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Monthly Archives: November 2013

Nov. 28th – Thanksgiving

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Playing a game of Cloud 9 after a Thanksgiving feast at my sister’s house. Nolah frequently uses terrifying methods of intimidation to achieve victory.

Thanksgiving is a holiday rooted in giving thanks for a successful harvest, expressing hope that all future harvests will be fruitful, and generally appreciating family, friends, and all of the good things in life. In the United States, it is recognized on the fourth Thursday in November (since federal legislation in 1941). (Wikipedia – Thanksgiving)

There is quite a bit of debate on the traditions and history of the day – some claim that the holiday has been celebrated continuously since the Puritans’ first feast, while others say it wasn’t, for example, and a few historians say that a feast and festival would not have been permitted as a religious ceremony by the Puritans. But despite the differences, most folks who celebrate the day see it as a time to gather with family, give thanks and prayer, and enjoy and appreciate the things that mean the most to them.

Our family commonly celebrates Thanksgiving in some fairly traditional ways, as well as some that are not so common – watching the Macy’s Parade in the morning, listening to silly songs about food and eating, enjoying a traditional turkey feast, discussing which of our family members actually likes cranberry sauce (I’m on the “pro” side, most others are “cons”), and playing boardgames after the meal.

Nov 9th – Carl Sagan Day

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I couldn’t find any turtlenecked shirts to wear, though…

Carl Sagan Day is “is a celebration of the life and teachings of Carl Sagan, whose many books, television appearances (most notably Cosmos), and NASA projects influenced a generation of thinkers.” (from carlsaganday.com).

Maybe it’s not a “proper” holiday in the more traditional sense, but as someone who loves learning in general, and science and astronomy more specifically, I feel it is an appropriate addition to our repertoire.

I celebrated Carl Sagan Day last night by spending some time staring up in wonder at a clear, star-filled sky. Which is exactly how Carl would have wanted me to, I’d like to think.

Some semi-random pearls of Carl’s wisdom:

“Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.”

“The brain is like a muscle. When it is in use we feel very good. Understanding is joyous.”

“But the fact that some geniuses were laughed at does not imply that all who are laughed at are geniuses. They laughed at Columbus, they laughed at Fulton, they laughed at the Wright Brothers. But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown.”

“A book is made from a tree. It is an assemblage of flat, flexible parts (still called “leaves”) imprinted with dark pigmented squiggles. One glance at it and you hear the voice of another person, perhaps someone dead for thousands of years. Across the millennia, the author is speaking, clearly and silently, inside your head, directly to you. Writing is perhaps the greatest of human inventions, binding together people, citizens of distant epochs, who never knew one another. Books break the shackles of time ― proof that humans can work magic.”

Nov. 3rd – 7th – Diwali

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The lights make Slenderman look so festive, don’t they?

Diwali is a five-day festival that usually falls between mid-October and mid-November, is celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs, and Jains, and is an official holiday in India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Mauritius, Guyana, Trinidad & Tobago, Suriname, Malaysia, Singapore and Fiji. While the significance of the holiday varies between beliefs and cultures, in general it is celebrated as a festival of light and victory of good over evil.

Each of the days of Diwali have names (drawn from their designation in the Hindu calendar), and special significance and traditions – lighting oil lamps and other lights to signify the triumph of good over evil, (and to make the goddess Lakshmi feel welcome), lighting firecrackers to scare away evil spirits, brothers giving gifts to their sisters and asking them to pray for them, sharing sweets, girls receiving Henna tattoos, wearing new clothes, bathing before sunrise (bathing while the stars are still out is equivalent to bathing in the Ganges river), meeting with friends and family, and much, MUCH more.

Through most cultures, the “good over evil” theme comes in the form of an actual battle – in North India, Krishna defeated the Indra, in other regions of India Vamana (a form of Vishnu) defeated Bali, or Krishna defeated Narakasura. Diwali also marks the end of the harvest season in most of India, and is a time for farmers to offer thanks for a good harvest, and pray for more in the future.

This isn’t even scratching the surface. There are a LOT of different Diwali traditions and ways to recognize the holiday. If you’re interested in learning more, I encourage you to visit the Wikipedia page (Wikipedia – Diwali).  There was even an episode of The Office based around a Diwali celebration (s3e6, if you’d like to load it up on Netflix).

As for our celebration – I’ve put up some lights around the door to keep evil from coming in. We’ll be trying to do some henna tattoos on the girls later, and listen to Indian music and learn some traditional Indian dances.  I’ll try to post pictures and/or videos later.

Do you celebrate Diwali? Share your traditions and stories in the comments!

Nov. 5th – Guy Fawkes Night

Guy Fawkes Night, also known as Gunpowder Treason Day, is a commemoration of the 1605 Gunpowder Plot, in which a group of English Catholics attempted (and failed) to assassinate King James I (a Protestant) in an effort to install a Catholic head of state. (Wikipedia – Guy Fawkes Night)

The thing is, celebrating this day is really itchy. It’s hard to commemorate such an event without seeming to be anti-Protestant (or possibly even anti-Catholic), or endorsing terrorism.

So we’re probably just going to watch V for Vendetta and be done with it, if that’s cool with everyone.

Oct. 31st – Nov. 2nd – Dia de los Muertos

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Now I’m craving pie AND coffee…

Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) is a day of remembrance for deceased friends and relatives that is celebrated in Mexico and in many other places around the world. Celebrants traditionally build ofrendas, private altars that include sugar skulls, marigolds, and the favorite foods and drinks of the deceased.

From Wikipedia: “Scholars trace the origins of the modern Mexican holiday to indigenous observances dating back hundreds of years and to an Aztec festival dedicated to the goddess Mictecacihuatl. The holiday has spread throughout the world: In Brazil Dia de Finados is a public holiday that many Brazilians celebrate by visiting cemeteries and churches. In Spain there are festivals and parades, and, at the end of the day, people gather at cemeteries and pray for their dead loved ones. Similar observances occur elsewhere in Europe, and similarly themed celebrations appear in many Asian and African cultures.” (Wikipedia – Day of the Dead)

Sadly, I am not as prepared as I should be. I’m lacking sugar skulls and marigolds, but I have plenty of non-edible skulls around the house, and I found some origami paper to make a couple of paper roses. The candles from All Saint’s Day were still close by, so I see no reason not to include them as well, and I’ve included a cup of coffee to make it complete. My ofrenda is in honor of my mother, father, and stepfather, and Paula’s parents, all of whom have passed on (and all of whom were dedicated coffee drinkers!)

 

Do you celebrate Dia de los Muertos?  Share your traditions in the comments!

Nov. 1st – All Saints’ Day

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Now the house smells like pumpkin and key lime, and I’ll probably start craving pie every All Saints’ Day from now on.

All Saints’ Day is a Christian holiday in honor of the saints – those who have attained beatific vision, or a direct communication with God. It is celebrated on November 1st in Western Christianity, and the first Sunday after Pentecost in Eastern Christianity (which won’t be until next June, so we’re going to recognize the Eastern version for our project).

Traditions for this day include offerings, children going door-to-door to collect cakes and nuts, burning incense, and visiting the graves of relatives to light candles and clean or repair them. (Wikipedia – All Saints’ Day)

Unfortunately, all of our deceased relatives are buried too far away for a trip to their graves to be permissible this evening. I really wanted to compromise and light some candles at a nearby graveyard, but that may have to wait until later. So instead, I gathered what candles I could find around the house and lit them.

Do you celebrate All Saints’ Day? Let us know all about it in the comments!

Nov. 1st – Calan Gaeaf

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My friend Brad: “I didn’t know you guys were Welsh.”
Me: “We’re not.”
Brad: “Oh. Then why do you have a-“
Me: “It has a dragon on it. Duh.”

Calan Gaeaf is the recognition of the first day of winter in Wales. According to Wikipedia, “People avoid churchyards, stiles, and crossroads, since spirits are thought to gather there.” (Wikipedia – Calan Gaeaf)  Avoiding churchyards and stiles is easy enough, but I’ll be passing a LOT of crossroads on the way to work and back home again. Other regional traditions include placing stones with names written on them into a fire to see who may die within the year, cutting ivy leaves and wild roses to get prophetic dreams, and rushing home before dark to avoid Yr Hwch Ddu Gwta, a spirit in the form of a tailless black sow accompanied by a headless woman.

Those are all pretty difficult for us to participate in. I’m hoping that proudly displaying our Welsh flag will suffice, instead.

Do you celebrate Calan Gaeaf? Share your stories in the comments!