Patriot Day: Americans remember 2,977 lives lost on September 11, 2001

President Barack Obama bows head in front of three American flags on poles

President Barack Obama bows his head during a memorial prayer on September 11, 2013. Photo in public domain

THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 11: Remember the lives lost and the loved ones still mourning on 9/11, or Patriot Day—the day designated to recall the tragic events in the United States that took place on September 11, 2001. Each year, memorials across the country pay tribute to the 2,977 who lost their lives in the terrorist attacks of 2001. Though the day was originally called Prayer and Remembrance for the Victims of the Terrorist Attacks on September 11, 2001, a shorter name—Patriot Day—soon took favor. A resolution introduced in October of 2001 decreed that each President should designate September 11, of each year, as “Patriot Day,” and it was signed into law that December. Nationwide, a moment of silence is observed at 8:46 a.m. EDT. (Wikipedia has details.)

Learn more about the 9/11 Memorial, or plan a visit to the site, by visiting here.

Red rose on black granite with names etched on it, skyscrapers in back

A rose at the memorial of Tower One of the World Trade Center. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons


‘National Days of Prayer and Remembrance,’ this year, was declared by the White House as September 5, 6 and 7—the weekend prior to Patriot Day. The 2014 proclamation for the observance was posted on September 4 this year.

This year, CNN reports on a fireman’s bracelet found after prayer—read the story of the woman who found it, along with her emotional visit to the fireman’s family, here.

Boston’s 9/11 memorial is degenerating rapidly, the Boston Globe reports, causing questioning over maintenance measures. Read the story here.

Plan prayer and personalized tributes for 9/11 with suggestions from and

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Categories: National Observances

Ethiopians and Rastafari mark Enkutatash, New Year, 40th anniversary

Dark-skinned boy holding out orange flower  with yellow flowers in background

An Ethiopian New Year card. Photo courtesy of the International Livestock Research Institute and Flickr

THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 11: Harvest and autumn themes take center stage in many September holidays and celebrations, but in Ethiopia, the opposite is true: Today is Enkutatash, the first day of the Ethiopian New Year and the end of the rainy season. Flowers are bursting into bloom in the fields, and young children gather bouquets to bring to friends. Enkutatash typically begins in church and leads to traditional shared meals, the exchange of New Year’s songs and greetings. (Wikipedia has details.) Many Ethiopians recall, today, the return of the Queen of Sheba from her visit to King Solomon in Jerusalem.

Did you know? The Ethiopian calendar is based on the Coptic calendar, which was fixed to the Julian calendar in 25 BCE. The New Year date is August 29 on the Julian calendar—which, given the current 13-day gap between calendars—pegs Enkutatash as September 11 on the Gregorian calendar.

Beyond Ethiopia, many families around the world have begun marking Enkutatash. The Ethiopian African Millennium Group promoted a massive festival in 2007, and large celebrations have taken place in Washington, San Jose and Seattle. Long before the Western festivals for Enkutatash, though, the Rastafari—ardent believers in late Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie as the Messiah—have marked this event, with Nyabinghi drumming sessions, shared meals and joy.

Hungry? Try an easy-to-follow recipe for traditional Enkutatash wat (stew), courtesy of In Culture Parent.


Rastafari and Ethiopians may note tomorrow’s 40th anniversary of the ousting of Emperor Haile Selassie, by the Dergue junta. On September 12, 1974, reformist officers toppled the monarchy that had ruled Ethiopia for centuries. Emperor Haile Selassie—nicknamed Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah, King of Kings—could trace his lineage back thousands of years, to (many believe) the Queen of Sheba. The final emperor of Ethiopia had ruled 26 million subjects and gained the worship of growing numbers of Rastafari—many of whom still believe today.

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Categories: AnniversaryRastafari

Sing along with our Star-Spangled Banner bicentennial celebration

Baltimore Star Spangled 200 websiteSEPTEMBER 10-16, 2014—That’s the Baltimore-area Star-Spangled Spectacular event, which some Baltimore officials are predicting will be the largest single tourism event in the city’s history. A Washington Times news story reports: “Tall ships, Navy gray hulls and the high-flying Blue Angels will come to Baltimore’s Inner Harbor to commemorate the birthplace and bicentennial of The Star-Spangled Banner. Many of the museums, historic sites and restaurants are also showcasing exhibits and deals during the Spectacular.”

Logo for Star Spangled Music Day 2014SEPTEMBER 12, 2014—That’s Star-Spangled Music Day, promoted by a wide array of allies including The Star-Spangled Music Foundation, The American Choral Directors Association, America Sings, Resounding Joy and many others. Schools across the nation are asked to hold their own birthday events to honor “The Star-Spangled Banner” and to share these efforts using the hashtag #Anthem200. Here are all the details you’ll need to participate.

READ MORE: At ReadTheSpirit, sociologist Dr. Wayne Baker has written extensively about the 200-year history of our national anthem in his OurValues series.


Star Spangled Banner sheet music

DETAIL FROM an 1814 copy of “The Star Spangled Banner.” Note the melody is identified as “Anacreon in Heaven.” This was the first printed edition to combine the words and sheet music. Copies such as these were sold from a catalog of Thomas Carr’s Carr Music Store in Baltimore. Currently this is one of only ten copies known to exist, and is housed in the Library of Congress.

Most Americans are a bit fuzzy about what happened in September 1814, toward the end of America’s War of 1812 with Great Britain. Wikipedia has an exhaustive chronology as well as historical images.

In a nutshell, here’s what happened:

On September 3, 1814, following the Burning of Washington and the Raid on Alexandria, Francis Scott Key and John Stuart Skinner set sail from Baltimore aboard the ship HMS Minden, flying a flag of truce on a mission approved by President James Madison. Their objective was to secure the exchange of prisoners. Key and Skinner boarded the British flagship HMS Tonnant on September 7 and spoke with Major General Robert Ross and Vice Admiral Alexander Cochrane over dinner while the two officers discussed war plans. Because they had heard those plans, the British made them captives.

During the September 12-15 British attack on Baltimore, Key had a ring-side seat to watch the bombardment. The British HMS Erebus provided the “rockets’ red glare” and HMS Meteor provided at least some of the “bombs bursting in air.” Key was inspired by the American victory and the sight of the large American flag flying triumphantly above the fort.

Aboard ship, Key wrote a poem on the back of a letter he had kept in his pocket. At twilight on September 16, he was released in Baltimore. He completed the poem at the Indian Queen Hotel, where he was staying, and titled it “Defence of Fort M’Henry.”

Key gave the poem to his brother-in-law Judge Joseph H. Nicholson who matched the poem to the melody of a tune popular in gentlemen’s clubs. So, yes, the original melody was a “drinking song.” One version of the new song was printed September 17. Newspapers began printing it by September 20. More newspapers and magazines followed throughout the autumn of 1814.


University of Michigan sociologist Dr. Wayne Baker has written extensively about The Star-Spangled Banner, it’s evolution over the past 200 years—and the American values embodied in the singing of that song …

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

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Categories: Uncategorized

Eastern and Western Christians observe Birth of Mary, Nativity of Theotokos

“It’s Blessed Virgin’s Birthday,
The swallows do depart;
Far to the South they fly away,
And sadness fills my heart.
But after snow and ice and rain
They will in March return again.”
An Austrian children’s rhyme, for September 8

Painting of women in fancy room, gathered around woman with young baby, one woman pouring water into a bowl

Birth of Mary, by Domenico Ghirlandaio, c. 1486-1490 CE. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 8: Most of the world’s 2 billion Christians rejoice today in recalling the birth of Mary. In traditional Catholic and Orthodox teaching, Mary is regarded as a figure foretold in passages as ancient as Genesis. And this holiday is known as the Birth of the Virgin Mary among Western Christians, as well as the Nativity of the Theotokos among Eastern Christians.

Though the Bible contains no record of Mary’s birth, the Protoevangelium of James—an apocryphal writing from the second century—describes Mary’s birth, as well as the story of her parents, St. Anne and St. Joachim. (Learn more from Catholic Culture and Fish Eaters.) Accounts detail that St. Anne and St. Joachim, though faithful and pious, were without children. Anne and Joachim prayed for a child; though older, they conceived a child, whom they would call Mary. Tradition tells that Mary was born in Jerusalem.

Did you know? The birth of Mary also is included in the Quran. She is a major figure in Islam. (Wikipedia has more about Mary in Islam.)

The feast for Mary’s Nativity originated in Jerusalem, in the fifth century, and records point next to Syria and other parts of ancient Palestine, both of which were observing a feast for Mary’s birth by the sixth century. By the end of the seventh century, the feast was accepted by the Roman Church, and it slowly spread through Europe. By the 12th century, Mary’s birth was observed in all Christian countries. (Get the Eastern Orthodox perspective from Orthodox Church in America and the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.)

The Christian Church marks most saints’ feasts on the date of their death, or return to God. To this rule, there are three exceptions: Mary, Jesus and John the Baptist, as they are recognized in the Church on both their death date and their birth date.


In the wine-growing regions of France, Mary’s birthday is affectionately called “Our Lady of the Grape Harvest,” when the best grapes are brought to the local church for blessings and bunches of grapes are tied onto the hands of Mary statues. In the Alps, September 8 begins “down-driving,” when cattle and sheep are led from their summer pastures, down the mountain slopes, to their winter residence in the valleys and stables. In several regions of central and eastern Europe, the Feast of Mary is associated with harvest, fall planting and thanksgiving.

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Categories: Christian

Anant Chaturdashi: Hindus submerge Ganesh on last day of Chaturthi festival

Two males submerged almost fully in water, on either side of a golden and colorfully painted statue of elephant god, Lord Ganesh

It is popular custom on Anant Chaturdashi to submerge statues of Lord Ganesh into a body of water. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 7: The colorful and auspicious days of the Ganesh Chaturthi festival culminate today on the Hindu holiday of Anant Chaturdashi. (Dates vary by region and by family; some devotees worship Ganesh for 11 days, instead of 10.)

On Anant Chaturdashi, Ganesh statues—from the massive to the tiny, the ornate to the plain—are marched in procession to a nearby body of water, for submersion. Singing and dancing often accompanies the processions through which Ganesh is bid farewell until next year. (Wikipedia has details.) With recent concern rising over the toxicity of the figures being submerged into rivers and other bodies of water, alternatives have been introduced: reusable figures, environmentally-friendly figures and the suggestion of community pools, for the safe submersion of Ganesh statues.


While Lord Ganesh claims the spotlight in most regions on Anant Chaturdashi, another legend prevails, too: the legend of the Anant Vow. The story tells of a girl named Sushila, whose stepmother troubled her so much that she left home with her love, a man named Kaundinya. During their journey, the pair came to a river, where Kaundinya took a bath and Sushila spoke to a group of gathered women. The women were worshipping “Anant,” a ritual that required specific prepared foods, offerings and the tying of a string on the wrist. The string is known as “Anant,” composed of 14 knots and worn for 14 years. It’s believed that a faithful vow will bring wealth and divinity. Sushila took the vow.

Sushila and Kaundinya accrued wealth, until one day, when Kaundinya learned of Sushila’s vow. Kaundinya took the string from Sushila’s wrist and burned it; trouble and poverty ensued. When Kaundinya underwent serious penance and searching, and finally was met by Vishnu. Kaundinya realized that Vishnu was Anant, or “the Eternal One.” Kaundinya made the vow.

In honor of Lord Vishnu, deities invoke his blessings by praying to him today. Some begin or renew the Anant vow.


Alongside Hindus, Jains observe Anant Chaturdashi for Lord Anant and often participate in processions of the day. Muslims in some regions of India, too, observe the entire festival of Ganesh Chaturthi by taking part in pujas and cultural activities, emphasizing love over separation. (Times of India reported.)

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Categories: Faiths of India

Ecclesiastical Year begins: Orthodox Christians renew cycle of feasts and fasts

Ornate church with gold cross in foreground, red carpet and paintings in the background

Interior of an Orthodox Christian church. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 1: The Indiction—a new ecclesiastical year—is ceremoniously welcomed by Eastern Orthodox Christians today, in a spirit of rejuvenation and joy. As the autumn agricultural season brings harvest, so, too, does the new year bring gratitude for the abundance of festivals, fasts and feasts that will once again be observed in the new Orthodox year.

History details that the Church long marked the beginning of a new year on Sept. 1, and this was the custom in Constantinople until 1453 CE. (Learn more from the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.) At this time of year, Orthodox Christians recall the Gospel story of Jesus entering the synagogue in Nazareth, where he read from the book of the Prophet Isaiah, and they recall that the people of Israel celebrated the feast of the Blowing of the Trumpets. (Orthodox Church in America has details.)

Eastern Orthodox Christians mainly follow two calendars: the Julian Calendar and the Revised Julian Calendar, the latter of which coincides with the present Gregorian Calendar. Between 1900 and 2100 CE, there will exist a 13-day difference between the two calendars; the date of Pascha brings an exception, in that its date is calculated annually according to a lunar calendar, based on the Julian Calendar.

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Categories: Christian

Labor Day: How much do you know about faith and work? Try this quiz!

David Briggs quiz on Faith and Work for Labor Day

HOW MUCH DO YOU KNOW about faith in the workplace? Click this image to visit the Association of Religion Data Archives website and take religion writer David Briggs’ online quiz.

“If Labor Day is observed as it ought to be, the gospel of humanity will be understood by all men and women.”
Terence Vincent Powderly, leader of the Knights of Labor outreach

MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 1: Amid parades, festivities and traveling this Labor Day weekend, consider giving this holiday the merit it really deserves: a look at the history and relevance of labor in the lives of American workers.

Labor Day honors a value that has been a part of religious reflection for thousands of years—the value of human labor. Psalm 90 in the Bible ends with a prayer that God will “prosper the work of our hands.” In Islam, the Quran talks at length about the nature of our work and the morality of conducting ourselves in the public square. For two centuries, popes have written extensively about the sacred nature of labor.

At ReadTheSpirit, we were pleased to see that our colleague religion writer David Briggs published an entire Labor Day quiz, based on recent research into the connections between faith and labor. As David reports, “Faith matters in the lives of working Americans. It matters in their choice of a vocation: Other than marriage, the choice of a job or career is the next major life decision most likely to be influenced by faith, a study by Brandeis University researchers found.”

TRY DAVID BRIGGS’ QUIZ … Click on the image with this column—or just click here—and you’ll jump to his interactive quiz.


Black-and-white photo of people on streets in early 20th century, leisurely gatherings and walking in a built-up downtown

A Labour Day parade in Toronto, Canada, 1900. Labour Day was made an official holiday by Canadian Prime Minister John Thompson in July of 1894; less than one month later, Labor Day became a federal holiday in the United States. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Why do we refer to “American Labor Day” in this column? Because American leaders in the late 1800s feared that a May holiday, which was favored by labor activists, would encourage memories of the tragic Haymarket conflict in Chicago. What began as a peaceful labor demonstration in Chicago’s Haymarket Square wound up in headlines around the world after a bomb went off, police opened fire and many were killed or wounded. The tragedy continued through subsequent court cases. That May event in Haymarket Square well over a century ago is remembered, to this day, in May 1 labor holidays around the world.

Instead of a May holiday, then, American leaders preferred to remove “our” holiday from that tragedy by four months in our civic calendar. Instead, American holiday planners encouraged street parades and public displays of the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations in each community community—including cheerful festivities and recreation for workers and their families. (Wikipedia has details.)

In addition, the Sunday preceding Labor Day is known as “Labor Sunday”—dedicated to the spiritual and educational aspects of the labor movement.

In the late 1800s, leaders in the Knights of Labor worked diligently to spread awareness of this holiday. Terence Vincent Powderly, leader of the Knights’ outreach, wrote on the influence of religion, “Trade-unionists, members of guilds, leagues and other organizations of workingmen embraced Christianity and proclaimed its doctrines as being especially advantageous to the welfare of the toiling poor.” Powderly’s preamble to the union’s Declaration of Principles quoted Scripture, and the leader himself was a devout Catholic. (The Huffington Post published an article on this subject.)


President Lyndon Johnson’s “War on Poverty” launched a series of programs intended to restore the nation’s promise of equality and opportunity—and, on Aug. 20, 1964, President Johnson signed the Economic Opportunity Act. Part of this Act established the Job Corps, a residential education and training program for disadvantaged young people, and centers across the country are marking 50 years with open houses, demonstrations and more. Though the official anniversary was Aug. 20, take some time today to learn more about this fundamental part of labor history in America. (Learn more from the U.S. Department of Labor.)

Here’s an irony: Labor Day has become an important sale weekend for many retailers. More Americans work in the retail industry than any other, resulting in longer hours for the day that was intended to provide leisure for the country’s workers.

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

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Categories: National Observances