Kwanzaa is an original African American holiday started in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Karenga
and is not rooted in any particular religious philosophy. Its purpose is to unify African Americans by
instilling a sense of pride in their culture by annually joining together to honor the traditions of
their ancestors and plan for the year to come by following a set of goals called Nguzo Saba, which means
“seven principles” in the nontribal African language Swahili.
The 7 principles are discussed and acted upon during each of the seven days of Kwanzaa,
which starts every year on Dec. 26th and ends on January 1st. A table is set with fruit &
including one ear of corn for each child in the family, and are all placed on a straw mat call the
mkeka. Red, green and black candles are also placed in a kinara candle holder and one candle is lit for
each day of Kwanzaa, representing one of each of the seven principles.
Day 1 Umoja (Unity): Working together in peace.
Day 2 Kujichagulia (Self-determination): Accomplish the goals we have set for ourselves.
Day 3 Ujima (Collective work and Responsibility): Solve problems together to make our
community a safe and productive place.
Day 4 Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics): Build and maintain our own businesses and profit
from them together.
Day 5 Nia (Purpose): To have a plan for the future and to be willing to help others to
Day 6 Kuumba (Creativity): To always do as much as we can to leave our community a
better and more beautiful place.
Day 7 Imani (Faith): To believe with all our heart in our people, our parents, our
teachers, our leaders, and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.
On the sixth day of the Kwanzaa a feast is held for family and friends called Karamu.
purchased gifts are often given, to open on the 7th day, to improve the mind and heart of the person who
receives them. Stories, songs, dances, drumming, and skits occur throughout the Karamu celebration. The
principles, symbols and traditions that are a part of Kwanzaa celebrate the beauty of African Americans
working together for the good of the community and is encapsulated by the Swahili word ‘Harambee’ used
throughout Kwanzaa, which means “Let’s all pull together!”
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
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
For 2021, Ramadan begins at sunset on Monday, April 12th, and will end at sunset on Wednesday, May 12th.
What: Together, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur represent the "ten days of repentance" or "the days of
awe".Rosh Hashanah is also a judgement day, when Jews believe that God balances a person's good deeds over
the last year against their
bad deeds, and decides what the next year will be like for them. My memory of worshipping in synagogue
include rabbinical leaders stating “the gates are closing”,meaning a Jew’s fate is sealed for the year to come after
the shofar is blown at the
end of Yom Kippur services.1
Yom Kippur is the holiest day of the year, when we are closest to G d and to the essence of
our souls. Yom Kippur means “Day of Atonement,” as the verse states, “For on this day He will forgive you, to purify
you, that you be cleansed from all your sins
d.”1 Yom Kippur is a fresh start, with the slate wiped clean and a state of At-one-ment!
When: The 10th day of Tishrei (in 2021, from several minutes before sunset on
Wednesday, September 15, until after nightfall on Thursday, September 16), coming
on the heels of Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year, which is on the first
and second days of Tishrei);
How: For nearly 26 hours we “afflict our souls”: we abstain from food and drink, do not wash or
apply lotions or creams, do not wear leather footwear, and abstain from marital relations. Instead, we spend the day
in synagogue, praying
Just months after the people of Israel left Egypt in the year 2448 from creation (1313 BCE), they sinned by
worshipping a golden calf. Moses ascended Mount Sinai and prayed to G d to forgive
them. After two 40-day stints on the mountain, full Divine favor
was obtained. The day Moses came down the mountain (the 10th of Tishrei) was to be known forevermore as the Day of
Like Shabbat, no work is to be done on Yom Kippur, from the time the sun sets on the ninth of Tishrei until the stars
come out in the evening of the next day. On Yom Kippur, we afflict ourselves by avoiding the following five actions:
The day is spent in the synagogue, where we hold five prayer services:
'G'mar Chatima Tova!! (May you be Sealed in the Book of Life)
The return of the deceased is one of the oldest and most representative traditions among indigenous Mexican
festivities. On Día de Muertos, the world of the living welcomes happily and lovingly the souls of the underworld
through millenary traditions such as the ofrenda (traditional memorial displays), the sugar skulls, the pan
de muerto (sweet bread of the dead), papel picado (pecked paper), candles, or the cempoalxóchitl flower (a marigold genus).
This festivity is one of the richest among the Mexican traditions. UNESCO inscribed Day of the Dead to its list of
Intangible Cultural Heritage of
Humanity in 2008.
The Mexica used to celebrate their dead by honoring Mictecacihuatl and
Mictlantecuhtli, the underworld couple, during the ninth month of their calendar (around August in
the Julian calendar) and they would celebrate for an entire month dedicated to Mictlán’s ruling
During the Mexica festivities of the departed, the main days were Miccailhuitontli—the Feast of The Lesser Dead, and the Huey Miccaihuitl, the Feast of The Greater Dead. These coincided
with Europe’s Day of the Faithful Departed—then observed because of the deaths caused by epidemics—and All Saints’
Day—when they venerated all the saints without a specific holiday in the ecclesiastic calendar. At around the Day of
the Dead and of the Faithful Deceased, the Irish Celtic Samhain Day—a pagan ritual that gave rise to Halloween—celebrated a banquet
for the dead.
In ancient Mexico, the dead continued having an important role in society as they were honored depending on their
rank and spiritual and social achievements. When someone died, the female elders in Tenochtitlan would announce
plaintively the loss of that person. They could be memorialized by their families or by their
calpulli (neighborhood), or by all the Mexica. For example, those hidden by
Mictlantecuhtli, or who had gone to atlan oztoc, “the place of water in the cave” were
called upon with rituals for sowing, hunting, or war. It also included birth and marriage as well as other magical
For the Mexica, skulls were important in their rituals. In the main temple, they would exhibit skulls of captives
publicly impaled in the sacrificial altar to Tzompantli, to honor their deities and to show the power they had and extended beyond
The precursor of the Pan de Muerto was the baking tradition
in the Spanish
kingdoms of León, Aragón and Castile to shape bread in the form of bones to imitate those that had allegedly
belonged to saints (relics).
Each of the thirty-two Mexican states nowadays has its own distinctive touch for this celebration. For example, On
October 28, some memorialize people who died in an accident; on October 30, some honor the babies who died before
their Baptism. On October 31, they pay respect to children younger than 12, and November 1st is All Saints Day, when
they honor the souls of those who died of natural causes. Finally, on November 2nd, after noon, this is when the
souls of the departed return to their world. It is then that the ofrendas and the altars are cleared.
The communities prepare ahead of time and pay a lot of attention to the details because the ritual is extremely
important, and as long as they do it properly, they believe that the dead are capable of bringing prosperity, for
instance, an abundant corn harvest, or disgrace to their families. This encounter among the living and the dead
consolidates the community’s social connections.
“Día De Muertos: Su Origen y Significado En 10 Datos Curiosos.” NeoMexicanismos, 1 Nov. 2020,
Portions accessed and translated from original in Spanish with permission on 10/24/2021
García, Barbara. “Mictlan: Souls' Journey through the Underworld.” Mas México USA, Pepe Perez, 30 Oct.
Herz, May. Inside Mexico, Babbel, 27 Sept. 2021, https://www.inside-mexico.com/category/myths-and-legends/.
“Indigenous Festivity Dedicated to the Dead.” UNESCO, https://ich.unesco.org/en/RL/indigenous-festivity-dedicated-to-the-dead-00054.
“Mexica.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 14 Oct. 2021, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mexica.
Patowary, Kaushik. “Tzompantli: The Gruesome Skull Racks of the Aztecs.” Amusing Planet, Blogger, 25
Aug. 2021, https://www.amusingplanet.com/2021/08/tzompantli-gruesome-skull-racks-of.html.
Vela, Enrique, “Días de Muertos”, Arqueología Mexicana, edición especial núm. 77, p. 80.
What: Diwali celebrates the triumph of light over dark and good over evil.
When: Diwali is celebrated during the Hindu month of Kartik, on the darkest day of the lunar month. Celebrated in India over a 5-day period, this year, the main (third) day of Diwali is November 4.
Where: Diwali is a national holiday in India, Singapore, and several other South Asian countries. However, it is celebrated around the world.
How: In India, celebrants light dozens of candles and clay lamps (called diyas), placing them throughout their homes and in the streets. Candles and lamps are also floated in lakes and rivers, and fireworks are lit to brighten the night sky.
Who: Diwali is primarily celebrated by followers of the Hindu, Sikh, and Jain faiths. Hindus celebrate the return of deities Rama and Sita to Ayodhya after their 14-year exile. They also celebrate the day Mother Goddess Durga destroyed a demon called Mahisha. For Hindus, it's also the start of the new year so there are special prayers offered to the goddess Lakshmi (goddess of wealth) for blessings and cash money in the new year Sikhs particularly celebrate the release from prison of the sixth guru Hargobind Singh in 1619. Jains celebrate the moment the founder of Jainism, Lord Mahavira, reached a state called Moksha (nirvana, or eternal bliss).
Sources: Burnett, C. (2021). Diwali 2021: What is Diwali? The Old Farmer’s Almanac, https://www.almanac.com/content/diwali
Diwali: What is it? (2020). BBC, https://www.bbc.co.uk/newsround/15451833