Marlene B. Brown, M.S., CSP, CMC, CEO-MarmeL Consulting
Marlene B. Brown
  Enjoy our holiday & music page!
Ramadan
Christmas * Chinese New Year
Hanukkah
Hinduism * Kwanzaa
Father's Day * Mother's Day
St. Patrick's
Passover * Easter
Millennium Wish *Thanksgiving
Memorial Day




Father's Day

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

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.


 

 

Mother's Day

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 touch.

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 every state.

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)
.


Celebrating Easter

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 springtime, Eastre.

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.


 

 



Celebrating Passover

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! (To life!)


 

 



Celebrating 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 Boston, Massachusetts.

 

 





Picture on the left sent by Guillem Saez,
Spain, showing daughter's holiday handwork.


Millennium Wishes

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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For a Bountiful Harvest of Friends, by Rev. Max Coots

Let us give thanks:
For generous friends with hearts & smiles as bright as their blossoms,
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 winter,
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.


"Grammy Brown" would never let this happen!



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The 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 divine order.

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), Anniversaries (jayanti).

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The 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 candles.

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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The 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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The 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 of worship.

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 on calculations.

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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The 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 January 31st.

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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The 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 all about.

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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