Eastern Orthodox Christians begin 2016 fast of Great Lent

Lagana bread, usually baked without oil, in a photo via Wikimedia Commons.

Lagana bread, usually baked without oil, in a photo via Wikimedia Commons.

The Lenten season begins for hundreds of millions of Eastern Christians, also known as Orthodox Christians, through a series of traditional steps to prepare for this Great Fast …

  • Clean Monday kites flying photo from Wikimedia CommonsSUNDAY, MARCH 6: Meatfare Sunday or Sunday of the Last Judgment. Preparing for the “Great Fast” of Lent, this is the last day that meat can be eaten until Pascha (Orthodox Easter, this year, on May 1)—but dairy products still are allowed for another week. The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America provides this in-depth overview of Eastern fasting practices and the various religious milestones during this season.
  • SUNDAY, MARCH 13: Cheesefare Sunday or Forgiveness Sunday. This is the last day that dairy products can be consumed until Pascha. The spiritual focus of this Sunday liturgy is on “forgiveness,” an appropriate theme to remember as these Christians enter this long period of prayer and reflection.
  • MONDAY, MARCH 14: Clean Monday is the beginning of the “Great Fast” of Lent. Let the kites fly! And—read further to learn about Lagana, a seasonal bread known throughout Greece as the taste of Clean Monday. Wikipedia has a detailed overview of Clean Monday customs.
  • EAST & WEST and the unity of Easter: Western Christians begin their Lenten season this year with Ash Wednesday on March 10 with Easter on March 27. The differences in dates are due to centuries-old customs for calculating the date of Easter, which vary from East to West. The Christian world won’t have a unified Easter again until 2017—and then there will be years of differences until Easter 2025 and 2028.

Prayerful Attention to Tradition: To many Americans, this Great Fast may sound extreme. Another way to think about it, though, is as a healthy season of Mediterranean eating. Whole grains and vegetables dominate in recipes associated with Great Lent. Of course, some families from an Orthodox background skip the fasting rules—just as many Western Christians overlook their own far-less-restrictive fasting traditions. But, observant Orthodox families around the world do change their eating habits, each year, in the weeks leading to Pascha.

During the fast, Eastern Christians avoid: meat, fish, dairy products, eggs, wine and oil. There are traditional exceptions within the Orthodox calendar. Wine and oil are permitted on all Sundays during this period, for example. And an ancient tradition—the feast of the Annunciation—is considered so sacred that it always falls on March 25, even during Great Lent. That feast recalls Mary receiving news that she would be the mother of Jesus, nine months later. Thus, on Tuesday March 25, this year—fish, wine and oil are permitted for the feast.

THERE’S AN APP FOR THAT

Greek Orthodox Calendar App

The Tsolias logo.

HOW DO WE KEEP TRACK? Here at ReadTheSpirit online magazine, how do we cover this complex season? Well, thanks to longtime reader David Adrian, each year, we receive the kind of Orthodox wall calendar that many congregations provide to their faithful. That’s one way.

The other is via smartphone apps. Our favorite is the Greek Orthodox Calendar app, developed by Tsolias Software. The app shows us each day’s spiritual resources at a glance, including colorful little icons of the food groups permitted that day. (There are lots of fasting days in the Orthodox calendar, each year, and the app keeps track of all the rules.) We also have heard strong reader recommendations of the apps developed in cooperation with the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. And, if you want a “free” app, we’ve heard that the Orthodox Calendar by David Ledselidze is pretty useful, as well. Plus, Ledselidze’s app has more resources of special interest to Russian Orthodox men and women.

WHY KITES?

Considering the strict nature of this fast, the cheery celebration of Clean Monday may seem jarring. Congregations are reminded, however, that it is important to remain outwardly pleasant during the fasting period. The passage of Matthew 6, verses 14-21, is read to drive home this spiritual lesson. It says, in part: “And whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting.”

The most common Clean Monday vista in Greece is a blue sky full of colorful kites. Families pack up traditional Lenten foods for a picnic. It’s a national holiday, so most workers and students have the day free.

TASTE CLEAN MONDAY: LAGANA

The traditional Greek Orthodox taste of Clean Monday is a sesame-topped bread called Lagana—usually made long and fairly flat, and ideally a very tasty bread. It’s also true that some home cooks produce something more akin to a giant, crunchy breadstick—but, if prepared properly, this is a delicious bread.

Want a recipe that’s likely to produce the tastier variety? There are many online, but we especially like this photo-illustrated, step-by-step recipe from The Greek Vegan. Beyond the helpful photos, here’s another reason we like this particular website’s approach to the recipe: These days, a lot of online recipes wink at the restrictions of the Great Fast and include oil in the ingredients. The Greek Vegan recognizes that this is a serious issue for many Christians and explains how to make this bread in the traditional, oil-free way.

(Originally published at www.ReadTheSpirit.com, an on line magazine covering religion, spirituality, values and interfaith and cross-cultural issues.)

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Valentine’s Day: Celebrate your love story, friendships & sweetness

Pages of book folded into heart shape

What’s your love story? Photo by Kate Ter Haar, courtesy of Flickr

SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 14: Declare love for someone special in your life today without the limits of chocolates and roses—Valentine’s Day has a rich and varied history that includes friendship, sacred marriages and even courtly love. From Finland, where friendship is celebrated, to the religious devotion of three early Christian saints named Valentine, one message is clear: Today is the day to express boundless love, however and to whomever you see fit!

Vintage postcard child cupid with wings pulling wagon with flowers and gifts

Photo by Anaiba Estevez, belongs to Laminas Vintage, courtesy of Picasa

Some historians point to the ancient Roman festival of Lupercalia as the start of the modern cupid’s day; ancient Greeks also observed a mid-February festival, dedicated to the sacred marriage of Zeus and Hera. In the High Middle Ages, the connection between mid-February and ooey-gooey love began to cement—particularly when Geoffrey Chaucer composed Parlement of Foules for King Richard II of England and Anne of Bohemia. News of the Parlement spread rapidly, and courtly love soon flourished. Lovers across the country began expressing their feelings for each other on Valentine’s Day, with long poems, flowers and notes.

Did you know? The earliest credited “valentine”—aside from the alleged note written in a jail cell by St. Valentine, more than 1,000 years earlier—was composed in 1415 by Charles, Duke of Orleans, to his wife.

By 1797, a romantic Valentine’s Day was all the rage in Europe. A British publisher issued The Young Man’s Valentine Writer to encourage note-writing lovers, and soon after, printers began mass-producing Valentine cards. Today, the U.S. Greeting Card Association estimates that approximately 1 billion valentines are sent or given annually.

ST. VALENTINE—OR ST. VALENTINES?

Historically, there were three Saint Valentines in Christian history, all of whom are honored on St. Valentine’s Day. Of the three, the most noted Valentine was a Roman priest who assisted persecuted Christians during the 3rd century. This Valentine performed secret weddings for soldiers, and even handed out paper heart cutouts to symbolize God’s love. On the night before his execution, legend has it that Valentine wrote a letter to his jailer’s daughter, signing it, “from your Valentine.”

VALENTINE’S DAY AROUND THE WORLD

Table set fancy food plate empty wine glasses restaurant

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

Globally, Valentine’s Day is about much more than romantic love. In Finland and Estonia, Valentine’s Day celebrates friendship; in some Latin countries, the holiday is known as “Day of Love and Friendship.” In Asia, two holidays—Valentine’s Day, and its reciprocal holiday, White Day—make for two expensive occasions for exchanging gifts with that special someone. Traditional Hindu and Islamic cultures generally disregard Valentine’s Day, though in Iran, efforts have been made in recent years to establish a festival of love for mothers and wives on Feb. 7.

RECIPES & DIY IDEAS ‘FROM THE HEART’

Does home cooking impress your valentine? Try recipes from Food & Wine, Food Network and New York Times.

On-screen romance blooms with these suggestions for the most romantic movies on Netflix.

Single? Try this list of movies for Valentine’s Day.

Looking for date ideas? Check out these, from Huffington Post.

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Ash Wednesday: Western Christians begin the Lenten journey toward Easter

Woman with glasses standing with eyes closed, hand with white sleeve touching her forehead

A woman receives ashes on her forehead at an Ash Wednesday service. Photo John Ragai, courtesy of Flickr

WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 10: Ashes on-the-go?

As the majority of the world’s Christians enter Lent, fasting and abstinence open the season leading to Christ’s Passion and Easter. Today, many Christians commemorate Ash Wednesday by receiving ashes on their foreheads—a tradition held since the Middle Ages. In today’s busy world, however, more and more people may be unable to attend a weekday mass, and so congregations are heading to the streets or delivering ashes in “drive-thru” style.

For Ash Wednesday services, though it is custom to burn palm branches from the previous year’s Palm Sunday to prepare the ashes,  the process can be messy for those not accustomed to the procedure. As a result, the majority of churches these days order ashes in sealed containers prepared by Christan-supply companies. During Lent, Christians reflect, pray and renew their commitment to Christ.

Eastern and Western Dates: Though dates for the Eastern and Western Christian observances of Lent and Easter (Pascha) coincide some years, they fall more than one month part in 2016. This year, the Western Christian Lent begins February 10, with Easter slotted for March 27; in the Eastern Orthodox Church, Great Lent begins on March 14 and Pascha falls on May 1.

WHO ARE ‘WESTERN’ & ‘EASTERN’ CHRISTIANS?

Our reporting often refers to Western and Eastern branches of Christianity and, especially in Lent 2016, these two huge branches of Christianity around the world are on distinctively different schedules.

How many ‘Western’ and ‘Eastern’ Christians are there? Roughly one third of the world’s population identifies as Christian. That’s 2.2 billion people, according to the worldwide study of religious populations by Pew researchers. The “Eastern” or “Orthodox” branch of Christianity usually is estimated at a little more than 250 million adherents, which means that most Christians around the world follow “Western” customs.

ASHES: DRIVE-THRU AND ‘TO-GO’

Silver bowls of ashes on wood

Bowls of ashes for Ash Wednesday services. Photo courtesy of Pixabay

As more people globally have busy schedules and less free time during the week, congregations are coming up with new ideas to bring the Church to the people. In Novi, Mich., the Novi United Methodist Church will be one congregation offering “Drive-Thru Ashes” this Ash Wednesday, from 7 a.m. -11 a.m. Pastors and volunteers will provide ashes and prayers and, according to the church, people do not need to exit their vehicles to receive the services.

In 2010, three Chicago-area Episcopal congregations took to the streets with prayer and ashes for people in suburban train stations, with efforts that evolved into the global website AshesToGo.org. Here, people can find lists of participating churches and their locations, in the U.S., UK and more. Though the website has not been updated since last year, the overwhelming news is that more and more congregations are bringing Ash Wednesday services outside of church walls.

Looking for a reflective resource? Check out Our Lent: Things We Carry, a 40-day and 40-chapter inspirational book that connects stories from the life of Jesus with the real things we experience today.

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Shrove Tuesday: Bring on the paczkis (and pancakes)! It’s Mardi Gras

Stack of pancakes with syrup, blueberries and cut strawberries

In England and the UK, pancakes are overwhelmingly popular on Fat Tuesday. Photo courtesy of YouTube Easy Dessert Recipes

TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 9: Empty those cupboards and refrigerators and indulge in sweet paczkis, delicate crepes, spongy pancakes and even a King Cake—it’s Fat Tuesday, the last day before the start of Western Christian Lent. For centuries, Christians have gathered their supply of sugar, butter, eggs and other rich foods on Fat Tuesday, cooking up an array of tempting treats and clearing the home of these foods in anticipation of Lenten fasting. In England, pancakes are topped with fruits and creams, cooking herbs and other savory flavors; in Poland and Lithuania, fried donuts and paczkis are more common. Swedes and Finns cook up semla pastries, and in the United States—well, any number of these treats can be seen on Fat Tuesday.

Originally, Fat Tuesday (or, in French, Mardi Gras) was known as “Shrove Tuesday,” which derived from shrive, meaning, “to confess.” Tradition has it that Christians not only clear indulgence from their systems in a physical way on Fat Tuesday, but also clear themselves on a spiritual level, too. Confession has long been common on the day before Ash Wednesday, so that Lent may begin with a “clear plate.”

CARNE LEVARE & THE ORIGINS OF FAT TUESDAY

The popular Carnival associated with Mardi Gras, primarily celebrated in Portuguese-, Spanish- and Italian-speaking countries, derives from carne levare, meaning “to take away flesh/meat.” Street processions abound in Brazil and Venice for Carnival, while a customary eating of salted meat takes a literal meaning to the day in Iceland.

RUN THOSE PANCAKES! In the United Kingdom, pancakes have been a part of Shrove Tuesday for so long that the day has all but been renamed “Pancake Day.” One of the longest-running pancake races has been held annually since 1445, in Olney at Buckinghamshire. One legend goes that a housewife was once so busy making pancakes that she lost track of time, and when she heard the church bells ringing, she ran out of the house still carrying her frying pan. Today in Olney, pancake race participants must carry a frying pan and toss pancakes along the race course. Similar traditions can be spotted across England, and most races are followed by a church service.

Purple feathered mask with one eye hole showing, green, purple and gold beads and necklaces

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

CARNIVAL AND MARDI GRAS 2016

FROM NEW ORLEANS: Nothing stops Mardi Gras, say NOLA residents and partygoers, and it’s a good thing, too—because, for the third year in a row, a cold and wet forecast sets the stage for Mardi Gras activities. Nonetheless, activity schedules and much more can be found at the official New Orleans Mardi Gras website.

A GLOBAL TASTE OF FAT TUESDAY: Staying home on Mardi Gras? Not to worry—an array of recipes from around the world can bring all of the day’s tastes to your table!

Check out celebrity chef recipes, alternative pancake recipes straight from London and a tantalizing combo of crepes and homemade nutella, recipe courtesy of The Guardian. For King Cake, Jambalaya and more Mardi Gras recipes, try something from Food Network or AllRecipes. A sweet semlor bun recipe is in the Irish Examiner.

ZIKA VIRUS IN RIO: Carnivale activities worldwide begin days and even weeks before the day itself, but in Rio this year, experts estimate that thousands may have canceled their plans due to the Zika virus scare. The 2014 World Cup in Brazil saw what is believed to be the first international exposure to the Zika virus, and to date, more than 1 million cases of Zika virus have been reported in Brazil. Researchers are working on a vaccine, though the epidemic will put a deep dent in numbers for both Carnivale 2016 and the upcoming summer Olympic games, which are to be held in Rio.

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Chinese New Year: Ring in the Year of the Monkey, China’s historic policy end

Multi-level mall decorated with big hanging Chinese symbols and red knotted ropes

Chinese New Year decorations at the atrium of Plaza Singapura, Orchard Road, in Singapore. Photo by Choo Yut Shing, courtesy of Flickr

MONDAY, FEBRUARY 8: Roast pigs and noodles, red envelopes, lanterns and gold-embellished décor usher in the 2016 Chinese New Year of the Monkey, which sweeps the globe and sets Chinese celebrations in motion for more than two weeks.

A primary festival day actually occurs one day before the Chinese New Year’s Day, forming the ‘Excluded Evening’ on Feb. 7 that is reserved for family reunions. For many, an entire week is given off of work, for parties and visits, while some festivities carry on even longer. This year, London claims the biggest party outside of Asia, with additional large-scale revelries in Argentina, Australia and the United States.

WORLD’S LARGEST HUMAN MIGRATION

How big is this holiday? News wire services around the world, from Reuters to CNN, regularly describe this enormous holiday movement of families as “the world’s largest human migration.” In fact, Chinese railroad stations are designed with extra capacity to handle this vast homecoming. According to National Geographic:

Every winter, hundreds of millions of Chinese return home for the Spring Festival, the Chinese celebration of the Lunar New Year. The mass migration, known in Chinese as chunyun, accounted for … 3.62 billion trips made during the 40-day period surrounding the holiday in 2014.

CNN puts the number closer to 3.7 billion, counting trips by mass transit, by air and the use of personal vehicles, a common practice as the Chinese economy expands and more families own cars.

Yellow lighting on plate of Chinese dumplings with chopsticks on plate

Traditional Chinese dumplings. Photo by Sheilaz413, courtesy of Flickr

Who is the Monkey? People born in the Year of the Monkey are characterized as inquisitive, pioneering and mischievous, though clever in their careers and in wealth. People of the Monkey are sociable, self-assured and versatile, though their selfishness, arrogance and temper may hinder opportunities. But be careful! The Year of the Monkey is believed to be one of the most unlucky years of the Chinese calendar.

The color red, which is considered auspicious and homophonous with the Chinese word for “prosperous,” dominates décor during the Spring Festival, which ushers in warmer weather. When the New Year approaches, it is customarily ushered in with a Reunion Dinner, which is replete with symbolic foods. For two weeks, visits are made and hosted with family and friends.

Looking for an inexpensive, at-home recipe for Chinese New Year? Try these traditional Chinese wontons, or dumplings, that are made in Shanghai style and consumed for their alleged ability to promote wealth.

CHINESE NEW YEAR: BUDDHA, THE MONKEY & LANTERNS

Round paper lanterns, lit, with red writing in Chinese

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

Legend has it that when the Buddha (or the Jade Emperor) invited animals to a New Year’s celebration, only 12 showed up; these 12 animals were each rewarded with a year. Tradition has it that a person’s birth year indicates that he or she will possess the characteristics of the animal in reign during that year.

Unparalleled among Chinese holidays, the New Year begins weeks in advance, with families cleaning and hanging paper cutouts in their homes, shopping for specialty foods and purchasing new clothing. Businesses pay off debts, gifts are distributed to business associates and everything is completed according to symbolism—for good luck, prosperity and health in the coming year. Channel News Asia reports that China’s central bank will be injecting 440 billion yuan (U.S. $67 billion) into the money market, providing liquidity in anticipation of the Lunar New Year financial demands.

In Buddhist and Taoist households, home altars and statues are cleaned.

NEW YEAR STAMPS: PEONIES & THE TWO-CHILD POLICY

Stamps from the China Post serve a dual purpose in 2016: Celebration of the Lunar New Year and recognition of the historic end to the country’s one-child policy. One of the new stamps, commissioned to 92-year-old Chinese artist Huang Yongyu, features a smiling, cartoon monkey being kissed by two baby monkeys. According to CNN, the China Post originally asked for a female monkey holding a baby, but the artist insisted on drawing two. As of January 1, 2016, the Chinese government formally ended its three-decade-long one-child policy, now permitting couples to have two children. All second babies born on or after Jan. 1, 2016 are considered legal.

In the United States, the Year of the Monkey stamp features reddish-orange peonies—the national Chinese flower—and a small, cut-paper image of a monkey. (Learn more from USPS.) In addition, gold ink in grass-style calligraphy shows the Chinese character for “monkey,” and “Lunar New Year” is written in gold up the right edge. The stamp’s issue date was Feb. 5.

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Categories: InterfaithInternational ObservancesNational Observances

Candlemas, Imbolc and Groundhog Day: Welcome spring, new beginnings

Rows of lit candles

Traditionally, candles are blessed at Candlemas. Photo courtesy of Pixabay

MONDAY, FEBRUARY 1 and TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 2: Groundhog Day may have evolved from Imbolc, an ancient pagan festival, but furry woodland creatures have little to do with the Christian feast that falls one day later: It’s the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple, known better as Candlemas. Be sure to put away those last ornaments and take down your tree, too—leaving any Christmas decorations lingering after Candlemas is, per old tradition, inauspicious!

For Pagans, the first days of February bring new beginnings, too: the Gaelic festival of Imbolc marks the start of spring.

CANDLEMAS: CREPES, CANDLES AND TAMALES

In European countries, Christ’s crèche is put away on Candlemas Eve (February 1), and across the Church, attention shifts to the approaching Passion. The feast of Candlemas focuses on the Gospel of Luke, which describes Mary and Joseph taking the baby Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalem, 40 days after his birth. Both Eastern and Western Christians recognize this event. According to the gospel, Mary, Joseph and Jesus met a man named Simeon while at the Temple, who recognized Jesus as the Messiah and as the fulfillment of a prophesy. A woman at the Temple, named Anna, offered similar praise for Jesus. However, Simeon warned that Mary’s heart would someday be “pierced with a sword,” as the future held tragic events for her young son.

The Feast of the Presentation ranks as one of the oldest feasts in the Church, with records of sermons dating back to the 4th century. Aside from the blessing of candles, Candlemas brings an array of delicious foods and vibrant customs! In France, delicate crepes are eaten after 8 p.m.; in Mexico, piles of tamales are served, often at a party thrown by the person who found the baby Jesus trinket in an Epiphany King Cake.

Grass in x-shape on worn red-plank wood door

The Brighid cross. Photo in public domain

IMBOLC: A SPRING CUSTOM FOR BRIGHID

On February 1, Wiccans and Pagans in the Northern Hemisphere usher in February with the centuries-old Gaelic festival of Imbolc, or Brighid’s Day, marking the beginning of spring and the halfway point between the winter solstice and spring equinox. (Note: In the Southern Hemisphere, Lughnassadh is celebrated.) Corn dollies, fashioned like Brighid, are made by young Pagans, while adults twist Brighid crosses. After dark, candles are lit to welcome the rebirth of the sun.

In the belly: The Irish Imbolc translates from the Old Irish imbolg, or “in the belly”—a tribute to the early spring pregnancies of ewes. As lactation begins, an array of dairy foods symbolize new beginnings.

Legend has it that on this day, Brighid begins preparing for the renewal of spring and snakes and badgers begin emerging from the earth to test the weather (thus, the beginning of modern Groundhog Day traditions.)

In Wicca, Imbolc is a women’s festival in honor of Brighid.

GROUNDHOG DAY: FORECASTING AND PUNXSUTAWNEY PHIL

On February 2, we all ask: Will the groundhog see his shadow?

Groundhog on ground looking away from camera

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

What started as an ancient Pagan festival has slowly morphed into a national phenomenon in the United States. Groundhog Day, spurred by German immigrants of the 18th and 19th centuries who brought groundhog traditions with them, gave birth to “Punxsutawney Phil,” and the array of groundhog-related events that fill lodges and streets in Pennsylvania in the first days of February each year. Annually, tens of thousands of visitors flock to Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania for Groundhog Day, where “Phil” is regarded as the “one and only” weather predictor for the day.

Tradition tells that if a groundhog sees his shadow in sunlight, he will retreat back to his burrow, indicating six more weeks of winter; if he sees no shadow, he will emerge, and an early spring is in the forecast.

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Categories: ChristianInterfaithNational ObservancesWiccan / Pagan

International Holocaust Remembrance Day: Auschwitz, liberation and heroes

“There is only one thing worse than Auschwitz itself … and that is if the world forgets there was such a place.”

-Auschwitz Survivor Henry Appel

Rows of candles on silver shelving

Candles lit for an earlier International Holocaust Remembrance Day in Washington, D.C. Photo by Ted Eytan, courtesy of Flickr

WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 27: Light a candle and reflect on “The Holocaust and Human Dignity,” as the United Nations ushers in this year’s worldwide International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust. The commemoration was designated by the UN General Assembly in November 2005 and first observed the following year, although other Holocaust days for remembrance existed for decades before that. This year, President Barack Obama will take part in a ceremony at the Israeli embassy in Washington, D.C.—the first ceremony of its kind to be held in the U.S.—that honors four non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews from the Nazis. Across the globe, millions of schools, governments, associations and civic groups will host their own commemorations.

Why this date? On January 27, 1945, Soviet forces liberated Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi death camp. Auschwitz-Birkenau is located in Poland and was the site of more than 1 million Holocaust deaths.

In 2016, the International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust hosts the theme, “The Holocaust and Human Dignity.” According to the UN, this theme links remembrance with the founding principles of the United Nations: reaffirming faith in the dignity and worth of every person. In addition, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights lawfully states that everyone has the right to live free from discrimination and with equal protection—an international protection that, for millions of Jews and other minority groups during the Holocaust, had failed. Today, the UN observance rejects denial of the Holocaust while providing the tools to prevent future genocide.

Did you know? The long-standing Jewish day of mourning for the Holocaust is called Yom HaShoah. This year, Yom HaShoah begins at sundown on Wednesday, May 4.

IN THE NEWS:
‘OLDEST MAN’ A HOLOCAUST SURVIVOR

Yisrael Kristal, 112—a Holocaust survivor who currently lives in Haifa—may be the world’s oldest man, as was reported recently by The Times of Israel. Though he still must provide proper documentation from the first 20 years of his life, Kristal was reportedly born in 1903. Years later, while operating his family’s confectionery business in Lodz, Nazis began forcing the city’s Jews into a ghetto. Kristal’s two children died in the ghetto, and he and his wife were both later sent to Auschwitz, where she did not survive. In 1950, Kristal moved to Haifa, and began working as a confectioner again. According to sources, Kristal remains religiously observant, and credits his longevity to God.

Looking for additional resources? The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum offers first-person stories of Holocaust survivors, along with suggestions on how to respond to future genocide.

From the Vatican: In an official statement, the Vatican says Holocaust Remembrance Day “calls for a universal and ever deeper respect for the dignity of every person.” In addition, the Vatican diplomat noted that the day “serves as a warning to prevent us from yielding to ideologies that justify contempt for human dignity.” (Read more here.)

 

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