Holiday Origins

COLLEEN ALEXIS MAY

April Fools Day

April Fool’s Day can be traced all the way back to 16th century France. At this time, France was in the middle of switching from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar which, among other things, moved the New Year from April 1 to January 1. Instead of realizing that the New Year now took place in January, those too slow to adopt the new calendar celebrated the old year until the beginning of April. Then they realized they were fools and were the victims of practical jokes by those who had celebrated the correct New Year months earlier.

April Fool’s Day also has its roots in older festivals like the Roman festival of Hilaria, where people dressed up in disguises, and the vernal equinox, where Mother Nature supposedly “played tricks” on people by giving them unpredictable weather.

After several hundred years, these celebrations lived on in the earth 18th century English holiday, “All Fool’s Day,” which is the closest relative to the April 1 holiday, full of tricks and pranks, that we know today.

Mother’s Day

In its earliest form, Mother’s Day can be traced back to Greek and Roman celebrations of two mother goddesses, Rhea, the mother of many Olympian gods, and Cybele, a popular goddess of motherhood and fertility. Later, early Christians celebrated “Mothering Sunday” on the fourth Sunday in Lent to honor the the mother of Christ, the Virgin Mary. This tradition expanded in the UK to include all mothers.

The version of Mother’s Day celebrated today in the US and many other countries began with the ideas of Julia Ward Howe. In 1872, Howe fought to establish Mother’s Day as a day of peace, and wrote the Mother’s Day Proclamation to encourage women to rise up against war. Howe’s wishes were not realized until the early 1900’s when Anna Jarvis (now known as the Mother of Mother’s Day) wrote letters to government officials requesting the creation of a Mother’s Day holiday in honor of her own late mother. On May 8, 1914, Woodrow Wilson signed into law that Mother’s Day would officially be celebrated on the second Sunday of May.

Earth Day

Earth Day is a much newer holiday in comparison to the others on this list, beginning in the 1970’s. After decades of ignoring environmental concerns involving the burning of fossil fuels, industrial waste, and animal protection, Rachel Carson’s 1962 best-selling book, Silent Spring, spread new awareness of environmental and pollution-related concerns.

Inspired by student war protests and a recent and disastrous oil spill in California, US Senator Gaylord Nelson founded Earth Day. Nelson and his staff promoted events and rallies all over America to protest various environmental problems, from deforestation to toxic waste dumping. 20 million people took part in the rallies on April 22, 1970, and by the end of the year, the EPA was formed, and the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Acts were all passed.

Involvement in Earth Day activities grew from then on, and in 1990, the message of Earth Day was celebrated around the world, inspiring rallies in over 100 countries and establishing Earth Day as an international celebration.

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