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Posts Tagged ‘holidays’

New Year’s Around the World

New Year's celebrations in Cambodia

New Year’s celebrations in Cambodia [photo credit: Salym Fayad, via CultureGrams photo gallery]

The New Year is coming up fast, and people around the world are preparing to celebrate. In fact, in some countries, New Year’s celebrations are the largest of the year. Check out these traditions from around the world, via CultureGrams. How are they different from (or the same as) the way you celebrate the New Year?

Burkina Faso
Burkinabè of all creeds join together to celebrate the New Year. For New Year’s Eve, adults often buy or sew new clothes or uniforms. Children typically dress in their best clothes and do the sambèsambè in the streets or at their friends’ homes. Catholic children often build crèches in front of their homes. Most Christians go to church and then return home to celebrate with food, drink, and music. In both rural and urban areas, young men often hold parties for their male and female friends that involve dancing, eating, and drinking until dawn. At midnight, they typically listen to a traditional New Year’s song and light firecrackers. In rural areas, the parties are usually held outside. To wish each other a happy New Year, men and women usually kiss each other on the cheek, and men often bump their foreheads together four times. On New Year’s Day, food and drink are served to guests, and many people pay social visits to their friends and family.

Colombia
New Year’s is surrounded by many superstitions, or agüeros. For example, on New Year’s Eve, people may wear yellow underwear as a symbol of good fortune. Some put lentils in their pockets, representing abundance. Those wishing to travel in the new year might run around the block carrying a suitcase at midnight. More generally, at midnight, people drink champagne and eat 12 grapes, one for each month of good fortune in the new year. In rural areas, people make dolls stuffed with newspaper and leave them at the entrances to their houses for a few days before the new year. These dolls, called año viejo (old year), represent the bad that people want to eliminate from the current year before moving on to the next one. They are burned on 31 December at midnight, amidst cheering, drinks, and music.

Burning of an año viejo doll in Colombia

Burning of an año viejo doll in Colombia [photo credit: Salym Fayad, via CultureGrams photo gallery]

Georgia
New Year’s is one of the most popular holidays in Georgia. Families usually celebrate New Year’s together, but parties are also arranged. On New Year’s Eve, families celebrate by eating gozinaki (a traditional food made of honey and walnuts), turkey satsivi (turkey with a walnut sauce), roast piglet, ham, khachapuri  (cheese in a wheat-flour dough), mchadi (bread made of corn flour), fish, fruit, nuts, and churchkhela (walnuts, chestnuts, or almonds strung on twine and then dipped in a grape syrup and hung to dry). The first person who comes to a home after midnight is called the first footer. Traditionally, he was chosen by the family, and no one else was allowed to enter the home before him. If the first footer is considered a lucky person in everyday life, he is thought to bring luck, prosperity, and health to the family. Families choose a different first footer the next year if the previous one is thought to have brought the family bad luck over the past year. Most families set up their Christmas tree on New Year’s Eve. Some families exchange presents on New Year’s Day. Toblisbabua (Snow Father, like Santa Claus) brings presents to some families; other families hide presents around the house for children to find.

You can find many more New Year’s traditions from around the world in the Holidays sections of CultureGrams World and Kids editions!

The Origins of Halloween

As giddy children head out in the streets tonight for Trick or Treat with goody bags in hand, all dressed up in various ghoulish and festive costumes, it may interest students to know a little about the unusual history and traditions of Halloween. Educators can take advantage of eLibrary’s Research Topics and other documents and web resources to aid in their research.

Halloween ProQuest Research Topic

Halloween ProQuest Research Topic

Halloween, as we know it today, appears to have arisen from the convergence of two distinctly different cultures’ earlier holidays: the Irish Gaelic harvest festival Samhain (pronounced sow’in), celebrated with a feast for the dead, and the Roman Catholic Christian holiday of All Saints’ Day, or All Hallows’ Day, which also honored the dead. All Hallows’ Day was originally celebrated in mid-May and honored saints, martyrs, and family members who recently passed away.

Samhain, which is still celebrated today by some Brits and has its roots in Celtic Druidic traditions, marked the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter. The belief was that during this time the divide between our world and the spirit world was at its thinnest and could be easily bridged. Families honored the dead by inviting them into their homes and offering food. However, when people went out at night, in order to avoid the more harmful spirits, they wore costumes and masks to disguise themselves. In addition, Druids built huge bonfires where people brought their fall harvest food to share with the community. Afterwards, people would take a log or branch from the bonfire to light their own fires at home which would keep them warm for the winter months ahead.

Celts ProQuest Research Topic

Celts ProQuest Research Topic

Around 600 A.D. Pope Gregory I, in an effort to Christianize and transform the rituals of the pagans, issued an edict to synthesize their Druidic practices into Christian practices to more easily convert them to Christianity. Eventually, All Hallows’ Day was moved from May 13 to November 1, with All Hallows’ Eve (Halloween) falling on October 31. As a result, many of the ancient Celtic traditions of Samhain survive today. Interestingly, around this same time, Mexico also celebrates El Dia de Muertos (Day of the Dead) holiday. Similar to All Saints’ Day and Samhain, but with roots from the Aztec culture, it is also considered a time to celebrate the fall harvest and honor those who have passed away.

Educators can teach students more about these ancient holidays and the people who practiced these ancient rituals and traditions with the help of eLibrary with its accompanying Halloween Research Topic and other related Research Topics and resources below.

Related Research Topics:
All Saints’ Day
Celts

Druidism
Paganism
Roman Catholicism
Day of the Dead

Other Resources:
Halloween
American Heritage (Magazine)
A World of Fright
Ottawa Citizen (Newspaper)
Saint Gregory I (Pope)
Britannica Concise Encyclopedia (Reference Book)

 

Celebrate Flag Day!

US Flag

Photo credit: Serfs UP ! Roger Sayles via Foter.com / CC BY-ND

 

Teach your students the history of Flag Day and why we honor Old Glory on June 14.

 

“This flag, which we honor and under which we serve, is the emblem of our unity, our power, our thought and purpose as a nation.”–Woodrow Wilson, U.S. President, 1856-1924

 

  • The Flag Resolution of June 14, 1777, stated that the flag of the United States should “be made of thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new Constellation.”

 

  • The idea of a holiday celebrating Old Glory was first proposed in a newspaper editorial in June 1861 by Charles Dudley Warner, an editor of the Hartford Evening Press, two months after the start of the Civil War.

 

  • Flag Day was first observed on June 14, 1877, one hundred years after the flag was officially adopted.

 

  • Wisconsin school teacher Bernard Cigrand made a public proposal for establishing a holiday to celebrate the American flag.

 

  • Woodrow Wilson signed a proclamation establishing June 14 as Flag Day in 1916.

 

  • President Harry Truman signed legislation proclaiming June 14 as Flag Day in 1949.

 

Did you know? There have been 27 different versions of the U.S. flag. Our current flag, the 50-star flag, is the longest-used version of the U.S. flag, having been adopted on July 4, 1960, following the addition of Hawaii as our 50th state.

 

Have your students learn more about Flag Day in SIRS Discoverer and SIRS Issues Researcher.

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The Stonewall Riots and the Birth of Gay Liberation

Stonewall Inn, Greenwich Village, New York City, 2011 [Credit: InSapphoWeTrust from Los Angeles, California, USA, Creative Commons Attribution – Share Alike Generic 2.0 license] [via Wikimedia Commons]

Peace, love, and condemnation

We generally consider the 1960s in the United States as an era of peace and love. But the homosexual communities during this decade were commonly condemned by mainstream society.

Homosexuality was still classified as a “mental disorder” by the American Psychiatric Association. Police raids were conducted in establishments known to be “gay-friendly.” Homosexual acts were illegal, and many people were arrested for engaging in them. Some were fined; others were sentenced to long prison terms–even lifetime sentences. There were not many places where a gay man or woman could be open about their sexuality. Countless lesbians and gays lived “in the closet,” an existence in which they could not express their true selves.

The year was 1969

Stonewall Inn, Greenwich Village, 2011 [Credit: InSapphoWeTrust from Los Angeles, California, USA, Creative Commons Attribution - Share Alike Generic 2.0 license], [via Wikimedia Commons]

Stonewall Inn, site of the 1969 Stonewall riots, New York City [Credit: InSapphoWeTrust from Los Angeles, California, USA, CC BY-SA 3.0] [via Wikimedia Commons]

During the 1960s, New York City was home to the largest gay population in the country. The city was also considered to be one of the most aggressive against this alternative culture.

As the night of June 27 turned to June 28, in the year 1969, the New York City police conducted what they thought would be a routine raid at the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in Greenwich Village. Previous raids always resulted in arrests and not much opposition from the bar’s patrons.

Not on this night.

On this 1969 summer night, the gay liberation movement was born.

Out of the melee, pride emerges

In the early morning hours of June 28, 1969, gay patrons, regularly harassed by the New York City police, took a stand. Word of the demonstration spread and many joined the riot at the Stonewall Inn. Protests broke out throughout the city. They continued for days, despite police attempts to control the crowds. Shouts of “gay power” and singing of “We Shall Overcome” rang through the streets.

The Stonewall riots inspired local and national dialogue about gay civil rights. Very soon after the riots, a gay advocacy group in NYC was formed and a newspaper was launched. In commemoration of the first anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, the first gay pride parades were held in Greenwich Village, Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. Two years after the riots, nearly every major U.S. city had established a gay-rights organization. And in 1973, the American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from its list of mental illnesses.

Nearly five decades later…

Forty-eight years after the Stonewall riots, the gay liberation movement has evolved to encompass the civil rights for lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgender people. Incredible strides have been made in the LGBT movement:

In 2000, Vermont became the first U.S. state to legalize civil unions between same-sex couples; four years later, Massachusetts was the first to legalize gay marriage. A June 2015 Supreme Court decision legalized same-sex marriage in all states, a huge victory for the LGBT movement.

What constituted a hate crime in the United States was expanded in 2009 to include crimes motivated by the victim’s gender, sexual orientation or identity or disability. 

In 2011, the Obama administration addressed the United Nations and announced that LGBT rights are “one of the remaining human rights challenges of our time” and that the country would support international efforts promoting LGBT rights.

Transgender rights became a mainstream issue after the turn of the century and quickly picked up momentum. By 2013, two major federal rulings advanced equal opportunity employment for transgender people. The year 2013 also heralded further progress in the struggle for transgender rights: California enacted the first U.S. law protecting transgender students, and the American Psychiatric Association eliminated its diagnosis “gender identity disorder.”

June is Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month, otherwise known as LGBT Pride Month. It was established in honor of the 1969 Stonewall Riots. It is a time of celebration, commemoration, and remembrance: a celebration of living freely, openly, and honestly; a commemoration of all that the LGBT community has contributed and what the LGBT rights movement has accomplished; and a remembrance of members of the LGBT community who lost their lives to hate crimes or HIV/AIDS.

Join SKS and its June Spotlight of the Month in honoring LGBT Pride Month. Learn about the history of the gay rights movement and follow its path as it is forged in the United States and many countries around the world.

“The Stonewall riot may have been the start of a civil rights movement, but it was not the beginning of our history.” ― Tom Cardamone, author, and activist

Ramadan Traditions around the World

A boy reads from his Qur’an at a mosque in Mogadishu, Somalia, during the holy month of Ramadan. [Photo by Ilyas A. Abukar via Flickr]

Last Friday, May 26, was the beginning of Ramadan, a holy month during which many Muslims worldwide fast from sunrise to sunset. Ramadan is holy because it is believed to be the month in which the Qur’an (Koran) was revealed to the prophet Muhammed. It is a time of faith, reflection, peace, and charity, during which Muslims visit the mosque, abstain from physical excesses, and spend time with family and friends. Food is eaten before sunrise, and then after fasting during the daylight hours, Muslims break their fast with iftar, the fast-breaking meal. The fast is commonly broken by eating dates, and then an evening meal is eaten with family and friends. Food is also given to the poor.

Ramadan is celebrated in countries around the world. Check out these Ramadan traditions explained in our CultureGrams reports!

Morocco
During Ramadan, Moroccans awake before dawn to share a light breakfast, and some people begin with prayer in the mosque. Children attend a shortened day of school, and work hours are altered to accommodate the missing lunchtime and to allow people to rest in the afternoon. In some neighborhoods, young men organize daytime soccer matches to show off their agility even while fasting.

The fast ends each day at sundown, when participants break their fast by eating dates and drinking some water or milk, followed by a traditional soup called harira. Special breads and sweets are also served. Select prayers are offered each evening in the mosque, so that the entire Qur’an is recited by the end of the month. The streets fill with people after these prayers, and people enjoy staying up late to visit with each other.

Ramadan treats in a Morocco market [via the CultureGrams Photo Gallery]

Ramadan treats in a Morocco market [via the CultureGrams Photo Gallery]

Brunei
During Ramadan, government employees have a short workday of six hours, and all entertainment and sport activities are suspended. Each evening, Muslims are encouraged to attend prayers at the mosque. Non-Muslims are encouraged not to eat, drink, or smoke in public. While everyone is encouraged to avoid wearing clothing that reveals arms or feet, it is especially emphasized during Ramadan.

Iraq
Before dawn during Ramadan, families wake up and eat a meal called suhur, their main meal before fasting for the day. In most neighborhoods, a man is designated as a caller that goes through the streets banging on a drum and shouting for people to wake up, eat, and pray. On the last day of Ramadan, the drummer will go around to people’s houses and collect tips and treats. In the evenings, family and friends gather to celebrate and eat. During Ramadan, most government offices and businesses work shorter hours. In the middle of the month of Ramadan, children celebrate Qarqe’an Majina by going door to door and asking neighbors for treats.

Oman
At night during Ramadan, families break the fast with traditional meals, prepared by the women of the family, of rice served with beef, mutton, chicken, or fish; a wide variety of pastries are also served. Ramadan is a time for praying and reading the Qur’an. In some parts of Oman, people gather in a mosque to complete their reading of the Qur’an as a sign that Ramadan is about to end. Most civic centers and women’s associations hold Qur’an recitation nights, where prizes are given to those who are able to recite the most scriptures from memory without making mistakes.

Tweet us @CultureGrams to share your own Ramadan traditions! Or learn more about Ramadan traditions from CultureGrams Kids and World edition reports! You can also explore our Photo Gallery for images of Ramadan around the world.

May Day

Renaissance fair-goers dance the maypole in New York. (Credit: Photo by KenL via Wikimedia)

Happy May Day!

May Day is a holiday with ancient pagan origins that marks the beginning of spring in the northern hemisphere. Traditional European celebrations, some of which continue today, include dancing and weaving ribbons around a maypole (United Kingdom), carnival-style festivities (Finland), the giving of lilies (France), bonfires (Germany, Ireland, and others), special feasts (Italy), flower wreaths (Greece), the making of clay pots for baking bread (Bulgaria), washing the face with morning dew (Romania), and the singing of popular songs (Spain).

In the United States, people used to commonly give May Baskets, baskets of flowers and sometimes goodies that were left on the doorsteps of friends and love interests. Though this tradition had mostly died away by the mid-20th century, it persists in some areas of the country. Read more about this fun tradition here and perhaps consider encouraging your students to revive this simple celebration of spring.

Dancing the maypole is another tradition that has gradually become less common in the United States. It involves a sometimes intricate choreography performed while dancers hold ribbons and move in a circle, weaving them around a central pole.

In modern times, May Day has been associated as much with labor as with spring, if not more. Since 1886, the first of May has been designated International Workers’ Day, or Labor Day in many countries.

See how workers are making their voices heard throughout the world today in this slideshow.

Are you doing anything to observe May Day? Let us know!

Passover 2017: Chag Sameach!

Jews Celebrating Passover. Lubok, XIXth century (image 1850), via Wikimedia Commons.

Jewish communities around the world are currently observing Passover (Pesach, in Hebrew)–one of the most important events in the Jewish calendar. So wish your Jewish friends chag sameach (happy festival)! Passover is a week-long celebration that takes place each year in early Spring, this year taking place between April 10-18th. It commemorates the emancipation of the Israelites from ancient Egypt and God’s sparing or “passing over” Jewish homes during the final plague in Egypt. According to the Biblical story, the Israelites had to leave Egypt in such a hurry that they didn’t have time to wait for their bread to rise, taking with them only unleavened bread. As a reminder of the Israelites’ exodus out of Egypt, Jews today refrain from eating anything containing leaven (chametz) during Passover, eating unleavened products such as matzah (a type of flatbread) instead. Jews also eat matzah with bitter herbs such as horseradish, in remembrance of the bitterness of slavery in Egypt. Learn about Passover traditions in the CultureGrams Israel report.

Test your knowledge of Judaism with this quiz

CultureGrams: Learn about St. Dévote’s Day, January 27

A religious parade passes through the Royal Palace Square in Monte Carlo during the annual celebration for Saint Dévote. Via the CultureGrams Photo Gallery.

CultureGrams is a great way to learn about holidays around the world. Each World and Kids edition report has a Holidays section that discusses the traditions and celebrations associated with a country’s most popular holidays. Not only can learning about a country’s holidays be fun, but it’s also an engaging way to learn about a country’s culture and gain insight into what is important to the people who celebrate the holidays.

Some holidays celebrated in other countries may sound familiar, but others may be new to you. For example, are you familiar with St. Dévote’s Day, celebrated in Monaco on 27 January? That’s this Friday! From the World Edition Monaco report Holidays section, we learn:

On 27 January, Monégasques honor St. Dévote, the patron saint of the principality. Dévote was persecuted and martyred for her faith in the fourth century. Her body was eventually buried in Monaco, and several miracles were associated with Dévote. Years later, a group of thieves tried to steal and sell Dévote’s bones, but Monégasque sailors retrieved the bones and set fire to the thieves’ boats. On this holiday, the prince or a member of the royal family sets fire to an old boat in the port to commemorate the rescue of the bones.

Not only can you read about St. Dévote’s Day on CultureGrams, but you can also find photos of the celebration in our Photo Gallery so you can see what the celebration is like:

On the Feast of Saint Dévote, relics are carried in a procession around Monaco. Via the CultureGrams Photo Gallery.

 

On the eve of the Feast of Saint Dévote, Monégasques prepare to burn a boat to commemorate the prevented theft of Dévote relics. Via the CultureGrams Photo Gallery.

Find more holidays celebrated around the world in CultureGrams World and Kids editions!

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

“Violence ends up defeating itself. It creates bitterness in the survivors and brutality in the destroyers….Nonviolence is a powerful and just weapon. Indeed, it is a weapon unique in history, which cuts without wounding and ennobles the man who wields it.”
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Nobel Lecture, December 11, 1964

Stone of Hope at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial

Stone of Hope at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial (public domain)
via National Park Service

The winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, a man who spent his life promoting nonviolent methods of social change to end segregation and discrimination and help African Americans gain their civil rights, was himself a victim of violence when he was assassinated outside his Memphis hotel room on the evening of April 4, 1968. Four days later, Michigan Congressman John Conyers introduced the first legislation providing for a Martin Luther King, Jr. federal holiday to honor King’s life and achievements. Dr. King’s widow, Coretta Scott King, headed the mission to rally popular support for a King Holiday. She worked for years, testifying before Congress, launching petition drives, and urging governors, mayors, and chairpersons of city councils across the U.S. to pass resolutions to honor her husband’s birthday on January 15.

While some individual states passed laws honoring Dr. King with a legal holiday, the idea of a federal holiday faced opposition and stirred controversy. Finally, in 1983, the legislation declaring the third Monday in January a federal legal holiday commemorating Dr. King’s birthday was signed by President Ronald Reagan. It was observed for the first time on January 20, 1986, though many states continued to boycott the holiday. It was not until 1999 that New Hampshire became the last state to make it a paid state holiday.

The only federal holiday commemorating an African-American is now celebrated each year as a remembrance of Dr. King’s life and work, and with people joining together to honor the civil rights leader’s memory through volunteer service to make an impact on their local and global communities.

You can learn more about the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the King Holiday by visiting these websites, available through SIRS Issues Researcher:

Dr. Martin Luther King Day

The King Center

Martin Luther King Day of Service

Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial

Martin Luther King, Jr., National Historic Site

Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute

It’s Native American Heritage Month: Standing Rock Sioux Reservation

Dakota Access Pipeline Native American protest site, on Highway 1806 near Cannonball, North Dakota.

Dakota Access Pipeline Native American protest site, on Highway 1806 near Cannonball, North Dakota, August 15th, 2016. (Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license)

It is Native American Heritage Month.

What does this mean? How do we commemorate? I’ve seen signs in schools announcing this yearly celebration, and I’ve perused displays in libraries. I’ve noted local museums’ native-themed exhibits. Classrooms may spend time learning about the history of Native Americans. Young students may take part in creating a native-themed craft; older students may be tasked with researching an eminent Native American or the history of a Native American tribe. Adults may seek out drum circles, powwows, native chanting experiences, and herbal medicine discussions.

This year, perhaps above all else, we can honor Native American Heritage Month by learning about and discussing the current protests at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota.

The tribes of the Great Sioux Nation, at the center of this controversy, came together at Standing Rock to oppose the $3.7 billion Dakota Access pipeline, which would cut across the land of the Standing Rock Sioux and possibly threaten their water supply. Other Native American tribes and many of non-native descent joined in the protests. Large-scale demonstrations began a few months ago, in August, when activists blocked the pipeline’s construction sites at Cannon Ball, North Dakota. The protests have grown and have become increasingly violent. But the opposition remains strong.  In a September press release, Standing Rock Sioux tribal chairman David Archambault II stated that the pipeline will “destroy our burial sites, prayer sites and culturally significant artifacts.”

The Dakota Access pipeline, approved by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in July, would tap into the Bakken Formation, an oil deposit that spans five U.S. states and into Canada. It could provide more than 7 billion barrels of oil to the United States, reducing the country’s reliance on foreign oil. Energy Transfer Partners, a Texas-based natural gas and propane company, claims that the pipeline would help the states that are impacted, providing up to 12,000 construction jobs and bringing more than $150 million in revenue.

As Americans, it is important that we acknowledge the events and people at Standing Rock. As researchers, teachers, and students, it is also important that we explore both sides of the issue. SIRS Knowledge Source and its Leading Issues feature, which includes such topics as Keystone Pipeline and Indigenous Peoples, explores the controversy.

For further research…

Check out this timeline of events prior to and since the first physical collision of interests in August.

Get an overview of the viewpoints of proponents and opponents.

Consider the implications of those who are funding the pipeline.

Read about the history the land of the Standing Rock Sioux.

Visit SIRS Knowledge Source’s and SIRS Discoverer’s Native American Heritage Month’s Spotlight features.