September, October and November: Warm up as the season cools down

Autumn_in_Dresden

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

SEPTEMBER and OCTOBER and NOVEMBER 2015—The crunch of autumn leaves, the sharp scents of cinnamon and clove and the comfort of steaming soups and drinks usher in the chill of autumn.

Fall officially begins in September with the Autumnal Equinox, when those in the Northern Hemisphere prepare for the darker half of the year and Pagans embrace Mabon, a holiday celebrating the harvest. (You’ll find links to all of our holiday coverage, including a story about the Equinox and Mabon, by visiting www.InterfaithHolidays.com)

Both Jews and Orthodox Christians welcome a New Year in September, with Jews marking Rosh Hashanah and often consuming plenty of honey. But, honey isn’t reserved for Jewish families as September is also National Honey Month.

October brings cooler weather and kicks off with the International Day of Older Persons, perhaps foreshadowing November’s National Family Caregivers Month. The astrological events of equinox are intensified with the end of Daylight Savings Time, in November, as a season of winter holidays approaches—often filled with warm candlelight and abundant feasts. Squashes, pumpkins, cranberries and root vegetables fill tables for Thanksgiving in November (or, for Canadians, in October). November brings Native American Heritage Month in the U.S., and across much of the world, German heritage is highlighted through Oktoberfest, one month earlier.

Box of pumpkins from above

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Get scared silly—or just indulge in treats—on Halloween, an international holiday of spooks and gooks. Many traditions of Halloween are ancient in nature and can be tied to pagan customs, and today, modern Pagans and Wiccans practice Samhain at this time of year. In Mexico, the Day of the Dead honors deceased ancestors in a colorful way, and Christians recall the spirits of saints on All Saints’ Day.

Celebrate friends and bonds with International Women’s Friendship Month in September, and start seeing pink with Breast Cancer Awareness Month, in October. Take the opportunity to attend a play or a musical performance in October, too, as it is National Arts and Humanities Month. Recognize the struggles and successes of gays and lesbians with LGBTQ Month, in October. Hosts for the holidays keep in mind the needs of their guests, and October raises awareness of Celiac Disease. Those who don’t eat meat are remembered during October—Vegetarian Month—and November, Vegan Month.

As the days of November become colder and darker, the winter holiday season begins, with Diwali—the Festival of Lights—in India. Orthodox Christians begin the Nativity Fast in anticipation of Christmas, and for Western Christians, Advent brings the light of the season.

Check out these month-long highlights …

OCTOBER: ST. FRANCIS PET BLESSINGS AND HALLOWEEN

Black cat lying down on white background

Photo by Michele M.F., courtesy of Flickr

Pope Francis visited the U.S. to much acclaim in late September, but it’s his namesake—St. Francis of Assisi—who is recognized as October begins. October 4 brings the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi, a saint renowned for his love of animals, ecology and the poor. Pet blessings in Francis’s name have become commonplace at churches worldwide, and as environmental concerns grow deeper, Christians look to him as a Patron Saint of Ecology. Later in the month, Wiccans observe Samhain while Halloween reigns strong in many countries. Whether honoring deceased ancestors or donning costumes, there exists an undeniable link between the ancient pagan customs and today’s Halloween traditions. In Mexico and parts of Latin America, Dia de los Muertos falls during or immediately after Halloween, and is a day to celebrate the dead with food and drinks, parties and joyous remembrances.

NOVEMBER:  THE HOLIDAYS OF LIGHT

As the days become darker and colder in the Northern Hemisphere, a holiday season begins that commemorates light, warmth and goodness. In India, Diwali is one of the largest festivals of the year, also known as the Festival of Lights. Homes are extensively cleaned in preparation for the festival, and lighted lamps (diyas) are lit inside and outside the home. Gifts are exchanged and sweets consumed across India. For Jains, Diwali remembers the attainment of moksha by Mahavira, a Tirthankar, or spiritual exemplar. Across Eastern Orthodox Christianity, the Nativity Fast begins, preparing the faithful for Christ’s birth. In Western Christianity, Advent commences. Candles, lamps and lights are common across several spectrums of holidays, bringing to mind the victory of goodness over evil and light in the darkness.

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Categories: International ObservancesNational Observances

NOVEMBER: Native Americans, veterans, sweet potatoes and caregivers

th-autumn-leafNOVEMBER 2014—Crisp autumn breezes deepen into November’s chilling winds—a reminder that snow is just around the corner for much of the United States. This month, American families and friends gather for warm Thanksgiving dinners. In honor of the Native American Indians who shared the first Thanksgiving with Pilgrims—and to recognize their continued contributions today—November is National Native American Heritage Month.

Americans also will hear a lot about four diseases with special awareness campaigns each November: Diabetes, Alzheimers, lung cancer and AIDS. On November 11, don’t forget to thank a veteran: it’s Veterans Day in the United States, Remembrance Day in Canada and Armistice Day internationally. Food lovers embrace November as Sweet Potato Awareness Month and Peanut Butter Lovers Month, but go easy on the turkey and whipping cream—it’s also Vegan Month. As families gather around the Thanksgiving table, give thanks for growing families and for those who care for others, because November is National Adoption Month and National Family Caregivers Month.

Check out these month-long highlights …

Multi colored graphic Native American design

Photo by Visual Artist Frank Bonilla, courtesy of Flickr

NATIONAL NATIVE AMERICAN
HERITAGE MONTH

Pay tribute to the Native American culture that has shaped America, from its environmental stewardship to literature, medicine and values,  during National Native American Heritage Month. In 1915, the annual Congress of the American Indian Association approved a plan concerning an American Indian Day, and by 1916, American Indian Day was declared by the governor of New York. Observances began taking root across the country, until Congress authorized the President to proclaim a full week for Native Americans, in 1986. Just four years later, in 1990, President George H.W. Bush approved a joint resolution designating the entire month of November as National American Indian Heritage Month. This year, President Obama issued a proclamation that declared November National Native American Heritage Month (the proclamation can be viewed here). The 2014 theme is: “Native Pride and Spirit: Yesterday, Today and Forever.”

NATIONAL ADOPTION MONTH

Hundreds of thousands of children and youth are living in foster care in America today. More than 100,000 of them are waiting for adoptive families—and thousands more are waiting overseas. Take time this month to learn more about adoption. Spread awareness of this issue through supportive events, promotion via social media or just sharing information with friends. Every child adopted makes a difference (learn more from the U.S. Children’s Bureau). The first promotion of the need for adoptive families for children in foster care began in Massachusetts, in 1976. President Gerald Ford made the first National Adoption Week proclamation, and in 1990, the effort had spread to a month-long awareness campaign. This year, National Adoption Month’s theme is “Promoting and Supporting Sibling Connections.” Check out the video by JooYeun Chang, Associate Commissioner of the Children’s Bureau, and then share the information with local representatives, friends and neighbors.

NATIONAL FAMILY CAREGIVERS MONTH

Guide-for-Caregivers-front-cover-infoMore than 60 million Americans are family caregivers today and in November, awareness is raised through National Family Caregivers Month. (Read the Presidential proclamation here.) The estimated value of services provided by family caregivers is more than $300 billion each year, ranging from emotional, financial and nursing assistance to homemaking and nursing. (Find resources, support and more from the Caregiver Action Network.) Caregiving can be a full-time job or part-time; family care can be shared among siblings or carried by just one person. National Family Caregivers Month advocates stronger public policies to address family caregiving issues, for the multitude of burdens placed upon entire families. Looking to help? Offer respite time to a family caregiver, send a card of appreciation, help a caregiver with holiday chores or ask members of a faith community to pray for and help a congregation member. Not sure what to do? Just ask the caregiver—he or she will likely know exactly what is most needed.

Care to read more?

ReadTheSpirit Books publishes the popular and helpful, A Guide for Caregivers by Benjamin Pratt. If you’re a caregiver, you’ll enjoy this book’s short chapters and savvy advice on wide range of topics. Consider getting a copy for yourself—or as a gift for a friend, this month. Learn all about the book by clicking on its cover.

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Categories: National Observances