Birthday of Haile Selassie: Rastafari celebrate his courage on global stage

1936 Haile Selassie as TIME magazine's Man of the YearSATURDAY, JULY 23: Rastafari far and wide hold Nyabingi drumming sessions and revel in the birthday anniversary of their God incarnate, Haile Selassie.

ORIGINS—Beginnings were meager for this emperor-to-be, born in a mud hut in Ethiopia, in 1892. Selassie—originally named Tafari Makonnen—was a governor’s son, assuming the throne of Ethiopia in a complex struggle for succession. The nation’s leaders favored Tafari for the role of emperor—and, in 1930, he was crowned. Selassie would become Ethiopia’s last emperor, and today, he is viewed as the messiah of the Rastafari. ( has more on Selassie’s life.)

Years prior to Haile Selassie’s enthronement, American black-nationalist leader Marcus Garvey began preaching of a coming messiah who would lead the peoples of Africa, and the African diaspora, into freedom. When news of Selassie’s coronation reached Jamaica, it became evident to some that Selassie was this foretold of messiah. (Wikipedia has details.) Beyond the prophesies in the Book of Revelation and New Testament that Rastafari point to as proof of Selassie’s status, the emperor also could trace his lineage back to King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. Rastafari pointed to Selassie as the Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah, the Root of David and the King of Kings.

Selassie remained a lifelong Christian, but never reproached the Rastafari for their beliefs in him as the returned messiah. To this day, Rastafari rejoice on July 23, the anniversary of his birth.

Did you know? The Rastafari receive their name from the combination of Ras—an honorific title, meaning “head”—and Tafari, part of Selassie’s birth name.


LEAGUE OF NATIONS—One of the most poignant chapters in Selassie’s life—and a key reason that he came to global attention—was an impassioned appeal for help that Selassie delivered to the League of Nations in 1936. It’s also the 80th anniversary of TIME magazine naming him its Man of the Year.

The magazine’s “honor,” today, looks like nothing but ridicule for what TIME editors regarded as a foolish figure on the global stage. Dripping with sarcasm and openly racist, the TIME profile of Selassie included this description of him:

The astounding marvel is that Africa’s unique Museum of Peoples has produced a businessman—with high-pressure publicity, compelling sales talk, the morals of a patent medicine advertisement, a grasp of both savage and diplomatic mentality, and finally with plenty of what Hollywood calls “it.”

Selassie was in a life-and-death struggle with Italian aggression in his homeland. The TIME cover story appeared in January 1936. International opinions of Selassie changed dramatically that summer when he made a passionate plea for help in a personal appearance before the League of Nations in Europe. His plea did not result in the help he sought, but the appeal now is considered a milestone in 20th century history. William Safire included the League address in his book, Great Speeches in American History.

After January, when TIME made fun of Selassie in its openly racist cover story, the world witnessed Italian armed forces brutally crushing Selassie’s Ethiopian army and conquering his country, declaring the nation to be the property of Italy. Selassie did not want to flee the country but did so for his own safety at the urging of Ethiopian leaders. He arrived in Geneva and delivered the plea to the League, excerpts of which were carried in newsreels around the world.

At one point, he declared:

I pray to Almighty God that He may spare nations the terrible sufferings that have just been inflicted on my people, and of which the chiefs who accompany me here have been the horrified witnesses.

The tragic aftermath of this speech was that the League did not help him, Fascists continued to take power in Europe and soon all of Europe was experiencing the “terrible sufferings” Selassie described.

GROUNDATION DAY—Each spring, Rastafari celebrate Groundation Day, marking Selassie’s triumphant visit to Jamaica in 1966—50 years ago this year. Some remarkable LIFE magazine photographs from that event are on display in the TIME website. They’re worth a look, partly because these photos by Lynn Pelham never ran in the American edition of LIFE. Now, we are able to look back at what the magazine describes this way:

The images capture something of the fervor and delight, as well as the barely restrained chaos, among thousands of believers upon seeing the man they considered a messiah—and whom countless others still view as a power-hungry fraud. Informal observations made by LIFE staffers who were there provide some fascinating insights into how the proceedings were viewed—hint: negatively—by at least some in the national press.

In notes that accompanied Pelham’s rolls of Ektachrome film to LIFE’s offices in New York just days after Selassie’s visit, for example, an editor for the magazine wrote privately to his colleagues that “the Rastafarians went wild on Selassie’s arrival. They broke police lines and swarmed around the emperor’s DC-6 [plane]. They kept touching his plane, yelling ‘God is here,’ and knocking down photographer Pelham, who got smacked. The Rastafarians fouled up the visit, as far as most Jamaicans were concerned. But Selassie seemed to love the attention these strange, wild-eyed, lawless and feared Jamaicans gave him.”

Interested in more? View a modern Rastafari celebration for Haile Selassie’s birthday here.

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Categories: AnniversaryRastafari

Anniversary: Rastafari, Civil Rights marks birthday of Marcus Garvey

“[Garvey] was the first man of color to lead and develop a mass movement. He was the first man on a mass scale … to give millions of Negroes a sense of dignity and destiny.”

-Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., June 1965

Painting of dark-skinned man with colorful background and quote

Marcus Garvey Square in New Orleans, Louisiana. Photo by Mark Gstohl, courtesy of Flickr

MONDAY, AUGUST 17: A Black Nationalist who inspired Martin Luther King, Jr., united Malcom X’s parents and now has schools, colleges, highways and buildings honoring him across Africa, Europe, the Caribbean and United States is honored today, on the anniversary of his birth: the birthday of Marcus Mosiah Garvey, Jr.

Throughout his life, Marcus Garvey led the Black Nationalist movement by creating the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), founding the Negro World newspaper as a major vehicle for communication and launching the Black Star Line, an international shipping company. Through the 1920s, Garvey’s public speeches contained mention of a “black king” who would soon be crowned in Africa and offer deliverance; the Rastafari believe Garvey to be prophetic, foretelling the crowing of Emperor Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia. For the Rastafari, Garvey is still seen as a religious prophet, similar to St. John the Baptist.


Born in Jamaica in 1887, Marcus Garvey learned to read in his father’s library and sought to unite Africans of the diaspora. The UNIA, formed in 1914, was the “broadest mass movement in African-American history,” created with a mission to provide economic and educational opportunities and inspiration for Africans of the diaspora. (Learn more from and The UNIA developed the Pan-African flag (colored red, black and green) to represent a race and movement. Though ultimately unsuccessful, Garvey worked hard to develop a colony for free blacks in Africa. (Wikipedia has details.) At its peak, the UNIA claimed millions of members.


During his lifetime, Marcus Garvey also faced criticism from many quarters, including from many African-Americans. One of his critics was W.E.B Du Bois. Nonetheless, Garvey’s efforts fueled what eventually became the Civil Rights movement and the concept of a secular organization for blacks. Earl and Louise Little, parents of Malcolm X, met at a UNIA convention in Montreal; the Rastafari continue to view Garvey as a prophet. Garvey died in London in June of 1940.

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Categories: AnniversaryInternational ObservancesRastafari

Haile Selassie: Celebrating Bob Marley’s 70th on a Rastafari birthday

Colored headshot of Bob Marley laughing

Bob Marley brought international attention to the Rastafari movement. Photo by Jason H. Smith, courtesy of Flickr

THURSDAY, JULY 23: During what would have been the year of Bob Marley’s 70th birthday, the world celebrates the legend of a Reggae artist—and, for the Rastafari, the man who helped place their religion on the international stage. Today, the Rastafari acclaim the birthday of their messiah, Emperor Haile Selassie—a man referenced in lyrics of Marley’s songs. In Rastafari communities worldwide, Selassie’s birthday is met with Nyabingi drumming sessions, chanting and dancing. Born in a mud hut in Ethiopia in 1892, Selassie—named Tafari Makonnen at birth—was the son of a governor who would become the final emperor of Ethiopia.

Did you know? The Rastafari receive their name from the combination of Ras—an honorific title, meaning “head”—and Tafari, part of Selassie’s birth name.

Looking for more Marley and other artists’ peacemaking music? Check out modern-day interfaith peacemaker Dan Buttry’s column—complete with links to videos.

Rastafari point to several sources as proof of Selassie’s destiny: astrological occurrences at the time of Selassie’s birth, a lineage traceable to King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, the prophesies of Marcus Garvey and biblical passages relating to Ethiopia and Zion. The constellation of Leo, which represents the house of Judah, was in full effect during the birth of Selassie on July 23, 1892. Marcus Garvey had been preaching of a messiah who would lead the African people to freedom. Biblical text relays that “he will be called … conquering lion of the tribe of Judah.” (For a Rasta view, click here.) When news of Selassie’s assumption of the Ethiopian throne reached Jamaica in 1930, the Rastafari movement was born.

Are Rastas Christian? Many Rastas believe in Jesus and embrace the Bible. What sets Rastas apart from other Christians is their belief that Haile Selassie was (is) a messiah. During his lifetime, Haile Selassie remained an Ethiopian Christian.


President Barack Obama visited The Bob Marley Museum in Kingston, Jamaica, last April, and the museum has been receiving international media attention throughout the year of Marley’s 70th birth anniversary. Beyond Reggae, Marley wrote songs about war, revolution, protest, human rights and justice. Marley’s greatest hits collection, Legend, has been certified platinum 15 times, and the BBC named “One Love” the Song of the Millennium. This year, Billboard reviewed both the continued marketing of Marley’s image (he ranked No. 5 on Forbes’ 2014 Top Earning Dead Celebrity list) and the 10 protest songs that best exemplify his fight for social justice.

Interested in more? View a modern Rastafari celebration for Haile Selassie’s birthday here, and Time’s photos of Selassie’s 1966 visit to Jamaica here. Rita Marley, Bob Marley’s wife, converted to the Rasta faith after seeing Haile Selassie on his trip to Jamaica, claiming to have seen a stigmata print on his palm as he waved to the crowd. Rita influenced Bob in his conversion to Rastafari.

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Categories: Rastafari

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

Centennial of United Negro Improvement Association; birth of Marcus Garvey

Black-and-white photo of seated adult Marcus Garvey

Today, Rastafari and followers of Marcus Garvey celebrate his birth anniversary; this year, many also mark the centennial of the organization Garvey founded, the Universal Negro Improvement Association. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

SUNDAY, AUGUST 17: Global celebrations, this summer, mark the centennial anniversary of Marcus Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA). Exhibits in his name, lectures and events are drawing Rastafari devotees as well as families of Jamaican heritage and those interested in African-American history. In the midst of that observance, today marks the August 17, 1887, birth of Marcus Garvey.

Regarded as a prophet the likes of St. John the Baptist in the Rastafari religion, Garvey was born in Jamaica. During his lifetime, Garvey attracted millions of followers and built an enormously popular organization that honored African heritage in the Americas. Though his politics and viewpoints were regarded as controversial by many, Garvey earned the title of Jamaica’s first national hero and left an undeniable imprint on history.


Born the youngest of 11 children, Marcus Garvey developed a devotion to reading during childhood. After departing from Jamaica in 1910, Garvey worked as a newspaper editor, and began traveling; he attended college and, in 1914, organized the UNIA. As the organization grew, Garvey’s popularity soared—although opposition to his philosophies and ideas accompanied his success.

When the UNIA’s business, the Black Star Line, drew charges of mail fraud, the consequences would later haunt Garvey. Nonetheless, during that same time, the UNIA’s membership continued to grow—surpassing 4 million members. (Wikipedia has details.) Garvey tried to develop Liberia as a permanent homeland for the African Diaspora and spoke frequently on education, economics and independence.

During speeches in the 1920s, Garvey often spoke of looking to Africa for a black king who was to be crowned. When Haile Selassie I was crowned emperor of Ethiopia, many regarded Garvey as a prophet. The followers of this philosophy, who call themselves Rastafari, still believe Garvey to be a prophet.

In 1940, Garvey died in London, at age 52. Primarily, Garvey is memorialized globally for advancing a global mass empowerment focused on Africa and blacks of the Diaspora. Martin Luther King commented, in a speech in 1965, that Garvey “was the first man on a mass scale and level to give millions of Negroes a sense of dignity and destiny. And make the Negro feel he was somebody.”


Last month, the Jamaican Embassy in Washington, D.C., praised the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the UNIA, duly noting Garvey’s heroic status in Jamaica and the continuing influence of his life in the lives of people in the Diaspora. (Atlanta Black Star reported.) This month, the African-American Research Library and Cultural Center in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., will be exhibiting a gallery of original photos, magazines, books and posters dedicated to Garvey’s cause and the UNIA. The exhibit will also showcase the UNIA’s current membership and activities. (Read more in this article.)

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Categories: AnniversaryRastafari

Interfaith Calendar: Religious and Cultural Observances

Read The Spirit reports on major holidays, festivals, milestones and other observances that shape community life around the world. As we approach these special dates, our columnist Stephanie Fenton reports fresh stories about the way each milestone is marked. Please remember: DATES and OBSERVANCES VARY.

Here is our 2018 list …

March 2018

1—St. David of Wales (Christian)

2—Nineteen Day Fast begins (Baha’i)

Piles ofcolored powder in silver bowls

Photo courtesy of MaxPixel

2—Holi (Hindu)

2/3—Hola Mohalla (Sikh)

3—Hinamatsuri (Girls’ Day) (Japan)

9—Sunset, National Day of Unplugging

11—Daylight Savings Time begins

13—L. Ron Hubbard birthday (Scientology)

17—St. Patrick’s Day (Christian)

18—Ugadi (New Year) (Hindu)

18—Ramayana (Hindu)

19—St. Joseph’s Day (Christian)


20—Ostara / Mabon (Wicca, Pagan)

21—Norooz (New Year) / Naw-Ruz (New Year) (Persian/Zoroastrian, Baha’i)

25—Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Orthodox Christian)

25—Palm Sunday (Christian)

25—Ramanavami (Hindu)

28—Khordad Sal (Birth of Zarathushtra) (Zoroastrain)

29—Maundy Thursday (Christian)

29—Baseball Opening Day

30—Good Friday (Christian)

Plate with six compartments for egg, lettuce, bones, red sauce and pate

The Seder Plate contains symbolic items at the Passover seder table. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

30—Sunset, Pesach (Passover) begins (Jewish)

31—Holy Saturday (Christian)

31—Lazarus Saturday (Orthodox Christian)

31—Lord’s Evening Meal (Jehovah’s Witness)

31—Hanuman Jayanti (Hindu)

31—Magha Puja Day (Buddhist)

April 2018

April observances: Arab-American Heritage Month, National Poetry Month, National Library Week,

1—Easter Sunday (Christian)

1—Palm Sunday (Orthodox Christian)

1—April Fools Day

2—International Children’s Book Day / Hans Christian Andersen’s Birthday

2—Easter Monday (Christian)

3—Mahavir Jayanti (Jain)

6—Holy Friday (Orthodox Christian)

6—National Tartan Day (Scottish cultural celebration)

8—Pascha (Easter) (Orthodox Christian)

9—Annunciation (Christian)

11—Sunset, Yom HaShoah (Jewish)

12—Sunset, Lailat al Miraj (Islam)

14—Baisakhi (Vaisakhi) (Sikh)

15—Tax Day

17—Sunset, Yom HaZikaron (Jewish)

18—Akshaya Tritiya (Hindu, Jain)

18—Sunset, Yom Ha’Atzmaut (Jewish)

21—First Day of Ridvan (Baha’i)

21—National Tea Day (UK)

22—Earth Day

22—National Jelly Bean Day

25—Administrative Professionals Day (also known as Secretaries’ Day)

26—Take Our Sons and Daughters to Work Day

26—National Pretzel Day

27—Arbor Day

28—Sunset, Ninth Day of Ridvan (Baha’i)

29—Visakha Puja (Buddha Day) (Buddhist)

30—Screen Free Week

30—New Year (Theravada Buddhist)

30—Sunset, Lailat al Bara’ah (Islam)

May 2018

May observances: Jewish American Heritage Month, Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, special Catholic devotions to Virgin Mary and National Bike Month.

1—Beltane / Samhain (Wicca, Pagan)

1—Sunset, Twelfth Day of Ridvan (Baha’i)

1—World Asthma Day

2—Sunset, Lag B’Omer (Jewish)

3—National Day of Prayer, U.S. (Interfaith) / National Day of Reason (secular)

4—Star Wars Day

Open-face carnitas with soft corn tortillas and shredded meat, cilantro and tomatoes

Mexican carnitas. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

5—Cinco de Mayo

6—Nurses’ Day

6—Free Comic Book Day

6—World Laughter Day

8—National Teacher Day

10/13—Ascension of the Lord (Ecclesiastical provinces of Boston, Hartford, New York, Newark, Omaha and Philadelphia, May 10; all other U.S. Ecclesiastical provinces, May 13)

13—Mother’s Day

13—National Skilled Nursing Care Week begins

13—Yom Yerushalayim (Jerusalem Day) (Jewish)

15—Peace Officers Memorial Day

15—International Day of Families (United Nations)

16—Ramadan begins after sunset on May 15, so the first day of the fast is May 16 (Islam)

16—St. Brendan’s Day (Christian)

17—Ascension (Orthodox Christian)

18—International Museum Day

19–Sunset, Shavuot (Jewish)

19—Armed Forces Day

20—Pentecost (Christian)

20—Emergency Medical Services Week begins

21—Whit Monday (Christian)

22—Sunset, Declaration of the Bab (Baha’i)

27—Pentecost (Orthodox Christian)

27—Trinity Sunday (Christian)

28—Sunset, Ascension of Baha’u’llah (Baha’i)

28—Memorial Day (U.S.)

June 2018

2—All Saints (Orthodox Christian)

3—Corpus Christi (Christian)

6—D-Day remembrances

6—Laylat al Qadr (Islam)

8—Sacred Heart of Jesus (Catholic Christian)

9—St. Columba of Iona (Celtic Christian)

10—Sunset, Laylat al Qadr (Islam)

14—Flag Day (U.S.)

Table set fancy with bowls of dates, wraps, spices and cookies

A traditional Moroccan feast for Eid al-Fitr. Photo by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, courtesy of Flickr

14—Sunset, Eid al Fitr / Ramadan ends (Islam)

16—Martrydom of Guru Arjan (Sikh)

17—Father’s Day

19—New Church Day (Swedenborgian Christian)

19—Sunset, Waqf al Arafa (Hajj Day) (Islam)



21—Litha/Yule (Wicca, Pagan)

21—First Nations Day (Canadian Native People)


24—Nativity of St. John, the Baptist (Christian)

29—Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul (Christian)

29—Sunset, The Three Weeks begins (Jewish)

July 2018

July is National Hot Dog Month—and a special celebration of other foods Americans love, including Fried Chicken, Chocolate and Ice Cream. Enjoy our story about these food-related observances, a column that includes lots of links to learn more about each celebration.

4—Independence Day (U.S.)

8—Sunset, Martyrdom of the Bab (Baha’i)

Red and yellow lit lanterns on string

Photo by Fabian Reus, courtesy of Flickr

13—Obon/Ullambana (Buddhist, Shinto)

15—St. Vladimir the Great Day (Orthodox Christian)

21—Sunset, Tisha B’Av (Jewish)

23—Birthday of Haile Selassie (Rastafari)

24—Pioneer Day (Mormon Christian)

26—Sunset, Tu B’Av (Jewish)

27—Asalha Puja Day (Buddhist)

August 2018

1—Lammas (Christian)

1—Fast of the Dormition of the Theotokos (Virgin Mary) (Orthodox Christian)

2—Lughnassadh/Imbolc (Wicca, Pagan)

6—Feast of the Transfiguration (Christian)

6—Transfiguration of the Lord (Orthodox Christian)

9—World Indigenous Peoples Day

15—Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Catholic Christian)

15—Dormition of the Theotokos (Orthodox Christian)

17—Birth anniversary of Marcus Garvey (Rastafari)

21—Sunset, Eid al-Adha (Islam)

29—Raksha Bandhan (Hindu)

September 2018

1—Ecclesiastical year begins (Orthodox Christian)

3—Labor Day (U.S.)

Painted blue Lord Krishna, smiling, amid swirls

Lord Krishna depicted in wood. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

3—Krishna Janmashtami (Hindu)

6—Paryushan Parva begins (Jain) (Dates may vary by region and sect)

8—Nativity of the Virgin Mary (Christian)

9—Sunset, Rosh Hashana (Jewish)

9—National Grandparents Day

11—Sunset, Hijra (New Year) (Islam)

11—Patriot Day (U.S.)

13—Ganesh Chaturthi (Hindu)

14—Holy Cross Day (Christian)

14—Paryushan Parva (Jain)

18—Sunset, Yom Kippur (Jewish)

20—Sunset, Ashura (Islam)


22—Mabon/Ostara (Wicca, Pagan)

23—Sunset, Sukkot (Jewish)

23—Anant Chaturdashi (Hindu)

27—Meskel (Ethiopian Orthodox Christian)

29—St. Michael and All Angels (Michaelmas) (Christian)

30—Sunset, Shemini Atzeret (Jewish)

October 2018

1—Sunset, Simchat Torah (Jewish)

4—St. Francis Day (Catholic Christian)

8—Thanksgiving (Canada)

9/10—Navaratri (Hindu)

19—Dasaera (Hindu)

19—Sunset, Birth of the Bab (Baha’i)

20—Installation of the Scriptures as Guru Granth (Sikh)

31—All Hallows Eve (Christian)

31—Halloween (secular)

31—Reformation Day (Protestant Christian)

November 2018

1—All Saints Day (Christian)

1—Samhain/Beltane (Wicca, Pagan)

1—Dia de los Muertos (Mexico)

2—All Souls Day (Catholic Christian)

4—Daylight Savings Time ends

Girl poses with candle-lit bowls of oil

A girl with diya lamps lit for Diwali. Photo by Partha Sarathi Sahana, courtesy of Flickr

7—Diwali (Hindu)

8—New Year (Jain)

8—Vikram New Year (Hindu)

9—Kristallnacht anniversary

11—Veterans Day (U.S.)

11—Sunset, Birth of Baha’u’llah (Baha’i)

15—Nativity Fast begins (Orthodox Christian)

20—Sunset, Mawlid an-Nabi (Islam)

22—Thanksgiving (U.S.)

25—Christ the King (Christian)

27—Sunset, Ascension of Abdu’l-Baha (Baha’i)

December 2018

2—Advent begins (Christian)

2—Sunset, Hanukkah (Jewish)

Man with red bishop's hat and white beard waves with white gloved hand

Sinterklaas arrives in the Netherlands. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

6—St. Nicholas Day (Christian)

8—Bodhi Day (Buddhist)

8—Immaculate Conception of Mary (Catholic Christian)

12—Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe (Catholic Christian)

16—Posadas Navidenas (Hispanic Christian)


21—Yule/Litha (Wicca, Pagan)

21—Yule (Christian)

24—Christmas Eve (Christian)

25—Christmas Day (Christian)

25—Feast of the Nativity (Orthodox Christian)

26—Feast of St. Stephen (Christian)


28—Holy Innocents (Christian)

30—Holy Family (Christian)

31—Watch Night (Christian)

31—New Year’s Eve (secular)





We continue to update this list, month by month. As you read the list, you may discover we have missed a fascinating observance or detail. If so, please email us at

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Categories: AnniversaryBaha'iBuddhistChristianFaiths of East AsiaFaiths of IndiaInterfaithInternational ObservancesJewishMormonMuslimNational ObservancesRastafari

Birthday of Marcus Garvey: John the Baptist-style prophet to many

Group of African Americans drumming and dancing in a park

Drum circle, Marcus Garvey Park, Harlem, New York City. Photo courtesy of Flickr

“With confidence, you have won before you have started.”
Marcus Garvey

Click the DVD cover to visit its Amazon page.

Click the DVD cover to visit its Amazon page.

SATURDAY, AUGUST 17: From reggae bands to kids in Buffalo, from Rastafari to Africans of the Diaspora—all mark the birth anniversary of Marcus Garvey, born on this date in 1887. A Jamaican-born black nationalist who created the “Back to Africa” movement in the United States and is regarded as a prophet by the Rastafari religion, Garvey spent his life globetrotting for the cause of empowering Africans. Among his most notable accomplishments are the creation of the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) and African Communities League, which together claimed millions of members at the height of Garvey’s popularity.

Components of his philosophy for African economic empowerment and awareness, known as “Garveyism,” remain well-known today. Garvey was named the first national hero of Jamaica in 1964.

Q: Who was the first recipient of the Marcus Garvey Prize for Human Rights?
A: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Read more about Garvey at Wikipedia. At Read The Spirit, we also recommend the excellent PBS American Experience production, now available on DVD: The American Experience: Marcus Garvey, Look for Me in the Whirlwind. PBS still maintains the website for the documentary, which includes a transcript and other educational materials.

Marcus Mosiah Garvey, Jr. was born in an impoverished Jamaica to a wealthy family. From his father, Garvey inherited a vast library and a love of reading, which led him to become well-educated by the time he left school at age 14. From this young age Garvey traveled the world, and at age 27, he founded the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA). Reputation exceeded the public speaker, and Garvey’s tours often centered on topics like race pride, social and economic freedom, and unity. In 1935, Garvey moved to London, where he died of a stroke five years later.


During his speeches throughout the 1920s, Garvey often spoke grandly of a vision he had of the future—the appearance of a “black king” in Africa that would soon be crowned, thereby granting deliverance. In one speech, Garvey declared:

“I was determined that the black man would not continue to be kicked about, as I had seen in Central America, and as I read of it in America. Where is the black man’s government? Where is his King and his kingdom? Where is his President, his country, his men of big affairs? I could not find them, and then I declared, ‘I will help to make them.’ My brain was afire.”

After hearing many similar declarations, Garvey’s followers naturally kept a close eye on news from Africa. When Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia was crowned in 1930, members of the Rastafari religion—many of whom regard Selassie as a Messiah—hailed Garvey as a religious prophet. Some regard Garvey as the reincarnation of John the Baptist.


A local essay contest in Buffalo, New York, is set to assist the mayor in solving some of the city’s most pressing issues–from the perspective of students in grades 6 through 12. Participants will take the perspective of city mayor in solving challenges like violence, unemployment and education. (Buffalo News reports.) According to sponsor Eva Doyle, students can earn extra credit by incorporating the principles of Marcus Garvey and Garveyism into their answers.

In San Diego, bands and fans will gather at the WorldBeat Center on Aug. 18, for a tribute to the legacy of Marcus Garvey. A Mexican reggae band will mix African and Mexican cultures, in a way that organizers hope will tackle prejudice and promote unity.

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Categories: International ObservancesRastafari