Archive for the "National Holidays" Category

All Saints’ Day

When is All Saints’ Day

All Saints’ Day is an annual religious holiday. It is celebrated every November 1st within nearly all Christian churches to celebrate all of their religious saints. The initial concept of All Saints’ Day is universal, but many churches and regions have slightly different takes on this holiday.

Holiday for the Saints

The history of All Saints’ Day is complex in its beginnings. While it’s a centuries-old concept, historians have found some of the earliest recording of the holiday to date back to 270 CE. In 835 CE, Pope Gregory IV authorized All Saints’ Day as an official Christian holiday. Sights were initially set on October 31st, which was then the pagan holiday All Hallows’ Eve. However, many historians speculate that the Pope decided on November 1st in order to appease the pagans in the hopes of future conversion to the Church. Other experts believe that All Saints’ Day was placed on the calendar by All Hallows’ Eve to combat the celebrations by the pagans during the evening of the dead.

All Saints’ Day is also a precursor to All Souls’ Day. Held on November 2nd, All Souls’ Day is observed to pray for the dead who are believed to have not yet reached Heaven due to their sins.

Modern-Day Celebrations

Although the holiday was originally enacted to celebrate saints within the Church who did not have individual holidays, the meaning of All Saints’ Day has transformed into modern day Christianity. A saint is technically one who has achieved Heaven through his or her dedication to God and a Christian life. Therefore, modern Christians celebrate All Saints’ Day to commemorate deceased loved ones who fit the criteria.

The exact celebrations vary by region and sect within the religion. While most Catholics attend church services on All Saints’ Day, many Protestants celebrate within their own homes if the holiday doesn’t fall on a Sunday. Many Latin cultures offer sacrifices on All Saints’ Day, while European celebrations often consist of graveyard beautifications. Lighting candles for the dead is also commonplace on this holiday.

Public vs. Secular Observations

The extent of observations in a particular country depends upon the role of secularism, or separation between church and state. For example, the United States doesn’t consider All Saints’ Day to be a government holiday because it is a secular nation. Britain, Australia and Canada are other western nations who don’t regard November 1st as a public holiday. With that being said, secularism within these countries has made it possible for Christians to freely celebrate All Saints’ Day without punishment from an opposing religion.

On the other hand, there are certain nations who regard All Saints’ Day as a public holiday. This means that the government regards the date as a holiday, and related institutions are closed. Due to the extent of celebrations, many businesses may decide to close as well. Just some of the countries who still celebrate All Saints’ Day as a public holiday include Italy, France, Spain, Poland, Austria and Portugal. Certain parts of Germany and Switzerland also regard this day as a public holiday. Prevalence of Christianity is a big factor in determining whether a population observes this holiday publicly.

World Maritime Day

When is World Maritime Day?

World Maritime Day is an annual holiday held the last week of every September to celebrate the economic benefits of the shipping industry. Created by the United Nations’ International Maritime Organization, this holiday is also designed to increase awareness on how shipping can be made safer for people and the environment. Specific themes and events are held every year to recognize the maritime industry and its impacts on nations across the globe.

History

The world would arguably be a much different place without shipping practices. Not only would there be an isolation in cultures, but goods would not be traded between continents. People would not be able to explore different parts of the world via cruises, and navy ships wouldn’t be in place to protect coastlines. Since the 1800s, growing concerns have implemented changes in the maritime industry. Despite the benefits of international shipping, the process can have adverse effects on human safety and the environment.

After World War II, the United Nations was created out of a mission to allow all countries to peacefully coexist. In 1948, the International Maritime Organization was created to implement rules to make shipping practices safer worldwide. The first World Maritime Day was held in 1978. Since then, participation has skyrocketed to nearly 170 member states. The purpose of the holiday is to raise the awareness of the importance of global shipping, while increasing education on safe practices for all.

Celebrations

While the United Nations celebrates World Maritime Day on a global scale every year, the specific celebrations vary between nations. It is perhaps most celebrated in countries that reside near water. On this day in the United States, for example, many coastal communities host celebrations in which the public is invited to special events to showcase ships and other watercraft. Visits to shipping museums are also commonplace on this day. At school, teachers may provide special lessons to give students a better understanding of the social and economic impacts of the maritime industry.

In some cases, the activities of World Maritime undertake a more serious tone. Despite the progress in world shipping practices, there are still a great deal of safety issues. These concerns are often addressed during conferences held on World Maritime Day.

Themes

The date of World Maritime Day varies, but it always falls on a day during the final week of September. Each year, the International Maritime Organization designates a theme for this holiday. In 2013, the theme is “Sustainable Development: IMO’s Contribution Beyond Rio+20.”  Rio+20 was a United Nations conference held in Rio de Janeiro in June 2012. The purpose of the conference was for world leaders and organizations to get together and discuss how to promote social equality and reduce poverty. One of the focus areas was water, which the maritime industry has a great part in.

2013’s theme for World Maritime Day looks at ways the industry can make a difference in our lives without creating adverse effects on the economy or the environment. Shipping has changed the world economy, but without safe practices, it can damage societies and livelihoods.

Patriot Day

When is Patriot Day?

September 11, 2001 was named the day “we will never forget.” After the terrorist attacks on the occurred on that day, Americans have regarded every September 11th as Patriot Day. This holiday is often referred to as 9/11.

History

The events of September 11th caught the world by surprise. The United States, arguably the most powerful country in the world, was attacked on its own soil by Islamic extremists who hijacked commercial aircraft. These terrorists simultaneously took over four airplanes. The first crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center at 8:46 a.m. local time. Another plane struck the South Tower at 9:03 a.m. The Pentagon was terrorized in similar fashion, although only a small portion of the building was destroyed in comparison to the Twin Towers. The fourth plane crashed into a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania – it was concluded that passengers on board that plane took over from the hijackers before they had a chance to strike another American landmark.

9/11 was devastating in numerous ways. The total loss of life is an estimated 3,000 people. Economically, the U.S. was in shambles as the country was taken aback in terror. The tragic events also forever changed western relations with Middle Eastern nations.

The World Trade Center was the center of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Not only was the greatest loss of life experienced at the Twin Towers, but the structures themselves were also completely destroyed. An estimated 20 additional victims were miraculously pulled out of the rubble, and the entire cleanup didn’t finish until the end of May, 2002.

Observations

The way the holiday is celebrated is similar to that of Pearl Harbor Day in that it is more of a day for observation than a cause for celebration. While Patriot Day is an important holiday in the United States, it isn’t considered a government holiday like Independence Day. Unless September 11th falls on a weekend day, then this means that all schools, banks and government institutions all remain open. However, most institutions hold moments of silence to recognize when each of the two planes hit the World Trade Center, as well as when the other two planes crashed into Shanksville, Pennsylvania and the Pentagon.

In addition to moments of silence, the President always orders that the American flag be flown on all government buildings at half-mast. Americans across the country may also choose to wave flags at their homes or places of business, as well as on their person.

Patriot Day is even more personal for survivors and relatives of those lost on September 11th.  Those affected may travel to the sites of the crashes to lay flowers and pay tribute to those who died that day.

Ground Zero

Ground Zero is now a memorial and museum at the site of the former World Trade Center. This not only gives people the option to pay tribute to the lives lost on 9/11, but visitors from around the world can come and tour the museum, which gives a full history of the Twin Towers. The original towers opened in 1973, and were an iconic symbols until their ultimate demise in 2001.

Note: Patriot Day is not the same holiday as Patriot’s Day. Also celebrated in the United States, Patriot’s Day is held every third Monday in April. It commemorates the 1775 battles of Lexington and Concord fought near Boston, which helped the U.S. gain independence from Great Britain. The two holidays are celebrated for different reasons, and are completely separate from one another.

National POW/MIA Recognition Day

When is National POW/MIA Recognition Day?

National POW/MIA Recognition Day his an American holiday that recognizes prisoners of war (POW), as well as those form the armed services that are missing in action (MIA). The holiday came about after the Vietnam War, and is currently celebrated every third Friday in September. This is a special time that all Americans can recognize the sacrifices made by the armed forces, especially those who never made it home.

History

The first National POW/MIA Recognition Day was held on July 18, 1979. It was observed on a few different dates until September 1986, when the holiday was changed to the third Friday of that month. Since then, National POW/MIA Recognition Day has always been held on that Friday in September. While not a government holiday, this gives related institutions as well as businesses to publicly recognize the day while people are at work. Every year, the President of the United States holds a special speech and ceremony in honor of National POW/MIA Recognition Day.

The Flag

One of the most powerful symbols of National POW/MIA Recognition Day is the flag. While the American flag is always flown on this holiday, citizens also fly the POW/MIA flag. It was developed by Newt Heisley in 1971 to honor men who went missing or were imprisoned during the Vietnam War. Heisley himself had served in the Air Force during World War II, and his own son was in the Marine Corps preparing to enter the Vietnam War at that time. As a commercial artist in New York City, Heisley was following a client’s orders to create the flag design.

The resulting design was a black flag with a silhouette of a man’s face and chest in the center of a white circle. In the background, there is barbed wire fencing and a guard tower, made to symbolize the man’s imprisonment. Above the circle reads: POW*MIA, and below it: “You Are Not Forgotten.” While the flag was certainly personal to Heisley, he didn’t know that the design would become the ultimate symbol of the National League of Families of American Prisoners and Missing in Southeast Asia. It also became the official symbol of National POW/MIA Recognition Day, and is flown below the American flag every year. Some citizens also fly this iconic flag during Veterans Day and Memorial Day, while others fly it all year round.

Celebrations and Observations

National POW/MIA Recognition Day is primarily a day of observation. The idea of the holiday is different than other Armed Forces recognition days, such as Memorial Day, because it recognizes serving members who don’t make it back home – dead or alive. Not knowing the outcome of a loved one fighting oversees is heartbreaking, especially if you don’t have the opportunity to give him or her a proper burial. In this respect, National POW/MIA Recognition Day also honors the families of those missing or imprisoned in war.

Communities across the country fly the POW/MIA flag, and many also put on special ceremonies to honor those soldiers in the Armed Forces. Memorial services may also be held for members who remain missing in action.