Archive for April, 2013
Cinco de Mayo is celebrated every year on May 5th. While the holiday has deep political roots, observations of Cinco de Mayo in the United States tend to be more about celebrating Mexican-American culture. Mexican-Americans utilize the day to celebrate how far they have come as a culture through recognition and festive parties. At the same time, this holiday has been commercialized so that people from varying cultural backgrounds can have the opportunity to partake in the celebrations.
Cinco de Mayo is a day of celebration. Historically, however, the holiday commemorates a victory in Mexican politics and society. On May 5, 1862, the Mexican army was victorious over French forces, in what would later be known as the Battle of Pubela. While the war between the Mexicans and the French wouldn’t conclude until 1867, the Battle of Pubela marked a surprise victory that carried the Mexican army through to an eventual win. Cinco de Mayo should not be confused with its independence day, which is actually observed on September 16th of every year.
The exact origination of Cinco de Mayo is unclear. Not only was there upheaval between France and Mexico, but the United States was also in the middle of the Civil War during this era. Many historians believe that the holiday first started the day of the Battle of Pubela by Mexican-Americans who lived in California. Many of these residents had escaped the oppression of the French in Mexico and traveled to the western United States in hopes of a better life.
The primary theme of Cinco de Mayo is a celebration of Mexican culture and heritage. This is accomplished through parties, dances, and foods derived from Mexico. Symbols of Our Lady Guadalupe are also prominently displayed on Cinco de Mayo. Private parties are abundant on this day, while some cities offer public observances.
While Cinco de Mayo is primarily celebrated in heavily Mexican-American populated areas, the holiday is observed in all 50 states. Celebrations are most prominent in the southwestern United States. While not considered a national holiday, some participants choose to take the day off of work or school in order to celebrate. Mexico also observes Cinco de Mayo, but it is not a national holiday there either.
Cinco de Mayo also presents an educational opportunity within many U.S. schools. On the days surrounding and leading up to the holiday, some teachers choose to provide lessons about Mexican history. This includes the country’s independence from the French during the late 1860s.
The true meaning of Cinco de Mayo is often confused by the holiday’s commercialization in the United States. Many restaurants and other businesses take the opportunity to serve Mexican food and products to the public. While there is certainly no harm in partaking in these types of celebrations, many Americans do not understand the roots of Cinco de Mayo. Once the true meaning of the holiday is learned, persons of other cultures often appreciate the holiday even more.
The world community continues its efforts to go green. Certain holidays have been observed for years to commemorate greener practices. While Earth Day and World Water Day are among the most prominent of such holidays, Arbor Day is another important date. While its roots are historically more agricultural in nature, this holiday has evolved into an increasingly popular way to celebrate trees and their growth.
Arbor Day is a holiday dedicated to growing trees. People participate both individually and as a part of groups around the world. Many public schools also participate by offering education programs on the importance of agriculture, as well as growing trees on campuses. Arbor Day is historically celebrated on the last Friday of April in its place of origination: Nebraska.
In the 1850s, agriculturalist J Sterling Morton made numerous important discoveries about trees when he moved to Nebraska. He planted his own trees and found that the greenery was not only an effective source of shade, but they also helped to keep the soil grounded. Almost 20 years later, Morton proposed a state holiday to plant trees. It was called Arbor Day because the word “arbor” is the Latin translation for tree.
The state of Nebraska held its first Arbor Day in April, 1872. In order to encourage the planting of trees, awards were given out. Residents caught on to the holiday and it became widely popular. Nebraska’s governor declared April 10th as Arbor Day in 1874, but the date changed a few times. Just a short time later, Arbor Day was changed to commemorate Morton’s birthday on April 22nd.
During the environmental movement of the 1960s, citizens from across the United States took up the premise of Arbor Day. Not only were Morton’s original observances about trees correct, but the nation also learned more about the impacts that trees pose to the atmosphere. In 1970, President Nixon declared a national observance of Arbor Day for the final Friday of every April.
Nebraska changed the date yet again in 1989 to fall on the last Friday of April, which falls in the line with the date of national observance originally ordered by Nixon.
Symbols and Observances
Despite the date of observance of National Arbor Day, the exact date can vary by state. Most states, including Nebraska, continue to observe the holiday on the last Friday in April. Still, other states celebrate Arbor Day during other times of the year because new trees do not plant well in certain climates during the month of April. Furthermore, the planting of native trees is encouraged on Arbor Day, which may not acclimate to the April climate. Some states, such as Florida, observe the holiday as early as January, while others, such as South Carolina, commence Arbor Day planting as late in the year as December.
The Arbor Day Foundation’s date of observance coincides with that of Nebraska’s. This holiday is now also celebrated in countries around the world with various dates. Examples include China, South Africa, Italy, Egypt, Australia, Israel and Mexico.
The universal Arbor Day symbol is a simple tree. Some groups choose to showcase their state trees as a symbol for the holiday. Perhaps the most recognizable symbol is that of the Arbor Day Foundation’s, which is simply a green circle surrounding a tree of the same color.
Types of Celebrations
The most popular way to celebrate Arbor Day is to plant a new tree. Whether you want to plant seeds or harvest a young tree in your yard, any contribution is great to the green cause. Other participants utilize Arbor Day as an opportunity to add more trees to already-flourishing gardens.