Archive for Thursday, February 4, 2010

Unique holidays abound

February 4, 2010

I would receive a lot of strange looks if I wished you a happy ”Mecklenburg Day” next May or maybe a joyful “Huey B. Long Day” on Aug. 30. In fact, while looking through a list of holidays observed somewhere in the United States, I found a lot of surprises.

In case you are wondering, Mecklenburg day commemorates the first declaration of independence from England on May 20, 1775, in Mecklenburg, N. C. Huey B. Long day honors the birth of the former Louisiana governor who was assassinated in the 1930s. Neither of these events are celebrated very often in the 21st century.

For example, in February there are four holidays listed other than Groundhog’s Day, Presidents’ Day and Valentine’s Day. The more I delved into the observances, I discovered that by far most were reminders of important dates or persons who, in many cases, have been forgotten.

Freedom Day was Feb. 1, and is set aside to honor the signing by President Abraham Lincoln of a joint resolution of the House of Representatives and Senate outlawing slavery in 1865. It was the first step toward the 13th Amendment. The purpose of the holiday is defined to “promote good feelings, harmony and equal opportunity among all citizens and to remember that the United States is a nation dedicated to the ideal of freedom.” The idea was started by Major Richard Robert Wright Sr., a former slave who had a successful career in business and was a respected civic leader in Philadelphia.

There could be three observances on Feb. 15 this year. The best known of these is, of course, Presidents’ Day, which is a national holiday commemorating Abraham Lincoln and George Washington. In addition, it is Susan B. Anthony Day, which is almost forgotten. Ms. Anthony was an early leader in the women’s suffrage movement. She was born on Feb. 15, 1820, in Massachusetts. Her father owned a cotton manufacturing firm, which failed during the panic of 1837. Anthony went to work to help the family and soon learned that women were paid less than men. This was the start of her career working toward social change. Sadly, Anthony didn’t live to see the amendment passed. She died in 1906.

Beyond schools and the state legislature, there isn’t much observance of Kansas Day. The Sunflower State officially entered the union on Jan. 29, 1861, which was just in time for the Civil War. It is really sad that we don’t pay more attention to the exciting history of Kansas. As a state we have made many contributions to the nation, including a president, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and a vice president, Charles Curtis. The state has a “wild west” heritage, and there are many books that recount tales about the early days of the state. I believe we should follow the example of Texas and put more emphasis on Kansas history in schools.

Looking through the list, I find lots of special days in southern states recognizing Confederate heroes. Nathaniel Bedford Forrest, a rebel hero, has his birthday honored in Tennessee on July 13. Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee also receive special honors. It seems a bit strange that winning generals such as Ulysses S. Grant and William Tecumseh Sherman aren’t given any recognition.

Tennessee honors its native son and president, Andrew Jackson, on March 15. Kentucky has set aside a special day for President Franklin D. Roosevelt on Jan. 30. There is even a journalist honored in New Mexico on Aug. 3 when the career of Ernie Pyle, World War II correspondent, is remembered.

There are lots of unusual holidays and special days, but don’t forget Poetry Day on Oct. 15 or Leif Erickson Day in Minnesota on Oct. 9. Maybe the best thing to end with is saying, “Happy whatever special day it is.”

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