Why do we celebrate Hallowe’en?



Hallowe’en falls on the last day of October. The name is an abbreviation for Ali Hallows’ Eve, or the day before All Saints’ (All Hallows’) Day. In pre-Christian times this was the last day of the Celtic year – the time when witches, ghosts and spirits were believed to walk abroad and to be seen by living people.



When Christianity became established, the first of November was changed from the beginning of the Celtic year to All Saints’ Day. Hallowe’en was given a new name, but its primitive traditions survived. They are going strong today. People still dress up as witches and demons. And evil faces are cut out of turnips and pumpkins, which are turned into lanterns by lighting candles inside them.



 



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What kind of holiday is Rizal Day?


Rizal Day



Books and cartoons are filled with heroes. But real live people are known for great deeds, too. Most countries have heroes who helped their nation in one way or another. One hero of the Philippines is Jose Rizal.



Rizal helped the people of the Philippines fight for their freedom from Spain. The Spanish thought he wanted to cause a revolution. So they shot and killed him on December 30, 1896. The U.S.A. took control of the Philippines in 1898. The Philippines finally gained complete independence from the U.S.A. in 1946.



Celebrated every 30th of December, Rizal Day is a national holiday that commemorates the life and heroism of Dr. José Rizal – a man many consider to be one of the greatest heroes of the Philippines.



In the past, most of the official ceremonies on Rizal Day were performed at Rizal Park in the city of Manila.



During this official ceremony, flags are flown at half-mast and the President of the Philippines lays a wreath on the shrine dedicated to Jose Rizal.



Recently, it is no longer the case, as ceremonial programs are now being conducted nationwide especially in places where there are monuments of Rizal and government officials attend these programs as guest of honor.



As national holiday, most workers have the day off as a fully paid work day. However, those who do have to work on Rizal Day receive twice their normal day of wages.



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What is Kwanzaa and why is it celebrated?


Kwanzaa



How does your family celebrate its cultural heritage? If you are an African American, you may celebrate Kwanzaa. Kwanzaa celebrates a traditional African harvest festival. It is also a celebration of the rich cultural roots of African Americans.



Kwanzaa takes place from December 26 to January 1. Each evening during Kwanzaa, the family lights a candle in a special candleholder called a kinara. Each candle stands for one of the seven goals of Kwanzaa. These goals are ways that people can work together to build their communities and nourish pride and creativity among African Americans.



Near the end of the holiday, the community gathers for a feast. There is African food and music and dancing.



Five common sets of values are central to the activities of the week: ingathering, reverence, commemoration, recommitment, and celebration. The seven principles (nguzo saba) of Kwanzaa utilize Kiswahili words: unity (umoja), self-determination (kujichagulia), collective work and responsibility (ujima), cooperative economics (ujamaa), purpose (nia), creativity (kuumba), and faith (imani). Each of the seven candles signifies the principles. Like the Jewish Hannakah, candles are used to represent concepts of the holiday.



The symbol of Kwanzaa includes crops (mzao) which represents the historical roots of African-Americans in agriculture and also the reward for collective labor. The mat (mkeka) lays the foundation for self- actualization. The candle holder (kinara) reminds believers in the ancestral origins in one of 55 African countries. Corn/maize (muhindi) signifies children and the hope associated in the younger generation. Gifts (Zawadi) represent commitments of the parents for the children. The unity cup (Kkimbe cha Umoja) is used to pour libations to the ancestors. Finally, the seven candles (mishumaa saba) remind participants of the several principles and the colors in flags of African liberation movements - 3 red, 1 black, and 3 green.




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Why is Christmas important?


Christmas



For Christians all over the world, December 25 is an important, happy day. It is Christmas, the day that celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ.



Many Christmas customs are based on the birth of Christ. People give each other presents because the Three Kings brought presents to the baby Jesus. Christians sing songs, called carols that tell stories about Christ’s birth. And they put up scenes of Jesus’s birth, with figures of the shepherds, the Three Kings, and animals around the tiny baby.



Some customs probably came from harvest festivals that took place in December around Christmastime. The Roman harvest festival may have inspired feasting and having parties. The custom of burning Yule logs came from the Northern European harvest festival known as Yule.



Other customs are newer traditions. Decorating Christmas trees probably came from Germany. Sending Christmas cards came from England.



Today, one of the most popular Christmas customs is giving gifts. In the U.S.A. and Canada, a magical person named Santa Claus brings presents. Santa wears red clothes trimmed with white fur, and he has a snow-white beard and moustache. Santa drives through the sky in a sleigh drawn by eight reindeer. He slips down the chimney, leaves gifts, and goes on his way again.



In England, the gift bringer is called Father Christmas. He looks much like Santa Claus, but he has a longer coat and a longer beard. In Germany, Costa Rica, Colombia, and parts of Mexico, children get presents from the Christ child.



In Sweden, gifts and goodies are brought by a Christmas elf. This little gnome has a sleigh that is pulled by two goats.



Both Father Christmas and Santa Claus are popular in Australia and New Zealand. But in these countries, December comes during the summer. So many people celebrate by going on a picnic or having fun at the beach.



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What is Hanukkah and why is it celebrated?


Hanukkah



On the stove, crisp potato pancakes sputter in a frying pan. In a corner, children spin square tops on the floor. On the table, candles twinkle in a candleholder. It’s Hanukkah, the Jewish Feast of Lights, and it lasts eight days.



Hanukkah celebrates a marvellous event that happened more than 2,000 years ago. At that time, the Jews won their struggle for religious freedom by defeating the Syrians, who tried to make them give up their religion.



Hanukkah is a cheerful time. There may be a party. People enjoy such special holiday food as potato pancakes, called latkes. Gifts and contributions are often given to the poor.



Each evening, families light some or all of the candles of the special eight-branched candleholder called a menorah. Some families sing songs, play games, and give their children gifts.



Hanukkah starts on the eve of the 25th day of the Hebrew month of Kislev, which falls in November or December. The word Hanukkah means “dedication”.



Here is a brief story of the menorah. After their great victory over the Syrians, the Jews began cleaning the great Temple of Jerusalem. They wanted to light the holy lamps. But they could find only a tiny jar of the special oil they needed for the lamps. They were amazed when the jar provided them with enough oil for eight days.



The eight days of Hanukkah are in memory of the eight days the lamps stayed lit. A special symbol of Hanukkah is the eight-branched candleholder called the menorah. On each day of Hanukkah, the candles of the menorah are lit - one on the first day, two on the second, and so on. Many menorahs have a branch to hold a ninth candle used to light the other candles.



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