Thankful for Umbrellas, Plimsoll Line and Preparing Our Hearts for Shrovetide

Feb 10th

Living in Washington, today’s first event is something very popular indeed!  Today is Umbrella Day!  Indeed, the umbrella deserves to be honored since it is of one of the world’s most invaluable inventions. We get so many rainy days around here that most people have one in their cars, at work, set inside their doors at home . . . everywhere they may be when the rain starts.  I know I am glad that someone was smart enough to invent them.  Umbrellas are also used to shade people from the heat of the sun and protect them from harmful UV rays.  They come in all sorts of colors, designs and sizes and are even used for advertising for businesses and organizations!  Golf umbrellas are popular sizes because you can fit more than one person under them.  There are lawn and beach umbrellas, some that fold down small enough to fit into a purse or bag, automatic or manual opening ones, and some that are really reinforced for heavy wind!  I remember a time when I wasn’t so appreciative though – I was in Junior High and for some reason I can’t even think of now, it wasn’t considered to be cool to carry an umbrella.  The ridiculousness of it all is that I would spend an hour doing my hair and getting ready for school, leave the house with an umbrella, walk the 1/4 mile to the bus stop, but ditch the umbrella in the bushes right around the corner from where the rest of the kids were waiting for the bus.  Depending on how hard it was raining, but the time I rounded that last bend and got under the cover of the bus stop, I’d be soaked to the skin, looking like a drowned rat.  All that prep time was wasted – I should have just brushed my hair after my shower, thrown on something wrinkled and headed out the door.  The “DUH!” of those years boggles my mind.

Plimsoll Day – On February 10, 1824 Samuel Plimsoll was born.  He was very interested in safety at sea and condemned the owners of the ships who put the sailors lives at risk by dangerously overloading the ships with cargo.  He discovered that nearly 1,000 sailors a year were drowning on ships around British shores because of the overloading.  He started a campaign to make in mandatory that ships have a load line marking when they were overloaded, which would ensure the safety of the crew and the cargo.  The line on the ship came to be known as the Plimsoll Line.  It is also known as the Load Line or The International Line.  This marking on the ship’s hull shows how low or high the ship is sitting in the water.  By examining the plimsoll line you can tell the depth that a ship may be safely and legally loaded.  This marking is now mandatory and international.


The Plimsoll line is important because if a ship is riding too low in the water it becomes dangerously unstable and could capsize.  The level of a ship in the water is also affected by temperature and salinity as well as load.  Temperature affects the level because warm water provides less buoyancy, since it’s less dense than cold water.  The salinity of the water affects the level because fresh water is less dense than salty seawater.  In 1876, British Parliament passed the Unseaworthy Ships Bill into law.  this act required a series of lines to be painted onto the ship to show the maximum loading point.  It was unfortunate that the act allowed the ship owners to pain the line where they saw fit, and some decided to paint it on the funnel of the ship.  It was not until 1890 that Board of Trade officials applied the regulations that Plimsoll intended, and the line was painted on the side of all ships.
The Plimsoll Line painted on the side of all ships

image: plimsoll line
Different levels are shown with code letters to indicate the type of water.

  • TF – Tropical Fresh Water
  • F – Fresh Water
  • T – Tropical Seawater
  • S – Summer Temperate Seawater
  • W – Winter Temperate Seawater
  • WNA – Winter North Atlantic

I realize that though this may not be the most exciting thing to celebrate, it is something very worthy to acknowledge because this implemented safety regulations that kept many sailors alive and able to sail home to their families. So, thank you Samuel Plimsoll for caring, for standing up for what you believed in, and making the necessary changes to keep so many people safe over the years.

Shrovetide is the three days preceding Ash Wednesday, known as Shrove Sunday, Shrove Monday and Shrove Tuesday.  Shrovetide precedes the beginning of Lent, a 40-day long Easter fast practiced among Catholics and Orthodox Christians. The word Lent is originally an old Teutonic word, which means spring season.  Lent is a time for both spiritual and physical purification and meditation in order to be prepared for the coming feast of Easter.  Traditionally during Lent people would not eat meat and all the things that “come from flesh”, like milk, eggs, cheese, butter and other dairy products.

Vegetables, mushrooms, fruit, honey, bread, vegetable oils (excluding olive oil), nuts, seeds, cereals and grits were permitted.  The Greek traditional fast also forbade fish and other types of seafood.  Slavic traditions permitted them.  Alcohol and other stimulants were also traditionally forbidden.
In the old days, in country households the last of the meat, eggs and milk products were consumed at Shrovetide. It was the last chance for feasting before the strictness of the fasting period. Shrovetide is a northern European equivalent for the carnival season of southern Europe, which marks the beginning of Lent.  Many Shrovetide and carnival customs of different countries date back to pagan times, to feasts like the ancient Roman feast of Bacchus and the celebrating of the approaching spring, fertility and beginning of new life. Pagan customs were later blended in with the Christian Shrovetide celebration.  Shrove Tuesday,  which ends the Shrovetide was – and still is – a day of celebration with the tradition of eating greasy pancakes or waffles, a tradition common to many European Countries.
The name Shrovetide comes from the word “shriving”, which means cleansing of all sins – or confessing one’s sins.  After Shrove Tuesday people would go home and have a hearty lunch.  Shrove Tuesday is also known by its French name – Mardi Gras – fatty Tuesday.  Many Shrove Tuesdays are observed in churches around the world with pancake dinners. Fat Tuesday in many places is a day of hedonistic partying, as people throw all inhibitions to the wind before they enter the time of Lent.  Even people without any intentions of observing Lent get into the party mood and go crazy on this day.   Ash Wednesday follows Shrove Tuesday and is the first day of the Lenten fast in the Western Church, and is a day of repentance and amendment. The name of the day signifies the old act of sprinkling ashes on oneself and wearing sackcloth as a means of repenting of one’s sins. Lent ends on Easter Sunday.
I was not raised observing Lent, but I do know that today people tend to choose something to give up – ideally it is something that they feel is a sacrifice and a reminder of all that Christ did for us by giving Himself as a sacrifice for our sins.  My church a few years ago encouraged us to consider observing Lent, and to use this time to really focus on what it means.  Since I had never done this before, we discussed it at home and we did make a decision to observe it.  We gave up evening television for the Lent season, and though to some that may not seem to be a big deal, in this TV oriented world that was a big deal to us and changed our entire routine. We turned it off at a set time every day, and instead had family time playing games, reading together, listening to a sermon online, and just plain talking.  Those nights became something we looked forward to, and less of a sacrifice as they were a blessing.  It is very common for people to give up coffee, soda, chocolate, or something else that is a big piece of their lives.  The most important thing though, is give something that will hurt to give, to remind you better of why it is done, and to teach us something about sacrifice in a very small way.
As we enter Shrovetide this year, focus our eyes on the WHY of the season, and the WHO it surrounds.  Thank You God for giving us Your Own Son, to give His life so we could live.  God bless you everyone.  I’ll see you tomorrow.

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