Winners of the 2016 Almanac Essay Contest

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Thank you to everyone who submitted an essay. Here are the 2015 winners featured in The Old Farmer’s Almanac.

Topic: A new holiday we need—and why.

U.S. Essay Contest Winners

First Prize ($250)

Recently, when dropping my mother home from Bingo to her senior building, a fellow resident asked if I was going downtown. Her car was broken and she needed to get to the art store. I said, “Sorry.” I wasn’t. But then I saw her walking in the windy, soon-to-be-rainy weather. I thought, why not?, and offered her a ride. It wasn’t that far out of my way and maybe I would enjoy the art store. I found out she was going there to pick up two screws for her friend and that she and her friend take turns every other month doing something nice for one another. She was so appreciative and couldn’t believe a total stranger would drive her both ways. I said, “It was nothing compared to the nice things you do for your friend.”

On the drive home, I thought, how kind that she was willing to walk in bad weather 2 miles for her friend. It should be every day, but at least one day set aside for helping others would be nice: Pay It Forward Day.

–Jill Ashcraft, Medford, Oregon

Second Prize ($150)

There was a time when everyone knew how to handwrite a letter or note. Today we have college graduates who are very poor spellers with unreadable penmanship. There is nothing more personal than a handwritten note or letter. We are losing one or more of the most basic communication skills. When something is handwritten, you don’t need to worry about being hacked through the Internet or if the computer or cell phone battery is low or if the electric power goes out. You will never need to remember a password. Your handwriting is unique to yourself and can show your personality. Let us celebrate our ability to show how unique we are as individuals and one of our most personal communication skills by having a National Handwritten Day.

–Keith K. Bird, Northampton, Pennsylvania

Third Prize ($100)

While most of us sit down to a meal consisting of vegetables, dairy, fruit, or meat, we usually do not think about the farmers who worked hard to make such meals possible. We really should appreciate all that they do to feed the world by having National Farmers Day.

Unless you have a commercial-size farm, farming is not a high-profit job. This country really should consider creating a national holiday to thank the farmers for feeding the world. Farmers would appreciate this thanks very much. They are very deserving of such recognition.

–Evan Rhys Painter, Caledonia, Mississippi (12 years old)

Honorable Mention

I think there should be a second Christmas because Santa could look over his naughty and nice list and be able to change his mind if boys and girls were not as bad as he may have first thought. He then could deliver toys to the good boys and girls. I also think it would allow you to visit friends and relatives that you could not see on the other Christmas holiday. Another reason why I think there should be a second Christmas is if you did not get what you wanted on the first Christmas, you might get it on the second Christmas.

–Shea X., Pennsylvania (9 years old)

Every Day Should Be a Holiday

We received more than 200 essays on a wide range of holiday topics, all heartfelt and heartwarming. Several writers proposed especially unusual days: fishing day; sundial day; arts, hometown, and gathering days; storytelling day; heat of August day; yardsalers day; bees day; and hug day among them. A surprising number of people submitted essays on days celebrating silence (from devices); immigrants or Native People; veterans, first responders, and public service workers; sports, teams, and sporting events; pets; weather in every season; heritage and diversity; aunts, uncles, and siblings; heroes and victims of 9-11; farming and harvest; stress and health; First Ladies; historical figures (Helen Keller, George Washington Carver, Walt Disney, and Cherokee chief Wilma Mankiller, to name a few); and women in general. Election Day got many “votes,” and one writer made a plea for “no politics” day.

The creativity, logic, and imagination employed by all writers made this an especially challenging contest for the judges. Thanks to everyone who took the time to conceive and submit an essay. We appreciate your enthusiasm and invite you to try your hand at this year’s topic.

–Almanac editors

Canadian Essay Contest Winners

First Prize ($250)

In this country we have holidays
We like to celebrate.
As Canadians, I must admit,
We celebrate “first rate”!
We decorate for some of them
And really go all out!
For some we ponder deeply
What it’s all about.
For some we feast together
On turkey or whatever.
Should we have one cancelled?
Of course, the answer’s “Never!”
In fact, we need another one
To give the year some spice,
A useful one we’ve never had;
I think it would be nice,
If on that day we’d celebrate
All those who did befriend us;
Who when in need we turned to
And had something to lend us.
We got and used and kept something
Until the lender sorrowed.
We need a “National Return
Whatever You Have Borrowed.”
Just one more holiday as such,
Would truly be enough;
For with a holiday like this …
We’d all get back our stuff!
A holiday like this we need.
For it, our country yearns.
May Ottawa enact it soon
With many happy returns!

–Valerie Wadephul, Winnipeg, Manitoba

Second Prize ($150)

For most people, life is fast-paced. Some say, “There aren’t enough hours in a day” or “Where does the time go?”

Each year has 365 days, give or take a leap year, of course. Surely there must be some time to spare. Why? Because every day will be national Good Deed Day!

Pick any day and amount of free time you can donate to brighten someone’s day. A holiday of your choosing, celebrating the great person you are by performing a good deed on any day.

It might be helping someone with mowing the lawn or volunteering an hour or two of “companionship” time at a seniors’ home. Lending a hand at the local food bank, or helping a friend. Perhaps let the person with only a few items in the grocery checkout line behind you go ahead of your buggy-full.

The act of giving of your time and abilities is a wonderful self-esteem and confidence builder. It’s like a “treat” for the soul. Maybe “treat” sounds more like a piece of chocolate. Good, but it can leave a guilty aftertaste.

The “treat” you will savor is the sweet feeling of self-satisfaction. The gratifying aftertaste from doing a good deed—is guilt-free.

–Carlene Peter, Barrie, Ontario

Third Prize Tie ($100)

As Canadians, we’ve all been there: 6:30 a.m., static-heavy radio abuzz, overwhelmingly bright computer screen alight, trying to determine if the wintry weather conditions from the night before were enough to elicit school cancellations. Upon discovering that school has been cancelled, a manic whirlwind of emotions fills the typical house: Younger children euphorically outline their plans to build an entire snow family; teenagers breathe a collective sigh of relief with the knowledge that they were fully justified in not doing their homework that was due today; and the grownups, half-amused by the simple joys of their children, scramble to find an available baby-sitter.

It’s a scene so intrinsically Canadian, it deserves a Heritage Minute.

In fact, it deserves more than a minute. It deserves 1,440 minutes.

As Canadians, we deserve a National Snow Day.

The benefits are countless. A brief interlude in a long, cold, stretch between winter statutory holidays would be welcome. We Canadians, who proudly proclaim that #WeAreWinter, could put our funny-coloured money where our poutine-eating mouths are. And, most importantly, this weather-centric holiday might be the closest our government has come to discussing climate change in years.

–Jake Stillwell, Fredericton, New Brunswick

Third Prize Tie ($100)

Everybody talks about Groundhog Day, but nobody does anything about it. By making February 2 a national holiday, we can change that. Wiarton Willie has languished in Punxsutawney Phil’s shadow for far too long. Though his meteorological advice is more often heeded than that of professional scientists, few ever stop to thank him. Making Groundhog Day a national holiday would allow him to hold his head up at Predictive Rodents conventions and give him the public recognition he so badly needs. What’s more, after fully honouring Willie, people would have enough time left to romance their partners, enjoy a leisurely breakfast, or go coasting with their kids.

For any Canadian who lived through last winter [2014–15], cutting a day off February should be a no-brainer. A week would be better, but this is at least a start. Finally, making Groundhog Day a holiday could restart the long-stalled initiative to make Sir John A. Macdonald’s birthday a national holiday. It’s been rumoured that, on his deathbed, a bitter John A. murmured, “They’ll make my birthday a holiday when they start celebrating Groundhog Day!” With Groundhog Day an official holiday, there’d no longer be any excuse not to recognize the Father of Confederation.

–Jon Peirce, Dartmouth, Nova Scotia

Announcing the 2017 Essay Contest Topic: The Historical Figure I Would Like to Meet and Why

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