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Cambodian New Year (Chaul Chnam Thmey)

New Year or Chaul Chnam Thmey in the Khmer language literal translation Coming of the New Year, is the name of the Cambodian holiday that celebrates the new year. Cambodian New Year is celebrated every year in the middle of the month of April and the holiday lasts for three days, most commonly, from April 13th to 15th. Sometimes the holiday falls between the 14th to 16th of April. This time of the year represents the end of the harvesting season. The farmers enjoy the fruits of their harvest and relax before the rainy season begins. The first day of the new year celebration is called Moha Songkran. It is the ending of the year and the beginning of a new one. People dress up and light candles and burn incense sticks at shrines. The members of each family pay homage to offer thanks for the Buddhas teachings by bowing, kneeling and prostrating themselves three times before his image. For good luck people wash their face with holy water in the morning, their chests at noon, and their feet in the evening before they go to bed. Wanabat is the name of the second day of the new year celebration. People contribute charity to the less fortunate, help the poor, servants, homeless people, and low-income families. Families attend a dedication ceremony to their ancestors at the monastery. Tngai Laeung saka is the name of the third day of the new year celebration. Buddhist cleanse the Buddha statues and elders with perfumed water. Bathing the Buddha images is the symbol that water will be needed for all kinds of plants and lives. It is also thought to be a kind deed that will bring longevity, good luck, happiness and prosperity in life. By bathing their grandparents and parents, children can obtain from them best wishes and good advice for the future. During the Khmer New Year Festival, youths gather to play popular traditional games such as Chaol Chhoung (throwing a ball) and Bas Angkunh (throwing brown seeds). The youths are normally divided into female and male teams to play these games. Other traditional games are such as Tres, Chab Kon Kleng, Leak Kanseng, Bay Khom and Klah Klok. The Khmer people will also gather together and visit pagodas and temples on the occasion of the Khmer New year. Each year many residents from other provinces visit Angkor Wat to worship to the powerful gods and trace their ancestors heritage.

Festivals Around the World

Carnival Chinese New Year ocuk Bayrami Day of the Dead Diwali Esala Perahera Hina Matsuri Eid al-Fitr Holi May Day N'cwala Purim Raksha Bandhan St. Lucia Trung Thu Fact Monster/Information Please

Brazils most popular and festive holiday is Carnival. In fact, many people consider Carnival one of the worlds biggest celebrations. Each spring, on the Saturday before Ash Wednesday, the streets of Brazils largest city, Rio de Janeiro, come alive with wild parties, festivals and glamorous balls. The Samba School Parade is the highlight of the four-day event. About 3,000 performers, clad in ornate costumes embellished with feathers, beads and thousands of sequins, dance down the parade route alongside dazzling floats and into the Sambadrome-a dance stadium built for the event. Judges award a prize to the most spectacular group of dancers.

Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year is the longest and most important celebration in the Chinese calendar. The new year begins on the first day of the Chinese calendar, which usually falls in February, and the festivities continue for 15 days. At Chinese New Year celebrations, people wear red clothes, give children lucky money in red envelopes and set off firecrackers. Red symbolizes fire, which the Chinese believe drives away bad luck. Family members gather at each other's homes for extravagant meals. Chinese New Year ends with a lantern festival. People hang decorated lanterns in temples and carry lanterns to an evening parade under the light of the full moon. The highlight of the lantern festival is often the dragon dance. The dragon-which can stretch a hundred feet long-is typically made of silk, paper and bamboo. See also Chinese New Year, Chinese New Year Quiz, and The Chinese Zodiac.

Chinese New Year: 2010

The Year of the Tiger

by Holly Hartman

4708 (or 2010) is the year of the tiger

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Chinese New Year Quiz New! Chinese Zodiac New! China | Map The Chinese Calendar Chinese New Year Dates 20002014 History of Chopsticks History of the Fortune Cookie Famous Firsts by Asian Americans Asian Pacific Heritage Month

Chinese New Year Dates

2008 - Feb. 7 2009 - Jan. 26

2010 - Feb. 14 2011 - Feb. 3 2012 - Jan. 23

Other New Year Celebrations

New Year's Traditions Rosh Hashannah, Jewish New Year Muharram, Islamic New Year

Chinese New Year is the longest and most important celebration in the Chinese calendar. The Chinese year 4708 begins on Feb. 14, 2010. Chinese months are reckoned by the lunar calendar, with each month beginning on the darkest day. New Year festivities traditionally start on the first day of the month and continue until the fifteenth, when the moon is brightest. In China, people may take weeks of holiday from work to prepare for and celebrate the New Year.

A Year to Roar
Legend has it that in ancient times, Buddha asked all the animals to meet him on Chinese New Year. Twelve came, and Buddha named a year after each one. He announced that the people born in each animal's year would have some of that animal's personality. Those born in tiger years are natural leaders and excel as actors, pilots, writers, and managers. They are authoritative, courageous, emotional, and intense. Demi Moore,Emily Bronte, Tom Cruise, and John Steinbeck were all born in the year of the tiger.

Fireworks and Family Feasts

At Chinese New Year celebrations people wear red clothes, decorate with poems on red paper, and give children "lucky money" in red envelopes. Red symbolizes fire, which according to legend can drive away bad luck. The fireworks that shower the festivities are rooted in a similar ancient custom. Long ago, people in China lit bamboo stalks, believing that the crackling flames would frighten evil spirits.

The Lantern Festival

In China, the New Year is a time of family reunion. Family members gather at each other's homes for visits and shared meals, most significantly a feast on New Year's Eve. In the United States, however, many early Chinese immigrants arrived without their families, and found a sense of community through neighborhood associations instead. Today, many ChineseAmerican neighborhood associations host banquets and other New Year events. The lantern festival is held on the fifteenth day of the first lunar month. Some of the lanterns may be works of art, painted with birds, animals, flowers, zodiac signs, and scenes from legend and history. People hang glowing lanterns in temples, and carry lanterns to an evening parade under the light of the full moon.

In many areas the highlight of the lantern festival is the dragon dance. The dragonwhich might stretch a hundred feet longis typically made of silk, paper, and bamboo. Traditionally the dragon is held aloft by young men who dance as they guide the colorful beast through the streets. In the United States, where the New Year is celebrated with a shortened schedule, the dragon dance always takes place on a weekend. In addition, many Chinese-American communities have added American parade elements such as marching bands and floats.

The Chinese Zodiac

The twelve animal signs of the Chinese calendar

by Elizabeth Olson

Unlike the Western linear calendar used in the United States, the Chinese calendar features a cyclical dating method that repeats every 60 years. The calendar is based on two cycles that interact with each otherthe Chinese zodiac, which is divided into 12 parts, and the five elements. The five elements are metal, water, wood, fire, and earth. Each year of the Chinese Zodiac is represented by a different animal: the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog, and pig. The five elements are assigned to the 12 animals (years), giving different characteristics to each animal (year). Assigning each of the five elements to the 12 years creates 60 different combinations that results in a 60-year cycle.

Each Sign Has Personality Traits

Horoscopes were developed around animal signs to predict personality traits and destiny. Each animal is known to have certain characteristics that a person born under the sign would demonstrate. The year a person is born determines their animal sign. For example, a person's animal sign is a rat if they were born in the year of the rat. Animal signs are also assigned by month and hours of the day, which are also broken up into increments of 12. It is important to remember when determining the hour in which you were born, that hours are not based on local time, but in relation to the Sun's location, according to the Chinese Zodiac.

Animal Personality Traits

Rat: quick-witted, smart, charming, and persuasive Ox: patient, kind, stubborn, and conservative Tiger: authoritative, emotional, courageous, and intense Rabbit: popular, compassionate, and sincere Dragon: energetic, fearless, warm-hearted, and charismatic Snake: charming, gregarious, introverted, generous, and smart Horse: energetic, independent, impatient, and enjoy traveling Sheep: mild-mannered, shy, kind, and peace-loving Monkey: fun, energetic, and active Rooster: independent, practical, hard-working, and observant Dog: patient, diligent, generous, faithful, and kind

Pig: loving, tolerant, honest, and appreciative of luxury

The Five Elements and Yin and Yang

Much of Chinese philosophy is built around five elements, and the belief that they interact with natural phenomena. The five elements, including metal, water, wood, fire, and earth, have existed in Chinese culture for thousands of years, and affect the Chinese Zodiac. Each element has different traits. Characteristics of the five elements are assigned to the 12 animal signs, creating 60 possible characteristic combinations. The concept of Yin and Yang also affects the Chinese Zodiac by assigning opposing forces to each animal signodd years are Yin years and even years are Yang years. Yin is perceived as earth, female, dark, and passive. Yang is perceived as male, heaven, light, and active.

Considering that the Chinese Zodiac was created thousands of years ago, it is not surprising that there are several interpretations of its origin. Most agree, however, that the 12 animals on the Chinese Zodiac calendar were the animals that appeared in response to an invitation to a celebration from Buddha or the Jade Emperor. Another legend says that the animals fought over their place on the calendar. In order to fairly resolve the conflict, the gods had them race across a river. The order of the animals on the calendar reflects their completion of the race the rat placing first and the pig finishing last. Although Buddha is the central figure in many stories about the origin of the Chinese Zodiac, there is some evidence that suggests the Chinese Zodiac may predate Buddhism. Early Chinese astronomers devised a system based on the 12-year orbit of Jupiter to tell time. The system included 12 earthly branches and existed long before Buddhism.

ocuk Bayrami
Each April 23, Turkey celebrates ocuk Bayrami, or Childrens Day. Turkish leader Mustafa Kemal Atatrk declared the holiday in 1920, as Turkey was becoming an independent nation after the fall of the Ottoman Empire, to illustrate that children were the future of the new nation. Children all over Turkey dress up in special outfits or the national costume for ocuk Bayrami. Boys who dress in the national costume typically wear baggy silk pants, a colorful vest, a white shirt and a sequined hat, called a tepelik. Girls wear a long colorful gown called a kaftan and an ornate veil. Many children perform in plays or musicals. The centerpiece of ocuk Bayrami takes place in Turkeys capital, Ankara, where children from all over the world sing and dance in a spectacular pageant.

Day of the Dead

Day of the Dead is celebrated on November 1 in Mexico, Ecuador, Guatemala and other parts of Central and South America. Families gather to pray to the souls of dead relatives, asking them to return for just one night. People decorate altars in their homes and gravesites with food, candles, candy skulls and marigolds to welcome the souls back to earth. Skeletons are displayed throughout cities, and people dressed as skeletons parade through the streets. Pan de los muertos (bread of the dead) is baked in the shape of skulls and crossbones, and a toy is hidden inside each loaf. The person who bites into the toy is said to have good luck. Day of the Dead sounds like a grim event, but its a time to celebrate and remember the lives of dead family members.

Day of the Dead

Day of the Dead, Span. Da de los Muertos, annual festival in Mexico and other parts of Latin America, commonly on November 1st and 2d. Its ancient Mesoamerican roots now augmented by Christian custom, it celebrates the dead with joy and humor rather than mourning, and coincides with All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day. Family graves are cleaned and decorated, and home altars (ofrendas) are embellished with offerings, e.g., candles, photos, foods, flowers. Special holiday breads and sugar skulls are baked and consumed, and charmingly colorful folkart skeletons engaged in a variety of everyday activities commemorate the day.

Day of the Dead

Dia de los Muertos

by Shmuel Ross

Day of the Dead decorations

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All Saints Day Halloween

Hispanic Heritage Month

The Mexican holiday of Da de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, takes place over the first two days of November. Its origins are a mixture of Native American traditions and a set of Catholic holidays. While the holiday's observances include spending time in cemeteries, making shrines to the dead, and displaying artistic representations of skulls and skeletons, the occasion is festive, rather than morbid. Death isn't seen as the end of one's life, but as a natural part of the life cycle; the dead continue to exist much as they did in their lives, and come back to visit the living every year.

Aztec origins
The names of two consecutive twenty-day months on the Aztec calendar, Miccailhuitomi and Miccailhuitl, can be translated as "Feast of the Little Dead Ones" and "Feast of the Adult Dead." Put together, they appear to have formed one long celebration of the dead, moving from those who died as children to those who died when they were older.

The Spanish Imposition

In the early 1500s, Spanish conquistadors, led by Hernando Cortz, conquered the Aztec Empire, taking over the area we now know as Mexico. They immediately set about trying to convert the native population to Catholicism, for both religious and political reasons. Among the practices introduced by Spanish missionaries were All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day, taking place on November 1 and 2, respectively. The conquered Native Americans took the opportunity to incorporate their own traditions for honoring the dead into these two days. The resulting holiday is a unique hybrid of the two.

Welcoming the Dead

It is generally believed that the souls of one's family return home to join in the Day of the Dead festivities. First those who died in infancy come home, then the older children, and finally those who died once they'd reached adulthood. Families set up altars (or ofrendas) in their homes, festively decorated in bright colors and laden with the favorite foods of their dead. Typically, the altars contain photographs of the dead, representations of things they liked, and items representing the four elements: candles for fire, drinks for water, fruit for earth, and fluttering tissue-paper decorations for wind. The dead take in the essence of the food, which will later be eaten by the living. In some areas, families go to the graveyard to celebrate through the night. They clean and decorate the graves, sometimes setting up ofrendas on the gravestones, as bells are rung.

Skeleton Decorations
The major feature of Day of the Dead decorations is skeletons, or calacas. Skeletons are everywhere, from tissue-paper scenes to tiny plastic toys, from cardboard puppets to ceramic

sculptures, from posters to papier mache. These skeletons are usually cheerful, and they are designed to show the full range of activities and professions people perform. Farmers, barbers, secretaries, fire fighters... if somebody does it while alive, you can find an artistic rendering of a skeleton doing it while dead. This theme extends to the day's food and treats. The Day of the Dead feast typically includes a special egg-batter "bread of the dead," pan de muerto. While the form of this bread is different from region to region, it is often decorated with strips of dough resembling bones, or made to resemble a dead body. Also common are skulls and skeletons made of sugar or candy. Some people get sugar skulls made to resemble themselves, or with their names inscribed on them.

Tone of the Holiday

While Day of the Dead and Halloween are both offshoots of All Saints' and All Souls' Days, their tones couldn't be more different. Halloween's images of skeletons and spirits emphasize the spooky, gruesome, and macbre. People shudder (if delightfully) at the thought of scary spirits threatening the living world. On Day of the Dead, the focus isn't on impersonal threatening spooks, it's on celebrating with one's familyalive and deadand remembering those who are no longer alive. It's on seeing death as another stage following life, not something to be faced with fear.


Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, is the best known of Hindu celebrations and certainly the brightest. Amid the darkest skies of autumn, lights brighten homes throughout Indiaa sign of welcome to the gods Rama and Lakshmi. Families get together and celebrate with gifts and feasts. Many families decorate their homes with flowers and draw a colorful rangoli, an intricate pattern made in rice flour, at the entrance of the home. See also Diwali.


The Hindu festival of lights

by Holly Hartman

Diwali, "the festival of lights"

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Hinduism India | Map Hindu Festival Dates Hindu Calendar Ramayana

Hindu Dieties

Ganesha Kali Krishna Lakshmi Naraka Vishnu

Diwali, the Hindu "festival of lights," is the best known of Hindu festivals and certainly the brightest. Amid the dark skies of autumn, lights illumine homes throughout India and its diaspora, while families celebrate with visits, gifts, and feasts. Diwali generally lasts for five days, beginning on the 14th day of the dark half of the Hindu calendar month of Asvina. (Every Hindu month is divided into a light half, when the moon waxes, and a dark half, when it wanes.) By the Gregorian calendar, Diwali falls in October or November; in 2010, it begins on November 5.

Bright Beauty
Diwalis name comes from the Sanskrit deepavali, "row of lights." According to tradition, Diwali celebrates the joyous homecoming of Lord Rama, hero of the epic poem the Ramayana, after 14 years of exile. When Lord Rama and his wife Sita returned to rule their country, their people lit the way with small oil lamps called diye. During Diwali, these lamps shine in rows along homes and templesadorning windowsills, staircases, and parapetsor glow from little boats that float down rivers. Colorful candles are lit alongside diye, while fireworks light up the night sky.

Feasts and Festivities

Fresh flowers and freshly cleaned homes welcome the days of Diwali. Many families draw a colorful rangoli, a decorative pattern made in rice flour, at the entrance of the home. Friends, family, and neighbors visit to share feasts and festivities as well as little treats such as khil (rice puffs) and patashe (sugar disks). Puja, worship of deities, takes place at home and at temples with prayers and other offerings. Diwali also marks the beginning of a new financial year. Households and businesses begin new accounting in new ledgers, which are often decorated with images of Lakshmi. The goddess of fortune, she is the main deity honored during Diwali.

Diverse Traditions
Like other aspects of Hinduismthe worlds oldest religionthe origins of Diwali are remote. The celebration probably has its roots in ancient harvest festivals. And like Hinduism, observance of Diwali is richly varied among the faiths 800 million adherents. Although the Rama tradition is widespread, in some parts of India Diwali honors the marriage of the goddess Lakshmi and the god Vishnu; in others it remembers the triumph of Lord Krishna over the demon Naraka. While for most Hindus the worship of Lakshmi is a focus of Diwali, Hindus in Bengal honor the fearsome goddess Kali. Ganesha, the elephant-headed god of wisdom, is also widely honored, as are other gods and goddesses.

Esala Perahera
Every July or August, thousands of Sri Lankans travel to the hill city of Kandy to watch dancers, acrobats, drummers, whip crackers, flame throwers and more than 100 elegantly decorated elephants parade through the streets during Esala Perahera. This is a 10-day festival in honor of to the countrys most prized possession, the Tooth Relic of Lord Buddha. Esala Perahera, first celebrated in the third century B.C., kicks off with the cutting of a ceremonial jack tree. Pieces of the tree are then planted near the shrines of the four Buddhist gods that protect Sri Lanka: Natha, Vishnu, Kataragama and Pattini. For the next five nights, ceremonies with festive dancing and drumming take place outside each of the temples. On the sixth night of the festival, processions begin from each shrine and parade toward the Temple of the Tooth (Dalada Maligawa). The processions grow longer and more spectacular each night. During the last night of the pageant, an enormous elephant carries a relic of the Tooth Relic in a gold casket on its back as the performers entertain crowds along the route. The ceremony ends at dawn after the full moon with a water-cutting ceremony. Priests representing each of the four temples walk into the Mahaweli River, cut a circle in the water with a sword and fill pitchers with water from within the circle. They keep the water in the pitcher for the entire year.

Hina Matsuri
Each year, Japanese girls eagerly await the third of March, called Hina Matsuri, or Doll's Festival. In Japanese, hina means small doll. Girls display their most precious dolls on a

seven-tiered platform in their home. Families visit shrines and pray for the health and happiness of their girls. Japan also celebrates a special day for boys, called Kodomono-hi. On May 5th, families that have boys fly spectacular kites shaped like carp and decorate their homes with figures of traditional warriors to inspire the boys to be strong and brave. The carp is known for its strength and determination. The boys dress up in a kimono and often take baths with iris leaves, which are believed to keep boys healthy and strong.

Eid al-Fitr
More than a billion Muslims around the world observe Ramadan (month of blessing), with prayer, fasting and charity. They celebrate the end of Ramadan with a three-day festival, called Eid al-Fitr, which means breaking of the fast. It's one of the most important holidays in Islam. (Islam is the name of the religion practiced by Muslims.) During Eid al-Fitr, people dress in their finest clothes, adorn their homes with lights and decorations, give treats to children and visit with friends and family

Holi is literally one of the most colorful festivals in the world. Hindus celebrate the festival in early March, when wheat is harvested. Holi commemorates spring and the mythological stories of the god Krishna and the king Prahlad. In Hindu legend, during Holi Krishna covered Radha and her friends with colored water and stole off with their clothes as they bathed. In the other story, Prahlad, the son of the king, refused his fathers demand that he worship him rather than God. God saved Prahlad from death twice, first when the king ordered him killed, and again, when the kings evil sister, Holika, led Prahlad into a huge bonfire. On the eve of Holi, Hindus dress in their finest clothes and watch a bonfire. A large tree branch, representing Prahlad, is placed in the middle of the fire. The branch is removed, recreating Prahlads rescue. The next morning, people put on old clothes and douse each other with colored powders. Its the one day of the year that parents encourage their children to get filthy!

May Day
Children in England celebrate the end of winter and the arrival of spring on May 1 each year. The festivities center around a huge striped maypole thats decorated with flowers and streamers. Children hold the streamers as they dance around the pole,

weaving intricate patterns as they pass each other. Men also join in on the fun. A group of six or eight Morris dancers arrange themselves in two lines and wave handkerchiefs or sticks as they dance by each other. A May Queen is crowned each year to preside over the celebration. May Day dates back to ancient times, when Romans honored Flora, the goddess of spring.

May Day

A cornucopia of holidays
May 1st, often called May Day, just might have more holidays than any other day of the year. It's a celebration of Spring. It's a day of political protests. It's a neopagan festival, a saint's feast day, and a day for organized labor. In many countries, it is a national holiday.

Beltane was a Celtic calendar feast ushering in the start of summer. (It also went by a variety of other spellings and names in assorted dialects of Gaelic.) Bonfires, often created by rubbing sticks together, were common features of Beltane celebrations. Related rituals included driving cattle between two fires, dancing around the fires, and burning witches in effigy. Another tradition was Beltane cakes, which would be broken into several pieces, one of which was blackened. They would be drawn by celebrants at random; the person getting the unlucky blackened piece would face a mock execution. In recent years, Beltaine has been adopted or revived by neopagan groups as a major seasonal festival.

St. Walburga (or Walpurgis), the abbess of the monastery of Heidenheim, helped St. Boniface bring Christianity to 8th Century Germany. She died on Feb. 25, 779. As her remains have been moved on multiple occasions, several days have been designated in her honor, one of which is the first of May. This date coincided with a pre-existing pagan festival, which, in Germany, included rites to protect one against witchcraft. This led to a hybrid legend developing, in which witches were said to meet with the Devil on the eve of May 1, on the Brocken peak. The night of April 30th became known as "Walpurgisnacht," and the annual meeting was dramatized by Goethe in Faust.

Fertility Festivals
Some cultures, such as those found in India and Egypt, had spring fertility festivals. The Roman festival celebrating Flora, goddess of fertility, flowers, and spring, was celebrated from April 28 through May 3.

Bringing in the May

In medieval England, people would celebrate the start of spring by going out to the country or woods"going a-maying"and gathering greenery and flowers, or "bringing in the may." This was described in "The Court of Love" (often attributed to Chaucer, but not actually written by him) in 1561: And furth goth all the Court, both most and lest, To feche the floures fressh, and braunche and blome; And namly, hawthorn brought both page and grome. With fressh garlandes, partie blewe and whyte, And thaim rejoysen in their greet delyt. (For modern spellings, hold your mouse pointer over unfamiliar words.) Another English tradition is the maypole. Some towns had permanent maypoles that would stay up all year; others put up a new one each May. In any event, the pole would be hung with greenery and ribbons, brightly painted, and otherwise decorated, and served as a central point for the festivities. May Day was also a time for morris dancing and other dances, often around the maypole. In the 19th century, people began to braid the maypole with ribbons by weaving in and out in the course of a dance. Other later traditions include making garlands for children and the crowning of the May Queen.

Labor Day
In many countries, May Day is also Labor Day. This originates with the United States labor movement in the late 19th Century. On May 1, 1886, unions across the country went on strike, demanding that the standard workday be shortened to eight hours. The organizers of these strikes included socialists, anarchists, and others in organized labor movements. Rioting in Chicago's Haymarket Square on May 4th including a bomb thrown by an anarchist led to the deaths of a dozen people (including several police officers) and the injury of over 100 more. The protests were not immediately successful, but they proved effective down the line, as eight-hour work days eventually did become the norm. Labor leaders, socialists, and anarchists around the world took the American strikes and their fallout as a rallying point, choosing May Day as a day for demonstrations, parades, and speeches. It was a major state holiday in the Soviet Union and other communist countries. Labor Day is still celebrated on May 1 in countries around the world, and it is still often a day for protests and rallies. In recent years, these have often been targeted against globalization.

2006: May Day Protests Return to the U.S.

In 2006, United States once again saw widespread political action on May Day this year, centering on the subject of immigration reform. Various groups and communities, under the heading of "A Day Without Immigrants," held rallies, strikes, and consumer boycotts to support the rights of those working and living in the United States, and to protest a bill that would deport many illegal immigrants.

Competing Holidays
Various authorities have tried to ban or undermine May Day, particularly the communist observances during the Cold War. In 1955, Pope Pius XII designated May 1 as a feast day of St. Joseph the Worker. In 1958, President Eisenhower designated May 1 as both Law Day and Loyalty Day. Each of these were specifically aimed at replacing the communist holiday with a religious or patriotic one.

Each February, the Ngoni people of Zambia's Eastern Province celebrate the first harvest of the year with an N'cwala ceremony. Twelve local chiefs and their best dancers travel to a village called Mutenguleni to perform a warrior dance for the chief. The dancers wear outfits and headdresses made from animal furs. The chief chooses the best group of dancers. The villagers feast on beef stew and corn.

The holiday of Purim celebrates the salvation of the Jews from the wicked Haman. Through the leadership of Queen Esther and her cousin Mordecai, a decree against the Jews in the Persian Empire was suddenly overturned. Purim takes place on the 14th day of Adar, the 12th month of the Jewish calendar. (In a leap year, it takes place in Adar II, while a minor holiday, Purim Katan, takes place in Adar I.) It usually falls in March. In 2008, Purim begins at sundown on March 20. The traditional observances of Purim include public readings of the Book of Esther, feasting, gifts of charity to the poor, and gifts of food among friends. Other popular activities include staging comedic plays, dressing up in costumes, holding beauty contests, and marching in parades. The carnival-like atmosphere of Purim sometimes leads to it being referred to as the Jewish Mardi Gras or Jewish Halloween by non-Jews. As with many holidays, Purim has a food of its own: hamantaschen. Literally Haman's pockets, these triangular cookies are said to resemble Haman's three-cornered hat. These traditionally contain poppy-seed or prune fillings, but other fruit fillings are also popular.

What is Purim?

Celebration of the Deliverance of the Jews

by Shmuel Ross

Purim Dates (beginning at sundown on the following

dates) 2009: March 9 2010: Feb. 28 2011: March 20 2012: March 8 2013: Feb. 24

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Jewish Holidays, 20012015 Judaism Branches of Judaism Holidays: Religious and Secular Lost Tribes of Israel Chinese Jews

The joyous holiday of Purim celebrates the salvation of the Jews from the wicked Haman, through the leadership of Queen Esther and her cousin Mordecai. Purim takes place on the 14th day of Adar, the 12th month of the Jewish calendar. (In the case of a leap year, it takes place in the 13th month, Adar II, while a minor holiday, Purim Katan, takes place in Adar I.) It usually falls in March. In 2010, Purim begins at sundown on February 28. The carnival-like atmosphere of Purim, wearing of costumes, and bringing gifts of food doorto-door sometimes leads to it being referred to as the "Jewish Mardi Gras" or "Jewish Halloween" by non-Jews.

The Book of Esther

The story of Purim is found in the Biblical book of Esther, often referred to as "the Megillah." This is publically read in synagogues twice on Purim: when the holiday begins at nightfall, and the following morning. When the name of Haman is read, people stomp their feet, hiss, boo, or shake noisemakers to obliterate his name.

The King's Party

The story takes place in the Persian Empire, which extended to 127 provinces. In the third year of his reign, King Ahasuerus threw a lavish party, to which he summoned his wife, Queen Vashti, to display her beauty. When Vashti refused to obey his command, he had her killed for insubordination. Regretting this decision after sobering up, Ahasuerus began a kingdom-wide search for a new queen, adding a member to his harem every night, but not finding a suitable replacement until Esthera beautiful Jewish girlwas brought before him. He fell in love with her and made

her the new queen. She had not wanted to be part of the search, and would not tell him anything about her background.

The Rise of Haman

Soon after this, Haman became the chief advisor to Ahasuerus. He felt slighted by Mordecai, a Jew who refused to bow to him (and who, unknown to him or the king, was Esther's cousin). He obtained permission from the king to send out a decree to the entire kingdom calling for all the Jews to be wiped out on the 13th of Adar. He chose this date, which he hoped would be auspicious, using lots. (The Persian word for lots was pur; the holiday of Purim gets its name from this event.) Mordecai sent word to Esther about this decree, and called upon her to intercede with the king. This was a risky move for Esther; it was forbidden to see the king without first being summoned, and he had after all killed his previous wife for not obeying his orders. Nevertheless, she accepted that she needed to take action. She called for a three-day fast among the Jews in the city, after which she went to see the king. She found favor in the king's eyes, and he offered to give her anything she wanted.

The Decree Is Overturned

After a couple of subplots involving Mordecai and Haman fell into place, Esther informed the king that Haman was, in fact, plotting to kill her and all of her people. Incensed, the king ordered Haman to be hanged, and installed Mordecai in his place. While the original decree could not be rescinded, Mordecai was able to send out a second decree calling upon the Jews to defend themselves and kill their enemies. This they did, routing all opposition on the 13th of Adar, and celebrating on the 14th. This celebration on the 14th is now observed annually, on Purim. In the capital city of Shushan, the Jews were given a second day to rout their enemies, on the 14th. They then feasted on the 15th. In commemoration, in Shushan, and in cities that were walled at the time of Joshua, Purim is celebrated on the 15th of Adar; this date is generally known as "Shushan Purim." Practically speaking, this now applies to Jerusalem.

The traditional observances of Purim include public readings of the Book of Esther, feasting, gifts of charity to the poor, and gifts of food among friends. It is also unique among Jewish holidays in that adults are encouraged to drink until they can't tell the difference between the phrases "cursed be Haman" and "blessed be Mordecai." Other popular activities include staging comedic plays, expounding on the Torah in humorous ways, dressing up in costumes, holding beauty contests, and marching in parades. The general topsy-turvy spirit of Purim is ascribed both to the merry celebration of the occasion, and as an allusion to how the decree against the Jews was suddenly overturned, and their standing in the kingdom went from outcast to privileged. As with many holidays, Purim has a food of its own: hamantaschen. Literally "Haman's pockets," these triangular cookies are said to resemble Haman's three-cornered hat. These

traditionally contain poppy-seed or prune fillings, but other fruit fillings are also popular. (I'm a fan of cherry, myself.)

Fast of Esther
Purim is preceded by a minor fast, the Fast of Esther, commemorating the three-day fast that preceded the miracle of Haman's downfall. This is normally observed from dawn to sundown immediately before Purim. However, when this would conflict with Sabbath observance, it is moved to the preceding Thursday.

Purim (pOO'rim) [key][Heb.,=lots], Jewish festival celebrated on the 14th of Adar, the twelfth month in the Jewish calendar (Feb.March). During leap years it is celebrated in Adar II. According to the book of Esther (Esther 3.7; 9.24,26) it commemorates the deliverance of the Persian Jews from a general massacre; however, the festival may have arisen in the pagan celebration of the advent of spring. Preceded by a day of fasting, Purim is celebrated as a day of joy, marked by merrymaking and feasting. The Book of Esther is read in the synagogue, and it is customary for children to make noise to blot out the name of the evildoer Haman. Other customs related to the festival included the exchange of gifts, especially of food, the giving of alms to the poor, the presentation of Purim plays, and the wearing of costumes, especially by children. In Israel, a Purim carnival is held. Purim is considered a minor festival, and work is permitted. See A. J. Rosenberg, Megillath Esther (1984); P. Goodman, Purim Anthology (1988).

Raksha Bandhan
Every August, brothers and sisters in northern India show their love for each other by celebrating Raksha Bandhan. This tradition dates back more than 500 years. The girls tie a bracelet of silk threads, called a rakhi, around their brothers wrists. The boys then promise to protect their sisters. The siblings also give each other a piece of Indian candy, called laddu. At the end of the ceremony, the children exchange gifts.

St. Lucia
On December 13, one of the longest and darkest nights of the winter, Swedes celebrate the festival of St. Lucia, the patron saint of light. In many homes, a girl gets up early in the morning and puts on a long white dress, with a red sash at the waist, and a laurel crown decorated with four candles. She serves her family warm lussekatt buns for breakfast. The buns, shaped like the number eight, are usually flavored with saffron and topped with raisins or nuts. Boys, called star boys, wear long white shirts and pointed hats. They help serve the buns. Children often go to school dressed in the costumes and serve the buns to their teacher

St. Lucia

Map of St. Lucia Sovereign: Queen Elizabeth II (1952) Governor-General: Dame Pearlette Louisy (1997) Prime Minister: Kenny D. Anthony (1997) Land area: 236 sq mi (611 sq km); total area: 238 mi (616 sq km) Population (2007 est.): 170,649 (growth rate: 1.3%); birth rate: 19.3/1000; infant mortality rate: 12.8/1000; life expectancy: 74.1; density per sq mi: 723 Capital and largest city (2003 est.): Castries, 60,300 Monetary unit: East Caribbean dollar Current government officials Languages: English (official), French patois Ethnicity/race: black 82.5%, mixed 11%, East Indian 2.4%, other or unspecified 3.1% (2001 census) Religions: Roman Catholic 68%, Seventh-Day Adventist 9%, Pentecostal 6%, Evangelical 2%, Anglican 2%, other Christian 5%, Rastafarian 2%, none 5% (2001) Literacy rate: 90% (2001 est.) Economic summary: GDP/PPP (2007 est.): $1.794 billion; per capita $10,700. Real growth rate: 3.2%. Inflation: 1.9%. Unemployment: 20% (2003 est.). Arable land: 6.45% (2005 est.). Agriculture: bananas, coconuts, vegetables, citrus, root crops, cocoa. Labor force: 43,800 (2001 est.);

One of the Windward Islands of the eastern Caribbean, St. Lucia lies just south of Martinique. It is of volcanic origin. A chain of wooded mountains runs from north to south and from them flow many streams into fertile valleys.

Parliamentary democracy. A governor-general represents the sovereign, Queen Elizabeth II.

The first inhabitants of St. Lucia were the Arawak Indians, who were forced off the island by the Caribs. Explored by Spain and then France, St. Lucia became a British territory in 1814 and one of the Windward Islands in 1871. With other Windward Islands, St. Lucia was granted home rule in 1967 as one of the West Indies Associated States. On Feb. 22, 1979, St. Lucia achieved full independence in ceremonies boycotted by the opposition St. Lucia Labour Party, which had advocated a referendum before cutting ties with Britain. The United Workers Party (UWP), then in power, called for new elections and was defeated by the St. Lucia Labour Party (SLP). The UWP was returned to power in the elections of 1982, 1987, and 1992. Kenny Anthony became prime minister in 1997, when his St. Lucia Labour Party won 16 of the 17 parliamentary seats. The 1999 European Union decision to end its preferential treatment of bananas imported from former colonies has led St. Lucia to try to diversify its agricultural crops. In 2002, tropical storm Lili devasted the banana crop. See also Encyclopedia: Saint Lucia. U.S. State Dept. Country Notes: Saint Lucia Government Statistics Department .

Trung Thu
Vietnamese children look forward to the 15th day of the 8th lunar month, when they celebrate Trung Thu, a mid-fall festival commemorating the moon at its brightest and most beautiful. Traditionally, the festival also marked the end of harvest, and parents who had been hard at work in the fields enjoyed spending extra time with their children and lavishing gifts on them.

The children wear colorful masks and dance in the streets with star lanterns that are illuminated by candles. The lanterns, which are made out of bamboo and plastic, represent the moon. The children also feast on moon cakes. Shaped like fish or flowers, the sweet cakes are filled with sugar and meat or eggs. During Trung Thu, Vietnamese also remember relatives who have died. They light incense and burn fake money as tributes to them.