Daylight Savings Time ends: Remember to ‘fall back’!

Black alarm clock with double ringers on white backgroundSUNDAY, NOVEMBER 2: It’s that time of year again—literally—to adjust clocks back one hour, embrace the morning sun and cozy in during the dark nights: At 2 a.m., Daylight Savings Time ends.

The modern take on Daylight Savings Time was proposed in 1895 by George Vernon Hudson, who yearned for more leisure time following work hours and proposed a two-hour time shift. Years earlier, Benjamin Franklin had remarked on the French trend of rising early to save on candles, but his letter had never been regarded as a formal proposal for a time shift. (Wikipedia has details.) Approximately one decade following George Vernon Hudson’s proposal, Englishman William Willett conceptualized Daylight Savings Time to “create” more morning hours during the summertime. Willett spent several years advocating Daylight Savings Time, and the notion has fallen in and out of favor around the world ever since.

Today, advocates for keeping a year-round Daylight Savings Time point out the energy savings, fewer traffic incidents and decreased number of fatal biological occurrences that would likely be if DST was made permanent. (For more, read an opinion piece on CNN.)

Some studies show that even a four-week extension of DST saves electricity. But, studies also show that adjusting to the hour difference leads to a significant jump in heart attacks in the few days following the switch. Want to start a spirited discussion this week? Just ask friends to share their views of DST. Going online this time of year to sites like Google-News will yield a bumper crop of pro and con points of view.

MAKING THE MOST OF DAYLIGHT SAVINGS TIME

The National Fire Protection Association and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends changing batteries in smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in time with DST clock changes. Health.com offers the following suggestions:

  • Keep that biological clock humming by taking advantage of that extra hour of sleep—chances are, you need it!
  • Boost your mood by catching a few extra rays from the morning’s sunlight. The bonus? The body’s biological clock is programmed by bright light and dark cycles.
  • Get kids adjusted by putting them to bed 15 minutes earlier every two days in the week before the time change.

 

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Categories: International ObservancesNational Observances

Dia de los Muertos, Day of the Dead; Christians mark All Saints & All Souls

Multi-tiered table with colorful skulls, decor and large photos hanging above on wall

An altar for Dia de los Muertos, Day of the Dead. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 1 and SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 2: The holidays following All Hallows Eve shift our cultural gears from witches, black cats and goblins to a solemnity recalling loved ones. On November 1, Christians observe All Saints’ Day; the following day, Christians pay tribute to the faithful departed, on All Souls’ Day, while in Mexico and Latin American countries, Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) vibrantly reflects these observances. During these days, the faithful honor deceased relatives and honor God’s work through the deeds of the saints of the Church.

Think the concept of All Saints and All Souls is strictly Christian? Consider for a moment the similar ideas behind the Chinese Ghost Festival, the Japanese Bon Festival and the Roman custom of Lemuria.

Overhead view of lit candles and lights on ground

Candles and lights for All Souls’ Day, the Day of the Dead. Photo in public domain courtesy of Pixabay

ALL SAINTS’ DAY:
FOR THOSE KNOWN AND UNKNOWN

Halloween is also known as All Hallows Eve. All Saints’ Day is alternatively referred to as its counterpart: All Hallows, or Hallowmas. Though marked by Eastern Christians on the first Sunday after Pentecost, Western Christians observe the solemnity of All Saints today, in honor of all the saints known and unknown.

Though evidence exists of earlier commemorations for the graceful departed, the Western Christian festival of All Saints began in 609 or 610 CE—when Pope Boniface IV consecrated and rededicated the Pantheon at Rome to the Blessed Virgin and all martyrs. (Learn more from EWTN and Catholic.org.) Observance varies slightly within Western Christian sects: many United Methodist congregations hold a commemoration on the first Sunday of November, for saints, all departed Christians and members of the congregation who have died within the past year; Lutherans observe All Saints’ Day and Reformation Day concurrently. In many countries, and in cities like New Orleans, people take flowers and light candles at the grave sites of their deceased loved ones on All Saints’ Day. (Get an inside view of Sweden’s traditions here.)

Catholic theology holds that All Saints’ Day belongs to all those who have attained the beatific vision in Heaven.

DIA DE LOS MUERTOS:
MEXICO’S COLORFUL DAY OF THE DEAD

Vibrant decorations for Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, mark towns in Mexico and Latin American communities far and wide, as the lives of the departed are celebrated with vigor. The full festival of Dia de los Muertos typically lasts two or three days (in some regions, customs begin on October 31), and traditionally, November 1 pays tribute to the souls of children and the innocent while November 2 is dedicated to deceased adult souls. (Learn more from Mex Connect.) In Mexico, relatives adorn altars and graves with elaborate garlands and wreaths, crosses made of flowers and special foods. Families gather in cemeteries, where pastors bestow prayers upon the dead. For children, Dia de los Muertos celebrations mean candy like sugar skulls and once-a-year treats, and music and dancing for all.

ALL SOULS’ DAY:
PRAYING FOR THE FAITHFUL DEPARTED

Catholics tradition still separates the departed faithful between “purified” and “not purified,” so many families commemorate souls that have not yet reached Heaven on All Souls’ Day. The Catholic Church still teaches that when souls are not cleansed of venial sin or transgressions upon bodily death, they remain in Purgatory. Many believe that the faithful on earth can pray, perform good deeds and make offerings at Mass for the souls in Purgatory, thereby helping them to attain the beatific vision. (Wikipedia has details.)

Folk belief holds that the souls of Purgatory are able to return to earth on All Souls’ Day, and as such, believers in many countries prepare foods and welcome the departed souls. It should be noted, however, that this traditional teaching and practice is not universally emphasized in Catholic communities.

Engage children in the events of these days by regaling stories of deceased relatives or by bringing out photo albums with old photos.

Soul food takes on a new meaning during these days, and recipes for traditional cookies called Ossi di Morto (Bones of the Dead), Pan de Muerto (a bread) and sugar skulls can be found here. Find more recipes courtesy of The Guardian.

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Categories: ChristianInternational ObservancesNational Observances

All Hallows Eve / Halloween and Samhain: Honor spirits with ancient traditions

Row of lit carved pumpkins illuminated against the dark

Photo in public domain courtesy of Pixabay

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 31: Can you feel that chill creeping up your spine?

Get the candy ready and put the finishing touches on your costume, because Halloween is a huge festival nationwide! As Western cultural influences spread worldwide, too, Halloween has steadily been gaining worldwide popularity—even in countries as far from North America as Japan, Australia and New Zealand.

Deeply rooted in a centuries-old Gaelic and Irish seasonal festival known as Samhain, today’s Halloween is considered by many to be the only time of year that spirits can roam the earth. From Samhain to Mexico’s Day of the Dead, world cultures celebrate the belief that at this time of year, the veil between this world and the next is particularly thin and ancestors are held close. Don’t worry, it’s not all solemn and bone-chilling, though—today’s secular Halloween also brings out bright Jack-o-lanterns, loads of candy and a pretty good excuse for adults to join in on the costuming fun with kids. So grab your best ghoulish mask and get the (Halloween) party started!

WANT TO KNOW MORE ABOUT THE DEEPER ROOTS? This week, sociologist Dr. Wayne Baker is publishing an entire five-part series about Americans’ beliefs concerning Hell. Part 1 of the series includes a fun 10-question quiz to see how much you know about … Hell.

SAMHAIN:
A GAELIC FESTIVAL REVIVED

Round turnip with two eyes and slit mouth cut out

A hallowed-out Irish turnip lantern, preserved from the early 20th century. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The original Samhain marked the end of the harvest season and ushered in winter, or the “darker half” of the year, in Gaelic Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man. During this time of year, cattle were brought down from summer pastures, bonfires were lit for the purpose of divination and as a protective and cleansing measure. Legend has it that spirits could easily come to earth, and many people would leave out food and drink for the roaming entities. (Wikipedia has details.)

In many households, ancestors were welcomed to the table with particular enthusiasm, and large meals were prepared. Multiple sites in Ireland were, and still are, associated with Samhain, and the spirits that emerge there at this time of year. Guising—donning a costume—was thought to “trick” ill-intentioned spirits roaming the streets near Samhain, and hallowed-out turnips were lit with a candle and placed in windows, their monstrous carved faces frightening bad spirits.

Today’s Samhain emerged as part of the late 19th century Celtic Revival, and Neopagans, Celtic Reconstructionist Pagans and Wiccans all celebrate the holiday, in slightly varying ways. Most keep the widespread traditions of lighting bonfires, paying homage to ancestors, welcoming the “darker” season and preparing feasts with apples, nuts, meats, seasonal vegetables and mulled wines. (Learn more from Wicca.com.)

HALLOWEEN:
A CHRISTIAN WORD
TURNED CULTURAL PHENOMENON

Allhallowtide,” the triduum of Halloween, recalls deceased spirits, saints (hallows) and martyrs alike, in one collective commemoration. The word Halloween is of Christian origin, and many Christians visit graveyards during this time to pray and place flowers and candles at the graves of their deceased loved ones. The two days following All Hallows Eve—Hallowmas, or All Saints’ Day, and All Souls’ Day—pay homage to the souls that Christians believe are now with God. In medieval England, Christians went “souling” on Halloween, begging for soul cakes in exchange for prayers in local churches.

Halloween’s secular side has emerged during the past century, and today, trick-or-treating, carving pumpkins, visiting haunted houses, watching horror movies and dressing up like favored characters has become custom in Western culture. (History.com offers Halloween videos and more.) Recent estimates are that the very diverse American business of “haunted attractions” brings in hundreds of millions of dollars each year, and the commercial elements of Halloween have spread from North America to Europe, South America, Australia, Japan and parts of East Asia.

Close-up of pile of candy cornNEWS AND TIPS:
PET COSTUMES, SAFETY AND APPS

This Halloween is expected to be the most celebrated in a decade—perhaps because it falls on a Friday this year. In Britain, they’re expecting some of the biggest Halloween celebrations to date! (Read more in The Guardian.)

American consumers are likely to spend approximately $370 million on pet costumes this Halloween—$70 million more than last year—according to TIME. That spending is a 40 percent jump from 2010.

The “urban legend” of poisoned Halloween candy doesn’t have a lot of merit, but Halloween does pose some real dangers, writes USA Today. Some things to be cautious of: drunk driving and drunk drivers; injuries from pumpkin carving; trips and falls from costumes and decorating; and dental havoc from too-sticky candy. And don’t let Fido get a hold of that treat bag—chocolate can be lethal for dogs.

Techies have a multitude of apps to choose from this Halloween, including Zombify and Vampify, complete with animated effects for photos. (More here and from the Boston Globe.)

ALL THINGS HALLOWEEN:
DIY COSTUMES, DÉCOR, PARTIES & MORE

What’s Halloween without some good costumes and tasty treats?

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Categories: International ObservancesNational ObservancesWiccan / Pagan

New Year: Jains usher in Vira Nirvana Samvat 2541

Large marble statue of man sitting with legs crossed, hands in lap, eyes closed, meditating

A marble depiction of Lord Mahavir in Delhi, India. Jains count the years of this era as having begun with Lord Mahavir’s attainment of moksha (nirvana). Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 24: Jains usher in a New Year!

According to Jain belief, a man named Mahavira attained moksha (nirvana) on Diwali night of 527 B cE. As Mahavira was the 24th and final Tirthankar (person who has conquered the cycle of birth and death) of this portion of our current cosmic time cycle, Jains began counting the calendar year from the date of Mahavira’s attainment. This year, Jains will welcome the year 2541.

On the first day of the New Year, Jains perform Snatra Puja at the temple and offer sweets. Fresh account books are opened, and business accounts from last year have been settled. Vira Nirvana Samvat (era) began with Mahavir’s enlightenment, and Jains also recognize that the chief disciple of Mahavir attained kevala jnana (omniscience, or supreme knowledge) on the morning of the New Year. At the temple today, Jains perform special morning worship.

The Jain calendar is lunisolar—that is, based on the position of the moon in relation to earth, and also adjusted to coincide with the sun.

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Categories: Faiths of India

Diwali: Hindus, Jains and Sikhs mark grand festival of lights

“From untruth lead us to truth. From darkness lead us to light. From death lead us to immortality. Om peace, peace, peace.”
English translation of a Vedic prayer celebrating lights

A cityscape lit up with abundant lights and fireworks in the sky

Diwali lights and fireworks in India. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

THURSDAY, OCTOBER 23: The worldwide festival of lights launches from India today, in the ancient Hindu celebration of Diwali. In recognition of the triumph of light over darkness, Diwali bears great significance for Hindus, Jains and Sikhs alike. As awareness of Indian culture spreads, major celebrations now are hosted around the world. And please note: Dates and spellings of Diwali vary by country and region.

This holiday is so important around the world that, this week, ReadTheSpirit is publishing two columns about Diwali. Our regular holidays columnist Stephanie Fenton reports here; FeedTheSpirit columnist Bobbie Lewis adds more about Diwali—plus a delicious recipe!

Preparations for Diwali begin weeks in advance, so a flurry of pre-Diwali activity can be seen in most cities of India. In a shopping extravaganza comparable to the Western Christmas season, gold jewelry, fine clothing, sweet treats and household goods fly off racks in marketplaces across India. At home, surfaces are scrubbed clean, women and children decorate entrances with Rangoli and men string strands of lights. Official celebrations begin two days before Diwali, and end two days after Diwali—spanning a total of five days. (Wikipedia has details.) During this five-day period, the old year closes and a new year is rung in.

Did you know? Diwali is derived from the Sanskrit fusion of dipa (“light,” or “lamp”) and avali (“series,” “line,” or “row”). For Diwali, rows of lamps are lit in homes and temples.

Small lamps in leaf shapes filled with oil and lit with wick on one side

Diya, earthen lamps filled with oil, are lit for Diwali. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

In the two days prior to Diwali, celebrants wrap up their shopping, bake sweets and bathe with fragrant oils. On Diwali, excitement builds as evening approaches. While donning new clothing, diyas (earthen lamps, filled with oil) are lit, prayers are offered to deities and many households welcome Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity who is believed to roam the earth on Diwali night. To receive the blessings of Lakshmi tonight means a good year ahead. The night’s extravaganza is a sky ablaze with fireworks. And, families gather for a feast of sweets and desserts. Tonight, the diyas will remain lit through the dark hours.

The day following Diwali is Padwa, honoring the mutual love between husbands and wives. The next day, Bhai Duj, celebrates the sister-brother bond. On Bhai Duj, women and girls gather to perform puja and prayers for the well-being of their brothers, and siblings engage in gift-giving and the sharing of a meal.

ATMAN, HIGHER KNOWLEDGE

Several Hindu schools of philosophy teach the existence of something beyond the physical body and mind: something pure and infinite, known as atman. Diwali revels in the victory of good over evil, in the deeper meaning of higher knowledge dissipating ignorance and hope prevailing over despair. When truth is realized, one can see past ignorance and into the oneness of all things.

DIWALI AMONG JAINS AND SIKHS

On the night of Diwali, Jains celebrate light for yet another reason: to mark the attainment of moksha, or nirvana, by Mahavira. As the final Jain Tirthankar of this era, Mahavira’s attainment is celebrated with much fervor. It’s believed that many gods were present on the night when Mahavira reached moksha, and that their presence illuminated the darkness.

Sikhs mark the Bandi Chhor Divas on Diwali, when Guru Har Gobind Ji freed himself and the Hindu kings from Fort Gwalior and arrived at the Golden Temple in Amritsar. Today, Bandi Chhor Divas is commemorated with the lighting of the Golden Temple, fireworks and more.

NEWS AND EXTRAS:
POLLUTION CAMPAIGNS,
GOLD THEFT IN LONDON

The Festival of Light has turned into a festival of excess pollution and noise in recent decades, and campaigns across India are asking celebrants to be mindful of their choices this Diwali (read more in the Deccan Chronicle). Online, major merchants like Amazon and Snapdeal ran major sales this year as Diwali season approached, and in London, festival-goers are voicing their fears of wearing gold jewelry in the face of growing gold thievery (BBC has the story).

Interested in coloring pages, crafts, printables and a how-to video of the Jai Ho dance? Find it all and more at Activity Village.

Find a kid-friendly approach to teaching about Diwali from National Geographic.

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Categories: Faiths of India

Installation of Sriptures as Guru Granth: Sikhs celebrate final faith guide

Book lying open on red cloth

The Sikh holy book, Guru Granth Sahib. Photo by Gurumustuk Singh, courtesy of Flickr

MONDAY, OCTOBER 20: In the line of esteemed Sikh faith leaders (gurus), the final guru continues to lead the Sikh people today—some four centuries after conception. Today, Sikhs celebrate the Installation of the Scriptures as Guru Granth. On this day in 1708 CE, the 10th Sikh guru announced that following his death, Sikhs should look to the sacred text known as Granth Sahib for guidance. The sacred compilation, which contains words from Sikh, Hindu and Muslim leaders alike, is placed at the center of worship in every Sikh gurdwara (place of worship). The faithful believe the Guru Granth Sahib to be the final and sovereign guru.

With the succession of Sikh gurus in history, it was the fifth—Guru Arjan (1563-1606 CE)—who began compiling writings of the previous gurus and of other great saints of the time. This first edition was known as the Adi Granth. As the years passed, the words of the other gurus were recorded, until the 10th guru added the words of his predecessor and compiled a work known as the Guru Granth Sahib Ji. Today, the Guru Granth Sahib can be seen in every Sikh gurdwara on a revered platform, covered with ornate and delicate fabric.

The Guru Granth Sahib consists of 1,430 pages. (Wikipedia has details.) Among the hymns in this sacred text are descriptions of the qualities of God, the necessity for meditation on God’s name, and the need to live in God’s will.

IN THE NEWS:
PRINTING PRESSES FOR GURU GRANTH
TO OPEN IN NORTH AMERICA AND EUROPE

The Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee recently made the decision to install printing presses in Europe, Canada and the United States, to aid Sikhs in these areas who need greater ability to reproduce copies of the Guru Granth Sahib. (Learn more from the Times of India and Sikh24.) As the Granth Sahib must be printed and delivered according to per rehat maryada (the Sikh code of religious conduct), the process is carried out with elaborate, traditional measures.

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Categories: Sikh

Turn to the north and wish Canadians a ‘Happy Thanksgiving’

Shopping for pumpkins at an open market in Ottawa. (Photo by Lars Plougmann, released via Wikimedia Commons.)

Shopping for pumpkins at an open market in Ottawa. (Photo by Lars Plougmann, released via Wikimedia Commons.)

MONDAY, OCTOBER 13:  Since 1957, the second Monday in October has been recognized by all Canadian faiths as Thanksgiving Day; the idea of a harvest celebration, however, is centuries old. First Nations of Canada—along with the Native Americans of the Americas—have held festivals of dancing, rituals and harvest activities for centuries.

If you’re planning a harvest-themed dinner with family and friends, you’ll want to check out our own FeedTheSpirit column. This week, Isaac DeLamatre the head of kitchens at Antioch College writes about beets and shares a delicious recipe. Or click here to read a whole series of FeedTheSpirit columns.

In Canada, there are many perspectives on Thanksgiving. CBC News recently published an intriguing interview with a family of blended cultures that now calls its harvest holiday: “You’re Welcome Weekend.”

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Categories: Uncategorized