May 16 - It was my third Whit Sunday in Denmark yesterday, and my third annual family picnic with Trine's maternal family. (I'm using maternal in the sense that these were her mother's relatives, not in the sense that everyone kept telling me to put on a sweater.)
Nothing shouts bleeding-edge modernity like a Whit Sunday family Picnic. I've already written about the whole time-warp aspect of these family picnics in Frederiksberg Garden, but the Whit Sunday thing brought it to a whole new level.
"God Pinse," one of the maternal uncles said to me upon his arrival. "What do I say in English?"
"Happy Whit Sunday," Trine volunteered.
"What's Whit Sunday?" I asked.
"It's English for Pinse," Trine said.
Hard on the heels of a little moronic research, carried out according to the usual moronic standards of excellence, I've become something of a Pinse expert. I will happily share the wisdom I've accumulated.
Fifty days after the original Easter (or resurrection, if you're a believer), all the Apostles had "come together in one place" in Jerusalem early one morning, when they suddenly heard the roar of a mighty wind from heaven roaring toward them. Next thing they knew the house they occupied was full of flickering, tongue-shaped flames, one of which found its way to each of them. Suddenly each of them began speaking of the wonders of God in a language he'd never been able to speak before—Danish, for example, or Swahili.
All the Jews were in town for a holiday of their own, and when they heard all the fuss coming from the house of the apostles they all went running over there to tell them to keep it down. These Jews had come to Jerusalem from all over the world, though, from places where languages like Danish and Swahili might have been spoken, so they immediately noticed the apostles were popping off in these languages so seldom heard in Jerusalem.
"Holy moley," some of them said, "what's that about?"
Others just smirked and said, "Aw, they're just drunk."
The Biblical account of these events (see Acts 2:1-20) takes Peter at his word when he addresses the smirking Jews:
Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel: "In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy. And I will show portents in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and smoky mist. The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day. Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved."Got that? Apart from some crazy rhetoric, Peter's main proof that the apostles aren't just drunk is that "it's only nine o'clock in the morning."
Now, I happen to have read enough of and about the Bible to know a thing or two about those apostles. They were not the best and brightest of men. Indeed, Jesus himself deliberately chose them from among the lowest of the low. The idea that these celebrated dimwits would be gathered together in a single place, during a season of celebration, performing pyrotechnic feats and showing off their language skills before nine o'clock on a Sunday morning stretches credulity. I say this as someone with extensive personal experience of dimwits. It's much more reasonable to assume that they'd gathered Saturday evening, had been drinking all night, and were simply lighting things on fire and shouting a lot of nonsense when the hungover Jews came to complain about the racket.
Give Peter some credit for being quick on his feet.
"Drunk? We're not drunk. We're, ah. . . hey, okay, you're Jews. You know that part of the Bible where God says, 'in the last days, the Holy Spirit's gonna come down and make you all crazy?' Well, that's what happened. See, it's a religious thing. So back off!"
And the apostles were probably all like, "Yeah." "Exactly." "What he said."
Readers of a strong Christian faith may thing I'm playing fast and loose with Biblical interpretation here, but look at it this way: if Peter was being honest about the apostles' sobriety, his explanation requires that it be the end of days. It was clearly not the end of days. Peter was therefore clearly speaking out his ass. If he was willing to talk out his ass about something as significant as the end of days, why on earth would he feel any scruples lying about the blood-alcohol content of the apostles' circulatory systems?
Besides, the whole point of the modern Whit Sunday celebration, as I understand it, is to fill a cooler with beer and head out to the park to drink it. The tradition honors my own interpretation of the holiday much better than Peter's.
As usual, I don't want to force any theological issues on my readers. But I think you'll have to give me the edge on this one.
And I'm going to leave it at that, since brevity, as they say, is the soul of Whit. . .
I've been sick since Thursday evening. I'm feeling better now. But I've been letting email pile up and it may take another day or two to get caught up. Thank you for your patience.
William H. Seward and Pickles
Today is a special day. Not only is it International Pickle Day on the Orthodox Calendar, but it is also William H. Seward's birthday (1801). Only rarely does the calendar afford us so much opportunity for celebration on a single day.
There is first the pickle, the only warty green food savored by Americans. There is secondly William H. Seward. The similarities don't end there.
The process of pickling was first practiced thousands of years ago by Mesopotamians. William Seward was born hundreds of years ago in New York.
Seward served as a Whig governor of New York, but later served as a Republican Secretary of State under Abraham Lincoln. Compare this to the fact that refrigerated pickles account for about 20 percent of all pickle sales.
North Americans prefer pickles with warts. Europeans prefer wartless pickles. William Seward may have had warts.
The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that pickles are technically a fruit, not a vegetable. William Seward was not a vegetable and never served on the Supreme Court.
William Seward helped negotiate the deal that made Alaska an American territory. Americans consume about 2.5 billion pounds of pickles annually.
In the 1300s, a Dutch fisherman named William Beukelz became well-known for pickling fish. English-speaking traders mispronounced his name as "pickles," which stuck. William H. Seward was named by his parents.
(The H is for Henry.)
Janet Jackson turns 39 today. She shares her birthday with Debra Winger (1955), Liberace (1919), Studs Terkel (1912), Henry Fonda (1905), and the aforementioned William H. Seward (1801).
© 2005, The Moron's Almanac