News from the Reference Desk Category: Holiday

Holiday Readings

clear frozen snowflakes

Do you have questions about the many aspects of the winter holidays?  Do you wonder exactly what Santa Claus looks like or how to say “Merry Christmas” in Hawaiian?  The online publication JSTOR Daily has the answers!  Click here to see a list of fun and enlightening articles about Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa and other winter activities.  May these articles brighten your holidays.

Getting History Right: Mayflower’s 400th and Your Own Family Story

Mayflower in Plymouth Harbor paintingThanksgiving Day, 2019 marks the start of the 400th annual celebration of the landing of the Mayflower ship at Plymouth, Massachusetts.  The celebration committee is working hard to look beyond the myth of Thanksgiving and colonial experiences to better tell the stories of the women of the Mayflower and the Native American tribes which lived in the area.  You can learn about some of the plans for this commemoration in this recent article from the Boston Globe newspaper.

collection of old family photographsGreat events like the coming of the Mayflower and colonial people’s interactions with Native American tribes are made up of many individual stories of individuals and families.  Those stories can be easily lost if not shared.  A recent article from Good Housekeeping magazine explains the current situation and offers some tips for encouraging young and old family members to start sharing and collecting these stories. Don’t let your family history be left out of the historical record.  Mount Prospect Public Library has a strong collection of print and online sources that can help individuals research and document their family histories.  Come to the Research Services desk or contact genealogy librarian Anne Shaughnessy for more information.  Let’s get history right.

Origins of Winter Holiday Celebrations

Mistletoe, presents, candlelight–all of these and more are part of winter holidays. The origins of the traditions carried out this time of year are both ancient and modern. The editors of JSTOR an online resource of academic articles have collected a variety of articles which address aspects of the winter holiday season (as well as other holidays). You will learn more about Santa Claus, mistletoe, the lights of Hanukkah, poinsettias,  the winter solstice and other treasured aspects of this time of year.  Take time during this busy season to immerse yourself in the lore of the winter holidays. May this experience bring you understanding and a greater appreciation of the season.

The History of Santa Claus

The holiday season is full of traditional events and practices, many of which revolve around the figure of Santa Claus.  But who is this figure?  What is his history?  That story goes back to 280 CE in Myra, an area now in modern Turkey, where Saint Nicholas lived and worked as a bishop. After his death on December 6 in an unknown year, many stories developed about his kindness and generosity, especially to children.  These legends were adopted over the years by people in many areas of Europe where Saint Nicholas is still considered to be the source of gifts.  It is from him that Santa Claus as he is known today emerges with some help from Nordic mythology and the Protestant Reformation among other influences.  An article from National Geographic online gives a detailed description of this transition.  Additional information can be found at the Santa Claus entry on History.com and the website of the St. Nicholas Center.  This far-reaching tale reveals how many cultures have added to the legend of Santa Claus, making him one figure that belongs to everyone.

Celebrating Veterans Day

Veterans Day, originally known as Armistice Day, was first set as a U.S. legal holiday to recognize the end of World War I.  This “armistice” took place on November 11, 1918.  In 1938 legislation was past to formally dedicate November 11 to the “cause of world peace.”  With the urging of veterans organizations, the U.S. Congress amended the Act of 1938, replacing “Armistice” with the word “Veterans.”  On June 1, 1954, November 11 became a day to honor all American veterans.  In 1968 Veterans Day was moved to the fourth Monday of October.  This move was highly unpopular so in 1975 the annual observance of Veterans Day was moved again to November 11.  A more complete history of this holiday can be found here at the website of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Many Mount Prospect natives have served in the military over the past 100 years.  There are some artifacts of this service in the online collection Dimensions of Life in Mount Prospect.  Among them are a World War I gas mask, a World War I uniform jacket and helmet, and the stole of a local World War II chaplain. 

On November 11 of this year, Mount Prospect will honor veterans in a free program to be held at Lions Park Recreation Center beginning at 10:30 AM.