Fat Tuesday/Mardi Gras
A Christian holiday and popular cultural phenomenon,
Mardi Gras dates back thousands of years to pagan spring and fertility
rites. Also known as Carnival, it is celebrated in many countries around
the world. According to historians, Mardi Gras dates back thousands of
years to pagan celebrations of spring and fertility. When Christianity
arrived in Rome, religious leaders decided to incorporate these popular
local traditions into the new faith, an easier task than abolishing them
altogether.As a result, the excess and debauchery of the Mardi Gras
season became a prelude to Lent, the 40 days of penance between Ash
Wednesday and Easter Sunday.
Many historians believe that the first American
Mardi Gras took place on March 3, 1699, when the French explorers
Iberville and Bienville landed in what is now Louisiana, just south of
New Orleans. They held a small celebration and dubbed the spot Point du
Mardi Gras. Years later, New Orleans and other French settlements began
marking the holiday with street parties, masked balls and lavish
dinners. When the Spanish took control of New Orleans, however, they
abolished these rituals, and the bans remained in force until Louisiana
became a U.S. state in 1812.
On Mardi Gras in 1827, a group of students donned
colorful costumes and danced through the streets of New Orleans,
emulating the revelry they'd observed while visiting Paris. Ten years
later, the first recorded New Orleans Mardi Gras parade took place, a
tradition that continues to this day. In 1857, a secret society of New
Orleans businessmen called the "Mistick Krewe of Comus" organized a
torch-lit Mardi Gras procession with marching bands and rolling floats,
setting the tone for future public celebrations in the city. Since then,
krewes have remained a fixture of the Carnival scene throughout
Louisiana. Other lasting customs include throwing beads and other
trinkets, wearing masks, decorating floats and eating King Cake.
Louisiana is the only state in which Mardi Gras is a
legal holiday. However, elaborate carnival festivities draw crowds in
other parts of the United States during the Mardi Gras season as well,
including Alabama and Mississippi. Each region has its own events and
Top 10 Mardi Gras Traditions
Ash Wednesday; Lent Begins (Christian)
Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent in the
Western Christian calendar, directly following Shrove Tuesday. According
to the canonical gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, Jesus Christ spent
40 days fasting in the desert, where he endured temptation by Satan. Ash
Wednesday marks the beginning of this 40-day liturgical period of
prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.
Ash Wednesday derives its name from the practice of
placing ashes (formally called The Imposition of Ashes) on the foreheads
of adherents as a celebration and reminder of human mortality, and as a
sign of mourning and repentance to God. The ashes used are typically
gathered from the burning of the palms from the previous year's Palm
Sunday. Today, Ash Wednesday is observed by many Christian
denominations, including Catholics, Lutherans, Methodists, Anglicans,
and Presbyterians, among many others.
International Women's Day
Each year International Women's Day (IWD) is
celebrated on March 8. The first International Women's Day was held in
1911. Thousands of events occur to mark the economic, political and
social achievements of women. Women's equality has made positive gains
but the world is still unequal. International Women's Day celebrates the
social, political and economic achievements of women while focusing
world attention on areas requiring further action.
Inspiring Change is the 2014 theme. It calls for
challenging the status quo for women's equality and vigilance inspiring
positive change. The vast array of communication channels, supportive
spokespeople, equality research, campaigns and corporate responsibility
initiatives means everyone can be an advocate inspiring change for
International Women's Day is a time to reflect on
progress made, to call for change and to celebrate acts of courage and
determination by ordinary women who have played an extraordinary role in
the history of their countries and communities.
With the 2015 deadline to achieve the Millennium
Development Goals (MDG) around the corner, International Women's Day is
also an opportunity to review the challenges and achievements in the MDG
implementation for women and girls, as the Commission on the Status of
Women will be doing from 10 to 21 March 2014.
A Hindu festival, celebrating the birth of Lord Rama
to King Dasharatha of Ayodhya. The holiday is celebrated on the ninth
day of Chaitra month (the first month in the Hindu lunar calendar). It
marks the culmination of the spring festival of Vasanta Navratri
(Chaitra Navratri). Rama was the 7th incarnation of Vishnu. He was the
hero of the Ramayana, the ancient Sanskrit epic.
A continuous recital of the book takes place during
the month of Chaitra prior to the celebration. On Ram Navami itself, the
highlights of the story are read in the temple. Houses are thoroughly
cleaned on Rama Navami and a family shrine may be decorated with small
statues of Rama. Offerings of flowers and fruit are placed on the shrine
and prayers are recited after an early bath.
Purim is celebrated with a public reading, usually
in the synagogue, of the Book of Esther (Megillah Esther), which tells
the story of the holiday. It is read aloud on Purim and tells the story
of Esther, a Jewish Queen of Persia. She was married to the king of
Persia, who was unaware of her religious background. Sometime around the
year 357 BCE, the prime minister of Persia, Haman, and his wife plotted
to kill all Jewish people in the Persian Empire.
Esther heard of this plan and warned the king,
risking her own safety. Haman and his sons were executed and the Jews
were ordered to defend themselves against those who threatened them.
This resulted in bloody battles, in which many people were killed. Purim
celebrates the end of these battles.
Over the centuries, Haman became the embodiment of
every anti-Semite in every land where Jews were oppressed. The
significance of Purim lies in how it began, but also in what it has
become: a thankful and joyous affirmation of Jewish survival against all
St. Patrick's Day (Christianity)
What began as a religious feast day for the patron
saint of Ireland has become an international festival celebrating Irish
culture with parades, dancing, special foods and a whole lot of green.
It is known that St. Patrick was born in Britain to
wealthy parents near the end of the fourth century. He is believed to
have died on March 17, around 460 A.D. Although his father was a
Christian deacon, it has been suggested that he probably took on the
role because of tax incentives and there is no evidence that Patrick
came from a particularly religious family. At the age of 16, Patrick was
taken prisoner by a group of Irish raiders who were attacking his
family's estate. They transported him to Ireland where he spent six
years in captivity. Although many believe he was taken to live in Mount
Slemish in County Antrim, it is more likely that he was held in County
Mayo near Killala.) During this time, he worked as a shepherd, outdoors
and away from people. Lonely and afraid, he turned to his religion for
solace, becoming a devout Christian. (It is also believed that Patrick
first began to dream of converting the Irish people to Christianity
during his captivity.)
Hola Mohalla (Sikh)
Hola Mahalla is a Sikh festival which begins on the
first day of the lunar month of Chet in the Nanakshahi calendar Hola
Mohalla is an annual Sikh festival, celebrated extensively over three
days mainly at the Anandpur Sahib Gurudwara, in the state of Punjab. It
is a martial fair that was introduced by Sikh Guru, Guru Gobind Singh,
to fortify the Sikh community by carrying out martial training and
mock-drills, along with religious discussions.
The event was originated by Guru Gobind Singh, the
tenth Sikh Guru.The Guru was in the midst of fighting both Aurangzeb of
the Mughal Empire and the Hill Rajputs, and had recently established the
Khalsa Panth. On February 22, 1701, Guru Gobind Singh started a new
tradition by overseeing a day of mock battles and poetry contests at
Holgarh Fort. The tradition has since spread from the town of Anandpur
Sahib to nearby Kiratpur Sahib and the foothills of the Shivaliks, and
to other Gurdwaras around the world.
The word equinox is derived from the Latin words
meaning "equal night." At the equinoxes, the tilt of Earth relative to
the Sun is zero, which means that Earth's axis neither points toward nor
away from the Sun. On the equinox, night and day are nearly exactly the
same length – 12 hours – all over the world. However, even if this is
widely accepted, it isn't entirely true. In reality equinoxes don't have
exactly 12 hours of daylight.
The March equinox occurs the moment the sun crosses
the celestial equator – the imaginary line in the sky above the Earth's
equator – from south to north. This happens either on March 19, 20 or 21
every year. On any other day of the year, the Earth's axis tilts a
little away from or towards the Sun.
In the northern hemisphere the March equinox marks
the start of spring and has long been celebrated as a time of rebirth.
Many cultures and religions celebrate or observe holidays and festivals
around the March equinox, like the Easter and Passover.
Equinoxes, along with solstices, have been
celebrated in cultures all over the world for as long as we have written
history. One of the most famous ancient Spring equinox celebrations was
the Mayan sacrificial ritual by the main pyramid in Chichen Itza,
Spring Equinox Around the World: Traditions
International Day of Happiness
The General Assembly of the United Nations in its
resolution on July 12, 2012 proclaimed March 20th the International Day
of Happiness recognizing the relevance of happiness and well-being as
universal goals and aspirations in the lives of human beings around the
world and the importance of their recognition in public policy
By designating a special day for happiness, the UN
aims to focus world attention on the idea that economic growth must be
inclusive, equitable, and balanced, such that it promotes sustainable
development, and alleviates poverty. Additionally the UN acknowledges
that in order to attain global happiness, economic development must be
accompanied by social and environmental well being.
The initiative to declare a day of happiness came
from Bhutan – a country whose citizens are considered to be some of the
happiest people in the world. The Himalayan Kingdom has championed an
alternative measure of national and societal prosperity, called the
Gross National Happiness Index (GNH). The GNH rejects the sole use of
economic and material wealth as an indicator of development, and instead
adopts a more holistic outlook, where spiritual well being of citizens
and communities is given as much importance as their material well
"Happiness and Well-being: Defining a New Economic Paradigm"
Persian or Iranian New Year
In harmony with the rebirth of nature, the Iranian
New Year Celebration, or NowRuz (meaning the new day), always begins on
the first day of spring. Nowruz ceremonies are symbolic representations
of two ancient concepts -the End and the Rebirth; or Good and Evil. A
few weeks before the New Year, Iranians clean and rearrange their homes.
They make new clothes, bake pastries and germinate seeds as sign of
renewal. The ceremonial cloth is set up in each household. Troubadours,
referred to as Haji Firuz, disguise themselves with makeup and wear
brightly colored outfits of satin. These Haji Firuz, singing and
dancing, parade as a carnival through the streets with tambourines,
kettle drums, and trumpets to spread good cheer and the news of the
coming new year.
International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
The International Day for the Elimination of Racial
Discrimination is observed annually. On this day, in 1960, police opened
fire and killed 69 people at a peaceful demonstration in Sharpeville,
South Africa, against the apartheid "pass laws". Proclaiming the Day in
1966, the General Assembly called on the international community to
redouble its efforts to eliminate all forms of racial discrimination
(resolution 2142 (XXI)).
In 1979, the General Assembly adopted a Programme of
activities to be undertaken during the second half of the Decade for
Action to Combat Racism and Racial Discrimination. On that occasion, the
General Assembly decided that a week of solidarity with the people
struggling against racism and racial discrimination, beginning on 21st
of March, would be organized annually in all States.
Since then, the apartheid system in South Africa has
been dismantled. Racist laws and practices have been abolished in many
countries, and an international framework for fighting racism, guided by
the International Convention on the Elimination of Racial
Discrimination, has been built.
Racial and ethnic discrimination occur on a daily
basis, hindering progress for millions of people around the world.
Racism and intolerance can take various form, all of which can destroy
lives and fracture communities. The struggle against racism is a matter
of priority for the international community and is at the heart of the
work of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
The United Nations has been concerned with this
issue since its foundation and the prohibition of racial discrimination
is enshrined in all core international human rights instruments. It
places obligations on States and tasks them with eradicating
discrimination in the public and private spheres. The principle of
equality also requires States to adopt special measures to eliminate
conditions that cause or help to perpetuate racial discrimination.
World Poetry Day
Poetry contributes to creative diversity, by
questioning anew our use of words and things, our modes of perception
and understanding of the world. Through its associations, its metaphors
and its own grammar, poetic language is thus conceivably another facet
of the dialogue among cultures. Diversity in dialogue, free flow of
ideas by word, creativity and innovation. World Poetry Day is an
invitation to reflect on the power of language and the full development
of each person's creative abilities.
World Poetry Day aims to support linguistic
diversity through poetic expression and to offer endangered languages
the opportunity to be heard within their communities. Moreover, this day
is meant to support a return to the oral tradition of poetry recitals,
promote teaching poetry, restore a dialogue between poetry and the other
arts, support small publishers and create an image of poetry in the
media so that the art of poetry will no longer be considered an outdated
form of art.
International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of the Transatlantic Slave Trade
For over 400 years, more than 15 million men, women
and children were the victims of the tragic transatlantic slave trade.
Every year on March 25th, the International Day of Remembrance for the
Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade offers the
opportunity to honour and remember those who suffered and died at the
hands of the brutal slavery system. The International Day also aims at
raising awareness about the dangers of racism and prejudice today.
This year's theme, "Victory over Slavery: Haiti and
Beyond" pays tribute to the fight against slavery in nations around the
world. Haiti was the first nation to become independent as a result of
the struggle of enslaved men and women led by Toussaint Louverture. 2014
marks 210 years since the Republic of Haiti was established on January
UNESCO Slave Route Project
"Ignorance or concealment of major historical events
constitutes an obstacle to mutual understanding, reconciliation and
cooperation among peoples. UNESCO
has thus decided to break the silence surrounding the slave trade and
slavery that have affected all continents and have caused the great
upheavals that have shaped our modern societies."
Ugadi, also known as Ougadi or Telugu New Year, is a
Hindu festival celebrated in some Hindu majority countries such as
India and Mauritius. The festival is celebrated around March every
year to commemorate the day when Lord Brahma began his auspicious
creation and the day when Krishna, the avatar of Lord Vishnu, died in
3101 BC. Usually, Ugadi is celebrated on between March and April.
The word Ugadi is derived from "Yuga" (meaning
beginning) and "Adi" (meaning era). According to Hindu beliefs, Ougadi
was the day when Lord Brahma created the universe and its whole content.
It is also believed that Krishna, the complete incarnation of Hindu
God, Vishnu, died on Ougadi in 3101 BC.
People celebrate Ugadi by visiting their families,
relatives, or neighbors and have lunch or dinner together. Therefore,
there is a tradition to clean the house and buy new clothes before
celebrating Ugadi. In this case, both people and the houses will be in
their best state when the relatives and neighbors come to visit.
During Ougadi, people also take a ritual bath, pray
for good health and good luck, as well as decorate the house with mango
leaves and rangolis in the hope that they will get a better life in the
upcoming year. In the evening, people also visit the temples to attend
religious gatherings and listen to the predictions for the coming year.
César Chåvez Day
Cesar E. Chavez National Holiday was established by
Los Angeles volunteers who organized and led the effort in California
that won Cesar Chavez Day, the first legal state holiday and day of
service and learning in honor of farm worker leader Cesar E. Chavez.
César Chávez was born on March 31 in 1927. He was a
migrant farm worker from the age of 10. He became active with the
Community Service Organization, which helped fight racial and economic
discrimination against Chicano residents.
Dr Chávez co-founded the National Farm Workers
Association in the early 1960s. He focused attention on the plight of
migrant farm workers and gained support to have his organization be the
first successful farm workers' union in the United States. He used
principles of non-violence, with strikes and boycotts. Dr Chávez
remained president of United Farm Workers of America (AFL-CIO) until his
death on April 23, 1993.
Cesar Chavez gave our nation and each of us a unique
example to live our lives by. His selfless dedication for farm worker
and worker rights, economic justice, civil rights, environmental
justice, peace, nonviolence, empowerment of the poor and
disenfranchised, is a monumental legacy that will inspire all and the
generations to come.
"There's no turning back...We will win. We are winning because ours is a revolution of mind and heart."....
Cesar E. Chavez, the Farm Worker Leader, honored with a California Legal Holiday