The Thing About Today – November 10

November 10, 2020
Day 315 of 366

November 10th is the 315th day of the year. It is the birthday of the United States Marine Corps, which was founded in 1775 as the Continental Marines.

In the United States, today is “celebrated” as National Forget-Me-Not Day and National Vanilla Cupcake Day.

Historical items of note:

  • In 1483, German monk and priest Martin Luther was born. He was the leader of the Protestant Reformation.
  • In 1766, the last colonial governor of New Jersey, William Franklin, signed the charter of Queen’s College. It was later renamed Rutgers University.
  • In 1847, the passenger ship Stephen Whitney was wrecked in thick fog off the southern coast of Ireland, killing 92 of the 110 on board. The disaster resulted in the construction of the Fastnet Rock lighthouse.
  • In 1865, Major Henry Wirz, the superintendent of a prison camp in Andersonville, Georgia, was hanged. He was one of only three American Civil War soldiers executed for war crimes.
  • In 1871, Henry Morton Stanley located missing explorer and missionary, Dr. David Livingstone in Ujiji, near Lake Tanganyika. He famously greeted him with the words, “Dr. Livingstone, I presume?”.
  • In 1889, English-American actor Claude Rains was born.
  • In 1925, Welsh actor and singer Richard Burton was born.
  • In 1928, Italian trumpet player, composer, and conductor Ennio Morricone was born.
  • In 1954, United States President Dwight D. Eisenhower dedicated the USMC War Memorial (also known as Iwo Jima memorial) in Arlington Ridge Park in Arlington County, Virginia.
  • In 1955, German director, producer, and screenwriter Roland Emmerich was born.
  • In 1960, English author, illustrator, and screenwriter Neil Gaiman was born.
  • In 1963, English actor Hugh Bonneville was born.
  • In 1969, National Educational Television, the predecessor to the Public Broadcasting Service, debuted Sesame Street.
  • Also in 1969, actress and producer Ellen Pompeo was born.
  • In 1975, the 729-foot-long freighter SS Edmund Fitzgerald sank during a storm on Lake Superior, killing all 29 crew on board.
  • In 1977, actress Brittany Murphy was born.
  • In 1983, Bill Gates introduced Windows 1.0.
  • In 1989, Germans began to tear down the Berlin Wall.
  • Also in 1989, Welsh actor Taron Egerton was born.
  • In 1990, Home Alone premiered.
  • In 1997, WorldCom and MCI Communications announced a $37 billion merger. It was the largest merger in US history at the time.
  • In 1998, Star Trek: Insurrection premiered.
  • In 2008, over five months after landing on Mars, NASA declared the Phoenix mission concluded after communications with the lander were lost.

November 10th is Martinisingen in Germany.

Martinisingen, literally “Martin singing” or “St. Martin’s Song”, is an old Protestant custom with a mix of several older elements. It takes place with groups of people carrying their lanterns from house to house and singing traditional songs.

Traditionally, November 10th was the day on which farmhands and ordinary workers were dismissed for the winter. Most of those workers had no property and had to survive the coldest time of the year without any income. However, their children were able to help by going from house to house on this day and begging for food and gifts, especially from the well-to-do farmers and citizens. They originally collected food that was then actually stored as part of their family’s winter stock and could be consumed gradually. Sometimes older singers disguised themselves or wore masks (sğabellenskoppen) and joined in the festivities.

As time went on, the gifts given out increasingly became a symbolic donation and, today, usually consist of sweets and fruit. The traditional gifts, by contrast, include gingerbread men (Stutenkerl), honey cakes (Moppen) and Pfeffernüsse (pēpernööten) as well as apples.

Part of the begging included reciting rhyming verses or singing suitable songs and the children carried lanterns (kipkapköögels) that used to be made from beets and small pumpkins. The lanterns were gradually replaced by colored paper lanterns. Various home-made instruments were also used such as rattles (Rasseln) and friction drums (Rummelpott).

With the outbreak of the Reformation, the original motive of supplementing winter food supplies became interwoven with religious aspects, particularly those honoring the reformer, Martin Luther, and the festival became the Protestant church’s version of the original Catholic tradition. In 1817, on the occasion of the tricentennial anniversary of the Reformation in 1517, Martinisingen was brought forward to the eve of St. Martin’s Day.

From that point forward, only Martin Luther continued to be celebrated as the “Friend of light and man of God” (Freund des Lichts und Mann Gottes) who “knocked the crown off the pope in Rome” (der dem Papst in Rom die Krone vom Haupt schlug). The custom of Martinisingen became a celebration of Martin Luther and the motive of begging for food was explained as a tradition of the monastic orders. The traditional songs were given a religious spin and new ones were written that celebrated the religious significance of the day or honored Martin Luther.

The Thing About Today is an effort to look at each day of 2020 with respect to its historical context.

For more creativity with a critical eye, visit Creative Criticality.

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