What days the holidays fall on in 2012

Here’s a handy list of the major holidays and what days they fall on in the year 2012.

  • New Year’s Day: Sunday, January 1
  • Martin Luther King Day: Monday, January 16
  • Groundhog Day: Thursday, February 2
  • Valentine’s Day: Tuesday, February 14
  • Mardi Gras: Tuesday, February 21
  • St. Patrick’s Day: Saturday, March 17
  • April Fool’s Day: Sunday, April 1
  • Good Friday: Friday, April 6
  • Easter: Sunday, April 8
  • Earth Day: Sunday, April 22
  • Cinco De Mayo: Saturday, May 5
  • Mother’s Day: Sunday, May 13
  • Memorial Day: Monday, May 28
  • Father’s Day: Sunday, June 17
  • Summer Solstice: Thursday, June 21
  • Independence Day: Wednesday, July 4
  • Labor Day: Monday, September 3
  • Patriot Day: Tuesday, September 11
  • Rosh Hashanah: Sunday, September 16
  • Yom Kippur: Tuesday, September 25 – Wednesday, September 26
  • Columbus Day: Monday, October 8
  • Halloween: Wednesday, October 31
  • Veterans Day: Sunday, November 11
  • Thanksgiving Day: Thursday, November 22
  • Black Friday: Friday, November 23
  • Cyber Monday: Monday, November 26
  • Christmas: Tuesday, December 25
  • Hanukkah: Saturday, December 8 – Sunday, December 16
  • Winter Solstice: Friday, December 21
  • Kwanzaa: Wednesday, December 26 – Tuesday, January 1, 2013
  • New Year’s Eve: Monday, December 31

Thanksgiving Parades: National and regional

Americans love parades, especially on Thanksgiving. What better way to give thanks than with a community celebration that has become a holiday tradition?

There are at least four major Thanksgiving parades in the U.S.: the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade (New York), 6abc  Dunkin’ Donuts  Thanksgiving Day Parade (Philadelphia), America’s Thanksgiving Parade (Detroit) and McDonald’s Thanksgiving Parade (Chicago).

Philadelphia is home to the oldest Thanksgiving parade in America, the 6abc Dunkin’ Donuts Thanksgiving Day Parade. Its origins go back to 1920, when Ellis Gimbel, one of the founders of Gimbels Department Stores, wanted to attract holiday shoppers to spend their hard-earned dollars at his stores. Gimbels employees dressed in costumes and participated in the parade themselves.  The parade has grown in size and stature since then and is enjoyed by kids and adults alike with the official arrival of Santa Claus. This Thanksgiving parade became the model for many other Thanksgiving parades throughout the country.

One of the most popular parades is the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade which is held in New York and televised nationally. The parade began in 1924 as many Macy’s employees were immigrants who wanted to celebrate their new heritage. The tradition continues to this day, with floats, bands and of course, those wonderfully amazing animal-shaped balloons. In 2011, the newest balloon character will be unveiled: Tim Burton’s reimagining of Sonic the Hedgehog.

In Detroit, America’s Thanksgiving Parade is an annual holiday tradition, which also began in 1924 and is tied with the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade as the second-oldest Thanksgiving parade in the U.S. The parade features the usual variety of floats and bands, but is unique for its use of custom-made papier-mâché heads that were popular in early European holiday celebrations in the 1920s.

Chicago is home to the McDonald’s Thanksgiving Parade, an annual event that began in 1934 as an attempt to lift the mood of a city in the grips of the Great Depression. The parade is broadcast on WGN 9 in Chicago and WGN America, which is available to many cable subscribers nationwide.

Many local towns also hold their own Thanksgiving parades. Check your local newspaper or community news source for a Thanksgiving parade near you. Or, ask a neighbor where the nearest Thanksgiving parade is. And while you’re at it, take time to share with them what you’re most thankful for this holiday season.

The Origins of Christmas

Most people think of Christmas as a celebration of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, but in reality the origins of what we now call Christmas stretch back to centuries before Christ was born. Here is a brief history of the origins of Christmas.

The earliest versions of Christmas were ancient pagan celebrations of the winter solstice. People were rejoicing that the worst of the winter months were behind them and that they could look forward to longer days.

In Scandinavia, the Norse celebrated the return of the sun with immense feasts. Fathers and sons would bring home large logs, set them on fire and feast until the logs burned out. They believed that each spark from the fire represented a new pig or calf that would be born in the coming year.

The end of December in ancient Europe was a time when cattle were slaughtered and the people would have a hearty supply of fresh meat. This was also the time when most wine and beer that had been made during the year had finally fermented and was ready for drinking.

In ancient Rome, solstice festivals were called Saturnalias and were held in honor of Saturn, the god of agriculture. It was a hedonistic time, when food and drink were plentiful, but also a time of reversed social order. For one month, slaves would become masters, peasants had control of the city and schools and businesses were closed to allow everyone ample opportunity to take part in the reverie.

By the 17th century, Christmas had been firmly established as a Christian holiday throughout Europe. But when Oliver Cromwell and his Puritans took control of England in 1649, they cancelled Christmas as part of their vow to rid Europe of decadence. It wasn’t until 1660, when Charles II would regain power that Christmas, by popular demand, would be brought back to England.

While Christmas first became popular in America during the Revolutionary War, it fell out of favor in the years that followed. In fact, it wasn’t until June 26, 1870 (nearly 100 years after the Revolutionary War ended) that Christmas was declared a federal holiday in America.

A Brief History of the Christmas Tree

The exact history of the Christmas tree is somewhat disputed. Many believe it has its roots in pagan celebrations of the winter solstice. Romans, for example, marked the solstice with a feast called the Saturnalia in honor of Saturn, the god of agriculture. They knew the solstice meant that farms and orchards would soon be green and fruitful again. To celebrate, they decorated their homes and temples with evergreen trees.

The introduction of the evergreen as a Christmas tradition is generally believed to date back to 16th century Germany, when devout Christians started bringing decorated trees into their homes.

And it was Martin Luther, the protestant reformer, who first added candles to the trees. The story goes that as he was walking home one evening he was awed by the brilliance of stars twinkling amidst the evergreens. To recreate the scene for his family, Martin Luther put an evergreen in the main room of his home and wired its branches with lighted candles.

The arrival of the Christmas tree in America dates back to 1846, when Queen Victoria and her German Prince, Albert, were sketched in the Illustrated London News standing with their children around a Christmas tree. The queen was popular with British subjects and fashion conscious Americans on the East Coast, both of whom soon started bringing Christmas trees into their homes.

By the early 20th century, as ornaments expanded to include electric lights that could glow for days on end, Christmas trees began appearing in town squares and homes across America. And they’ve been a permanent holiday fixture ever since.