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Holidays and Observances Facts

"A perpetual holiday is a good working definition of hell." —George Bernard Shaw

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The word "holiday" comes from "holy day". During the Middle Ages, there were over 50 "holy days" and festival days, exclusive of Sundays, every year. This meant that peasants would only work for around 260 days out of the year.

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In a study of 3,000 people who made New Year's resolutions in 2007, only 12% stuck to them. The resolution with the greatest chance of success was "to enjoy life more". (source)

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The New Year has been celebrated for over 4,000 years, making it one of the oldest festivals still celebrated today. Celebrating the New Year on January 1st began in the year 46 B.C. (source)

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George Washington, early military and political leader of the United States, was born, according to the Julian calendar in use at the time, on February 11. However, according to the Gregorian calendar, his birthday would be on February 22. In 1752, Great Britain and its colonies adopted the Gregorian calendar, so his birthday is given as February 22 in modern documents. The United States has a holiday to commemorate Washington's Birthday. It is celebrated on the third Monday in February, which always falls between February 15 and February 21 and so can never fall on either February 11 or February 22.

There is a state holiday in Illinois that celebrates someone who never went anywhere near Illinois. On the first Monday in March, there is a holiday in honour of Casimir Pulaski (ca. 1748–1779). Pulaski was initially a military hero in Poland in the 1760s and 1770s, but failed to prevent the Partition of Poland. Pulaski then fled Poland and was later recruited by Benjamin Franklin to help the rebels in America in their fight against the British.

View more facts about: United States

The world's first St. Patrick's Day parade took place on March 17, 1762, in New York City, featuring Irish soldiers serving in the British military. (source)

St. Patrick was not Irish. He was British, likely from modern-day Wales, and never set foot in Ireland before he was kidnapped by Irish raiders. After escaping, he became a priest and a bishop and returned to Ireland as a missionary. He was made the patron saint of Ireland due to his success in converting the Irish. (source)

View more facts about: Ancient Britain and Ireland | Saints

"Easter", the English name for the chief Christian feast, comes from Eostre, the name of the pagan Anglo-Saxon goddess of dawn. (source)

View more facts about: Philosophy and Religion

The earliest date on which Easter can occur is March 22. It last occurred on that date in 1818 and will occur again on that date in 2285. The latest date it can occur is April 25. It last occurred on that date in 1943 and will occur again in 2038. (source)

On the eve of April Fools' Day of 1919, well-known hoaxer Horace Cole, in Venice on his honeymoon, persuaded a gondolier to take him to the mainland, where he purchased a load of horse manure. When it was dark, he returned to Venice and deposited it in small lumps in the Piazza San Marco. In the morning, Venetians were puzzled as to how horses could have crossed the canals, paraded around the piazza, and then left. (source)

View more facts about: Hoaxes and Deceptions

On April Fools' Day, 1957, the BBC television documentary show Panorama broadcast a documentary about the "spaghetti orchards" of Switzerland. Over pictures of Swiss spaghetti trees, the spaghetti plantations of Switzerland and Italy, the spaghetti weevil, and the reason for spaghetti being of such uniform lengths were discussed. Many viewers, oblivious to the date, believed that what they were watching was genuine. (source)

View more facts about: Food and Drink | Hoaxes and Deceptions

On April 1, 1979, Capital Radio in London broadcast a story saying that Britain's time was out-of-sync with other countries due to switching to and from British Summer Time. It was announced that, because Britain was around 48 hours ahead of the rest of the world, the Government had decided to cancel April 5 and April 12 of that year. Capital Radio received hundreds of anxious calls from listeners who apparently hadn't noticed that it was April Fools' Day. (source)

View more facts about: Hoaxes and Deceptions

On April 1, 1996, a full-page advertisement appeared in several newspapers, including the New York Times, announcing that Taco Bell had purchased the Liberty Bell, and that the bell would from now on be known as the "Taco Liberty Bell". In the advertisement, Taco Bell said that it hoped that this move will prompt other corporations to take similar action to help reduce the national debt. Many people, apparently not noticing the date, took it seriously, calling the home of the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia to complain. The White House played along, with spokesperson Mike McCurry saying that the government planned to sell the Lincoln Memorial to Ford, which would rename it to the Lincoln-Mercury Memorial.

View more facts about: Hoaxes and Deceptions

The driving force behind Mother's Day, Anna Jarvis, was never a mother herself; after her mother's death, she embarked on a campaign to have a holiday honouring mothers.

Historically, on Father's Day, more collect calls were made than on any other day of the year. (source)

In the United States of America, Independence Day could have been celebrated on July 2. On that date in 1776, the Second Continental Congress voted independence from Great Britain. The next day, John Adams wrote in a letter to his wife Abigail, "The Second Day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha in the History of America.—I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires, and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more." In the 19th century, historians uncovered the letter and published it, with "Second" replaced by "Fourth." (source)

View more facts about: United States

On July 4, 1776, King George III wrote in his diary entry, "Nothing important happened today." Before the age of instantaneous communication, he had no way of knowing what was happening in the American colonies across the ocean. (source)

The Chinese physician Hua T'o, born sometime between 140 and 150 A.D., was the first doctor known to perform surgery under general anaesthetic. A mixture of hemp and strong wine called ma fei san was used to render his patients unconscious. Before the communist revolution, his birth was commemorated by a national holiday.

View more facts about: China | Medicine and Health

The United Nations declared October 4-10, 1999 as World Space Week. These dates commemorate the launch of Sputnik in 1957 and the 1967 Outer Space Treaty. (source)

World Statistics Day was celebrated for the first time on October 20th, 2010. (source)

View more facts about: Interesting Statistics

Thanksgiving became a national holiday in the United States for the first time in 1863, when President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed the last (not the fourth) Thursday in November as a national day of thanksgiving.

View more facts about: Presidents of the United States

The U.S. presidential tradition of pardoning a turkey on the occasion of American Thanksgiving was instituted by President George H. W. Bush in 1989.

According to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, the U.S. distilled spirits industry makes about 25% of its $58 billion in yearly profits between American Thanksgiving and New Year's.

No record exists of Christmas being celebrated on December 25th before the year 336. (source)

View more facts about: Calendars

In all likelihood, December 25th is not the birthdate of Jesus. Most scholars believe that the date of December 25th was chosen for Christmas because it coincided with both the winter solstice on the Julian calendar of the time and the birthdates of Mithras, the Persian sun-god, and Sol Invictis, another sun-god, and was near the pagan feasts of Saturnalia and the New Year. (source)

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Perhaps the most famous person born on Christmas Day is Sir Isaac Newton (born in 1642), the famous scientist and mathematician. Other notable people born on Christmas Day include Robert Ripley, author of Ripley's Believe it or Not! (born 1890), actor Humphrey Bogart (born 1899), singer and songwriter Jimmy Buffet (born 1946), vocalist Annie Lennox (born 1954), and baseball player Ricky Henderson (born 1958). (source)

View more facts about: Geniuses | Christmas

Originally, the first line to Irving Berlin's "White Christmas" was "I'm sitting by a pool in Beverly Hills dreaming of a White Christmas." A friend suggested dropping the reference to Beverly Hills, and the song went on to become the most commercially successful song ever. (source)

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Many traditions for the holidays of Christmas, Easter, and Halloween/All Saints' Day were created between roughly the 4th and 7th centuries to compete with pagan traditions. For example, All Saints' Day was created by fourth-century missionaries as a rival to the Celtic holiday Samhain, with its new traditions designed to portray the rival pagan gods as devils, spirits, and witches.

View more facts about: Saints

Around 1,900,000,000 Christmas cards are given in the United States of America yearly, making it the largest card-sending occasion in the country. The second-largest is Valentine's Day, with approximately 192 million cards being given. (source)

View more facts about: Interesting Statistics

There are several Christmas-related unusual place names in the United States of America. They include Christmas, Florida, North Pole, Alaska, Santa Claus, Indiana, Santa Claus, Georgia, Noel, Missouri, and Snowflake, Arizona. (source)

View more facts about: Place Names
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