Archive for June, 2013

Tisha B’Av

When is Tisha B’Av?

Tisha B’Av is a widely celebrated date in Judaism. It falls annually on ninth day of Av, a month on the Jewish calendar. As a day of mourning in the Jewish community, Tisha B’Av is a day of prayer and reflection, as well as strict fasting rules. It is celebrated in communities across the globe, with prevalence higher in predominantly Jewish regions. Sadly, due to conflict between other religions, some cultures attempt to disrupt the observance of Tisha B’Av in developing nations.

When is Tisha B’Av?

Since the calendar is different from the modern Gregorian version that has 365 days, the exact date of Tisha B’Av varies year to year. In 2012, the holiday fell on July 29th. In 2013, Tisha B’Av falls on July 16th, and it will be observed in 2014 on August 5th. If the ninth day of Av ever falls on a Saturday, Tisha B’Av is recognized immediately on the following Sunday.

Unlike other holidays, Tisha B’Av is observed over a full 25-hour period. It officially starts at sunset the day before. For example, in 2013, observance of this holiday will commence at sundown on July 15th.

History and the Five Calamities

The selection of the ninth day of Av is no coincidence for this Jewish day of mourning. While the exact start date of Tisha B’Av isn’t clear, the holiday commemorates horrific events in Jewish history that occurred on the ninth day of Av. These are often referred to as the Five Calamities and include:

  • Events in scripture that detail 10 out of 12 of Moses’s spies giving negative reports about the Promised Land. Due to this lack of faith and appreciation, God punished the Israelites.
  • Destruction of King Solomon’s temple, often referred to as the First Temple. The Babylonians destroyed the temple in 586 BC and the Jewish people were held in captivity.
  • Burning of the Second Temple by the Romans in 70 CE. In addition, the Jews were exiled from the Holy Land.
  • Destruction of Betar by the Romans in 132 CE, and the subsequent murder of over 100,000 Jews.
  • Destruction of the future area of the Third Temple by Turnus Rufus in 133 CE.

These are ancient events that Tisha B’Av stems from. When the Jewish people fast during this holiday, they reflect on these tragedies. Other tragic events have occurred on the ninth day of Av in modern day history. Examples include the First Crusade, the Spanish Inquisition and the start of the “Final Solution” by the Nazis during the Holocaust.

Observance

Preparations for Tisha B’Av are made weeks prior to the holiday. During the three weeks leading up to the date, the Jewish people go into a state of mourning in which no parties and weddings are permitted. These rules tend to be stricter in Israel and other more conservative Jewish communities. The first nine days of Av are especially strict leading up to Tisha B’Av in all of Judaism. Drinking alcohol and eating meat are among the activities frowned upon during these nine days.

Tisha B’Av is considered a day of mourning by the Jewish people, as well as a reflection on the travesties committed against their ancestors and relatives. On the ninth day of Av, observers fast for the entire 25 hours. The exception are sick children and adults, as well as babies. It is also customary not to bathe on Tisha B’Av. Reading the Torah is prohibited—while the lessons are valuable, the readings are considered enjoyable, which is a forbidden emotion on this holiday. Many of these rules are similar to the Jewish holy day of Yom Kippur.

By: Kristeen Cherney

World Friendship Day

When is World Friendship Day?

World Friendship Day is a relatively new holiday based on an age-old concept. Known by the United Nations as the International Day of Friendship, it is widely recognized on July 30th every year. Some regions celebrate the holiday on a different date, but the mission remains the same: to honor and recognize the important friendships in your life, both new and old.

History

The idea of a holiday to celebrate friendships came about twice in history. First, Joyce Hall from Hallmark Cards promoted the idea during the 1920s and 1930s. Hall proposed August 2nd as a day to send friends cards. While the idea took off at first, it was soon seen as a commercial gimmick on the part of Hallmark to sell cards. The company was also criticized for choosing the date as a way to make money during a seasonal lull. Criticisms were especially sharp during the depression, when few people had extra money to spend on leisurely items.

Following early friendship day failures, some communities celebrated the holiday unofficially. However, ideas of an official holiday came up again during the 1950s in another continent. In Paraguay, Dr. Artemio Bracho came up with the idea of a World Friendship Crusade. It was formed on July 20, 1958, and was quickly adopted by other countries in South America. The United Nations took notice of the Crusade and eventually recognized the holiday on an international scale.

World Friendship Day was officially adopted by the United Nations in 2011 as the International Day of Friendship. The purpose of this was to expand on the holiday by promoting friendships between various countries and regions of the world. It is the hope of the United Nations that promoting cross-culture friendships will help to bring about peace and understanding and celebrate global diversity.

Celebrations

Celebrations of World Friendship Day vary by region. While cards and small gifts are the norm in the United States and Europe, many cultures exchange friendship bracelets. These wristbands are popular among younger generations in the U.S., but they have been historically regarded as high symbols of friendship in Asia and the Middle East for centuries. Different colors are woven to represent the personalities of the recipients.

Other celebrations simply consist of enjoying each other’s company. Cooking food and going out to eat are popular among friends during this holiday. As the Internet age continues to accelerate, many friends are taking their sentiments to the Web through email and social networking sites. At the same time, nothing beats an old-fashioned phone call between friends across long distances.

Due to its global celebrations, World Friendship Day also celebrates the way in which people of all cultures can form lasting relationships across borders. This aspect is particularly important in war-ravaged nations in which opposing forces exist in the same countries. In this perspective, supporters of World Friendship Day hope to promote peace.

Different Dates

The United Nations recognizes World Friendship Day as the International Day of Friendship on July 30th every year. Sometimes the holiday is also globally recognized as International Friendship Day. This date was chosen in 2011.

Since friendship doesn’t technically have any boundaries, World Friendship Day is celebrated during different dates. In the United States, most people celebrate the holiday on July 30th, while some communities choose a weekend near this date if it doesn’t fall on a Saturday or Sunday of a particular year. Many European nations celebrate World Friendship Day on the first Sunday in August. In Paraguay, some communities still recognize July 20th, the original date proposed by Dr. Bracho, as Friendship Day.

By: Kristeen Cherney

International Youth Day

International Youth Day is a United Nations holiday celebrated annually on August 12th. Also called World Youth Day, this date is recognized through worldwide events that discuss the ever-evolving role of the youth in global development, economics, socialization and peace. On top of that, International Youth Day also celebrates the achievements of outstanding members of this age group.

Significance of Global Youth

The United Nations considers the world youth to fall between the ages of 15 and 24. While this age group makes up almost a fifth of the global population, the number is expected to rise in developing nations, where the human population is continuing to grow at a fast rate. Not only does this age group use a great portion of environmental resources, but they are also the world’s future leaders.

You’ve likely heard of the old saying that “children are the future.” While this statement isn’t new, the sentiment behind it is true. By supporting the world’s youth and giving them necessary leadership skills, young people will have the tools and education needed to help support the global community. It is the U.N.’s position that encouraging community volunteerism and involvement is especially important in helping to build peaceful nations of the future.

History

The idea of a holiday to celebrate the youth first transpired during 1991’s World Youth Forum in Vienna, Austria. The event was affiliated with the United Nations, and there were concerns at the time that there was not enough funding for the organization to support youth programs. A World Youth Day was first promoted to help raise money for global youth programs, but it wasn’t adopted right away.

After August 1998’s World Conference of Ministers Responsible for Youth, participants officially made a recommendation for Youth Day to the U.N.’s General Assembly. The date of August 12th was also recommended for the celebrations. The General Assembly officially endorsed this idea in December 1999, and the first International Youth Day was celebrated on August 12, 2000. A special United Nations World Youth Awards ceremony was held in Panama City.

Types of Celebrations

Every year, the U.N. hosts a special event for International Youth Day. At the same time, many countries actively participate by holding government conferences that address important issues concerning teens and young adults, such as access to quality education. Due to global economic crises, high unemployment rates have also been a hot topic addressed during World Youth Day.

On a smaller scale, International Youth Day is celebrated through events, parades and sports games throughout the world. School and communities often give out awards to outstanding youth members who have made a difference. Achievements in the arts and sciences are also often recognized during this holiday. Since some schools are not in session on August 12th, different districts may decide to give out awards during the surrounding school year, or to mail certificates of recognition home to families.

There is also an annual theme for International Youth Day. In 2012, the theme was “Building a Better World: Partnering with the Youth.” 2013’s theme was slated as “Youth Development: Moving Development Forward,” which is aimed to address issues involving the struggles and challenges surrounding migration of the youth population between regions of the world.

By: Kristeen Cherney

World Population Day

World Population Day focuses on the human right of planning pregnancies and preventing gender inequality. Founded by the United Nations, this holiday is observed annually on July 11th. The issues surrounding gender inequality combined with forced and unplanned pregnancies also contribute to an increasing world population, which can be detrimental to the global environment. World Population Day is a day of awareness that helps bring these issues to light while preserving related human rights in all nations.

Issues Surrounding the World Population

It’s no secret that the global population continues to grow. While the rate of growth has declined in recent decades, the overall numbers continue to climb. In western nations, the wide use of birth control has helped adults determine when and if they have children. This has helped decrease the rate of population growth in these regions. However, not everyone around the world has access to basic birth control—including condoms. This is part of the reason why the population is growing more rapidly in some nations compared to others. The most recent count in the overall world population was over seven billion, and it’s expected to top eight billion by 2030.

Population growth presents a few issues. First, the fact that some people are denied birth control leads to physical, financial and emotional strains in communities. Some women are also forced to conceive, which then brings about unwanted babies that may need additional care. Increases in the world population also raises worries about the global environment, along with a shortage of resources. World Population Day aims to address all of these issues while preserving basic human rights in terms of healthy conception and population control.

History of World Population Day

The idea of World Population Day started in the late 1960s, when world leaders openly declared that adults have the right to choose whether they wanted children or not. This idea was also viewed as a human right. During this era, leaders were more open about discussing child-bearing and the right women had to time their children as they wished. While this was just one of the precursors to the feminist movement in the U.S., this idea was new to many developing nations at the time.

In 1989, the world population quickly escalated to five billion. During this same year, the United Nations founded World Population Day. Both events occurred on July 11th of that year.

Celebrations and Observations

World Population Day is celebrated and observed in many ways—much of this depends on the region. Participants who live in countries where gender equality is a law, the holiday is meant to be a reflection and celebration of significant moments in history that helped society achieve this basic human right. For example, participants in the United States often reflect on the 1973 landmark Roe v Wade case, in which the Supreme Court prevented laws that ban early abortion. Western nations also hold seminars and conferences on this day to discuss global population strains on the environment.

In the United States, we still struggle with these same issues that impact global population. However, the country has far surpassed many other nations in the world in terms of gender inequality. While sexism still runs rampant in some communities, it doesn’t compare to what women suffer in other countries. These same women may be forced to conceive, or to give up their babies based on gender. Also, many women don’t have access to basic maternal care or birth control. In such countries, World Population Day is utilized to raise awareness of these issues and to take social action against such travesties against basic human rights.

Every July 11th, the United Nations also has central celebrations in which all nations are permitted to participate in. In addition, the U.N. enacts an annual theme. For example, the theme for 2012 was “Universal Access to Reproductive Health Services.” Historically, the United Nations enacts a special celebration whenever the population grows by another billion.