Venezuela – Flag Day

August 3 (since 2006)


Up until 2006, Venezuelans celebrated El Día de la Bandera (Flag Day) on March 12th, in honor of the day in 1806 that Francisco de Miranda first hoisted the future flag of Venezuela on the ship Leander.

Miranda was born in Caracas, Venezuela. During the American Revolutionary War, Miranda fought for Spain in Florida. In France he served in the French Revolutionary Army. And between those two revolutions he lived in England, Italy, Prussia, and the Ottoman Empire.

But he’s most famous for his role in the liberation of his homeland Venezuela, a crusade that occupied the last decade of his life.

In 1806 Miranda acquired unofficial British support to lead a rebellion against Spain in South America. On March 12, 1806, Miranda raised the tricolor flag, which he himself designed, atop the ship Leander, just before she and two other ships set forth from Haiti to liberate South America.

The plan didn’t work.

The other two ships were captured by the Spanish, their occupants tried, and many were put to death. The Leander escaped, arriving in La Vela de Coro on August 3, 1806, flag in tact.

Miranda led the struggle against Spanish forces for the next several years. On Maundy Thursday in 1810 a military junta established a provisional Venezuelan government, to which Miranda was appointed as a delegate from El Pao. The congress adopted Miranda’s tricolor flag as the official banner the following year.

However, later losses, and a huge earthquake which hit Venezuela on Maundy Thursday two years after the junta (taken by many as a sign from God against the revolution) reduced Venezuelan morale and popular support. Miranda became a generalissimo with dictatorial powers, but as the revolutionary effort crumbled, he began considering an armistice with Spain.

Simon Bolivar and other revolutionaries viewed Miranda as a traitor. In one of Bolivar’s less touted moves, he and his co-patriots turned Miranda over to the Spanish. Miranda was transported Spain, incarcerated, and died in his cell four years later—on July 14 (Bastille Day) 1816.

He was buried in a mass grave.

Francisco de Miranda in Cadíz
Francisco de Miranda in Cadíz

In 2006, the Venezuelan government voted to change the date of Flag Day to August 3rd to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the flag’s (and Miranda’s) arrival on Venezuelan soil.

“Miranda was a man of the eighteenth century whose genius lay in raising the consciousness and confidence of his fellow Americans. Although he prided on being a soldier, his greatest battles were fought with his pen.”

Francisco de Miranda, a Transatlantic Life in the Age of Revolution, by Karen Racine

Venezuelan Flag & Flag Day

St. Elias & Ilinden

August 2-3 (Gregorian) every year; July 20 (O.S.)

The traditional feast day for the saint known as Elijah, Elias, or Ilya is July 20. In and around the Balkan states where St. Elias is most venerated, July 20 in the Eastern Orthodox Calendar falls on August 2 in the Gregorian.

In the Old Testament, Elijah is the Hebrew prophet who rode to heaven in a chariot and who would come back to earth to foretell the coming of the Messiah. He could make fire fall from the sky, as in the case of the showdown at Mt. Carmel, which is how he came to be associated with thunder and lightning among formerly pagan cultures of South-eastern Europe.

In the New Testament, Elijah is one of the prophets—along with Moses—that Peter sees talking with Christ during the Transfiguration. The New Testament also describes St. John the Baptist as an incarnation of Elijah, who came back to announce the coming of Christ.

Elijah’s Greek translation “Elias” suggests the prophet may be a form of the Greek sun god Helios. Helios drove the sun across the sky in a chariot.

Elijah taken to heaven in a chariot
Elias taken to heaven in a chariot

Elias is especially revered in the countries of Macedonia and Bulgaria, where he’s also known as St. Ilya.

In many of the villages of old Macedonian Bulgaria, all the weddings for each town that year would take place on the same day. The most popular days for weddings were St. Peter’s Day (June 29), the Assumption (August 15) and, July 20, St. Elias’s Day, or Ilinden.

“After the conclusion of the liturgy, the oldest inhabitant, flanked by the village priest and the headman, would go to the centre of the village, call the young men together and declare: “God willing, the weddings will commence’. Everyone present then fired a few shots into the air to confirm the start of the wedding ceremonies. This was the signal for red wedding banners, topped with apples wrapped in gold foil, to be hoisted on the houses where weddings had been arranged. The customary preliminary rituals, lasting the best part of a week, were performed by each family individually, but all the couples, with their respective entourages, went to the church to be married one after the other on the same Sunday, and then all assembled on the village green, where they danced the horo together before returning to their separate homes to feast and to carry out the remaining rituals.”

Bulgarian Folk Customs, Mercia MacDermott (summarizing Stefan Verkovich’s account of Ilinden in A Description of the Way of Life of the Macedonian Bulgarians)

In the early years of the 20th century the saint’s feast acquired a whole new meaning. Macedonia at that time was still under control of the Ottoman Empire. In 1903 Macedonian insurgents planned and launched a widespread uprising beginning on Ilinden (August 2, Gregorian). Though the Turks put down the insurrection the following month, the Ilinden Uprising became a symbol of Macedonian nationalism.

Swiss National Day

August 1

“In Switzerland they had brotherly love — they had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock.”

So goes Orson Welles’ famous line from The Third Man. But the Swiss will tell you Switzerland has produced much more than the cuckoo clock, the army knife, holey cheese, and those nifty bank accounts. Here, for the first time ever, ranked by the world’s most brainiest scientists, are the top 20 things to come out of Switzerland over the last 500 years:

20. internal combustion engine
19. e (as 2.71828 )
18. fondue
17. Amish people
16. Nescafe
15. velcro
14. absinthe
13. William Tell
12. i (square root of negative 1)
11. LSD
10. LCDs
9. Rorschach tests
8. Diesel
7. aluminum foil
6. cheese spread
5. the Red Cross
4. the World Wide Web
3. Toblerone
2. photosynthesis
1. Ursula Andress

Ah the Swiss...Ursula Andress in Dr. No

Despite these achievements, women in Switzerland didn’t get the right to vote until 1971. Since then, however, they’ve had two female Presidents.

Today’s National Day celebrates the Federal Charter of 1291, penned in August of that year. It states:

…know all men, that the people of the valley of Uri, the democracy of the valley of Schwyz, and the community of the Lower Valley of Unterwalden, seeing the malice of the age, in order that they may better defend themselves, and their own, and better preserve them in proper condition, have promised in good faith to assist each other with aid…against one and all, who may inflict upon any one of them any violence, molestation or injury, or may plot any evil against their persons or goods.

And they meant it. Mild-mannered as they seem today, the Swiss Confederation was the terror of Europe starting in the days of national hero William Tell in the 14th century until 1515 when French, German, and Venetian troops defeated 20,000 Swiss–the best trained army on the continent–in the Battle of Marignano. The battle also marked the end of the days of pikes and phalanxes and the beginning of the dominance of field artillery.

Switzerland joined the United Nations in 2002.


July 31-August 1

Book of Hours, August

Today is Lughnasadh! Not to be confused with Lasagna Day. That was July 29.

Also known by its more Christian name, Lammas, aka “Loaf-mas”, Lughnasadh marked the time of year villagers would celebrate the first Harvest, on or around August 1, by baking and sharing bread from the first grain of the season.

Lughnasadh is a cross-quarter day—days that fall directly between equinoxes and solstices—the others being Imbolc (Candlemas), Beltane (May Day), and Samhain (Halloween).

The holiday would have been celebrated by the Celts starting at sundown (on the 31st) until the following day.

July 31 is also Harry Potter’s Birthday! Coincidence?

Today the ancient pagan tradition is carried on by wiccans and is becoming increasingly popular in neopaganism.


Lughnasadh recipes