Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, and is considered the Sacred (most important) month. It is remembered as the month that the Prophet Muhammed received the first revelations that comprise the Holy Quran. This religious annual observance and month of fasting is one of the Five Pillars of Islam.
During the month of Ramadan, adult Muslims fast from dusk until dawn, unless ill, pregnant, breastfeeding, diabetic, or traveling. The goal is for Muslims to grow spiritually and build stronger relationships with Allah, accomplished by:
For 2021, Ramadan begins at sunset on Monday, April 12th, and will end at sunset on Wednesday, May 12th.
Bodhi Day commemorates when Siddhartha Gautama became the Buddha by reaching enlightenment (bodhi) while sitting under the Ficus religiosa tree (a bodhi tree). There the Buddha experienced the three stages of true enlightenment as described in the Pali Canon ( a collection of scriptures in the Theravadan Buddhist tradition) (Cohen):
Celebrations of Bodhi Day include meditating, studying the Dharma (the teachings of Buddha), chanting sutras, and holding services to honor Buddha’s achievement of enlightenment. “Some may decorate a Bodhi tree, string up colorful lights to represent the paths to enlightenment, or celebrate with a traditional meal of rice and milk (or cookies in the shape of the Bodhi tree)” (Cohen).
Bodhi Day’s significance connects to the story of Siddhartha Gautama 566(?) to 480(?) B.C., an Indian warrior-king’s son who lived a life of privilege (Basics of Buddhism). After leaving the comforts of his royal life and discovering life was full of suffering, he renounces his princely title to become a monk in the hope of understanding the truth of the world around him. Bodhi Day honors Siddhartha Gautama transformation into Buddha through the “discovery of a path to the resolution of why people must suffer on earth”: “Buddhism teaches that all things have Buddha nature or the potential to become a Buddha. And so Buddha is the enlightened one. It is a state of true liberation from this world of confusion and delusion.” (Takashi Miyaji, “Buddhist Prepare”).
For Buddhist who follow the Chinese lunar calendar, the day of Buddha’s enlightenment is on the 8th day of the 12th month, which usually falls in January. For those who follow the Gregorian calendar, Bodhi Day is assigned a fixed date of December 8th, also known as Rohatsu, which means the 8th day of the 12th month (Cohen).
Picture of the Bodhi tree that Buddhists believe the Buddha sat under during his experience of enlightenment. It is located in Bodh Gaya, India, and is an important pilgrimage site for Buddhists across the world.
Buddhists Prepare To Observe Bodhi Day, When Siddhartha Gautama Became Buddha.” NPR.Org, https://www.npr.org/2020/12/05/943453999/buddhists-prepare-to-observe-bodhi-day-when-siddhartha-gautama-became-buddha. Accessed 15 Jan. 2021.
Cohen, Laura Rosen. “12 Days of Celebrations - Bodhi Day.” Food Services, 15 Dec. 2015, https://ueat.utoronto.ca/12-days-of-celebrations-bodhi-day/.
Basics of Buddhism. https://www.pbs.org/edens/thailand/buddhism.htm. Accessed 15 Jan. 2021.
Lunar New Year marks the first new moon of the lunisolar calendar that is traditional to many East Asian nations. This year, Lunar New Year falls on Feb. 12, 2021, and the event is the most important holiday to many Asian countries, including Vietnam, South Korea, Singapore, and China. Ushering in the Year of the Ox, people will begin celebrations well in advance.
Within a household, it is traditional to cleanse the home prior to the new year. This is referred to as a “spring cleaning” in Chinese Traditions, and the Lunar New Year is called the “Spring Festival.” The ritual of sweeping removes harmful spirits lurking in the corners of one’s home. Windows are washed, parts of a house might be repainted, and renovations to the home are completed.
The day for sweeping marks the beginning of the major pre-holiday housecleaning projects, and on this day, according to tradition, the Kitchen God who has been watching over the household departs to the Jade Emperor in heaven to give his report of the household activities. If the individuals had been generous throughout the year, they will be rewarded in the next. But had they been unkind, the following year might bring hardship.
Lunar New Year is celebrated with one’s family, and individuals travel great distances to return home. Rituals include honoring family’s ancestors, and families eat foods with great symbolic meaning. One of these is a whole fish because in Chinese, fish is called yu. This is a homophone for the word meaning “surplus” or “abundance” in Chinese. Dumplings (jiaozi) are also eaten because the Chinese word for dumpling sounds like a term meaning “the meeting of the last hour of the old year with the first hour of the new.”
Children are given red envelopes (hongbao in Chinese) from their parents, and each envelope contains New Year’s money. Many individuals will furthermore wear clothes that are red because the color is said to bring good luck.
Celebrations continue until the 15th day of the first lunar month, known as the “Lantern Festival.” This day signals the end of the new year festival period, and it is another occasion for inviting guests to one’s home and holding feasts.
2021 marks the beginning of the Year of the Ox, who is an animal known for being grounded, loyal, gentle, and trustworthy.
Asia For Educators. The Lunar New Year: Rituals and Legends. http://afe.easia.columbia.edu/special/china_general_lunar.htm
Steph Yin. “What Lunar New Year Reveals About the World’s Calendars.” New York Times. Feb. 5, 2019.
International Women’s Day’s history began on February 28, 1909. Known originally as “National Woman’s Day” it was first proposed by activist Theresa Malkiel and loosely based on the urban legend commemorating a protest by women garment workers in New York City, on March 8, 1857.
Inspired by Malkeil and other American activists, women’s rights activists Luise Zietz, Clara Zetkin and Kate Duncker suggested there should be an annual Women’s Day. One hundred women delegates at an international women’s rights conference from 17 countries agreed. On March 19, 1911, International Women’s Day was officially marked for the first time. More than one million people celebrated in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland. Women wanted not just the right to vote, but to fight against sex discrimination in the workplace and to hold public office.
In 1913, International Women’s Day was recognized in Russia for the first time, and became a part of a movement that led to the Russian Revolution in 1917. At that time, in St. Petersburg, women went on strike for “Bread and Peace” demanding the end to World War I, Czarism, and the shortage of food in Russia.
That day was March 8. The next day workers walked out of factories leading to mass strikes and the abdication of Nicholas II just 7 days later, all resulting in Russian women earning the right to vote.
International Women’s Day began to spread to different countries and by 1949, it reached China where March 8th was declared an office “half-day of work” for women.
In 1967, the notion of women’s rights was taken up by the next generation of feminists, including those in the U.S. who called for equal pay, equal economic opportunity, equal legal rights, reproductive rights, subsidized child care and the prevention of violence against women.
The United Nations began celebrating International Women’s Day in 1975, which was declared “International Women’s Year”. In 1977, the United Nations invited members to proclaim March 8th as the UN Day for Women’s Rights and World Peace.
The 100 year celebration of International Women's Day occurred in 2011. In the United Kingdom activist Annie Lennox lead a march across one of London's iconic bridges raising awareness IWD and in support for global charity Women for Women International. By this time, IWD had become an official holiday in most countries around the world, including Afghanistan, Cambodia, Cuba, Guinea-Bissau, Kazakhstan, Laos, Madagascar, Mongolia, Nepal, Uganda, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Vietnam and Zambia. In some countries IWD has the equivalent status of Mother's Day where children give small presents to their mothers and grandmothers. In others political rallies, business conferences, government activities and networking events are held as well as local women's craft markets, theatrical performances, fashion parades and the like. Many global corporations have come on board and actively supported IWD by running their own events and campaigns.
In the year 2021, with larger representations of women role models in every walk of life, one could think that women have gained true equality. While great improvements have been made in the last century, the unfortunate fact is that women are still not paid equally to that of their male counterparts, women are not present in equal numbers in business or politics, and globally women's education, health and the violence against them is worse than that of men. And so each year International Women’s Day not only inspires women to reach their dreams and celebrate their achievements, but also is a call to action for gender parity for all women throughout the world.
For more Information See: International Women’s Day official website
International Women’s Day Summit, March 8-10