Lunar New Year

The Lunar New Year begins this Friday. It is known by many names around the world, including the Spring Festival; the Lantern Festival, Chinese New Year; Shogatsu (Japan); Tet (Vietnam); Seolial (Korea); and many other New Year’s observances in Asia. People in Canada, especially people of Asian descent, will join with people around the world to celebrate the Year of the Dog.

Find out more:

 

 

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International Holocaust Remembrance Day

Auschwitz Death Camp
source: Diego Delso, Wikimedia Commons, License CC-BY-SA 3.0

In 2005 the United Nations designated January 27 as International Holocaust Remembrance Day. The term “Holocaust” refers to the period in history in which the Nazi regime of Germany murdered over 6 million Jews, as well as millions of other victims, including Roma, homosexuals, people with physical and mental disabilities, and more. The Nazi persecution of the Jews began in the early 1930’s and reached its most horrific and brutal peak during the period of 1941-1945, as the Nazis adopted as official policy the “Final Solution,” the attempt at completely annihilating the entire Jewish population.

Children selected for extermination
source: wikimedia commons / public domain

 

The Holocaust is not the only example of genocide in human history. What makes the Holocaust stand out amongst the long and plentiful list of human atrocities and evil?  Germany was amongst the most powerful nations of the world and a leader in science, technology, medicine and engineering.  The German contributions to art, music, literature and philosophy put German culture at the heart of what we would call Western Civilization. And yet this supposedly civilized people turned their great achievements and progress towards planning and carrying out ruthless genocidal murder with scientific and economic efficiency.

For more on the Holocaust:

Yad Veshem

US Holocaust Memorial Museum

Jewish Virtual Library

Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre

Robbie Burns Day

source: robertburns.org

The beloved Scottish poet was born on this day in 1759. From Scotland to all parts of the world where you will find people with Scottish roots,”Burns Night” is not just a celebration of the man, but also of Scottish heritage.

“‘Burns Night‘, also termed a ‘Burns Supper,’is a celebration of the life and works of the poet Robert Burns; Scottish by birth and held in fond regard by Scots all over the world, his life and poetry speak to the struggles common to all people. It is an evening of food, drink, entertainment, and friendship.  It is an event that transcends time, geographical borders, political, and religious beliefs to bring people together in celebration of the everyman.” (From burnsnight.net)

For more information on Robbie Burns and “Burns Night”:

RobertBurns.org

Burns Night at Scotland.org

Robbie Burns Tribute

Orthodox Christmas

source: wikimedia commons / CC / GFDL

Merry Christmas to Eastern Orthodox Christians in Canada and around the world who celebrate the birth of Christ on this day. The Orthodox Churches of Russia, the Ukraine and other parts of Eastern Europe continued to follow the Julian Calendar after most of the rest of the Christian world adopted the Gregorian calendar from the 16th century and onward. While most of the countries of Eastern Europe eventually adopted the western calendar for political and economic purposes, some have maintained the Julian Calendar for religious and cultural purposes.

Epiphany

Also known as King’s Day or Twelfth Night, Epiphany is a Christian celebration that traditionally brought a close to the Christmas Season. In the western Church, King’s Day commemorates the visit of the Magi, the “Wise-Men” or Kings of the East, to the infant Christ, God’s revelation of the Messiah to the Gentiles (non-Jews.)  In bygone traditions, the “Twelve Days of Christmas” were marked from Christmas Day to Epiphany.

Adoration of the Magi by Mantegna (Public Domain / WIkimedia Commons)

This holiday is not prominent in Canada, but is a significant event in many Catholic areas, including parts of the Europe, Central America and South America.

For more:

Catholic Encyclopedia

It’s Twelfth Night…

Epiphany 2015

Christmas Day

scroogechristmas
source: public domain

Christians in Canada and around the world celebrate the Nativity, the birth of the Christ. Christians believe that Jesus, who was born in Bethlehem, in Roman occupied Israel roughly 2000 years ago, was the Messiah, the long awaited saviour promised by God.The Hebrew word Messiah translates to Greek as Khristos, from which we get the anglicized form, Christ. Christians believe that God became one of us in the person of Jesus, or Emanuel, literally “God With Us.”Over the course of the last century, Christmas has grown from a strictly Christian festival to become a secular holiday celebrated by people of many different religions, cultures and worldviews from all over the planet. For some, Santa Claus, stockings and gift-giving are central to Christmas. To others, it is a much needed rest at the coldest and darkest time of year. Some may agree with the Grinch, who simply hated Christmas, or with Ebenezer Scrooge when he said it was a “Humbug” — although both of them changed their positions in the end!

Whether you are celebrating the birth of the Christ with your family and friends, or observe Christmas as a strictly secular event, we wish you a very Merry Christmas!

Christmas Eve

134746__nativity_l“In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to his own town to register.So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David.He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.’ Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favour rests.'” from the Book of Luke, Chapter 2

Winter Solstice and Yule

source: Wikimedia Commons / CC

Winter begins in the northern hemisphere on this, the shortest day of the year. In traditional pagan cultures, this time of the year represented darkness giving way to light, and death giving way to life. The dark and cold had reached its nadir. Henceforth the days would grow longer and warmer. Hope was restored. Many of the festivals and celebrations that take place at this time of year, from many different cultures, follow this theme.

For more on this and other winter observances and feasts, check out our display: Holidays and Holy Days.

Kwanzaa Dec 26 to Jan 1

Kwanzaa is an African American and Pan-African holiday which celebrates family, community and culture. Celebrated from 26 December thru 1 January, its origins are in the first harvest celebrations of Africa from which it takes its name. The name Kwanzaa is derived from the phrase “matunda ya kwanza” which means “first fruits” in Swahili, a Pan-African language which is the most widely spoken African language. ”

source: officialkwanzaawebsite.org

(From the Official Kwanzaa Website)