Archive for December, 2013

World Holocaust Victims Remembrance Day

When is World Holocaust Victims Remembrance Day?

World Holocaust Victims Remembrance Day is a holiday dedicated to both the victims and survivors of the Holocaust. It is a memorial celebrated every January 27th. The holiday is also known as International Holocaust Remembrance Day, as well as the International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust.

Remembering the Holocaust

The Holocaust is one of the most tragic and despicable sets of events in human history. It was a movement sparked by Adolf Hitler and the Nazis to target and kill certain groups of people, mainly Jews. The genocide started in Germany before World War II. As Nazi occupations expanded, so did the killings. It is estimated that more than 6 million Jews died in concentration camps. Millions of Roma gypsies were also killed. The annihilation targeted disabled individuals and homosexuals, too. Such killings eventually expanded to political and religious opponents of the Nazis.

Targeted individuals were sent to concentration camps across Europe. Auschwitz, located in Poland, was one of the worst during the Holocaust movement: over one million were killed here. On January 27, 1945, the Soviets took over the camp and shut it down.

History of the Holiday

Since the Holocaust movement was brought to light, it has been regarded as one of the worst events to ever occur in human history. Numerous memorials have been created to remember all of the victims. The Holocaust has spurred numerous museums as well. One of the most notable is the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, which was established in Washington, D.C. in 1995. Smaller museums have since opened in cities across the country with the same purpose: to never let anyone forget the Holocaust, and to serve as reminders about human rights.

An official holiday wasn’t created until 60 years after the end of World War II. In 2005, the United Nations sought to commemorate victims and survivors of the Holocaust. The General Assembly voted to create the International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust. January 27th was the chosen date to commemorate the take-over of Auschwitz. The purpose of World Holocaust Victims Remembrance Day is to not only pay tribute to Holocaust victims, but to also raise awareness to prevent future cases of genocide. The holiday was officially observed in 2006.

Celebrating Human Rights

World Holocaust Victims Remembrance Day isn’t a federal holiday, so government offices and schools remain open. However, the holiday is widely recognized across the country, as well as many others. Since this holiday is a memorial, the events are often solemn. Survivors remember lost friends and loved ones, while celebrating the fact that they made it through the terrible events.

This holiday is also a celebration of human rights. While the genocide certainly can’t be reversed, the events can be served as reminders that some groups of people still don’t uphold universal human rights. We can learn from these tragic events to make sure that nothing like this ever happens again. A common symbol of World Holocaust Victims Remembrance Day is white roses with barbed wire.

Tu B’Shevat

  • December 23, 2013, 8:08 am
  • admin
  • In Religious

When is Tu B’Shevat?

Tu B’Shevat is a Jewish holiday that is known as the “New Year for Trees”. Its name translates to the 15th day of the month Shevat. This holiday celebrates both new beginnings, as well as an appreciation for the natural bounty within the Holy Land. Since Tu B’Shevat is based on the Jewish calendar, the date varies year-to-year.

A Celebration of Natural Bounty

In Judaism, there are different types of new years’ celebrations based on scripture. Tu B’Shevat is a celebration of the life of trees, specifically ones that are native to the Holy Land of Israel. While the holiday isn’t specifically outlined in the Torah compared with other holidays, it is still one of great importance within the Jewish community.

There are few holidays that celebrate items derived naturally from the earth that are used for human sustenance. Without plant items, humans would not be able to survive. This is just one of the reasons why Tu B’Shevat is so sacred. Judaism celebrates seven specific fruits mentioned in the Torah. Also called “shivat haminim,” the following native plants are considered sacred on Tu B’Shevat:

  • grapes
  • pomegranates
  • dates
  • olives
  • figs
  • wheat
  • barley

Types of Celebrations

Tu B’Shevat is different from other celebrations of new beginnings, such as the Rosh Hashanah New Year. Celebrations in the Holy Land can consist of planting new trees. Tu B’Shevat also marks the time in which trees planted during previous years come to fruition. Certain years are considered sacred while the tree matures, so people cannot eat the fruit. Most fruits may be eaten after five years of the initial planting.

Due to the extent of Judaism, not all people can celebrate Tu B’Shevat in Israel. Still, the holiday is celebrated in all parts of the world with different customs. Depending on the region, some of the same trees are planted as in the Holy Land, following the same rules for harvest. Other trees may also be harvested. If there is a newborn in the family, certain trees might be planted as way of celebrating the special occasion. Traditionally, cedar trees are planted for boys, while pine trees are planted for girls.

Other celebrators may instead eat from the shivat haminim. Tu B’Shevat is also an opportunity to try a new fruit to commemorate the new year of the trees.

Considerations

While Tu B’Shevat always occurs on the 15th of Shevat, the date varies based on the Gregorian calendar that we recognize today. The holiday occurs on varying dates during the months of January and February. In 2014, Tu B’Shevat occurs on January 16th, while it falls on February 4th in 2015.

Tu B’Shevat may center on trees and the bounty of harvests, but it should not be mistaken with other holidays. Arbor Day is sometimes confused as being the same as this sacred Jewish holiday. Unlike Tu B’Shevat, however, Arbor Day is dedicated to planting trees for environmental and community reasons, and not as a sacred tradition. Furthermore, this holiday is centered on specific trees indigenous to the Holy Land, rather than plants grown in communities outside of this region.

International Migrants Day

When is International Migrants Day?

International Migrants Day is a holiday that recognizes the rights of migrant workers around the world, as well as their families. It was established by the United Nations and continues to gain prevalence in numerous countries. International Migrants Day is celebrated every December 18th.

History

Migrant workers are increasingly placed in the spotlight, but such cases aren’t anything new. Workers have migrated to different regions of the world for centuries. Before Hawai’i was annexed by the United States, migrant workers came by the thousands from parts of Asia to work in the sugarcane fields. This became one of the biggest migrations of the time. Another example in recent history is the migration of workers from Syria looking for better living conditions. For some groups, worker migration can be a sensitive issue based on political, economic and differences.

Despite varying opinions on immigration, the fact is that there is often little protection for migrant workers once they leave their home countries. The United Nations held a convention in 1990 surrounding this issue. Of particular concern was the migrants’ families. International Migrants Day was established in December 2000 out of human rights concerns over migrants and their families. It has been held every December 18th ever since, and has gained popularity as various world governments look for ways to protect these human rights.

Action and Celebration

Awareness and social action are the focal points of International Migrants Day. Human rights is an increasingly prevalent issue, especially in today’s information world where violations are more-known. Migrants around the world continue to take the brave step to leave unsuitable living conditions in pursuit of better work opportunities to take care of their families. Sadly, along their journeys, basic human rights may be violated. This can occur on the part of employers, or even governments. International Migrants Day was created to raise awareness about such issues so societies can take action.

The holiday isn’t completely without celebrations. While not a public holiday, International Migrants Day is recognized by many nations. Communities may hold special events to celebrate histories in culture. Success stories may also be highlighted. Thanks to social media, International Migrants Day is also a hot topic of discussion on the Internet.

Challenges and Controversies

According to the U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, 232 million people currently live in regions outside of their birth countries. This includes the Secretary-General himself. With such a valid point, it’s difficult to hold prejudices against immigrants–especially in countries that were originally founded by migrant workers.

Still, the situation is more complex than simply accepting all migrant workers. There are numerous challenges involved in protecting the rights of migrants. Some refuge countries don’t have the resources to offer this type of protection for their own people, let alone migrant workers and their families. The U.N. continues to work to find solutions to protect the human rights of all people, regardless of their status. One of the main purposes of International Migrants Day is to come up with solutions for universal human protection.

Civil Rights Day

When is Civil Rights Day?

Civil Rights Day is an alternative name for the national holiday named after Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Certain states have chosen to celebrate the same holiday under both names in order to celebrate civil rights as a whole, including all of the contributions made by activists during the 1960s and beyond. Like Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Civil Rights Day occurs every third Monday in January.

A Day Dedicated to Human Rights

Martin Luther King, Jr. is one of the most notable figures in the history of human rights. He is recognized as the leading activist during the Civil Rights Movement, which hit its peak during the 1960s. King is credited with forming the largest campaigns to promote racial equality and desegregation. He was also the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. King was assassinated in 1968, but his work hasn’t been forgotten.

Activists continued with King’s work after his death, but they also wanted him to be remembered on a much larger scale. An idea soon circled about creating a holiday to coincide with his birthday, which was January 15th. It took many years for the idea to come together to create a national holiday. In 1983, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day officially became a federal holiday after President Ronal Reagan signed it into law.

The holiday has since been observed every third Monday in January to create an extended weekend so people can celebrate. King’s birthday is still recognized every year. Sometimes the holiday falls on his birthday. The last time this happened was on January 15, 2007. It will occur again on January 15, 2018.

Individual State Involvement

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is a national holiday, which means that all government offices and public schools are closed in observance. However, states still have the option of celebrating the holiday in ways they see fit. It wasn’t until the turn of the century that all states recognized the holiday – nearly two decades after it was signed into law.

Other states have taken a step further by combining national celebrations with a state-endorsed holiday. This is how Civil Rights Day came to fruition. It was first created by New Hampshire in 1991, where the state looked to replace Fast Day. Arizona tried to create Civil Rights Day in the late 1980s, but not everyone in the state government was on board. In fact, Arizona didn’t officially create the state holiday until 1992.

Utah and Idaho have also taken steps to create a state-wide holiday to coincide with the federal day to celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It is most commonly referred to as Human Rights Day. Some southern states have chosen to celebrate a day of Civil Rights in conjunction with Robert E. Lee’s birthday. While celebrating the activist alongside a Confederate general seems like an oxymoron, this is a sign of changing social and cultural views.

How to Celebrate Civil Rights Day

The extent of official Civil Rights Day celebrations vary depending on where you live. While all states now recognize MLK Day, the celebrations may be bigger in states that also celebrate Civil Rights Day. Washington, D.C. is also a hot-spot on the holiday because of King’s “I Have a Dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial. Visitors may also stop by the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in the National Mall, which opened in 2011.

There are numerous other types of celebrations for Civil Rights Day. The public may hold peaceful rallies to bring up human rights issues, while others hold small memorials and presentations to celebrate King. Children often learn about the civil rights movement in school during the weeks leading up to Civil Rights Day.