Why was the 18th of July chosen as Mandela Day?

18 July, also known as Nelson Mandela Day, the U.N. and the Nelson Mandela Foundation encourage people around the world to devote 67 minutes of their time one minute for every year of Mandela's public service towards helping others; a small gesture of solidarity with humanity and a step towards a global movement for good. As the great man himself says, "We can change the world and make it a better place. It is in your hands to make a difference."

Nelson Mandela International Day shines a light every year on the legacy of a man whose monumental achievements changed the 20th century and shaped the 21st. His values and determination — a deep commitment to human rights, freedom, and justice — are reflected on, and are a source of inspiration for others. Mandela advocated for the rightful dignity and equality of every living person, and encouraged engagement and solidarity across all borders. His relentless pursuit for equality was paralleled with his status as the founding father of peace in South Africa. 

Nelson Mandela remains a symbol of power by resisting oppression. In times of turbulence, Mandela’s legacy teaches everyone to choose dignity over humiliation, speak up during injustice, and forgive rather than hate. He once said, “To be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.” In 2014, the Nelson Mandela Prize was established by the UN General Assembly — an award recognizing the achievements of those who went far and beyond to serve humanity. 

Credit : National Today

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What is the history of International Women’s Day?

March 8 is celebrated as International Women's Day. Did you know that the origin of this historic day is one of the most powerful stories on women's tenacity?  

We live in the 21st Century. But get ready for some time-travel since we will be going to the previous century and even beyond. Today, when elections are held, women queuing up at polling booths is a common sight. But this wasn't the norm always. Till the 19th Century, the world over, women were not allowed to vote. (In fact, in several parts of the world. for centuries, women were barred even from studying or taking up certain kinds of professions.) Before that, a handful of regions allowed women to vote, under very specific conditions. Even among those few regions, some of them snatched back that right from women over the years. Gradually though, after the 1850s, things began to change, and women's suffrage was becoming a reality.

What is women's suffrage?

 Suffrage is the right to vote in elections, and so, women's suffrage refers to women having that right. In a landmark move in 1893, New Zealand became the first self-governing country globally where women had the right to vote in parliamentary elections. And that came about only after years of effort from women. By the beginning of the 20th Century, Australia followed suit. Even during World War I, the likes of Britain and the U.S. still did not have women's suffrage. Women decided it won't do, and being who they are, aware, strong, and resilient - they refused to cow down to the intimidation they faced for demanding voting rights.

Standing together

During the beginning of the 20th - Century, women decide they've had enough of not just the lack of voting rights but also of the general unfair treatment meted out to them. In 1908, thousands of women in the U.S. march "through New York City demanding shorter hours, better pay and voting rights". The following year, the National Woman's Day in the U.S. is celebrated on February 28 (and on the last Sunday of February for the next few years). Clearly, the suppression of women is confined to not just one region, and so the fight for equality slowly finds resonance in places far and wide, sparking women's marches over the next few years. In 1910, during the second International Conference of Working Women in Copenhagen, German feminist Clara Zetkin proposes each year that all the countries earmark the same day - a Women's Day - for women to press for their demands. The conference, with over 100 women from 17 countries and various walks of life, offers its unanimous approval for the suggestion, and the International Women's Day is born. Over the next few decades, among other rights, women win the right to vote and contest in elections in most parts of the world.

Why March 8?

During the course of World War I (from 1914 to 1918), thousands of women in Russia gather to underscore the need for global compassion and peace, and to condemn the mindless deaths of millions of soldiers in the ongoing war. On February 23 (the last Sunday of the month), 1917, Russian women start a massive strike over the death of soldiers, and in four days, bring the Czar (Russian ruler) down while winning the right to vote. The date was February 23 on the Julian calendar used by Russia. On the Gregorian calendar, more commonly followed everywhere else, that historic day was March 8!

Today

While the International Women's Day certainly turned the spotlight on several issues women face globally, the fight against inequality and suppression continues to this day. Though many of the advertisements and events during the run up to the day will have you believe that it is all about just celebrating women for a day, in reality the day is a recurring reminder of women's collective strength, courage, achievements, and power. It is also an implicit reminder that there will be no need for this fight or struggle if we create an equitable society.

Kolam

Created every morning (and sometimes evening too) by women for many centuries now, this threshold ritual takes shape to wish for the household's wealth and prosperity. But it is more than just that. Traditionally, the kolams have been created with dry rice powder or wet rice flour. Intricate patterns emerge, as if magically, through a sequence of lines and dots with rice powder flowing down gently between the fingers. For a dash of colour, wet red soil is used as border. Rice powder is used since it feeds the many insects and birds that cross the threshold. There are other styles of wall and floor art-such as rangoli, aripana, mandana, etc- created by women in different regions. But there are hardly any like the kolams that disappear every day only to be born again the next morning. Though the kolam patterns and the powders used are changing today, neither its creativity nor complexity is. Which explains its versatility, since you can find them on everything from bags to cushion covers!

Mandana

This is a floor and wall art tradition nurtured by generations of women in west and central India. But nowhere does the splendour of this art form come alive as gloriously as in the villages of the Meena tribe in Rajasthan. Mandana art is created during special events and festivals, especially Deepavali. Through simple shapes and dots, wall and floors are covered in animal and plant motifs and decorative designs. The preparation of the surface is as elaborate as the patterns themselves since they are cured using clay and cow dung. The designs themselves are coaxed out of bright white chalk and red clay that stand out dramatically against brown walls. Unlike kolams, mandana creations last longer. But they are just as imaginative, complex and compelling. Mandana art also forges a deep connection among the women in the community since they all work together work on their creations, especially the larger ones.

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What is the Beating the Retreat ceremony all about?

Martial music tunes and patriotic renditions marked this year's Beating the Retreat ceremony recently held in Delhi. But what is the Beating the Retreat ceremony all about? When is it performed? What is its significance?

When is it performed?

The Beating the Retreat ceremony is performed on January 29 every year at Vijay Chowk in New Delhi, against the backdrop of the majestic Rashtrapati Bhavan, the official residence of the President of India. It marks the culmination of the week-long Republic Day celebrations which this year began on January 23, the birth anniversary of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose. You all are probably aware that Republic Day is celebrated on January 26 every year to commemorate the adoption of the Indian Constitution in 1950, when a grand parade is held in the national capital New Delhi.

Coming back to the ceremony, it gets its name from a centuries-old tradition of troops withdrawing from the battlefield at buglers sounding the retreat at sunset. As soon as the retreat was sounded, the troops ceased fighting, sheathed their arms and withdrew from the battlefield. The military tradition began in 17th Century England, when King James II ordered his troops to beat drums, lower flags, and organise a parade to announce the end of a day of combat. The Beating the Retreat ceremony in India traces its origins to the early 1950s when Major Roberts of the Indian Army indigenously developed the unique ceremony of display by the armed forces and their bands comprising drums, pipes, and trumpets. The Beating Retreat ceremony is still being performed by the armed forces in the U.K., the US, Canada and India among others.

The President of India, who is the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, is the chief guest at the ceremony and he is escorted by the President's Bodyguard, a mounted regiment of the Indian Army. Bands of the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Central Armed Police Forces together perform various drill movements and form beautiful patterns. As soon as the bugle sounds the retreat, all flags are lowered, the marching bands move away, and the whole Vijay Chowk square lights up in a spectacular display.

What was new this year?

This year, the ceremony included for the first time in India's history a laser show and drone formations. The ceremony was conducted on a grand scale to celebrate the country's 75th year of Independence in 2022. As the sky turned dark, the laser show projected on the walls of the North and South Blocks at Raisina Hill traced the history of the country's freedom struggle, and its journey post independence, accompanied by I narration. The drone show, comprising 1,000 made-in-India drones, was captivating from the word go and the formations on the sky included the globe, the map of India, Mahatma Gandhi's image and the "75 Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav" alongside the tricolour with synchronised music playing in the background. The 10-minute drone show was put together by a startup Botlab Dynamics with the support of IIT Delhi.

As many as 26 tunes, including "Amar Chattan", "Hind Ki Sena", and "Sare Jahan se Achcha" were played at the ceremony. However, the song "Abide With Me" which had been part of the ceremony since 1950, was dropped this year. According to reports, the Government felt playing more Indian tunes would be appropriate with the country celebrating 75th year of its Independence this year. The hymn was replaced with Kavi Pradeep's "Aye Mere Watan Ke Logon", which was written to commemorate the Indian soldiers who sacrificed their lives for the country during the India-China war of 1962.

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Which are the fun games that can be played on Christmas Eve?

Guess the Christmas spoilers

This interesting and fun game can be played on Christmas eve with your friends online. A little prepping is required b start the game.

Prep work

First contact your friends and note down the names and the number of people participating in the game. Once you have the details, decide on their roles. If there are 10 people playing, you c assign four people as naughty kids and six others as ever. Decide on the number of rounds and assign different roles for each person for each round.

Game rules

Once everyone logs in, send them their roles before each round in private chat. The whole group of friends playing will be called the Merry Christmas group. Then, start the round. The Merry Christmas group discusses on the group chat for five minutes to identify the naughty kids. As names come up during the discussion, players can defend themselves and accuse others irrespective of whether they are an elf or a naughty kid to keep the game suspenseful. At the end of five minutes, the group has to unanimously name the naughty kids. If a naughty kid is identified, he or she is eliminated from the round. The Merry Christmas group then proceeds to identify the other naughty kids. You can play as many rounds as you like until all the naughty and modify the game according to the number of players.

Unscramble and draw

This fast-paced game tests your vocabulary as well as drawing skills. A little prep is required to start playing this game.

Prep work

Create chits of the letters of the English alphabet. Remember to feature each letter multiple times. Next, get your hands on some notepads and pencils and a timer. You could use your cell phone timer as well. And you are set.

Game rules

This game can be played by two or more players. The rules are simple. One player from team one picks up six chits. Once he picks up the chits, the time starts. Set the timer to two minutes. After picking the chits, he needs to decide on a word that he will draw and show to his teammate. This word should have been created from a few or all of the letters in the chits. His teammate now tries to guess that word. If she successfully guesses the word within two minutes, team one wins, earns a point and gets to play again. If not, the turn shifts to team two. If team one guesses the word, the opponent team can check the chits picked by player one and see if the word uses some or all of the letters he picked.

You can make this game more interesting by increasing or decreasing the number of chits picked as well as changing the time limit. You could also make it Christmas themed and give teams extra points if they form draw and guess a Christmas-related word.

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Which are some special traditions for New Year?

When spaghetti meets money

Italian Americans have a tradition of seasoning their spaghetti with the most unusual condiment. The oldest woman in the family stirs the tomato gravy and spaghetti along with a healthy dose of dollar bills contributed by different members of the family! Those who have earned well or received a nice raise are expected to sprinkle high denomination bills generously so that the luck spreads to others when the spaghetti gets served with the money! Three guesses for the toast... "You have to eat money to make money!"

God loves spicy salsa

In rural Mexico, farmers carry out an old Aztec tradition to please their god of harvest, XocotlHuetzi. The ancient Aztecs strongly believed that the god of harvest was fond of spice. What better way to show love and respect to the god of harvest than to dig a hole in the fields and fill it up with some nice, spicy salsa? If the crops failed even after that, the farmers deduce that it's because the salsa was too spicy or probably not spicy enough.

Sweet revenge

Do you wish to teach someone who's been particularly rude or obnoxious a lesson? Eastern Europeans have just the right thing to do. Take the oldest, sweatiest sneaker or shoe, fill it up with honey and leave it at their doorstep! The symbolism of replacing the stinky nature with some sweetness is assumed to be enough to fill the person with remorse. The person is supposed to use that honey to bake a cake and leave it by the windowsill as a sign of forgiveness!

Give your wish some wings

In Japan, there is a beautiful tradition wherein children write down their wishes on lanterns and let them float up into the night sky. Desires are also carved on yams or radishes and planted in the ground to teach an important lesson about not forgetting one's roots and the importance of humility.

It's confetti time

In Argentina, when you have loads of old documents and paper at home, New Year's Day is the time to make creative use of them. People get busy shredding the paper into thin strips to use as confetti for throwing from their windows.

Onion meteorology

In Romania, there is an interesting tradition on New Year, also called St Vasile's Day. Farmers like to predict how the year's climate conditions would be with the help of onions! You heard that right. Twelve onions are chosen, peeled and salted. Then the experts observe the level of salty liquid left behind and the skins of onions to make predictions for the year ahead.

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