Posts Tagged ‘holidays and observances’

Independence Day! 10 Official Symbols of the USA

It’s the Fourth of July! And thoughts of this holiday can, of course, take one in many directions: the Founding Fathers, family gatherings, the struggles over the years to maintain peace and prosperity, etc. But today, let’s take a look at 10 iconic symbols that have become synonymous with the U.S. over its 240-plus years of existence.

U.S. National Symbols Research Topic

U.S. National Symbols Research Topic via ProQuest’s eLibrary

  1. Liberty Bell  Located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, this iconic symbol of American independence was originally commissioned in 1752.
  2. The Great Seal  The seal was created by the Founding Fathers to reflect the beliefs and values they attached to the new nation.
  3. Old Glory  Betsy Ross was reported to have sewn the first American flag in May of 1776.
  4. Bald Eagle  The American bald eagle was chosen as the National Bird in 1782, chiefly for its majestic beauty and strength.
  5. Uncle Sam  The U.S. got this nickname in 1813. The name is linked to Samuel Wilson, who supplied food to the US Army during the War of 1812.
  6. Statue of Liberty  This gift from France was dedicated in New York City in 1886, and was declared a National Monument by President Coolidge in 1924.
  7. The Pledge of Allegiance  This Oath of Loyalty was originally written in 1892 by clergyman Francis Bellamy. It was amended in 1954 to include the words “under God.”
  8. “In God We Trust”  This became the nation’s official motto in July 1956 after President Eisenhower signed it into law.
  9. The Mighty Oak  The oak tree became the national tree of the U.S. in 2004 after Americans voted for it via the National Arbor Day Foundation.
  10. Bison  In 2016, President Obama signed into law the National Bison Legacy Act, marking the bison as the country’s official mammal.
Independence Day Research Topic

Independence Day Research Topic via ProQuest’s eLibrary

For further information on these and so many other facets of Independence Day, just go to eLibrary and get started. If you don’t as yet have a subscription to ProQuest products, you can request a free trial here!


New Year’s by the Numbers

New Year's Eve Times Square

New Year’s Eve at Times Square
Photo credit: Anthony Quintano / iWoman / CC BY

How do you ring in the New Year? 62 percent of Americans say they stay home on New Year’s Eve, spending it with family and friends, 22% admit to falling asleep before midnight, while around 10% don’t celebrate the holiday at all. Common traditions include attending parties, eating special New Year’s foods, watching fireworks displays and making resolutions for the new year. While 45% of Americans make resolutions, only about 8% achieve them. Many people commemorate the arrival of the New Year with a champagne toast, judging by the 360 million glasses of sparkling wine that are consumed in the U.S. each year during the holiday season. Around a million people crowd into New York City’s Times Square on New Year’s Eve to watch the iconic lighted ball drop–joined by nearly 6 in 10 Americans and a billion others globally who view all or some of the televised broadcast of the festivities.

Float at Rose Bowl Parade.

Float at Rose Bowl Parade
Photo credit: Joe Mac1 / IWoman / CC BY

On New Year’s Day, many American cities hold parades. Since 1906, the people of Philadelphia have celebrated the New Year with a parade that features 15,000 Mummers in colorful and lavish costumes who dance, spin and twirl down Broad Street after a year of secret planning. This year marks the 126th Rose Bowl Parade in Pasadena, California, which includes floral floats and marching bands and is viewed by over 80 million people around the world. The average float contains more flowers than a typical American florist will sell in five years, with up to 18 million flowers used to create all the floats that appear in the parade.

SIRS Knowledge Source offers editorially-selected and credible internet resources on vital issues and topics. You can search for sites by keyword/natural language, subject headings, or topic. Check out some of the sites below to find more information on the history and traditions of the New Year’s holiday.

New Year’s

New Year’s Traditions

New Year’s Eve in Times Square

Pasadena Tournament of Roses

Memorial Day Resources in eLibrary

ProQuest Memorial Research Topic Page

ProQuest Memorial Day Research Topic Page via eLibrary

How much do you know about Memorial Day?  Take this quick quiz to find out.

If you didn’t do very well, you’re not alone, and that is why in 2000, the National Moment of Remembrance was introduced following polls that showed that many people were misinformed about the history and reason for the holiday. At 3 p.m. local time every Memorial Day, people around the U.S. stop everything for one minute of silence and reflection about the people who have died in military service to their country.

While there is debate about what place has claim to the first Memorial Day observance, it is known that the first nationwide occurrence was in 1868, when the Grand Army of the Republic’s General John A. Logan designated May 30 as a day “for strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet churchyard in the land.” Logan was likely inspired by the tradition southern ladies had adopted during and after the Civil War of honoring fallen Confederates, a tradition which itself had grown partially out of the grim task of re-interring soldiers who had been hastily buried in farmers’ fields during the war. The name “Memorial Day” was officially established by Congress in 1967, and in 1971, as a result of the Federal Uniform Holidays Act, it was moved from May 30 to the last Monday in May.

The three-day weekend of Memorial Day is known for cookouts, parades, sales and the Indianapolis 500, but many would prefer that people focus on the true meaning of the day, and many do so.

If you are doing an assignment on Memorial Day or are looking for materials for your classroom, see the links in the text above and also check out the following eLibrary resources. Of course, you can always using Basic and Advanced searches to find out more on this and other topics.

Research Topics:

Arlington National Cemetery

Gettysburg Address

Marine Corps Memorial

Memorial Day

National World War II Memorial

Tomb of the Unknowns

Veterans Day

Vietnam Veterans Memorial

World War II


Books (linked tables of contents):

The American Revolution: A History in Documents

The Civil War: A History in Documents

The Vietnam War: A History in Documents

World War I: A History in Documents


Website (via eLibrary)

Library of Congress: Memorial Day



Earth Day History

For more than four decades, people in the United States have marked April 22 as Earth Day, which celebrates the planet and promotes environmental protection. Since 1990, it has been a global event that is said to be the largest secular holiday in the world, with more than a billion observers.


What is today known as Earth Day was founded in 1970 by U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson. The stirrings of the ecology movement had begun in the 1960s, largely due to theEarth Day 1970 in New York City publication of “Silent Spring,” Rachel Carson’s 1962 book about the environmental impacts of the pesticide DDT. Seizing upon the tactics of the anti-Vietnam War movement, Nelson hoped to use public demonstrations to bring environmental issues to the national attention and into the political arena. The date of April 22 was chosen in order to maximize the participation of college students in what Nelson termed “teach-ins,” and, with the help of national coordinator Denis Hayes, Earth Day events involving 20 million people were organized across the country.

Going Global

Over the years, Earth Day continued to grow, and in 1990, Hayes was tapped to organize the 20th-year event, which took Earth Day global to 200 million people in 141 countries. At the 30-year mark, Hayes led the push for awareness about global warming and clean energy in an Earth Day that reached 184 countries. On Earth Day 2010, around quarter of a million people gathered at the National Mall in Washington DC for a Climate Rally.


As a result of his environmental efforts and founding of Earth Day, Gaylord Nelson was presented with the National Medal of Freedom by President Bill Clinton in 1995. His creation, which now is said to reach a billion people in more than 192 nations, is widely credited with leading to the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act. While some over the years have wrestled with what Earth Day is, what it should be and what its impact is, there is no doubt that it has struck a nerve with people across the globe and has helped bring environmental awareness to the mainstream.

Follow the links above and below to see some of eLibrary’s resources related to this topic and others, but don’t stop there. Use eLibrary’s Basic and Advanced search tools, Topic browse and Research Topics browse to find much more.

Research Topics:

Earth Day Research Topic

Earth Day Research Topic

Environmentalism, Pollution, Air Pollution, Water Pollution, Projects & Experiments: Ecology, Religion and the Environment

Topic Browse sections:

Ecology, Pollution

The First Kwanzaa

(Credit: The Official Kwanzaa Web Site)

The first Kwanzaa, an African American celebration of life, was celebrated in 1966. Kwanzaa is based on the year-end harvest festivals that have taken place throughout Africa for thousands of years. The name comes from the Swahili phrase matunda ya kwanza, which means “first fruits of the harvest.” Dr. Maulana Karenga, professor and chairman of Black Studies at California State University, Long Beach, created Kwanzaa as a way to bring African-Americans together, and emphasize the role of the family and community in African-American culture.

Each of the seven days of Kwanzaa (December 26-January 1) honors a different principle–unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith. A different candle on a seven-branched candle holder (kinara) is lit each day. Three candles on the left are green; three on the right are red; and in the middle is a black candle. These three colors were important symbols in ancient Africa. Green represents the fertile land of Africa; black is for the color of the people; and red stands for the blood that is shed in the struggle for freedom. Along with the seven principles (nguzo saba) and the seven days of Kwanzaa, there are seven symbols that are used to represent the meaningful themes of the holiday. These seven items are arranged in an area set up as a Kwanzaa altar or table in the home. The celebration also includes the giving of gifts and a karamu, or African feast, held on December 31.

ProQuest’s SIRS Knowledge Source allows educators and students to learn more about the history and traditions of Kwanzaa by exploring resources like these:

More Cultural Than Religious, Kwanzaa Rooted in Tradition

Why We Celebrate–or Don’t Celebrate–Kwanzaa

Rooted in Africa, but Made in U.S.A.

Remembering Pearl Harbor

Tracking the Japanese Attack

Tracking the Japanese Attack, 1941

Saturday, December 7 will mark the 72nd anniversary of the Japanese attack on the American naval base at Pearl Harbor. In honor of this solemn occasion, here are five interesting facts—plucked directly from the extensive resources of eLibrary—that can help provide historical context and promote general knowledge about that fateful day.

  1. Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, the principal architect of the attack, had initially wished to avoid hostilities with the United States. However, when the political climate in Japan made war with America inevitable, Yamamoto insisted on a lightning-fast strike against the Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor, believing it the best way to neutralize the U.S. and ensure Japan a free hand in the Pacific.
  2. The attack consisted of two waves of bombing aircraft and utilized over 350 planes. It began at around 7:50am on Sunday December 7 and lasted for 110 minutes.
  3. Kazuo Sakamaki became the first Japanese prisoner of war captured by the United States after his submarine, HA-19, was seized. After the war, he was denounced by many Japanese who felt he should have committed suicide rather than allow himself to be taken prisoner.
  4. The attack took place before any formal declaration of war had been issued by Japan—but this was not Admiral Yamamoto’s intention. He originally stipulated that the attack should not commence until thirty minutes after Japan had informed the United States that peace negotiations were at an end. In fact, Tokyo had transmitted the information in a 12-part, 5,000-word notification to the Japanese Embassy in Washington, but transcribing the message took too long for the Japanese ambassador to deliver it in time.
  5. When Japanese airman Shigenori Nishikaichi crash-landed on the island of Niihau, he was relieved of his pistol, maps and other documents by a native Hawaiian. Nishikaichi subsequently enlisted the support of three Japanese-American residents in an attempt to recover the items. During ensuing struggles, Nishikaichi was killed and a Hawaiian civilian was wounded. The apparent ease with which the local ethnic Japanese residents went to the assistance of Nishikaichi became a source of concern for many, fueling the sentiment that local Japanese could not be trusted.

For an overview of this event, check out eLibrary’s Research Topic on Pearl Harbor.

Pearl Harbor Research Topic

Thanksgivukkah: Eight Days of Lights, Seven Days of Leftovers

Question: What upcoming convergence has only occurred once before, is of particular significance for American Jews, and is the perfect time to try out that recipe for sweet potato latkes?


Go tell Aunt Vivica,
it’s Thanksgivukkah!

Answer: The joint celebration of Thanksgiving and Hanukkah, a.k.a. Thanksgivukkah!

This year, for the first time since 1888, the launch of the Jewish Festival of Lights will coincide with the All-American holiday of family, food and football. In addition to being a once-in-a-lifetime excuse to create clever portmanteau neologisms (such as “Thanksgivukkah” and “menurkey”), the event provides an excellent opportunity to teach and learn (perhaps starting with the meanings of “portmanteau” and “neologism”).

eLibrary can help with that.

Curious users can begin with a perusal of our Research Topics on Thanksgiving and Hanukkah. There they can investigate the history and traditions of both holidays, learning what makes them unique, as well as what similarities they share.

Further exploration can help one figure out how to balance the individual rituals of these overlapping observances, find appropriate mealtime mash-ups, or see how these celebrations of bounty and religious freedom complement one another in surprising ways.

Thanksgivukkah is a hybrid holiday for the ages—the confluence of dressing and dreidels won’t come again for another 79,000 years. But if you gear up with eLibrary before you sit down with family and friends, you’ll be ready to ring in the day with a mighty Gobble Tov!

Exploring Ramadan


Today marks the first full day of Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and a time of both joy and reflection.

RamadanThe act of fasting, or sawn, during the holy month of Ramadan is the fourth pillar of Islam. Ordained in the Qur’an, the fast is a practice of deep personal worship in which Muslims seek a richer perception of God. Fasting is also an exercise in self-control, whereby one’s sensitivity is heightened to the sufferings of the poor. Ramadan begins with the sighting of the new moon, after which abstention from eating, drinking, smoking and other sensual pleasures is obligatory from sun up to sun down.

Break the fastMuslims break their fast at sunset with a special meal called iftar. Tarawih, extra congregational prayers, are performed after evening prayer and often the streets fill with activities that are communal and festive.

The end of Ramadan is observed in a spirit of joyous achievement by four days of celebration called Eid Al-Fitr, the Feast of the Breaking of the Fast.

eLibrary features a Research Topic page on Ramadan, as well as many other edifying and enlightening resources that explore this holy observance and related concepts.

— J. Erick Sinkhorn

Happy Canada Day


Most people know the Fourth of July as the day celebrating American Independence.  Did you know that Canada also has a day celebrating its “birth?”  That day is July 1, Canada Day, and it is marked with observances throughout Canada.  This national holiday recognizes the anniversary of the enactment of the British North America Act on July 1, 1867 when three colonies – Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and the Province of Canada – were united into the country now called Canada.

eLibrary includes a wealth of Canadian resources.  Timely current news can be found in newspapers covering the breadth of Canada from the Vancouver Sun in British Columbia and the Toronto Star in Ontario to the Montreal Gazette in Quebec.  Magazines such as Canadian Geographic and reference works like Canada Business provide historical and current topical information useful for research.  Canadian-focused Research Topics run the gamut of Canadian Identity to First Nations of Canada.

O Canada! Our home and native land! True patriot love in all thy sons command. With glowing hearts we see thee rise, The True North Strong and free! From far and wide, O Canada, we stand on guard for thee. God keep our land glorious and free! O Canada, we stand on guard for thee. O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

To our neighbors to the north we say Bonne fête du Canada!



Juneteenth.  It sounds like a made-up word.  However, Juneteenth is indeed real.  It is the recognition of the abolition of slavery in Texas on June 19, 1865.  On this date, Union troops landed at Galveston and brought news of the emancipation which had been suppressed for 2 ½ years.  The Emancipation Proclamation issued by President Abraham Lincoln had become official on January 1, 1863, but it had little impact in Texas because there were not enough Union troops to enforce it.  That was until June 19, 1865.

US NEWS JUNETEENTH 4 PHToday 42 states recognize Juneteenth as a state holiday or a day of observance.  All former Confederate and slave holding states observe Juneteenth in some fashion.  It is the oldest known celebration commemorating the end of slavery in the United States.  Festivities include picnics and prayer services with a focus on African American achievement.

As the United States celebrates the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, let us not forget those who endured 2 ½ more years for their day of freedom to come.  Also, let us not forget those who labored for the passage of a law abolishing slavery, the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which became official December 6, 1865.