Friday, July 02, 2010

A Little Holiday History

At 1:00 p.m. this afternoon, my first and only non-working family vacation of the year started. Yay!

And, of course, Sunday sees the 234th birthday of America celebrated with fireworks, cookouts, family, and other sorts of unrestrained merrymaking.


Most of us, and by that I mean most of us in the United States, know that the Fourth of July is the "birthday" of the United States of America. It actually marks the anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence by the Second Continental Congress. Often marked by parades and community celebrations, it is a symbolic time for American families to gather and reflect on their heritage.

Most of us take for granted that this day and all the other U.S. holidays are "national" holidays. But did you know that the United States observes no national holidays? Specifically, that means holidays mandated by the Federal Government. The United States Congress and/or President can only legally establish an "official" holiday for the District of Columbia and federal employees. In fact, it wasn't until the 20th century that an order was issued giving federal employees a "day off" from work. A public holiday can only be established at the local level. Typically the observance of holidays happens at the state level with the enactment of a state law or by an executive proclamation by a state governor.

For our neighbors to the north, Canada celebrates its Independence on July 1. The British North America Act created the Canadian federal government on July 1, 1867. This Act proclaimed "one Dominion under the name of Canada," hence why the original title of the holiday was "Dominion Day." On October 27, 1982, the Canadian Parliament officially renamed the holiday as "Canada Day."

Mexico celebrates many national and religious holidays, and many think that Cinco de Mayo - the Fifth of May - is Mexico's Independence Day, but that's wrong. Cinco de Mayo is a national holiday, honoring the Mexican defeat of the French army at Puebla in 1862. September 16 is Mexican Independence Day and it celebrates the day that Miguel Hidalgo delivered "El Grito de Dolores" and announced the Mexican revolt against Spanish rule.

So let's all be proud of our heritage, and remember that patriotism is not a sin, and Independence Day is more than beer, picnics, fireworks, and baseball games.

[written by Thomas S. Ellsworth; edits by Mark Raymond]


WEBSITE of the WEEK: How about a fun website for a holiday weekend? Try It's catch phrase is "mentally stimulating diversions." Enjoy.


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