July Holidays and August Holidays

Just as you are likely to take a vacation during July and August, so do national holidays. After six months of one holiday after another, and before the massive end-of-year traffic jam of celebrations, late summer brings about a minor respite. Even the few holidays that do pop up during bikini season are different from those that are celebrated during colder weather. Instead of exchanging gifts, many people will be busy celebrating their major national holidays.

Canada Day: July 1
July is quite the month for celebrations of national birthdays. July holidays may be few, but things start off fast and furious with two birthday observances of the biggest land masses in the western hemisphere. July 1 is Canada Day, a federal national holiday celebrated in the Great White North. Canada Day is the first of three days in July that commemorate a spirit of national pride. In this case, the day marks not so much independence as the unification of the Canadian provinces on July 1 through the adoption of the British North America Act of 1867.

This holiday was originally known as Dominion Day until it was officially changed in 1982, in part because it had already been unofficially changed by residents who had been referring to the celebration as "Canada Day" for years. The activities that take place on July 1 bear a strong similarity to the events that take place down south three days later: parades, air shows and outdoor concerts, all climaxing with a fireworks display at night. In addition, new citizens are sworn in on Canada Day.

Independence Day: July 4
Whether the celebration is termed the Fourth of July or Independence Day, Americans know exactly what you're talking about. The history of this holiday is taught in every school in America, is routinely recounted on TV documentaries and even provides the basis for a Broadway musical and movie titled "1776."

Although July 4 is intended to be an observation of the day the Second Continental Congress approved the Declaration of Independence, over the years it has evolved into a day of patriotism, not to mention eating, parades, shooting off fireworks and eating. In recent years, a highlight of Independence Day celebrations has become watching competitive eaters stuff hot dogs down their gullets at the Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest in Coney Island.

Bastille Day: July 14
The third national holiday celebrated in July to mark the anniversary of a nation is Bastille Day, which commemorates the storming of a prison in France, which was the symbolic beginning of the French Revolution and French independence. Although the Bastille as a real object of oppression was long past its heyday on that July 14 in 1789 when it was attacked, it nevertheless represented a legacy of the repression of liberties.

The remnants of the storming of the Bastille were given more than symbolic resonance when the French president took the opportunity to confer pardons on this day. Then, in 2008, French president Nicolas Sarkozy put an end to the tradition.

In addition to an impressive military parade along the Champs-Elysees and the requisite fireworks display, one of the most beloved traditions surrounding the observation of Bastille Day are the multiple balls that are held the night before on July 13. Dance fever is the rule of the night before the celebrations of the next day. Since the Tour De France bicycle race is held during July, French cyclists feel a special pull of duty toward winning that particular leg of the journey and showing up the next day wearing the coveted yellow jersey that signifies the previous day's winner.

August is commonly known as the month in which there is no major holiday. It is important to remember, however, that such major holidays as Mother's Day and Thanksgiving were once minor holidays that were rarely observed. With that in mind, keep an eye out for these currently lesser-celebrated observances that may one day turn August from the forgotten stepdaughter into the Cinderella of holiday months.

International Left Handers Day: Aug. 13
August holidays are almost all rather narrow and specific at this point, and perhaps none is quite as narrow and specific as a celebration of being left handed. Mother's Day was begun as the result of a letter-writing campaign by one determined woman. Who is to say that a group of determined southpaws won't one day experience the joy of seeing their own holiday gain respect worldwide?

International Friendship Day: First Sunday in August
The history of this holiday traces back to 1935. Begun in the US, International Friendship Day has slowly spread around the globe and is marked by an almost concerted lack of commercial organization. Rather than rely upon prefabricated cards and ideas, the very concept of this August holiday is based upon making the effort to express the importance of friendship in a meaningful way.

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The origin of Canada Day began with the creation of Canada's federal government, and it is now celebrated by concerts, parades and fireworks.

Bastille Day is for France what the Fourth of July is to the United States, as it represents the start of the French Republic. On July 14, 1789, residents of Paris raided the Bastille, launching the French Revolution.

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July celebrations don't end with Independence Day. Learn about some of the fun national observances that take place during the month.

While there aren't any major holidays in the month of August, there are a few August celebrations that are fun for the whole family.

On Teddy Bear Picnic Day, July 10, your kids can take their best stuffed friends out for a special event. Invite your child's friends and their bears over to join in the picnic fun.

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