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15 Festive International Holidays the U.S. Should Adopt

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Americans have a pretty terrific slate of national holidays, but if we could just add these special days, festivals, and events from abroad, the calendar would be even more delightful.

1. Bolludagur (Iceland)

Two days before Lent, they celebrate Bolludagur, or "Buns Day," by eating cream puffs or “buns” of all sizes, shapes, and fillings. Kids get an especially sweet deal. According to tradition, they're supposed to wake up before their parents and gently beat them awake with a homemade Bun Wand. They earn one cream puff for every blow they land.

2. Feast for Monkeys (Thailand)

In the Hindu epic the Ramayana, the hero Rama gives Thailand's province of Lopburi to the monkey king Hanuman. On the last Sunday of each November, all of Hanuman’s real-life monkey descendants get the royal treatment. Townspeople set up a feast of more than four tons of fruits, vegetables, and even sodas for the local macaques to enjoy.

3. Hadaka Matsuri (Japan)

Men demonstrate their masculinity in many ways, but no ritual makes it as tough as Japan's Hadaka Matsuri. The men aren't completely naked, but most strip down to loincloths on a cold February night to test their manhood and battle for future happiness. The night gets off to a freezing start when men purify themselves in fountains or the Yoshi River. Then they try to catch sacred batons thrown into the crowd by priests. Meanwhile, somewhere very cozy, we’re guessing the ladies are probably a little relieved that there's no Naked Woman Festival.

4. La Tomatina (Spain)

You don't have to fight for the right to food fight in Buñol, Spain. On the last Wednesday of every August, thousands of people gather for La Tomatina. The events starts out tame at 10 a.m. with a game of palo jabón, in which competitors climb slippery greased poles to get to ham at the top. Once the meat drops, the one-hour food fight is on. A shot is fired, and trucks from Extremadura bring in some 150,000 overripe tomatoes.

Don't think this is a red-splattered free-for-all—La Tomatina comes with rules. For starters, tomatoes are squashed to avoid injuries, and goggles and gloves are advised. No other projectiles, fruit or otherwise, are allowed. Participants must keep their shirts on. And once the second shot goes off, the food fight is over.

5. Ystävänpäivä (Finland)

Finland’s answer to V-Day is actually Y-day, and it's about celebrating friendship, not romance. Men and women give cards, gifts, and candy to their platonic life partners. No one feels left out or expresses curmudgeonly anti Y-Day sentiment. At least, we hope not.

6. Laskiainen (Finland)

Laskiainen is another Finnish tradition we're ready to start. Seven weeks before Easter, Finns fuel themselves with pea soup and buns filled with jams and cream. It's all downhill from there: men, women, and children spend the rest of the day sledding. Since the 1930s, Palo, Minnesota has celebrated Laskiainen with authentic music, food, crafts, and high-speed snow racing. What trailblazers!

7. Chinchilla Melon Festival

Many towns celebrate local crops, but they take it to another level Down Under. Every two years, Chinchilla—the Melon Capital of Australia—plans a giant four-day shindig with lots of juicy fun. Activities include archery that replaces the dart with a melon, a fruity slip and slide, and even melon skiing. Yes, skiing downhill wearing watermelons on your feet.

8. Keirō no Hi (Japan)

Japan’s Keirō no Hi, or Respect for the Aged Day, on every third Monday of September is devoted to honoring older folks... even if they're not your own grandparents. Volunteers prepare and deliver free meals, children perform songs and dances at special ceremonies, and the media spends the day highlighting elderly people doing amazing things in their twilight years.

9. Up-Helly-Aa (Scotland)

This Scottish holiday at the end of each December starts with themed costumes and hundreds of people bearing torches. They march and then set fire to a replica of a Viking ship to depict the rebirth of the sun. It's a cross between Halloween, a good old-fashioned bonfire, and an action movie.

10. The Anastenaria (Greece and Bulgaria)

Revelers in Northern Greece and Southern Bulgaria get fired up twice a year for the Anastenaria. The dancing celebrations, dedicated to Orthodox Christian figures Saint Constantine and Saint Helena, last for three days and culminate in fire walking. But don't worry—dancers say they don't feel a thing, thanks to the protection of the saints.

11. International Camel Derby & Festival (Kenya)

Horse races, trail rides, and rodeos are great and all, but camels make for a more wild ride. Since 1990, Maralal, Kenya has been the site of the International Camel Derby & Festival. The event attracts riders from all over the world and is surprisingly open to novices. Even without prior camel riding experience, you can hire a camel and a handler for the 10-kilometer (6.2 mile) Amateur race. More seasoned camel riders are eligible for the 42-kilometer (26.2 mile) Pro Elite race without a handler.

12. Nyepi Day (Indonesia)

People worldwide are encouraged to reflect on their past, present, and future at the dawn of a new year. On Bali's annual Nyepi Day, quiet contemplation is actually enforced. People are supposed to spend the Lunar New Year at home in silence—avoiding the distractions of electricity, food, TV, and radio. Security guards patrol the streets, ready to bust anyone they catch outside. Sounds relaxing ... for a little while, anyway. After Nyepi Day, Balinese people turn the volume way up with cleansing rituals, demon exorcism, effigy burning, carnivals, and even the Omed-Omedan kissing festival for teenagers.

13. Holi (India and Nepal)

Each spring, revelers in India, Nepal, and elsewhere start the celebration of the Hindu Festival of Colors the night before by lighting bonfires in honor of a boy named Prahlada from Hindu legend and his triumph over his evil aunt Holika, who tried to burn him in a fire. The next morning is a beautifully messy free-for-all with colored powder, water balloons, and live music. Holi is a time to make new friends, make amends with former ones, and believe in the power of good.

14. Race the Train (Wales)

Who needs a running buddy when you can just follow a train carrying all your supporters? In the annual Race the Train event in Tywyn, Wales, participants run alongside the tracks of the Talyllyn Railway to and from the village of Abergynolwyn. (Incidentally, these names are even harder to pronounce after you've run a few miles.) Runners cross all kinds of terrain, from country lanes to rough pastures, as the train's passengers cheer them on. And if things don't go so well, it can't be that hard to hop aboard on the second leg of the trip.

15. Takanakuy (Peru)

The holiday season can be stressful. Each Christmas, people from the Peruvian province of Chumbivilcas take their aggressions out on each other in a series of minute-long public brawls. Takanakuy, which translates to "when the blood is boiling" in Quechua, is open to men, women, children, and the elderly to address civil or private matters. Interestingly enough, most fighters use martial arts-style moves, instead of a good old knuckle sandwich. Once their altercation is over, they shake hands or hug it out and consider the issue resolved.

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15 Dad Facts for Father's Day
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Gather 'round the grill and toast Dad for Father's Day—the national holiday so awesome that Americans have celebrated it for more than a century. Here are 15 Dad facts you can wow him with today.

1. Halsey Taylor invented the drinking fountain in 1912 as a tribute to his father, who succumbed to typhoid fever after drinking from a contaminated public water supply in 1896.

2. George Washington, the celebrated father of our country, had no children of his own. A 2004 study suggested that a type of tuberculosis that Washington contracted in childhood may have rendered him sterile. He did adopt the two children from Martha Custis's first marriage.

3. In Thailand, the king's birthday also serves as National Father's Day. The celebration includes fireworks, speeches, and acts of charity and honor—the most distinct being the donation of blood and the liberation of captive animals.

4. In 1950, after a Washington Post music critic gave Harry Truman's daughter Margaret's concert a negative review, the president came out swinging: "Some day I hope to meet you," he wrote. "When that happens you'll need a new nose, a lot of beefsteak for black eyes, and perhaps a supporter below!"

5. A.A. Milne created Winnie the Pooh for his son, Christopher Robin. Pooh was based on Robin's teddy bear, Edward, a gift Christopher had received for his first birthday, and on their father/son visits to the London Zoo, where the bear named Winnie was Christopher's favorite. Pooh comes from the name of Christopher's pet swan.

6. Kurt Vonnegut was (for a short time) Geraldo Rivera's father-in-law. Rivera's marriage to Edith Vonnegut ended in 1974 because of his womanizing. Her ever-protective father was quoted as saying, "If I see Gerry again, I'll spit in his face." He also included an unflattering character named Jerry Rivers (a chauffeur) in a few of his books.

7. Andre Agassi's father represented Iran in the 1948 and 1952 Olympics as a boxer.

8. Charlemagne, the 8th-century king of the Franks, united much of Western Europe through military campaigns and has been called the "king and father of Europe" [PDF]. Charlemagne was also a devoted dad to about 18 children, and today, most Europeans may be able to claim Charlemagne as their ancestor.

9. The voice of Papa Smurf, Don Messick, also provided the voice of Scooby-Doo, Ranger Smith on Yogi Bear, and Astro and RUDI on The Jetsons.

10. In 2001, Yuri Usachev, cosmonaut and commander of the International Space Station, received a talking picture frame from his 12-year-old daughter while in orbit. The gift was made possible by RadioShack, which filmed the presentation of the gift for a TV commercial.

11. The only father-daughter collaboration to hit the top spot on the Billboard pop music chart was the 1967 hit single "Something Stupid" by Frank & Nancy Sinatra.

12. In the underwater world of the seahorse, it's the male that gets to carry the eggs and birth the babies.

13. If show creator/producer Sherwood Schwartz had gotten his way, Gene Hackman would have portrayed the role of father Mike Brady on The Brady Bunch.

14. The Stevie Wonder song "Isn't She Lovely" is about his newborn daughter, Aisha. If you listen closely, you can hear Aisha crying during the song.

15. Dick Hoyt has pushed and pulled his son Rick, who has cerebral palsy, through hundreds of marathons and triathlons. Rick cannot speak, but using a custom-designed computer he has been able to communicate. They ran their first five-mile race together when Rick was in high school. When they were done, Rick sent his father this message: "Dad, when we were running, it felt like I wasn't disabled anymore!"

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13 Rules for Displaying the American Flag
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With Memorial Day, Independence Day, and a few others, there's no lack of patriotic holidays in the United States. But one in particular is all about the star spangled banner that flies o'er the land of the free and the home of the brave. Flag Day—June 14—is the official commemoration of the stars and stripes as the country's standard.

The flag was officially adopted on June 14, 1777 at the Second Continental Congress, and since then, Americans have flown it at their homes, written songs about it and a pledge to it, and emblazoned it on everything from sunglasses to swim trunks. An estimated 150 million American flags are sold every year, with 76 percent of Americans 65 years and older saying they or their family owns a flag. Even 62 percent of 18-24 year olds say they or their family owns one, according to the National Retail Federation [PDF].

Such an important emblem of American ideals brings with it strict decorum. In 1923, a group of organizations headed by the American Legion outlined the National Flag Code as a set of rules on how to correctly display the flag, which were then turned into law during World War II as the United States Flag Code [PDF]. There are some obvious stipulations, like making sure the flag never hits the ground. But there are some out-of-left-field requirements as well. For instance, per the code, the flag is to be considered a living thing.

Just in case you need a quick rundown of the flag dos-and-don'ts, here are some lesser-known rules for displaying the flag this Flag Day.

1. YOU CAN FLY THE FLAG UPSIDE DOWN.

A protester marches with an upside-down American flag.
A protester marches with an upside-down American flag.
Edward Linsmier, Getty Images

The code goes to extreme lengths to define the rules of the flag, especially with regard to the position of the "union," or the blue field with the 50 state stars, being in certain positions. Obviously the best way to fly the flag is on a pole with the union up, but you can also fly it upside down—with one catch: you have to be in some serious trouble to do so.

Fly the flag upside down only "as a signal of dire distress in instances of extreme danger to life or property."

2. NO FLAG CAN HOLD PROMINENCE OVER THE AMERICAN FLAG—THOUGH THERE ARE TWO EXCEPTIONS.

American flag over white flag
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For Americans, Old Glory is tops when it comes to the flag-flying game. But despite the general rule that it should always be the most prominent, it's not always the most important.

Section 7 of the flag code decrees that no flag should be placed above the flag of the United States, but one exception is that the flag of the United Nations can be flown in a superior position, although only at the U.N. headquarters in New York.

One other exception involves a church's pennant being allowed to fly above the American flag during services performed by naval chaplains while at sea. As for your house? It looks like you should definitely make sure the American flag is up top.

3. YOU CAN FLY MULTIPLE COUNTRY FLAGS, BUT OLD GLORY GETS DIBS.

The American, Mexican, and Arizona flags hanging on poles.
Ken Bosma, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

If, say, Mexican-Americans want to display their heritage with the stars and stripes and the bandera nacional together, both are to be flown from separate staffs of the same height, and they should be equal in size.

But on U.S. soil the American flag should always be placed in a position of honor, meaning fly the flag to its own right (the viewer's left). If you have a few different country flags, the flags should be raised and lowered at the same time.

4. OTHER FLAGS GET SIMILAR TREATMENT.

American flag and Texas flag
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Fly your gay pride flag, your Chicago Cubs "W" banner, a ceremonial POW flag, your state standard, or any other kind of banner all you want. But pair it with the American flag, and a few different rules must take effect.

The flag of the United States should be at the center and at the highest point when grouped together. If you put multiple flags on a halyard of your boat, the U.S. flag should always be at the top.

5. YOU CAN PUT THE FLAG ON YOUR VEHICLE, BUT ONLY IN A CERTAIN WAY.

The presidential motorcade shows the proper flag placement for the front of a car.
The presidential motorcade shows the proper flag placement for the front of a car.
TIM SLOAN, AFP/Getty Images

When you want to get patriotic on the go, the code specifies that the flag shouldn't be draped over any sort of means of transportation, be it car, motorcycle, train, boat, subway, dune buggy, or whatever. Instead, it should be either fixed on a pole to the chassis or clamped on the right fender.

6. DON'T EVEN THINK ABOUT LAYING YOUR FLAG ON A PARADE FLOAT.

Participants on horseback hold U.S. flags during the annual Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena
Frederic J. Brown, AFP/Getty Images

Parades are a big part of American celebrations, and you'd better believe there are floats in those parades. These snail-paced, often extravagantly decorated vehicles might take ages to go a few blocks, but just because the flag might not catch wind doesn't mean it should be draped either. Treat a float like any other means of transportation and fly the flag vertically from a securely fastened staff.

If you're in a parade and carrying the flag in procession with other flags, the U.S. flag should be either on the marching right (like stage right) or in the front and center of the line.

7. YOU CAN FLY THE FLAG ALL YEAR ROUND IF IT'S NYLON.

Two flags hanging from houses on a quiet street.
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If a storm's coming, take down your flag. It's as easy as that. Despite the fact that the code says "the flag should not be displayed on days when the weather is inclement," it does make an exception for "when an all weather flag is displayed."

An all-weather flag is one made from nylon, polyester, or other non-absorbent materials, which shouldn't be hard to find—most flags nowadays are meant to be flown outdoors and are made of all-weather materials. Best to leave that old cotton flag properly stored indoors.

8. GET THE UNION SIDE RIGHT WHEN HANGING THE FLAG FROM A WINDOW.

American flag hanging in the window of a Banana Republic
Mario Tama, Getty Images

When you don't have a flag pole at your disposal, you can just hang the flag—but make sure it's the right positioning. When displayed either horizontally against a wall or vertically hanging in a window, the union portion of the flag should be the uppermost part and to the flag's own right—that is, to the observer's left.

9. YOU CAN STILL FLY YOUR FLAG IN THE DARK.

American flag at night
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Lowering or taking down the flag at sunset isn't strictly enforced by the code, it's just a "universal custom." Yet when "a patriotic effect is desired," you can let that thing soar at all hours of the day and night so long as it's "properly illuminated" during the evening and hours of darkness.

10. YOU NEED TO BE GEOGRAPHICALLY INCLINED WITH YOUR STREET FLAG.

American flag on city street
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Cities and towns across the country might want to adorn their fair streets with the stars and stripes, but even that has a strict set of rules.

When a city wants to fly the flag over the middle of the street, it needs to be suspended vertically with the union side of the flag pointing north on an east/west street or to the east on a north/south street.

11. MISSING SOME STARS ON YOUR FLAG? NO PROBLEM.

American Revolutionary Flag
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Say you dig up a flag from before Hawaii and Alaska joined the United States. What's a person to do if they want to fly their throwback flag with only 48 stars? Unless you are an official curator of a museum of American history, you will be fined. Just kidding—display your historical flag with pride.

The 50-star flag is the official flag, designated by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1959 (although the design wouldn't be official until July 4, 1960). But any personal flags lacking the full 50 stars may be displayed as long as they are in good condition, and they should be treated with the same respect and rules as the official flag.

12. MAKE SURE TO DISPLAY IT DURING PARTICULAR DAYS.

house with Americana
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You don't necessarily have to mark your calendars since the code specifies how the flag "should be displayed on all days," but it does call out some highlights—so maybe mark your calendar after all.

Make sure to fly that flag on New Year's Day; Inauguration Day; Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday; Lincoln's birthday; Washington's birthday; National Vietnam War Veterans Day; Easter; Mother's Day; Armed Forces Day; Memorial Day; Flag Day; Father's Day; Independence Day; National Korean War Veterans Armistice Day; Labor Day; Constitution Day; Columbus Day; Navy Day; Veterans Day; Thanksgiving; Christmas; state holidays; states' dates of admission, and "such other days as may be proclaimed by the President of the United States."

13. YOUR RIGHTS TO FLY THE FLAG IN AN APARTMENT BUILDING ARE UNCERTAIN.

American flag on apartment building
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Sometimes it might seem a bit difficult to fly your flag when you live in a building with other tenants. The people in 3C could complain that the flag whipping in the wind is too loud or that it is obstructing their view. Most rental tenants and owners of co-ops and condominiums have to adhere to a certain set of ground rules that restricts flag-flying.

In general, your right to display the United States flag is protected by federal law via the Freedom to Display the American Flag Act of 2005. But it's not a complete protection. The law specifies that a condominium association, cooperative association, or residential real estate management association can put in "any reasonable restriction pertaining to the time, place, or manner of displaying the flag of the United States necessary to protect a substantial interest." So if the flag is a potential hazard or excessively restricts neighbors' views, you might be out of luck. It's also generally agreed that the law doesn't protect renters, adding an entirely different set of complications. You'll just have to figure out how to work around any confines your home happens to have.

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