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 December 19 in History

 Today's birthday

For the week of Dec. 14, 2014

Tatanka-Yatanka (Sitting Bull) (1830s-1890): American Indian. (Sioux). Spiritual and military leader. Sitting Bull fought and negotiated throughout his life to maintain his people's way of life and their right to their lands in the Black Hills. Leader of the army of Sioux and Cheyenne warriors who annihilated General George Custer's command at Little Bighorn in 1876, Sitting Bull continues to lead the resistance to displacement and assimilation even after most of his followers had capitulated. He was killed on this date while under arrest, in a confrontation between his followers and federal police officers.

Eid al-fitr (The Feast of Breaking the Fast): Islam. This marks the end of Ramadan. It begins at the sighting of the new moon and is the time for breaking the fast. This is a three-day festival of feasting, buying and wearing new clothes, and celebrations. Since Islamic holidays are based on the lunar calendar, Eid al-fitr may occur twice in the same year.

Las Posadas: Mexico. Las Posadas, celebrated from December 16 to December 24, commemorates Mary and Joseph's effort to find an inn and the events associated with the birth of Jesus. The holiday takes its name from the Spanish word posadas, meaning a dwelling. A candlelight procession represents the star in heaven that guided the three wise men on their way. After a religious ceremony on December 24, there is a traditional celebration centering on the pinata, a decorated clay container filled with toys and candy. A child is blindfolded, turned around a few times, and given a wooden stick and three chances to break the pinata. When the pinata is broken, the children scramble for the candy.

Victory Day: Bangladesh. This marks the day in 1971 that Bangladesh won independence from Pakistan.

Repeal of Chinese Exclusion Acts (1943): United States. On this date, as the United States fought side by side with China in World War II, Congress repealed the laws that had excluded Chinese from immigration to the United States since 1882. The new law also permitted Chinese immigrants to become naturalized citizens. The yearly quota was set at only 105 immigrants, however, and applicants for citizenship were required to document their legal entry into the United States and pass tests in English language, American history, and knowledge of the Constitution.

Alaska Native Settlement Act (1971): United States. This act gave Inuit, Indian, and Aleut people title to 40 million acres of U. S. federal land that native people claimed had been taken from them by provisions in the Alaska Statehood Act. The Alaska Claims Settlement Act also provided close to $l billion to native villages and regional corporations.

Carter G. Woodson (1875-1950): African American. Historian. Dr Woodson, for many years the lone voice in American Negro historiography, organized Associated Publishers in 1921 in order to produce textbooks and other material on African Americans. A year later, he retired from academic life in order to devote his full time to research as director of the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History and as editor of the Journal of Negro History. It was through Dr Woodson's efforts that Negro History Week was established in 1926. It is now celebrated as African or Black History month.

Hanukkah: Jewish. This holiday, often misunderstood as the Jewish Christmas since it occurs in December, commemorates the victory of the Jewish people, led by the Maccabee family, over the Syrian Greeks in 165 B. C. E. This victory marked the end of a three-year period of religious persecution, restored Jewish independence, and ensured the survival of monotheism (belief in one God). According to legend, when the Jews returned to cleanse their Temple, which had been defiled by pagan worship, they discovered only enough consecrated oil to keep the holy lamp burning for one day. However, the oil miraculously lasted eight days, the time needed to secure a new supply. Hanukkah is celebrated by lighting a candle on each of the eight days of celebration. On the first night, one candle is lit in a branched candlestick called a Menorah, and an additional candle is lit each night until the eighth night. This ceremony has given the holiday the additional name of Festival of Lights. Hanukkah is joyfully celebrated . Special Hebrew hymns, including Rock of Ages, are sung, family members exchange gifts, and children play with a dreidel, a four-sided top inscribed with the Hebrew letters for a great miracle happened there. Potato pancakes (latkes) are a traditional food treat, with the oil used for cooking recalling the oil in the sacred lamp. The holiday ends at sundown on December 7.

Sacagawea (?-1812): American Indian (Shoshone). Guide and explorer. This day marks the anniversary of the death of the young Shoshone woman who joined the Lewis and Clark expedition at Fort Mandan (near present-day Bismarck North Dakota) and accompanied the explorers on their journey through the newly purchased Louisiana Territory to the Pacific Coast. Sacagawea was the expedition's chief interpreter. The journey reunited her with her tribe, from whom she had been abducted several years earlier.

Maria Cadilla de Martinez (1886-1951): Puerto Rican. Educator, folklorist, writer, and activist. Maria Cadilla de Martinez made outstanding contributions to every field in which she worked. As a professor at the University of Puerto Rico, she inspired generations of students to study and preserve their cultural heritage. Her own research into Puerto Rican folklore and customs helped ensure the preservation of important aspects of the island's culture. Her writings included collections of folktales, retold in * contemporary language, and volumes of her own poetry, as well as scholarly books and articles. She was also a pioneering feminist who worked ardently for women's causes, including the campaign for the right to vote. *

Henrietta Szold (1860-1945): Jewish American. Activist. Szold was the founder and first president of Hadassah, the women's Zionist organization that had been responsible for fostering improved health care in Palestine. She also cofounded the Jewish Publication Society of America.