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Large US flag on US capitol building with crowd in front. Photo is in black and white
Huge throng attends flag vespers at Washington / Underwood & Underwood, Washington. June 9, 1929. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/hec.35407

A Cause for Celebration: Federal Holidays and Observances Part 2

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The following is a guest post by Lashandra Dover-Harris, an intern with the Digital Resources Division of the Law Library of Congress. She is a graduate of the Master of Library and Information Science program at the University of North Carolina Greensboro.

This post is a continuation of A Cause for Celebration: Federal Holidays and Observances Part 1.

Food

Food is also a popular subject of celebration. In 1984, Congress declared July National Ice Cream Month and July 15 National Ice Cream Day, honoring its “reputation as the perfect dessert and snack food.” April 4, 1987, was National Catfish Day for the “third highest volume of finned fish consumed in the United States in 1986.” Wine has been produced in the U.S. for as long as the country has existed, and the last week of February 1993 brought us American Wine Appreciation Week to acknowledge the nation’s winemakers.

It is fitting that the resolution designating July 1982 as National Peach Month was introduced by a senator from South Carolina, where peaches are the state fruit. In recognition of a staple in most American households, National Family Bread Baking Month in November 1987 celebrated the magic of homemade bread.

An elderly man and woman stand at a kitchen table shaping bread dough to put into loaf pans with granddaughter standing at the counter behind them with her back to the camera.
Image 9 of Baking bread, Nesco, New Jersey. Griggsby, Brian, photographer. November 10, 1983. American Folklife Center. https://hdl.loc.gov/loc.afc/afc1991023.afc1991023_cbg_001

Arts and Music

Several of these observations revolve around music and the arts. Congress designated the first week of May in 1965 as Professional Photography Week, which President Lyndon B. Johnson proclaimed on March 29, 1965. The week moved to August 4 through 10 in 1968, and to June 8 through 14 in 1969. July 1980 was National Porcelain Art Month, celebrating the art of painting on porcelain. In 1963, Congress named April 15 through 20 as National Harmony Week to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barber Shop Quartet Singing in America, Incorporated, which President John F. Kennedy proclaimed on April 9, 1963.

President Ronald Reagan had a particularly musical administration with National Orchestra Week June 13 through 19 in 1982,  Metropolitan Opera Day on October 22, 1983, and National Jukebox Week October 3 through November 5, 1988. Congress first recognized September as Classical Music Month in 1994 which President Clinton proclaimed on August 22, 1994. Clinton, a musician himself, issued the proclamation again in 1995 without a resolution from Congress. Presidents Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush, and Bill Clinton all declared October Country Music Month. Reagan first proclaimed June 19 as National Gospel Arts Day in 1987 and Clinton proclaimed 1994 The Year of Gospel Music.

Picture of Willie Nelson onstage playing a guitar and singing into a microphone with a musician playing guitar on each side of him.
Country singer-songwriting legend Willie Nelson, age 80 at the time of this photograph, performs with his band, “Family,” at Rodeo Austin, the city’s annual stock show and rodeo. Highsmith, Carol M. September 3, 2014. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/highsm.27329

You can also see the changes in preferred terminology through the names of observances. President George W. Bush first proclaimed June to be Black Music Month for the eight years of his presidency starting on June 29, 2001. Under President Obama, the observation changed to African-American Music Appreciation Month for all eight years of his term, and President Donald Trump continued with that name for an additional four years. In 2021, President Joe Biden changed the name to Black Music Appreciation Month for 2021 and 2022, before returning to the original Black Music Month for 2023.

Image of Marian Anderson standing holding a bouquet of flowers with uniformed men standing behind her.
Marian Anderson mural dedicated. Marian Anderson, noted contralto, sings “The Star Spangled Banner” at the dedication of a mural commemorating her free public concert on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on Easter Sunday, 1939. The dedication was held in the Department of Interior Auditorium before a distinguished audience on January 6, 1943. Miss Anderson is holding a bouquet of roses presented to her by Negro high school cadets who served as ushers at the ceremony. Secretary of Interior Ickes accepted the mural for the government. Smith, Roger. January 1943. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/fsa.8b07840

Education and Literacy

Education and literacy are a priority for presidents, going back to American Education Week, which President Warren G. Harding set as December 4 through 10, 1921, and which was continued by almost every succeeding president. More recently, March 2 was Read Across America Day from 2009 until 2016 and has been reinstated since 2021. President Clinton named September 11 through 18, 1995, America Goes Back to School to recognize the beginning of a new school year as an opportunity “to renew our faith in the promise of education,” and proclaimed it annually for the rest of his presidency.

Image of a classroom with children seated at desks while teacher reads from open book at the front of the class.
Schenectady, New York. Fourth-grade pupils at the Oneida School reading “Heidi,” the Swiss childrens’ classic. Later the book will be rewritten into a play to be presented to the children of the neighborhood and their parents, the proceeds to go to the American Red Cross. Bonn, Philip, photographer. June 1943. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/fsa.8d39481

Literacy goes beyond books and reading, especially as new challenges and technologies emerge. President George H.W. Bush proclaimed October 1990 Energy Awareness Month “to promote increased public understanding of our Nation’s energy needs and the energy choices available to us,” and every president thereafter through 2020 repeated the observance at least once during their term. October 2, 1996, was National Student Voter Education Day under President Clinton to honor the 25th anniversary of the twenty-sixth amendment, which lowered the voting age from 21 to 18. Under President Obama, October 2009 was National Information Literacy Month to promote the need for everyone to have “the skills necessary to effectively navigate the Information Age,” and April 2010 was National Financial Literacy Month in acknowledgment of the government’s role in “protecting consumers and promoting financial literacy.”

Presidents also build on the work of previous presidents. President George W. Bush named January National Mentoring Month in 2002 and it was repeated annually through 2017. President Biden revived it for January 2022 and again in 2023. May 1 through 5 was named National Charter Schools Week by President Clinton in 2002, and from 2002 until 2020 was renewed yearly by the president.

Diversity and Cultural Heritage

Of course, the most popular topic of celebration is the citizens and residents of the country. The United States honors the diversity of its citizens who have made the country what it is today. Legal Research Guides on Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month, Irish-American Heritage Month, Black History Month, Jewish American Heritage Month, National American Indian Heritage Month, and National Hispanic Heritage are a great starting point to learn more about some of the cultural heritage of this country.

Congress and presidents have also established Human Rights Day, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Pride Month, National Disability Employment Awareness Month, and Women’s History Month to honor the experiences of those whose stories are not always told.

There are many observances memorialized in the United States Code, Statutes at Large, and Presidential proclamations. The United States has a long legislative history of celebrating achievements, honoring causes, and recognizing industries that have built the nation. If you know where to look, you can always find a reason to celebrate!


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Comments

  1. Thank you for the great article. Do you know where one could find a list of these officially proclaimed days?

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