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July 4, Independence Day

Happy Birthday America!  What are we really celebrating every July 4?  For many this holiday has become just another three day week-end and a day for cookouts.  It is on the 4th of July that we celebrate the day the American colonies declared their independence from England in the year 1776.  Thomas Jefferson penned that famous document, the Declaration of Independence.  It is a good idea that we refresh our memories at this special holiday of just what that document says.

In Congress, July 4, 1776.The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united State of America, when the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Natures God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.--

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--

That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,--That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness....And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

After reading the Declaration of Independence it might be fun to bring out the birthday cake - decorated in the fashion of the first American flag, red, white and blue.  Use a regular 9 x 13 sheet cake and decorate using white icing, blueberry pie filling and strawberries.  In Philadelphia at the second Continental Congress the 1st design for the American flag was adopted in 1777.  It had thirteen stripes, alternating red and white, thirteen stars on a blue background which represented the thirteen colonies upon a blue background.  The thirteen stars were arranged in a circle upon the blue field.

And finally another way to have fun and learn a little something at the same time is to make a trivia game up using facts about the fifty states such as state capitols, birds, flowers, trees, names of Presidents and so on.  Use your imagination!

The History of Labor Day

Labor Day: How it Came About; What it Means

"Labor Day differs in every essential way from the other holidays of the year in any country," said Samuel Gompers, founder and longtime president of the American Federation of Labor. "All other holidays are in a more or less degree connected with conflicts and battles of man's prowess over man, of strife and discord for greed and power, of glories achieved by one nation over another. Labor Day...is devoted to no man, living or dead, to no sect, race, or nation."

Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.

Founder of Labor Day

More than 100 years after the first Labor Day observance, there is still some doubt as to who first proposed the holiday for workers.

Some records show that Peter J. McGuire, general secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners and a cofounder of the American Federation of Labor, was first in suggesting a day to honor those "who from rude nature have delved and carved all the grandeur we behold."

But Peter McGuire's place in Labor Day history has not gone unchallenged. Many believe that Matthew Maguire, a machinist, not Peter McGuire, founded the holiday. Recent research seems to support the contention that Matthew Maguire, later the secretary of Local 344 of the International Association of Machinists in Paterson, N.J., proposed the holiday in 1882 while serving as secretary of the Central Labor Union in New York. What is clear is that the Central Labor Union adopted a Labor Day proposal and appointed a committee to plan a demonstration and picnic.

The First Labor Day

The first Labor Day holiday was celebrated on Tuesday, September 5, 1882, in New York City, in accordance with the plans of the Central Labor Union. The Central Labor Union held its second Labor Day holiday just a year later, on September 5, 1883.

In 1884 the first Monday in September was selected as the holiday, as originally proposed, and the Central Labor Union urged similar organizations in other cities to follow the example of New York and celebrate a "workingmen's holiday" on that date. The idea spread with the growth of labor organizations, and in 1885 Labor Day was celebrated in many industrial centers of the country.

Labor Day Legislation

Through the years the nation gave increasing emphasis to Labor Day. The first governmental recognition came through municipal ordinances passed during 1885 and 1886. From them developed the movement to secure state legislation. The first state bill was introduced into the New York legislature, but the first to become law was passed by Oregon on February 21, 1887. During the year four more states Colorado, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York created the Labor Day holiday by legislative enactment. By the end of the decade Connecticut, Nebraska, and Pennsylvania had followed suit. By 1894, 23 other states had adopted the holiday in honor of workers, and on June 28 of that year, Congress passed an act making the first Monday in September of each year a legal holiday in the District of Columbia and the territories.

A Nationwide Holiday

The form that the observance and celebration of Labor Day should take were outlined in the first proposal of the holiday a street parade to exhibit to the public "the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations" of the community, followed by a festival for the recreation and amusement of the workers and their families. This became the pattern for the celebrations of Labor Day. Speeches by prominent men and women were introduced later, as more emphasis was placed upon the economic and civic significance of the holiday. Still later, by a resolution of the American Federation of Labor convention of 1909, the Sunday preceding Labor Day was adopted as Labor Sunday and dedicated to the spiritual and educational aspects of the labor movement.

The character of the Labor Day celebration has undergone a change in recent years, especially in large industrial centers where mass displays and huge parades have proved a problem. This change, however, is more a shift in emphasis and medium of expression. Labor Day addresses by leading union officials, industrialists, educators, clerics and government officials are given wide coverage in newspapers, radio, and television.

The vital force of labor added materially to the highest standard of living and the greatest production the world has ever known and has brought us closer to the realization of our traditional ideals of economic and political democracy. It is appropriate, therefore, that the nation pay tribute on Labor Day to the creator of so much of the nation's strength, freedom, and leadership the American worker.

October 12 Columbus Day.

On October, 1492 , Columbus discovered the first island in America, the island of San Salvador in West Indies. The first celebration of the discovery was held in New York City in 1792.

Many people say that Christopher Columbus was not the first European to discover America. The Irish and Norwegians claim their explorers  came to America first. But no one paid much attention to their discoveries.

Columbuss discovery caused Europeans to realize that a new land America existed.

Columbus didnt know  that he discovered America. He thought hed landed near China or Japan.

When in 1957 an ancient map, called the Vinland Map , was found, it changed the story of the discovery of America.  The United states congress has declared Leif Eiriksson tobe the discoverer of the New world, and since 1966, annually Americans celebrate Leif Eirikssons Day on October 9. However, it doesnt abolish Columbus Day, the holiday of long standing , on October 12. But now it is devoted to the rediscovery and exploration of America.

October 31 Halloween

It is not a legal or a national holiday.  Schools, offices and banks do not close. Halloween is the day or evening before Allhallows or All saints Day. Many Halloween stories and games are hundreds of years old. Halloween customs date back to a time when people believed in devils, witches and ghosts.  

They thought that these evil spirits could do all kinds of damage to property. Some people tried to scare witches away by painting magic signs on their barns. Others tried to scare them away nailing o piece of iron, such as horseshoe, over the door.

It is a holiday for children and young people. In the evening of October 31 they dress up in different old clothes and wear masks. They cut horrible faces in empty pumpkins and put a lighted candle inside. The children go from house to house and knock on the doors, calling trick or treat.   This means that if you give them a treat sweets, cakes, fruits or anything else they like they go away without trick. If you dont, they will play a trick on you. The most common tricks are making a lot of noise or soaping the windows of houses and cars. They draw pictures on the windows with soap.

November the 4-th Thursday.

Thanksgiving Day.

The idea of a Harvest Feast goes back to ancient times.  The first American Thanksgiving was celebrated in 1621 at the Plymouth colony in Massachusetts.  After the American Revolution President George Washington proclaimed November 26, 1789, Thanksgiving Day to honor the adoption of the U.S. Constitution and later in 1863 President Abraham Lincoln named the last Thursday in November as Thanksgiving Day.  It did not become an official national holiday until 1941 under President Franklin D. Roosevelt when Congress passed a special resolution declaring that Thanksgiving would be celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November. 

Today Thanksgiving has become a special family holiday when people come home to participate in the traditional Thanksgiving Day Dinner.  It is a day for giving thanks for all our blessings and an excellent opportunity to share our bounty with others.  Food donations are often stored up at this time for the needy and volunteers prepare holiday dinners for the homeless and less fortunate among us.  Buy a few extra cans of food to donate to your local food bank when you do your grocery shopping this year. Another way to share the spirit of the holiday is to invite a member of the Armed Forces who may be unable to go home and spend time with his or her family.  Or if there is not a military base near your community you might think about paying a visit to a nursing home where there may be a few elderly patients without family nearby and share some of your time visiting these lonely folks.  Holidays can be especially difficult for those without family members nearby.

Thanksgiving is also a time to remember the debt we owe native American Indians because without their unique knowledge of the environment and willingness to help those early European settlers things may have turned out many different.  Teach children to respect the Indian traditions and discover what were some of the native American foodstuffs available to those early settlers.  Include some of them in your own Thanksgiving dinner many of the traditional dishes we think of already represent some of them such as cranberries.  Find out which others can be attributed to the Indians.

Thanksgiving Day   (some more facts)
Celebrating a Harvest of Tradition

The fourth Thursday in November, Thanksgiving Day, ushers in the "official" start of the Christmas season in our modern day world. Marked with parades, huge family meals featuring turkey, gravy, and all the trimmings, day-long displays of athletic prowessor not, as sometimes happenswith wall-to-wall football, which does make one question whether the turkey or the pigskin is the featured course of the day, and the appearance of Santa throughout malls and stores, the festival has become a commercial event in which the origins and meaning of the day are almost totally obscured. The modern day Thanksgiving is a far different occasion than the original

Thanksgiving's Beginnings

It is widely assumed that the first Thanksgiving occurred in 1621 and was celebrated by the Pilgrims, English settlers, and local Native Americans. It will come as a surprise to many that

1) the meal in 1621 was not the first Thanksgiving in North America and, in fact, not even a thanksgiving feast, 2) turkey was probably not served and 3) there were no Pilgrims!

The Native American people had celebrated the harvest, in one form or another, for several thousands of years prior to European colonization. The first documented "thanksgiving" observance actually occurred in 1578. An English adventurer, Martin Frobisher, held a formal ceremony in what is now known as New Foundland to give thanks for having survived the long ocean journey. In addition to the settlement in Canada, the Spanish, French, and the Dutch all had settlements in North America and would have carried the old observances marking successful harvests to their new homes as well. It is not surprising that the early arrivals to the Plymouth Colony would also have had their rituals. In point of fact, the new arrivals did not know how to farm and it was the Native Americans who, as established farmers, taught the ways of planting and harvest

The First Thanksgiving Day

If the event in 1621 wasn't a Thanksgiving celebration then the question arises: What was it?
A large celebration was held to which important members of the Native American community were invited, and which was, in all likelihood, a secular celebration of the harvestcertainly not a "day of thanksgiving," as would have been understood by these colonists. In their faith, a day of thanksgiving would have marked the end of a period of fasting and prayer.
The huge celebration, which has been described in historical records, certainly did not fit this mold. That this clearly was a singular event is apparent in that there is no record that it ever was repeated.

The first real Calvinist Thanksgiving followed the ending of a drought in the summer of 1623. In the manner of their faith, these settlers spent the time in religious ceremony to give thanks rather than at a fully laden feast. Nevertheless, this celebration has become the model for our modern day holiday.

Thanksgiving Today

Thanksgiving, as we know it today, has come a long way from the Pilgrim's harvest festival in 1621. It is an event that seems, as each year goes by, to reinvent itself and to expand its meaning to larger vistas. Maybe this is the real significance of the occasion; for as we continue to change and grow as a people, there are an increasing number of things for which we can be thankful.

Thanksgiving Fare

Let's Talk Turkey

Picture the traditional Thanksgiving dinner: a festive table, a loving family, glowing candles and the finest china used only on special occasions. And the centerpiece of the festive meal: the turkey, golden brown, with stuffing and gravy on the side, awaiting the carving knife and whetting the appetites of all those present. This scene, however, is not from history, but it emerges from a desire to remake history into our own vision.

No Thanksgiving Turkey?

Wild turkeys, as they would have been encountered in New England nearly four centuries ago certainly did not resemble the overstuffed fowl, cultivated for our dinner table, that we have come to recognize, even by silhouette. Tough, resourceful, able to fly and hard to catch, turkeys were not the first choice of either Native Americans or early colonial hunters. This creature was so tenacious that none other than Benjamin Franklin suggested it be revered as our national symbol. Of course, the Bald Eagle ultimately won the honor by a feather.
So if turkey was not the main course at the first harvest festival, which we have adopted through time, as the model for Thanksgiving Dinner, then what was served?

Then What's for Thanksgiving Dinner?

The answer lies in some of the documents of the time. Edward Winslow's account details that "they went out and killed five deer" and mentions that "our governor sent four men on fowling" and that "they four, in one day, killed as much fowl as, with a little help beside, served the company almost a week." While it is possible that turkeys may have been killed, it is more likely that ducks or geese were the  primary targets.

In addition, the crops grown by both settler and Native American would have graced that early thanksgiving dinner. Corn, squash, potatoes, yams, even wheat to make bread were, in all probability, shared and enjoyed. Ironically, however, it is not likely that cranberries were evident. Since they grew in bogs and were often inaccessible, gathering them may have been more effort that it was worth. In an even greater piece of irony, New England has become one of the principal locations for commercial farming of this tart, tough-skinned fruit. Today there is such a large variety of food to choose from that a Thanksgiving Dinner can feature almost any main course. True, the traditional turkey is still the meat of choice, yet goose, duck, ham, even some of the sea's harvests can be used. In place of sweet potatoes, peas, rice dishes, greens, and even more exotic vegetables all make their way to this celebration of Thanksgiving and harvest. The key to a Thanksgiving menu is to choose foods that will represent the idea of giving thanks for a good year, a harvesting of good fortune, and the sharing of the bounty of your efforts with friends and family. In today's world, the only limit on preparing a Thanksgiving Dinner is an individual's imagination and creativity.
Thanksgiving Day Traditions

In the United States, aside from the Thanksgiving meal, we have come to celebrate Thanksgiving Day with parades, football, and the start of the Christmas shopping season.
Thanksgiving Day Parades, though not specifically documented, probably got their start when President Lincoln proclaimed an official day of Thanksgiving. Given the Union achievements of the summer of 1863, it would have been logical that any official event declared by the President would have been accompanied by a show of military strength and discipline such as a full-dress parade. Elaborate floats, musical shows and entertainment celebrities have replaced the parades of armed and uniformed men marching in cadence or to a military band, but the desired effect, to lift the spirits of the spectators, remains the goal.
Heralding the Christmas Rush
The day after Thanksgiving, often an additional day off has become "Black Friday" the day when the Christmas shopping frenzy first starts. Like football, this has become a cultural symbol of the holiday and the season.
The advent of Thanksgiving Day football is purely a twentieth century invention. For years, the principal game was a tradition between the Detroit Lions and the Green Bay Packers. Yet, as this modern day ritual became more and more popular, more games were added with more teams.

Entertaining at Thanksgiving
Tradition doesn't mean that every Thanksgiving has to be the same as the last. Enlighten and excite everyone around you by trying something different this year.


Christmas Day

The traditional day to celebrate Christs birth is December 25.  It was not until after the 4th century A.D. that the tradition of celebrating Jesus birth became associated with the winter solstice festivities.  The Romans celebrated  a feast dedicated to the Sun on December 25.  The  tradition of the 12 days of Christmas replaced the winter solstice celebrations that were observed between December 25 and January 6.  Gift giving probably began sometime during the Middle Ages and was inspired by the account of the Magi who following the star to Bethlehem bearing gifts for the Christ child. 

Every year it seems as though the Christmas rush begins earlier and becomes more frantic.  If you would like to avoid the pitfalls of the last minute rush make a plan and stick to it.  Instead of twelve shopping days of Christmas try adopting some less stressful and more meaningful traditions.  Pick a special Christmas event such as attending a performance of Handels Messiah or the Nutcracker Suite ballet by Tchaikovsky.  Recycle old Christmas cards and wrapping paper and make your own Christmas tree decorations.  Tape a homemade performance of the family singing Christmas carols and send it to friends and relatives instead of ringing up the balance on your credit cards.