Tag Archives: holidays

All about St. Patrick’s Day


Got your green ready? St. Patrick’s Day is nigh!

Famous for being the day you could get pinched if you’re not wearing green, St. Patrick’s Day takes place each year on March 17. But exactly is it all about?

What it is: The feast day of St. Patrick, patron saint of Ireland.

St. Patrick? Who? Patrick was born in the late 300s CE in–surprise!–Britain, which was at that time part of the Holy Roman Empire. As a teen he was kidnapped from his family and taken to Ireland as a slave. During his captivity he embraced Christianity and eventually escaped and undertook a perilous journey back to Britain. Later, he had a dream or vision that he should return to Ireland to spread his faith. Patrick died in Ireland sometime in the 5th Century. (Many biographical details of St. Patrick’s life are unclear. In fact, the story of St. Patrick may have been taken from two separate individuals and merged together. For more information, check out some of the Library’s books or online encyclopedias.)

Wait. I’m recalling something about snakes. Several legends about St. Patrick sprung up after his death. One says that he drove all the snakes out of Ireland to their watery deaths in the sea. According to modern day science that’s just not true. In fact, there were apparently no snakes even in Ireland!  Legend also has it that he picked the shamrock (not to be confused with the elusive four leaf clover) as a symbol of the Holy Trinity.

Great. Let’s celebrate! Today, St. Patrick’s Day is observed around the world with parades, feasts, and other festivities. Perhaps you’ve seen the Chicago River being dyed green? For something closer to home, check out some of these Seattle events. Luck o’ the Irish to ya!

Today is Mardi Gras!


Ready to party? Mardi Gras (also known as Fat Tuesday) is a time of fun and celebration before the start of Lent on Ash Wednesday.  Mardi Gras is celebrated throughout the world with parties, feasts, dances, and more.  The most famous celebration is the United States takes place each year in New Orleans, Louisiana.  With parades, bead throwing, and masquerade balls, it sounds like one wild event.  You can also feast on the traditional king cake (see an example below), a pastry resembling a giant cinnamon roll, and hope that your slice features a lucky trinket.  You may receive special privileges for finding the trinket!


Brazil celebrates Mardi Gras as Carnival.  For several days each year millions of people take to the streets to party.  Rio de Janeiro’s celebrations are the largest in the world and feature an annual competition known as the Samba Parade.  Social clubs known as Samba Schools put together elaborate performances for the parade, which takes place in the appropriately named Sambodromo.  Each performance is judged on its samba song, band, chosen theme, costumes, props, and more.  (Read more about the judging here.)  Sounds like this would be a fantastic experience!

Here at Northgate, we are not quite so elaborate.  We are celebrating with a colorful display featuring books, a recipe for king cake, and masks to take home and color.  Take a look:


Want to get involved? How about making your own mask? Find some printable templates here or go freehand for even more possibilities.

Have fun!

Valentine’s Day Scottish Shenanigans

Valentine’s Day is February 14th every year, everyone knows that!  But hardly anyone knows that St. Valentine still rests in a church in Scotland (more about that below!).  In Scotland now, Valentine’s Day is an important holiday, full of traditions and unique celebrations.

Vintage Scottish Valentine, circa 1907.

Valentine’s Day celebrations are not a grand affair in Scotland.  People prefer small get-togethers or a romantic candlelight dinner.  They exchange gifts and cards with their loved ones to make them feel special.

The history of St Valentine’s Day dates back to Roman times when St. Valentine was martyred for refusing to give up his Christian faith.

It is believed that the remains of St Valentine’s remains are in the church of Blessed St. John Duns Scotus in Glasgow, a little-known fact that has led to Glasgow styling itself as the ‘City of Love’ in recent years.  It is believed that on the night before he died, he left a wee note to the jailer’s daughter signed ‘Your Valentine’.

He died on 14th February which some see as the onset of spring, with new buds and spring flowers shooting through the winter ground; and this is a time traditionally associated with finding new love.  But February 14th has become a time when couples demonstrate their love by exchanging cards and gifts.  Some will become engaged to be married, while others will choose that day to marry.

Scotland’s reputation for romantic venues is already well known throughout the world.  Indeed the small village of Gretna Green is famous around the world as THE place for romantic weddings.  It is the first village over the Scottish border on the road from England to Glasgow.  It is renowned for being the place where young English couples in particular eloped; as English Law said they could not marry until they were 18 years old, whereas in Scotland marriage is allowed at 16.


The lass is playing coy, but who could resist that wee lad’s offer of his heart?

Various games are played in Scottish Valentine parties.  In a most popular game, an equal number of men and women are made to write their names on a piece of paper which is then folded and placed into a hat.  One hat is for ladies and the other one is for men.  The female then draws one name from the men’s hat and the chosen man has to stick with his Valentine throughout the party.  Later on, gifts are exchanged and Valentine’s Day is greeted with hugs and kisses.  Such “wonderful” Valentine games often result in unusual marriages.

Click here to find more fun things all about Valentine’s Day.

Hugs & Kisses from your friends at the library!  ❤

Winter Celebrations

Winter is coming!  Sorry, could not resist a Game of Thrones reference.  Although it seems like the days cannot get any shorter, the shortest day is yet to come.  Today, December 21st marks this year’s Winter Solstice and is the point when we see the least daylight.  Historically, many religions and cultures have used the solstice to celebrate the re-emergence of the sun.  Take a look at some modern-day, rather fascinating photos from last year’s festivities at Stonehenge. Remember, if you live in the southern hemisphere, December 21 is actually the longest day of the year.  Bring on the sun!

Winter is home to many other celebrations and holidays. Hanukkah (alternatively, Chanukah and other variants), is the Jewish festival of light and started this year on December 16. Celebrated for eight days, Hanukkah commemorates the 2nd Century BCE victory of the few over the many and the miracle of one day of oil lasting eight days.  People light one candle per night on the eight candle menorah (with one additional candle, the shamash, to light the rest) and give blessings.

Christmas, once perhaps tied in with the winter solstice, is the Christian celebration of the birth of Jesus.  Christmas is now observed across the world with and without religious elements. From Las Posadas, the procession of Jesus and Mary statues recreating their search for lodging (celebrated mainly in Mexico and Guatemala) to St. Nicholas Day in Europe on December 6, there are numerous festivities.  As Britannica Library rather dryly notes, Christmas is “marked by an increasingly elaborate exchange of gifts.”  😉

Created in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Karenga as a way to unite families and communities, Kwanzaa is based on centuries of first harvest traditions in Africa. Observed for seven days from December 26 to January 1, each day celebrates one of the seven principles, or Nguzo Saba. (Information about Kwanzaa accessed on Encyclopedia Americana, one of the library’s free databases. Check it out with your library card!)

Of course, there are many more traditions and celebrations not mentioned here–what about you?

What do you celebrate? What are you thankful for?

Let It Snow – So many stories, all very cute.

let it snowTitle: Let It Snow

Author: Maureen Johnson, John Green, Lauren Myracle

Summary: Three holiday romances packed into one book.

The first story, The Jubilee Express, tells the story of Jubilee, a teenage girl stuck alone on Christmas Eve because her parents were arrested for being a little too excited about collectible miniature decorative houses and being involved in somewhat of a riot related to the release of another collectible. She is taking the train to her grandparent’s house in Florida when the snowstorm stops the train. As she ventures out to get to a payphone to call her grandparents, Jubilee runs into her classmate Stuart. Stuart invites her to come over to his house for Christmas so she doesn’t have to spend it alone. Jubilee has a boyfriend, but Stuart’s offer is as a friend. However, the events that follow could change that.

The second story, A Cheertastic Christmas Miracle, is about a group of friends: two boys, Tobin and JP, and one tomboyish girl, the Duke (aka Angie). Tobin and the Duke are best friends and that’s all they’ve ever been, but when they go on a journey to a waffle house during a snowstorm, their relationship changes.

The third story, The Patron Saint of Pigs, Addie, who regrets having recently broken up with her boyfriend, begins to realize how self-involved she is. In an effort to show how much she cares about others, she offers to pick up a teacup pig for her friend Tegan who ordered the pig weeks ago. Addie tries to remember, but she inevitably forgets to get the pig for her friend. Luckily, a “Christmas angel” helps her out and Addie learns a valuable lesson.

Six Word Review: So many stories, all very cute.

I started reading because: I was browsing through a library looking for a cute romance novel.

I would give this book 8/10 stars because all the stories are very sweet. It’s a fun read.

I loved how the stories crossed over with each other. It makes you very aware that everyone is the main character in their own lives and we’re just background characters to them while they’re background characters to us. I hated that there weren’t even more stories to be interwoven.

If the lead character Stuart was in a high school yearbook, he/she would be voted Most Likely To: Be The Sweetest Person Alive.

Anything else we should know? The summary doesn’t tell the whole of all the stories because there are three stories and it would be, like, three pages long if I did summarize it all in-depth. It may sound sort of shallow, and it kind of is, but sometimes shallow is good. It’s really a cute book and it describes the excitement of a snowstorm perfectly.

Regina, West Seattle


Thanksgiving – An Attitude of Gratitude


Thanksgiving is on Thursday. Do you have any exciting plans, or perhaps a favorite food you cannot wait to sample? (Hello pumpkin pie!)

Celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November, Thanksgiving is a day of thanks in celebration of the harvest and blessings received in the last year. Did you know that it has quite an interesting backstory?

What Americans think of Thanksgiving today is very different from what is widely considered the first Thanksgiving, in 1621. That year, members of the Wampanoag joined English colonists for a days long feast, military exercises, and contests. What exactly the feast consisted of is something of a mystery (sadly, no photographs!) but certainly did not resemble today’s turkey feasts. The Wampanoag brought venison (game meat, especially deer) and other choices might have included fish and vegetables. 1621 was certainly not the first Thanksgiving. Native peoples had long celebrated the harvest with dances and rituals.

Thanksgiving was then celebrated on and off after 1621 but it was not until a woman named Sarah Josepha Hale took up the cause that Thanksgiving became an annual tradition. Hale spent 36 (!) years campaigning until President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national Thanksgiving Day in 1863. Interested in learning more? Check out the backstory on Britannica Reference Center, one of the library’s databases. You can access it for free with your library card!

Do you have any annual Thanksgiving traditions? Perhaps you watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade? Break and make a wish on a turkey’s wishbone? Pardon your own turkey like the President? Or tofurkey, like Seattle Mayor Ed Murray. Help the less fortunate by volunteering at shelters or donating food? (View a list of holiday resources at King County 211.)

Whatever you do, enjoy your Thanksgiving!

Veterans Day FAQ

Veterans-DayToday the libraries are closed in observance of Armistice Day, now known as Veterans Day.

What is Armistice Day?

In November 1919, President Wilson proclaimed November 11 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day with the following words: “To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations…” Continue reading