Amazing Changes in France

Yesterday and today have come news that two of the things I thought were the worst or weirdest about France are being changed, the stores being closed on Sundays, and the schools being closed on Wednesdays.

Yesterday France24 reported, on the first day of the new school year, that for the first time French children will be going to school five days a week. Until now they got to stay home on Wednesdays, apparently because of a 19th century idea they were then supposed to study their catechisms, Sunday School on Wednesdays.

The world’s least interesting national day

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National Day 2011 at MillesgÄrden, Lidingö,

Today is Sweden’s National Day, and practically no one cares.

Under the headline “National Day, a bluff clothed in Blue and Yellow”, the noted historian Dick Harrison tells the newspaper “Svenska Dagbladet” today that what was originally Swedish Flag Day had its origin with the founder of Skansen, Artur Hazelius, in the 1890’s. Apparently he held a number of Flag Days, but they all got rained out. According to Harrison, it rained least on June 6, so Hazelius stuck with that date.

Afterwards, people looked for historical events on June 6, and discovered that Gustaf Vasa was crowned King of Sweden on that date (under the Julian Calendar) in 1523, and a new Swedish Constitution was signed (not adopted) on June 6, 1809. Harrison says these events were linked to the day after the fact.

The day didn’t become a public holiday until 2005, replacing Pentacost Monday, and that was only because industry realized Pentacost Monday happens every year, but two years out of seven June 6 falls on a weekend. Unlike US, where the following Monday is a holiday in such cases, Swedes lose out if a holiday is on a weekend. So industry realized they could get more work out of people with June 6, and successfully lobbied for the change.

“Svenska Dagbladet” points out that most Swedes feel no connection to the day, and the true national day of Sweden is Midsummer. That’s when everyone is out, dancing around Maypoles, and picnicking together.

In recent years one custom has been attached to the national day. Every year on June 6 city halls across the country hold ceremonies to honor those who became Swedish citizens during the previous calendar year. I attended such a ceremony in 2011, and it was fun. But for most Swedes June 6 has virtually no significance.

Stockholm Baseball Opens 2014 season with Double Wins

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Defending Swedish champs Stockholm opened the 2014 season taking a doubleheader from visiting Leksand, 6-5 and 9-3.

Leksand led the first game until the bottom of the ninth inning, when Stockholm tied with a bases loaded walk. The winning run came with the bases still loaded, with a batter hit by a pitch.

Twice during the game Stockholm loaded the bases, then failed to score.

One of the strangest plays came while Stockholm was issuing an intentional walk, when the home plate umpire called a balk.