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What’s the Spiritual Season?
(June 15 to 21, 2009)
By Stephanie Fenton
Fire up the grill! This week, we’ve got Juneteenth, Father’s Day, the Summer Solstice—and, of course, a lot more observances as well. Here’s the news on seven observances this week!
TUESDAY: Sikhs recall the martyrdom of Guru Arjan Dev, the fifth of 10 Sikh gurus. Arjan Dev’s life ended tragically. He was the first Sikh martyr, but he had a huge impact on the faith. Here’s a BBC piece on his life and legacy. He also left behind a masterpiece of worldwide sacred literature—the Adi Granth (see right).
After becoming a Guru in 1581, Arjan Dev completed his most important work in 1604: a compilation of writings from the first four gurus. This sacred text, called the Adi Granth, is still an essential part of the faith. It’s rare among world scriptures—believed to be the only book of scripture among world religions that continues to exist in its original, manuscript form. Ironically, this book—specifically, the inclusion of Islamic and Hindu references in it—is what caused Guru Arjan Dev’s death sentence.
Guru Arjan Dev successfully taught Sikhs about the equality of mankind, the equality between male and female, the equality in work and the equality of all religions. Care to read more? There’s a Wikipedia overview, a Sikh summary of his life and also a Sikh historical site that provides even more details.
The centuries-old Adi Granth still holds power in international Sikh decisions today. Here’s a feature story on the Sikh daily code of conduct from the Sikh Times, a British newspaper.
WEDNESDAY: “That’s one small step for (wo)man!” On this day in 1928, Amelia Earhart embarked on the first trans-Atlantic flight by a female. During her lifetime, Earhart broke records, wrote about her experiences and was central to the development of the Ninety-Nines, an organization for aviatrixes (female pilots) that still exists today.
Earhart actually was a passenger on the trans-Atlantic flight in 1928; Wilmer Stultz and Louis Gordon flew the plane. Nevertheless, her achievement was widely recognized. The Thompson Aeronautical Corporation sent Earhart a telegram of congratulations and admiration after her flight, expressing in just a few words the historic importance of her achievement. Take a look at it, thanks to the Purdue archives.
If you’re traveling near Kansas, you could visit her birthplace museum.
That Atlantic crossing, which famously took “20 Hours 40 Minutes,” thrust Earhart into a spotlight that would not fade during the remaining nine years of her life. She was only 30 during that adventure, but she quickly found her photograph splashed across newspapers, magazines and promotional advertisements. In efforts to promote aviation for females, Earhart created clothing lines, a luggage line (Modernaire Earhart Luggage) that proved safe for flying, and much more. Many of her products are still being produced.
Amelia is no stranger to kids today! Played by Amy Adams (the second photograph of Amelia at right), the aviatrix plays a major part in the hit movie, “Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian.”
FRIDAY, Catholics honor the Sacred Heart of Jesus, recognizing his divine love for humanity. In response, Catholics reflect upon their own love for Jesus and for others.
Although some Christians may associate this devotion with more traditional Catholic practices, the current Pope Benedict XVI personally encourages such devotions.
The origins date back to the 17th century, when a French Visitandine nun, Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque, reported having multiple visions of Jesus Christ. In these visions, Saint Margaret claimed that Jesus revealed to her the depth of his love through a vision of his heart.
This year, Spain’s Consecration to the Sacred Heart of Jesus will be renewed. Ninety years ago, in 1919, this consecration was a national religious event in Spain. The renewal ceremony will be held at Cerro de los Angeles in Madrid. Here’s a story about the event.
FRIDAY, it’s Juneteenth! If that term sounds new, you might want to explore the customs popular in African-American communities across the U.S.—and learn a bit more about U.S. history. The holiday recalls the end of slavery and specifically marks the date slavery was abolished in the state of Texas in 1865. Known also as Freedom Day, 31 states officially recognize Juneteenth as a state holiday observance this year.
On June 19, 1865, Union General Gordon Granger and 2,000 federal troops arrived in Galveston to enforce the emancipation of slaves in Texas. Observances began on June 19 of 1866, when former slaves pooled funds to buy land for Juneteenth celebrations. Today, jubilees often include barbecues in parks, dancing, parades, street fairs, cookouts, music, dancing and sports. Common foods served include fresh fruit, pies, fried chicken, ice cream, greens, strawberry soda pop and more.
Here’s a fairly elaborate Juneteenth Web site, which also includes an interactive map of some regional celebrations open to the public.
Here’s another gem: Cook up some great Juneteenth recipes of your own this year! Here’s a tasty link to some traditional holiday foods.
Plan ahead this week!
SUNDAY, millions of us are planning to thank Dad! Father’s Day is recognized in the United States on the third Sunday of June each year.
Although the roots of Mother’s Day lie deep in history, Father’s Day is fairly new, only recognized as an official holiday in America since 1966. The first Father’s Day observance took place in 1908 in West Virginia; and Sonora Smart Dodd attempted to spread word of such a holiday after listening to a Mother’s Day tribute at her church one year. Father’s Day wasn’t taken seriously until 1913, when a bill was introduced in Congress in support of the idea. In 1966, President Lyndon Johnson issued a proclamation, deeming it a national holiday.
Father’s Day celebrations vary widely in observance and date throughout the world: Roman Catholics traditionally recognize the day on St. Joseph’s Day, for example, and Thais thank fathers on the day of the current king’s birth.
According to the U.S. government, 64.3 million men are fathers in this country. Want to read more? Here’s a mother lode of … errrr, father lode of Father’s Day info, courtesy of our own U.S. government.
Whether you’re planning on cooking a barbecue supper, creating a heartfelt card or giving him a traditional gift of tie and shirt, find your own way to say “Thanks!” Here’s a fun site to help with that.
SUNDAY couldn’t be a better day for outdoor barbecues. Sunday marks the beginning of summer! Spend some extra time outside during this “longest” day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere.
Our human conception of the Solstice—including the idea that the Earth rotates while the sun remains still—began in ancient Greece. The exact time of the Solstice remains difficult to determine due to the minute change in degrees of the Earth’s rotation. (Here’s a great science-based Web site with a page devoted to the Solstice.)
Many religious and cultural holidays have long been associated with the summer Solstice, including Midsummer (the middle of the growing season in Europe) and traditional Wiccan observances. The word “solstice,” from Latin, translates into “to cause to stand still.” Many believed the sun appeared to “stand still” in the sky around noon, since it rose so high in the sky on this day.
For more details about the planets’ involvement in the Solstice, check out this recent article from the Washington Post.
Finally this week, SUNDAY brings the opportunity for Native American peoples of Canada to remember their ancestors and honor their origins on National Aboriginal Day. It’s also called First Nations Day. First Nations is a body of Indians recognized by the Canadian government. Currently, more than 600 First Nations governments exist within Canada.
The declaration of First Nations provides a clear understanding of the principles of these people. ALSO, ReadTheSpirit has just published a new book and Web site showcasing the work of American Indian writer Warren Petoskey, author of “Dancing My Dream.” You’ll find parallels between the Canadian First Nations principles—and the central themes in Warren’s work.
Across Canada, Aboriginal Day sparks both casual and serious events. Aboriginal Day begins an 11-day observance known as “Celebrate Canada!” But this is a time of solemn reflection as well. Aboriginals have long fought for adequate education funding, awareness of social and economic issues and an end to First Nations poverty.
(The photo with this news item shows young people from the Tsuu T’ina nation near Calgary celebrating First Nations Day.)
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