Why Do We Dream (and Does It Really Mean Anything)?
- By: Jordyn Cormier
Why we need sleep is pretty obvious. The brain needs (and deserves) time to shut down and reset in order to function at its highest. But have you ever wondered why we dream? What role do they play in our lives?
The average person has four to six dreams a night, each lasting between five and 34 minutes. Dreams generally occur during deep sleep—in the REM phase. During the REM cycle, the chemical associated with memory and recall (norepinephrine) is at its lowest levels. That, along with the fact that our memory-supporting frontal lobes become inactive while we sleep, is why we are generally unable to remember most of our dreams in the morning. In fact, the only time many of us are actually able to recall a dream is if we are awoken from it.
WHY DO WE DREAM?
So, what’s the point of dreams, if we can’t even remember most of them? The truth is, no one really knows for sure. But, there are a few widely-accepted theories as to the underlying purpose of dreaming.
If you’re experiencing a lot of drama or have experienced trauma in your life, your dreams may be helping you to process those stressful events in unique ways.
Dreams allow you to make emotional connections that you simply cannot make consciously and help you to work through the challenging thoughts, emotions, and events of daily life. Think of them as built-in therapy.
Yeah, the brain is pretty cool.
The part of the brain, known as the amygdala, is highly active while we dream. Interestingly, it’s also the part of the brain that is associated with “flight or fight” responses. Some researchers theorize that the amygdala becomes active when we dream to help train us for dealing with potential threats, which would explain those universal chasing and falling dreams.
Think of it as a dry run for survival scenarios. There’s no real danger in the dream space, so we get to test how we would instinctively react. And for more modern-day issues, it’s a way for us to rehearse and sort out solutions to our daily problems.
Creativity is one of the defining factors of being human, and dreams might play a massive role in that process.
Think about all of the famous songs that have been inspired or delivered through dreams—like Yesterday by The Beatles and Satisfaction by The Rolling Stones. It’s tough to explain scientifically, but time and again, dreams have served as powerful creative inspiration for artists and intellectuals alike.
Perhaps the most popular theory about why we dream is that dreams allow us to store new memories and sort through old ones to reduce mental clutter.
Sleep itself has been shown in studies to improve memory retention, but could this be the result of our dreaming? Perhaps.
Regardless of why we dream, dreaming is wonderful. Paying more attention to the dreams you do remember could bring you greater insight into yourself and the world around you. So grab your dream journal and prepare for a wild ride into your brain!
HOW MARDI GRAS STARTED: HARD WINTERS AND CHARITY
It’s Mardi Gras time in New Orleans. Can spring be far away?
It’s hard to believe that Mardi Gras started with long hard winters and acts of charity. However, before it was a day for parties, Mardi Gras started out as a day to help the hungry and the poor.
Most people know Mardi Gras as the last extravagant day before Lent. Even the name, Mardi Gras, translates to Fat Tuesday suggesting the last feast of rich food before the self-denial some Christians observe before Easter. However, before it was a day for parties, Mardi Gras started out as hungry day near the end of winter, when people needed charity.
In the past, the last six weeks of winter could be very harsh and food supplies frequently ran short. In Medieval France, Mardi Gras became a traditional day when the poor were allowed to visit their wealthier neighbors and beg for food. In return, they would sing, dance and entertain their hosts. As traditions evolved, the beggars began to wear costumes, hiding their identities and salvaging their pride. They formed parades and a painful begging process evolved into a party.
Local communities in Louisiana celebrate old-fashioned Courir de Mardi Gras, closer to the original days of sharing food, drink and hospitality. Source: Wikipedia
Today, rural Louisiana has the costumed parades from house to house, as neighbors share food, drink and hospitality. These Courir de Mardi Gras usually end with gumbo and contests in a community center. In cities, it has evolved into more of a spectator sport with parades, parties and extravagant costumes. In memory of the older days of charity, necklaces and tokens are thrown to spectators.
Different versions of this celebration occur around the world, from Carnival in Europe to North and South America. Pity me, gentle reader, as I shovel snow this February and correspond with my student son in Brazil. I shiver in the cold, while he is wearing shorts and has a week off for Carnival in Rio de Janeiro. Called “The Greatest Show on Earth”, their carnivals combine European, African and Native American traditions to become citywide festivals, filled with samba, feasts and parades.
Brazil calls its Carnival “The Greatest Show on Earth.” Source: Wikipedia
Yet behind all this glorious fun lies a simple truth: Winter was hard and people were kind. The parties of Mardi Gras celebrated charity and generosity
ABOUT THIS BLOG
Are you a weather watcher? Welcome to “Weather Whispers” by James Garriss and until recently, Evelyn Browning Garriss. With expertise and humor, this column covers everything weather—from weather forecasts to WHY extreme weather happens to ways that weather affects your life from farming to your grocery bill. Enjoy weather facts, folklore, and fun!
With heavy hearts, we share the news that historical climatologist and immensely entertaining Almanac contributor Evelyn Browning Garriss passed away in late June 2017. Evelyn shared her lifetime of weather knowledge with Almanac editors and readers, explaining weather phenomena in conversation and expounding on topics in articles for the print edition of The Old Farmer’s Almanac as well as in these articles. We were honored to know and work with her as her time allowed, which is to say when she was not giving lectures to, writing articles for, and consulting with scientists, academia, investors, and government agencies around the world. She will be greatly missed by the Almanac staff and readers.
When is Mardi Gras 2019? Why is this day—also called Shrove Tuesday or Fat Tuesday—celebrated? Read what The Old Farmer’s Almanac has to say about this festive holiday.
I think that I may say that an American has not seen the United States until he has seen Mardi Gras in New Orleans.
– Mark Twain, American writer (1835–1910)
WHEN IS MARDI GRAS?
Mardi Gras takes place
|2019||Tuesday, March 5|
|2020||Tuesday, February 25|
|2021||Tuesday, February 16|
WHAT IS MARDI GRAS OR SHROVE TUESDAY?
Mardi Gras is French for “Fat Tuesday” and is the final feasting day before the Christian season of Lent, which begins on the day after Mardi Gras, Ash Wednesday.
Fat Tuesday is also called Shrove Tuesday, a name that comes from the practice of “shriving”—purifying oneself through confession—prior to Lent.
For many Christians, Shrove Tuesday is a time to receive penance and absolution. It is the last day to finish up the eggs, milk, and fat that are forbidden during the 40-day Lenten fast, which begins the next day (Ash Wednesday) and ends on Holy Thursday (three days before Easter Sunday).
In England, where the event is also known as Pancake Tuesday, festivities include flapjack-related activities. The pancake race held by women in Olney, Buckinghamshire, dates back to 1445. Legend says that the idea started when a woman cooking pancakes lost track of the time. When she heard the church bells ring, she rushed out the door to attend the shriving service while still wearing her apron and holding a skillet containing a pancake.
Serve up some Shrove Tuesday Pancakes to celebrate.
In 1950, Liberal, Kansas, having seen photos of the English pancake race, challenged Olney to a competition: The International Pancake Day Race has been held annually ever since. The two towns run their own race, after which the scores are compared and the international champion announced. Each contestant, wearing a head scarf and apron, holds a pancake in a skillet while running a 415-yard course. She must flip the pancake at the beginning and end of the race, without dropping it.
Other cultures also cook up rich treats and fried foods, which was traditionally based on using up all the butter, flour, and fat in the house.
- Among the Pennsylvania Dutch, the Tuesday is called Fastnacht (fast night), and everyone enjoys the traditional fastnachtkuchen, a rectangular doughnut with a slit in the middle.
- In Polish communities, the Tuesday is called “Paczki Day,” after the puffy jelly-filled doughnuts traditionally enjoyed.
- In Sweden, the Tuesday is calledsemmeldagen, semlans dag, or fettisdagen. They enjoy a sweet cream bun called semla. Happy Semlans Dag!
- In Louisiana, the favorite treat is the beignet, a pillowy fried dough concoction.
In countries with large Roman Catholic populations, Mardi Gras is also a day of revelry with festivals, parades, masked balls, and lavish dinners. In the United States, New Orleans is the most known for its Mardi Gras celebrations with marching bands, decorated floats, colorful costumes and masks, lots of beads, and King Cakes.
In the spirit of New Orleans, try cooking up some great Cajun food for Mardi Gras, such as this soul-warming Jambalaya.
Discover more about the history and traditions of this holiday on the City of New Orleans’ Mardi Gras Website.
ALL ABOUT THE MONTH OF MARCH
March brings with it the promise of gardening and warm(er), sunny days, as Earth turns its frostbitten cheek to winter and springs forth from the vernal equinox. Read about this month’s holidays, happenings, seasonal recipes, gardening tips, Moon phases, folklore, and much more!
–Elizabeth Akers Allen (1832–1911)
The month of March was named for the Roman god of war, Mars. Traditionally, this was the time of year to resume military campaigns that had been interrupted by winter.
- March 5: Mardi Gras (“Fat Tuesday”) or Shrove Tuesday.
- March 8: International Women’s Day.
- March 10: Daylight Saving Time begins at 2:00 A.M. Don’t forget to “spring forward” and set your clocks ahead one hour!
- March 15: The Ides of March. Legend surrounds this ill-fated day. Beware the Ides of March!
- March 17: St. Patrick’s Day.
- March 20: The vernal equinox, also called the Spring Equinox, marking the beginning of spring in the Northern Hemisphere, occurs on Wednesday, March 20, at 5:58 P.M. EDT. On this day, the Sun rises due east and sets due west. In the Southern Hemisphere, this date marks the autumnal equinox. Read more about the First Day of Spring!
- The Borrowing Days: According to lore, the last three days of March have a reputation for being stormy.
- Easter Sunday: This year, Easter Sunday will occur on April 21, culminating the Holy Week for Christian churches and commemorating the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Read more about Easter Sunday and why the date changes every year.
“Just for Fun” Days
Did you know that March is National Umbrella Month? Here are some more wacky things to celebrate this month:
- March 3: What If Cats and Dogs Had Opposable Thumbs Day
- March 9: International Fanny Pack Day
- March 13: National Ear Muff Day
- March 16: National Panda Day
- March 21: Absolutely Incredible Kid Day
- March 23: World Meteorological Day
- March 31: World Backup Day
The March equinox occurs on March 20 at 5:58 P.M. EDT this year, ushering in the spring season in the Northern Hemisphere. At this time, the Sun’s position will be at which of the following coordinates on the celestial sphere?
A. 0 hour right ascension, 0° declination.
B. 6 hours right ascension, 23.5° North declination.
C. 12 hours right ascension, 0° declination
D. 18 hours right ascension, 23.5° South declination
Answer: A. B describes the Sun’s position during the June (summer) solstice; C, during the September (fall) equinox; and D, during the December (winter) solstice.
- Planning a vegetable garden? We’ve done all the research for you—from how far to space plants to seeding dates to best crops to plant together.
- Wondering when to plant what?
- Just getting started with gardening?
RECIPES FOR THE SEASON
- In celebration of Saint Patrick’s Day, try making some traditional Irish food—from Irish Soda Bread to Corned Beef and Cabbage.
- March is the start of spring!
- Now is the time for making maple sugar.
- According to folklore, wear a sprig of rosemary in your hair to improve your memory!
- March brings rain and mud! Sprinkle salt on carpets to dry out muddy footprints before vacuuming.
BIRDS & FISHING
According to Henry David Thoreau, the call of a bluebird is a song that “melts the ear, as the snow.”
Check birdhouses for damage and give them a spring cleaning before tenants arrive for the season.
Spring means fishing!
FOLKLORE FOR THE SEASON
- A wet spring, a dry harvest.
- On St. Patrick’s Day, the warm side of a stone turns up, and the broad-back goose begins to lay.
- March comes in with adders’ heads and goes out with peacocks’ tails.
- Thunder in spring, Cold will bring.
- So many mists in March you see, So many frosts in May will be.
- In beginning or in end, March its gifts will send.
- Bleak winds assault us all around;
Dances aloft, or skims the ground:
See the school-boy—his hat in hand,
While on the path he scarce can stand
March’s birth flower is the daffodil or jonquil. The daffodil signifies regard or unrequited love. The jonquil means “I desire a return of affection.”
March’s birthstone is the aquamarine. This gem is a type of beryl; its color can be pale to dark blue, greenish-blue, or blue-green; deep, intense blue versions are more valuable.
March’s Zodiac signs are Pisces (February 20 to March 20) and Aries (March 21 to April 20).
Shrove Tuesday/Pancake Day
In England Shrove Tuesday, the last day before Lent, is also known as “Pancake Day” (for more on Shrove Tuesday, see Shrovetide). Hundreds of years ago the English observed a strict fast throughout Lent, during which they ate neither meat nor dairy products. They hurried to consume all these foods in the last several days before Lent, lest they go to waste during the fast. One of the quickest ways to use up butter, milk, and eggs was to make and eat pancakes. Hence Shrove Tuesday became “Pancake Day.”
In medieval times church bells tolled on Shrove Tuesday reminding people to confess their sins to a priest before the start of Lent. In England, the Reformation, a sixteenth-century religious reform movement, reduced the importance of the pre-Lenten confession. The bell-ringing custom remained, however, although people reinterpreted its meaning. They began to hear the clanging bells as a reminder to use up all their butter, milk, and eggs before the start of Lent. Thus the Shrove Tuesday bell became known as the “pancake bell.”
In the year 1621, English writer John Taylor penned a humorous description of these proceedings:
. . . by that time that the clock strikes eleven, which (by the help of a knavish sexton) is commonly before nine, then there is a bell rung, called the Pancake-bell, the sound whereof makes thousands of people distracted, and forgetful of manners or of humanity; then there is a thing called wheaten flour, which the sulphury, Necromantic cooks do mingle with water, eggs, spice and other tragical, magical enchantments, then they put it by little and little into a frying-pan of boiling suet, where it makes a confused, dismal hissing (like the Lemean snakes in the reeds of Acheron, Styx or Phlegeton) until at last, by the skill of the cooks it is transformed into the form of a Flap-Jack, which in our translation is called a Pancake, which ominous incantation the ignorant people do devour very greedily. (Hutton, 152)
In past times English lads went door to door on Shrove Tuesday, begging for pancakes and other soon-to-be-forbidden treats. Folklorists have preserved one of the rhymes that accompanied this annual outing:
Dibbity, dibbity, dibbity, doe, Give me a pancake and I’ll go; Dibbity, dibbity, dibbity, ditter, Please to give me a bit of a fritter. (Lord and Foley, 63)
Perhaps this old begging custom inspired Westminster School’s “Pancake Greeze,” an event which continues to this day. At 11 a.m. on Shrove Tuesday the school cook tosses a large pancake up over a crowd of students chosen to represent their grades. The boys scramble for possession of the flapjack and the one emerging with the cake – or the largest piece of it – receives a monetary reward from the school dean. The cook also receives a reward for his participation in this annual event.
The annual pancake race that takes place in the town of Olney, England, is perhaps the most famous pancake-related event that occurs on Shrove Tuesday. According to local legend, this race began in the year 1445 when a housewife engaged in making pancakes heard the church bells summoning worshipers to confession. Not wanting to be late for church, but at the same time not wanting to leave her pancake uncooked, she wrapped a scarf around her head and dashed off to church, still wearing her apron and still flipping her pancake in the skillet. This unusual feat attracted the attention of the neighbors. In succeeding years they followed her example, and a local tradition was born. Each year the housewives of Olney race each other to the village church, wearing housedresses, aprons, and headscarves, and carrying a skillet containing a flapjack, which they are required to flip three times during the race. The prize for winning is a kiss from the verger, or church caretaker.
In 1950 the housewives of Liberal, Kansas, decided to take up Shrove Tuesday pancake racing. They challenged the women of Olney to a competition to see whose winner turned in the best time. Liberal’s pancake race has thrived since that day, and a friendly rivalry has grown up between the two pancake-loving towns. Liberal racers follow the same rules and receive the same prize as do their colleagues in England. These two well-known events have inspired other communities and church congregations to sponsor pancake races on Shrove Tuesday.
Although few English people maintain the strict Lenten fasting that gave rise to these events, many still crave pancakes on Shrove Tuesday. This customary dish is also consumed in the United States, where some churches hold “pancake suppers” on this day.
Hole, Christina. Easter and Its Customs. New York: M. Barrows and Company, 1961. Hutton, Ronald. Stations of theSun. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 1996. Lord, Priscilla Sawyer, and Daniel J. Foley. Easter the WorldOver. Philadelphia, PA: Chilton Book Company, 1971.
For the history of the pancake race in Liberal, Kansas, see the following page, written by local resident Virginia Leete:
The following site, posted by the town of Olney, England, furnishes a description and photos of the pancake race at:99/gallery/pancake99.htm
The Navigium Isidis or Isidis Navigium (trans. the vessel of Isis) was an annual ancient Roman religious festival in honor of the goddess Isis, held on March 5. The festival outlived Christian persecution by Theodosius (391) and Arcadius’ persecution against the Roman religion (395).
In the Roman Empire, it was still celebrated in Italy at least until the year 416. In Egypt, it was suppressed by Christian authorities in the 6th century.
The Navigium Isidis celebrated Isis’ influence over the sea and served as a prayer for the safety of seafarers and, eventually, of the Roman people and their leaders. It consisted of an elaborate procession, including Isiac priests and devotees with a wide variety of costumes and sacred emblems, carrying a model ship from the local Isis temple to the sea or to a nearby river.
Modern carnival resembles the festival of the Navigium Isidis, and some scholars argue that they share the same origin (via carrus navalis, meaning naval wagon, i.e. float – later becoming car-nival). Many elements of Carnival were in turn appropriated in the Corpus Christi festival, most prominently in the Iberian Peninsula (Spain and Portugal).
- Valantasis (2000) p.378
- Haase and Temporini (1986) p.1931
- Michele Renee Salzman, On Roman Time: The Codex Calendar of 354 and the Rhythms of Urban Life in Late Antiquity (University of California Press, 1990), p. 124.
- Alföldi (1937) p.47
- Valantasis (2000) p.370
- Michele Renee Salzman, On Roman Time: The Codex-Calendar of 354 and the Rhythms of Urban Life in Late Antiquity (University of California Press, 1990), 169–175.
- Malcolm Drew Donalson, The Cult of Isis in the Roman Empire: Isis Invicta (The Edwin Mellen Press, 2003), 68–73.
- Jaime Alvar, Romanising Oriental Gods: Myth, Salvation, and Ethics in the Cults of Cybele, Isis, and Mithras, trans. & ed. Richard Gordon (Leiden: Brill, 2008), 299.
- Rudwin (1919)
- di Cocco (2007)
- Alföldi (1937) pp.57-8
- Forrest (2001) p.114
- Griffiths (1975) p.172
- Ruiz, Teofilo (2012). “8”. A King Travels: Festive Traditions in Late Medieval and Early Modern Spain. p. 359-ff.
- Alföldi, Andreas (1937) A Festival of Isis in Rome under the Christian Emperors of the IVth Century, Budapest
- Forrest, M. Isidora (2001) Isis magic: cultivating a relationship with the goddess of 10,000 names
- Griffiths, J. Gwyn (1975) The Isis-book: Metamorphoses, Book 11, chapter Commentary pp. 111–346
- di Cocco, Giampaolo (2007) Alle origini del Carnevale: Mysteria isiaci e miti cattolici (Florence: Pontecorboli)
- Haase, Wolfgang and Temporini, Hildegard (1986) Aufstieg und Niedergang der römischen Welt, Volume 16, Part 3
- Rudwin, Maximilian J. (1919) The Origin of the German Carnival Comedy in The Journal of English and Germanic Philology Vol. 18, No. 3 (Jul., 1919), pp. 402–454
- Valantasis, Richard (2000) Religions of late antiquity in practice
- Brady, Thomas A. (1938) Reviewed work(s): A Festival of Isis in Rome under the Christian Emperors of the Fourth Century by Andrew Alföldi, in The Journal of Roman Studies Vol. 28, Part 1 (1938), pp. 88–90
- Rademacher, Carl (1932) Carnival in Hastings ERE 3, pp. 225–9
“We can see the Divine in each speck of dust, but that doesn’t stop us from wiping it away with a wet sponge. The Divine doesn’t disappear; it’s transformed into the clean surface.”
Get A Jump On Tomorrow…..
Your Daily Horoscopes for Wednesday, March 6th
We have the “all clear” today to shop and do business. The New Moon is in Pisces.
Aries (March 21-April 19)
Today is a New Moon, and at different times, both the Sun and the Moon are lined up with Neptune. In a weird way, this can make you second guess yourself. You might doubt your abilities to do something. Don’t take this seriously because it’s a temporary confusion.
Taurus (April 20-May 20)
It’s easy to idealize a friend today or a member of a group. Your admiration might even instill a desire in you to emulate this person or to change your goals so that you follow in their footsteps. This might be a good idea – but it might not be.
Gemini (May 21-June 20)
You might want to present a certain image of yourself to others today, especially bosses and parents. You might strive to be something that you hope to be, or it might just be an act. Conversely, someone might present this sort of thing to you. It’s a tricky day.
Cancer (June 21-July 22)
Because your appreciation of beauty is heightened today, give yourself a chance to enjoy beautiful places and beautiful things. Visit art galleries, museums, beautiful boutique shops or pristine parks because you will be inspired by the creativity of others.
Leo (July 23-Aug. 22)
Avoid making important financial decisions today, especially if you are giving away money or sharing something. Your ideals are inspired and because of this, you might be tempted to give away the farm. Generosity is a good thing, but you must act when you are clear and know what you’re doing. Today is fuzzy.
Virgo (Aug. 23-Sept. 22)
You might over idealize a partner or close friend today or they might see you in the same idealistic way, which can be flattering, but it is unrealistic. Therefore, think very carefully before you agree to anything important so that you do not end up with regrets.
Libra (Sept. 23-Oct. 22)
You might be inspired to help a coworker today or someone you encounter through your job. Or this same astrological influence might instead make you feel world-weary and overwhelmed by the tasks that you face. Don’t worry because this is a fleeting influence.
Scorpio (Oct. 23-Nov. 21)
Today you are in touch with your muse and your creative vibes, which is why you might have imaginative ideas about artistic projects. You might also feel sympathetic to the needs of children. Meanwhile, romance will be the stuff of movies – which could be an illusion.
Sagittarius (Nov. 22-Dec. 21)
You will want to help a family member today if you can because you feel genuinely sympathetic to their needs. You might also want to plan some kind of family occasion that is a bonding, heartwarming event because your idealism is aroused.
Capricorn (Dec. 22-Jan. 19)
Don’t worry if you spend a lot of time daydreaming today or being lost in a fantasy world because it’s very easy to do this today. In discussions with others, clarify what they are saying because it’s easy to misread people today.
Aquarius (Jan. 20-Feb. 18)
Be careful shopping today because you will be tempted to spend too much money on elegant, luxurious items. Later you might wonder why you even bought them? (Five ostrich boas? One, yes — but five?) Keep your receipts.
Pisces (Feb. 19-March 20)
This is a good day to take a realistic look in the mirror and check out the image you create on your world. What can you do to create a better impression? When people meet you, they immediately size you up- never underestimate this. You never get a second chance to make a first impression.
If Your Birthday Is Today
Actor Tom Arnold (1959) shares your birthday today. You are free-spirited and live by your own rules. You’re a perfectionist who can inspire others. This is a party year! Enjoy a heightened popularity and warm friendships with others. You will have much to be grateful for this year. Learn to appreciate the happiness and beauty around you. This year you will make an important choice. Happiness is having alternatives.