Sunday, 16 August 2015

Holiday activities.

In Italy they have been celebrating "Ferragosto", the August holiday, the start of summer holidays proper for a lot of people. The 15th of August is a public holiday. Everything closes. Pontevedra has come to the end of its Semana Grande festivities which have centred around the Peregrina, the virgin pilgrim and, oddly enough, bullfights. And this weekend, coinciding with the public holidays in Italy is also a public holiday weekend in Spain and just about everything closes here as well. 

Because I am an ignorant non-Catholic, I decided to check on the religious significance of the date. And, of course it turns out that the whole of August is dedicated to the Sacred Heart of the Virgin in the Catholic calendar. The 15th is the Feast of the Assumption, when she is believed to have died and been taken up bodily into heaven before her immaculate self could begin to decay. There you go. 

In Italy they make a big thing about having a special lunch and people set off on holiday, leaving the big cities behind. In Poland, one of he most Catholic countries in Europe they also make the 15th of August into Polish Armed Forces Day. That sounds like a good way of celebrating a Christian event!!! 

And here we have had bullfights going on, not specifically on the Feast of the Assumption but there were fireworks. Bullfights has also been making a comeback in San Sebasti├ín this week. It has been banned there for three years but the new local administration has voted to bring it back, contrary to what is happening in a lot of Spain. The former king of Spain, Juan Carlos, a big bullfighting fan, was there. 

The poor animals do suffer. Animals of all kinds. I read that in the USA a grizzly bear attacked and killed a hiker in Yellowstone Park. The bear in turn was killed, or as the article in the newspaper put it, "euthanised". This may have been because the poor creature's behaviour was regarded as unusual. Grizzly bears apparently attack to defend their young but don't usually eat part of the animal (or person) they attack and hide the rest of the body, which this one did. She had a couple of cubs, so maybe she was suffering from postnatal depression. Do bears suffer from postnatal depression? In any case, they put her to sleep, presumably in case she might start attacking and eating more hikers. 

My attention was drawn to the following comment about the cubs: The two female cubs faced death, too, unless a zoo would accept them. “They are too young to survive in the wild 
on their own,” Bartlett said. “If we would have left them, they would have suffered and died.” 

What particularly struck me was the language in the final sentence. A British person would more usually say, "If we had left them, they would have suffered and died." That construction, pluperfect tense (had done) followed by conditional pluperfect (would have done), would have been used in French as well. But in Spanish it would have been almost exactly as in the quoted sentence, using an imperfect subjunctive (often used as an alternative for "would have done") and a conditional pluperfect. Italian works in a similar fashion. I am not sure what German does. 

Now, I have a theory that the Americans have been influenced in some of their sentence construction by the immigrants to their country whose first language was Spanish or Italian or possibly German. The first immigrants translated their first language structures literally into English and it became part of the standard language.

 Well, it's a theory!


  1. Just a little point as you are not a Catholic. Sacred Heart can only be used when it refers to the heart of Christ and for the Blessed Virgin it would be Immaculate Heart of Mary.

  2. Thank you. Now you mention it, i believe it was the Immaculate Heart in my info source.

  3. There are only a few occasions when a Pope has used his infallibility and it probably is very confusing for non-Catholics to understand. Your article about the Assumption happens to be one. Pope Pius XII issued an encylical "Munificentissimus" on November the 1st, 1950 declaring that the Blessed Virgin went straight to heaven after her death. Here is a link to that encyclical.
    On December 8th, 1854 Pope Pius IX issued a Papal encyclical "Ineffabilis Deus" declaring that the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, was born without original sin. Thus December the 8th each year is celebrated as the feast day of the Immaculate Conception of Mary in the Catholic Church. Here is a link to that encyclical.
    To find another occasion you will have to search back to the 1300s to find something. Both articles are in English.