Thursday, February 12, 2015

Holidays and Observances for Feb 12 2015

International Darwin Day

Darwin Day is an international celebration of science and humanity held on or around February 12, the day that Charles Darwin was born on in 1809. Specifically, it celebrates the discoveries and life of Charles Darwin — the man who first described biological evolution via natural selection with scientific rigor. More generally, Darwin Day expresses gratitude for the enormous benefits that scientific knowledge, acquired through human curiosity and ingenuity, has contributed to the advancement of humanity.

The International Darwin Day Foundation website provides resources and publicity for individuals and institutions across the world to celebrate science and humanity every year, on, or near, February 12, Darwin’s birthday. In addition to information about the life and legacy of Charles Darwin, this website provides practical examples, advice and templates for organizing and publicizing Darwin Day events. It also provides a directory of events where you can find celebrations taking place near you or register your own event for others to find.

Recognizing science as an international language accessible to all individuals and societies, the International Darwin Day Foundation provides a new global holiday that transcends separate nationalities and cultures. Darwin Day can be celebrated in many different ways: civic ceremonies with official proclamations, educational symposia, birthday parties, art shows, book discussions, lobby days, games, protests, and dinner parties. Organizers may include: academic societies, science organizations, freethought groups, religious congregations, libraries, museums, galleries, teachers and students, families and friends. In Darwin Day, we are able to recognize the diversity among us, while celebrating our common humanity and the universal understanding we share.

Celebrations are an important part of every culture. They provide a tradition and a common bond to be shared among those who make up their culture, permitting them to experience a meaningful connection to one another and to the principles to which they subscribe. Unfortunately, most celebrations are based on ancient traditions that are relevant to only a specific country or culture, and they have often been, and continue to be, the source of serious conflicts.

At this juncture in history, the world has become so small and interdependent that we need a Global Celebration to promote a common bond among all people. The Darwin Day Celebration was founded on the premise that science, like music, is an international language that speaks to all people in very similar ways. While music is both intellectual and entertaining, science is our most reliable knowledge system, and it has been and continues to be acquired through human curiosity and ingenuity. Moreover, evolution via genetic variation and natural selection, introduced by Darwin, has become the central organizing principle in biology. In addition, evolution also plays a central role in astronomy and cosmology, where it refers to the way that stars, galaxies and the entire universe ‘change over time.’ To study biology while neglecting evolution would be like studying physics without Newton’s laws that govern the universe or chemistry without the periodic table. Clearly, Darwin himself has become an internationally acclaimed figure, whose influence on progressive modern thought continues to be both profound and pervasive (Ernst Mayr, Darwin’s Influence on Modern Thought, Scientific American, July 2000).

Current research in the field of genetics, including that on the human genome, has conclusively shown that all humans are essentially identical and that we are genetically related to all other living things on this planet. Thus an enlightened view of genetics is one of unity and equality among all humans and also one that fosters a deeper sense of respect and appreciation for all life. Today the validity of Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection rests in our understanding of the molecular mechanisms of genetics. Therefore, we conclude that Charles Darwin is a worthy symbol on which to focus, in order to build a Global Celebration of Science and Humanity that is intended to promote a common bond among all people of the earth.

We suspect that ever since Charles Darwin published his famous book, On The Origin of Species that there have been sporadic efforts to celebrate his accomplishments. One, with a recent but prolonged history, was initiated in 1980, at Salem College in Massachusetts. This weeklong event called the Darwin Festival continues to be held each year.

However, the history that leads directly to this Darwin Day Web site was initiated by Dr. Robert ("Bob") Stephens and took place at Stanford University. The first EVENT sponsored by the Stanford Humanists student group and the Humanist Community, was held on April 22, 1995. The famous anthropologist Dr. Donald Johanson, who discovered the early fossil human called ‘Lucy’, gave a lecture entitled "Darwin and Human Origins" to over 600 people in the Kresge Auditorium.

In subsequent years the location and date of the celebration was changed to coincide with Darwin’s birthday and was held on, or near, February 12 each year. The success of the venture is reflected in the list of speakers which include Richard Dawkins, 1996; Paul Berg, 1997; Robert Sapolsky, 1998; Douglas Hofstadter, 1999; Michael Shermer, 2001; Robert Stephens and Arthur Jackson, 2003; Robert and Lola Stephens, 2004; and Eugenie Scott, 2005.

In the intervening years, after the original Darwin Day Celebration was established, Bob worked with other groups to expand the idea of celebrating Science and Humanity. Modern cultures, which rely so heavily on scientific knowledge which was developed solely on the basis of human curiosity and ingenuity, had not developed a tradition by which to show appreciation for this phenomenal knowledge system which is largely responsible for providing all of us with the standard of health and prosperity that we enjoy today. Therefore, the Darwin Day celebration was seen as an authentic way to show appreciation to all those, both past and present, who have contributed to the scientific enterprise. The overall goal of the original concept was to recognize the achievements of humanity as represented in the acquisition of verifiable scientific knowledge.

In the year 2000, after a serendipitous meeting between two Darwin enthusiasts, Amanda Chesworth and Bob Stephens — they co-founded the Darwin Day Program. Bob became Chairman of the Board and President of the nonprofit corporation while Amanda became a member of the Board, Secretary and Executive Director of the Program. Amanda’s interest in Darwin complemented that of Dr. Stephens by having had a long-standing interest in Darwinian evolution and also, by having independently hosted previous Darwin events. The third member of the Board was Dr. Massimo Pigliucci who, also independently, initiated an annual Darwin Day event at the University of Tennessee, in 1997. Dr. Pigliucci became the Vice President. Arthur Jackson, who had been involved since the original Darwin Day Celebration in 1995, became a member of the Board in 2002. Much was accomplished during the next 3 years and much of the credit goes to Amanda. The number of EVENTS that took place around the world increased substantially over these years and thousands of people attended these events to learn more about Darwin. More importantly however, they learned about Science and the role of humans in developing the Scientific Method that permitted the acquisition of an enormous amount of verifiable scientific knowledge, that is now available to modern humans. To Amanda’s credit, a substantial book was published in 2003 by Tangled Bank Press, entitled Darwin Day Collection One.

Celebrating Science and Humanity within our various cultures throughout the world is an idea that is overdue, and the current mission of Darwin Day is to greatly expand our outreach efforts directed towards a Global Celebration for Darwin’s birthday. Please register to create your event with us.

Additional independent Darwin Celebrations have also been developed. For instance,  in 1997 the University of Tennessee initiated an annual two-day event sponsored by the Tennessee Darwin Coalition. This web site is an excellent example for other Universities to visit when they are considering the development of a Darwin Day project for their campus.

Baruck College has an interesting Darwin web site with a number of facets to it, that was started in 1998 with an ‘Introduction to Charles Darwin.’ Subsequent additions took the form of Faculty Development Colloquia and Seminars.

Shrewsbury England is the place where Charles Darwin was born and this small town in the Western Midlands near the Welsh border has had a week long Celebration in early February for the past four years. However, in 2005 they expanded the Celebration to a month-long affair. This impressive Celebration will feature films, speakers, and plays, together with many activities for citizens and visitors alike. They recognize the importance of their "most famous native son" and look forward to expanding their celebration.

A novel way of celebrating Darwin that has its roots in the misty past is to have a "Phylum Feast". This tradition has been nurtured since 1989 by the personnel at the Eastern Biodiversity Museum at Bishop Mills, Canada.

Once our web site was established in 2000 we invited all those around the world who wanted to join  the Celebration of Science and Humanity to register and advertise their events on this site and you can review them here. Note that events take place in many countries and vary from private dinner parties to week-long symposia. Our current objective is to reach out to ever greater numbers of people and organizations to make Darwin Day a truly International Celebration.

No doubt there are other Darwin-related events with historical significance of which we are not currently aware. However, if you will send us your information we will be happy to include it here. Thank you in advance for your assistance.

Lincoln's Birthday

Lincoln's Birthday is a legal holiday in some U.S. states including Arizona, California, Connecticut, Illinois, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, and Indiana. It is observed on the anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's birth on February 12, 1809.

The earliest known observance of Lincoln's birthday occurred in Buffalo, New York, in 1874. Julius Francis (d. 1881), a Buffalo druggist, made it his life's mission to honor the slain president. He repeatedly petitioned Congress to establish Lincoln's birthday as a legal holiday.

The day is marked by traditional wreath-laying ceremonies at Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historic Site in Hodgenville, Kentucky, and at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.. The latter has been the site of a ceremony ever since the Memorial was dedicated. Since that event in 1922, observances continue to be organized by the Lincoln Birthday National Commemorative Committee and by the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States (MOLLUS). A wreath is laid on behalf of the President of the United States, a custom also carried out at the grave sites of all deceased U.S. presidents on their birthdays. Lincoln's tomb is in Springfield, Illinois.

On February 12, 2009, the annual wreath-laying ceremony at the Lincoln Memorial commemorated Lincoln's 200th birthday in grand fashion. An extended ceremony, organized by the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission (ALBC) and with help from MOLLUS, featured musical performances from four-time Grammy-nominated singer Michael Feinstein and the U.S. Marine Corps. Band. The morning celebration also featured remarks by Sen. Dick Durbin; Lincoln scholar and ALBC Co-Chair Harold Holzer; recently retired Rhode Island Supreme Court Chief Justice – and ALBC Commissioner – Frank J. Williams; and author Nikki Giovanni reciting her newest work, which was written especially for the Bicentennial.

As part of Lincoln's birthday bicentennial, the U.S. Mint released four new pennies. The commemorative coins have new designs on the reverse showing stages of his life. The first went into circulation on September 12, 2009. The standard portrait of Lincoln's head remains on the front. The new designs include a log cabin representing his birthplace, Lincoln as a young man reading while sitting on a log that he was taking a break from splitting, Lincoln as a state legislator in front of the Illinois Capitol, and the partially built dome of the U.S. Capitol.

Many states that had formerly observed Lincoln's birthday have created a joint holiday to honor both Lincoln and George Washington, sometimes calling it "Presidents Day". It coincides with the Federal holiday officially designated "Washington's Birthday", observed on the third Monday of February. There has never been an annual Federal holiday honoring Lincoln.

When the state of West Virginia, which entered the union under Lincoln, abolished the February holiday, it codified the long-time practice of the Governor granting state and county workers Black Friday as an additional day off as an official state holiday. Republicans in the state legislature sponsored a successful amendment to name the holiday "Lincoln's Day".


Founded Feb. 12. 1909, the NAACP is the nation's oldest, largest and most widely recognized grassroots-based civil rights organization. Its more than half-million members and supporters throughout the United States and the world are the premier advocates for civil rights in their communities, campaigning for equal opportunity and conducting voter mobilization.

The NAACP was formed partly in response to the continuing horrific practice of lynching and the 1908 race riot in Springfield, the capital of Illinois and resting place of President Abraham Lincoln. Appalled at the violence that was committed against blacks, a group of white liberals that included Mary White Ovington and Oswald Garrison Villard, both the descendants of abolitionists, William English Walling and Dr. Henry Moscowitz issued a call for a meeting to discuss racial justice. Some 60 people, seven of whom were African American (including W. E. B. Du Bois, Ida B. Wells-Barnett and Mary Church Terrell), signed the call, which was released on the centennial of Lincoln's birth.

Other early members included Joel and Arthur Spingarn, Josephine Ruffin, Mary Talbert, Inez Milholland, Jane Addams, Florence Kelley, Sophonisba Breckinridge, John Haynes Holmes, Mary McLeod Bethune, George Henry White, Charles Edward Russell, John Dewey, William Dean Howells, Lillian Wald, Charles Darrow, Lincoln Steffens, Ray Stannard Baker, Fanny Garrison Villard, and Walter Sachs.

Echoing the focus of Du Bois' Niagara Movement began in 1905, the NAACP's stated goal was to secure for all people the rights guaranteed in the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments to the United States Constitution, which promised an end to slavery, the equal protection of the law, and universal adult male suffrage, respectively.

The NAACP's principal objective is to ensure the political, educational, social and economic equality of minority group citizens of United States and eliminate race prejudice. The NAACP seeks to remove all barriers of racial discrimination through the democratic processes.
The NAACP established its national office in New York City in 1910 and named a board of directors as well as a president, Moorfield Storey, a white constitutional lawyer and former president of the American Bar Association. The only African American among the organization's executives, Du Bois was made director of publications and research and in 1910 established the official journal of the NAACP, The Crisis.

Du Bois founded The Crisis magazine as the premier crusading voice for civil rights. Today, The Crisis, one of the oldest black periodicals in America, continues this mission. A respected journal of thought, opinion and analysis, the magazine remains the official publication of the NAACP and is the NAACP's articulate partner in the struggle for human rights for people of color.
In time, The Crisis became a voice of the Harlem Renaissance, as Du Bois published works by Langston Hughes, Countee Cullen and other African American literary figures. The publication's prominence would rise.

Now published quarterly, The Crisis is dedicated to being an open and honest forum for discussing critical issues confronting people of color, American society and the world in addition to highlighting the historical and cultural achievements of these diverse peoples.

In essays, interviews, in-depth reporting, etc., writers explore past and present issues concerning race and its impact on educational, economic, political, social, moral, and ethical issues. And, each issue is highlighted with a special section, "The NAACP Today" reporting the news and events of the NAACP on a local and national level.

With a strong emphasis on local organizing, by 1913 the NAACP had established branch offices in such cities as Boston, Massachusetts; Baltimore, Maryland; Kansas City, Missouri; Washington, D.C.; Detroit, Michigan; and St. Louis, Missouri.

Joel Spingarn, one of the NAACP founders, was a professor of literature and formulated much of the strategy that led to the growth of the organization. He was elected board chairman of the NAACP in 1915 and served as president from 1929-1939.

A series of early court battles, including a victory against a discriminatory Oklahoma law that regulated voting by means of a grandfather clause (Guinn v. United States, 1910), helped establish the NAACP's importance as a legal advocate. The fledgling organization also learned to harness the power of publicity through its 1915 battle against D. W. Griffith's inflammatory Birth of a Nation, a motion picture that perpetuated demeaning stereotypes of African Americans and glorified the Ku Klux Klan.

NAACP membership grew rapidly, from around 9,000 in 1917 to around 90,000 in 1919, with more than 300 local branches. Writer and diplomat James Weldon Johnson became the Association's first black secretary in 1920, and Louis T. Wright, a surgeon, was named the first black chairman of its board of directors in 1934.

The NAACP waged a 30-year campaign against lynching, among the Association's top priorities. After early worries about its constitutionality, the NAACP strongly supported the federal Dyer Bill, which would have punished those who participated in or failed to prosecute lynch mobs. Though the bill would pass the U.S. House of Representatives, the Senate never passed the bill, or any other anti-lynching legislation. Most credit the resulting public debate-fueled by the NAACP report "Thirty Years of Lynching in the United States, 1889-1919"-with drastically decreasing the incidence of lynching.

Johnson stepped down as secretary in 1930 and was succeeded by Walter F. White. White was instrumental not only in his research on lynching (in part because, as a very fair-skinned African American, he had been able to infiltrate white groups), but also in his successful block of segregationist Judge John J. Parker's nomination by President Herbert Hoover to the U.S. Supreme Court.

White presided over the NAACP's most productive period of legal advocacy. In 1930 the association commissioned the Margold Report, which became the basis for the successful reversal of the separate-but-equal doctrine that had governed public facilities since 1896's Plessy v. Ferguson. In 1935 White recruited Charles H. Houston as NAACP chief counsel. Houston was the Howard University law school dean whose strategy on school-segregation cases paved the way for his protégé Thurgood Marshall to prevail in 1954's Brown v. Board of Education, the decision that overturned Plessy.

During the Great Depression of the 1930s, which was disproportionately disastrous for African Americans, the NAACP began to focus on economic justice. After years of tension with white labor unions, the Association cooperated with the newly formed Congress of Industrial Organizations in an effort to win jobs for black Americans. White, a friend and adviser to First Lady--and NAACP national board member--Eleanor Roosevelt, met with her often in attempts to convince President Franklin D. Roosevelt to outlaw job discrimination in the armed forces, defense industries and the agencies spawned by Roosevelt's New Deal legislation.

Roosevelt ultimately agreed to open thousands of jobs to black workers when labor leader A. Philip Randolph, in collaboration with the NAACP, threatened a national March on Washington movement in 1941. President Roosevelt also agreed to set up a Fair Employment Practices Committee (FEPC) to ensure compliance.

Throughout the 1940s the NAACP saw enormous growth in membership, recording roughly 600,000 members by 1946. It continued to act as a legislative and legal advocate, pushing for a federal anti-lynching law and for an end to state-mandated segregation.

By the 1950s the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, headed by Marshall, secured the last of these goals through Brown v. Board of Education (1954), which outlawed segregation in public schools. The NAACP's Washington, D.C., bureau, led by lobbyist Clarence M. Mitchell Jr., helped advance not only integration of the armed forces in 1948 but also passage of the Civil Rights Acts of 1957, 1964, and 1968, as well as the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Despite such dramatic courtroom and congressional victories, the implementation of civil rights was a slow, painful, and oft times violent. The unsolved 1951 murder of Harry T. Moore, an NAACP field secretary in Florida whose home was bombed on Christmas night, and his wife was just one of many crimes of retribution against the NAACP and its staff and members.
NAACP Mississippi Field Secretary Medgar Evers and his wife Myrlie also became high-profile targets for pro-segregationist violence and terrorism. In 1962, their home was firebombed and later Medgar was assassinated by a sniper in front of their residence following years of investigations into hostility against blacks and participation in non-violent demonstrations such as sit-ins to protest the persistence of Jim Crow segregation throughout the south.

Violence also met black children attempting to enter previously segregated schools in Little Rock, Arkansas, and other southern cities. Throughout the south many African Americans were still denied the right to register and vote.

The Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s echoed the NAACP's goals, but leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr., of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, felt that direct action was needed to obtain them.

Although it was criticized for working exclusively within the system by pursuing legislative and judicial solutions, the NAACP did provide legal representation and aid to members of other protest groups over a sustained period of time. The NAACP even posted bail for hundreds of Freedom Riders in the ‘60s who had traveled to Mississippi to register black voters and challenge Jim Crow policies.

Led by Roy Wilkins, who succeeded Walter White as secretary in 1955, the NAACP, along with A. Philip Randolph, Bayard Rustin and other national organizations began to plan the 1963 March on Washington.

With the passage of major civil rights legislation the following year, the Association accomplished what seemed an insurmountable task. In the following years, the NAACP began to diversify its goals.

Assisting the NAACP throughout the years were many celebrities and leaders, including Sammy Davis Jr., Lena Horne, Jackie Robinson, Harry Belafonte, Ella Baker, an NAACP director of branches who stressed the importance of young people and women in the organization by recruiting members, raising money, and organizing local campaigns; Daisy Bates, NAACP national board member, Arkansas state conference president and advisor to the Little Rock Nine; and NAACP stalwarts like Kivie Kaplan, a businessman and philanthropist from Boston, who served as president of the NAACP from 1966 until 1975. He personally led nationwide NAACP Life Membership efforts and fought to keep African Americans away from illegal drugs.

Wilkins retired as executive director in 1977 and was replaced by Benjamin L. Hooks, whose tenure included the Bakke case (1978), in which a California court outlawed several aspects of affirmative action. During his tenure the Memphis native is credited with implementing many NAACP programs that continue today. The NAACP ACT-SO (Academic, Cultural, Technological and Scientific Olympics) competitions, a major youth talent and skill initiative, and Women in the NAACP began under his administration.

As millions of African Americans continued to be afflicted as urban poverty and crime increased, de facto racial segregation remained and job discrimination lingered throughout the United States, proving the need for continued NAACP advocacy and action.

Dr. Hooks served as executive director/chief executive officer (CEO) of the NAACP from 1977 to 1992. Benjamin F. Chavis (now Chavis Muhammad) became executive director/CEO in 1993, while in 1995 Myrlie Evers-Williams (widow of Medgar Evers) became the third woman to chair the NAACP, a position she held until 1998, succeeded by Chairman Emeritus Julian Bond.

In 1996 the NAACP National Board of Directors changed the executive director/CEO title to president and CEO when it selected Kweisi Mfume, a former congressman and head of the Congressional Black Caucus, to lead the body. The elected office of president was eliminated.

Former telecommunications executive Bruce S. Gordon followed in 2005. [NAACP General Counsel Dennis Courtland Hayes would serve the Association well as interim national president and CEO twice during changes in administrations in recent years.]

In May 2008, the NAACP National Board of Directors confirmed Benjamin Todd Jealous, a former community organizer, newspaper editor and Rhodes Scholar, as the 14th national executive of the esteemed organization.

Heading into the 21st century, the NAACP is focused on disparities in economics, health care, education, voter empowerment and the criminal justice system while also continuing its role as legal advocate for civil rights issues.

Yet the real story of the nation's most significant civil rights organization lies in the hearts and minds of the people who would not stand idly by while the rights of America's darker citizens were denied. From bold investigations of mob brutality, protests of mass murders, segregation and discrimination, to testimony before congressional committees on the vicious tactics used to bar African Americans from the ballot box, it was the talent and tenacity of NAACP members that saved lives and changed many negative aspects of American society.

While much of NAACP history is chronicled in books, articles, pamphlets and magazines, the true movement lies in the faces--the diverse multiracial army of ordinary women and men from every walk of life, race and class--united to awaken the consciousness of a people and a nation. The NAACP will remain vigilant in its mission until the promise of America is made real for all Americans.

National Lost Penny Day

Today, February 2, is National Lost Penny Day.

The first US penny was minted in 1787 and was made of pure copper and was designed by Benjamin Franklin. On February 12th, 1909, marking the 100th anniversary of Lincoln’s birth, the first Lincoln penny was issued. It was the first regular issue US coin to honor an actual person. On Lost Penny Day, gather all those pennies you have been collecting and cash them in.

The creator of Lost Penny Day actually started the day to collect pennies throughout the year and then on this day, we would donate them to a charity.  However, at KooperSmithin’, the founder exclaims, “Today (with Times being as trying, meager and non-supplemental as they are), those Pennies can be carefully saved and then put to better usage by purchasing a winning Lottery Ticket or an Item that may be on sale at Resale Outlets & Posts.”

So, collect and give or collect and spend.  However, we cannot forget about the man on the penny.  There is so much inspiration we can gather on the United states of America’s 16th president.  I did a search for leadership lessons, motivations, inspirations, quotations and found a lot.  But, one site stuck out of their pick of the top 10 Abraham Lincoln Quotations at Inspirations Quotes and Quotations.  Here they are:
  • “Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any one thing.” – Abraham Lincoln.
  • “And in the end it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.” – Abraham Lincoln.
  • “Character is like a tree and reputation like its shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.” – Abraham Lincoln.
  • “Common looking people are the best in the world: that is the reason the Lord makes so many of them.” – Abraham Lincoln.
  • “Don't worry when you are not recognized, but strive to be worthy of recognition.” – Abraham Lincoln.
  • “He has a right to criticize, who has a heart to help.” – Abraham Lincoln.
  • “I destroy my enemies when I make them my friends.” – Abraham Lincoln.
  • “People are just as happy as they make up their minds to be.” – Abraham Lincoln.
  • “I walk slowly, but I never walk backward.” – Abraham Lincoln.
  • “I do not think much of a man who is not wiser today than he was yesterday.” -  Abraham Lincoln.
National Plum Pudding Day

Plum pudding is a mouthwatering treat that, surprisingly enough, contains no plums! In the 17th century when it was first created, plums were referred to as raisins or other dried fruits. Plum pudding (aka Christmas pudding) is a steamed or boiled pudding usually served during the holiday season.

In America, Plum Pudding (also known as Christmas pudding or figgy pudding) is a dish as famous as it is misunderstood. It’s the flaming center of the climactic meal of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” and pops up in carols themselves: “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” has two whole verses about demanding figgy pudding. But for the uninitiated, Christmas puddings are eyed with skepticism befitting a dish that can be accurately described as a cross between a fruitcake and a haggis, set on fire.

Christmas pudding has its roots in medieval English sausages, when fat, spices and fruits (the best preservatives of their day) were mixed with meats, grains and vegetables and packed into animal stomachs and intestines so they would keep as long as possible. The first records of plum puddings date to the early 15th century, when “plum pottage,” a savory concoction heavy on the meat and root vegetables, was served at the start of a meal. Then as now, the “plum” in plum pudding was a generic term for any dried fruit—most commonly raisins and currants, with prunes and other dried, preserved or candied fruit added when available. By the end of the 16th century, dried fruit was more plentiful in England and plum pudding made the shift from savory to sweet. The development of the pudding cloth—a floured piece of fabric that could hold and preserve a pudding of any size—further freed the pudding from dependence on animal products (but not entirely: suet, the fat found around beef and mutton kidneys, has always been a key ingredient).

By the mid-1600s, plum pudding was sufficiently associated with Christmas that when Oliver Cromwell came to power in 1647 he had it banned, along with Yule logs, carol-singing and nativity scenes. To Cromwell and his Puritan associates, such merry-making smacked of Druidic paganism and Roman Catholic idolatry. In 1660 the Puritans were deposed and Christmas pudding, along with the English monarchy, was restored. Fifty years later, England’s first German-born ruler, George I, was styled the “pudding king” after rumors surfaced of his request to serve plum pudding at his first English Christmas banquet.

As with many English-derived Christmas traditions, the standard form for Christmas pudding solidified during the Victorian era, when English journalists, political leaders and novelists (not least Dickens himself) worked to promulgate a standardized, family-friendly English Christmas. Among England’s poor, Christmas saving clubs sprung up to help housewives lay away pennies throughout the year to purchase pudding ingredients come Christmastime. Families throughout England began to celebrate the last Sunday before Advent —in which the Book of Common Prayer’s liturgy includes a prayer that begins, “Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people”—as “Stir-up Sunday,” in which family members take turns stirring up the Christmas pudding-to-be, which was then wrapped and boiled and set aside to mature until Christmas Day. By the 19th century the ingredients were more or less standardized to suet, brown sugar, raisins and currants, candied orange peel, eggs, bread crumbs, nutmeg, cloves, allspice and plenty of alcohol.

For Victorian citizens of the British Empire, the Christmas pudding was a summation of their conception of the world: a globe like mass, studded with savory bits from distant colonies, bound together by a steamed and settled matrix of Englishness. An 1848 satirical cartoon titled “John Bull Showing the Foreign Powers How to Make a Constitutional Plum-Pudding” showed an English stand-in preparing to carve a bulging, holly-sprigged pudding labeled “Liberty of the Press,” “Trial by Jury,” “Common Sense” and “Order.” The Christmas pudding’s well-preserved nature—it took a month to get seasoned and could last over a year—meant it could be enjoyed as a taste of home by far-flung soldiers and colonizers. In 1885 a British newspaper reported the joyful consumption of a plum pudding—sent overland via special envoy from Tehran—by a group of British soldiers stationed in northwestern Afghanistan.

Over the past century the Christmas pudding has slimmed down and simplified somewhat, according to modern tastes. The pudding-bag, in which the pudding is twice-boiled, is often replaced with molds shaped like a half-melon or bundt cake. Instructions for lighting the brandy sauce prior to serving include numerous fire-safety caveats. The pudding’s pagan roots are now celebrated rather than swept under the Christmas-tree skirt. A recent history cheerfully notes that the game of “snap dragons,” in which children compete to pluck raisins from the flaming brandy, likely has origins with the Celtic Druids. Across the Atlantic, where fruitcake’s own fortunes have waned in recent decades, Christmas pudding remains a curiosity known primarily from films, books and song lyrics, and is associated with Christmas crackers, paper crowns, Bob Cratchit and Boxing Day.

Oglethorpe Day

James Edward Oglethorpe (22 December 1696 – 30 June 1785) was a British general, Member of Parliament, philanthropist, and founder of the colony of Georgia. As a social reformer, he hoped to resettle Britain's poor, especially those in debtors' prisons, in the New World.

On February 12, 1733, Oglethorpe returned to Yamacraw Bluff with the Georgia colonists. With the help of militia and African American slaves from 
Plans for the city of Savannah. James Oglethorpe designed a distinctive pattern of streets, ten-house tythings, and public squares.

South Carolina, the pine forest was quickly cleared, and Oglethorpe laid out a plan for the new town of Savannah. His distinctive pattern of streets, ten-house "tythings," and public squares soon became a reality. Identical clapboard houses built on identical lots, plus restrictions on how much land could be owned and an outright prohibition on slavery, were testimony to the Trustees' desire to produce a classless society—one in which each head of household worked his own land. The desire to have a worker (and armed defender) on each lot of land, however, led to one of Trustees' most unpopular policies—limiting land ownership to adult males.

Paul Bunyan Day

Paul Bunyan Day is always on February 12.  Why?

Because according to the people of Bangor, Maine, Paul Bunyan was born there on February 12, 1834. Now, I realize that there are many other areas of the United States who have "Paul Bunyan Days" celebrations such as those in Michigan, Minnesota, Portland and California.  But, a town's celebration date doesn't necessarily mean that is the real birthday of Paul Bunyan or Paul Bunyan Day.

I also realize, being a Minnesota native, that the people of Minnesota feel that Paul Bunyan originated in Bemidji, Minnesota.  Although, I've never heard of a birth date for him (as of yet.)  Brainerd, Minnesota has a Paul Bunyan theme park.  It is now called Paul Bunyan Land, but it was originally Paul Bunyan Center which began in 1950.  It is believed to be the oldest and first amusement park with the Paul Bunyan theme. However, there are many amusement parks across the country with Paul Bunyan statues.  Perhaps Minnesota was the first state to publicly bring Paul Bunyan some  big recognition?

 OK, so maybe he wasn't born in Minnesota, but apparently he died there.  In Kelliher, MN, Paul Bunyan's grave is located in Paul Bunyan Memorial Park. 

Was he a real guy?  Some say that Paul Bunyan is based on  a French-Canadian timber man named Fabian "Joe" Fournier (aka Saginaw Joe by some)  who was born in Quebec, Canada in 1845.  He moved to the Saginaw, Michigan area after the Civil War and was hired as a foreman (aka boss logger)  of a logging crew.  Since he was a large guy and pretty strong, and was  also good with an axe, he was soon called  the top "feller" in the woods. 

Another version is that because "Bunyan" sounds like the French-Canadian slang word "Bonyenne" which translated into English means "Good Grief!"  This exclamation would often be said if you heard something extraordinary.  And, it is rumored that way back  during the Papineau Rebellion of 1837 the French Canadians created Paul Bunyan  (pronounced the same way as bonyenne)  tales as a way to keep their spirits up and be entertained as they fought against the British colonial government.  As you know, stories get spread between people, but in doing so, they don't get retold accurately.  So, as time went on, stories got more exaggerated to keep the entertainment up; or, as a way to compete amongst each other for who could be the most creative in telling a Paul Bunyan tale. 

When did they get written down? The first known publications of Paul Bunyan tales were in 1910 by James MacGillivray. Years later, a man by the name of W.B. Laughhead, published these lumberjack tales in 1916 for promotional  logging reasons and they grew in popularity far beyond just the lumbering trade.

Michigan claims Paul Bunyan began there because they  (1) Have the first known publications about Paul Bunyan by James MacGillivray; and (2) because they are the first to actually have a Paul Bunyan  observance activity in honor of him.  The first known celebrations of Paul Bunyan Day date back to 1938, with the first Paul Bunyan Dance at the Saline Valley Farms, with a small group of foresters.  As the popularity grew, the dance changed from square dance to waltzes, jitterbugs and so on.  Although most of these dances were held in February, on  November 20, 1943 at the University of Michigan  they held a formal dance in the Michigan Union Ballroom, with a cider bar (no alcohol!).   But, they also had a sawing contest with male and female partners as well.  This event was very popular and attracted up to 100 couples.  The winner received a grand prize of two U.S. War Bonds! Other Paul Bunyan dances featured square dancing and jug bands.  The dances died off for a while. But, have been revised by the School of Natural Resources, University of Michigan off and on.

Safety Pup Day

In 1955, after learning that more children die of accidental causes than of all the communicable diseases combined, H.R. Wilkinson, a Jackson, Michigan business executive, began visiting police agencies and schools to explore ideas for mitigating this tragedy.

Wilkinson and his wife, Glennis, borrowed $500 from a friend and began their effort to reduce, through prevention education, the number of children dying from accidents. Their nonprofit organization, originally named Police Safety Service, was soon changed to Child Safety Council and then National Child Safety Council (NCSC).

NCSC, still maintains its headquarters in Jackson, is the world's largest and oldest nonprofit organization dedicated entirely to the safety of children. Employees and its headquarters provide 300+ different pieces of informational material about child safety, drug abuse prevention, and locating missing children.

Approximately 6,000 public safety agencies in more than 40 states use the materials to serve more than 16 million children annually, assisted by NCSC's network of over 50 safety counselors. NCSC is the only child safety organization with safety counselors working to support public safety agencies and schools nationwide in their educational efforts.

Also unique is NCSC's in-house Research and Development Department which provides the most extensive resource of safety education materials in the world. Its experienced educators, artists, writers, and technicians create hundreds of original NCSC books, games, live entertainment, assembly materials, audiotapes, book covers, stickers, and other educational materials.

As a 501(c)(3) federal and state exempt nonprofit charitable organization, NCSC is supported exclusively by donations. Over 150,000 businesses support NCSC materials, and the organization enjoys a contributor renewal rate of over 95%.

In the 1970s, NCSC pioneered efforts to prevent alcohol and other drug abuse at a time when few organizations were committed to such initiatives. In 1984, NCSC again took the lead in efforts to help locate missing and abducted children by establishing its Missing Children Milk Carton Program. NCSC also spearheaded nationwide efforts to fingerprint children. Other highly successful NCSC materials include Race Against Drugs® (a partnership in drug education by American Motorsports and the FBI) and Kid Safe® (a hospital educational program).

NCSC's nationally recognized character, Safetypup®, serves as an entertaining, nonthreatening educational tool for law enforcement officers and teachers across the United States.