March 4, 2014 is Fat Tuesday and I was curious about the history of the Mardi Gras celebration. In the United States the mention of Mardi Gras brings to mind New Orleans, LA where is celebrated in a grand way. The history of the Mardi Gras celebration actually goes back many years in many European cities and countries since the Middle Ages. The celebration is the last opportunity for feasting and celebration before Christianity’s Ash Wednesday and Lent.The modern version of the Mardi Gras parade started before the Civil War. In 1857 the first group or “krewe” organized the parade [
The king cake is one of the traditions for Mardi Gras. It is colorfully decorated and has a small plastic baby hidden somewhere in the cake. During the celebration when the cake is served, whoever finds the plastic baby in their portion is designated to host the next celebration, a wonderful way to carry on the history of the Mardi Gras celebration.
Kwanzaa is a holiday created in 1966 by Maulana Karenga to show respect and appreciation for the history and of people of African ancestry and to also celebrate family and community. It is celebrated for a week from December 26 to January 1st. The name comes from the phrase “matunda ya kwanza” which means “first fruits” in Swahili. First fruits celebrations date back to ancient Egypt and Nubia and pertain to the harvest. The holiday is considered a cultural instead of religious holiday and any one can celebrate regardless of their faith.
The history of Kwanzaa dates back to the Civil Rights and Black Freedom movements of the 1960’s. The principles are in the Swahili language since it is the most widely used African language.
According to the Huffington Post, “the colors black, red, and green are part of Kwanzaa celebrations due to their special significance. Black represents the people, red is for the blood uniting all those with African ancestry, as well as the blood shed during slavery and the civil rights movement, and green is for the lush land of Africa. These colors also reflect the Pan-African movement itself.”
Kwanzaa has seven principles, one celebrated on each day of the holiday and known collectively as Nguzo Saba. They are African values which are named in both Swahili with English translations.
Ujima: Collective Work and Responsibility
Ujamaa: Cooperative Economics
Some of the traditions celebrated during Kwanzaa include songs such as the Black National Anthem and lighting the kinara. A black candle from the center is used to light the candles from left to right. There is a candle to represent each one of the seven principles.Together, the candles are called the mishuuma saba. The kikombe cha umoja, or Unity Cup is another important tradition.
The history of Hanukkah dates back the year 164 B.C.E. The history can be found in books 1 and 2 Maccabee but these books are not part of the Jewish canon of the Hebrew Bible.
The story of how Hanukkah came to be is contained in the books of 1 and 2 Maccabees, which are not part of the Jewish canon of the Hebrew Bible. According to myjewishlearning.com, “These books tell the story of the Maccabees, a small band of Jewish fighters who liberated the Land of Israel from the Syrian Greeks who occupied it. Under the reign of Antiochus IV Epiphanes, the Syrian Greeks sought to impose their Hellenistic culture, which many Jews found attractive. By 167 B.C.E, Antiochus intensified his campaign by defiling the Temple in Jerusalem and banning Jewish practice. The Maccabees–led by the five sons of the priest Mattathias, especially Judah–waged a three-year campaign that culminated in the cleaning and rededication of the temple.”
It was decided since they were not able to celebrate the holiday of Sukkot at its proper time in the early Fall that would instead would celebrate it on the date the Temple was rededicated which was on the 25th of the month of Kislev in the year 164 B.C.E.
“According to tradition as recorded in the Talmud, at the time of the rededication, there was very little oil left that had not been defiled by the Greeks. Oil was needed for the menorah (candelabrum) in the Temple, which was supposed to burn throughout the night every night. There was only enough oil to burn for one day, yet miraculously, it burned for eight days, the time needed to prepare a fresh supply of oil for the menorah. An eight day festival was declared to commemorate this miracle. Note that the holiday commemorates the miracle of the oil, not the military victory: Jews do not glorify war.”
The first-century Jewish historian Flavius Josephus wrote his historical summary of the holiday some 250 years later but referred to it as the “Festival of Lights” and not as Hanukkah. This refers to the lighting of the menorah that holds nine candles. A candle is lit each night placing it at the far right. The Shammus candle is lit and three blessings are recited: l’hadlik neir (a general prayer over candles), she-asah nisim (a prayer thanking G-d for performing miracles for our ancestors at this time), and she-hekhianu (a general prayer thanking G-d for allowing us to reach this time of year.
One of the other Jewish customs enjoyed for Hanukkah is a special dish called latkes which is like a potato pancake made of shredded potatoes, onions, and matza flour. Playing with a dreidel is also a poplar custom. The dreidel (a square top) is spun and small chocolate coins.pennies, match sticks or M&M’s are given as prizes.
September 21 is the day of celebration for International Day of Peace. Also called World Peace Day it was first celebrated in 1982. According to Wiki, “it is dedicated to world peace, and specifically the absence of war and violence, such as might be occasioned by a temporary ceasefire in a combat zone for humanitarian aid access.”
To begin the celebration for this special day, the United Nations Peace Bell is rung at UN Headquarters in New York City. The bell is cast from coins donated by children from all continents except Africa. It was a gift from the United Nations Association of Japan, as “a reminder of the human cost of war”; the inscription on its side reads, “Long live absolute world peace”.
So many people speak of peace as the ideal condition for all mankind but fail to see how they can help the world’s condition and the lack of peace. In reality it takes much more than having nations agree to no war and solving national conflicts. If every person in the world could make a vow to involve peace in every aspect of their life, we could reach that dream and every day would be an International Day of Peace.
You might ask, how can I as an individual without any political power and influence possibly have any bearing on this ideal of peace for the world. ” UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has given the following suggestions,
“On this International Day of Peace, let us pledge to teach our children the value of tolerance and mutual respect. Let us invest in the schools and teachers that will build a fair and inclusive world that embraces diversity. Let us fight for peace and defend it with all our might.”
Yom Kippur is considered to be a high holy holiday for Jews. For the year 2013 it begins on the evening of Sept 13th and ends on the evening of Sept. 14th. Three of the Jewish holidays, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and Sukkot are celebrated during the Jewish month of Tishrei. The significance of this is represented with the belief that the number three is identified with balance, the Essence, and the symbol of the triangle as stability.
The holiday represents forgiveness of sins committed against God. The custom is to dedicate the eve of Yom Kippur to apologies for sins committed against fellow human beings, but an apology or compensation is not sufficient unless forgiveness by the injured person is also requested. It is customary to invite transgressors to also participate in Yom Kippur services.
These activities parallel the human condition and the Biblical account of expulsion from the garden of Eden. The purpose of these prohibitions is to make both the body and spirit uncomfortable and to feel compassion to others feel when they are in pain.
Each religion has their own important holy days and Yom Kippur is considered to a high holy day of great importance for Jews throughout the world.
As September begins it brings to remind that the Fall seasonal holidays are not far behind. Presently Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year for 2013 is being celebrated from sundown Sept. 4 to nightfall on Sept.6. The literal meaning of Rosh Hashanah is “head of the year” and is considered one of four new years in the Jewish new year. It marks the completion of the creation of the world and is considered the new year of people, animals and legal contracts in the Jewish oral tradition.
According to the Huffington Post, “Rosh Hashanah is the beginning of the Jewish High Holy Days, or Yamim Noraim (the “Days of Awe“), and is followed 10 days later by Yom Kippur, the “day of atonement.” The Mishnah refers to Rosh Hashanah as the “day of judgment,” and it is believed that God opens the Book of Life on this day and begins to decide who shall live and who shall die. The days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are viewed as an opportunity for Jews to repent (teshuvah, in Hebrew) and ensure a good fate.”
Rosh Hashanah is the only Jewish holiday celebrated for two days and also is the only major holiday celebrated on a new moon. Traditional ways of celebrating the holiday include gathering in synagogues for extended services that follow the liturgy of a special prayerbook, called a mahzor, that is used during the Days of Awe. A shofar, or ram’s horn, is blown at specific times during the service. The Mitsvah or commandment is a literal and spiritual wake up call to hear the shofar. Traditional foods include apples and honey, raisin challah, honey cake and pomegranate and a favorite greeting is shana tovah u’metukah, Hebrew for “a good and sweet new year.”
Friendship should never be taken for granted. The value of having a friend and especially a best friend is a true treasure. I was thrilled to see that there is a day to honor and cherish all the qualities that friendship embodies and that the scope of the holiday has been broadened to include opening the avenues of understanding to all nationalities and ethnic groups around the world.
Friendship Day was first proposed on 20 July 1958 by Dr. Artemio Bracho during a dinner with friends in Puerto Pinasco, Paraguay. The World Friendship Crusade was formed from this meeting of friends. It promotes friendship and fellowship among all human beings regardless of race, color or religion. Since that day July 30 has been designated as Friendship Day in Paraguay and also adopted by several other countries.
In the USA, Friendship Day was first promoted by Joyce Hall, the founder of Hallmark Cards in 1930. August 2 was chosen as the day for the celebration because it was in between other holiday celebrations. People felt like the holiday was too commercial and by the 1940’s, interest in it had almost disappeared. Although there the interest in the holiday has never surfaced and taken hold in Europe, there has been an interest shown in Japan and several countries in Asia have adopted it.
In 1998, an interest in the holiday again emerged when Nane Annan, wife of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, named Winnie the Pooh as the world’s Ambassador of Friendship at the United Nations. The World Friendship Crusade has lobbied the United Nations for many years to recognize July 30th as World Friendship Day. Finally on 20 May, General Assembly of the United Nations decided to name 30 July as the International Day of Friendship. All Member States were invited to observe the International Day of Friendship in accordance with the culture and customs of their local, national and regional communities. Educational and public awareness-raising activities about the holiday are encouraged.
“The International Day of Friendship is an important opportunity to confront the misunderstandings and distrust that underlie so many of the tensions and conflicts in today’s world,” he wrote. “It is a reminder that human solidarity is essential to promoting lasting peace and fostering sustainable development.”
As one of the seven continents of the world, Australia evokes visions of beautiful natural settings, kangaroos and kola bears, but I was interested to know more about their cultural traditions and customs.
One of the strong influences in Australian culture is the Aboriginese people and the history that surrounds them. According to Aboriginal belief, the earth descended from the sky to awaken a dark and silent world from which the totemic spirit ancestors emerged. This time in Australian history is referred to as Dreamtime. Many of the traditions and customs from this period can be found in the study of rock art, craft and bark painting. The songs have lyrics that have remained unchanged for thousands of years and are usually accompanied by clapsticks or the throbbing tone of the didgeridoo.
Australians are drawn to having a “fair go””, believe in mateship and have a strong affection for the underdog.Their language is described as “strine” which can be described as a combination or blend of a strong Irish accent with cockney words or phrases while also combining some words from the Aborigines languages. It is common place to add “ie” or “o” to the end of words and use reverse nicknames such as “Snowy” for someone with dark hair.
Sports and games and are very important to Australians and they have won many championships and trophies in competition. With a population of just over 21 million people, it’s estimated that six-and-a-half million people in Australia are registered sport participants. Football, rugby, and swimming are the most popular sports. Camel racing is also a popular sport which seems very unusual rather comical way to pass time.
The common sport of jumping rope is common for children and stems from an ancient Aborigines activity. The boomerang is also a popular activity for all ages.
Australians love food and especially love foods cooked on the barbie (barbecue). Alcohol is very popular with beer being the preferred beverage. It is easy to see why Australians have a reputation for being fun-loving and down to earth.
It is a large continent but how many countries in Africa are there? I must admit that I did not know so I looked it up. There are 52 countries total. Nigeria is by far the largest with a population of 146,255,000. The second largest is Ethiopia with a population of 82,544,800 followed by Egypt-81,713,500, democratic republic of the Congo – 66,514,000, and South Africa with a population of 48,782,800. The size of some of the countries vary widely from Nigeria’s population in the nine digits to the lowest population of 206,178 in Sao Tome and Principe. Several of the other countries with the lowest populations are Djibouti – 506,221 and Equatorial Guinea – 616.459.
Some authorities consider there to be 47 countries instead of 52. The difference in this number is the four islands, Cape Verde, São Tomé and Príncipe, Madagascar, the Comoros, the Seychelles, and Mauritius. The 47 are on the mainland of Africa. Occasionally there is a dispute about some of the island countries not being African, but in general all have strong historical ties to Africa so therefore are generally included.
May 5 is the day that Cinco de Mayo is celebrated each year. What is the history of this traditional Mexican holiday? Cinco de Mayo is one of the more well-known Mexican holidays, but most people assume that it is celebrated to commemorate Mexico’s independence. Actually it is to commemorate a largely unknown conflict between Mexican patriots and the invading French forces in 1862. Napoleon III set out to expand the French empire by sending the army to occupy Mexico City and install a proxy ruler. The undermanned and under trained Mexican forces under the command of General Ignacio Zaragoza repelled 6,000 of Napoleon’s finest troops outside the city of Puebla on May 5. Mexico did win the battle but it was only the beginning of a prolonged occupation of the French that ultimately ended in 1867.
How is this holiday celebrated in Mexico? There are parades to especially honor the military. Celebrations also take place in a Zocalo which each city has as a place of celebration. A fair with rides may also be available for the celebration. There are sometimes reenactments of the battle of Cinco de Mayo. People also enjoy music, laughter, and decorations with bright, vibrant colors, and food. One of the more popular traditional dishes is mole poblano. It is a thick spicy sauce made from than 40 ingredients. It is served on top of turkey or chicken with Mexican style rice.Cinco de Mayo celebrated on May 5 is a holiday rich in tradition and Mexican culture that all people can enjoy.