What’s the Spiritual Season this week? Labor Day, Patriot Day, a Rastafarian New Year and thanks for grandparents


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What’s the Spiritual Season?
(September 7 to 13, 2009)
By Stephanie Fenton

THIS WEEK, Americans honor laborers, Christians
say “Happy birthday” to the Virgin Mary and the world mourns the
victims of 9/11/01. Rastafarians run into difficulties celebrating the
Ethiopian New Year, Zoroastrians give thanks for the summer crop and we all
thank our grandparents. Read all about these observances and events
below …

MONDAY, most of the 155.1 million U.S. citizens currently in the labor force enjoy a day off, courtesy of America’s early workers.
    According to its original mission, Labor Day
challenges Americans to reflect on the social and economic achievements
of laborers.
    Debate still arises when discussing who created Labor Day, but the Central Labor Union adopted a proposal on September 5, 1882, that would become the first U.S. Labor Day, in New York. Slowly, states across the country began naming Labor Day a holiday.
first Labor Day’s festivities included a parade of workers—meant to
demonstrate the strength of labor organizations—and various
family-friendly activities. Today, some communities continue to hold
Labor Day parades, and many U.S. citizens use the day to spend relaxing
time outdoors, picnic, barbecue, watch fireworks or take small
vacations. With the economy in recession, AAA estimates that American travel over Labor Day weekend will be
down 13 percent from last year. So fire up those barbecues and try your hand at one of these grilling recipes! As
Labor Day often means the end of summer in America, along with the
start of the football season, many use the day to create some last
memories in the warm weather.
    Did you know that, since 1909, some congregations have designated the Sunday preceding Labor Day as
“Labor Sunday”? It’s a spiritual and educational effort on behalf of the labor movement. For the past 13 years, one program promoting Labor Sunday has been “Labor in the Pulpits/on the Bimbah/in the Minbar,”
a program that encourages religious leaders to incorporate workplace
justice into their services during Labor Day weekend.

TUESDAY, Christians recognize the nativity, or birth, of the Virgin Mary. Among major figures in the church’s history, only two (besides Jesus) have
their birthdays recognized: St. John the Baptist and Mary, the mother of
    The Virgin Mary’s birthday has been celebrated by the
Christian church since at least the eight century, although some
historical accounts date it even earlier. According
to tradition, Mary was born to elderly parents who, although previously
unable to conceive, were given an answer to their prayers
. Through fasting and devotion, it is said that Mary’s parents were given the child.
Christians hold that Mary was immaculately conceived by her mother, St.
Anne/Anna, and father, St. Joachim. Catholics believe Mary’s condition
enabled her to be free from sin and therefore able to carry Jesus in
her womb.
    Orthodox Christians have a somewhat different theological tradition regarding Mary, but she is equally important in Eastern churches where she is known as Theotokos or “Mother of God” in Greek.
    The following prayer to Mary is popular in many Christian churches although its exact wording may vary:
Infant Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee, blessed art thou
forever, and blessed are thy parents Joachim and Anne, of whom thou
wast miraculously born. Mother of God, intercede for us.
    We fly to
thy patronage, holy and amiable Child Mary, despise not our prayers in
our necessities, but deliver us from all dangers, glorious and blessed

    Although Mary’s birthday is not marked by any specific
festivities, her story is the center of the day’s liturgical readings.
Flowers—particularly lilies—can be displayed to represent Mary’s purity.

Americans remember those men and women who lost their lives on 9/11/01 and reach out to one
another on Patriot Day. Following the attacks on the World Trade Center
in 2001, the House of Representatives deemed September 11 the Day of
Prayer and Remembrance of the Victims of the Terrorist Attacks; the
next year, President George W. Bush called it Patriot Day. (To send a Patriot Day e-card, view some of the free cards on this site).
Immediately after the events of 2001, religious prejudice rose across America, especially toward Muslim Americans. To help combat bigotry, on September
17, 2001, Islamic scholars and professors from colleges and universities across the nation issued a statement:
“We are grief-stricken at these horrifying events; the murder of
innocents can never be justified and must not be tolerated. … Anger
and frustration are completely understandable and shared by all, yet
that anger must not be directed at individuals utterly innocent of
these terrible crimes. Particularly distressing is the fact that many
American Muslims have fled to the United States, seeking a haven from
intolerant regimes in Kosovo, Afghanistan or Iraq. For them now to face
intolerance and violence here is an abuse of our Nation’s most deeply
cherished beliefs.”

    In an effort to encourage citizens to forget their differences, President Barack Obama
has named September 11 National Day of Service and Remembrance, part of his United We Serve campaign. There are new efforts to network volunteer programs  across the country. Some big organizations, such as Feed
the Children, have jumped on board. Nevertheless, unofficial and
smaller-scale community volunteer efforts are encouraged as well. Organizers
have said they hope the volunteer spirit continues to build, and that
by 2011—the 10th anniversary of 9/11/2001—this day will be the largest
day of service in U.S. history
    Interfaith efforts were included in last week’s portion of United We Serve, which was named Interfaith Service Week. Thousands of volunteers of various faiths joined in positive efforts.
This year, National Geographic has also launched something new for
9/11, although its programming has taken quite a different approach to
Patriot Day than President Obama’s. NG features more than 50 interviews taking us inside the events in 2001 via one of NG’s Web pages. Another page takes browsers undercover, into the investigations of the 9/11/01 conspiracy theories.
Some believe that the World Trade Center wasn’t attacked by any foreign
group at all, and National Geographic uses science to help sort out those theories.

Also on FRIDAY, Rastafarians hold jubilees for Enkutash, or the Ethiopian New Year. Rastafarians, especially strong in Jamaica, revere the late Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie. Because
Rastafarians believe Selassie was a manifestation of God—and hold that
Ethiopia is their spiritual homeland—they honor the Ethiopian New Year
Drum beats, chanting and other music can be heard rising from cities
across Jamaica on September 11, Enkutash. According to Ethiopian
history, it was when Makeda, the Queen of Sheba, returned from her
visit to King Soloman that she was welcomed back with gifts of “enku,”
or jewels. “Enkutash” is translated into “gift of jewels,” and the New Year has been celebrated as such ever since. Typically, Rastafarians immerse themselves in Ethiopian history and Biblical passages on this day.
    Following the World Trade Center events of 2001, the Rastafarian celebrations have been under criticism;
many believe the Rastafarians should not be throwing great New Year’s
parties while others are mourning the terrorist victims. The controversy dates back to Enkutash 2001, when Rastafarian celebrations were misunderstood by casual observers.
    “People who passed by and did not know what we were
doing thought we were celebrating the attack, but we would never do
anything like that,” said Ras Delbert Christie, a leader of the Montego
Bay branch of the Ethiopian World Federation and based in New York. In
addition, Christie added that Rastafarians have upheld the New Year for
decades, and its parties had nothing to do with the terrorist attacks.
Rastafarian belief is in a peaceful coexistence.

enjoy a juicy ear of corn and a plump tomato, because Zoroastrians
honor the creation of the Earth and the harvest of the summer crop.
During Ghambar Paitishem, Zoroastrians give thanks for their home and their food.
    Although Zoroastrianism is far from the world’s largest religion today, it is among the oldest of the revealed world religions. According to Mary Boyce, author of “Zoroastrians: Their Beliefs and Practices,” “[Zoroastrianism] has probably had more influence on mankind, directly and indirectly, than any other single faith.”
    According to Zoroastrian tradition, the great leader Zoroaster was
the first to teach about individual judgment, Heaven and Hell, the
future resurrection of the body, the general Last Judgment and
everlasting life.

SUNDAY,appreciate your grandparents (or other senior citizens who have influenced your life) on National Grandparents’ Day. The idea of a day for grandparents originated with Marian McQuade,
a woman who intended to ease loneliness in nursing homes and
encourage grandchildren to recognize the wisdom and heritage their
grandparents provided. In 1978, President Jimmy Carter proclaimed
that National Grandparents’ Day would be marked each year on the first
Sunday after Labor Day.
    According to Carter, “As we seek to
strengthen the enduring values of the family, it is appropriate that we
honor our grandparents.”
    In 2004, “A Song for Grandma and Grandpa” became the official song of National Grandparents’ day. (for a song clip, click here).
Written by Johnny Prill, the song’s popularity grew quickly. U.S.
Senator Debbie Stabenow remarked, “You have put into words the unique
relationship between grandparents and their grandchildren.”
    Whether participating in an activity with an elderly person you love (for ideas, click here) or passing along a Forget-Me-Not, the official flower of Grandparents’ Day, be sure to say “Thanks!”

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