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January 6, 2004 > Multicultural Calendar for January

Multicultural Calendar for January

by Susana Nunez and Praveena Raman

Emancipation Day (African American, United States)
Commemorates the Emancipation Proclamation freeing all American slaves.
New Year's Day
New Year's Day is celebrated on January 1 in the Gregorian calendar. It is a time of renewal and many people people resolve to break bad habits and begin good ones. These resolutions require people to examine their lives over the last twelve months and plan for the coming year.
Shogatsu/Japanese New Year (Gantan-Sai)- Shinto
New Year (shogatsu or oshogatsu) is the most important holiday in Japan. Most businesses shut down from January 1 to January 3, and families typically gather to spend the days together. Years are traditionally viewed as completely separate, with each New Year providing a fresh start. Consequently, all duties are supposed to be completed by the end of the year, while bonenkai parties ("year forgetting parties") are held with the purpose of leaving the old year's worries and troubles behind. Homes and entrance gates are decorated with ornaments made of pine, bamboo and plum trees, and clothes and houses are cleaned. On New Year's eve, toshikoshi soba (buckwheat noodles), symbolizing longevity, are served. A more recent custom is watching the music show "kohaku uta gassen", a highly popular television program featuring many of Japan's most famous J-pop and enka singers in spectacular performances. January 1 is a very auspicious day, best started by viewing the new year's first sunrise (hatsu-hinode), and traditionally believed to be representative for the whole year that has just commenced. Therefore, the day is supposed be full of joy and free of stress and anger, while everything should be clean and no work should be done. It is a tradition to visit a shrine or temple during shogatsu (hatsumode). The most popular temples and shrines, such as Tokyo's Meiji Shrine, attract several million people during the three days. Most impressive are such visits at the actual turn of the year, when large temple bells are rung at midnight. Various kinds of special dishes are served during shogatsu. They include osechi ryori, otoso (sweetened rice wine) and ozoni (a soup with mochi).

Feast of Saint Basil- Orthodox Christian
The Church celebrates the feast day of St. Basil on January 1, the date on which he fell asleep in the Lord in A.D. 379. Since this date coincides with the first day of the New Year, this holiday is especially meaningful for Orthodox Christians. St. Basil earned the title "Great" for reaching the masses with the word of Christ. Just as the flower which bears his name, Basil stands for the beauty and love in Christianity that assure his lofty place in ecclesiastical history for all eternity.
Guru Gobindh Singh Sahib birthday - Sikh
Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth Nanak (Sikh Guru), was born at Patna Sahib on December 22, 1666, (Poh Sudi Saptmi). His birthday generally falls in December or January or sometimes twice within a year as it is calculated according to Hindu Bikrami Calendar, which is based on the lunar calendar. For this year according to the Bikrami Calendar, it falls on January 29, 2003. According to the Nanakshahi Calendar, the birthday of Guru Gobind Singh Sahib falls annually on January 5th.

* Three Kings Day (Dia de los Santos Reyes)- Christian
Three Kings Day (Da de los Reyes) is always celebrated 12 days after Christmas on Jan. 6. In 2004, this holiday falls on a Tuesday. Also known as the Epiphany, Three Kings Day (Da de los Reyes) is a Christian celebration that commemorates the Biblical story of the three kings who followed the star of Bethlehem to bring gifts to the Christ child.
* Feast of the Epiphany- Christian
Epiphany is one of three major Christian celebrations along with Christmas and Easter. It is celebrated by most Christians on January 6 to commemorate the presentation of the infant Jesus to the Magi, or three wise men. Roman Catholics celebrate Epiphany on the Sunday which falls between January 2 and January 8.
* Buddhist New Year Buddhist
To celebrate the New Year in Tibet, Buddhist monks create elaborate yak-butter sculptures depicting a different story or fable each year. The sculptures reach 30 feet high and are lit with special butter lamps. Awards are given for the best butter sculptures.
* Nativity of Christ- Orthodox Christian
Christmas celebration of those Orthodox Christians who follow the Julian calendar
* Elvis "The King" Presley's Birthday
On January 8, 1935, rock and roll legend Elvis Aaron Presley was born. Influenced by both the pop and country music of his time, Elvis became an international sensation by 1956. Known distinctly by his first name, he is regarded as one of the biggest pop culture icons of the twentieth century. With hits like "Blue Suede Shoes," "All Shook Up," "Don't Be Cruel," and "Jailhouse Rock," Elvis ushered in an entirely new era of American music. Globally, he has sold over a billion records, more than any other artist. Elvis died in his Memphis home, Graceland, on August 16, 1977.
* Makara Sankranti/Pongal/ Lohri (Hindu)
Indians celebrate thanksgiving during the month of January Winter Solstice (Makara Sankranti or movement of the Sun from Cancer to Capricorn), harvest festival is celebrated in Punjab/Haryana, Tamilnadu, Assam. It is called by various names in the different parts of India namely, Lohri,Bhogi, Bhogali Bihu, Pongal, Sankranti. The smell of freshly harvested grains and sugarcane, the sound of bells tinkling on the feet of cattle, the sight of brightly colored marigolds and chrysanthemums, of thresholds decorated with colorful designs (rangoli) depicting chariots and stars, the smells, sounds, and sights herald the approach of Sankranti/ Pongal. Celebrated as a harvest festival, a sweet dish called Pongal is cooked on this day, with newly harvested rice, moong dal, and jaggery
* Maghi- Sikh
Maghi, Makara Sankranti, the first day of the month of Magh. The eve of Maghi is the common Indian festival of Lohri when bonfires are lit in Hindu homes to greet the birth of sons in the families and alms are distributed. In the morning, people go out for an early-hour dip in nearby tanks. For Sikhs, Maghi means primarily the festival at Muktsar, a district town of the Punjab, in commemoration of the heroic fight of the Chali Mukte, literally, the Forty Liberated Ones, who laid down their lives warding off an attack by an imperial army marching in pursuit of Guru Gobind Singh.
The action took place near a pool of water, Khidrane di Dhab, on 29 December 1705. The bodies were cremated the following day, the first of Magh (hence the name of the festival), which now falls usually on the 13th of January. Following the custom of the Sikhs to observe their anniversaries of happy and tragic events alike, Maghi is celebrated with end-to-end recital of the Guru Granth Sahib and religious divans in almost all gurdwaras. The largest assembly, however, takes place at Muktsar in the form of a big fair during which pilgrims take a dip in the sacred sarovar and visit several shrines connected with the historic battle. A mahala or big march of pilgrims from the main shrine to gurdwara Tibbi Sahib, sacred to Guru Gobind Singh, marks the conclusion of the three-day celebration.

18 World Religions Day (Bah')
Bah' communities around the globe have been working to break down barriers of prejudice between peoples and have collaborated with other like-minded groups to promote the model of a global society. At the heart of our belief is the conviction that humanity is a single people with a common destiny. In the words of Bah'u'llh, the Founder of the Faith, "The earth is but one country, and mankind its citizens."

19 Martin Luther King Jr. Day
In 1983, the 98th Congress passed Public Law 98-144 to honor the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. This was first celebrated as a Federal legal holiday on January 20, 1986 and has been observed on the third Monday of January since that time. Congress' intention was that the holiday "serve as a time for Americans to reflect on the principles of racial equality and nonviolent social change espoused by Martin Luther King, Jr."
* Chinese New Year (Chinese)
A festive holiday celebrated for about two weeks. The Lunar New Year is observed by the Chinese, Koreans, and Vietnamese. The event takes place during the first three days of the first lunar month (late January or early February). People dress up in costumes, exchange food and gifts, visit family members, and remember ancestors. They settle all business accounts and forget all grudges. Each year is symbolized by a different animal.

Tet Nguyen Dan: Vietnamese Lunar New Year
Tet Nguyen Dan is a Vietnamese festival beginning on the first day of the first lunar month. It marks the beginning of the lunar new year and the arrival of spring. Tet is the most popular festival in Vietnam and artifacts suggest that it has been celebrated since at least 500 B. C. E. The exact origin is unknown.
The goal of the Tet celebration is to begin the year right. On the eve of the three day festival, houses and ancestral graves are thoroughly cleaned and a ceremonial meal is prepared. Customs associated with other New Year celebrations including paying off debts, giving gifts, resolving conflicts in relationships, and wearing new clothes are common during Tet. Other more unique activities include firecrackers (it is believed that loud sounds will drive away evil), boat races, swinging contests, and dragon dancing. The traditional dragon dance is meant to spread good health and wealth.
During Tet, many Vietnamese hang a traditional painting depicting a folktale about two lovers who have ignored their responsibilities. The king punishes the lovers by separating them on opposite sides of a river. The possibility of a reunion exists only once a year when the ravens create a bridge. The lovers are so overcome with emotion that all they can do is cry. Their tears become rain falling to earth.

26 Vasant Panchami- Hindu
Vasant Panchami, the Festival of Kites, falls on Panchami of the Sukal Paksh ( Waxing moon) towards the close of winter in the month of January-February. The weather circle seems to be changing otherwise Vasant used to bring a message of softness in the weather in place of the hard cold season. Vasant is the time when mustard fields are yellow with it the spring is ushered in. So Punjabis welcome the change and celebrate the day by wearing yellow clothes, holding feasts and by organising kite flying. Vasant Panchami day puja is devoted to Saraswati, the godess of learning and wife of Brahma. She bestows the greatest wealth to humanity i.e. the wealth of Knowledge.
30 Jashan Sadeh- Zoroastrian
Mid winter celebration in which a bon fire is often used to express defiance of the cold winter It honors the element of fire which is sacred in the Zoroastrian faith.
30-Feb. 2 Hajj - Islam
Annual pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca
31 Waqf al Arafa - Islam
Islamic observance day during Hajj when pilgrims pray for forgiveness and mercy.

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