Monday, December 31, 2012

On the Seventh Day of Christmas....

What are you doing New Year's Eve?

Well, before we get to the ball-dropping or the champagne-tasting, horn-blowing and noise-making, many of us have to get through a work day.

Today is Monday, after all.

It is also No Interruptions Day -- which you'll probably notice, if you are at work, because so many of your colleagues aren't.

Usual Suspect Holiday Insights says today one of the several who proclaim today Make Up Your Mind Day. Of course, it's probably good to be decisive every day.

We think.


And this will shock you: Today is also National Champagne Day.

However you make up your mind today about all the good things you'll accomplish in the coming year, there is a danger that all may be washed away this evening in a flood tide of champagne.

Be careful out there.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

On the Sixth Day of Christmas....

It's Bacon Day today, a celebration of all things bacon.

Your arteries may not thank you, but (if you're a bacon-lover) your stomach may.

If your stomach does not thank you, today is also National Bicarbonate of Soda Day.

Today is also the anniversary of the Iroquois Theater Fire of 1903.

Have you ever noticed how all the doors inside a theater open outward, from the theater into the lobby?

It was not always so. In Chicago, the brand new Iroquois Theater was billed as 'absolutely fireproof,' but it turned out to be anything but.

The fire started backstage -- a light shorted out or something -- and, although the actors scattered at the first whiff of smoke, star Eddie Foy came back on stage and tried to urge calm. (Bob Hope played Foy in The Seven Little Foys.)

Foy told the audience that the asbestos fire curtain would be lowered to smother the fire. Experts later said that the 'asbestos' curtain was more paper or wood pulp than asbestos and wouldn't have worked if it had been lowered. But it wasn't lowered. It got stuck on the way down -- and that's when the stampede seems to have started.

The linked article puts the death toll at 591; the linked Wikipedia article puts it the toll at "at least 605." Either way, panicked theater patrons piled up against locked exit doors -- inward facing exit doors -- and were trampled, or smothered, by others piling up behind them.

The saddest part was that the owners and builders of this theater knew, or should have known, of the dangers they'd created.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

On the Fifth Day of Christmas....

We have Tick Tock Day today, whatever that might be. Presumably it refers to the rapidly waning year -- have you achieved we set out to do in 2012? If not, tick tock, time's running out.

Talk about your pressure-packed observances.

It might be better to celebrate National Pepper Pot Day, as most of the Usual Suspects suggest. The name refers to a thick soup that became popular during the American Revolution when everything available was thrown into the pot. Leading, inexorably, to the question from someone -- go ahead, get it over with: Is that why the soldiers at Valley Forge had no shoes?

On this day in 1170, King Henry II found someone to rid him of that turbulent priest, Thomas à Becket. Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury, was murdered in his cathedral on this date 842 years ago.

Canonized a saint in the Catholic and Anglican churches, Becket's murder is remembered in plays by T.S. Eliot ("Murder in the Cathedral") and Jean Anouilh ("Becket"), the latter becoming a motion picture starring Peter O'Toole and Richard Burton.

Friday, December 28, 2012

On the Fourth Day of Christmas....

Oh, sure, the stores in the mall took down all the trees and tinsel and started putting up their spring and summer displays as soon as the doors closed on Christmas Eve, but we are still, technically, in the 12 Days of Christmas.

Remember when we used to wish that the 'Christmas spirit' would last throughout the year? Now we can't even get it to last throughout Christmastime.

Many of the Usual Suspects also proclaim today Pledge of Allegiance Day, but the Pledge has been modified here and there, in this way and that way, since it was first composed in 1892 by Francis Bellamy. (The addition of the words "under God" in 1954 were not the only change. Just to cite one example, Bellamy's original salute to the flag had to be abandoned in World War II because it looked too much like the Nazi salute.) The linked Wikipedia article doesn't suggest any particularly prominent event in the history of the Pledge that would tie in with today's date. Our crack research staff has found other online references to Congress taking some action to adopt the Pledge on this date in 1945, but has so far been unable to confirm this. Indeed, the linked article suggests that Congress had recognized the Pledge at least since June 1942.

Several of the usual suspects also consider today Card Playing Day. We don't know why today may have been singled out for this purpose either.

We also don't know why today may have been designated National Chocolate Candy Day. In this case, however, we don't care. We will celebrate anyway.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

On the Third Day of Christmas...

We warned you last month that National Fruitcake Month would be celebrated in December.

Well, today, is the culmination of all those wild fruitcake festivities... National Fruitcake Day.

We hope you've been keeping up. And, remember, if you're one of the unfortunate few who actually received a fruitcake at Christmas, be sure to re-gift it as soon as possible.

We have to keep these things in circulation as much as possible -- otherwise someone might make more of 'em.

Today is also Make Cut Out Snowflakes Day -- but only if you're allowed to use the scissors with the pointy ends.

Some of us are, and some of us aren't.

And today is the 33rd Anniversary of the Soviet takeover of Afghanistan. After seizing power in 1979, the USSR got caught up in a decade of never-ending, debilitating warfare. In fact, the stress and strain of the USSR's Afghan adventure is often cited as one of the major factors in the eventual collapse of the Soviet Union.

Fortunately, the United States learned from the Soviet mistake.

No... wait... actually, we've been stuck there longer.


Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Kwanzaa begins today -- St. Stephen's Day and lots more

The celebration of Kwanzaa begins today and runs through January 1.

Today is Boxing Day in Britain and other Commonwealth Nations -- a day having nothing to do with the 'sweet science' of the 'Squared Circle,' by the way.

Today is also St. Stephen's Day, the first martyr for Christianity, sometimes referred to as the Protomartyr. His martyrdom is recorded in Chapter 7 of the Acts of the Apostles. Saul of Tarsus (later, St. Paul) took an active role in Stephen's murder.

It was on St. Stephen's Day, too, that Good King Wenceslas looked out... remember? When the snow lay roundabout, deep and crisp and even....

Today is the Second Day of Christmas, Thank You Note Day, Awful Tie Day, National Whiner's Day and National Recyclable Packaging Day. You're not sending all that wrapping paper and tissue to a landfill, are you?

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

It's not Jesus's Birthday today, but we celebrate it anyway

Today is Christmas and most Christians today celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.

Jesus is the Reason for the Season.

Only... only... Jesus was almost certainly not born on this date. He probably was born in the late winter or early spring, somewhere between 7 and 4 B.C.

The birthday of the Roman Sun god, Sol Invictus, may have been celebrated on December 25 and early Christians, in classic Roman fashion, may have co-opted the day and re-imagined it for their purposes, but the linked Wikipedia article is less certain about this than you may have expected. (The Emperor Constantine may have fought the Battle of Milvian Bridge in A.D. 312 after receiving a vision of the Christian Cross, but Constantine was not exclusively a Christian during his reign: The linked Wikipedia article is pretty darned certain that it was the Emperor Constantine who, in A.D. 321, declared Sunday, dies Solis, the Roman day of rest in honor of the Sun god.)

However the date was selected, though, today is Christmas and we here at The Blog of Days wish you and yours a merry one.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Not only is today Christmas Eve, it's also....

Christmas does crowd almost everything else off the calendar at this point, but today is also National Eggnog Day. And some proclaim today Sneak-a-Peek Day, which presumably refers to presents under your tree, and not your neighbor's bedroom window.

Mental Floss reminds us that the Treaty of Ghent was signed on this day in 1814. What was the Treaty of Ghent, you ask?

Well, this was the treaty that was supposed to end the War of 1812. Only the treaty didn't end the war, not right away, because it took awhile for word to get back to the United States generally and to the American and British armies specifically. In the meantime, the Battle of New Orleans would be fought on January 8, 1815.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

A sticom holiday, a day to consider your roots

Today is Festivus, a microminiholidayette made popular in the United States in 1997 by the television sitcom Seinfeld.

Writer Dan O'Keefe invented Festivus to commemorate his first date with his future wife, Deborah, back in 1966. Their son Daniel became a writer on the Seinfeld show and borrowed the idea for a script. The Wikipedia article on the subject suggests that the younger Mr. O'Keefe embellished quite a bit on his father's concept, and what he didn't embellish he made up out of whole cloth.

But you can put up your own aluminum pole today if you wish. We won't laugh at you -- not where you can see us, anyway.

Today is also Roots Day, a day to remember and celebrate and perhaps even explore your origins. At this time of year, as families gather together, what could be more appropriate, right?

Usual Suspect Hallmark suggests that today is National Pfeffernusse Day, pfeffernusse, apparently, being some sort of a German cookie.

According to Wikipedia, the classic Christmas poem "A Visit from St. Nicholas" ('Twas the Night Before Christmas) was first published -- anonymously -- on this date in 1823.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Are we still here? Testing... Testing.... 1... 2... 3....

OK, yes, here we are. Fears of a Mayan Apocalypse seem to have been exaggerated; no rogue planetoid has apparently collided with our precious Planet Earth.

We could simply celebrate the first day of the rest of our lives, but isn't that really every day?

Several of the Usual Suspects suggest that today is Christmas Lights Day. We asked our crack research staff to inquire why December 22 should be selected for this honor.

According to a site called, it was on this date in 1882 that a colleague of Thomas A. Edison's by the name of Edward Johnson got the bright idea to wire 80 red, white and blue bulbs around a rotating Christmas tree.

Now we know who to blame for the tangles every year.

No, not Mr. Johnson. Rather, the culprit, according to IdeaFinder, is Albert Sadacca. In 1917, after a terrible fire in New York City, the young Mr. Sadacca got the idea of selling strings of lights as an alternative to using candles on Christmas trees. Albert's brothers thought this a good idea, but the public was not interested at first. However, after Albert decided to paint the bulbs green and red and other colors, sales picked up nicely, and the brothers' business became NOMA Electric Company, for many years the largest supplier of holiday lights in the world. (Our crack research staff did, however, point out that the Wikipedia biography of Mr. Sadacca is somewhat skeptical about his claims about when and where he originated the idea of using Christmas tree lights.)

Today is also National Date Nut Bread Day and, for some reason, Haiku Poetry Day. We figured we were pushing our luck asking the crack research staff to solve two mysteries in one day. Maybe we'll investigate Haiku Day next year....

Friday, December 21, 2012

Humbug Day! Oh, and maybe also the End of the World....

Humbug Day is for all those who have gotten heartily sick of Christmas preparations, holiday commercials, hearing "Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer," and all that sort of stuff. You know who you are.

In the Northern Hemisphere, today is also the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year. From here on out... well, from here on until June... the days will be getting longer again.

That is, the days will start getting longer again if there are any days left at all. There is still the question of whether the end of the latest Mayan "long count" calendar portends the end of the world. There may be other, more prosaic, explanations, as suggested above.

If the world doesn't end, you can celebrate Crossword Puzzle Day. Usual Suspect Holidays for Everyday says today is National Flashlight Day. Several of the Usual Suspects also proclaim today Forefathers Day, apparently because of the fact that, on this day in 1620, the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock. The Mayflower had, however, been cruising around the neighborhood for several weeks prior to this.

Mayan calendar cartoon obtained from this site.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Go Caroling Day

The Usual Suspects are pretty much certain that today is Go Caroling Day, surely a seasonably appropriate idea.

Usual Suspect suggests that today is also National Sangria Day. Celebrating the latter may remove any lingering inhibitions you may have about celebrating the former.

Usual Suspect American Greetings suggests that today is also Dot Your I's With Smileys Day, but we don't think there's enough sangria in the world to get us to go along with that one.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Look for an Evergreen Day

Today is Look for an Evergreen Day. You may need not to set out on a quest into the forest primeval in search of an evergreen today. Many urbanites have a Christmas tree lot that sets up somewhere in the neighborhood around this time of year. Actually, by December 19, many of these lots are looking rather sparse because the custom nowadays is to put up the tree around the time dishes are cleared from Thanksgiving dinner.

But it was not ever thus. Especially when trees were lit with real candles, it was vitally important that a real tree be truly green -- freshly cut -- so that the decorations would not set it ablaze.

Today's little holiday lights are far less hot than open flames or even the large bulbs of our childhood memories -- but electrical cords can arc and spark and almost nothing this side of a chemical lab burns with the fury of a dry Christmas tree. For information about keeping your natural Christmas tree safe, consider taking a look at this Holiday and Christmas Tree Safety page on the website of the U.S. Fire Administration.

Today is also National Hard Candy Day. That sounds festive enough, doesn't it? But today is also National Oatmeal Muffin Day. That sounds sort of, um, regular.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Plunging closer and closer to Christmas

Yes, today is National Wear a Plunger on Your Head Day -- although we can't imagine why.

Usual Suspect Hallmark strongly recommends that only hitherto unplunged plungers be worn. The wisdom of that suggestion should be self-evident, but perhaps not to those who might be inclined to wear a plunger in public today.

Usual Suspect has another weird suggestion for today: She suggests that today is Answer the Phone Like Buddy the Elf Day -- you know, when the phone rings in your office, grab it and say, "Buddy the Elf, what's your favorite color?"

With great respect to our calendrical colleague, The Blog of Days cannot recommend this as a particularly good idea. Unless, perhaps, today is your office Christmas party and the phone rings during the course of the festivities.

Safer by far is Bake Cookies Day, a seasonably appropriate suggestion. It is also National Roast Suckling Pig Day for some reason.

On this day 100 years ago, one of the greatest hoaxes in the history of paleontology was begun: The Piltdown Man was "discovered" in the Piltdown gravel pit in Sussex, England. For many years, respectable scientists thought that this was the discovery of a true 'missing link' between ape and man. As you'll read if you follow the link to Usual Suspect, it wasn't until the 1950s that an "intensive study of the remains showed that they were made up of a modern human cranium--no more than 600 years old; the jaw and teeth of an orangutan; and the tooth of a chimpanzee. Microscopic tests indicated that the teeth had been doctored with a file-like tool to make them seem more human. Scientists also found that the bones had been treated with chemicals to make them appear older."

Monday, December 17, 2012

Saturnalia, Wright Brothers Day

Image obtained from EyeWitness to
Orville and Wilbur Wright, the owners of a Dayton, Ohio bicycle shop, made mankind's first powered flight on December 17, 1903 on the dunes at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. Orville was at the controls on the very first successful flight.

It comes as no surprise, then, that today would be commemorated as Wright Brothers Day.

Today is also the Ancient Roman feast of Saturnalia. In Roman mythology, Saturn was an agricultural deity who presided over a lost Golden Age. He was identified with the Greek god Cronus, the Titan who also presided over a Golden Age -- and also ate his own children, all except Zeus (who'd been hidden from his father at birth). Zeus would later hurl a stone down his daddy's gullet causing Cronus to vomit up all Zeus's brothers.

Not a particularly lovely story, really.

But the story of the Feast of Saturnalia is more appetizing. It was a festival of lights -- lots of candles and gift-giving -- leading up to the Winter Solstice. A later Roman festival, the birthday of the god Sol Invictus, was celebrated on December 25. Hmmmm. The early Christians were nothing if not good salesmen. They knew what to adapt to their own purposes....

Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Boston Tea Party and Chocolate Covered Anything Day

Currier lithograph obtained from Wikipedia.

It was on December 16, 1773, that the Boston Sons of Liberty, dressed as Mohawk Indians, stormed onto a British ship, the Dartmouth, tied up in Boston Harbor and tossed its cargo of tea into the sea.

There were many things the British could take -- stiff upper lip and all -- but an attack on tea was simply too much. Boston Harbor was closed and the fuse leading to the start of the American Revolution burned a bit faster from this point on.

On a far more frivolous note, today is also Chocolate Covered Anything Day. We are second to none in our appreciation of chocolate -- we appreciate chocolate with at least as much fervor as the British appreciate their tea -- but we are sure that there are some things we would not care to eat, even if dipped in chocolate. Be careful not to take today's celebration too literally.

Usual Suspects and proclaim today Barbie and Barney Backlash Day. We'd never heard of it... but we like it.

Peanuts fans will also note that today is Beethoven's Birthday. Schroeder, at least, is celebrating.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Is there any 'domestic' animal less cooperative than the house cat?

Image obtained from linked Mental Floss post.
Mental Floss is among the sites touting today as National Cat Herder's Day.

Herding cats is an expression that is similar to, if less painful than, beating one's head against a wall: If it were a real occupation, there would probably be no job with a lower job satisfaction rating than that of cat herder. Even if two or more cats were inclined to go in the direction indicated by the cat herder, once they realized that this was the cat herder's wish, the felines would be constitutionally incapable of complying.

And speaking of the Constitution (and how's that for a smooth, professional transition, eh?) today is also The Bill of Rights Day. First proclaimed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1941, this observance commemorates Virginia's adoption of the Bill of Rights on December 15, 1791. Virginia's action caused the Bill of Rights to become effective today, 221 years ago.

Friday, December 14, 2012

On this day 40 years ago, America left the Moon

Image obtained from

Captain Eugene A. Cernan, USN, a Chicago native, was the last man on the Moon. As he stood at the base of the Lunar Lander before climbing in for the last time he made this statement, "[A]s I take man's last step from the surface, back home for some time to come - but we believe not too long into the future - I'd like to just (say) what I believe history will record. That America's challenge of today has forged man's destiny of tomorrow. And, as we leave the Moon at Taurus-Littrow, we leave as we came and, God willing, as we shall return, with peace and hope for all mankind. 'Godspeed the crew of Apollo 17.'"

How long is too long?

At 5:55 p.m. EST on December 14, 1972, Cernan and Harrison Schmitt (a professional geologist), blasted off from the lunar surface in the ascent stage of the Lunar Module Challenger.

America had left the Moon.

Our future has been on hold ever since.

Of course, you may not have come here to be challenged this morning; you want to know about today's microminiholidayettes. Well, it's Monkey Day, National Salesperson Day, and National Bouillabaisse Day.

Celebrate any or all if you wish. But our thoughts are on the abandoned Moon today, and the future we should have had.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

National Cocoa Day, Violin Day and Pick a Pathologist Pal Day... and that's just for starters

A glut of microminiholidayettes on the docket this morning, including:
  • National Cocoa Day,
  • Violin Day, and
  • Pick a Pathologist Pal Day.
We can understand a National Cocoa Day in December. But why celebrate violins today? No one seems to know. And when and how was it determined that pathologists were so friendless and alone that we had to set one day aside each year to make overtures in their general direction?

And those are just for starters. It's also National Ice Cream Day and, according to Usual Suspect American Greetings, Clip-on Tie Day.

We were frankly skeptical that clip-on ties were even still available -- some Baby Boomers may remember them from the 1960s when these were worn with parochial school uniforms -- but our crack research staff quickly discovered any number of sites selling clip-on ties today.

Many of these sites seem to be security-related -- which makes sense -- there's no choking hazard if a bad guy grabs a cop's clip-on tie. But seriously, does anyone else wear these besides cops and rent-a-cops? Why?

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

It's Poinsettia Day you ding-a-lings

No, we're not getting abusive or insulting.

Today is both Poinsettia Day and National Ding-A-Ling Day

You're looking now at a picture of Joel Roberts Poinsett, Secretary of War in President Martin Van Buren's cabinet, and, before that, the first American Minister to Mexico (ambassadors were sometimes called ministers in those days).

While serving in Mexico, Poinsett became aware of a local flower that was used in Christmas decorations. Samples he sent home became known in the United States as poinsettias. Today is remembered as Poinsettia Day because Mr. Poinsett died on this day in 1851.

National Ding-A-Ling Day, on the other hand, is allegedly the brainchild of the Ding-A-Ling Club, which may or may not have roots, or at least a post office box, in the Chicago suburb of Melrose Park. (Our crack research staff was unable to confirm this -- they tell us there are a dozen websites that give out an address, but none seem to be a site established by the alleged club itself.)

A couple of the Usual Suspects also say today is Gingerbread House Day -- very important to Hansel and Gretel, perhaps, but not necessarily that relevant to anyone else.

Fr. Edward J. Flanagan founded Boys Town in Omaha, Nebraska on this date in 1917. Boys Town still exists in Omaha, but today there are other Boys Town locations around the country as well.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

International Mountain Day and National Noodle Ring Day

International Mountain Day is yet another UN observance. It promotes "sustainable mountain development," which presumably means don't-build-on-hillsides-that-will-wash-away-in-the-rainy-season.

Not particularly exciting, is it? Unless, of course, you're standing on or at the bottom of a mountainside on which someone really should not have built. Then it can get exciting in a hurry.

But the alternatives for celebration today are limited. Usual Suspect Hallmark offers National Noodle Ring Day as a substitute.

No, we didn't know what a "noodle ring" was either -- but Hallmark explains that a noodle ring "is made by mixing eggs and noodles together with ketchup, Worcestershire sauce and cheese and then, inexplicably, smashing the concoction into a ring mold to bake. In some variations, once the ring is released from the mold and properly plated, the center of the ring can then be filled with creamed chicken."

On this day 76 years ago, Britain's King Edward VIII abdicated his throne so that he'd be free to marry a divorcee from Baltimore. It sounds like such a sweet love story -- until one learns that Edward basically abandoned his military post in France during World War II and went into exile with his bride in Fascist Spain. Hitler had notions of kidnapping Eddie there and restoring him to the British throne when he crossed the Channel and conquered the nation.

Churchill had other ideas, both about Edward and Hitler crossing the Channel. He got Eddie and his duchess pulled out Spain and installed Eddie as Governor General of Bermuda, there being no more trivial job available, at least none which could be conducted under the careful and constant supervision of the United States.

And, speaking of the United States, you'll recall that we observed the 71st anniversary of Pearl Harbor on the 7th. The Japanese attack left Franklin Delano Roosevelt in a quandary. President Roosevelt had long known that the United States would have to become involved in World War II, but he agreed with Churchill that Hitler was the greater menace. But how could FDR sell the nation on a plan to eradicate Hitler first after Japan attacked America?

It was on this day 71 years ago that Hitler helped Roosevelt out of his dilemma: On December 11, 1941, Hitler declared war on America.

Monday, December 10, 2012

December 10 is Human Rights Day

Yes, Human Rights Day is another annual UN observance. This year, the UN says,
the spotlight is on the rights of all people — women, youth, minorities, persons with disabilities, indigenous people, the poor and marginalized — to make their voices heard in public life and be included in political decision-making.

These human rights — the rights to freedom of opinion and expression, to peaceful assembly and association, and to take part in government (articles 19, 20 and 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights) have been at the centre of the historic changes in the Arab world over the past two years, in which millions have taken to the streets to demand change. In other parts of the world, the “99%” made their voices heard through the global Occupy movement protesting economic, political and social inequality.

Make your voice count!

Share your thoughts about the right to participate in public life and political decision-making, using #VoiceCount.
Usual Suspect says today is also National Lager Day but, then again, seems to have a lot of beer-flavored microminiholidayettes -- American Beer Day on October 27, for example, and International Beer Day on August 5.

Nevertheless, if you are so inclined, you can combine these two events, we suppose, by celebrating your human right to a beer after work.

Alfred Nobel, the inventor of TNT (the explosive, not the cable network), died on this day in 1896. The first Nobel Prizes were awarded on this date in 1901. For these reasons, some of the Usual Suspects also designate today as Nobel Prize Day.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

International Anti-Corruption Day and a remarkable coincidence

Image of former Gov. Blagojevich obtained here.
Today we observe yet another UN microminiholidayette, International Anti-Corruption Day.

The day has been on the calendar since the early 2000s -- and, so it was, early in the morning of International Anti-Corruption Day 2008 that Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich was dragged from his Chicago home by the FBI, charged with plotting to sell the U.S. Senate seat about to vacated by then-President-Elect Barack Obama. (He would eventually be convicted of these charges.)

History is just chock full of little ironies like that, isn't it?

Today is also National Pastry Day: Buy yourself some doughnuts today instead of eating the Christmas cookies faster than your spouse can bake them.

There are a couple of even more obvious Christmas tie-ins today: National Salesperson's Day (be nice to the help at the mall today; it's not their fault that the store's run out of all the nice sweaters in your mother-in-law's size) and -- as if anyone needed any extra holiday pressure -- Christmas Card Day. (What? Your holiday cards aren't already addressed and stamped and in the mail? What are you doing playing around online? Get back to work!)

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Feast of the Immaculate Conception today, Hanukkah begins tonight

Two religious observances lead today's list.

For Catholics, today is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, generally a Holy Day of Obligation (meaning Catholics are expected to attend Mass today -- and we still have to go tomorrow, too!).

Given the proximity of this feast to Christmas, non-Catholics instantly think that this feast must have something to do with the birth of Jesus -- and it does, but not in the way many think.

Today Catholics celebrate the conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of Jesus, conceived without Original Sin so that she would be the perfect vessel to bring the Savior into the world. Although the feast of the Immaculate Conception has been widely celebrated in the Catholic Church for centuries, the Immaculate Conception did not become church doctrine until proclaimed as such by Pope Pius IX in 1854.

This evening, Jews begin the celebration of Hanukkah, commemorating the restoration of the Temple in Jerusalem in the year 167 B.C.E. The feast lasts for eight days.

It is traditional to give small gifts -- books or coins or candy (often coin-shaped candy) on each night of Hanukkah. And there's an awful lot of chocolate Hanukkah gelt, marked down for clearance after the holiday, that has, over the years, somehow found its way into the stockings of good little Catholic boys and girls on Christmas mornings.

December 8 is also National Brownie Day; Christmas baking season is in full swing.

John Lennon was murdered on this date in 1980. Some of the Usual Suspects proclaim today Imagine Day in commemoration.

But Usual Suspect may have the most intriguing microminiholidayette suggestion for today: She says today is Pretend To Be A Time Traveler Day. Let's see... how would this work? Well, you could approach some random woman shopping with her kids today in the mall. Jump in front of her, halting the family's progress, and make a show of consulting your wristwatch. Count down, "5... 4... 3... 2... 1. OK." Look relieved. Tell the woman, "I think the moment has passed." Then, just before you melt away into the crowd, look back and say, "You will be very proud of your child in the future. We certainly are."

Of course, if you try this stunt, don't come looking for anyone at The Blog of Days to bail you out....

Friday, December 7, 2012

Pearl Harbor Day

Image obtained from the National Park Services

On Sunday morning, December 7, 1941, the Japanese attacked the American Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor. The Empire of Japan had not previously declared war on the United States; a lengthy ultimatum was being decoded and typed up at the Japanese Embassy in Washington even as the 353 Japanese fighters, bombers and torpedo planes rained down devastation on Hawaii, killing 2,403 Americans, including 68 civilians; 1,177 died on the U.S.S. Arizona alone.

You may vaguely recall that American General Billy Mitchell predicted a Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in the 1920s. But the Japanese took particular inspiration, in drawing up their battle plans, from the British attack on the Italian Navy at Taranto in November 1940.

In addition to the linked Wikipedia articles, you may find the National Park Service site for the Arizona Memorial and related Pearl Harbor Historic Sites helpful today as you remember Pearl Harbor. Resources for teachers and students are linked from that site as well.

Other observances today are not nearly as significant, although today might be International Civil Aviation Day -- but that's a link to a reference to a 2011 observance; it doesn't seem to be on the UN calendar this year.

Of course, anyone who's flown recently knows that air travel is less civil than ever.

Usual Suspect suggests that today is Teacher Appreciation Day; several of the Usual Suspects say today is also Letter Writing Day. Combine the two by writing a letter of appreciation to a favorite teacher.

But don't write your letter while celebrating National Cotton Candy Day (also today); you'll just make a mess.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

St. Nicholas Day and Put On Your Own Shoes Day

These have got to be related, right?

After all, many kids put out their shoes on the evening of December 5, hoping St. Nicholas might fill them up with candy or other goodies (all thoroughly wrapped, we hope!) for them to find this morning.

Put On Your Own Shoes Day sounds like fair warning to one and all not to swipe what the good saint may have left for someone else, right?

Some of the Usual Suspects also call today Miners Day, perhaps in commemoration of the Monongah Coal Mine Disaster. On this day in 1907, a series of explosions in the Fairmont Coal Company mines in Monongah, West Virginia would kill 361 coal miners, the worst mining disaster in American history.

Today is also National Microwave Oven Day. Our crack research staff could find no particular connection between the now-ubiquitous American kitchen appliance and December 6 but, according to Wikipedia, in 1947, the inventor of the microwave, Percy Spencer, received all of $2 from his employer, Raytheon Corporation, when the patents on Spencer's invention were issued... to Raytheon.

It's not all bad, though. Spencer did rise to become a senior VP of the company and a member of the company's board of directors.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Anniversary of the Repeal of Prohibition

On December 5, 1933 Utah became the 36th state to ratify the 21st Amendment, repealing Prohibition.

Do you really need more of a reason to celebrate today than that?

Well, if you insist, in addition to Repeal Day, today is also Blue Jeans Day, Bathtub Party Day, and the International Day of the Ninja. And the United Nations recommends you observe International Volunteer Day. No one is encouraged to volunteer as a ninja today, not as far as we can tell.

Walt Disney was born on December 5, 1901. George Armstrong Custer was born on this day in 1839.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Washington bids farewell to his officers

George Washington walked away on this day, 229 years ago. The last of the British had withdrawn only nine days before.

On December 4, 1783, Washington met his officers for a final time at Fraunces Tavern in New York City. (This was a far less dangerous gathering than one Washington had faced in March. On that earlier occasion, Washington had, in large part, defused a possible military coup -- the Newburgh Conspiracy -- by simply putting on his spectacles in order to read his prepared remarks.)

At Fraunces Tavern, Washington made no speech. He took a glass of wine with his officers and said only, "With a heart full of love and gratitude I now take leave of you. I most devoutly wish that your latter days may be as prosperous and happy as your former ones have been glorious and honorable."

After the toast, Washington said, "I cannot come to each of you but shall feel obliged if each of you will come and take me by the hand." After this, Washington went home to Mt. Vernon, pausing only long enough in Annapolis (where the Continental Congress was then meeting) to resign his commission. Like Cincinnatus, Washington returned to his plow.

Meanwhile, in Great Britain, another George, George III, asked the American painter Benjamin West what Washington would do now that the British had been defeated. West told the King that Washington would go into voluntary retirement on his farm. "If he does that," said an astounded George III, "he will be the greatest man in the world."

Today is also National Cookie Day and Santa's List Day. The seasonal tie-ins are obvious here. But no one seems to know why December 4 is also Wear Brown Shoes Day or National Dice Day. We sure don't.

Image obtained from this Fraunces Tavern Museum site.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Roof Over Your Head Day and an almost remarkable legal coincidence

Most of the Usual Suspects proclaim today Roof Over Your Head Day, suggesting that today is a good day to be thankful for the roof over your own head and to do something to help out those who aren't fortunate enough to have a roof over their heads.

And, another day, another United Nations observance, this one the International Day of Persons with Disabilities.

There's a Lincoln tie-in today, too. On this day in 1839, Abraham Lincoln was admitted to practice before the U.S. Circuit Court. Lincoln was admitted to the Illinois Bar in 1836, but -- just like today -- lawyers can not practice in a Federal court without also being admitted to the bar of that court.

Our crack research staff picked up on this little snippet and then noted that it is also Advocate's Day in India. "Advocate" is frequently used as a synonym for "lawyer." Could there be a Lincoln tie-in here as well?

Sadly, no.

According to Wikipedia, Advocate's Day in India celebrates the life of Rajendra Prasad, a very prominent lawyer in that country, a leader of the independence movement, and the first President of India.

But wouldn't it have made a great story if we could have figured out how to tie these together?

Sunday, December 2, 2012

International Day for the Abolition of Slavery, Mutts and More

You may recall the song from your childhood: "John Brown's body lies a mouldering in the grave...."

Our crack research staff assures us that the song, John Brown's Body, came before Julia Ward Howe wrote the lyrics to The Battle Hymn of the Republic.

Anyway, John Brown's body began mouldering in the grave on this date in 1859, when he was hanged following his convictions for murder, conspiracy to incite a slave revolt, and treason against the Commonwealth of Virginia, all these charges arising from John Brown's raid on the armory at Harpers Ferry in October 1859.

The United Nations recognizes today as The International Day for the Abolition of Slavery, but our crack research staff was unable to confirm that John Brown's hanging inspired the U.N. to pick December 2 as the date for this observance.

Today is also National Mutt Day and National Fritters Day.

Enron filed for bankruptcy on this date in 2001. Believe it or not, kids, there was a time when corporate criminals were actually jailed for their financial crimes. As opposed, say, to the billionaire bankers who took the economy into the Great Recession in 2007 and who all still roam free.

Try not to be bitter.

And, finally, on this day in 1804, Napoleon crowned himself Emperor of the French. So much for the French Revolution.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Bifocals at the Monitor Liberation Day, Red Apples, and Rosa Parks

When the history of technology is written, scholars will probably agree that the fall of the desktop and laptop and the rise of the tablet and the smartphone were all related to aging eyes.

For whatever reason, after a certain age, the desktop screen is always just a bit too far, or too close. Bifocals were supposed to address this situation, but they never seem to quite do the trick.

Bifocals at the Monitor Liberation Day, however, seems inexactly named. Some Internet sites suggest that bifocals are liberating. In general, these sites are maintained by or for optometrists or ophthalmologists. But, inasmuch as people often leave a pair of glasses near their computer screens, the name of today's microminiholidayette also suggests the possibility that one might sneak into a neighbor's cubicle and 'liberate' his or her bifocals.

Fortunately, today is Saturday and most people will be away from their cubicles for the weekend. Keep your glasses nearby just in case someone is feeling prankish at home.

And, while you're at home, eat a red apple. Today is also Eat a Red Apple Day. Whether an apple a day really keeps the doctor away is still a matter of conjecture. But it surely won't hurt.

On December 1, 1955 Rosa Parks boarded a bus in Montgomery, Alabama. She'd been shopping; she was tired. But Parks was also the secretary of the Montgomery chapter of the NAACP. The NAACP was looking for a good case to test the constitutionality of segregated seating on intrastate public conveyances. If Ms. Parks had been merely tired, it would have been easy to give way. But she was also determined. Thus, even though she knew she was breaking the law, Parks refused to give her seat to a white man who also wanted to sit down. Parks was arrested because of her refusal. Five days later, the Montgomery Bus Boycott began. The American Civil Rights Movement was underway. Some of the Usual Suspects, therefore, remember today as Rosa Parks Day.

Today is also World AIDS Day.