March 31, 2013
Learn more about Easter.
March 31, 2013
Learn more about Easter.
Daylight Saving Time is the practice of adjusting clocks so that the optimum amount of daylight is utilized; clocks are turned one hour forward in the spring (spring ahead) and one hour back in the fall (fall behind). It is observed in several parts of the world, most notably North America, with the exception of Arizona, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
What we know today as Daylight Saving Time was an idea originally introduced in 1895 by New Zealand entomologist George Vernon Hudson. He proposed a two hour daylight saving change to the Wellington Philosophical Society which received a lot of interest. Independently, outdoorsman William Willet proposed advancing clocks in the summer months in 1905, which was considered by British Parliament but not officially passed into law.
Germany launched observation of Daylight Saving Time on May 1, 1916 in an effort to conserve fuel during World War I. Many European nations followed suit, and the United States began observing Daylight Saving Time as mandated by the Standard Time Act of 1918. After the war, Daylight Saving Time was eradicated until World War II, when the federal government required states to observe the time change yet again as an endeavor to save energy for war production.
Following World War II, states chose independently whether or not they would adhere to Daylight Saving Time, which took advantage of later daylight hours between April and October. That is, until Congress passed the Uniform Time Act in 1966, legislation that would standardize Daylight Saving Time throughout the nation.
Daylight Saving Time was extended four weeks in 2007 as a result of the Energy Policy Act of 2005. The reason behind this was an attempt to save 10,000 barrels of oil every day, and lengthened Daylight Saving Time from the second Sunday in March to the first Sunday in November.
The benefits of Daylight Saving Time are seen in retail and business, sports, and the decrease in the amount of traffic-related accidents. The time change does present challenges as well, most notably the disruption of travel, billing, record keeping, software updates, and sleeping patterns.
In 2013, Ash Wednesday falls on February 13!
Ash Wednesday is a Christian holiday that marks the first day of Lent and occurs 46 days prior to Easter Sunday (which falls on March 31 this year). Lent is the period of preparation for the resurrection of Christ, and provides Christians with a time for self-examination.
Usually, practicing Christians choose something that they enjoy to “give up” for lent; it could be a particular favorite food, alcohol, caffeine, etc. This exercise allows people to give up a vice of theirs and in turn become closer to God. Another option is for a person to give up something that occupies too much of their time, such as TV. The idea is to then use that extra time to study the Bible, pray, volunteer, or do some other activity that helps others or deepens their faith.
On Ash Wednesday, it is common for Christians to attend church services in which a priest marks their forehead with black ashes in the shape of a cross. The ashes are usually blessed, and are reserved for the “foreheads of the faithful,” who don the ashes until they wear off. Ash Wednesday is also a fasting holiday, in which Christians are asked to abstain from meat.
Today is Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday!
Fat Tuesday changes every year depending on Easter, and in 2013, we celebrate on February 12! Mardi Gras, French for Fat Tuesday, is all about overindulgence and feasting prior to lent, which begins the following day. Today marks the end of the Carnival season and people celebrate with music, parades, and parties.
Mardi Gras celebrations began thousands of years ago in medieval Europe as a pagan ritual to celebrate springtime. Christian leaders decided they would integrate Mardi Gras by recognizing it as a period of excess right before the Christian fasting holiday of Lent.
The first American Mardi Gras was reported to have taken place on March 3, 1699, when two French explorers settled in Louisiana. The Twelfth Night Revelers introduced the throwing of beads and other trinkets to crowds of people in the 1870s. Carnival has grown into wild and hedonistic celebrations, the largest of which occur in Rio de Janeiro and New Orleans, Louisiana.
Laissez les bon temps rouler! (Let the good times roll!)
Chinese New Year is February 10!
Chinese New Year is as important to China as Christmas is to many Western nations, and the same basic ideas are upheld; the holiday is all about being with your loved ones, giving gifts, and eating food!
Since the 20th Century, Chinese New Year has been referred to as Spring Festival. This continues to be the most integral social and economic holiday in China. Chinese New Year lands on a different day each year, and the Year of the Snake begins on February 10, 2013. The holiday always lasts 15 days, with different celebrations and traditions for each day.
Legend says a beast called Nian would terrorize ancient Chinese towns and eat people. The townspeople were able to make the beast go away with loud firecrackers and bright red decorations (red is thought of as a lucky color by the Chinese). A more reasonable explanation behind Chinese New Year is that it originated as an end-of-harvest celebration where people would give thanks to the gods and celebrate the end of winter and beginning of spring.
Some common Chinese New Year traditions are Jie Cai Ceng, Yuan Xiao Jie, Hong Bao, and the Dancing Dragons. Jie Cai Ceng is when business owners set off firecrackers to welcome the gods of Wealth and Prosperity. Yuan Xiao Jie is the Festival of Lanterns that marks the end of Chinese New Year. Red Envelopes filled with money called Hong Bao are given to children and unmarried adults. The dancing dragons represent prosperity and good fortune.
Celebrate Chinese New Year by learning about some great Chinese New Year recipes and what each food symbolizes.
February 10, 2013
Learn more about the Chinese New Year.
Happy Inauguration Day!
Inauguration Day is when the commencement of a new term of the President of the United States begins, following an oath. Franklin D. Roosevelt was the last president to be sworn in on March 4 in 1933, before the date of inauguration was changed to January 20. Every four years, the President is sworn in to office on January 20, except when that date falls on a Sunday.
If January 20 happens to be a Sunday, there will be a private swearing-in on the 20 and the public ceremony will be held on Monday, January 21. This dates back to President Monroe’s inauguration in 1821, where he decided to hold the ceremony on a Monday because most public offices were closed on Sundays.
Only 6 times in history has Inauguration Day fallen on a Sunday, and January 20, 2013 will be the seventh. Barack Obama will begin his second term as President and be sworn in by the Chief Justice in a private ceremony on Sunday, January 20 then a public ceremony the next day. January 21, 2013 will mark the 57th Presidential Inauguration.
Presidents’ Day is a United States federal holiday and it is always celebrated the third Monday in February in honor of George Washington’s birthday and all the presidents that followed after him.
This federal holiday came into being as an Act of Congress in 1879 to celebrate the first President of the United States, George Washington’s birthday. The holiday was the first federal holiday honoring American citizens and was originally celebrated on Washington’s actual birthday on February 22. In 1971, the Uniform Monday Holiday act shifted the observance of Presidents’ Day to the third Monday in February. Ironically, the holiday now always falls between February 15-21, making “George Washington’s Birthday” a misnomer since it never actually occurs on his birthday.
Though the day is still called “George Washington’s Birthday” by the federal government, most states have renamed it “Presidents’ Day” or “Washington and Lincoln Day” to also honor President Abraham Lincoln, who was born on February 12. Presidents’ Day is now popularly viewed as a day to celebrate all former and present U.S. presidents.
Leading up to the holiday, schools use the day as a way to teach their students about presidential history and celebrate significant accomplishment made by United States presidents. Stores also often have “Presidents’ Day Sales” due to the high number of children and adults who have the day off from school or work.
Take this day to educate yourself about the history of American presidents and learn about where our country came from and where we may be headed in the future.
January 21, 2013
Learn more about Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
We celebrate National Science Fiction Day on January 2 to honor the birthday of Isaac Asimov. Asimov is considered one of the “Big Three” science fiction writers of his time, and his more than 500 works of fact and fiction span all ten major categories of the Dewey Decimal System.
Today is a day to celebrate the beloved genre of science fiction. Take some time today to sit down with a science fiction novel, or have a science fiction movie marathon. If you are a true sci-fi geek, you may even spend your day building a robot or hovercraft!
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