American Indian Heritage Month
All Saints' Day (Nov.1)
Daylight Saving Time ends (Nov.2)
Election Day (Nov.4)
Veterans Day (Nov.11)
A Roman Catholic and Anglican holiday celebrating all saints, known and unknown.
All Saints' Day, feast of the Roman Catholic and Anglican churches, and day on which churches glorify God for all God's saints, known and unknown. It is celebrated on Nov. 1 in the West, since Pope Gregory IV ordered its church-wide observance in 837. Its origin lies earlier in the common commemorations of martyrs who died in groups or whose names were unknown, which were held on various days in different parts of the Church; over time these celebrations came to include not only the martyrs but all saints. During the Reformation the Protestant churches understood “saints” in its New Testament usage as including all believers and reinterpreted the feast of All Saints as a celebration of the unity of the entire Church. In medieval England the festival was known as All Hallows, hence the name Halloween [=All Hallows' eve] for the preceding evening.
Election Day (Tuesday)
Since 1845, by act of Congress, the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November is the date for choosing presidential electors. State elections are also generally held on this day. The date is a legal holiday in certain states.
For much of our history, America was a predominantly agrarian society. Law makers therefore took into account that November was perhaps the most convenient month for farmers and rural workers to be able to travel to the polls.
The fall harvest was over, (remember that spring was planting time and summer was taken up with working the fields and tending the crops) but in the majority of the nation the weather was still mild enough to permit travel over unimproved roads.
Since most residents of rural America had to travel a significant distance to the county seat in order to vote, Monday was not considered reasonable since many people would need to begin travel on Sunday. This would, of course, have conflicted with Church services and Sunday worship.
Why the first Tuesday after the first Monday? Lawmakers wanted to prevent Election Day from falling on the first of November for two reasons. First, November 1st is All Saints Day, a Holy Day of Obligation for Roman Catholics. Second, most merchants were in the habit of doing their books from the preceding month on the 1st. Apparently, Congress was worried that the economic success or failure of the previous month might prove an undue influence on the vote!
Armistice Day, a federal holiday, was established in 1926 to commemorate the signing in 1918 of the armistice ending World War I. On June 1, 1954, the name was changed to Veterans Day to honor all men and women who have served America in its armed forces.
Armistice Day Becomes Veterans Day
World War I officially ended on June 28, 1919, with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles. The actual fighting between the Allies and Germany, however, had ended seven months earlier with the armistice, which went into effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918. Armistice Day, as November 11 became known, officially became a holiday in the United States in 1926, and a national holiday 12 years later. On June 1, 1954, the name was changed to Veterans Day to honor all U.S. veterans.
In 1968, new legislation changed the national commemoration of Veterans Day to the fourth Monday in October. It soon became apparent, however, that November 11 was a date of historic significance to many Americans. Therefore, in 1978 Congress returned the observance to its traditional date.
Tomb of the Unknowns
Official, national ceremonies for Veterans Day center around the Tomb of the Unknowns.
To honor these men, symbolic of all Americans who gave their lives in all wars, an Army honor guard, the 3d U.S. Infantry (The Old Guard), keeps day and night vigil.
At 11 a.m. on November 11, a combined color guard representing all military services executes "Present Arms" at the tomb. The nation's tribute to its war dead is symbolized by the laying of a presidential wreath and the playing of "Taps."
Unknown Soldier Identified
On Memorial Day (which honors U.S. service people who died in action) in 1958, two more unidentified American war dead, one from World War II and the other from the Korean War, were buried next the unknown soldier of World War I.
A law was passed in 1973 providing interment of an unknown American from the Vietnam War, but because of the improved technology to identify the dead, it was not until 1984 that an unidentified soldier was buried in the tomb.
In 1998, however, the Vietnam soldier was identified through DNA tests as Michael Blassie, a 24-year-old Air Force pilot who was shot down in May of 1972 near the Cambodian border. His body was disinterred and reburied by his family in St. Louis, Missouri.
Thanksgiving (fourth Thursday in November)
A federal holiday observed the fourth Thursday in November by act of Congress (1941), it was the first such national proclamation issued by President Lincoln in 1863, on the urging of Mrs. Sarah J. Hale, editor of Godey's Lady's Book. Most Americans believe that the holiday dates back to the day of thanks ordered by Governor Bradford of Plymouth Colony in New England in 1621, but scholars point out that days of thanks stem from ancient times.
The First Thanksgiving
The first American Thanksgiving was celebrated in 1621, to commemorate the harvest reaped by the Plymouth Colony after a harsh winter. In that year Governor William Bradford proclaimed a day of thanksgiving. The colonists celebrated it as a traditional English harvest feast, to which they invited the local Wampanoag Indians.
Days of thanksgiving were celebrated throughout the colonies after fall harvests. All thirteen colonies did not, however, celebrate Thanksgiving at the same time until October 1777. George Washington was the first president to declare the holiday, in 1789.
A New National Holiday
By the mid–1800s, many states observed a Thanksgiving holiday. Meanwhile, the poet and editor Sarah J. Hale had begun lobbying for a national Thanksgiving holiday. During the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln, looking for ways to unite the nation, discussed the subject with Hale. In 1863 he gave his Thanksgiving Proclamation, declaring the last Thursday in November a day of thanksgiving.
In 1939, 1940, and 1941 Franklin D. Roosevelt, seeking to lengthen the Christmas shopping season, proclaimed Thanksgiving the third Thursday in November. Controversy followed, and Congress passed a joint resolution in 1941 decreeing that Thanksgiving should fall on the fourth Thursday of November, where it remains.