Daylight Savings Time: Participating states, countries ‘spring ahead’ 2018

Wall with various clocks hanging

Photo courtesy of pxhere

SUNDAY, MARCH 11: At 2 a.m. today, it’s time for spring—or, at least, to “spring” clocks forward by one hour, as Daylight Savings Time begins. First proposed by New Zealand’s George Vernon Hudson in 1895, the concept of Daylight Savings Time was originally proposed to utilize after-work hours for leisure activities with extra daylight. Though DST has fallen in and out of favor for decades, it is still widely used today throughout Europe and most of the United States.

DST: Did it begin with a Founding Father? Americans like to name Benjamin Franklin as the first proponent of Daylight Savings Time, because of a satirical essay he published while serving as an American envoy to Paris in 1784. Among other things, he urged the ringing of church bells and the firing of canons to get Parisians out of bed earlier each morning. However, historians now say that’s not the same as proposing Daylight Savings Time, which refers to a public shift in timekeeping. The 18th-century world had no concept of nationally standardized timekeeping, as we do today. Thus, many contemporary scholars don’t credit Ben with this particular innovation.

DAYLIGHT SAVINGS TODAY—AND ACROSS THE WORLD

Still, many question its value in 21st century society, and arguments are made for the disruptions it causes in sleep patterns, traffic accidents, health issues and business.

Not all states in America practice Daylight Savings Time, and currently, several states are in the midst of deciding whether or not to keep Daylight Savings Time. Around the globe, Europe still relies heavily on DST, while Asia, Australia and Africa largely use standard time.

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Categories: International ObservancesNational Observances

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. (Biography.com 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.

SELASSIE’S BITTERSWEET STORY

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

Halloween, Samhain, Allhallowtide & Dia de los Muertos: legends abound!

Kid's fingers pressing eye onto Jack-o-Lantern decorated caramel apple

Photo by Personal Creations, courtesy of Flickr

MONDAY, OCTOBER 31 and TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 1 and WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 2: From mulled wine and apples to costumes and candy, deck the halls with fright and get ready for the spookiest night of the year: Halloween!

Drawing on ancient beliefs of wandering souls and spirits at this time of year, some traditions of Halloween shadow the rituals of an early Gaelic festival known as Samhain, which resonated across Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man. Today’s Wiccans observe Samhain as a Sabbat, while Pagans—including Neopagans and Celtic Reconstructionists—attempt to observe its rituals as close as possible to their original form.

Beyond Scotland, Ireland and the migration of Scots and Irish to other parts of the world, the tradition of Halloween is fairly new in the long sweep of global culture. Of course, Western influence is potent stuff, and 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. Today, it’s common for children around the world to dress in costume, for adults to hold costume parties and for everyone to try a hand at carving jack-o’-lanterns. In some countries, bonfires and fireworks are common additions to nighttime trick-or-treating.

Group of three kids in Halloween costumes

Photo by popofatticus, courtesy of Flickr

Did you know? The first record of pumpkin carving in America was penned in 1837; by the 1930s, so many Americans were trick-or-treating that mass-produced Halloween costumes were introduced in stores.

For Christians, the triduum of Halloween recalls deceased loved ones and martyrs; in Mexico and Latin American countries, Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) vibrantly reflects these types of observances. Secularly, Halloween is a time for costumes, pumpkins and candy, though for centuries, this time of the year has been regarded as an occasion when the veil between this world and—the other-world—is at its thinnest point.

SAMHAIN AND IRISH MYTHOLOGY

Born of a pastoral people, Samhain began in the oral traditions of Irish mythology; it wasn’t until the Middle Ages when visiting Christian monks began penning some of the tales. Ancient pagan traditions regard this as a night beyond all nights; the beginning of the dark half of the year; the final harvest, and a space in time when spiritual veils are lifted. Even the earliest cultures believed that spirits could access our world most easily at this time of year, so bonfires were lit to protect and cleanse people, livestock and pastures. Feasts were prepared, and the spirits of deceased ancestors were invited into the home with altars. Evil spirits were kept away with “guising” (costuming to fool the spirits), and turnip lanterns were often set in windows to scare evil spirits or to represent spiritual beings—a custom that likely evolved into the modern jack-o-lantern.

Today, many Pagans and Wiccans keep the widespread traditions of lighting bonfires, paying homage to ancestors and preparing feasts with apples, nuts, meats, seasonal vegetables and mulled wines.

‘ALLHALLOWTIDE’

In worldwide Christian tradition, millions still observe “Allhallowtide,” which is the name of this triduum (or special three-day period) that begins with All Hallows Eve and continues through All Saints Day on November 1 and All Souls Day on November 2. 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.

Did you know? The word Halloween is of Christian origin, and is also known as All Hallows Eve. All Saints’ Day is alternatively referred to as its counterpart: All Hallows, or Hallowmas.

Dancers in colorful Dia de los Muertos skirts and clothes, with faces painted

Dia de los Muertos celebrations in Chihuahua City, Mexico. Photo by Ted McGrath, courtesy of Flickr

The most popular of the three holidays in congregations coast to coast is All Saints Day, which falls on a Sunday this year. Millions of families will attend Sunday services on November 1 that include special remembrances of members who have passed in the previous year. Still mourning someone in your community? Show up at a local church observing All Saints Day and there likely will be a time to remember that person.

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. 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.

HALLOWEEN DECORATIONS, RECIPES & MORE

Decorating your home for Halloween? Get creative ideas at DIY Network.

For the more sophistocated crafter, Martha Stewart offers up ideas on homemade decorations.

Kids can give it a try with ideas from FamilyFun.

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Categories: International ObservancesNational ObservancesWiccan / Pagan

UN International Youth Day: Promoting civic engagement in a pivotal year

“In this landmark year, as leaders prepare to adopt a bold new vision for sustainable development, the engagement of youth is more valuable than ever. At this critical moment in history, I call on young people to demand and foster the dramatic progress so urgently needed in our world.”

-Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, Message for International Youth Day 2015

Group of ethnically diverse young people smiling, laughing

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 12: In a momentous year for concerns about both the environment and youth—nations around the world are elevating young people and recognizing their crucial role in a sustainable human existence. It’s the United Nations’ International Youth Day.

From New York to the Philippines, from Cuba to Qatar and through India, events aim to engage youth in politics, economics and decision-making. The 2015 theme, “Youth Civic Engagement,” arrives on the 30th anniversary of the first International Year of Youth and two decades after the implementation of the World Programme of Action for Youth. Today, the World Programme of Action for Youth plays prominently in UN youth development efforts, increasing opportunities for young people to actively participate in society. Live events, videos, Twitter exchanges and more mobilize youth objectives.

A HISTORY OF YOUTH:
THE LARGEST GENERATION

Today, the world holds the largest generation of young people in history. Yet as the world rapidly develops and changes, Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon has voiced the need for young people in both decision-making and the execution of programs and solutions. Social media have allowed immediate sharing of ideas and global communications on grassroots levels.

In December of 1999, the UN General Assembly endorsed the recommendation that August 12 be declared International Youth Day. Later, the World Programme of Action for Youth was created, intending to highlight specific areas of priority such as education, health, hunger and poverty, environment, drug abuse, participation, conflict and intergenerational relations.

2015 NEWS & EVENTS: GET INVOLVED!

UN Headquarters: On August 12, events will be underway at the UN Headquarters. Learn more here.

Organizing an event? Communities, schools, clubs and more can find ideas for celebrating International Youth Day in this toolkit. Events can be registered by sending a email to youth@un.org.

Looking for an event? Check out the official International Youth Day activities map.

Interested in the IYD Digital Surge? Between 9 a.m. EST and 3 p.m. EST, join the Digital Surge, using #YouthDay and #YouthNow. Click here for details.

Searching for inspiration? Inspiring quotes that celebrate youth, spoken or written by world leaders and UN Officials, will be on Twitter @UNYouthEnvoy.

Global Young Leaders in Times Square: From August 3-August 17, a video featuring the faces of youth making a difference in their communities will be featured on the LG screens in Times Square, in New York City.

Who is the Envoy on Youth—and where will he be on IYD? The UN Secretary-General’s Envoy for Youth, Ahmad Alhendawi, will speak at a Youth Forum in the Philippines on International Youth Day 2015. Alhendawi will also join 1,000 young people for the country’s Youth Day celebrations, meet with government officials and exchange ideas with youth advocates from civil society organizations that represent marginalized sectors.

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Categories: International Observances

Call it Litha, Midsummer or Solstice: Celebrate northern height of summer

Large crowd dancing outdoors in a circle, with farmhouse and meadows in background

Midsummer dancing in Sweden, June 2013. Photo by Lars Andersson, courtesy of Flickr

SUNDAY, JUNE 21: Picnics on the beach, Midsummer parties and bonfires abound at the summer solstice—and, across the Northern Hemisphere, it’s the “longest day of the 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. (Wikipedia has details.) In several Scandinavian countries, the day is celebrated as Midsummer’s Eve and then Midsummer, complete 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.

Smiling young girl with blonde hair and a crown of daisies and other flowers

A young girl wears a crown of flowers at a Midsummer celebration in New York. Photo by SwedenNewYork, courtesy of Flickr

MIDSUMMER: FROM SMORGASBORDS TO BONFIRES

In Scandinavian countries, the longest day of the year is one of the most beloved 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. (Learn more—and check out an authentic Swedish YouTube video of Midsummer—in our all-summer column.) 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.

Flower crowns are all the rage, and this ancient accessory for Midsummer fetes is as easy as gathering a few favorite flowers and basic craft materials. For a tutorial on how to create a chic one, check out Lauren Conrad.com and Cosmopolitan.

The Midsummer menu is as dear to Scandinavians as the Christmas goose or ham is to celebrants of the winter holiday, and fresh strawberries often take center stage in cakes, shortcakes or eaten straight out of the bowl. 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 the UK’s The Independent.

LITHA: A TRIBUTE TO STRENGTH OF MID-SUMMER SUN

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. 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. (Wicca.com has more.) In centuries past, torchlight processions were common; at Stonehenge, the heelstone marks the midsummer sunrise as viewed from the center of the stone circle. 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.

Interested in a modern-day take on gathering and drying healing herbs? Check out this story by Antioch College student Aubrey Hodapp, whose studies under an herbalist have helped her to deliver local, organic tea to her fellow students and much more (featured this week at FeedTheSpirit).

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Categories: International ObservancesWiccan / Pagan

World celebrates summer solstice with Midsummer, St. John and Litha

Circle of people holding hands, in movement around a pole covered in leaves and vines

Summer solstice, or Midsummer, is widely celebrated around the world. Above, celebrants dance at a Midsummer event in Sweden. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

SATURDAY, JUNE 21: It’s the longest day of the year—summer solstice—and from Sweden to Brazil to the United States, Midsummer celebrations are in full swing.

Astrologically, summer solstice occurs when the tilt of Earth’s semi-axis is most inclined toward the sun. For people around the world, Midsummer has been associated with sun gods, greenery, fertility rituals and medicinal herbs for millennia. For modern Wiccans, summer solstice is known as Litha: adherents honor the Sun God as the lord of the forests, dine on garden-fresh fruits and vegetables and burn incense of lemon, rose and wisteria. (Wicca.com has more.)

With the spread of Christianity, Midsummer became associated with the birth of St. John the Baptist—although, specifically, the saint’s day is fixed on June 24.

Bonfires on the beach, wreaths of wildflowers, outdoor dancing and relaxing in the countryside are all popular ways to spend the week of Midsummer. (Find recipes, flower-centered wreath DIYs, craft and party ideas and more on Pinterest.)

MIDSUMMER AROUND THE WORLD:
FROM SWEDEN AND FINLAND TO BRAZIL

Overhead perspective of bunch of strawberries

Strawberries are in season in many places this time of year, and are a popular Midsummer treat. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Aside from Christmas, Midsummer is the most important holiday of the Swedish year. Grand outdoor lunches, speckled with seemingly endless lines of hot and cold dishes and hors d’oeuvres, are shared by family and friends. Children braid flowers and leaves into their hair, and adults take part in merry drinking. (Get the inside scoop at Visit Sweden.)

In Finland, the summer holiday unofficially starts with Midsummer, and so many flock to countryside cottages that city streets can seem eerily empty. Saunas, bonfires, barbecues and fishing are enjoyed by hundreds. (Learn more at Visit Finland.) Ancient belief is that the louder one’s behavior on Midsummer and Midsummer Eve, the more evil spirits that will be driven away.

Did you know? Centuries before the placement of the Feast of St. John the Baptist, a golden-flowered mid-summer herb—St. John’s Wort—was picked at Midsummer. It was believed that St. John’s Wort held miraculous healing powers, which were especially potent if picked on Midsummer’s Eve.

Two northeastern towns in Brazil have been in lengthy competition for the title of “Biggest Saint John Festival in the World,” and throughout the South American country, dishes made with corn and sweet potatoes are favored.

In Austria, a spectacular procession of ships makes its way down the Danube River, while fireworks light up the night sky above castle ruins. In Latvia, homes, livestock and even cars are decorated with leaves, tree branches, flowers and other greenery.

The largest American celebrations of Midsummer take place in New York City, Seattle, Tucson and San Francisco. In Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, members of the large Finnish population celebrate Juhannus with beachfront bonfires and other outdoor activities.

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Categories: International Observances

Daylight Savings Time: Spring forward! (But does it work?)

Bronze-coated alarm clock set to nine minutes after 10

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

SUNDAY, MARCH 9: “Spring forward” with your clocks, because Daylight Savings Time begins today.

With varying start dates and times worldwide, DST is anything but uniform—and it has the unstable history to match. Despite variances, the concept of seasonally adjusting time for daylight hours has ancient roots: early Roman society used their water clocks to increase the number of minutes in daytime hours, so that day length would seem longer during the summertime. Today, the most commonly observed Daylight Savings Time begins in March. (Find official dates through 2020 from the Astronomical Applications Department of the U.S. Naval Observatory.) The practice is most widely observed by the majority of North America and Europe.

The modern notion of daylight saving was proposed more than a century ago, in 1895, by New Zealand entomologist George Vernon Hudson. Hudson argued that adjusting clocks would provide shift workers with more leisure time after work hours and, on a practical level, would cut back on the use of electricity (Wikipedia has details.)

This resourcefulness was utilized in 1916, when Germany and its World War I allies implemented DST; several nations across the globe adopted it soon after. DST fell out of popularity after the war, but was implemented again during World War II and at varying times during the decades. The energy crisis of the 1970s carved a permanent spot for DST in many of the world’s calendars.

BUT DOES IT WORK?

Today, the energy-saving benefits of DST are highly debated, as are its economic effect and impact on public safety. Studies have shown that the sleep disruption caused by DST, along with the interruption of circadian rhythm, can actually have negative health effects; the cost to reprogram everything from computer programs to medical devices has shown to be cost-inhibitive. Still, many recreational programs and some businesses have reported increased sales due to the hourly changes of DST.

The Wikipedia article on this debate lists dozens of reports and counter-reports from researchers, government agencies and other groups.

IN THE NEWS:
MORE STATES ON THE VERGE OF
DUMPING DAYLIGHT SAVINGS TIME

In the United States, Hawai’i and most of Arizona don’t observe the time shifts of Daylight Savings—and as more citizens debate the pros and cons of DST, it’s likely that more states will soon follow suit.

In Tennessee, the time-shift may see its final operation today, as a bill to eliminate DST in the state has cleared a first step toward passage in the General Assembly—and, if passed, will take effect in July. In Kentucky, a lawmaker introduced a similar bill, and that bill is now being considered by a House committee. The Salt Lake Tribune recently published an article on the same topic, reporting on an effort to gather public opinion on new legislation. And, a proposal to dump DST in Idaho is in the news as well.

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Categories: International Observances