Major Holidays: World Religions & Cultures: February 2012

Thank you Mrs. Gammons for submitting this!

Feb 1 – 28: Black/African-American History Month
A national annual observance for remembrance of important people and events in the history of the African diaspora*. It is celebrated annually in the United States and Canada in February and the United Kingdom in the month of October. *A diaspora is any movement of a population sharing common national and/or ethnic identity. While refugees may or may not ultimately settle in a new geographic location, the term diaspora refers to a permanently displaced and relocated collective.

Feb 1: National Freedom Day (USA) Commemorates the signing of the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery in 1865.

Feb 2: Groundhog Day (USA)
Groundhog Day is based on the festival known as Candlemas. This celebration represents the end of the Christmas cycle (forty days after Christmas) and marks the Christian observance of the Presentation of the Lord in the Temple. Formerly, Candlemas honored the Purification of Mary after the birth of Christ. In Europe, Candlemas was combined with ancient pagan candle lighting ceremonies intended to rejuvenate the fields before planting crops.
This custom was brought to America by the Pennsylvania Dutch (German settlers) who believed that all hibernating animals come out to check on the weather. If the animal saw its shadow, then six weeks of bad weather would follow and the animal could go back to sleep. However, a cloudy day meant that spring was coming soon and the weather until then would be moderate.
In the United States, the most famous hibernating animal turned weather forecaster is Punxsutawney Phil who lives in Gobbler’s Knob. Phil is over 100 years old and made his first weather report on February 2, 1887. His forecasts are recorded in the Congressional Record.

Feb 3: Setsubun Sai (Shinto)
Celebration of the change of seasons with the coming of spring with shouts of “Devils out, Good Fortune in”. Bean throwing protects against demons.

Feb 4: World Cancer Day (Global)
The World Health Organization supports International Union Against Cancer in promoting ways to ease the global burden of cancer, prevent cancer and raise quality of life for cancer patients.

Feb 6 – 10: National School Counseling Week (USA)
Celebrated to focus public attention on the unique contribution of professional school counselors within U.S. school systems. 2013 Theme: “School Counseling: Liberty and Learning for All”

Feb 10*: Chinese New Year (Confucian/Daoism/Buddhist)
Begins a fifteen Day Festival for Chinese people of all religions. Family reunions with thanksgiving and
remembrance of departed relatives take place. Traditionally a religious ceremony honors Heaven and Earth.
* The date of 2013 Chinese New Year was incorrectly reported in the January newsletter.

Feb. 10: Tet Nguyen Dan (Vietnamese)
“Year of the Snake” 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.

Feb 11-17: Random Acts of Kindness Week (Global)
An unofficial holiday; it’s more like an awareness week, or a celebration, or an observance. However, it’s celebrated globally. And various events take place, mostly through local organizations, events and efforts. It’s really common in schools. It’s a time set aside to focus specifically on being kind. The goal of the one-day focus is to encourage people to engage in acts of kindness all the time.

Feb 12: Mardi Gras; Shrove Tuesday (Christian): The last day before Lent. Many people celebrate this day or days prior to it by having carnivals such as Mardi Gras held in France and Louisiana and by festivals in Germany and Latin America. In England it became known as “Shrove Tuesday” because people went to church to “shrove” or “confess” their sins. Often celebrated with one last fling before Lent begins, in Britain this day is recognized as Pancake Day, as pancakes were traditionally made to use up milk and eggs, which were off limits during Lent. It’s as good an excuse as any to eat pancakes!

Feb 13: Ash Wednesday (Christian)
A time of reflection and preparation for Holy Week and Easter. A forty day time of intense devotion, it is observed by fasting, frequent worship and acts of charity. The season begins on Ash Wednesday.

Feb 14: Race Relations Day (Interfaith)
Created in 1922 by the National Council of Churches in recognition of the importance of interracial relations and learning.

Feb 14: St. Valentine’s Day (Christian/Secular)
…is more of a secular than a religious festival and is celebrated almost all over the world now. This day is celebrated by the exchange of gifts that convey affection and love. The history of this holiday cannot be traced with any one origin with authenticity. One version of the story tells of a priest named Valentine who would secretly marry people forbidden to wed by law. The emperor believed that he could form a larger and stronger army if men remained single and had no family ties. Valentine was arrested and beheaded on February 14th. Since he was a champion of love, he came to be known as the patron saint of lovers.

Feb 15: Nirvana Day (Buddhist/Jain)
Celebrates the day when the historical Buddha achieved Parinirvana, orcomplete Nirvana, upon the death of his physical body. Sometimes celebrated on February 8.

Feb 17 – 23: Brotherhood/Sisterhood Week (Interfaith) Designated by the National Conference of Community and Justice to emphasize the importance of brotherhood and sisterhood. Established in 1934.

Feb 18: President’s Day
Originally honored Presidents Washington and Lincoln and now serves as a reminder of the contribution of all U.S. presidents.

Feb 24: Purim (Jewish)
Celebration of the deliverance of the Jewish minority in Persia from genocide. Charity to the poor, sharing food with friends, and vigorous merrymaking mark the observance. (Jews) mark the time when the Jewish community living in Persia were saved from genocide because of the courage of a young Jewish woman named Esther. On Purim the Jewish indulge in extreme merry making, give out charity and share food with friends.

Feb 26 – March 1: Ayyam-i-Ha (Baha’i)
This period adjusts the Baha’i year to the solar calendar. It leads to the 19 day fast; each day of Ayyam-i-Ha is marked by a different virtue like hospitality, gift giving or charity.


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