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There are some important holidays we celebrate today that are not in WHY IT’S A HOLIDAY. The book was published in 1960. Many of the days we celebrate as holidays today did not even exist in 1960.

Read on to find out about Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Earth Day and Kwanzaa.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day 

On the third Monday of January each year, we celebrate the birthday of one of America’s greatest leaders.

This holiday began in 1986. That was 26 years after WHY IT’S A HOLIDAY was published.

Martin Luther King, Jr. changed the way our nation treated people because of the color of their skin. He helped change many of our country’s unfair laws.

Dr. King wanted everyone — black or white — to have the same equal rights, and not to be prejudiced. In the 1950’s, black children could not go to schools with white children. Black people could not drink from the same water fountains as white people. Blacks couldn’t eat at the same restaurants or use the same public bathrooms. Blacks had to sit in the back of buses.

When Dr. King was a child, his best friend was a white boy. They played together every day.  One day the white child’s mother told Martin that he could no longer play with her son because he was black. Martin couldn’t understand why the color of anyone’s skin could make a difference. His mother told him, “You are as good as anyone.” He never forgot that.

Martin was a good student and decided to become a minister, like his father and grandfather had been. With his wife, he moved to Montgomery, Alabama, a city that had many racial problems. Dr. King had learned about the great Indian leader, Gandhi, who settled disagreements peacefully. Dr. King believed peaceful ways to solve problems worked better.

One example was the protest he led against the bus laws of Montgomery. Rosa Parks, a black woman, was arrested after refusing to sit in the back of a bus with the other blacks. She had refused to give up her seat at the front of the bus to a white man.

Dr. King asked blacks not to ride the buses until this terrible law was changed.  It took a year to change the law. From then on, there were no more “Whites Only” sections on buses.

In 1960, the Kings moved to Atlanta, Georgia. There he led many marches and protests for equal rights. In 1963, he led his famous March on Washington.

I was one of many thousands who marched that day and heard Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. “I have a dream today,” he said, “I have a dream that one day little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls and walk together as brothers and sisters….I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

Not everyone believed in his peaceful ways. They fought against Dr. King’s ideas and often he and his family were in danger.

In 1964, he won the Nobel Peace Prize. Now everyone in the world knew about his work for peace and equal rights.

Laws were changed. Now blacks and whites were to be treated the same.

Dr. King’s work made him have many enemies.  Many whites were angry with him. On April 4, 1968, giving a speech on a balcony of his hotel, he was shot and killed.

People all over the world mourned his death. He will always be remembered for the good work he did to change America’s unfair laws.

On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, many people do not go to work. Instead, they volunteer to help those in need and remember Dr. King’s words and great deeds.

Earth Day

Earth Day is April 22.

This is a day to celebrate our wonderful planet.  It’s a day to learn what we can all do to protect Planet Earth. And it’s also a day to think about how we can help keep safe all the plants and animals that share our planet.

Did you know that over 100 countries celebrate Earth Day, too?


In 1966, a professor in California created Kwanzaa, an African American holiday to help blacks remember and celebrate their heritage in families, community and in the culture of Africans around the world.

Kwanzaa is celebrated from December 26 through January 1. Kwanzaa means “first fruits of the harvest” in the Swahili language and is based on ideas from an old Swahili seven-day-long harvest celebration.

This holiday has many symbols. An important one is the candlestick, holding seven candles. The center candle is black. Three red candles are on one side and three green candles are on the other side.

Day One: The black candle is lit. It stands for keeping unity in the family and community. Today the family gathers and talks about their problems and how to solve them.

Day Two: A red candle is lit.  This is a day of sharing traditions, like how to braid hair or play an African drum or share an African recipe.

Day Three: A green candle is lit. This day is about sharing work, being responsible for a common goal or task.  The family gets together to get a chore done, such as cleaning out the garage or painting a room.

Day Four. A red candle is lit.  This is a day to share a gift. The family has been saving their extra coins to buy a present. They buy one gift that everyone can enjoy. It could be very simple, like a new can opener or a more expensive gift for the home.   The gift will always be special as a Kwanzaa gift.

Day Five.  A green candle is lit. This is a day of sharing hopes and wishes, a day to think about helping one another. Everybody gets a chance to say what they want for their lives and for the world.

Day Six: A red candle is lit. This day is about creativity. Everyone in the family does something creative.   It could be a painting, a poem, a dance, a story. The family gathers and everybody shares what they have created.

Day Seven. A green candle is lit. This is a feast day, and a day to think about faith. The whole family cooks its favorite foods.

The candles, red and green and black represent the African flag.

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