Holidays Around The World: Washington State Apple Blossom Festival

Washington State Apple Blossom Festival

The oldest blossom festival in the United States, this event has been held annually in Wenatchee, Washington, since 1920 (with the exception of the World War II years). It began with a suggestion from Mrs. E. Wagner, a Wenatchee resident who wanted to see something similar to the celebration held in her native New Zealand when the apple orchards were in bloom. Originally called Blossom Days, the event grew in size and popularity until it reached its current status as an 11-day festival drawing up to 100,000 spectators.

In 1947 the name of the festival was officially changed from the Wenatchee Apple Blossom Festival to its present name, although it continues to be held in Wenatchee, the “Apple Capital of the World.” In addition to seeing the Wenatchee Valley orchards in full bloom, the events include parades, a foodfest, a marching band competition, and sporting events. In 1967 the Aomori Apple Blossom Festival in Japan became Wenatchee’s “sister festival,” and the two towns have exchanged visitors a number of times.

Washington State Apple Blossom Festival
2 S. Chelan Ave., Ste. A
P.O. Box 2836
Wenatchee, WA 98801
509-662-3616; fax: 509-665-0347
AmerBkDays-2000, p. 326
BkFestHolWrld-1970, p. 89

Holidays Around the World for April 21: Salzburg Easter Festival

Salzburg Easter Festival

Easter Festival (Osterfestspiele)

Begins between March 15 and April 18 and ends between March 22 and April 26; Palm Sunday through Easter Monday

Salzburg’s Easter Festival was founded by the famous conductor Herbert von Karajan (1908-1989) in 1967 to honor the works of Richard Wagner (1813-1883), and it remains one of Europe’s most elite and elegant music festivals. Those who attend pay top prices, but in return they get to hear some of the world’s greatest performers. The Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra is the festival’s resident ensemble, and the chorus of the Vienna State Opera or the Choir of the Society of Friends of Music in Vienna perform the choral works. Von Karajan himself conducted all of the concerts, which include the works of Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750), Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827), Johannes Brahms (1833-1897), Gustav Mahler (1860-1911), Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) and Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901), until his death in 1989. Now various conductors are invited. A full-scale opera is performed twice during each nine-day festival in the Grosses Festspielhaus (large festival hall), which is known for its unique acoustics and seats more than 2,000.

Salzburg Easter Festival
Herbert von Karajan Platz 9
Salzburg, A-5020 Austria
43-662-8045-361; fax: 43-662-8045-790
MusFestEurBrit-1980, p. 20

Holidays Around the World for April 20th: Opal Festival

Opal Festival

March-April, Easter weekend

The South Australian town of Coober Pedy is known for its opal mines, producing about 70 percent of the world’s opals. In the early 20th century, newcomers to the area—explorers, miners, construction workers, soldiers returning from World War I—built underground dugouts in which to live because of the harsh environment of the outback, with its excessive heat and minimal water supply. Thus, the town came to be called “kupa piti” or “white man in a hole” by the aboriginal people.

Celebrated over Easter weekend, Coober Pedy’s annual Opal Festival includes such competitive events as the mine rescue demonstration, stein holding competition, beer belly contest, tug-of-war, tossing the sausage, triathlons for men and women, games and races for children, football, and the multicultural dance and singing competition. While the fun begins on Thursday night with the festival cabaret, Saturday is the main day, kicking off with a morning street parade featuring a marching band, mining equipment, and floats and culminating in a fireworks display and a dance at night. Throughout the festival, the opal walk leads festivalgoers from shop to shop to view rare and beautiful specimens, and dugout tours are available. There are also displays of local handicrafts, along with food and drink tents, stage acts, aboriginal dancing, and music.

Coober Pedy Opal Festival
Hutchison St.
P.O. Box 425
Coober Pedy, SA 5723 Australia
61-8-8672-5298; fax: 61-8-8672-5699
WildPlanet-1995, p. 420


Holidays Around the World for April 15: Jackie Robinson Day

Jackie Robinson Day

ackie Robinson Day is celebrated throughout Major League Baseball (MLB) in honor of Jackie Robinson, the first African American to play professional baseball in the MLB. In the first half of the 20th century, baseball was segregated. Robinson and other African Americans played in the Negro Leagues, but discrimination prevented them from playing in the MLB. On April 15, 1947, Robinson played his fJirst professional game for the Brooklyn Dodgers. In addition to breaking the color barrier, he went on to be named Rookie of the Year and later the National League’s Most Valuable Player. A six-time All-Star, he was elected in 1962 to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.


To commemorate Robinson’s achievements, activities are planned each year at all MLB stadiums on April 15th, or the date closest to that on which a baseball game is scheduled. Home teams coordinate activities for the tribute, which may include pregame award presentations, special guests throwing the first pitch, prizes for fans in attendance, and appearances by other legendary baseball stars. Jackie Robinson Day has been celebrated each year since 2004, with Robinson’s widow, Rachel, and other family members taking part in the annual ceremonies. To honor Robinson in 2007, many players donned special jerseys emblazoned with the number 42, which was Robinson’s number and which was permanently retired from baseball in 1997 on the 50th anniversary of his first game as a Dodger.

Jackie Robinson Day
Major League Baseball
c/o MLB Advanced Media, L.P.
75 Ninth Ave., 5th Fl.
New York, NY 10011
Jackie Robinson Foundation
One Hudson Sq.
75 Varick St., 2nd Fl.
New York, NY 10013-1917
212-290-8600; fax: 212-290-8081
AAH-2007, p. 233

Holidays Around the World for April 12: Liberia National Redemption Day

Liberia National Redemption Day

April 12

On April 12, 1980, 13 soldiers stormed Liberia’s executive mansion, killing President William R. Tolbert and 26 other government leaders. Shortly after the massacre, 13 cabinet members were publicly executed. The soldiers were led by Samuel Kanyon Doe, a member of the ethnic Krahn tribe who immediately declared himself president of Liberia and set up a military regime called the People’s Redemption Council. He also declared that in the coming years April 12 would be National Redemption Day.

Doe associated his regime with redemption because he believed that as a member of Liberia’s long-repressed indigenous majority, he would lead a restructuring of the country’s power base. His rule, however, was not the welcome change that many anticipated. Instead, his regime was marred by corruption and severe political abuses from April 1980 until his death on September 9, 1990.

For Doe’s political opponents, National Redemption Day was a time to memorialize the many individuals who were killed during that tragic month in 1980. Today, many Liberians observe the anniversary by remembering the slain.

Liberia Ministry of Information, Cultural Affairs and Tourism (MICAT)
110 United Nations Dr.
P.O. Box 10-9021
Capitol Hill, 1000
Monrovia, Liberia

Holidays Around the World for April 11th: Juan Santamaría Day

Juan Santamaría Day


Juan Santamaría is remembered as a national hero in Costa Rica. The country had been threatened in 1856 by William Walker, an American imperialist who planned to use his mercenary army to conquer Central America and use its citizens for slave labor. Walker had already taken control of Nicaragua and organized a similar invasion of Costa Rica.

Santamaría, a 19-year-old drummer boy from the town of Alajeula, was part of the makeshift militia that fought Walker’s forces. On April 11, 1856, Santamaría volunteered for a dangerous assignment. There are conflicting stories about his actions, which either set fire to Walker’s fort or his ammunitions store. In any event, Santamaría was killed in the process, and Walker’s forces were eventually repelled.

Juan Santamaría Day is actually a week-long festival of parades, concerts, dancing, and marching bands throughout the country, with the biggest celebrations in Alajeula. The official holiday, when schools, government offices, and businesses are closed, is usually on April 11, the anniversary of Santamaría’s death. But the official date has been changed in recent years. If April 11 occurs during Easter week or on a weekend, the national holiday is celebrated on the closest Monday.

Embassy of Costa Rica
2114 S St. N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20008
202-234-2945 or 202-234-2946; fax: 202-265-4795

Holidays Around The World for April 10th: Lac Long Quan Festival

Lac Long Quan Festival

Six days in late March-early April

This six-day festival, held in the Vietnamese village of Binh Minh, honors the legendary king Lac Long Quan. According to tradition his wife, Au Co, “hatched” (in the sense of laying an egg) 100 people, who ended up populating what is now the Ha Tay Province.

During the festival people celebrate their ancestors with offerings of fruit and flowers paraded by young women accompanied by folk musicians, then elders bestow blessings on the offerings. Although Lac Long Quan and Au Co are the focus of the proceedings, Buddha is also included and considered a special guest.

Vietnam National Administration of Tourism
80 Quan Su Rd.
Hanoi, Vietnam
84-4-942-1061; fax: 84-4-826-3956
WildPlanet-1995, p. 405

Holidays Around The World for April 8: Hana Matsuri

Hana Matsuri

Hana Matsuri is a celebration of the Buddha’s birthday, observed in Buddhist temples throughout Japan, where it is known as Kambutsue . The highlight of the celebration is a ritual known as kambutsue(“ceremony of ‘baptizing’ the Buddha”), in which a tiny bronze statue of the Buddha, standing in an open lotus flower, is anointed with sweet tea. People use a small bamboo ladle to pour the tea, made of hydrangea leaves, over the head of the statue. The custom is supposed to date from the seventh century, when perfume was used, as well as tea. Festivities often include a procession of children carrying flowers.

Japan Information Network, Japan Center for Intercultural Communications
2-7-7 Hirakawacho
Tokyo, 102-0093 Japan
81-3-3263-5041; fax: 81-3-3230-4107
BkFestHolWrld-1970, p. 76
JapanFest-1965, p. 62

Holidays Around the World for April 7: Carling Sunday

Carling Sunday

Carling Sunday is the fifth Sunday in Lent, and is also known as Passion Sunday . Its name possibly derives from “care.” It is traditional in Great Britain to eat a dish of parched peas cooked in butter, called a carling, said to be in memory of grain Jesus’ disciples picked on the Sabbath.

BkDays-1864, vol. I, p. 336
BkFest-1937, p. 56
DictDays-1988, p. 19
EncyEaster-2002, p. 463
FestSaintDays-1915, p. 53
FolkWrldHol-1999, p. 169
OxYear-1999, p. 615

Holidays Around The World for April 6th: Founding of the Church of Latter-Day Saints

Founding of the Church of Latter-Day Saints

April 6, 1830, is the day on which Joseph Smith formally established the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-Day Saints (also known as Mormons) in Fayette, New York. Three years later the anniversary of the Church’s founding was celebrated for the first time, with a meeting of about 80 people on the Big Blue River in Jackson County, Missouri. After that, there were no “birthday” celebrations until 1837, when a general conference was held to conduct church business and to observe the anniversary. Eventually the idea of holding an annual conference became an established custom, and it was always scheduled to encompass the April 6 founding date.

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints
50 N.E. Temple St.
Salt Lake City, UT 84150
801-240-1000; fax: 801-240-1187
AmerBkDays-2000, p. 260
DaysCustFaith-1957, p. 94
DictWrldRel-1989, p. 423
FolkAmerHol-1999, p. 196
RelHolCal-2004, p. 126