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.
Veterans Day is celebrated every year on November 11 in the United States. This federal holiday recognizes all men and women that have served in the armed services. In 2013, the day is being recognized on the November 12 because the 11th falls on a Sunday. A similar holiday, Memorial Day is celebrated in May to remember the men and women who died while serving. Often the two holidays are confused. .
According to Wikipedia, “It coincides with other holidays such as Armistice Day and Remembrance Day, which are celebrated in other parts of the world and also mark the anniversary of the end of World War I. (Major hostilities of World War I were formally ended at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, when the Armistice with Germany went into effect.)”
Veterans Day and its history dates back to June 4, 1926 when President Calvin Coolidge was asked by the United States Congress to issue a proclamation to observe November 11 with the proper ceremonies. On May 13, 1938, a Congressional Act (52 Stat. 351; 5 U.S. Code, Sec. 87a) made November 11 each year a legal holiday and “a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter celebrated and known as ‘Armistice Day’.” Congress amended this act on June 1, 1954, changing the name from Armistice Day to Veterans Day.
Recognized a s a federal holiday in the USA, Veterans day is also celebrated locally in most cities and towns with ceremonies and parades with displays of American flags and other patriotic items. Many restaurants offer free meals to veterans in recognition of the holiday and to honor the sacrifice they have shown to their country.
Yesterday morning I decided to visit a place that I had seen as I was driving by in the old town part of Lilburn, Ga in my community. I had seen as I was driving by what looked like many scarecrows in raised flower gardens. It is located in the community gardens of Lilburn on Main Street. As I drove up I was amused by the different scarecrows staring into space, one of which had a bird perched upon its arm. This struck me as ironic because I thought the scarecrows were erected to scare the birds away.
As I viewed the different scarecrows and the raised flower beds I thought of the time that must have gone into preparing and maintaining the gardens and creating the scarecrows. One garden with a scarecrow would have been nice but by working together to produce multiples had caused something quite spectacular to be created. What was behind this? It must have been a sense of community that these gardeners had all shared. One idea shared for the better of all. The result was amazing to see the individual efforts combined into this spectacular project. It occurred to me that if people throughout the world could focus on making the world a better place and putting aside any conflicts and petty differences they have concerning political party affiliations, race and religion, the world could truly come together. It would be the world effort of community.
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.”
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.”
Recently I learned something I was not familiar with, the official holiday Juneteenth. Celebrated on June 19th, it marks the end of slavery in the United States. It has been a tradition in the African American community since the late 19th century. Considered a state holiday or special day of observance in 42 of the states, the 8 states that do not recognize it are Arizona, Hawaii, Maryland, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota and Utah.
The popularity of the holiday has varied over the years. In the early 20th century there was a decline in the Juneteenth celebrations because of economical and social forces. During the Depression, many blacks were forced off farms and into cities to find work. The employers in urban environments were less likely to permit leave for the celebrations. During the Civil Rights movement of the 1950’s and 1960’s, the celebrations were considered a reminder of the historical struggle of their ancestors and declined because of this. In 1968, Rev. Ralph Abernathy’s Poor People’s March call for people of all races, creeds, economic levels and professions to come to Washington to show support for the poor. Afterwards many of these attendees returned home and initiated Juneteenth official holiday celebrations in their communities. During the 1980s and 1990s the Juneteenth popularity continued to grow. African American communities and organizations throughout the country have an interest to see that the events of 1865 in Texas are not forgotten and recognize roots tying back to Texas soil from which all remaining American slaves were finally granted their freedom.
The first reference I had ever heard using the term “random acts of kindness” was in a movie I saw many years ago, “Pay It Forward“. In the movie, a young boy encourages others to perform random acts of kindness after his teacher did something very nice for him. Part of the project is not only the act of kindness but for the person to also “pay it forward” and encourage the person involved to also repeat the action for someone else. The idea is that this will make the world a better place one person at a time. I was amazed at the concept and loved the movie, but years later when I was teaching inner city school, it was announced that there would be an assembly. The speaker was one of the directors with the Pay It Forward organization. I discovered that the organization worked with the students to encourage kindness and sharing through random acts of kindness. I had the overwhelming reaction of what a wonderful idea not only the organization is but that they would target inner city schools where often fighting and bullying is common place.
I remember acts of kindness that have been bestowed on me through my life many were by friends and family, but the ones from people you don’t know and are so unexpected are pressed into your memory. Once when I had to take a leave of absence from my teaching job, a church in the community left me a gift bag and an encouraging note saying that thing would get better, just have faith. I did not know anyone in this church nor had ever attended their services. I still carry the note in my wallet because I want to be reminded of the feeling it gave me.
Other examples of random kindness can be found through volunteerism. There are many volunteers that unselfishly give their time on a regular basis to encourage helping others. This includes people who volunteer in food banks, churches, the Red Cross, the United Way and many others. the important thing to remember is that everyone can take part and it does not cost anything to participate. Kindness encourages the world to become a better place.
Please visit the Random Acts of Kindness blogspot:
In this fast changing world with boundaries quickly dissolving with the internet that enable us to develop international friendships and jet airplanes that make it possible to travel to other countries in a matter of hours, racial diversity is becoming common place in most cities of average size and more evident in larger ones. Part of a parents responsibility in raising their children is to be able to adopt proper social skills to help them handle any situation that may be presented to them both as a young child, teenager, and then as a young adult.
What are some the proper ways to approach teaching a child to be open minded and tolerant?
1. Encourage your child to think for himself and form his own opinions while still being respectful of others. Ask for his/her opinion on situations. What do you think about this and then ask them why. If their opinion is stated in a cruel manner, correct it immediately, remind the child that it is OK to have his/her own opinion but others might think differently and that is OK also.
2. Start teaching respect at a very early age. It is one of the most valuable traits a child can possess and will carry through to adulthood. Read books to your child that illustrate diversity in race, religion, gender and economic status. Explain that every person is special and unique in their own way.
3. Set a good example. All children are born innocent. Make sure you practice what you preach. Children learn at a very early age to mimic their parents. They become a product of their environment.