Archive for October, 2013

First Sunday Advent

  • October 21, 2013, 12:12 pm
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  • In Religious

When is First Sunday Advent?

First Sunday Advent marks the start the western Christian year. The exact date varies each year, but it is always on the Sunday near St. Andrew’s Day. First Sunday Advent is also as the kick-off holiday to the Advent season, which ends on Christmas Day. The whole Advent season lasts between 22 and 28 days, and always encompasses three Sundays including First Sunday Advent.

History of the Advent

The date of the First Sunday Advent is unknown. Given the fact that the holiday is celebrated within western Christian churches, it was likely founded after the Great Schism that divided the Roman Catholic Church from the Eastern Orthodox Church. Eastern churches celebrate the days leading up to Christmas, which consists of a timeframe of 40 days called the Nativity Fast. First Sunday Advent should not be confused with the Nativity Fast.

Traditional Religious Customs

Given the significance of Christmas in the Christian church, it’s no surprise that First Sunday Advent is an extremely important way to mark the season. Churches mark the holiday with services dedicated to reminders about the significance of the birth of Jesus. Some churches may choose to light extra candles during the services. Candle lighting ceremonies are also commonplace within the homes of families that celebrate First Sunday Advent.

Fasting is considered an ancient way of observing First Sunday Advent; however, some observers still choose to celebrate the holiday in such a way. The fast may be for a full 24-hour period, or it could be for a significant portion of the day. Young children, the elderly and the ill are typically not expected to participate.

Other traditional religious customs aren’t as serious as fasting. In many regions, First Sunday Advent marks the day in which families can start preparing for the Christmas holiday. This includes everything from sending out cards, shopping for presents, decorating the tree and decking the halls. Waiting until First Sunday Advent is not as commonplace in many western nations, where the Christmas shopping season is seen as early as before Halloween.

Popular Modern Celebrations

While First Sunday Advent remains a deeply religious holiday, many of its traditions have made their way into the modern secular market. The Advent calendar is just one example of this. These calendars are sold in stores in the form of cardboard boxes marked with the correct number of days in the Advent for that year. In some cases, manufacturers simply start the Advent calendars on December 1st and end them on December 25th, Christmas Day. Most modern day Advent calendars contain chocolates and other small treats enclosed in doors on each day of the calendar. In other countries, Advent calendars contain other gifts representative of those given by the Three Wise Men to Jesus Christ after his birth.

Wreaths are another popular way to celebrate First Sunday Advent. Some families choose to decorate their front doors with traditional Christmas wreaths starting on the holiday. Others mark the occasion by displaying purple wreaths—the color represents royalty to commemorate the Jesus, the king in Christianity.

The extent of First Sunday Advent varies by region. In secular nations like the United States, the holiday isn’t public. Citizens who choose to celebrate the holiday may do so, most often by attending special church services. Celebrations are more public and widespread in other countries, such as Germany.

By: Kristeen Cherney

American Indian Heritage Day

When is American Indian Heritage Day?

American Indian Heritage Day is recognized on the day after Thanksgiving in the United States. Also called Native American Heritage Day, this is a relatively new holiday that has gained popularity in many communities and institutions across the country. The purpose is to recognize all of the important contributions Native Americans have made to culture and society.

History and Founding

The idea for American Indian Heritage Day was started by former California Congressman Joe Baca through the introduction of the Native American Heritage Day Bill in 2007. It called for the national designation of the day after Thanksgiving as a day to celebrate the heritage of Native Americans. The bill went on to pass unanimously through both the Senate and the House, and President George W. Bush signed it into law in October 2008. The National Indian Gaming Association also supported the passage of this bill. The first Native American Heritage Day was observed on November 28, 2008.

Native American Heritage Day is a designated holiday in the United States, but it isn’t a public one. This means that businesses and government agencies aren’t required to close. However, given the close proximity to the Thanksgiving holiday in November, many institutions are closed on the date anyway. American Indian Heritage Day coincides with the American shopping day of “Black Friday.”

Types of Celebrations

Native American heritage as at the heart of this holiday. Not only have Native Americans made significant contributions to the arts, but their traditions have widely been utilized in the sciences as well as medicine. Sadly, many cultural traditions were lost after Europeans inhabited the Americas. It’s important to Americans to recognize that the contributions and heritage of indigenous cultures are not forgotten, and to carry out the traditions in the future. American Indian Heritage Day provides the opportunity to do so for at least one day out of the year.

American Indian Heritage Day is primarily celebrated through ceremonies and festivals that recreate the customs of Native Americans. Cultural dances and songs may be presented, as well as reenactments of significant events in Native American history. Public schools celebrate this holiday through special educational seminars that showcase the significance of Native American customs. Some teachers choose to highlight the subject throughout the whole month of November.

Expansion of the Holiday

While American Indian Heritage Day is celebrated on a national level, some communities have taken it up as well. For example, Maryland considers it a state holiday. This means that all statewide institutions, such as schools, libraries and government agencies are all closed to recognize the holiday. Maryland has celebrated the day as American Indian Heritage Day since 2008, while the holiday is better known as Native American Heritage Day on the national level.

The idea of a holiday to celebrate Native American heritage has also extended to even smaller institutions. For example, the University of Montana holds a campus-wide celebration of American Indian Heritage Day. This holiday, however, is on a different date in September, unlike the national holiday of Native American Heritage Day in November.