Halloween, Allhallowtide and Samhain: A spook-tacular time of year!

Kids in costumes in a row, smiling

Photo courtesy of Shaw Air Force Base

TUESDAY, OCTOBER 31 and WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 1 and THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 2:

Gather ‘round for spooky stories, ancient tales, age-old customs and plenty of apples and candy: it’s Halloween!

Rooted deeply 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!

Did you know? Samhain began in the oral traditions of Irish mythology; it wasn’t until the Middle Ages that visiting Christian monks began penning some of the tales.

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. Western images of witches, black cats and trick-or-treating now have circled the planet. Halloween slowly picked up speed and now is observed as far from the Celtic homeland as Asia and Africa. In some countries, bonfires and fireworks are common additions to nighttime trick-or-treating.

SAMHAIN: AN ANCIENT FESTIVAL REVIVED

Raven of black in shadow against orange moon

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

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. Legend has it that spirits could easily come to earth, and many people would leave out food and drink for the roaming entities.

Did you know? In Gaelic Ireland, Guising—donning a costume—was thought to “trick” ill-intentioned spirits roaming the streets near Samhain,

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. 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.

ALLHALLOWTIDE: THE CHRISTIAN TRIDUUM OF HALLOWEEN

The triduum of Halloween, “Allhallowtide” 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. Note: While Catholics, Anglicans and many other denominations still have an “All Souls Day” on their liturgical calendars, many Protestant and evangelical churches have abandoned this traditional three-day cycle.

DIA DE LOS MUERTOS: 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. 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; music and dancing delight celebrants of all ages.

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Categories: ChristianInternational ObservancesNational ObservancesWiccan / Pagan

Patriot Day: Linking the spirit of responders on 9/11 with courage today

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

MONDAY, 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.

OUR SPIRIT TODAY

Each year, the White House publishes a national proclamation about Patriot Day. The 2017 message connects our American responses to the 9/11 attacks with the same collective, generous spirit responding to the aftermath of destructive hurricanes right now. The White House proclamation says, in part:

It has been 16 years since the tragedy of September 11, 2001. Children who lost their parents on that day are now parents of their own, while many teenagers currently in high school learn about September 11th only from their history books. Yet all Americans are imbued with the same commitment to cause and love of their fellow citizens as everyone who lived through that dark day. We will never forget. …

We will always remember the sacrifices made in defense of our people, our country, and our freedom. The spirit of service and self sacrifice that Americans so nobly demonstrated on September 11, 2001, is evident in the incredible response to Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. The same spirit of American patriotism we movingly witnessed on September 11th has filled our hearts as we again see the unflinching courage, compassion, and generosity of Americans for their neighbors and countrymen. The service members and first responders who lost their lives on September 11, 2001, and in the years of service since would be proud of what we have all witnessed over these last three weeks and what will undoubtedly unfold in the coming months of recovery. By protecting those in need, by taking part in acts of charity, service, and compassion, and by giving back to our communities and country, we honor those who gave their lives on and after September 11, 2001.

 

 

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Categories: National Observances

Labor Day: Celebrate and learn America’s rich labor history

Blak-and-white illustration of big crowd in streets, in lines

Labor Day in New York, 1882. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 4: Parades, barbecues and travel abound this Labor Day weekend, but alongside the festivities, 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 is the result of the long struggle for recognition by the American labor movement; the first Labor Day celebration, celebrated in 1882 in New York City, attracted more than 10,000 workers who marched through the streets. Beyond recognizing the social and economic achievements of American workers, Labor Day makes us aware of the countless workers who have, together, contributed to the strength and prosperity of their country.

Pope Leo XIII (1810-1903) wrote the first encyclical on labor and is often described as the founder of Catholic social teaching.

Labor & Faith

The value of human labor is echoed throughout the Abrahamic tradition, including stories and wisdom about the nature of labor in both the Bible and the Quran. Biblical passages ask God to “prosper the work of our hands” (Psalm 90), while the Quran refers to the morality of conducting oneself in the public square.

The Catholic church has been preaching on behalf of workers for more than a century. The landmark papal encyclical Rerum Novarum (“Of revolutionary change”) was published in 1891 and has been described as a primer on the rights of laborers who face abusive conditions in the workplace. This became one of the central themes of Pope John Paul II’s long pontificate. In 1981, he published his own lengthy encyclical, Laborem Exercens (“On human work”). Then, a decade later, John Paul returned to this milestone in Catholic teaching in Centisimus Annus (“Hundredth year”).

AMERICAN LABOR DAY: A HISTORY

At the end of the 19th century, many Americans had to work 12-hour days every day of the week to make a living. Child labor was at its height in mills, factories and mines, and young children earned only a portion of an adult’s wage. Dirty air, unsafe working conditions and low wages made labor in many cities a dangerous occupation. As working conditions worsened, workers came together and began forming labor unions: through unions, workers could have a voice by participating in strikes and rallies. Through unions, Americans fought against child labor and for the eight-hour workday.

Did you know? The Sunday preceding Labor Day is known as “Labor Sunday”—dedicated to the spiritual and educational aspects of the labor movement.

Some labor demonstrations turned violent—such as the Haymarket Riot of 1886, which is remembered, to this day, in May 1 labor holidays around the world. Instead of a May holiday, however, American leaders preferred to remove “our” holiday from that tragedy by four months, in the 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—including cheerful festivities and recreation for workers and their families. Oregon became the first state to declare Labor Day a holiday, in 1887, and by 1896, Labor Day was a national holiday.

LABOR AND UNIONS TODAY

Experts estimate that union membership has now decreased to less than one in eight, though numbers are still strong in specific fields, such as education. Unfortunately, many retail stores today work their employees extra hours on Labor Day, to push Labor Day sales. That means a lot—considering that a large portion of Americans workers work in the retail industry.

NEWS, RECIPES & MORE

A Jerry Lewis marathon: The Jerry Lewis MDA Labor Day Telethon was associated with Labor Day weekend from 1966 through 2014, and so in honor of the star who died on August 20, at age 91, Turner Classic Movies will host a daylong marathon of films featuring Jerry Lewis this Labor Day. Learn more, here.

Labor Day and school: Why do some states choose to still begin the school year after Labor Day—and how does that choice affect kids? The Atlantic asked these questions in a recent article.

Travel: Looking for last-minute Labor Day weekend travel ideas? The Huffington Post offers suggestions, as does the Chicago Sun-Times.

Cookout Recipes: Hosting or attending a cookout or barbecue for Labor Day? Try a recipe from Food Network. To accompany summer recipes, Forbes lists the 10 best American white wines under $20, for Labor Day.

 

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Categories: National Observances

Fourth of July: Americans from coast to coast celebrate nation’s birthday

Kids parade Juy 4th

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

TUESDAY, JULY 4: Stars and Stripes fly high as Americans celebrate freedom: parades, picnics and reunions with family and friends fill streets, fields and parks and fireworks explode in the night sky. Though the legal separation of the Thirteen Colonies from Great Britain took place on July 2, 1776, it was two days later—July 4—when the Second Continental Congress gave its approval, and Americans observe this day in grand ceremony. So fire up the grill, deck out your yard (or yourself) in red, white and blue, and enjoy summer’s all-American holiday!

Fireworks in night sky

Photo by PublicDomainImages, courtesy of Pixabay

Boston Pops: Tune in to CBS for the live webcast of the Boston Pops concert and fireworks, which will feature celebrities Andy Grammer, Melissa Etheridge and Leslie Odom, Jr., this year, and is attended by a half million people annually.

A Capitol Fourth 2017: A Capitol Fourth—a free concert broadcast live by PBS, NPR and the American Forces Network—takes place on the Capitol lawn in Washington, D.C. In 2017, John Stamos will host the 37th annual show, which will feature performances by Dan Aykroyd and Jim Belushi of The Blues Brothers; The Beach Boys; The Four Tops and The Voice Season 12 winner Chris Blue.

INDEPENDENCE DAY: A HISTORY

With the fledgling battles of the Revolutionary War in April 1775, few colonists considered complete independence from Great Britain. Within a year, however, hostilities toward Great Britain were building and the desire for independence was growing, too.

Did you know? Congress declared July 4 a national holiday in 1870.

In June 1776, the Continental Congress appointed a five-person committee to draft a formal statement that would vindicate the break with Great Britain: Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Roger Sherman and Robert R. Livingston. Jefferson, considered the most articulate writer in the group, crafted the original draft.

Did you know? A total of 86 changes were made to the draft before its final adoption on July 4 by the Second Continental Congress; on July 5, 1776, official copies of the Declaration of Independence were distributed.

One year following, in 1777, Philadelphia marked the Fourth of July with an official dinner, toasts, 13-gun salutes, music, parades, prayers and speeches. As the new nation faced challenges, celebrations fell out of favor during ensuing decades. It wasn’t until after the War of 1812 that printed copies of the Declaration of Independence again were widely circulated, and festivities marked America’s Independence Day.

Red, white and blue flag cake

Photo by Andreas Ivarsson, courtesy of Flickr

Fun Fact: In 1789, the new U.S. Constitution went into effect and the Continental Congress was replaced by the U.S. Congress.

FOURTH OF JULY RECIPES & PARTY TIPS

Nothing sets the stage better for a summer party than the Fourth of July!

From hot dogs and gourmet hamburgers to red, white and blue cakes and treats, find recipes from Martha Stewart, AllRecipes, Food Network, Food & Wine, Taste of Home, Rachael Ray and Real Simple.

For party and decor tips, check out HGTV’s Americana style suggestions and backyard party tips.

Patriotic game ideas are at Reader’s Digest, offering fun party games fit for any July Fourth celebration.

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Categories: National Observances

Litha, Solstice and Midsummer: Celebrate the peak of summer

Group gathering outside in summer, blue skies, raising pole cross Swedish

Erecting a maypole at a Midsummer celebration in Sweden, 2013. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

WEDNESDAY, JUNE 21 through SATURDAY, JUNE 24: Seaside picnics, Midsummer parties and bonfires abound at the summer solstice—and, across the Northern Hemisphere, June 21 is the “longest day of the year,” this year. Astronomically, the summer solstice occurs when the tilt of Earth’s semi-axis in the northern hemisphere is most inclined toward the sun; thus, inhabitants of the north experience more hours and minutes of daylight today than on any other day of the year. In many Scandinavian countries, this time of year is celebrated as Midsummer—which includes Midsummer’s Eve and then Midsummer—and it is celebrated with an entire day’s worth of outdoor activities for citizens young and old. Wiccans and Pagans may observe Litha, a holiday of gratitude for light and life.

OUTDOOR DANCING, FLOWER CROWNS & SMORGASBORD

In Scandinavian countries, the longest day of the year is one of the most cherished holidays of the year. Affectionately termed Midsummer, many spend the day outdoors with an extravagant smorgasbord lunch, games for the entire community, time at the beach, dancing and bonfires. (In a recent article on the festival, AFAR calls Sweden’s Midsummer “straight out of a fairytale.”) Whether the long, dark Scandinavian winters are the reason for Midsummer exhilaration or it’s something else altogether, this holiday is unrivaled in many countries of the world.

Bowl of fresh strawberries amid green plants, outdoors

Strawberries are a staple on many Midsummer tables. Photo courtesy of Pixabay

Flower crowns are uber popular beyond Europe, and this ancient accessory for Midsummer fetes is as easy as gathering a few favorite flowers and basic craft materials. (Some stores sell simple flower circlets, too.) For a tutorial on how to create a unique, chic one, check out Lauren Conrad.com. Got real flowers? Check out this YouTube video on how to make a crown using fresh components.

The Midsummer menu is as dear to Scandinavians as the Christmas goose or ham is to celebrants of the winter holiday, and fresh strawberries take center stage in Midsummer cakes and shortcakes. (Find more info at the official website of Sweden.) Other traditional foods include the season’s first potatoes, made with dill and butter; a roast; herring or other types of fish and seafood; hard-boiled eggs and summer cabbage. For recipes and ideas on how to spend the longest day of the year, check out Bon Appetit or the UK’s The Independent.

Did you know? Though harvest is not in full swing yet, many wild herbs are mature for picking and, thus, Midsummer is known as “Gathering Day” in Wales and in other various regions. Herbs, gathered most often for medicinal qualities, are gathered and dried for later use.

LITHA: A TRIBUTE TO LIGHT AND LIFE

Adherents of Wicca and Paganism look to the Sun God on the summer solstice, noting the full abundance of nature at the point of mid-summer. (Note: Some adherents celebrate on June 25, the fixed calendar date that is known as “Old Litha.”)

Traditionally, fresh fruits and vegetables are the main course at shared meals, and bonfires are lit to pay homage to the full strength of the sun. At Stonehenge, the heelstone marks the midsummer sunrise as viewed from the center of the stone circle.

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Categories: InterfaithInternational ObservancesNational ObservancesWiccan / Pagan

Juneteenth: Parades, barbecues and festivals commence nationwide

Two girls with sashes and crowns smiling at camera

Mariah Walker and Whitley Tucker, both Miss Black El Paso, joined in Juneteenth celebration in northeast El Paso, June 2013. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

MONDAY, JUNE 19: Prayer services, gospel concerts and barbecues nationwide celebrate the oldest known commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States: Juneteenth, also known as Emancipation Day.

Note: Be sure to check schedules early for local celebrations—many cities are hosting Juneteenth events prior to June 19.

President Abraham Lincoln had issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1862, followed by the end of the Civil War, but white Texans remained resistant to freeing slaves. Due to the minimal number of Union troops present in Texas, slavery continued in the state until June 18, 1865—the day General Gordon Granger and 2,000 federal troops marched into Galveston and took possession of the state. The following day, General Granger read General Order No. 3 before a crowd including elated former slaves. Formal celebrations for “Juneteenth” began almost immediately.

Did you know? The term “Juneteenth,” grammatically a portmanteau of the word “June” and the suffix of “Nineteenth,” was coined in 1903.

Just one year following General Granger’s reading of General Order No. 3, freed former slaves had gathered enough money to purchase land for Juneteenth gatherings and celebrations. (Church grounds were also popular for gatherings.) Emancipation Park in Houston and Austin are examples of remaining properties purchased by former slaves. (Learn more history from Juneteenth.com.) In its early years, Juneteenth was a time for family members—some who had fled to the North and others who had traveled to other states—to reunite with relatives who stayed behind in the South. Prayer services have long played a major part in the celebrations.

Hosting a barbecue or other Juneteenth celebration? Find recipe ideas at Multi Cultural Cooking Network and NPR.

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Categories: National Observances

Father’s Day: Tell Dad ‘Thanks!’ on the 45 annual American holiday

Dad tie words

Photo courtesy of Max Pixel

SUNDAY, JUNE 18: Take Dad golfing, make dinner on the grill and take the time to say “Thanks.” It’s Father’s Day! Across the United States, more than 70 million fathers qualify for recognition on this special day, which has been an official holiday in the United States for 45 years.

Did you know? Celebrations similar to Father’s Day have been in existence around the globe for hundreds of years. In traditionally Catholic countries, fathers are popularly recognized on the Feast of St. Joseph.

The American Father’s Day began in Spokane, Washington, in 1910, with the daughter of a single father. When Sonora Smart Dodd heard a Mother’s Day sermon in church, she approached her pastor, believing that fathers like hers—a Civil War veteran and single father who had raised six children—deserved recognition, too. Following the initial few years, Father’s Day was all but lost until Dodd returned to Spokane, once again promoting her holiday. Despite support by trade groups and the Father’s Day Council, Father’s Day wasn’t accepted by the general public or Congress until 1966. President Richard Nixon signed the holiday into law in 1972.

Did you know? Both Mother’s Day and Father’s Day were first observed in a Methodist church.

Grilling meat on a grill outdoors

Photo courtesy of Pexels

CELEBRATING FATHER’S DAY:
RECIPES, ACTIVITIES, DIY GIFTS & MORE

Stumped on how to celebrate Dad today? Look no further! We’ve rounded ideas for dads of any age:

From the Grill (and beyond): Whether Dad prefers meat or fish, potatoes or corn on the cob, you’ll find plenty of recipes to choose from at AllRecipes, Martha Stewart and Food Network. Wondering what dads overseas like to eat? The BBC has collected Father’s Day recipes fit for Brit dads.

Wondering what to do with Dad today? Reader’s Digest has a list of suggested activities.

Too hot to go out? Find a list of movies fit for Father’s Day at TechTimes, from Father of the Bride to Mrs. Doubtfire to The Pursuit of Happyness.

Gifts galore: Lists abound for those wondering what to buy for Dad, and most publications offer up plenty of suggestions each year. Among our favorites in 2017 are Time’s roundup of ideas, and Business Insider’s list of gifts under $50–which includes some cool new kicks and a Bluetooth meat thermometer.

Do-It-Yourselfers can find inspiration for gifts to make Dad at HGTV.com.

NEWS 2017: DAD FOR HIRE!

A group of men in their 20s have posted an ad on Craigslist, seeking a real-deal dad to grill for a gathering on the Saturday of Father’s Day weekend, in Washington state. (Seattle Times has the story.) The winning dad must have at least 18 years of experience in his role as Dad, boast at least 10 years of experience grilling and be willing to talk about things like lawn mowers, building a deck and Jimmy Buffet at the gathering. The payment for this dad? Free food and beer. News sources report that the young men in this group don’t live with their dads, but are still in the mood to celebrate Dad’s day.

 

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Categories: International ObservancesNational Observances