Sunday, December 21, 2014

Holidays and Observances for December 21 2014

Crossword Puzzle Day

Are you among those who enjoy solving crossword puzzles? If yes, have you ever pondered over the history of this game? If you have not, then it would interest you to know more about December, 21: Crossword puzzle day and why it is being celebrated the globally. This wonderful game is known in history to have been invented by a New York journalist, English-born Arthur Wynne in the year, 1913. This man, if still alive, would have been amazed at the tempo that is being generated by the crossword puzzle not only in New York but the whole world.

Not only does this type of puzzle appear in the pages of national dailies and magazines, it is also one of the most popular games on the internet presently. Even the computers are not left out as they are used in a frenzy to generate millions of cryptic crosswords over the years. It has even served as a promotional tool in the sales of items like dictionaries, newspapers, magazines, pencils, notepads, erasers and lots more for close to 90 years since its invention in December, 21: Crossword puzzle day. There are even people who spend their time engaged in challenged crossword solving online. It is a game that has come to enjoy millions of devotees with the number increasing on daily basis.

Prior to his invention of the crossword puzzle, Wynne was assigned the role of creating puzzles for newspaper house he was working with then. One day his editor asked him to create something new, a word game. He then remembered a game he used to play as a child, the game of Magic Squares which is the arrangement of group of letters to form words which read the same both down and across. Armed with this knowledge, he went further to create a large and more complex replica of that game but with a twist – a clue was provided for each given word. This crossword puzzle was published on December 21, 1913 as one of the mental exercises included in the fun section of the newspaper. And from then, December, 21: Crossword puzzle day was born.

This crossword puzzle game was diamond-shaped and had clues attached to them, which helped to make the game easier to play. It became a winner, widely accepted by puzzle game lovers and within a short period, several other newspapers and magazines adopted it. Wynne did not stop there, rather he continued his experiments with different intriguing shapes which includes but not limited to circle before he finally settled for the rectangle. By the year 1923, lots of leading US newspapers were already publishing the crossword puzzles and within a short period, the trend spread over to England. Soon after, virtually all the daily newspapers in US and Great Britain featured crossword puzzles in one of their newspaper pages. Little wonder why the December, 21: Crossword puzzle day is revered by many people.

You may be surprised by the class of persons who are engaged in solving the games of crossword puzzles. Even the US former president, Bill Clinton is not left out as Will Shortz, the crossword editor of the New York Times confirmed that he solved a crossword puzzle in 6 minutes and 54 seconds, even while he talked on the home as he was solving it. December, 21: Crossword puzzle day will always be a day to be remembered by every crossword puzzle lover.

Forefather's Day

Forefather's Day is commemorated as a national holiday in Plymouth, Massachusetts, on the 22nd of December. According to the Gregorian calendar, Forefather's Day was erroneously constituted on the 22nd of December in place of 21st December, 1620.

The history of Forefather's Day dates back to the year 1620 with the land of Pilgrims on the Mayflower and formed the second colony in North America. Though different sources assert Forefather's Day to be a regional holiday in New England, it was once used to be celebrated in New Jersey.

The actual celebration of Forefather's Day was observed when the Pilgrims set their first foot on land on the 22nd of December in the year 1621. To escape the religious persecution, they had sailed from Plymouth, England on September 16.

Although the Plymouth Rock is the traditional place of landing of the Pilgrims in New England, it is also an important symbol in the history of the United States. The land of Pilgrims on the Plymouth Rock was then an inaccessible Wampanoag village of Patuxet, but was considered as the beginning of formation of the United States of America 155 years later.

Forefather's Day was first celebrated in the year 1769 by the Old Colony Club of Plymouth remembering the great sacrifices of the Pilgrims and Wampanoag Native Americans. But since this celebration was only 15 years after the introduction of New Style Calendar, there was confusion among the Club members about how many days to be added to the original date of landing of the Pilgrims on December 11.

All the dates before the year 1700 were improbable to have 10 days added to the New Style Calendar, and all dates after the year 1700 have to be added 11 days to it. For some reason a mistake was made, and the Old Colony Club members however celebrate Forefather's Day on the 22nd of December.

The Old Colony Club of Plymouth, a group of people who were interested in the history of Plymouth; formed The Pilgrim Society, which holds a meeting annually on the 21st of December. They celebrated this day by wearing top hats led by a drummer marching down the main street of Plymouth by serving a traditional dinner of succotash, stew, corn, turnips, and beans.

Humbug Day

December 21st has been designated as "Humbug Day." Everyone preparing for Christmas is allowed to vent his or her frustrations today with up to twelve humbugs.

It seems to me that there are three kinds of people when it comes to Christmas. The first kind is overly excited about the Christmas season. Some may call them the Christmas freaks. These early adopters are playing the soundtrack from Merry Christmas Charlie Brown the day after Halloween, and probably over-decorate their apartment and cubicle at the office. Then there is the second kind of person, who enjoys Christmas, but in moderation. They typically wait until at least after Thanksgiving to embrace the holiday spirit, and they don’t go overboard on decor. Finally, we have the grinches. The humbugs. Those who would rather not celebrate at all.

Hey, I realize it is a stressful time of year. I’m not here to judge. It can be hard to embrace the joy and cheeriness of overly excited Christmas lovers, and I realize that some people would rather just carry on without all the holiday fuss. For all of you grinches out there, Humbug Day is the perfect holiday to follow Go Caroling Day. Because chances are you didn’t go around spreading good cheer through the singing of Christmas Carols yesterday. You probably closed your shutters, bolted your door, and sat in the dark, being all Scroogy and stuff. Your negative outlook on the holiday season is to be celebrated, though, so get it out of your system today and go full grinch.

Here are some ways to celebrate, for those of us who are not naturally good at being humbugs:
  1. Say “Bah, HUMBUG!” when you are frustrated, disgusted, or in any way irked. This phrase will take the place of the usual dangit, drat, bummer, crap, darn, or oh snap.
  2. Don't listen to ANY Christmas music. When it comes on the radio, turn the station. When it plays in a department store, see number 1. When your roommate turns on her Michael Bublé Christmas CD, leave the room in disgust.
  3. Quote Scrooge throughout the day. “I wish to be left alone, sir! That is what I wish! I don’t make myself merry at Christmas and I cannot afford to make idle people merry.” or “If they'd rather die, then they had better do it and decrease the surplus population. Good night, gentlemen.” But anything negative and generally against the Christmas spirit will do.
Use Bah Humbug Day to release the stress of the holiday season. But, whatever you do, avoid becoming a real, bonafide Christmas Scrooge.

International Dalek Remembrance Day

Doctor Who fans may not be surprised to discover that those forceful characters the Daleks appear to be the only one of the Doctor’s enemies to have been given their own celebratory day. Dalek Day is held on 21st December each year. This date was chosen to commemorate the anniversary of the Daleks because they made their first TV appearance in Doctor Who on 21st December 1963. The official title of Dalek Day is the International Dalek Remembrance Day. There does not appear to be any regular organised celebrations each year to commemorate Dalek Day and it is unclear whether Dalek supporters meet or actually even dress up in Dalek costumes. Many of their fans appear to celebrate Dalek Day at home by having a Doctor Who marathon and watching again their favourite episodes with the Daleks battling against the Doctor.

The Daleks are a fictional extraterrestrial race of mutants principally portrayed in the British science fiction television programme Doctor Who. The Daleks were conceived by science-fiction writer Terry Nation and first appeared in the 1963 Doctor Who serial The Daleks, in the shells designed by Raymond Cusick.

Within the programme narrative, Daleks are an extraterrestrial race of cyborgs created by the scientist Davros during the final years of a thousand-year war against the Thals. He genetically modified his race (known as the Kaleds), and integrated them with a tank-like, robotic, mechanical shell. His final modification was to remove their ability to feel pity, compassion, or remorse. The Daleks soon came to view themselves as the supreme race in the universe and began a conquest of universal domination and extermination. Various storylines portray them as having had every emotion removed except hate, leaving them with a desire to purge the Universe of all non-Dalek life. Collectively they are the greatest enemies of the series' protagonist, the Time Lord known as the Doctor. During a conflict with the Time Lords, the Daleks were almost completely killed off. This took place off-screen between the 1996 television movie and the 2005 revived series, and was depicted in the 50th anniversary special "The Day of the Doctor". Their defeat was a plot point in several episodes. They are popularly known for their catchphrase "Exterminate!" and are a well-recognised reference in British popular culture.

Look on the Bright Side Day

Look on the Bright Side Day is observed on December 21, winter solstice, which is the darkest and shortest day of the year. While it's true that today is the year's darkest, tomorrow starts the trend toward brightening things up again. In that spirit, try to see that your cup half full and try to find the positive on things that may appear negative.

Optimism is a mental attitude or world view that interprets situations and events as being best (optimized), meaning that in some way for factors that may not be fully comprehended, the present moment is in an optimum state. The concept is typically extended to include the attitude of hope for future conditions unfolding as optimal as well. 

A common idiom used to illustrate optimism versus pessimism is a glass with water at the halfway point, where the optimist is said to see the glass as half full, but the pessimist sees the glass as half empty.

National Flashlight Day

National Flashlight Day takes place on December 21st. It is held on Winter Solstice, which is the longest night of the year. Therefore a flashlight is a useful tool on this day. A flashlight is a hand-held portable electric-powered light source. Usually the light source is a small incandescent light bulb or light-emitting diode. 

The invention of the dry cell and miniature incandescent electric light bulbs made the first battery-powered flashlights possible around 1899. Today flashlights use mostly incandescent lamps or light-emitting diodes and run on disposable or rechargeable batteries. Some are powered by the user turning a crank or shaking the lamp, and some have solar panels to recharge a battery.

In addition to the general-purpose hand-held flashlight, many forms have been adapted for special uses. Head or helmet-mounted flashlights designed for miners and campers leave the hands free. Some flashlights can be used underwater or in flammable atmospheres.

National French Fried Shrimp Day

If you like French Fried Shrimp, then National French Fried Shrimp Day is just the holiday you've been looking for. Always on December 21st, it is the perfect excuse to head out to your favorite seafood joint tonight.

Fried shrimp seems to have become a menu item in the early 20th century also, but breaded, deep fried shrimp did not make its big debut until after World War II when pre-cooked frozen shrimp,  plain or breaded, came on the market. Then shrimp dinners, relatively cheap because the breading could cover less desirable specimens, became available everywhere, even in many drive-ins.

Until the advent of frozen shrimp, shrimp cocktail and fried shrimp were found most often on  menus of restaurants in the Gulf states and California. In the late 19th and early 20th century locally caught shrimp were so plentiful in San Francisco that it was the custom for restaurants to present diners with a free plate of shrimp to nibble on before their meal was delivered.

Importation of shrimp from Mexico and India began in the early 1950s, but evidently it took some time before prices went down. Shrimp cocktail remained a minor luxury for many people through the 1960s. The cost of shrimp was high enough in the mid-1950s to make the theft of frozen shrimp a serious issue for New York’s Mamma Leone’s, which lost thousands of dollars worth of $1.12/lb shrimp to a ring of thieves. The thieves turned out to be a pantry man colluding with garbage collectors who resold the shrimp to other restaurants.

National Homeless Persons' Remembrance Day

December 21 - The first day of winter. The longest night of the year. We will remember the men and women who are known to have died in 2014 and who, in life, lacked a regular place to stay.

If the grave consequences of life on the streets weren't already apparent, the arrival of long winter nights sheds greater light on the growing problem of homelessness in our communities. Lower temperatures, higher housing and energy costs, and insufficient shelter resources contribute to the premature deaths of many of our neighbors.

Since 1990, the National Coalition for the Homeless and the National Health Care for the Homeless Council have sponsored National Homeless Persons' Remembrance Day to bring attention to the plight of the nation's homeless population and to encourage the public to act on their behalf.

Local groups across the country are encouraged first to determine the number of homeless persons in their community who died in the previous year and then arrange a ceremony to remember them. Candlelight marches, vigils, graveside services, plays and performances, religious services, and public policy advocacy are the suggested ways of remembering. Some groups have read publicly a list of names of the deceased. Because media attention to such issues increases during the holiday season in December, National Homeless Persons' Remembrance Day was in part created to garner a public forum for this issue, and local groups are encouraged to seek out and work with their local media outlets to publicize the event.

Winter Solstice

Winter solstice is an astronomical phenomenon which marks the shortest day and the longest night of the year. Winter solstice occurs for the Northern Hemisphere in December and for the Southern Hemisphere in June.

The axial tilt of Earth and gyroscopic effects of the planet's daily rotation keep the axis of rotation pointed at the same point in the sky. As the Earth follows its orbit around the Sun, the same hemisphere that faced away from the Sun, experiencing winter, will, in half a year, face towards the Sun and experience summer. Because the two hemispheres face opposite directions along the planetary pole, as one polar hemisphere experiences winter, the other experiences summer.

More evident from high latitudes, a hemisphere's winter solstice occurs on the shortest day and longest night of the year, when the sun's daily maximum elevation in the sky is the lowest. The winter solstice itself lasts only a moment in time, so other terms are used for the day on which it occurs, such as "midwinter", or "the shortest day". For the same reason, it should not be confused with "the first day of winter" or "the start of winter" (Lidong in the East Asian calendars). The seasonal significance of the winter solstice is in the reversal of the gradual lengthening of nights and shortening of days. The earliest sunset and latest sunrise dates differ from winter solstice, however, and these depend on latitude, due to the variation in the solar day throughout the year caused by the Earth's elliptical orbit (see earliest and latest sunrise and sunset).

Worldwide, interpretation of the event has varied from culture to culture, but many cultures have held a recognition of rebirth, involving holidays, festivals, gatherings, rituals or other celebrations around that time.

The solstice itself may have been a special moment of the annual cycle of the year even during neolithic times. Astronomical events, which during ancient times controlled the mating of animals, sowing of crops and metering of winter reserves between harvests, show how various cultural mythologies and traditions have arisen. This is attested by physical remains in the layouts of late Neolithic and Bronze Agearchaeological sites, such as Stonehenge in England and Newgrange in Ireland. The primary axes of both of these monuments seem to have been carefully aligned on a sight-line pointing to the winter solstice sunrise (Newgrange) and the winter solstice sunset (Stonehenge). Significant in respect of Stonehenge is the fact that the Great Trilithon was erected outwards from the centre of the monument, i.e., its smooth flat face was turned towards the midwinter Sun.

The winter solstice may have been immensely important because communities were not certain of living through the winter, and had to be prepared during the previous nine months. Starvation was common during the first months of the winter, January to April (northern hemisphere) or July to October (southern hemisphere), also known as "the famine months". In temperate climates, the midwinter festival was the last feast celebration, before deep winter began. Most cattle were slaughtered so they would not have to be fed during the winter, so it was almost the only time of year when a supply of fresh meat was available. The majority of wine and beer made during the year was finally fermented and ready for drinking at this time. The concentration of the observances were not always on the day commencing at midnight or at dawn, but the beginning of the pre-Romanized day, which falls on the previouseve.

Because the event is seen as the reversal of the Sun's ebbing presence in the sky, concepts of the birth or rebirth of sun gods have been common and, in cultures using winter solstice based cyclic calendars, the year as reborn has been celebrated with regard to life-death-rebirth deities or new beginnings such as Hogmanay's redding, a New Year cleaning tradition. Also reversal is yet another usual theme as in Saturnalia's slave and master reversals.