Sweet November

November 22, 1963, was the day that President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas. The word "assassination" generally refers to the murder of a powerful or prominent person: Kings, presidents, and other political personalities are the most common.

President Kennedy, one the youngest United States Presidents in history, had won the election in 1960 against Richard Nixon. That election was groundbreaking as elections go, being the first one to use televised debates of the presidential candidates.

Nixon, a Republican and an older candidate, had years of public service beginning with his service in the Navy as a Lieutenant commander during World War II, despite the fact that he was a Quaker and could have avoided the service by using the conscientious objector exemption. He went on to be elected as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from southern California for four years, followed by three years as a senator before being tapped by Dwight David Eisenhower to be the Vice President.

Kennedy, on the other hand, was a vibrant young man who came from a prominent and wealthy political family, headed by Joe and Rose Kennedy also had a career as a Naval officer during World War II. Kennedy was a Lieutenant and a war hero. His boat, the PT-109, was rammed by a Japanese destroyer, hurling him and his men into the Pacific. He led his men as they swam to a small island, Kennedy pulling a badly burned crewman behind him as he swam, the crewman's lifejacket strap in Kennedy's teeth. He subsequently wrote a book about the event, entitled "PT-109."

Kennedy went on to serve six years as a Representative in Congress, and one term as a U.S. Senator before being elected as President of the United States. Kennedy, whose physical presence and vigor was compelling, royally trounced Nixon, who was pale and sick the night of the debate.

JFK's wife, Jacqueline Lee Bouvier, was beautiful, graceful, and beloved by Americans. She was the height of style, and launched more than one dress designer to fame. Whatever dress she wore, women flocked to buy copies of. She popularized the pillbox hat. She also was the mother of John Jr. (known affectionately by all as John-John) and Caroline.

Unfortunately for the Kennedy's not everything was "hunky-dory."  JFK was diagnosed with Addison's disease and was, by many accounts, addicted to cortisone. Jackie lost two children, one only a few months before JFK's death. There was an open secret about the President and actress Marilyn Monroe having an affair. There was the unfortunate Bay of Pigs invasion, and the Cuban Missile Crisis.

But Kennedy gave one of the country's most famous speeches when he launched the "space race." He presided over the beginning of the Civil Rights movement. He gave inspiring speeches at the Berlin Wall, at American University. And he cut a fine and dashing figure on television.

On November 22, 1963, he took a trip to Dallas to help the Democratic Party settle some problems between the liberal wing of the party and conservative Governor John Connally. In fact, Connally, who served as Kennedy's Secretary of the Navy in 1961, was sitting next to him in his open-air limousine that afternoon as his motorcade paraded down the street, with hundreds of fans waving and applauding his presence. Shots rang out, and there was a commotion as the President, who had been shot, was rushed to the hospital. Connally had been shot as well, wounded in the chest, wrist, and thigh. Kennedy was pronounced dead at 1:00 pm, Central Standard Time. He was 46 years old.

Connally would soon recover. Every law enforcement officer in Dallas was mobilized, and it was quickly ascertained that the shots had been fired by a rifle from the Texas School Book Depository. They tracked down the suspected assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, and charged him with the murder of local policeman J.D. Tippit and the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

Oswald, a former marine, repeated that he was innocent and "a patsy" for the rest of his life, which was actually only two more days. He was shot and killed by nightclub owner Jack Ruby the morning of November 24, as Oswald was being transferred from the police headquarters to the county jail. The shooting was seen by millions, due to the fact that Oswald's transfer was on live television. Ruby was arrested immediately, and eventually died in jail of lung cancer.

There have been conspiracy theories and questions about the events of November 22-24, 1963 since nearly the moment things began to happen. The official report on the assassination, the Warren Commission Report, was controversial, and many people had trouble believing some of the things that the report put out as fact. No real reason was ever pinpointed for Kennedy's murder - or for Oswalds. JFK was buried in Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.

Additional resources relating to this article and the month of November:

Report of the President's Commission on the Assassination of President Kennedy

A Long December

Every December 31, cultures which use the Gregorian calendar celebrate New Years Eve, which is, essentially, the day and night before the beginning of the near calendar year, which takes place at exactly midnight on the 31st, which begins New Years Day.

Some cultures keep the tradition of wild partying and fireworks while others make it a night of prayer. The former tend to wear silly hats and/or costumes and make a lot of noise as the new year approaches, while the latter might attend services at their church or synagogue, praying for a prosperous or peaceful new year.

In the United States, virtually every locality has some sort of nighttime celebration, and many have gatherings where celebrants count down the moments to midnight. The biggest celebration is in New York City, in Times Square, where tens of thousands of people come to listen to music and watch the huge crystal ball drop slowly to the ground, counting down the seconds in unison as it descends, arriving at the ground at precisely midnight, whereupon celebrants kiss those they are with. It is traditional to play the Scottish song, "Auld Lang Syne," which was written by Robert Burns. The title phrase is strictly translated as "old long since," but is loosely translated as "the good old days," and the song urges people to look forward with hope to the coming year. The loud noises, including firecrackers and air horns, as well as vocal yelling and whooping, is a carryover from the days when noise was thought to scare off evil spirits.

Over the years, many cities had street parties which ended in vandalism and violence, and in 1976, the city of Boston became the first city in the United States to institute a "First Night" celebration, which was an effort to replace the unorganized wild revelry with musical performances and non-alcoholic beverages.

Several towns and cities have cancelled their First Night parties which would ring in the year 2011, due to the economic downturn, but the vast majority of them will go on!

Boston's First Night celebration is held at the Hynes Convention Center and features musicians and improv comedians as well as puppet shows, ice sculpture exhibits, and a dance troupe. Documentaries including one about Condoleezza Rice and one about Harry Nilsson will play inside. There is also an annual fireworks show as well as a laser light show.

St. Petersburg, Florida holds its 17th annual First Night St. Pete, with all venues being held within walking distance of downtown, along the waterfront.

Hartford, Connecticut features fireworks which can be seen from anywhere in the city and has venues including the public library, the Old State House, and city hall.

In Fayetteville, Arkansas, the alcohol-free celebration will be held at the Northwest Arkansas Mall, while Monterey, California will host First Night with 70 performances at 25 venues in its historic downtown area.

Dover, Delaware has magicians, musicians, and the annual crown decorating contest as well as the traditional tarot readings and lantern tours through the city.

Lewis and Clark Community College puts on First Night River Bend in Godfrey, Illinois, which features the one-ring circus, Circus Flora with the Flying Wallendas. Also performing are a jazz quartet, a magician, and the grand finale is held in the Commons Courtyard.

Port Huron, Michigan hosts their party all over their downtown area, with events including Chinese acrobats, a lighted bus tour, bluegrass music, and the Enchanted Princess Ball.

Missoula, Montana is celebrating with dance, poetry reading, music, comedy, and food, as are Worcester, Massachusetts, and the community of Norwich, Connecticut.

New Jersey has several First Night celebrations, including the one in Ocean City, which features activities beginning at 4:00, including a troupe of Japanese drummers, jugglers, and gospel music as well as historic films and games including miniature golf. Meanwhile, the city of Montclair features performances by Phoebe Snow and Fantasy on Ice, featuring figure skating champion Rosie Tovi. Not to be outdone, the city of Haddonfield puts on their gala with numerous events, including actor Keith Henley, who performs a re-enactment the journey of slave Henry "Box" Brown who had himself mailed to Philadelphia from Virginia in 1849. Also featured are Irish singers, a jazz band from Brazil, and the PBS "Kid Show" stars, the Paisley Pickles are all scheduled to entertain.

Tacoma, Washington offers more than just entertainers, food, and films. The celebration is kicked off by the "Last Mile at First Night," is run, beginning at 6:15. Participants wear bunny ears and are encouraged to wear costumes and decorated hats and shoes.

Other cities across the United States which celebrate First Night include:

Fullerton, California
Fort Collins, Colorado
Danbury, Connecticut
Wilmington, Delaware
Springfield, Illinois
Council Bluffs, Iowa
New Bedford, Massachusetts
Port Huron, New York
St. Louis, Missouri
Wolfeboro, New Hampshire
Raleigh, North Carolina
Youngstown, Ohio
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Knoxville, Tennessee
Spokane, Washington

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