SCIENCE OF THE SUMMER SOLSTICE
The word Solstice comes from the Latin solstitium meaning “Sun, standing-still.” This year the Summer Solstice occurs on June 21 at 10:07 UTC, or Coordinated Universal Time, or Zulu Time, or roughly Greenwich Mean Time.
This is also known as the Northern Solstice as the Sun is positioned directly above the Tropic of Cancer in the Northern Hemisphere. This time of year is known as Midsummer, though the official Midsummer Day is actually celebrated on June 24, thanks to differences between the Julian and Gregorian calendars. Christian festivals during this time of year are related to the Birth of St. John the Baptist. In Bolivia and Peru, it’s called the Festival of San Juan.
June Nineteenth, or Juneteenth, marks the celebration of the emancipation of African-American slaves in 1865. While the annual celebration started in Texas in 1866 — and became an official Texas state holiday there in 1980 — this formerly obscure holiday it is now observed across the United States, and around the world, and is an official holiday in most states. It is now celebrated with church-centered celebrations, parades, fairs, backyard parties, games, contests, and cookouts. Originally it began in Galveston, Texas to mark the arrival of Union Army Major General Gordon Granger who arrived two months after the end of the American Civil War to read General Order Number 3 which announced that “all slaves are free.”
The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.
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HISTORY OF FATHERS DAY
[NOTE: I wrote a longer and more serious version of this article for CBS.com a couple of years ago. It has been published on their network of sites for major cities around the country. You can find an example here.]
The celebration of Father’s Day goes back all the way to the beginning, actually to the Garden of Eden when Abel gave his father Adam a razor while his brother Cain gave his father a snake-skin tie. This was the beginning of Cain’s downward slide.
Scholars have debated for ages why Mother’s Day seems to be more honored than Father’s Day. A parallel has been drawn between this phenomenon and that of the difference in popularity between the Irish patron saint and the Italian patron saint.
HISTORY OF FLAG DAY
June 14 is the day the United States celebrates Flag Day. While it may not be as widely celebrated as other American holidays, it is one of the oldest. It was resolved by the Second Continental Congress in 1777, even before the conclusion of the American War of Independence, the Revolutionary War.
In 1885, BJ Cigrand, a Wisconsin schoolteacher initiated a “Flag Birthday” for his students on June 14. His continual promotion of this “Flag Day” inspired New York kindergarten teacher George Balch in 1889 to have similar observances for his students, and the State Board of Education for the state followed suit. The Betsy Ross House in Philadelphia had a Flag Day in 1891 and the following year so did the New York Society of the Sons of the Revolution. Other state organizations in New York, Pennsylvania, and Illinois followed suit.
HISTORY OF D-DAY
Seventy-four years ago, on June 6, 1944, the Allies launched an offensive on the Normandy coast of France to liberate continental Europe from the Nazi German occupation. D-Day was the largest invasion by sea in all of history, literally turning the tide. It was the beginning of the end of the War. General Eisenhower, Supreme Commander of Allied Forces, sent the troops out that day:
“You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you. I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty and skill in battle.”
Within two months the 77-day Normandy campaign led to the liberation of France and, in less than a year to the defeat of the Nazi forces and the end of World War II in Europe. Between these two events, my father visited Paris while his US Army division was moving through France toward the Battle of the Bulge, and the liberation of the Dachau concentration camp in Germany.
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