Monday, November 14, 2011

International, Universal, Costa Rican Children’s Day….Which to Celebrate?

"Children’s Day", as an event worth celebrating, as the children are our future. The biggest problem is no one can decide which day to actually celebrate this important day! Celebrated on varying days and month in many countries around the world, the idea is to generate awareness and give special honor to the children. Such a great idea, but what the heck day do we celebrate this on? The answer depends on where you are at any give time!

International Children's Day
The World Conference for the Well-being of Children in Geneva, Switzerland proclaimed June 1 to be International Children's Day in 1925. It is not clear why June 1 was chosen as the International Children's Day, and some lend to the theory that the Chinese consul-general in San Francisco (USA) gathered a number of Chinese orphans to celebrate the Dragon Boat Festival in 1925, which was on June 1. They had such a great time, that they proclaimed that “Children’s Day”! Upon repeating the story when attending that year, the Geneva Conference, it is said that that was what spawned the idea of a Worldwide or Universal celebration.
The holiday is celebrated on June 1st in most countries, marked mostly with charity events and speeches on children's rights and well being, showing of special children themed TV programs, celebrations with small school parties, children themed museum shows and mostly small private outings or family celebrations.
The date still varies greatly country to country though, for example Angola and Chile celebrate in August, Australia and Brazil in October, Bolivia and Columbia in April, Hungary and Japan in May and just about every month in between a different country is celebrating!

Universal Children's Day
Fast forward to Universal Children's Day, which confusingly enought takes place on November 20 each year. The Universal Children’s holiday was first celebrated worldwide in October 1953, under the sponsorship of International Union for Child Welfare in Geneva and later proclaimed official by the United Nations General Assembly in 1954. The date was established to encourage all countries to institute mutual exchange and further understanding about children and to further initiate action to benefit and promote the welfare of the world's children. November 20th is also the anniversary of the day when the United Nations General Assembly adopted the “Declaration of the Rights of the Child” in 1959. The Convention on the Rights of the Child was then signed on the same day in 1989, which has since been ratified by 191 states, making this day to be officially considered “Children’s Day”.

I’m sure this will surprise most of you, but Universal Children's Day is preceded by International Men's Day, celebrated (apparently) on November 19th. This was designed to create a 48 hour celebration of men and children respectively during which time the positive roles men play in children's lives are to be recognized. Who knew? Does anyone know anyone that has celebrated Men’s Day? I’m guessing not, as I have never heard or even been aware of this “day”. Luckily my husband is not aware of it either!

Observance in Costa Rica
In Costa Rica, this special day is celebrated on September 9th. The day is not considered a legal holiday but is widely celebrated throughout the country. Every year there are many special activities planned at Costa Rica Hotels, Restaurants, Museums, Recreation Centers, as well as private homes, all honoring the country’s children and the special meaning they have in this culture. It’s important to remember that in Costa Rica, celebrations can be much simpler affairs than we were used to in the United States, as witnessed by the following video. A true Costa Rica classic!

Confusing Children’s Day in the USA
Children's Day observations in the United States predate both Mother's and Father's Day, though a permanent annual single Children's Day observation is not made at the national level. Way behind the curve, Children & Youth Day in Hawaii started in 1994 when the Hawaii Legislature became the first to pass a law to recognize the first Sunday in October (ANOTHER date!) as "Children's Day". In 1997, the Legislature passed another landmark law designating the entire month of October as "Children and Youth Month". A whole month? Has anyone been around kids for an entire month? It’s hard to celebrate them that long!!
Then to confuse it more, Children's Day was proclaimed by President Bill Clinton to be held on October 11, in 1998, all in response to a letter written by a six year old boy inquiring if he would make a Children's Day for him. I guess it wasn’t a very busy day at the Whitehouse at that time! To keep the confusion growing, "National Child's Day" was proclaimed by President George W. Bush as June 3, in 2001 and in subsequent years it later changed to the first Sunday in June.
Just in case you weren’t confused enough, since 2009, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn has proclaimed the second Sunday in June as Children's Day as had the previous governor in 2007 and 2008, but the mayors of Aurora and Batavia, Illinois, also have issued proclamations for their own celebration dates. Children's day for calendar year 2011 was observed on June 12 and it's next observance will be on June 10, 2012.

Seriously? Who can remember all this? Apparently not many people, as I am 50 years old and have never heard, much less celebrated any of these dates!! As far as I can see, nowhere in any of the zillions of proclamations did any of the US Presidents, Governors, Mayors or other wannabes refer to the United Nations or the UN Resolution about what day is Universal Child Day. Oops!

Nonetheless, this holiday has never taken off in the USA, and the most you can get are a few feeble attempts at celebrations by kids at schools to help raise awareness. That is, unless it is sponsored by charitable organizations hoping for generous donations in the name of the children! Notice this video offers another random date as Children’s Day!

Does it really matter what day we celebrate the children? I think this is something worth celebrating everyday! The children are our future…isn’t it time we start a new tradition and celebrate all children by having an International Children’s Day that we can all agree on?
Notice at the end of this video it has even ANOTHER day to celebrate International Children’s Day!

Kimberly Barron, originally from Malibu, California has lived in Parismina and Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica for 20 years. Starting as a certified tour guide, she spent 15 years managing fishing lodges on the Caribbean Coast and later 4* & 5* Hotels on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica. Currently semi-retired, Kimberly still works as the Marketing Director for Byblos Resort & Casino and Hotel Makanda by the Sea.

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