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Umbrella Day

Today celebrates the umbrella, an instrument that protects people from the sun and rain. The term more associated with the sunshade umbrella is the parasol. Umbrellas were used in ancient Greece, Rome, Egypt, India, and the Middle East, as early as the fourth century BCE. The first recorded collapsible umbrella dates to 21 CE in China. The canopies of ancient umbrellas were built with different materials than those that are used today, being made of feathers, leaves, and leather; however, their shape was reminiscent of today's umbrellas.

In ancient times, the parasol umbrella was mainly used by women, although men of royalty, clergy, and dignitaries often used them as well. Rain umbrellas and parasol umbrellas seem to have arrived in Europe in the 1600s, and by some accounts, in the late 1500s; it is believed they came from China. Rain umbrellas from the 1600s were woven out of silk, giving them limited water resistance compared to today's umbrellas. In the late 1600s, rain umbrellas were still considered something only distinguished women would use, not men. The first lightweight folding umbrella of Europe was introduced in 1710, and in 1759 an umbrella combined with a cane was introduced in France, which became wildly popular in Paris; by pushing a button on the side of the cane it could be opened. Yet, while umbrellas became popular in France, in the early 1700s they were still uncommon in England, not coming into acceptance until the late 1700s. By the late 1700s, umbrellas became an accessory of both men and women in Europe.

The materials of umbrellas have changed over the years. The shaft and ribs of many early umbrellas were made from whalebones. They were replaced by wood, and then by steel and aluminum. Many are now made from fiberglass. Nylon fabrics and flexible plastics are now usually used to make the canopy, replacing the silks, and earlier feathers and leaves.

Umbrellas are often divided into two categories: fully collapsible and non-collapsible. Fully collapsible umbrellas have a metal pole that retracts. Non-collapsible umbrellas have a collapsible canopy, but the metal support pole does not retract. There are other various types of umbrellas, and umbrellas continue to be developed today. Some umbrellas open manually, and some open by pushing a button. The largest hand-portable umbrellas are golf umbrellas. Large stationary parasols are fixed on things such as outdoor patio tables.

How to Observe Umbrella Day

Celebrate the day by venturing outside with an umbrella! Even if it is not raining or sunny outside, today you have an excuse to use one. This is also a good day to watch Singin' In the Rain, where Gene Kelly famously danced with an umbrella while singing in the rain.

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