April 15—Titanic Remembrance Day
At 2:20 a.m. on April 15, 1912, the RMS Titanic sank in the North Atlantic Ocean. More than 1,500 people died in the accident, and more than 100 years later the Titanic’s maiden voyage still is remembered.
The largest floating ship at the time, the Titanic was proclaimed unsinkable. As a luxury ship, it featured high-class dining, a gymnasium, library and swimming pool.
It set sail from Southampton, England, carrying 2,224 passengers, toward New York. On the fourth evening of its voyage, the Titanic collided with an iceberg. In just under two hours, the Titanic sunk; hundreds drowned and others were left to freeze in the frigid Atlantic water.
What caused this sinking to be such a disaster? The Titanic was only equipped with enough lifeboats for about 1,700 people and had poor wireless communication.
The radio operator had trouble signaling other ships before it sank, and almost two hours passed before another ship to come to the rescue of passengers and crew.
Only 705 of the 2,224 passengers were rescued.
Since the disaster, regulations require ships to have lifeboat space for every passenger and crew member.
May 1—May Day
Traditionally, May 1 is a celebration of the changing weather. Based on the ancient Celtic Beltane calendar, it hails in the first day of summer. This pagan holiday evolved in medieval England to a celebration of spring. Town festivals involved a May Pole, a tall pole with colorful ribbons hanging down, and the crowning of the May Queen.
In more modern times, May 1 celebrates International Workers’ Day, commemorating the efforts of unions and workers globally to reduce workers long days to eight hour work days. The U.S. celebrates Labor Day on Sept 1. In line with the celebration of International Workers’ Day, Seattle is known for staging protests on May Day, hosted by labor and social groups. These protests have become violent when anarchists have become involved.
May 5—Cinco de Mayo
Cinco de Mayo is a Mexican-American holiday that celebrates Mexican heritage. Based on the Mexican victory in a French invasion of Puebla, Mexico, in 1861, the battle has significance to both Americans and Mexicans.
France invaded Mexico as a response to the Mexican president’s moratorium that suspended all foreign debt payments. At the time, the French army was considered one of the most powerful armies in the world. Despite being outnumbered and poorly equipped, the Mexican forces managed to stop the French at Puebla.
Despite the victory, the French conducted a successful invasion a year later, and set up a regime that lasted three years.
Cinco de Mayo represents Mexican unity and national pride. While this victory was not significant in the war, it was a large victory on a personal level to the Mexicans.
The American celebration of Cinco de Mayo started in California. As the celebration grew among Mexican-Americans, Congress urged the President to declare the fifth of May a day to be celebrated.
Today, Americans across the United States celebrate Cinco de Mayo with lessons in Mexican heritage and culture, playing Mexican music, trying dance and tasting traditional Mexican cuisine.
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