons of Minnesota 

What to Know for Minnesota United’s Upcoming Season

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by Emil Liden, junior writing coach

This Saturday, February 29, will mark the beginning of the 25th Major League Soccer (MLS) season and the fourth for our very own Minnesota United FC. The Loons, as the team is regularly referred to, had an excellent run last season, placing fourth overall in the Western Conference. Their season was cut short by a 2-1 loss to the LA Galaxy that featured none other than the Swedish lion himself, Zlatan Ibrahimovic. This year, however, the loons are hoping to go even further and hopefully put some silverware in their trophy case. 

For the 2020 MLS season, some new faces can be seen wearing the MN United black and blue. The Loons signed Noah Billingsley from UC Santa Barbara in the first round of the MLS SuperDraft. The New Zealand defender will be looking to make a big name for himself this season as he joins the likes of Ike Opara, the MN United defender who was chosen as MLS Defender of the Year in both 2017 and 2019. Another name who should be familiar to most Loons fans is Thomás Chacón, signed from Danubio FC last summer. The 19-year-old Uruguayan midfielder is hoping to get a starting position on the roster. 

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Unfortunately there are a number of players who have since departed the team and will not wear Minnesota colors this upcoming season. Midfielder Miguel Ibarra who made 84 appearances for the club has made his way to the Seattle Sounders. Abu Danladi, the forward who graduated from Ghana’s Right to Dream Academy has joined the newly formed Nashville FC. And arguably one of the best players to have ever worn the black and blue colors, Darwin Quintero, has been traded to the Houston Dynamo. The Colombian midfielder scored a record 21 goals during the 2019 season. The only Loons player to match this record was Christian Ramirez who now also plays for the Houston Dynamo. 

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The upcoming season, though equipped with new talent, will be a tough one for the Loons as their opponents appear to be fiercer than ever. The current MLS champions, the Seattle Sounders, will be looking to defend their title this year. Other giants like Toronto FC and New York City FC will also prove to be tough competition for the Loons. However the most anticipated player to step onto a MLS pitch this season would be none other than the LA Galaxy’s new signing, Javier “Chicharito” Hernández. The Mexican veteran has played with big names such as Manchester United and Real Madrid. Chicharito (his nickname translating to “little pea”) is no stranger to a high level of competition. In 2015 he scored the goal that took Real Madrid to the semi-finals of the Champions League, after taking off for Bayer Leverkusen the following season. Hernández will certainly be goal-hungry this season, and alongside the rest of the LA Galaxy, will be a challenge for our defense. 

So despite the challenges this season might bring, and the fact that MN United has a +3000 odds of winning the league title, it sure will be a fun one to watch. Make sure to tune into a Loons game over the next few months or maybe even make your way to Allianz Stadium for a chance to see the Loons in action!

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All Booked Up

by Rebekah Thomasson, junior writing coach

Whether we realize it or not, local bookstores are often an integral part of our communities. Not only do these stores help boost the local economy, but they’re also really cool. Every independent bookstore has a unique personality and you often get to learn about authors and books you’d never hear about otherwise. That’s exactly what Excelsior Bay Books did for me, in a pretty unique way.

Over two years ago, I wandered into Excelsior Bay Books (which has been open for almost 25 years!) and was greeted by one of my now good friends Pamela. Pamela knew me from a middle school book club she’d run, so it came up that the store hosted an event called Literature Lovers’ Night Out every month that I might be interested in. There, we had the opportunity to listen to typically three to five authors from all over the country talk about their experiences growing up, starting to write, and eventually how some of their favorite or most recent novels came to be. Not only that, but we even got the chance to meet them (and of course buy the books) afterwards! That pretty much sounded like a dream to me, so I said I was in.

As I said, it’s been over two years now, and I’ve become a regular at this event. I’ve met over twenty authors from all walks of life: some were professors, others doctors, and still others actors or former government officials. Not everyone I met was at the same experience level either; some they were debuting their very first novel, others had been on the New York Times Best Seller list for years. More often than not, they’re authors I never would have known about were it not for Literature Lovers’ Night Out – and that’s the best part!

In fact, just last week I had the privilege of meeting Kiley Reid (if you haven’t heard of her, go check her out!), whose debut novel Such a Fun Age was Reese Witherspoon’s January book club pick, and who recently won the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work – Debut Author. As I was listening to her talk I was reminded of why I love being a part of an event like this. It sounds cliche, but I’ve actually learned a lot about both myself and life in general through these book talks. Kiley, for example, helped me to recognize that sometimes it takes a while to figure out what we want to do and who we want to become. She talked about how she spent years as a babysitter than a barista, trying to figure herself out, and that that was ok. It’s life lessons like these that really keep me coming back.

Literature Lovers’ Night Out may not have the same life-affirming effect on you, but nonetheless, it’s a great place to be, and none of it would be possible without my old, trusty local bookstore. So, if you’re into books, want to support a local business, or even just want to try something new, why not stop by? All the information is found on the Excelsior Bay Books website: https://excelsiorbaybooks.indielite.org. I hope to catch you there!

Stories Behind Some of the Most Famous Paintings

by Leyden Streed, junior writing coach

This past weekend I went to Chicago for a Model UN conference and got to visit the Art Institute of Chicago. When we entered the museum, we were met by a friendly lady working at the front desk. She was clearly excited to share with us some of her insight, and we were all very interested in what she had to say. She highlighted her favorite exhibits on our map and mentioned some paintings we should look for. She then told us stories about different artists and the real meanings behind some of the most well known paintings in the world. Although we had limited time in the museum, we were entranced by her endless amount of expertise. 

When she finished, we all felt a lot more knowledgeable than we did coming in. As we looked around, our advisor Ms. Harley also answered a lot of our questions. 

I loved getting to know the true meanings behind paintings that I had often seen before online but was now seeing in person. Having this new understanding about the artists’ intentions allowed me to empathize with them. It was especially interesting to see how artists’ intentions compared and contrasted with the popular view. With that in my mind, I decided to research a few of the most famous paintings in the world.

 

American Gothic – Grant Wood – 1930

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American Gothic was one of the most iconic paintings featured in the Art Institute of Chicago. It is often seen as a representation of classic 20th-century rural America, with dull characters and somber expressions. Despite popular belief, the two people in the painting are not husband and wife. In fact, they didn’t even know each other. The woman was Wood’s sister, and the man was his town dentist. Neither of them had ever posed for a portrait before. They were even painted at separate times, hence the discomfort depicted.

 

The Scream – Edvard Munch – 1893

 

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Found in The National Gallery, Munch’s painting is based on a scene he once witnessed in Norway. When asked about how his painting came about, Munch said he saw a “sky turned blood red” and “sensed an infinite scream pass through nature”. Many scholars believe the vibrant skies could be due to volcanic action, but Munch’s interpretation is believed to be much more connected to his personal life. It is said his reaction could have to do with his sister going mad and eventually being placed in an asylum.

 

Mona Lisa – Leonardo da Vinci – 1503

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Arguably the most famous painting in the world, the Mona Lisa is housed in the Louvre Museum. It has been studied and and observed for years, but there is still speculation about who the real “Mona Lisa” is. One theory is that it is Lisa del Giocondo, the wife of the Florentine merchant Francesco di Bartolomeo del Giocondo. Another theory was that it was actually Da Vinci’s mother, Caterina. This theory sprung from the idea that the wry smile was his memory of his mother. The most intriguing theory though is that it is a self portrait. Many say he made a sort of riddle by disguising himself as a woman.

I hope that you enjoyed learning about these paintings as much as I did! This was just a glimpse at a few artist’s stories, but I hope you can use this knowledge to your advantage. Who knows, maybe someday you’ll see these pieces in person and be able to show off all your artistic knowledge.

 

So, I Signed Up To Ski the Birkie

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by Seyoung Lee, senior writing coach

 

With over 13,000 skiers flocking to a small town in Wisconsin for one weekend each year, the American Bikebiener may just be the country’s biggest athletic event that no one has heard of. The American Birkebeiner, or Birkie, is a 50k skate and 55k classic cross country ski race. It has been around since 1973, and is inspired by a ski tradition brought to the Midwest by Scandinavian immigrants. This year, the Birkie takes place on February 22nd. The race begins in Cable, Wisconsin, where skiers trek 32 miles to the finish line in the town of Hayward.

Oh, and I signed up to ski it. 

My primary goal is just to finish. Although, it would also be nice to finish within a respectable amount of time. It’s hard to say what a good time is because ski times are very subjective based on trail conditions, but a generous goal is to finish it in less than 6 hours. 

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Me skiing to the finish at last year’s Korte

At the moment, skiing 50k seems quite daunting to me. For comparison, my average high school ski race is 5k. That’s only 45 kilometers short of what I will be racing this February! In reality, this event is one where skiers support skiers, spectators cheer all throughout the race, everyone embraces Wisconsin’s winter weather, and people make many new friends along the way. Racers span in age greatly. The youngest skiers are teenagers, but there are many racers who are upwards of 70! People of all levels are encouraged to race; from new skiers seeking a challenge, to Olympic athletes. Athletes come from all around the world. Some are from right at home in Hayward, many are from different regions of the US, and some even come from other countries like Greece and Norway! In this respect, the Birkie truly embodies the inviting culture of cross country skiing.

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Enjoying downtown Hayward with friends after last year’s Birkie

For skiers who want in on the fun, but are hesitant to commit to the full 50k, there are many other ski events throughout the weekend. Last year I skied the Kortelopet (Korte, for short), which is a 29k ski race. Even though it’s quite a bit shorter than the Birkie, it is still an exciting, exhausting, and fun challenge. Other events include the Prince Haakon, a 15k ski race; the Barnebirkie, where nearly 1000 kids ski on Main Street through the iconic finish line; and the Barkie Birkie Skijor race, where athletes ski with their furry friends running in front of them. For those who prefer to spectate, the Birkie is always in need of volunteers. This event would not be possible without the generous time and support of thousands of volunteers each year!

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The Barkie Birkie finish on Main Street

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Kids hustling to the finish during the Barnebirkie

I recommend participating in a Birkie event regardless of if you’ve been skiing your whole life, began skiing recently, or have never set foot on the tracks. It is truly an amazing event that captures midwestern camaraderie, and gives everyone the opportunity to come out of hibernation for at least one weekend each winter. Catch you on the trails!

Voyage 3: Centennial Lakes Ice Skating

As we live in Minnesota, where the winters are long and cold, it is often a challenge to find outdoor activities. In this “voyage,” we embark on a classic Minnesotan activity: ice skating! Neither of us are hockey or figure skaters, proving that anyone can try this out – even if you end up needing to push a chair for balance, as we saw various adults doing!

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For our skating adventure, we chose to go to Centennial Lakes Park in Edina, again requiring us to go behind enemy lines. However, this location was optimal for our new tradition of getting coffee after our outings, as there is a Starbucks close by. 

Though Centennial Lakes is about 20 minutes from the high school, one of the benefits of living in Minnesota is that there is an abundance of lakes that freeze and transform into skating rinks. And where there aren’t lakes, hockey fanatics often flood parks to create ice rinks. Therefore, you can find somewhere to go ice skating wherever you live. One perk of Centennial Lakes is their rental skates, which can be rented for $6. 

Lace Up

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While skating is an absolute blast, what if you are looking to do other activities within this activity?? Well we’ve got you. 

  • Have a photoshoot. The ice makes for a gorgeous backdrop to an instagram-worthy photo that’s perfect for your feed. Yes that’s right, nature can be cOoL.
  • Work on your snow angels. There’s plenty of snow and you’re already bundled up…why not? Embrace your inner child. 
  • Sip some hot coco. Delicious and also creates a definite winter mood.
  • Snowball fight. Maybe it’s a basic winter activity, but you best believe it can be extremely fun and just a little bit aggressive, in the best kind of way. 

 

Trek to the Top

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This happened to be Ellie’s first time skating in awhile (hence the hunched posture in the image above) and while Julia is a pro-skater, we still both had a few things that we wanted to accomplish.

  1. Not Fall

A classic, but worth a mention. The ice was a little bumpy and there was a build up in snow in a few spots so keeping our balance was a must. Again, Ellie was more worried than Julia due to her inexperience, but all the same there was agreement that falling would result in being cold and wet, a disterous end to an otherwise beautiful day. 

  1. Become Masters at Turns and Spins

Once again we faced the issue that Julia was much more proficient at skating and therefore had already done successful intermediate turns. As Julia worked on perfecting her spins, motivated by the upcoming Olympics and her desire to join the US team, Ellie was attempting to do a simple turn on skates. 

  1. Not Pass Out

 We had both done a 10K for nordic in the morning, around 7:30 AM we should mention, which required us going up the same hill six times and overall was incredibly tiring. So at the time we were skating we both had zero energy and needed to stay awake long enough to have an okay time. 

 

Happy Campers

It was Ellie’s birthday! Skating together was a great way to celebrate and Ellie got her free birthday coffee (Venti, of course) at Starbucks after! 

You’re sure to have a nICE day if you go skating!!

Tales of Tuberculosis and Being Too Fashionable for Your Own Good 

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by Ming Ying Yeoh, junior writing coach

 

You’ve probably encountered the stereotype of the 19th-century romantic poet: charmingly pale, wasting away, with red cheeks and bright feverish eyes. 

Chances are, he was dying from tuberculosis. 

Tuberculosis (or TB) is a disease caused by the bacterium mycobacterium tuberculosis1 that primarily affects the lungs. It’s commonly associated with anemia and other symptoms like lack of appetite, fever, fatigue, and coughing up blood2. 

For decades, before it was well understood, TB was considered a “romantic disease,” a disease associated with “male genius and female beauty”3. Famous poets like John Keats succumbed to the disease, and TB made romantic appearances in countless novels, poems, and operas like Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables. 

English poet Lord Byron even wrote: “I should like to die from consumption [another name for TB],” further helping to associate the disease with artists and the romantic.  

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The poet John Keats. His mother, brother, and eventually he himself died of TB.

For women, it was believed that the more beautiful you were, the more susceptible you were to TB. The reality was, that latent or active TB often gave its victims characteristics that enhanced their beauty according to the standards of the time. These included pallor (caused by anemia), thinness (from weight loss), and red cheeks and bright eyes (from fever).

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Sure, you might be dying, but think about how good you look!

The TB aesthetic became so popular that many perfectly healthy women sought to appear ill. 

According to Carolyn Day, an associate professor of history at Furman University and author of Consumptive Chic: A History of Beauty, Fashion and Disease, “between 1780 and 1850, there is an increasing aestheticization of tuberculosis that becomes entwined with feminine beauty”4. These women would eat arsenic or wash their faces with other dangerous substances like ammonia, mercury, and opium to achieve pale, translucent skin. For watery, bright eyes, women would add belladonna to their eyes, which worked but could eventually lead to blindness5.  

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A heavy price to pay for fashion

In the 1834 Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine, the authors acknowledge the popularity of illness in women’s fashion: “Who ever heard of a ‘woman of fashion’ wearing the hue of health upon her cheeks? Why, it would be the death of her pretensions”6.  

As the 19th century drew to a close, TB eventually fell out of favor once it was revealed that it was just caused by bacteria (germs, gross!), and not a special romanticized passion or beauty.   

Although TB is uncommon in developed countries like the U.S., it remains a threat even today. There were about 10 million incident TB cases around the world in 20177. However, we’re lucky to have effective medical treatments to combat this disease that once served as an indisputable death sentence. 

We laugh at the 19th-century women who were willing to go so far for beauty and the society that allowed this harmful standard to exist for so long, yet this makes me wonder what kind of dangerous and foolish things we do today in the name of fashion. The tale of TB speaks to our ever-changing beliefs, standards, and knowledge. In a few decades’ time, people will undoubtedly look back and shake their heads at our foolishness too.  

 

 

[1] Morens, David M. “At the deathbed of consumptive art.” Emerging infectious diseases vol. 8,11 (2002): 1353-8. doi:10.3201/eid0811.020549

[2] “Tuberculosis.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 30 Jan. 2019, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/tuberculosis/symptoms-causes/syc-20351250.

[3] Mullin, Emily. “How Tuberculosis Shaped Victorian Fashion.” Smithsonian.com, Smithsonian Institution, 10 May 2016, https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/how-tuberculosis-shaped-victorian-fashion-180959029/.

[4] Lawlor, Clark. “Carolyn A. Day, Consumptive Chic: A History of Beauty, Fashion, and Disease.” Social History of Medicine, vol. 31, no. 4, Dec. 2018, pp. 885–886., doi:10.1093/shm/hky055.

[5] Reeves, Savannah R. “Beauty Is in the Eye of the Beholder: How Victorians Used Common Poisons to Become Drop Dead Gorgeous.” Molly Brown House Museum, 24 Nov. 2017, https://mollybrown.org/beauty-is-in-the-eye-of-the-beholder-how-victorians-used-common-poisons-to-become-drop-dead-gorgeous/.

[6] Tait, William, and Christian Isobel Johnstone, editors. “On the Decline and Fall of the Empire of Fashion.” Tait’s Edinburgh Magazine, 1834, pp. 54–54.

[7] MacNeil A, Glaziou P, Sismanidis C, Maloney S, Floyd K. Global Epidemiology of Tuberculosis and Progress Toward Achieving Global Targets — 2017. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2019;68:263–266. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm6811a3

Lunar New Year!

by Steven Wang, junior writing coach

After the end of crackling fireworks and midnight parties, you may have thought the new year was over. Thankfully, another new year is fast approaching: the Lunar New Year. While this holiday does unfortunately appear in the midst of finals week, it’s nice to know that something more lighthearted is coming after this season of stress and tight schedules.

**Disclaimer: The Lunar New Year is celebrated by various cultures, but this post will be about my personal experience and knowledge regarding Chinese New Year.**

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Chinese New Year, also known as the Spring Festival, originates from a fable about a mythical beast named “nian”, which has also become the modern day word for year in Chinese. Every year, the creature terrorized villages—consuming crops, livestock, and even local villagers. Over the course of time, these Chinese villages discovered that the beast feared loud noises and bright colors. As a result, villages hung up bright red lanterns and red cut-outs for their door frames and created loud firecrackers to frighten the beast.

Even after all this time, the celebration hasn’t changed much, but there are a few more traditions not outlined in the ancient story. For example, it’s customary to make dumplings with your family on New Year’s Eve and eat fish to bring prosperity and good fortune into the new year. Additionally, children bow to their elders to wish them a happy new year and are often rewarded with a red envelope or “hong bao.” These envelopes have money stuffed inside and act as a symbol of fortune for the younger generation.

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Depending on the lunar calendar, the holiday typically lands between late January to early February with the 2020 Lunar New Year on January 25th. Chinese New Year follows the ancient tradition of the zodiac on a twelve-year cycle. This year is the year of the rat. 

As interesting as the traditions of the Lunar New Year are, to me, Chinese New Year represents more than just a day to stuff myself with dumplings or acquire some cash. It’s a day to recognize how thankful I am to be with my family. Even though my relatives live thousands of miles away in China, the New Year has always served as a unifying factor between us and an opportunity for me to take pride in my cultural heritage.

In the end, even if you don’t celebrate the Lunar New Year, it’s nice to kick back and open your mind to the fascinating origins of other cultural traditions. Happy Lunar New Year everyone! 春节快乐!

 

Oh, the Things a Letter Can Do!

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by Daniluz Schueller, senior writing coach

 

Dear Reader,

Sometimes we forget that writing can be powerful.

I am not saying that we do not understand its impact, it is more that with adapting to our busy daily routines, we can overlook the power writing has in our daily lives.

Yes newspapers and articles are good examples of different types of powerful writing, but I also think about those moments where just a small letter can really made a big impact on someone.

 In Sept. 20, 1958 while in a hospital recovering from being stabbed at a book signing event, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. received many letters and found one especially memorable. It was from a  young girl who wrote, “‘Dear Dr. King: I am a ninth-grade student at the White Plains High School. While it should not matter, I would like to mention that I’m a white girl. I read in the paper of your misfortune and of your suffering. And I read that if you had sneezed, you would have died. And I’m simply writing you to say that I’m so happy that you didn’t sneeze.’” Dr. King shared this at his famous “Mountaintop” sermon 10 years later sharing how grateful he was to not “sneeze” and be alive and to the young girl who cared enough to write about it.

This is just one story of how no matter your age, a letter can still be one of the greatest acts of recognition and kindness a person can do to show that they care.

I found this especially true when I joined the Language and Power Team at the Writing Center last year. We wanted to give opportunities for people to use their writing to address issues they care about. 

One such event we have done for two years now is the Write for Rights event sponsored by Amnesty International. Amnesty International is a non-profit organization that advocates for human rights and with Write for Rights, people all around the world write political or solidarity letters to advocate and support people who have had their human rights violated. It is done in commemoration of International Human Rights Day, December 10th. 

While it may just be writing a letter, when joined with around six million messages of support, these letters do make it possible for change.

From doing this event at my school, I have found that overall, writing is a powerful way to combine someone’s voice and passion about a topic in order to make change. Just like the girl who wrote the letter to Dr. King, sometimes it just takes a small letter of kindness in order to make a difference in someone’s life. 

Honestly, writing is as powerful as how you make of it. 

 

All the best, 

Your friendly Writing Center Coach 🙂