Archive for April, 2014

Ascension Day

  • April 25, 2014, 10:10 pm
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  • In Religious

When is Ascension Day?

Ascension Day is a Christian holiday that observes the ascension of Jesus Christ into Heaven. It is celebrated on the 40th day of the Easter season, which takes place 39 days after Easter Sunday. Also referred to as the Feast of the Ascension, it is another important holiday to Christians as they pay tribute to their Savior as they await his return.

History of the Holiday

According to the Holy Bible, Jesus was crucified on the day the Christian Church now recognizes as Easter Sunday. It wasn’t until 39 days later, however, the Jesus rose into Heaven. On this 40th day, it is said that Jesus came to his disciples and promised that they would see his ascension from Jerusalem. Scripture says that the Apostles witnessed the event, where Jesus was rose into the sky. Following the ascension was a promise that he would one day return.

This was a remarkable event in the Holy Bible, but a holiday to celebrate the ascension wasn’t established until years later. According to the Share Faith Christian Guide, Ascension Day was celebrated sometime around 68 AD, where people commemorated Jesus’ ascension in the form of a feast. At this time, the event was called the Feast of the Ascension. However, there was no formal holiday established until around the fourth century.

Celebrations and Commemorations

Ascension Day is primarily celebrated within churches where special services are dedicated to the ascension of Jesus Christ on the 40th day of Easter. Some groups still hold related feasts to commemorate the day, too. Church attendance may be varied: while Catholics may be required to go to services, other sects of Christianity are a little more flexible. Ascension Day always falls on a Thursday, so some churches opt to hold services the following Sunday to accommodate work schedules.

Some Christians bypass formal church services altogether and choose to make Ascension Day celebrations a family affair at home. Candles may be lit, prayers may be said and a feast may be enjoyed together. Other Christians may even celebrate the several days leading up to the holiday. No matter how it is commemorated the message remains the same to Christians: Ascension Day marks the day Jesus promised he would return to Earth someday.

Varying Dates

In the United States, Ascension Day is not a government holiday, which is the same as Good Friday. Ascension Day often falls on a weekday, but government offices and public schools remain open. While the same is true of Good Friday, many schools and businesses choose to close and incorporate the holiday into spring break, or an extended Easter holiday weekend. A few other countries do designate Ascension Day as a public holiday.

Ascension Day never falls on the same date because Easter Sunday does not occur on the same date. However, Ascension Day does always fall on a Thursday, just as Easter is always held on Sunday. These holidays are based on the lunar and solar calendars, which are not the same length as the modern 365-day annual calendar. For this reason, Easter is slated for either March or April depending on the year. Ascension Day is always 39 days after, but can occur May or early June. In 2014, Ascension Day is on May 29th. It will fall on May 14th in 2015. The last time Ascension Day was in June was in 2011.



World Day for Cultural Diversity

When is World Day for Cultural Diversity?

World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development is a holiday dedicated to the acceptance and embracing of diversity across all cultures. Also simply known as World Day for Cultural Diversity, it is observed every May 21st with the support of the United Nations. This is an educational holiday to promote peace and tolerance across cultures.

History of the Holiday

At the turn of the century, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) saw an opportunity to broaden its reach in cultural awareness across the world. During a General Assembly in 2002, UNESCO passed a resolution to create a holiday dedicated to this mission. Since 2003, the organization has celebrated the World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development annually on May 21st.

Part of the reason why UNESCO established the holiday was to decrease cultural stigmas in the wake of the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Since these tragedies took place, people have begun understanding that the hatred stemmed from extremism, and is not representative of any particular culture. Furthermore, dialogue is opening up between developed and developing countries to understand their customs.

This holiday was also established at the beginning of the height of the Internet era. Before there was any Internet, people would read about other cultures through books, or relied on hearsay. Another problem in the earlier years is that there wasn’t a wide access to the Internet among poorer communities. Now that access is beginning to become more widespread, it is more important than ever to instill a spirit of acceptance in terms of cultural diversity.

Promoting Cultural Diversity

Promoting World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development is based on a culmination of work. It is a holiday designed for everyone, but the types of celebrations might vary. For example, professionals working in cultural studies might observe the holiday with special seminars and workshops. Schools may focus on a different culture every year and host a range of learning activities. Since there are a variety of cultures that exist within single nations, it is not surprising that one specific culture isn’t celebrated, but rather a multitude of cultures at once. Many community members take the opportunity of the holiday to explore aspects of other cultures unfamiliar to them. This can be as simple as attending a music festival or an art exhibit.

It’s impossible to change one’s views in a single day. However, this isn’t really at the heart of the holiday. UNESCO hopes that World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development can leave lasting impressions on participants so that they will continue to make year-round strides. This holiday serves as a reminder to all that, while there are many improvements in cultural acceptance, the diversity is so vast that much more work needs to be done.


World Migratory Bird Day

When is World Migratory Bird Day?

World Migratory Bird Day is a holiday established to protect migrating birds, as well as all of their habitats. Unlike other traditional holidays, World Migratory Bird Day is actually held over two days. It falls on the second weekend of May every year.

Why Protect Migratory Birds?

Migratory birds refers to the species that travel to other regions as seasons change. Hence, this is where the American term “south for the winter” comes from. At the season’s end, the birds flock back to their native regions.

World Migratory Bird Day was established to help protect such birds. According to the National Audubon Society, about 60 percent of all North American bird species have experienced northward shifts during migration over the last four decades. This is indicative of habitat losses from human development, as well as climate change. Without taking action to protect migratory bird habitats, many of these species will eventually die out. In turn, such a loss can devastate the ecosystems that depend on the bird species. While these statistics are based in North America, bird extinction is a world-wide problem.

History of the Holiday

World Migratory Bird Day was founded in 2006 as a holiday to help educate the public and raise awareness about the growing problems that are affecting the habitats of bird species around the world. It has since become a holiday recognized by the United Nations, and it helps organize events in numerous countries. World Migratory Bird Day was established at the height of the era in which humans were starting to understand the impacts of climate change. The mission of this holiday is to positively promote changes in human behavior that can help minimize the effects of global warming.

Since World Migratory Bird Day is held over the second weekend of May, the dates can vary. In 2014, the holiday starts on Saturday, May 10th. In 2015, the starting date is May 9th. Observing the holiday over an entire weekend gives families and bird enthusiasts alike to get outdoors and learn more about migratory birds.

Education and Celebrations

Education is at the core of World Migratory Bird Day celebrations. The number of programs and festivals continues to grow each year, the content varying by region. For example, the burrowing owl is a focus in southwest Florida. States residing along the Pacific and Atlantic coasts may focus their educational programs on the birds that depend on their shores. World Migratory Bird Day provides people the opportunity to learn about their favorite birds, and there are often bird watching tours scheduled for that weekend.

While World Migratory Bird Day can be a fun way to learn about birds and their habitats, the weekend holiday is also focused on some serious notes surrounding conservation. At events and festivals, the public can learn exactly how their native birds’ habitats are being disrupted. More importantly, participants can learn how to stop the destruction.

Each year there is a different theme surrounding World Migratory Bird Day. In 2014, the theme is: “Destination Flyways: Migratory Birds and Tourism.” The mission is to help educate the public on how tourism disrupts bird habitats, and to look for solutions to minimize such concerns.


Holy Saturday

When is Holy Saturday?

Holy Saturday is the Saturday after Good Friday, and before Easter. All of three of these days hold individual significance to Christians. Easter Sunday is the day Jesus rose from his tomb, but Christians commemorate Holy Saturday as remembrance of him lying in the tomb.

A Brief History

Holy Saturday represents both the joy and the sadness experienced by many Christians around the time of Easter. While they express joy in the life and sacrifices made by Jesus, his death is certainly a tragic event. The name of “Good” Friday, the day of Jesus’ crucifixion, expresses these two opposing sentiments. Christians have regarded Holy Saturday as one of the most important days of Holy Week, which is the week of Easter. It is also the end of Lent in the Catholic Church.

Vigil and Celebrations

One of the most common traditions associated with Holy Saturday is a vigil. Also called an “Easter Vigil,” this event has evolved throughout the years. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, the vigil was prominent as early as the sixth century. During this time, Christians would hold all-night vigils, which would often last into Easter morning. The purpose was to hold out and celebrate until the estimated time of Jesus’ resurrection.

Since then, the Easter Vigil is not as strict. Some churches hold vigils on Saturday morning or afternoon, and people are allowed to return home in time to prepare for the festivities of Easter Sunday. Holy Saturday services often include candlelit prayers, and perhaps even baptisms. Those who cannot make church services on Holy Saturday may instead hold a private vigil with candles and prayers at home.

A less common tradition is fasting. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, it was common within the first two centuries to fast for the forty hours leading up to the Easter feast. While some Christians still choose to fast, this tradition is not as strictly enforced due to reasons related to health and practicality.

From a lighter perspective, Holy Saturday marks an opportunity to prepare for Easter festivities. This can include arranging for Easter outfits and church services, as well as preparing for egg hunts.

Varying Dates

With the exception of Christmas, Christian holidays don’t always fall on the same date on the modern 12-month calendar. Just like Easter Sunday, Holy Saturday can occur as early as late March, and as late as the end of April. Easter is determined by the March equinox, as well as the date of Passover. Since Holy Saturday is always the day before Easter, the date varies. In 2013, Holy Saturday occurred on March 30th, while it fell on April 19th in 2014. The next time Easter and Holy Saturday will fall on a March date will be in 2016.