30 May, 2011

30 May, 1944

438th AAA AW BN
APO 654 % Postmaster, N.Y.
30 May, 1944       0725

Dearest Sweetheart –

I just realized – in writing the date – that today was or at least used to be, a nice holiday back home. Last year – I arrived at Camp Edwards on May 29th from S. Carolina after being away for 6 months – and it sure was a thrill. I don’t know just how I would act if I were home again now – but I have a pretty good idea.

As a matter of fact the English have their holiday, too, at the end of May – but it’s not like our Memorial day. It marks the end of the whole Easter period – sort of the other end of the line from the beginning of Lent – with Easter in the middle. The Holiday is called Whitsuntide and as most holidays are celebrated – it includes Saturday, Sunday and Monday. Of course it made no difference to us.

Say that news about Betty and Les getting married on a 3 day pass was surprising. I didn’t think their folks would approve. Of course I don’t know what sort of outfit he’s with. If he thinks he’s in a semi-permanent set-up, I do believe he ought to get married; but if he’s with an infantry division – he’s bound to move out – and soon. In that case – I think he ought to wait it out, if he’s waited so long. But that’s their problem and not ours. Incidentally – I assume Betty is still at school and due to graduate soon – is that correct?

There seems to have been a delay in mail in your direction, too, dear, for which I’m sorry. It’s worse when you don’t hear from us – but remember – I’ve told you 2 or 3 times now – to expect a delay and the one you’ve already had – is not what I have in mind. You finally got the letter in which I mention Charlie and you say I sounded upset. I was – in a way – because the whole thing was rather nasty and I had to help cover up and pretend that nothing had happened. Yes – I’m on speaking terms with him – there was no trouble between the two of us at all. I suppose I might as well tell you just what the trouble was – so you’ll understand. It all hinged on Charlie’s attention to men – especially enlisted men. It had been going on for some time – I mean – over a year anyway – and the Colonel knew about it, I did – and perhaps 3 other officers. Well – on the week-end I wrote you about it – an incident blew everything wide open and he was transferred out of here in less time than it takes to write it. He is now awaiting a trip back to the States – where I believe he will be asked to resign his commission. Incidentally, dear, I’ve written to no one about this – except you. So now you know. We’ve had no replacement yet – but at least there’s no tension here now.

Sweetheart, I haven’t told you I loved you yet – this morning – and here I’m almost ready to leave – so I love you!! I hope you’re getting mail more regularly now, dear – but anyway, I’m writing every time I can. Remember that when you don’t hear regularly. So long for now, dear – love to the folks and

All my love is yours


about Whitsuntide
Goosnargh, UK, 1893
Whit Walkers Enjoy their Picnic Tea

Whitsunday (Whit Sunday) is celebrated seven weeks (50 days) after Easter Sunday. Whit Sunday is a favourite day for baptism. It is thought that because people are often baptized dressed in white, Whit Sunday was probably originally known as "White Sunday." It is also known as Pentecost, meaning "the fiftieth day". This day is historically and symbolically related to the Jewish harvest festival of Shavuot, which commemorates God giving the Ten Commandments at Mount Sinai fifty days after the Exodus. Among Christians, Pentecost commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles and other followers of Jesus. The Pentecostal movement of Christianity derives its name from this biblical event.

The week following Whit Sunday is known as "Whitsuntide" or "Whit week". "Whit Monday" is a public holiday in many European countries including Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Romania, and (most parts of) Switzerland. In Sweden it was also a public holiday, but Pentecost Monday (Annandag Pingst), through a government decision December 15, 2004, was abolished and replaced with the Swedish National Day on June 6th each year. In Italy and Malta, it is no longer a public holiday. It was a public holiday in Ireland until 1973. It was a bank holiday in the United Kingdom until 1967.

In the UK, the adoption of a Late Spring Bank Holiday on the last Monday in May is an attempt to deal with the fact that Whitsuntide is a moveable feast dependent on the date of Easter. Although it is no longer necessarily at the church's Whitsuntide, the general public still refers to this holiday as "Whit Monday." Two main traditions persist, particularly in the North of England - "Whit Walks" and "Whitsun Ales."

Whit Walks are now confined almost exclusively to the industrial towns of northern England although they were once much more widespread. The whole community assembles at a central point - usually a school or church - and parades around the town or village. The parades will be led by a brass band with the clergy and local dignitaries, followed by the uniformed organizations - Scouts and Guides, Boy's Brigade etc., and finally local families all in their best new clothes with the girls dressed in white, Whitsun being a corruption of White Sunday. The Whit Walkers will very likely make their way to the local green or playing field and there the "Whitsun Ale" will begin.

A "Whitsun Ale" is, despite its name, not a type of beer! Whitsun Ales are country fairs, with sports and competitions, music and of course socializing, eating and drinking, in fact a major event on the social calendar. After the Civil War (English, not American) the Puritan government banned all types of merrymaking. But after the Restoration of Charles II, Whitsun Ales became a major event - helped no doubt by the fact that Charles was born on a Whit Monday and so encouraged the celebration. The Ales are often sponsored by a pub or brewery, giving rise to the misconception that the event is named for the beer.

Another custom on Whitsunday involves cheese. In Gloucestershire, Whit Sunday is often referred to as 'Bread and Cheese Day' because of a very strange custom that takes place on this day. In St Braivels, Gloucestershire, following evensong on Whit Monday, basketfuls of bread and cheese are thrown from a wall near the old castle, to be scrambled for in a lane below. The locals of St Braivels have been hurling bread and cheese since the 13th century, when the custom began probably as a payment for the villagers' right to cut timber from a nearby wood. In Randwick, Gloucestershire, after rolling three double Gloucester cheeses around the church, one is cut up and shared amongst bystanders and the other two are rolled down a steep hill. In Stilton, Cambridgeshire, teams of four, in bizarre costumes, roll stilton cheese along a 50-yard course. They must not kick or throw the cheeses. The prize is a whole Stilton Cheese, which weighs about 16 pounds, and bottles of port — the traditional accompaniment.

Cheese rolling also takes place in other areas around England. The most outrageous event takes place in Brockworth, Gloucestershire down Cooper's Hill and is known for commonly causing injuries to those taking part, with sprains and broken bones common. In 2009, the injury toll of 18 was described as 'low' by St John Ambulance. Ten of the wounded were spectators. Six people fainted just watching the event and four other spectators suffered minor injuries. One of those had fallen out of a tree and was taken slowly down the 100ft slope on a spinal board.T hree cheese-chasers were taken to hospital for treatment - two with suspected spinal injuries and one with a dislocated shoulder. The rest had cuts and bruises. From the Cheese Rolling in Gloucestershire site comes this slow motion video of the 2011 event.

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