Archive for May, 2013

June Solstice

When is the June Solstice?

June Solstice is an event that occurs in the northern hemisphere annually on between June 20th and June 22nd. On this day, the sun is pointed directly at the Tropic of Cancer, and it is also furthest away from the equator. The holiday most often falls on June 21st, which is the date recognized in 2013. It falls in line with the Gregorian calendar, and the exact date is dependent upon the Earth’s axis. While the June Solstice is a holiday scientific in nature, it is also an official mark of a change in seasons to many.

The Science

Earth moves and tilts around the sun constantly. During certain points of the year, these tilts on the earth’s axis makes changes in regards to the direction of the sun’s rays. As a result, seasons change, along with the amount of daylight and surface temperatures.

June Solstice occurs when the sun’s rays point at the Tropic of Cancer in the northern hemisphere. This makes the northern hemisphere shift closer to the sun, thereby creating the summer season. The southern hemisphere is shifted further away from the sun during this type of tilt, which is why both hemispheres have different summers and winters.

This holiday most often occurs on June 21st. Certain changes in the calendar combined with slight shifts in the Earth’s axis can make the date vary occasionally. June 22nd is the least common date of the holiday—the June solstice is not expected to take place on June 22nd again until 2203.

Effects

In the United States, June Solstice is also known as the summer solstice or northern solstice. The way that Earth is positioned on this day marks the beginning of summer in the northern hemisphere. This is also the longest day of the year on this part of Earth, with over 12 hours of sunlight seen on average.

The exact length of the day depends on the sun’s position near the equator. Since the sun is furthest away from the equator on this day, that means people living in tropical regions might see shorter days than those who live north. In fact, people who live near the Arctic Circle experience 24 hours of daylight, due to the sun’s position at the Tropic of Cancer.

June Solstice presents the opposite effects for people living in the southern hemisphere. On this date, it is the shortest day of the year with fewest hours of sunlight. Also, June Solstice marks the beginning of winter in the southern hemisphere.

Celebrations

The celebrations of June Solstice depend on where you live. For the United States and other countries in the northern hemisphere, June Solstice is the official mark of summer. Since it is the longest day of the year, many people celebrate by staying outdoors longer. Examples include boating, pool parties and barbeques.

In the southern hemisphere, June Solstice brings about different types of celebrations. Since it is the official start of winter here, people celebrate with cool weather activities. If there is already snow on the ground, then citizens are likely to take on related activities—however, since the day is shorter, the time outdoors may also be cut short as well.

Public Service Day

When is Public Service Day?

Public Service Day is a global holiday held every year on June 23rd. Founded by the United Nations (U.N.), this holiday aims to highlight the important roles that citizens from around the world play in the public sector, whether on a paid or voluntary basis. Special events are also held to help encourage young adults to pursue careers in public service. At the same time, the United Nations Public Service Awards are given out during a ceremony annually on Public Service Day. It is the role of the U.N. to help make the world a better place for all, and the organization strongly believes that public service jobs can help strengthen communities around the world.

History

The first Public Service Day was held on June 23, 2003. The holiday was established in 2002 by the U.N. General Assembly to help promote democracy through the recognition of the importance of public, or civil, service. Such jobs directly serve the community by ensuring basic human needs are met. However, if there are a shortage of public service workers, then there are subsequently a lack of human services. Public Service Day commemorates those who work in the sector while encouraging other individuals to do the same in order to better their communities.

Celebrations

Public Service Day is a U.N. holiday, so you can expect to see celebrations held throughout multiple countries. While most of the celebrations occur on site in public service institutions, other organizations hold ceremonies to help honor people who work in civil service. While the United Nations holds its own annual ceremony, individual communities often host their own special events on Public Service Day. Such events can include awards, guest speakers and presentations.

This holiday is also designed to help encourage youth towards a path in public service. Public schools might host events where guest speakers from the field come and talk to the students. Also, public servants often put up booths at universities in order to promote these types of jobs.

Participants in June 23rd’s events may also showcase symbols of Public Service Day. The symbol was created by the United Nations, and features columns alongside three blue human figures joined in hand. The U.N. symbol is at the top, and the words “Public Service” are within the logo.

Public Service Awards

The United Nations Public Service Awards are another special part of this holiday. After Public Service Day was established, the U.N. Economic and Social Council came up with the awards in an effort to increase awareness of public service, and to award outstanding contributions within communities around the world. Specifically, such awards are given out to public servants who have made significant contributions to better the livelihood of citizens.

There are currently five Public Service Awards categories:

  1. Stopping or preventing corruption within public service sector
  2. Improving the way services are delivered to the public
  3. Ensuring policies are made to encourage public participation in changes in rules and laws
  4. Increasing public knowledge about the role of government
  5. Promoting gender equality in public service roles

Both government and non-government public servants are eligible for the awards, but someone else has to nominate you. The U.N. looks over all applications carefully and announces the winners publicly on Public Service Day during a special ceremony.

By: Kristeen Cherney

Flag Day

When is Flag Day?

Flag Day is a holiday that celebrates the creation and adoption of the American flag on June 14th. Also, Flag Day is the anniversary of the formation of the U.S. Army. This holiday coincides with National Flag Week, a time in which Americans reflect and celebrate democracy. Freedom is the ultimate symbol of the American flag, and is celebrated throughout the 21 days in between Flag Day and Independence Day.

History

Flag Day has quite the history. While it represents the American flag, it is about more than just displaying the national colors. The holiday first got its start on June 14, 1777 when Congress officially adopted a new flag. Even after the nation’s independence in 1776, the United States of America still had a flag that had symbols of Great Britain. To replace everything British once anf for all, Congress adopted a new flag, which had thirteen red and white stripes to represent the original thirteen colonies, as well as thirteen stars in a navy blue square. Betsy Ross was purportedly the seamstress of the flag, as selected by Congress. However, some historians debate the exact origination of the flag. Adopting a new flag gave the new “Union” a heightened sense of unity.

While the American flag itself is now over 230 years old, Flag Day is a relatively new holiday. It was first proposed in 1886 by a citizen, but the idea wasn’t taken seriously until the 1900s. President Wilson declared the first Flag Day on June 14, 1916. In 1949. President Truman made the first steps to making Flag Day an annual holiday. Finally, in 1966, Congress officially adopted the holiday and requested that flags be flown on all government buildings every June 14th.

Celebrations

In many ways, Flag Day has celebratory similarities to another patriotic holiday: Independence Day. Also called the 4th of July, Independence Day marks the day in which the United States officially declared separation from Great Britain. These two holidays are sometimes confused because of the predominance of the flag.

Unlike the fireworks and firecrackers set off on the 4th of July, Flag Day is primarily symbolized with the American flag. People don their homes, cars and places of work with the American flag during National Flag Week. At the same time, some citizens take special care in wearing the flag’s colors in conjunction with waving the stars and stripes on June 14th. Some organizations and businesses also offer flag-raising ceremonies to celebrate freedom, and to honor the Army.

Aside from flying the American flag, this holiday is also celebrated through other patriotic activities. Parades are commonplace on Flag Day, many of which include Army veterans. If school is in session, students often learn about the American flag and write essays. Singing the national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner,” is also commonplace on Flag Day.

Considerations

While Flag Day is a holiday focused on the American flag, it is not the same thing as Independence Day. These two holidays are often mixed up due to their background and nature. Unlike Independence Day, which is a federal holiday, Flag Day is not considered a government holiday. This means that government offices and most businesses are opened on this day. The exception is Montour County, Pennsylvania—the historic area in which the American Flag was created.

Flag Day on June 14th refers to the patriotic holiday in the United States. Other nations have their own flag days, which are not the same holidays. For example, Flag Day in Mexico is celebrated on February 24th, while National Flag of Canada Day is on February 15th.

By: Kristeen Cherney

World No Tobacco Day

When is World No Tobacco Day?

World No Tobacco Day is a holiday dedicated to the cessation of smoking. It was founded by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 1987, and has been held every May 31st since 1989. The goal of the holiday is to increase the awareness of the adverse health effects of tobacco products, which kill an estimated 6 million people worldwide every year.

Tobacco Dangers

The fact that tobacco products are dangerous to health is not breaking news to anyone in the United States. However, the troubling news is that people continue to smoke and chew tobacco, despite knowing the potential repercussions. Smoking can lead to numerous diseases, such as lung cancer, hypertension and heart disease, while chewing tobacco can also cause gum disease and oral cancer. People with underlying health conditions, such as diabetes, may find that using tobacco exacerbates their symptoms.

Another danger is second-hand smoke. WHO estimates a worldwide death toll of 600,000 from second-hand smoke exposure every year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that this exposure kills about 50,000 non-smokers in the United States annually. Not only does World No Tobacco Day promote smoking cessation for your own health, but it is also intended to be for the better good of everyone around you.

Sadly, only a fraction of the countries in the world have no-smoking laws set in place to protect communities. During the late 1990s, individual states in the U.S. embarked on no-smoking laws to protect non-smokers in public places. As of 2011, only 25 states as well as the Washington, D.C., have some form of indoor smoking bans in public places. Still, not all laws are equal. Indoor smoking bans vary greatly by state. For example, some states enforce bans on smoking in restaurants and bars, while others only prohibit tobacco use in restaurants.

History

Tobacco products were once commonplace. In fact, they were even viewed as status symbols. By the 1980s, however, scientists concluded that tobacco was responsible for a wide range of chronic illnesses. What was perhaps even more alarming was the number of families who smoked in houses with children. During the first half of the century, many adults were unaware of the dangers they imposed on their children through these everyday items.

In 1987, WHO called for the first World No Smoking Day. It was slated to be held on the 40th anniversary of WHO: April 7, 1988. Due to the success of the holiday, the organization decided to fix the holiday permanently on the calendar. A resolution would also call for the holiday to recognize all tobacco products – not just cigarettes. Since 1989, World No Tobacco has been celebrated every year on May 31st.

Celebrations and Ceremonies

World No Tobacco Day is a multi-nation holiday. Government offices and schools remain open, although many of these institutions celebrate the holiday in an effort to increase awareness and support. During this day, healthcare professionals may also hold lectures and educational events about the dangers of tobacco. Individuals who may have lost a loved one to tobacco use also hold ceremonies to celebrate the lives lost, while raising focus and attention to the causes of death. Tobacco-related diseases are preventable, which makes such situations even more heartbreaking.

Themes and Symbols

WHO has a different theme for World No Tobacco Day every year. The theme for 2013 is a ban on tobacco products through advertising and promotion. While related ads are no longer commonplace in the United States (in fact, graphic non-smoking ads have taken their place), such promotions are still widespread in other countries. WHO hopes that 2013’s theme will help decrease the amount of tobacco advertising. Statistics have proven that ads have affected tobacco use significantly – especially among youth.

Past World No Tobacco Day themes have included: tobacco-free workplaces, smoke-free inside, tobacco-free youth and the dangers of second-hand smoke. There are numerous symbols for this holiday. While most symbols feature anti-smoking signs, others might be more graphic to help show the repercussions tobacco products impose.

By: Kristeen Cherney