Culture Soup

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Around The World In Twelve Months – February

Omni Intercommunications - Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Now that 2016 is firmly established in the Western world, Asia is ready to celebrate its entry into the New Year. If it were not for the stock markets around the globe, we could believe there are festivities everywhere. Click on any event below to learn more about it.

1 February – National Freedom Day – United States and Canada

This day honors the signing by Abraham Lincoln of a resolution outlawing slavery, which is known today as the 13th Amendment. This is also the celebration of the abolition of slavery in Mauritius, an island off the cost of Madagascar, which, on a lighter note, gave us, then took back, the dodo bird.

1 February – Constitution Day – Mexico

This holiday (first Monday of February) celebrates the ratification of the 1917 Constitution adopted after the Mexican Revolution. It was the first such constitution in the world to include social rights and served as a model for the 1918 Russian Constitution and the 1919 Weimar Constitution. All government offices, schools, and businesses are closed on this day.

2 February – Groundhog Day – United States and Canada

Punxsutawney Phil will predict the arrival of spring, in direct competition with the Weather Channel.

4 February – Liberation Day – Angola

This national holiday celebrates the beginning of the armed conflict against Portugal in 1961. Angola is one of the few Portuguese-speaking countries in Africa.

4 February – National Day – Sri Lanka

Following the colonization by the Portuguese then by the Dutch, the island fell under the control of the British in 1796, who renamed it Ceylon. On 4 February 1948, British Ceylon was granted independence, and in 1972, it changed its name to Sri Lanka.

7 February – Chinese New Year – China, Vietnam (Tet), Korea, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, etc.

During the Spring Festival, many countries will celebrate the arrival of the Year of the Monkey. In China, hundreds of thousands of people will be travelling back to their home city or village. Expect major delays as early as the first week of February until the Lantern Festival, the 15th day of the new year. Each Chinese New Year is characterized by one of 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac. The next Year of the Monkey, the 9th animal in the cycle, will be in 2028.

From Italy to Brazil, Carnival is on its way. 

8 February – Carnival – Worldwide

Carnival is a festive season that occurs before Lent, a period of approximately six weeks before Easter. In Lutheran nations such as Denmark, Sweden, and Norway, this is known as Fastelavn. The most picturesque carnivals are those of Rio, Brazil, and Venice, Italy.

9 February – Shrove Tuesday/Mardi Gras – UK/Australia, Europe, US, etc.

Last chance to eat rich food before Ash Wednesday (see below). It’s interesting to see how different people look at the same event: "Shrove" derives from the word shrive, meaning "absolve" whereas “Mardi Gras” is the French for "Fat Tuesday." The religious undertone of Mardi Gras is now gone for most people celebrating it, often over a week-long period.

10 February – Ash Wednesday – Christians Worldwide

Ash Wednesday derives its name from the practice of blessing ashes made from palm branches, themselves blessed on the previous year's Palm Sunday, and placing them on the head of participants. This is the first day of Lent, a 40-day period leading to Easter.

14 February – Valentine’s Day – Worldwide

Probably the most universal celebration in the world, Valentine’s Day goes back to the Roman times, resurrected with the tradition of courtly love in 18th-century England. Today, it is estimated that approximately 190 million valentines are sent each year in the US alone!

14 February – Mother’s Day – Norway

Although many countries celebrate a Mother’s Day, they each do it on a different date. Don’t forget your mom if you are an expatriate!

15 February – Statehood Day – Serbia

This day commemorates the outbreak of the First Serbian Uprising in 1804 against the Ottoman rule. The first Serbian constitution, known as the Candlemas Constitution, was adopted on the same day in 1835.

15 February – Presidents’ Day – United Sates

Originally, Washington's birthday was a US federal holiday celebrated on the third Monday of February in honor of George Washington, the first President of the United States. Now coined "Presidents’ Day," this holiday honors all US presidents.

21 February – International Mother Language Day – Worldwide

First announced by UNESCO in 1999, International Mother Language Day aims at promoting peace and multilingualism. The date corresponds to the day in 1952 when two students from the University of Dhaka, India, demonstrating for the recognition of Bangla as one of the two national languages of East Pakistan, were shot dead by police.

24 February – Independence Day – Estonia

The Republic of Estonia was founded on that day in 1918, following German then Russian occupation.

25 February – National Day – Kuwait

In 1756, the Al-Sabah family became the rulers of Kuwait, starting the dynasty that continues to this day. February 25th marks the day when Sheikh Abdullah Al-Salem Al-Sabah ascended to the throne in 1950. The 26th, or Liberation Day, commemorates the liberation of the country from the 1990 Iraqi occupation.

25 February – Revolution Anniversary – Philippines

"The revolution that surprised the world" as many headlines called it at the time (1986), is also called the People Power Revolution, the EDSA Revolution, or the Yellow Revolution. This national holiday commemorates the victory of the people against the authoritarian and repressive regime of then president Ferdinand Marcos.

27 February – Independence Day – Dominican Republic

The site of the first European settlement in the Americas founded by Christopher Columbus in 1492, Hispaniola ultimately split into Haiti and the Dominican Republic on this day in 1844. Since then, Dominican-Haitian relations have been quite unstable.

Month Long – Black History Month – US and Canada

Originally created as the “Negro History Week” in 1926 by historian Carter G. Woodson to coincide with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglas, it was not until the American Bi-Centennial in 1976 that President Gerald Ford expanded it to the Black History Month, urging Americans to "seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”

Around The World In Twelve Months – January

Omni Intercommunications - Monday, December 28, 2015

For most of you who read this blog: Happy New Year!

Hopefully, you had a few good days off work with friends and family and are now ready to tackle the challenges 2016 is, without a doubt, going to throw at us. Let’s see where in the world some festive times are still in store for January. Click on any event below to learn more about it.

1 January – New Year's Day – Worldwide

Tradition has it that the first day of the year sets a pattern for the rest of the year: wear new clothes, don’t spend or loan money, don’t break anything, etc., but make a lot of noise at midnight to scare away evil spirits and don’t forget to kiss someone dear to you. In the US, you can follow the New Year celebration from 4:00 am Central on Thursday in the East (Russia), to 6:00 am on Friday in the West (Alaska).

4 January – World Braille Day – Worldwide

Braille is a tactile alphabet system invented in 1824 by a young blind man, Louis Braille, when he was 15 years old. Although it is the key to literacy for many people, current copyright laws prevent reproduction of books in accessible formats such as braille, thus making them inaccessible to schools in poor countries. Click the above link to see how you can help in the ratification of the treaty aiming at solving this problem.

6 January – Epiphany – Christians Worldwide

Epiphany ("Manifestation") is the revelation of God the Son to the Magi (Melchior, Gaspar, and Baltazar, a.k.a. the three kings or wise men) as a human being in Jesus Christ. In Mexico, children receive gifts on this day. Marking the end of the Christmas season everywhere, it is a public holiday in some parts of Germany.

15 January – Makar Sankranti – Hindus

Makar Sankranti, a major harvest festival celebrated in various parts of India, although under different names, commemorates the beginning of the harvest season and the beginning of an auspicious phase in Indian culture. It is one of the few Hindu Indian festivals celebrated on a fixed date.

18 January – Martin Luther King, Jr. Day – United States

In 1983, President Reagan signed a bill to create a federal holiday honoring Dr. King, the chief spokesman for nonviolent activism in the 1960s Civil Rights Movement. The holiday was first observed in some States in 1986, then in all 50 States in 2000. It is observed on the third Monday of January each year, which is around King's birthday, January 15.

A big hug – Something we can all do with. 

21 January – National Hugging Day – United States and various countries around the world

Created by Kevin Zaborney, National Hug Day hopes to encourage everyone to hug family and friends more often, although Zaborney cautions to ask first if one is unsure of the response! Research has shown that hugs increase levels of oxytocin, the love hormone, and reduce blood pressure.

25 January – Tu BiShvat – Israel

According to the Talmud, a fruit that ripened on a tree planted less than three full years before Tu BiShvat or Rosh HaShanah La'Ilanot (“New Year of the Trees”) is considered ‘orlah’ meaning it’s forbidden to eat, while fruits ripened on older trees are permitted. In contemporary Israel, the day is celebrated as an ecological awareness day when over one million Israelis take part in tree-planting activities.

26 January – Republic Day – India

Although India achieved independence from the British on August 15, 1947, following the Indian independence movement known for peaceful nonviolent resistance and civil disobedience led by Mahatma Gandhi, it did not have a permanent constitution until 1950. Republic Day, a national holiday in India, celebrates the date it came into effect throughout the nation.

26 January – Australia Day – Australia

On this day in 1788, the first fleet of British ships arrived at Port Jackson, New South Wales, but it was not until New Year's Day in 1901 that the British colonies of Australia formed a Federation, marking the birth of modern Australia. January 26, a public holiday, has become the biggest annual civic event in Australia.

Around The World In Twelve Months – December

Omni Intercommunications - Wednesday, November 25, 2015

On with our series, but off with the year: December is here! 

From a business point of view, things are going to slow down in many countries after December 22 or 23 and won’t pick up for the most part before January 4. Not surprisingly, the Christian world is the most affected during the month of December. Click on any event below to learn more about it.

2 December – National Day – United Arab Emirates

Also known as Al-Eid Al Watani, this holiday commemorates the 1971 nationalization from the British Protectorate Treaties. It is generally a two day holiday, with the second day falling before or after (2015) the main date.

5-6 December – Krampusnacht/St. Nicholas – Germany/Austria/Northern Italy

While St. Nicholas will reward the kids on his "nice" list on the 6th, the Krampus punishes those who have been bad. In Austria where Krampus is so popular, schools are considering banning the creature because it's so scary to children.

6 December – Independence Day – Finland

A part of the Kingdom of Sweden since the 13th century, Finland was ceded to the Russian Empire in 1809 and separated from it in 1917.

6-14 December – Hanukkah – Jews

The “Festival of Lights” commemorates the victory of the ancient Israelites over the Syrian-Greeks and the re-dedication of the Temple at Jerusalem. It is observed by lighting one of the eight candles on the menorah on each night of the holiday. They also give gifts, spin the dreidel, and eat fried foods. Sign me up! 

8 December – Bodhi Day – Buddhists

The day that the historical Buddha experienced enlightenment. Bodhi Day is mainly observed in China, Korea, Japan, and Vietnam.

10 December – Constitution Day – Thailand

Commemorates the declaration of the first permanent constitution in 1932. This is a national holiday.

12 December – Our Lady of Guadalupe – Mexico

On this day, tens of thousands of Catholics from all parts of Mexico make their way to the Basilica of the Virgin of Guadalupe in Mexico City, the most visited Catholic pilgrimage site in the world. The Lady of Guadalupe is not limited to religious matters; she has played an important role in Mexican nationalism and identity.

From December 21 to 25 Hindus worship Lord Ganesha, the elephant-headed lord of culture and new beginnings.

21-25 December – Pancha Ganapati – Hindus

Modern five-day festival in honor of Lord Ganesha. The festival was created in 1985 as a Hindu alternative to December holidays like Christmas.

23 December – Festivus – Fictitious

A parody holiday celebrated by those seeking an alternative to the commercialism and pressures of the Christmas holiday season. Festivus and its ‘Airing of Grievances’ was made popular by the TV show Seinfeld.

25 December – Christmas – Worldwide

On Christmas, or Christmas Day, billions of people around the world commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ.  Christmas Day is a public holiday in many of the world's nations, is celebrated culturally by a large number of non-Christian people, and is an integral part of the Christmas and holiday season.

26 December – Boxing Day – Commonwealth Nations

One origin of the name is that it’s the day servants and tradesmen would receive gifts, known as a "Christmas box," from their bosses or employers. Known in South Australia as Proclamation Day, in South Africa as Day of Goodwill (since 1994), and in Europe as St. Stephen's Day or as the Second Christmas Day.

26 December-1st January – Kwanzaa – United States/The Americas

Created in 1965 as the first specifically African-American holiday, Kwanzaa is a week-long celebration originally established as a means to help African Americans reconnect with their African cultural and historical heritage. Many African Americans who celebrate Kwanzaa do so in addition to observing Christmas.

31 December – New Year's Eve – Worldwide

December 31, known as New Year’s Eve or Saint Sylvester's Day in many countries, is the last day of the year in the Gregorian calendar, the calendar mostly used today. However, many people and cultures celebrate their new year on a different date: Lunar New Year in January/February for the Chinese, Nowruz in March for the Iranians, Rosh Hashanah in early autumn for the Jewish People, etc. 

Benjamin Franklin's Alphabet

Omni Intercommunications - Wednesday, November 18, 2015

While he was not busy pushing for the turkey to be our national bird, Benjamin Franklin, one of our Founding Fathers that everyone enjoys carrying around in his or her pocket, was engaged in numerous ventures, including a lesser-known attempt to create a new alphabet, perhaps to better render the gobble-gobble of this noble bird. We cannot be sure. It was certainly an offering to the French (Franklin was ambassador at the time in Paris) since the proposed alphabet was “adding new letters to represent the open-mid backrounded and unrounded vowels, and the consonants sh, ng, and … drumroll … the voiced and voiceless th” (Wikipedia). After investing some of his own money to create a new font including his 6 new letters, Franklin soon lost interest in his spelling reform. Interestingly, the only person to show an interest was Noah Webster, the publisher of the well-known dictionary! 

But let’s rectify the myth. According to the United States Diplomacy Center, Franklin never actually proposed to replace the eagle with a turkey on the Great Seal of the United States. And this is good because what would we eat on Thanksgiving? Happy Holidays!

Around The World In Twelve Months – November

Omni Intercommunications - Monday, November 02, 2015

This is the first of a series of short monthly posts highlighting some of the most important holidays and cultural events around the world. If you work with people abroad, it's good to remember that they may be celebrating, either in festivities or in commemoration, and therefore they may not be available to assist you immediately. Click on any event below to learn more about it.

1st & 2nd November – All Saints’ Day/All Souls’ Day – Christians worldwide

Closely related, All Saints’ Day is in the honor of all the saints, known and unknown, while All Souls’ Day commemorates the faithful departed, particularly but not exclusively one's relatives.

7 November – October Revolution Day – Russia

Shortly after the toppling of the last Tsar, Nicholas II of Russia, in February 1917, Red October or the Bolshevik Revolution was to culminate in what became the USSR. The discrepancy between the months come from the old Julian calendar vs. the new Gregorian one. November 7 is a public holiday in Belarus.

11 November – Veterans Day – US and Europe

Celebrated on the anniversary date of the end of World War I, Veterans Day celebrates, in many countries around the globe, the service of all veterans. Despite its date, it is not related to any war. Not to be confused with Memorial Day. In France, Belgium, and Poland (Independence Day) in particular, November 11 is a public holiday.

Diwali fireworks are a family event in many parts of India.

11 November – Diwali – India

This "festival of lights" is one of the largest and brightest festivals in India, representing the victory of good over evil. Its date varies according to the Hindu Lunisolar calendar.

15 November – Republic Day – Brazil

Celebrates the military coup d'état which established Brazil as a republic, overthrowing the constitutional monarchy of the Empire of Brazil. It’s worth noting that even though the 15th falls on a Sunday this year, Brazil does not push the holiday to the next business day.

26 November – Thanksgiving Day – US and Canada

Thanksgiving was first prompted in 1621 by a good harvest. It has evolved into a major national holiday in the US on the fourth Thursday of November, a day when no one works... except on their appetite and cheering for their favorite football team. Many companies (except banks) are closed until Monday. Canada's celebration is on the second Monday in October.

All month long – Movember – Worldwide

Movember, a portmanteau made out of Moustache and November, encourages men to grow and groom their moustache for 30 days in order to raise awareness and funds for men's health. Show your friends what you can do!


Omni Intercommunications - Sunday, November 01, 2015

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