Paul Bunyan Day is a giant of a day. Paul Bunyan was a gigantic lumberjack of American Folklore. According to folklore, Paul Bunyan and his blue ox “Babe” lived and travelled around country. He is best known for his logging feats.
The Origin of Paul Bunyan Day:
French Canadians were believed to have originated Paul Bunyan during the Papineau rebellion of 1837. While he may have been created in Canada, Paul Bunyan quickly became a huge American legend. Many of the tales of Paul Bunyan originated in lumberjack industry and logging communities. Like all good folklore, it was passed from generation to generation by word of mouth. Over campfires, his legend grew, and tales were created. Written tales emerged in the early 1900’s.
Some historians believe Paul Bunyan was based on a real person — a French-Canadian logger named Fabian “Joe” Fournier. Fournier, born in Quebec around 1845, moved to Michigan after the Civil War to take advantage of the high-paying logging industry.
Paul Bunyan is “credited” with many deeds. Among his more legendary feats:
- He created logging in the U.S.
- He scooped out the great lakes to water Babe, his ox.
- He cleared the entire states of North and South Dakota for farming.
- He trained ants to do logging work. They were, of course, Carpenter Ants.
- Babe’s large footprints created Minnesota’s 10,000 lakes.
Check out this Walt Disney version of the folklore legend:
According to the website Brownielocks and The 3 Bears, the actual date of Paul Bunyan Day is on February 12.
Why? It is believed by the people of Bangor, Maine that Paul Bunyan was born there on Feb. 12, 1834.
According to the site “Another version is that because “Bunyan” sounds like the French-Canadian slang word “Bonyenne” which translated into English means “Good Grief!” This exclamation would often be said if you heard something extraordinary. And, it is rumored that way back during the Papineau Rebellion of 1837 the French Canadians created Paul Bunyan (pronounced the same way as bonyenne) tales as a way to keep their spirits up and be entertained as they fought against the British colonial government. As you know, stories get spread between people, but in doing so, they don’t get retold accurately. So, as time went on, stories got more exaggerated to keep the entertainment up; or, as a way to compete amongst each other for who could be the most creative in telling a Paul Bunyan tale.
When did they get written down? The first known publications of Paul Bunyan tales were in 1910 by James MacGillivray. Years later, a man by the name of W.B. Laughhead, published these lumberjack tales in 1916 for promotional logging reasons and they grew in popularity far beyond just the lumbering trade.
Michigan claims Paul Bunyan began there because they (1) Have the first known publications about Paul Bunyan by James MacGillivray; and (2) because they are the first to actually have a Paul Bunyan observance activity in honor of him. The first known celebrations of Paul Bunyan Day date back to 1938, with the first Paul Bunyan Dance at the Saline Valley Farms, with a small group of foresters. As the popularity grew, the dance changed from square dance to waltzes, jitterbugs and so on. Although most of these dances were held in February, on November 20, 1943 at the University of Michigan they held a formal dance in the Michigan Union Ballroom, with a cider bar (no alcohol!). But, they also had a sawing contest with male and female partners as well. This event was very popular and attracted up to 100 couples. The winner received a grand prize of two U.S. War Bonds! Other Paul Bunyan dances featured square dancing and jug bands. The dances died off for a while. But, have been revised by the School of Natural Resources, University of Michigan off and on.”