Mrs. John B. Dodd, of Washington, first
proposed the idea of a "father's day" in 1909. Mrs. Dodd wanted a
special day to honor her father, William Smart. William Smart, a Civil
War veteran, was widowed when his wife (Mrs. Dodd's mother) died in
childbirth with their sixth child. Mr. Smart was left to raise the
newborn and his other five children by himself on a rural farm in
eastern Washington state. It was after Mrs. Dodd became an adult that
she realized the strength and selflessness her father had shown in
raising his children as a single parent.
The first Father's Day was observed on June
19, 1910 in Spokane Washington. At about the same time in various
towns and cities across America other people were beginning to celebrate
a "father's day."
In 1924 President Calvin Coolidge supported
the idea of a national Father's Day. Finally in 1966 President Lyndon
Johnson signed a presidential proclamation declaring the 3rd Sunday
of June as Father's Day.
Father's Day has become a day to not only
honor your father, but all men who act as a father figure. Stepfathers,
uncles, grandfathers, and adult male friends are all be honored on
Father's Day. Roses
are the Father's Day flowers: red to be worn for a living father and
white if the father has died.
Memorial Day, originally called Decoration
Day, is a day of remembrance for those who have died in our nation's
service. There are many stories as to its actual beginnings, with
over two dozen cities and towns laying claim to being the birthplace
of Memorial Day.
There is also evidence that organized women's
groups in the South were decorating graves before the end of the Civil
War: a hymn published in 1867, "Kneel Where Our Loves are Sleeping"
by Nella L. Sweet carried the dedication "To The Ladies of the South
who are Decorating the Graves of the Confederate Dead" (Source: Duke
University's Historic American Sheet Music, 1850-1920).
While Waterloo N.Y. was officially declared
the birthplace of Memorial Day by President Lydon Johnson in May 1966,
it's difficult to prove conclusively the origins of the day. It is
more likely that it had many seperate beginnings.
Memorial Day was first officially proclaimed
on 5 May 1868 by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand
Army of the Republic, in his General Order No. 11, and was first observed
on 30 May 1868, when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and
Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery. The South refused
to acknowledge the day, honoring their dead on seperate days until
after World War I (when the holiday changed from honoring just those
who died fighting in the Civil War to honoring Americans who died
fighting in any war).
It is now celebrated in almost every State
on the last Monday in May (passed by Congress in 1968 to ensure a
three day weekend for Federal holidays), though several southern states
have an additional, separate day for honoring the Confederate war
dead: January 19 in Texas, April 26 in Alabama, Florida, Georgia,
and Mississippi; May 10 in South Carolina; and June 3 (Jefferson Davis'
birthday) in Louisiana and Tennessee.
The Story of Mother's Day
The earliest Mother's Day celebrations can
be traced back to the spring celebrations of ancient Greece in honor
of Rhea, the Mother of the Gods. During the 1600's, England celebrated
a day called "Mothering Sunday". Celebrated on the 4th Sunday of Lent
(the 40 day period leading up to Easter*), "Mothering Sunday" honored
the mothers of England.
During this time many of the England's poor
worked as servants for the wealthy. As most jobs were located far
from their homes, the servants would live at the houses of their employers.
On Mothering Sunday the servants would have the day off and were encouraged
to return home and spend the day with their mothers. A special cake,
called the mothering cake, was often brought along to provide a festive
As Christianity spread throughout Europe
the celebration changed to honor the "Mother Church" - the spiritual
power that gave them life and protected them from harm. Over
time the church festival blended with the Mothering Sunday celebration
. People began honoring their mothers as well as the church. In the
United States Mother's Day was first suggested in 1872 by Julia Ward
Howe (who wrote the words to the Battle hymn of the Republic) as a
day dedicated to peace. Ms. Howe would hold organized Mother's Day
meetings in Boston, Mass ever year.
In 1907 Ana Jarvis, from Philadelphia, began
a campaign to establish a national Mother's Day. Ms. Jarvis persuaded
her mother's church in Grafton, West Virginia to celebrate Mother's
Day on the second anniversary of her mother's death, the 2nd Sunday
of May. By the next year Mother's Day was also celebrated in Philadelphia.
Ms. Jarvis and her supporters began to write to ministers, businessman,
and politicians in their quest to establish a national Mother's Day.
It was successful as by 1911 Mother's Day was celebrated in almost
President Woodrow Wilson, in 1914, made
the official announcement proclaiming Mother's Day as a national holiday
that was to be held each year on the 2nd Sunday of May. While many
countries of the world celebrate their own Mother's Day at different
times throughout the year, there are some countries such as Denmark,
Finland, Italy, Turkey, Australia, and Belgium which also celebrate
Mother's Day on the second Sunday of May.
M - O - T - H - E - R "M" is for the million
things she gave me,
"O" means only that she's growing old,
"T" is for the tears she shed to save me,
"H" is for her heart of purest gold;
"E" is for her eyes, with love-light shining,
"R" means right, and right she'll always be.
Put them all together, they spell "MOTHER,"
A word that means the world to me.
Howard Johnson (c. 1915).
As with most holidays that have their roots
in Christianity, Easter has been secularized and commercialized. However,
Easter has had its non-religious side since its conception as a holy
celebration in the second century. In fact, Easter was originally
a pagan festival. The ancient Saxons celebrated the return of spring
with a gala festival commemorating their goddess of offspring and
When the second-century Christian missionaries
encountered the tribes of the north with their pagan celebrations,
they attempted, in a clandestine manner, to convert them to Christianity.
It would have been dangerous for the very early Christian converts
to celebrate their holy days with observances that did not coincide
with celebrations that already existed. To save lives, the missionaries
cleverly decided to spread their religious message slowly throughout
the populations by allowing them to continue to celebrate pagan feasts,
but to do so in a Christian manner.
It happened that the pagan festival of Eastre
occurred at the same time of year as the Christian observance of the
Resurrection of Christ. Therefore, it made sense to alter the festival
itself, to make it a Christian celebration as converts were slowly
won over. The early name, Eastre, was eventually changed to its modern
spelling, Easter. Initially, Easter was celebrated on different days
of the week, including Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. In 325 A.D.,
the Council of Nicaea was convened by emperor Constantine. It issued
the Easter Rule which states that Easter shall be celebrated on the
first Sunday that occurs after the first full moon on or after the
vernal equinox, or first day of spring.
Therefore, Easter must be celebrated on
a Sunday between the dates of March 22 and April 25, with its date
tied to the lunar cycle. The symbol of the Crucifixion is the Cross,
as opposed to the Resurrection. At the Council of Nicaea, in A.D.
325, Constantine decreed the Cross as the official symbol of Christianity.
The Cross is more widely used, especially by the Catholic Church,
as a year-round symbol of their faith.
The Easter Bunny's symbol originated with
the pagan festival of Eastre. The goddess, Eastre, was worshipped
by the Anglo-Saxons through her earthly symbol, the rabbit. The Germans
brought the symbol of the Easter rabbit to America. It was widely
ignored by other Christians until shortly after the Civil War, when
the celebration of Easter become more widespread in America. Along
with the Easter Bunny and the holiday itself, the Easter Egg predates
the Christian holiday of Easter.
The exchange of eggs in the springtime is
a custom that was centuries old when Easter was first celebrated by
Christians. From the earliest times, the egg was a symbol of rebirth
in most cultures. Eggs were often wrapped in gold leaf or colored
brightly by boiling them with the leaves or petals of certain flowers.
Over the years, it progressed to the children's hunt for colored eggs
to place in Easter baskets.
Passover is the Jewish holiday that celebrates
and memorializes the freedom of the Hebrews or Israelites from slavery
in Egypt and takes place near the end of March or beginning of April.
During the first two nights, there are food marvels, and readings
from the Haggadah, with prayers, singing, and blessings, which occur
in a specific "order" or sequence. The meaning of 'order' in Hebrew
is coincidentally, "Seder". The youngest child recites the four questions,
and the traditional head of the family, usually the grandfather, recites
the readings from the Haggadah. No food containing yeast (called 'Chometz'
in Hebrew) is allowed in the house during the holiday of Passover.
This symbolizes the unleavened bread that the Israelites or Hebrews
made in haste, as they were fleeing Egypt.
Passover celebrates the Jewish people's
freedom from Egyptian bondage that took place over 3,000 years ago,
as told in the biblical Book of Exodus. Under the reign of Pharaoh
Rameses II, the Jewish leader Moses led his people out of Egypt after
a series of 10 plagues that Moses warned the Pharaoh would devastate
his people, if he refused to let them go. After each plague, the Pharaoh
agreed to let the Hebrews go, but the Pharaoh soon changed his mind
and continued to hold the Hebrews as slaves. Finally, after the 10th
plague, the Pharoah let the Hebrews go for good.
The Hebrews left in a hurry and did not
have time to bake any bread for the trip to Canaan, so they baked
unleavened bread, called Matzah. The Pharaoh, being very fickle, changed
his mind and sent his army into the Sinai desert after the Hebrews.
The Hebrews had been wandering for 40 days and 40 nights down the
Sinai peninsula until they reached the Red Sea. When they saw the
Egyptian army fast approaching toward them, they called out in despair
to Moses. Fortunately, g-d intervened and commanded Moses to strike
his staff on the waters of the Red Sea creating a rift of land between
the waves, enabling the Jews to cross over the Red Sea to safety on
the other side. G-d then commanded Moses to strike the waters of the
Red Sea again, just as the Egyptian army followed them through the
parted Red Sea. The waters came together again, drowning the entire
Egyptian army and the Hebrews were saved.
While the Hebrews were in Egypt as slaves,
building cities at the hands of cruel taskmasters, the Pharaoh noticed
that their population was becoming too numerous for his comfort. He
then decreed that the first born male of every Hebrew family be put
to death, in order to reduce this population threat. G-d then instructed
Moses to tell the Hebrews to spread the blood of a lamb on the doorposts
of each Hebrew home, so that the Angel of Death would 'pass over'
the Hebrew homes, and instead slay the first-born male of every Egyptian
family. The Hebrews were saved from this tragedy, but nonetheless
were ordered by g-d to remember to say prayers for the slain Egyptian
sons and later on, the drowned Egyptian army.
Since the time of Jewish freedom from Egyptian
slavery, Jews have celebrated this historical event by having a feast
called the 'Seder'. The word 'Seder' means 'order' and refers to the
order of historical events recalled in the Passover meal as well as
the meal itself. The story of Passover is read from a book called
the 'Haggadah'. While the main story of Passover is read by Jews the
world over, local customs and traditions have changed over time, so
that the festival has been adapted to reflect the life and routine
of individual communities. This is why the festival of Passover is
celebrated differently in Tunisia than in Canada.
Passover is celebrated for 8 days (7 for
Reform Jews), and always begins on the 15th day of the Hebrew month
of Nisan. There are 7 main symbolic foods on the Seder table that
remind the Jewish people of their time of slavery in Egypt. The 7
symbolic foods of Passover are: 1. Matzah: Unleavened bread; 2. Haroseth:
A mixture of crushed nuts, apples, cinnamon, and honey; 3. Egg: A
hard-boiled egg is used to symbolize life and rebirth; 4. Salt Water:
The egg is dipped in salt water which symbolizes both the tears of
oppression as well as of joy in freedom; 5. Maror: This is very bitter
horse-radish that symbolizes the hardships of slavery; 6. Karpas:
This is a mixture of boiled potatoes or radishes; 7. Z'roah: This
piece of meat symbolizes the Paschal lamb.
Traditionally given to the youngest person
at the seder table (usually the youngest child) to read aloud, the
Four Questions are a short but complete overview of the story of Passover
told in the Haggadah, or book of Passover, which is given to each
person at the table. It illustrates the uniqueness of the Passover
holiday, as compared to other times of the year. The Four Children
represent different methods of reading the Passover story to people
with different types of personal attributes. One child is wise, another
is slow, still another is wicked, and the final one is silent. The
reciting of the story of Passover to match the different abilities
of various people, is also a reflection of the flexibility inherent
in freedom, as opposed to the rigidity of slavery.
The closing of the Passover seder is highlighted
by the 'Redemption Theme', as well as a reminder that the joyous festival
of Passover is to be shared with the less fortunate. The Prophet Elijah,
symbol of the humble wayfarer, is invited to enter the home through
the symbolic opening of a door to the house. The Cup of Elijah, filled
with wine, and represented in the left border of this web page, is
confirmation of the hope of Elijah's arrival into the house. After
opening the door for Elijah followed by a small period of time waiting
for him, the Passover seder service is finalized by the selection
of Psalms, or Songs of Praise, known as the 'Hallel'. The Passover
dinner is ended with a drink of wine. All foods and drinks served
at the Passover meal carry a significant symbolic meaning and weight
on the guests' mind and the recital of the Passover story and its
rituals serve to remind the person of his/her importance, enabling
the person to be aware of gratitude and, just as important, widen
an individual's perspective of himself/herself in relation to his/her
fellow human beings.
Passover carries a sense of humbleness to
the self, placing one's frame of mind in a more balanced proportion
relative to one's immediate surroundings and to the universe as a
whole. Self-centeredness can magnify one's view of the world to the
point where one can only see oneself more than one can see one's environment.
The Feast (and Feat) of Freedom, called Passover, is a shining example
of a meaningful story showing g-d's intent to convey a psychological
balance between the Hebrews' self-concerns and the concerns of their
enemies, the Egyptians, as g-d reminds the Hebrews to pray for the
fallen Egyptian army and the slain first-borns of the Egyptian families
by declaring to the Hebrews that 'the Egyptians are my creation as
well'. Thus, Passover's concept of personal and collective freedom
is not only a cause for celebration, but a strong lesson in the value
of proportion and balance in how a person should conduct oneself or
a group should conduct itself in relation to other human beings. Shalom!
A toast to all, in Hebrew: L'Chayim! (To life!) L'Chayim!
St. Patrick's Day
The person who was to become St. Patrick,
the patron saint of Ireland, was born in Wales AD 385, with the given
name of Maewyn. He almost didn't get the job of Bishop of Ireland
because he lacked the required scholarship. Far from being a saint,
until he was 16, Maewyn considered himself a pagan. At that age, he
was sold into slavery by a group of Irish marauders that raided his
village. During his captivity, he became closer to God.
Six years later, he escaped from slavery
and went to Gaul where he studied in the monastery for a period of
12 years, under St. Germain, bishop of Auxerre. During his training,
as he became aware that his calling was to convert the pagans to Christianity,
he adopted the Christian name of Patrick. His wishes were to return
to Ireland, to convert the pagans that had overrun the country. But
his superiors instead appointed St. Palladius. However, two years
later Palladius transferred to Scotland.
Patrick was then appointed as second bishop
to Ireland. Patrick's success at winning converts upset the Celtic
Druids. He was arrested several times, but escaped each time. Traveling
throughout Ireland, Patrick established monasteries across the country.
He also set up schools and churches which would aid him in his conversion
of the Irish country to Christianity. His mission in Ireland lasted
for thirty years.
After that time, Patrick retired to County
Down. On March 17 in AD 461, Patrick died. That day has been commemorated
as St. Patrick's Day ever since. Much Irish folklore surrounds St.
Patrick's Day, with little of it actually substantiated. Some of this
lore includes the belief that Patrick raised people from the dead.
He also is said to have given a sermon from a hilltop that drove all
the snakes from Ireland.
Though originally a Catholic holy day, St.
Patrick's Day has evolved into more of a secular holiday. One traditional
icon of the day is the shamrock. This stems from a more bona fide
Irish tale that tells how Patrick used the three-leafed shamrock in
his sermons to explain how the Trinity represented the Father, the
Son, and the Holy Spirit, all existing as separate elements of the
same entity. His followers adopted the custom of wearing a shamrock
on his feast day. The St. Patrick's Day custom came to America in
1737, celebrated publically for the first time in this country, in
Picture on the left sent by Guillem Saez,
Spain, showing daughter's holiday handwork.
May your hair, your teeth,
your face-lift, your abs and your stocks not fall; and May your
blood pressure, your triglycerides, your cholesterol, your white
blood count and your mortgage interest not rise.
May you get a clean bill
of health from your dentist, your cardiologist, your gastro-endocrinologist,
your urologist, your proctologist, your podiatrist, your psychiatrist,
your plumber and the IRS.
May you find a way to
travel from anywhere to anywhere in the rush hour in less than
an hour, and when you get there May you find a parking space.
May Friday evening, December
31, find you seated around the dinner table, together with your
beloved family and cherished friends, ushering in the New Year
ahead. You will find the food better, the environment quieter,
the cost much cheaper, and the pleasure much more fulfilling
than anything else you might ordinarily do that night.
May you wake up on January
1st, finding that the world has not come to an end, the lights
work, the water faucets flow, and the sky has not fallen. May
you go to the bank on Monday morning, January 3rd and find your
account is in order, your money is still there and any mistakes
are in your favor.
May you ponder on January
4th; How did this ultramodern civilization of ours manage to
get itself traumatized by a possible slip of a blip on a chip
made out of sand.
May you have the strength
to go through a year of presidential campaigning, and May some
of the promises made be kept. May you believe at least half
of what the candidates propose, and May those elected fulfill
at least half of what they promise, and the miracle of reducing
taxes and balancing budgets happen.
May what you see in the
mirror delight you, and what others see in you delight them.
May the telemarketers wait to make their sales calls until you
finish dinner, and May your check book and your budget balance,
and May they include generous amounts for charity.
May you remember to say
"I love you" at least once a day to your spouse, your child,
your parent; but not to your secretary, your nurse, your masseuse,
your hairdresser or your tennis instructor.
May we live as intended,
in a world at peace and the awareness of the beauty in every
sunset, every flower's unfolding petals, every baby's smile
and every wonderful, astonishing, miraculous beat of our heart.
And, May you let someone
that could use a smile and a laugh to brighten their day know
that this page exists for them to enjoy.
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a Bountiful Harvest of Friends, by Rev. Max Coots
Let us give
For generous friends with hearts & smiles as bright as their
For feisty friends as tart as apples,
For continuous friends, who like scallions and cucumbers
Keep reminding us that we’ve had them,
For crotchety friends, as sour as rhubarb and as indestructible,
For handsome friends, who are as gorgeous as eggplant
And as elegant as a row of corn,
And for others, as plain as potatoes and so good for you,
For funny friends, who are as silly as Brussel sprouts
And as amusing as Jerusalem artichokes,
And serious friends, as complex as cauliflower
And as intricate as onions,
For friends as unpretentious as cabbages,
As subtle as summer squash, As persistent as parsley,
as delightful as dill, As endless as zucchini,
And who, like parsnip, can be counted on to see you through the
For old friends, nodding like sunflowers in the evening-time
And young friends coming on as fast as radishes,
For loving friends, who wind around us like tendrils and hold us,
Despite our blights, wilts and witherings,
And finally, for those friends now gone,
Like gardens past that have been harvested
But who fed us in their times That we might have life hereafter,
For all these, we give thanks.
would never let this happen!
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Celebration of Hinduism
Thousands of years before
the birth of Christ, ancient Indian scholars devised a comprehensive
calendar by systematically studying the Vedas and the movement
and positions of planetary bodies and stars. This calendar was
prepared in the form of an almanac called the Panchang. Apart
from measuring time in its simplest, most mechanical sense,
it was extensively used to determine dates, activities and personal
goals, so as to achieve and attain the highest good within the
Almost fifty years after
India's emergence as a modern nation state, the calendar is
still widely used in various versions and by communities all
over the country. It is not uncommon to have some members of
the same family celebrate their birthdays according to the Hindu
calendar, while others follow the Gregorian one. Both calendars
are accepted in government, metropolitan and municipal offices,
and in schools and businesses.
DATTA JAYANTI - Datta’s
mother, Anasuya had performed a long penance after which the
gods appeared before her, disguised as sanyasis. They offered
her a boon and she asked for three sons, one like each god of
the trinity. Datta, her son was a personification of Brahma,
Vishnu and Mahesh, who became one of the greatest sages of Maharashtra.
Diwali: the Hindu New
Year, varies considerably, largely according to region and specific
religious affiliation. The 'festival year' is often considered
to begin with Ganesh Chaturthi and conclude with Janmashtami.
Celebrations often run over five days. The New Year (for some
Hindus) falls on the fourth day.
The Hindu Calendar includes
Festival Dates for Jain, Buddhist, and Sikh. Among these festivals
are: Navaratri: a nine-day event (literally "the festival of
nine nights"). Ratha Yatra: originally performed in Pun, Orissa,
is now held annually in London. Dasara - marks the triumph of
Lord Rama over the demon king, Ravana; the victory of good over
evil. Mysore Dasara Festivals - state festival forms the most
colourful pageant with 10 days of cultural heritage, tradition
and grandeur. Diwali - the festival of Laxmi, the Goddess of
prosperity and wealth. Deepawali - festival of lights symbolizing
the lifting of spiritual darkness. Holi: Full Moon Day of Phaalguna.
Navratri - a festival of worship,dance and music celebrated
over a period of nine nights. Garba Nights - a slide show of
Navratri celebrations in Bombay. Gujarati Music: Garba - traditional
music of Navratri.
Terminology: Indian Festivals
(tyouhaar), Indian Fasts (vrat), Indian Holidays (chhutti),
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Celebration of Hanukkah
Hanukkah celebrates the survival
of the Jewish culture and faith. Also called "The Festival of Lights,"
this eight-day Jewish holiday is celebrated around the world on
the 25th day of the Hebrew month Kislev.
This year, Hanukkah begins
on the evening of December 4th and ends December 11th. During Hanukkah,
the Jewish people commemorate an ancient miracle through prayer
and song, the lighting of menorahs and other holiday rituals. Hanukkah
dates back to the year 165 B.C. and commemorates the victory of
the Jews over the Greeks.
In 1996, the U.S. Postal
Service debuted its first stamp commemorating a Jewish holiday.
Jointly issued with Israel, the U.S. version contains the English
spelling of "Hanukkah," while the Israeli stamp features the Hebrew
spelling of "Chanukah." If you're wondering about the different
spellings (Hanukkah, Chanukah and Channukah), they're all correct,
and pronounced the same (hah'-nu-ka).
It is believed that the menorah
is derived from symbols of the sacred "Tree of Life" of ancient
mythology. The Tree of Life, which dates back to 3000 B.C., is said
to have offered eternal life to those who ate its fruits. One may
not use the menorah candles as a source for heat or light, though
it is acceptable to use the shamash for light and warmth.
Since that day, Jews have
observed Hanukkah, meaning "rededication," for eight days and celebrated
with the ceremonial lighting of oil or candles every evening during
the festival. Hanukkah Customs Hanukkah is a tradition-rich celebration
for Jewish people, focusing on children, family and Jewish community.
From games to songs, there are many different ways the season is
honored. Hanukkah festivities begin with the lighting of a nine-stemmed
candelabra called a menorah or, in Hebrew, "Hanukkiyah."
The menorah symbolizes the
Divine Presence within the Temple or home, wherever it is kept and
venerated. The menorah holds eight candles plus a service candle,
called the "shamash." On the first night of Hanukkah, a candle or
vial of oil is lit with the shamash and burns for at least half
an hour. Each night another candle is added, placed in the menorah
from right to left and lit from left to right. The service candle
has its own space in the menorah, set higher or apart from the other
eight candles. By the last night of Hanukkah, all eight candles,
together with the shamash, are lit. Hebrew prayers are recited before
the lighting of each candle to thank God for the commandment to
light the Hanukkah candles, and for the miracle represented by the
The story of Antiochus, Matthias,
Judah and the Maccabees is told in sections over the eight nights
of the celebration. Performing household labor or chores is not
allowed during the first half hour after the menorah candles are
lit; during this time people sing, tell stories and play games.
For Jewish people, Hanukkah was not traditionally a "gift-giving"
holiday. It has only become a mainstream American holiday since
the 1920s, when, after World War I, the commercialism and proximity
of Christmas began to influence Hanukkah celebrations and gift giving
became part of the tradition.
Traditionally for Hanukkah,
children were given Hanukkah gelt (money), which could be either
real coins or gold foil-wrapped chocolate coins. The giving of gelt
began as a way for communities to honor their teachers, but eventually
children also received gelt for answering questions or solving riddles
correctly. Children then used the gelt for betting in card games
or dreidel. It wouldn't be Hanukkah without dreidel, a game of chance
that originated in India. Children take turns spinning the dreidel,
a cube-like top with Hebrew letters stamped on each of its four
sides. The initials "nun," "gimel," "hey" and "shin" refer to the
miracle of Hanukkah represented in the first letters of "Nes Gadol
Haya Sham," or, "a great miracle happened there." With each spin,
children place a bet of candy, coins or chips into the kitty and
wait to see where the dreidel lands.
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Celebration of Kwanzaa
Kwanzaa is a time to reaffirm
the African American culture and ancestry. Lasting seven days, Kwanzaa
means "first fruits of the harvest" and is celebrated with items
like the Kinara for holding the Mishumaa saba (candles), Mazao to
represent the crops, the Kikombe cha umoja (unity cup) and the Vibunzi.
The celebration of Kwanzaa
involves many different aspects of African-American culture. Traditional
dress, music and dance, food, and storytelling are all included.
In addition, the seven symbols and principles are used throughout
the week. Participants fast during the day, then celebrated with
the Karama, or feast, at night.
During Kwanzaa, traditional
African dress is worn. Women wear a traditional dress called a buba
or lappa. Their hair is often braided in cornrows. Men wear dashikis--
large colorful shirts-- and wear beads around their necks. Houses
are also decorated with the various symbols of Kwanzaa including
one ear of corn for each child in the house. Black, red, and green
streamers are often used to decorated the inside of homes.
Kwanzaa is a seven day African-American
celebration of culture and tradition. It is a cultural, not religious,
celebration that begins December 26th of each year. In 1966, Dr.
Maulana Ron Karenga created the African-American celebration of
Kwanzaa. Dr. Karenga, a political and cultural scientist, is also
the founder of the Black Nationalist Organization. Dr. Karenga was
concerned that all African-Americans were facing a cultural crisis.
He felt that any significant movements must have a strong cultural
base to give them direction and identity. Dr. Karenga felt that
there was no clear system of values and views that would give African-Americans
both a moral and meaningful interpretation of their lives and culture.
Kwanzaa was created to fill this void and create the basis for a
strong, unified African-American movement.
Kwanzaa is based upon traditional
African harvest celebrations. While KWANZAA means first fruits in
Swahili, Dr. Karenga added an extra A to the end of the word to
indicate the newly created African-American Kwanzaa. It is important
to note that Kwanzaa is not an African celebration, but an African-American
celebration. It incorporates elements of both African and African-American
life. The Nguzo Saba, or Seven Principles of Kwanzaa, Nugozo Saba
(n-goo-zoh sab-ba), are the new social principles Dr. Karenga created
to help African-Americans rebuild their history and culture.
Each of the Seven Principles
requires the participants to examine their own actions and place
in the community of African-Americans. Seven Symbols of Kwanzaa:
MAZAO (crops) Rewards for work we do MKEKE (straw mat) Our base
or foundation KINARA (candleholder) Our tie to the land, our ancestors
VIBUNZI (ears of corn) Cycle of life ZAWADI (presents, gifts) Gifts,
rewards KIKOMBE CHA UMOJA (Unity Cup) All drink from the same cup.
Unity. MISUMMA SABA (Seven Candles) One for each day of Kwanzaa,
they represent the days of the celebration. 3 red for the struggle,
1 black for the people, and 3 green for the land.
Day 1 UMOJA (oo-MOH-ja) Unity
Togetherness, we help each other Day 2 KUJICHAGULIA (coo-gee-cha-goo-lee-ahh)
Self-Determination Thinking or deciding for oneself. Day 3 UJIMA
(oo-Jee-mah) Collective work and reponsibility Work together to
help others, make life better. Day 4 UJAMMA (oo-jah-MAH) Cooperative
Economics Build own businesses, create own jobs Day 5 NIA(NEE-ah)
Purpose Reason for living, be the great people that we are. Day
6 KUUMBA (koo-OOM-bah) Creativity Make our communities beautiful,
use hands and minds to create new things. Day 7 IMANI (ee-MAH-nee)
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Celebration of Ramadan
Ramadan is a special month
of the year for over one billion Muslims throughout the world. It
is a time for inner reflection, devotion to God, and self-control.
Muslims think of it as a kind of tune-up for their spiritual lives.
Ramadan is also a time of intensive worship, reading of the Qur'an,
giving charity, purifying one's behavior, and doing good deeds.
While voluntary fasting is
recommended for Muslims, during Ramadan fasting becomes obligatory.
Sick people, travelers, and women in certain conditions are exempted
from the fast but must make it up as they are able. Perhaps fasting
in Ramadan is the most widely practiced of all the Muslim forms
Ramadan is the ninth month
of the Islamic calendar. The much-anticipated start of the month
is based on a combination of physical sightings of the moon and
astronomical calculations. The practice varies from place to place,
some places relying heavily on sighting reports and others totally
The last ten days of Ramadan
are a time of special spiritual power as everyone tries to come
closer to God through devotions and good deeds. The night on which
the first verses of the Qur'an were revealed to the Prophet, known
as the Night of Power (Lailat ul-Qadr), is generally taken to be
the 27th night of the month. The Qur'an states that this night is
better than a thousand months. Therefore many Muslims spend the
entire night in prayer. During the month, Muslims try to read as
much of the Qur'an as they can. Most try to read the whole book
at least once. Some spend part of their day listening to the recitation
of the Qur'an in a mosque.
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Celebration of the Chinese New Year
Except for a very few number
of people who can keep track of when the Chinese New Year should
be, the majority of the Chinese today have to rely on a typical
Chinese calendar to tell it. Therefore, you cannot talk of the Chinese
New Year without mentioning the Chinese calendar at first.
A Chinese calendar consists
of both the Gregorian and a lunar-solar calendrical systems, with
the latter dividing a year into twelve month each of which is in
turn equally divided into thirty-nine and a half days. The well-coordinated
dual system calendar reflects the Chinese ingenuity. Besides the
two calendrical systems, a Chinese calendar will not be complete
without a twenty-four solar terms closely related to the changes
of Nature -- a very useful tool for farmers, providing information
on the proper time for planting and harvesting.
The first fifteen days of
the Chinese lunar month makes the first term, namely: Beginning
of Spring usually starting from the fourth or fifth of Febrary.
And the first day is the Chinese New Year's Day or the onset of
the Spring Festival. Incidentally, the New Year's Day of 1995 is
The second fifteen days are
named: Rain Water from the nineteeth or twentieth of Febrary, a
time when rainy seasons are setting in. In order come the following
terms: Waking of Insects from the fifth or sixth of March, as the
earth awakes from hibernation; Spring Equinox from the twentieth
or twenty-first of March; Pure Brightness from the fourth or fifth
of April; Grain Rain from the twentieth or twenty-first of April;
Beginning of Summer from the fifth or sixth of May; Grain Full from
the twentieth or twenty-first of May; Grain in Ear from the fifth
or sixth of June; Summer Solstice from the twenty-first or second
of June; Slight Heat from the sixth or seventh of July; Great Heat
from the twenty-second or third of July; Beginning of Autumn from
the seventh or eighth of August; Limit of Heat from the twenty-third
or fourth of August; White Dew from the seventh or eighth of September;
Autumnal Equinox from the twenty-third or fourth of September; Cold
Dew from the eighth or nineth of October; Frost's Descent from the
twentieth-three or fourth of October; Beginning of Winter from the
seventh or eighth of November; Slight Snow from the twenty-second
or third of November; Great Snow from the seventh or eighth of December;
Winter Solstice from the twenty-second or third of December; Slight
Cold from the fifth or sixth of January; and lastly Great Cold from
the twentieth or twenty-first of January which brings the 24-term
cycle to an end.
On the Chinese Calendar,
you will also find terminology like Tian Gan and Di Zhi (Heavenly
Stem and Earthly Branch), a peculiar Chinese way of marking the
years in a sixty-year cycle. There is also a system that marks the
years in a twelve-year cycle, naming each of them after an animal
such as Rat, Ox, Tiger, Hare, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep, Monkey,
Rooster, Dog and Boar.
The Chinese New Year is now
popularly known as the Spring Festival because it starts from the
Begining of Spring (the first of the twenty-four terms in coodination
with the changes of Nature). Its origin is too old to be traced.
Several explanations are hanging around. All agree, however, that
the word Nian, which in modern Chinese solely means "year", was
originally the name of a monster beast that started to prey on people
the night before the beginning of a new year (Do not lose track
here: we are talking about the new year in terms of the Chinese
calendar). One legend goes that the beast Nian had a very big mouth
that would swallow a great many people with one bite. People were
very scared. One day, an old man came to their rescue, offering
to subdue Nian. To Nian he said, "I hear say that you are very capable,
but can you swallow the other beasts of prey on earth instead of
people who are by no means of your worthy opponents?" So, swollow
it did many of the beasts of prey on earth that also harrassed people
and their domestic animals from time to time.
After that, the old man disappeared
riding the beast Nian. He turned out to be an immortal god. Now
that Nian is gone and other beasts of prey are also scared into
forests, people begin to enjoy their peaceful life. Before the old
man left, he had told people to put up red paper decorations on
their windows and doors at each year's end to scare away Nian in
case it sneaked back again, because red is the color the beast feared
the most. From then on, the tradition of observing the conquest
of Nian is carried on from generation to generation. The
term "Guo Nian", which may mean "Survive the Nian" becomes today
"Celebrate the (New) Year" as the word "guo" in Chinese having both
the meaning of "pass-over" and "observe". The custom of putting
up red paper and firing fire-crackers to scare away Nian should
it have a chance to run loose is still around. However, people today
have long forgotten why they are doing all this, except that they
feel the color and the sound add to the excitement of the celebration.
Even though the climax of
the Chinese New Year, Nian, lasts only two or three days including
the New Year's Eve, the New Year season extends from the mid-twelfth
month of the previous year to the middle of the first month of the
new year. A month from the New Year, it is a good time for business.
People will pour out their money to buy presents, decoration material,
food and clothing. Transportation department, railroad in particular,
is nervously waiting for the onslaught of swarms of travellers who
take their days off around the New Year to rush back home for a
family renunion from all parts of the country.
Days before the New Year,
every family is busy giving its house a thorough cleaning, hoping
to sweep away all the ill-fortune there may have been in the family
to make way for the wishful in-coming good luck. People also give
their doors and window-panes a new paint, usually in red color.
They decorate the doors and windows with paper-cuts and couplets
with the very popular theme of "happiness", "wealth", "logevity"
and "satisfactory marriage with more children". Paintings of the
same theme are put up in the house on top of the newly mounted wall
paper. In the old days, various kinds of food are tributed at the
alta of ancestors.
The Eve of the New Year is
very carefully observed. Supper is a feast, with all members coming
together. One of the most popular course is jiaozi, dumplings boiled
in water. "Jiaozi" in Chinese literally mean "sleep together and
have sons", a long-lost good wish for a family. After dinner, it
is time for the whole family to sit up for the night while having
fun playing cards or board games or watching TV programs dedicated
to the ocassion. Every light is supposed to be kept on the whole
night. At midnight, the whole sky will be lit up by fireworks and
firecrackers make everywhere seem like a war zone. People's excitement
reach its zenith.
Very early the next morning,
children greet their parents and receive their presents in terms
of cash wrapped up in red paper packages from them. Then, the family
start out to say greetings from door to door, first their relatives
and then their neighbors. It is a great time for reconciliation.
Old grudges are very easily cast away during the greetings. The
air is permeated with warmth and friendliness. During and several
days following the New Year's day, people are visiting each other,
with a great deal of exchange of gifs.
The New Year atmosphere is
brought to an anti-climax fifteen days away where the Festival of
Lanterns sets in. It is an occasion of lantern shows and folk dances
everywhere. One typical food is the Tang Yuan, another kind of dumplings
made of sweet rice rolled into balls and stuffed with either sweet
or spicy fillings. The Lantern Festival marks the end of the New
Year season and afterwards life becomes daily routines once again.
This description is based upon the recollection of my own experience.
Customs of observing the New Year vary from place to place, considering
that China is a big country not only geographically, but also demographically
and ethnically. Yet, the spirit underlying the diverse celebrations
of the Chinese New Year is the same: a sincere wish of peace and
happiness for the family members and friends.
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Celebration of Christmas
Five thousand years of human
history--maybe more--have enfolded this season in rich garb--many
layers of celebration, folklore and tradition. "Christmas" is the
Celebration of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth whom Christians believe
to be the Son of God born to be Savior of the world.
The idea to celebrate Christmas
on December 25 originated in the 4th century. The Catholic Church
wanted to eclipse the festivities of a rival pagan religion that
threatened Christianity's existence. The Romans celebrated the birthday
of their sun god, Mithras during this time of year. Although it
was not popular, or even proper, to celebrate people's birthdays
in those times, church leaders decided that in order to compete
with the pagan celebration they would themselves order a festival
in celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ.
Although the actual season
of Jesus' birth is thought to be in the spring, the date of December
25 was chosen as the official birthday celebration as Christ's Mass
so that it would compete head on with the rival pagan celebration.
Christmas was slow to catch on in America. The early colonists considered
it a pagan ritual. The celebration of Christmas was even banned
by law in Massachusetts in colonial days.
Two hundred years before
the birth of Christ, the Druids used mistletoe to celebrate the
coming of winter. They would gather this evergreen plant that is
parasitic upon other trees and used it to decorate their homes.
They believed the plant had special healing powers for everything
from female infertility to poison ingestion. Scandinavians also
thought of mistletoe as a plant of peace and harmony. They associated
mistletoe with their goddess of love, Frigga. The custom of kissing
under the mistletoe probably derived from this belief. The early
church banned the use of mistletoe in Christmas celebrations because
of its pagan origins. Instead, church fathers suggested the use
of holly as an appropriate substitute for Christmas greenery.
Poinsettias are native to
Mexico. They were named after America's first ambassador to Mexico,
Joel Poinsett. He brought the plants to America in 1828. The Mexicans
in the eighteenth century thought the plants were symbolic of the
Star of Bethlehem. Thus the Poinsettia became associated with the
Christmas season. The actual flower of the poinsettia is small and
yellow. But surrounding the flower are large, bright red leaves,
often mistaken for petals.
The Christmas Tree originated
in Germany in the 16th century. It was common for the Germanic people
to decorate fir trees, both inside and out, with roses, apples,
and colored paper. It is believed that Martin Luther, the Protestant
reformer, was the first to light a Christmas tree with candles.
While coming home one dark winter's night near Christmas, he was
struck with the beauty of the starlight shining through the branches
of a small fir tree outside his home. He duplicated the starlight
by using candles attached to the branches of his indoor Christmas
tree. The Christmas tree was not widely used in Britain until the
19th century. It was brought to America by the Pennsylvania Germans
in the 1820's.
The abbreviation for Christmas
- Xmas - is of Greek origin. The word for Christ in Greek is Xristos.
During the 16th century, Europeans began using the first initial
of Christ's name, "X" in place of the word Christ in Christmas as
a shorthand form of the word. Although the early Christians understood
that X stood for Christ's name, later Christians who did not understand
the Greek language mistook "Xmas" as a sign of disrespect.
In the late 1800's a candy
maker in Indiana wanted to express the meaning of Christmas through
a symbol made of candy. He came up with the idea of bending one
of his white candy sticks into the shape of a Candy Cane. He incorporated
several symbols of Christ's love and sacrifice through the Candy
Cane. First, he used a plain white peppermint stick. The color white
symbolizes the purity and sinless nature of Jesus. Next, he added
three small stripes to symbolize the pain inflicted upon Jesus before
his death on the cross. He added a bold stripe to represent the
blood he shed for mankind. When looked at with the crook on top,
it looks like a shepherd's staff because Jesus is the shepherd of
man. If you turn it upside down, it becomes the letter J symbolizing
the first letter in Jesus' name. The candy maker made these candy
canes for Christmas, so everyone would remember what Christmas is
The original Santa Claus,
St. Nicholas, was born in Turkey in the 4th century. He was very
pious from an early age, devoting his life to Christianity. He became
widely known for his generosity for the poor. But the Romans held
him in contempt. He was imprisoned and tortured. But when Constantine
became emperor of Rome, he allowed Nicholas to go free. Constantine
became a Christian and convened the Council of Nicaea in 325. Nicholas
was a delegate to the council. He is especially noted for his love
of children and for his generosity. He is the patron saint of sailors,
Sicily, Greece, and Russia. He is also, of course, the patron saint
of children. The Dutch kept the legend of St. Nicholas alive. In
16th century Holland, Dutch children would place their wooden shoes
by the hearth in hopes that they would be filled with a treat. The
Dutch spelled St. Nicholas as Sint Nikolaas, which became corrupted
to Sinterklaas, and finally, in Anglican, to Santa Claus. In 1822,
Clement C. Moore composed his famous poem, "A Visit from St. Nick,"
which was later published as "The Night Before Christmas." Moore
is credited with creating the modern image of Santa Claus as a jolly
fat man in a red suit.
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