Many of the traditions that we associate with our holiday celebrations originated in Victorian times.  Individuals came here from all over the world, bringing their customs and traditions with them.  19th Century Jacksonville adopted and adapted many of these traditions into how we celebrate various holidays.   

For over a century, the Fourth of July was the biggest holiday celebrated in Jacksonville, closely followed by Thanksgiving.  Christmas was a time for family gatherings.  Valentines Day meant loving (or not so loving) cards for friends and suitors. And in the 19th Century, Halloween was all tricks, no treats, until townsfolk tired of the pranks and introduced “sweet” alternatives.  Over the course of the year, we’ll visit various holidays, so join us as we explore the origins of our holiday traditions and how Jacksonville adopted and adapted them!



New Years 

New Years was the traditional day for gift giving until the Victorians moved gift giving to Christmas.  So in the late 19th Century, the start of the new year became a time for dances, social calls, and resolutions.  Learn about the Scottish tradition of Hogmanay, “First Foot,” and Jacksonville’s many costume balls.   Learn more…





Groundhog Day

It’s February 2nd   – Groundhog Day.  And once again we have the Germans and the Victorian Era to thank for this U.S. holiday custom.  According to this tradition, if a groundhog comes out of its hole on February 2nd and sees its shadow, it gets scared and runs back into its burrow, predicting six more weeks of winter weather.  No shadow means an early spring.  So how did a groundhog become a weather forecaster?  Learn more…


Valentine’s Day

No one knows the true origins of Valentine’s Day.  Some believe that because the Romans observed Lupercalia on February 14th celebrating a nature deity, that birds chose their mates around that date. 

Others believe that Valentinus, who had a far different experience with the Romans (martyrdom), sent a letter of affection to his jailer’s daughter on the eve of his execution.  There is, of course, no evidence that any of this is true.  Learn more…



St. Patrick’s Day

Although St. Patrick’s Day, has never been a majorholiday, it has become a day to fete all things Irish.  Regardless of your racial or ethnic origins, on March 17theveryone is “Irish,” joining in the celebration of this rich Celtic culture. So who was St. Patrick and how did this come about?

Much of what is known about St. Patrick’s life has been interwoven with folklore and legend. Historians generally believe that St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, was born in Britain (not Ireland) near the end of the 4th century. Learn more…



April Fools Day

Think about how much difficulty we’ve had switching from Standard Time to Daylight Savings Time.  Then think how you would react if you were asked to change the beginning of the new year from the Vernal (Spring) Equinox to the Winter Solstice. That’s exactly what happened in 1582 when France and most of Europe switched from the Julian calendar, when the year began around April 1st, to the Gregorian calendar, when the year began around January 1.  Learn more…



May Day

May Day is a celebration that marks a change of seasons, and as such it dates back millenia.  The Celts believed that May 1, Beltane, was the most important day of the year.  Beltane means “Day of Fire” and they celebrated with large bonfires and dancing.  When the Romans came to the British Isles, they brought their celebration of Floralia, a five-day observance of spring and Flora, goddess of flowers, vegetation, and fertility. Floralia encompassed May 1, and eventually Floralia rituals were combined with Beltane.  Learn more…




Did you know that more phone calls are made on Mother’s Day than any other day of the year? Those chats with mother can spike phone traffic as much as 37%! 

Although the United States did not proclaim Mother’s Day an official holiday until 1914, celebrations of mothers and motherhood can be traced to the ancient Greeks and Romans and their festivals honoring the mother goddesses, Rhea and Cybele.  Early Christians adopted and adapted these pagan celebrations, transforming them into a festival known as “Mothering Sunday.” Learn more…



Memorial Day

The history of Memorial Day is a matter of some long-standing controversy, at least as to its origin.  While scholars agree that U.S. Army General John A. Logan established a national holiday in 1868 for “decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country,” the controversy arises as to where he got the idea. Apparently he couldn’t have come up with it on his own, according to history, so here we’ll have a look at some of the possible origin

The earliest documented observance of Memorial Day, or Decoration Day as it was then known, occurred in 1865 in Charleston, South Carolina.  The Civil War was ending, and the Confederate Army fled Charleston, leaving behind a racetrack/country club which had been converted into a prison for captured members of the United States Army.    More than 260 U.S. Army soldiers had died of exposure or disease while being held in the racetrack’s open-air infield, their bodies hastily buried in a mass grave. Learn more…



Fourth of July

Well into the 20thCentury, the Fourth of July was a bigger U.S. holiday than Christmas. 

Long before Congress declared July 4than official holiday in 1870, John Adams had written to his wife Abigail shortly after the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776 that the occasion “ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shews, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations from one end of the continent to the other.”

And so it was and is. 

In the midst of the Revolutionary War in 1777, Philadelphia held large Independence Day festivities.  The Continental Congress feasted at an official dinner, gave toasts, and arranged a 13-gun salute.  Residents celebrated with speeches, parades, and fireworks.   A year later, with France now allied with the colonies, even the American army celebrated the big day—George Washington gave his troops a double ration of rum and ordered a cannon salute to mark the occasion. Learn more…



Labor Day

Did you know that Oregon was the first state to make Labor Day an official public holiday?  It enacted a law on February 21, 1887—but the legislation set the date as the first Saturday in June!  It was only when Colorado, Massachusetts, New York, and New Jersey made it a public holiday later that year that it was celebrated on a weekday, giving workers a day off. 

In the late 1800s, many Americans toiled 12 hours a day, seven days a week, often in physically demanding, low-paying jobs. Children worked too on farms and in factories and mines. Conditions were often harsh and unsafe.  Trade union and labor movements grew. 

Peter J. McGuire, a carpenter and labor union leader, is credited with coming up with the idea for Labor Day. He thought American workers should be honored with their own day. He proposed his idea to New York’s Central Labor Union early in 1882, and they agreed. With four long months between Independence Day and Thanksgiving, McGuire suggested a month halfway in between.  The very first Labor Day was held on a Tuesday, September 5, 1882, in New York City. The day was celebrated with a picnic, concert, and speeches. Ten thousand workers marched in a parade from City Hall to Union Square.

Soon after that first celebration, the holiday was moved to the first Monday in September, the day we still honor.   When President Grover Cleveland made Labor Day a nation public holiday in 1894, thirty states already officially celebrated Labor Day.

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