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Saturday, March 2

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This week's question was submitted by Alex. Thank you!

Q: I was recently reading Ned Rorem's Nantucket Diary. He mentions returning to Chicago in 1984...and attending a ceremony where [Mayor] Harold Washington named March 21-22 "City of Chicago Ned Rorem Days." What other days are there? Is there an official list somewhere?

Before I dive directly into this question, I want to make some distinctions between the various types of holidays and commemorative events celebrated every day, week and month in this country. The discussion will be limited, however, to secular or legal holidays because religious holidays play by entirely different sets of rules. But, in my own roundabout way, I will actually answer your question.

First, as with anything relating to the government, holidays and recognition days exist at several different levels. The true holidays are the federal holidays. These are the days that city hall is closed, the mail doesn't get delivered and most of us get the day off from work. After all, a holiday, by definition, constitutes a day on which one is exempt from work.

Now a disclaimer: I worked for three years as a library assistant in a major corporate law firm so I am aware of the following resources, but I am not a lawyer. The following information should not be taken as any kind of legal advice. It is for entertainment purposes only. If you are in need of legal advice, please consult an attorney. Thank you.

The yearly calendar for federal holidays is maintained by the Office of Personnel Management, the federal government's human resources agency. Their website includes a page that currently lists the federal holidays for every year between 1997 through 2010. The statutes governing federal holidays, however, can be found in Title 5, Section 6103 of the United States Code. This statute lists the federal holidays as including:

• New Year's Day, January 1.
• Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr., the third Monday in January.
• Washington's Birthday, the third Monday in February.
• Memorial Day, the last Monday in May.
• Independence Day, July 4.
• Labor Day, the first Monday in September.
• Columbus Day, the second Monday in October.
• Veterans Day, November 11.
• Thanksgiving Day, the fourth Thursday in November.
• Christmas Day, December 25.

Other statutes apply to particular professions or sections of the workforce. The Banking Code, for example, provides separate provisions for bank holidays while the School Code includes rules for holidays specific to teachers and educators.

But, you ask, what about our own beloved Casimir Pulaski Day? State holidays belong to the second tier of celebrations. Many states have at least one holiday unique to that state. Oklahoma, however, has eight. Usually the state holidays commemorate a person who holds some special meaning or significance for the area. Infoplease has a quick and dirty list of state holidays [] on their website. As with federal holidays, state holidays and commemorative days are codified in the state statutes. In Illinois, the list and rules for Casimir Pulaski Day and other commemorative days can be found in the Illinois Compiled Statutes as 5 ILCS 490/ State Commemorative Dates Act.

Fascinating, you reply, but what about Ned Rorem? What happened to his days? The type of event described in the original question belongs to a different breed of commemoration altogether. These celebrations belong to a category known as official proclamations. Although I'm not entirely certain how widespread the powers to issue official proclamations extend, they are typically issued by state governors or, as in the Ned Rorem example, city mayors. Official proclamations can recognize a person, a group of persons, an organization, or a special event. Furthermore, the proclamations can apply to a particular day, week or even month. The trick, however, is that official proclamations only apply to that specific day, week or month. So, when Mayor Harold Washington declared March 21-22 to be City of Chicago Ned Rorem Days, it only applied to March 21-22, 1984 (if that was, in fact, the year the ceremony took place) and not any previous or subsequent years.

In Illinois, official proclamations issued by the governor can be found in the Illinois Register. The Index Department has an online archive of the Illinois Register in .pdf format. Official proclamations are usually one of the last items listed in the table of contents. Then, jump to the correct page to read the full proclamation. In March 2004 (and only 2004), Illinois is supposedly celebrating Illinois Food Products Month, American Red Cross Month, Salvation Army Golden Diners March for Meals 30th Anniversary Week (March 15-19, 2004), and Center on Halsted Day (March 20, 2004). And that's just a partial list.

Mayor Daley also issues official proclamations for the city of Chicago. Although I could not easily locate a list online, you might want to try looking through the City Council Journal of Proceedings as a possible starting place.

Finally, if you are interested in obtaining an official proclamation for your own group, event or organization, you can find some guidelines online from other organizations. The National Runaway Switchboard in Chicago, for example, wanted to have November 2003 declared Runaway Prevention Month. Their website includes several guidelines and a sample letter to send to local governors, senators, representatives, and mayors in the hopes of receiving an official proclamation.

Have a topic you would like to see in "Ask the Librarian"? Send your suggestions to librarian@gapersblock and it may be featured in a future column.

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