Four Chaplains Sunday: Practice ‘unity without uniformity’ for immortal chaplains

Blue dark night painting of older ship in back with men on lifeboat in foreground

A depiction of the Escanaba rescuing survivors of the Dorchester, the ship of the Four Immortal Chaplains. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 1: Today, many congregations and veterans groups nationwide recall four chaplains whose courageous example has inspired generations of interfaith activists. This is Four Chaplains Sunday in participating congregations.

On Feb. 3, 1943, the converted luxury liner Dorchester was struck by a torpedo while crossing the North Atlantic; the ship sank within 20 minutes. Hundreds of U.S. troops and civilians were aboard the ship when it was struck, and as passengers were scurrying to lifeboats, four chaplains—the Rev. George Fox (Methodist), Rabbi Alexander Good (Jewish), the Rev. Clark Poling (Dutch Reformed) and Fr. John Washington (Roman Catholic)—spread out and began helping the wounded and panicked. (Wikipedia has details.) Amid the chaos, the four chaplains were calmly offering prayers and encouraging words. When life jackets ran out, the chaplains already had given their own to others fleeing the ship. The four men joined arms and said prayers, singing hymns as they sank with the ship.

Though Feb. 3 is officially Four Chaplains Day, events remembering the men usually take place on the Sunday nearest to that anniversary. Ceremonies emphasize “unity without uniformity,” a primary part of the mission of the Four Chaplains Memorial Foundation. The Chapel of the Four Chaplains was dedicated by President Harry S. Truman in 1951. In 1988, an act of Congress officially declared February 3 as an annual Four Chaplains Day.

Scholarship opportunity: Each year, the Four Chaplains Memorial Foundations sponsors a scholarship competition for students in grades 5-12, with the challenge of writing an essay, creating artwork or filming a short video about the importance of unity, cooperation and inclusion. This year, the theme is “Undiscovered Heroes,” and the deadline is Feb. 28. (Learn more here.)

Equinox / Ostara / Naw Ruz / Norouz: World cultures welcome spring

Pink flowers budding on a tree

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

THURSDAY, MARCH 20: Soak up the sunshine and welcome warmer weather—spring has sprung in the Northern Hemisphere!

Whether it’s called Vernal Equinox by scientists, Ostara by Pagans and Wiccans, Naw Ruz by Baha’is or Norouz by Persians and Zoroastrians, one thing is true across the board: The world’s experiencing a fresh start. For Baha’is, Zoroastrians and Persians, today marks the first day of the New Year—after all, the translation of Norouz is “new day.” In several Middle Eastern countries, such as Afghanistan, Albania, Kosovo, Iraq and Kazakhstan, an official, fixed Norouz holiday is celebrated each year near the equinox. (Wikipedia has details.)


Historical records indicate that even ancient societies followed the celestial patterns of the sun and stars, especially events like the equinoxes—when day and night are approximately equal in length. From the Latin aequus (equal) and nox (night), the vernal equinox appears each year around March 20 and is the result of the plane of the Earth’s equator passing the center of the Sun. The tilt of the Earth’s axis is inclined neither away from nor toward the Sun, and the Sun is at one of two opposite points on the celestial sphere. (Wikipedia has details.) Estimates are that while the March equinox currently passes into Pisces, it will pass into Aquarius in 2597 CE. Equinoxes can occur on any planet with a substantial tilt to its rotational axis.

Curious to view the stars near the vernal equinox? Gazers in Portland, Oregon, can attend the “star party” at either the Rooster Rock or L.L. Stub Stewar State Parks (more details here). Whether there is a star party in your community or not, learn more about celestial events to look out for this month with help from this resource, which mentions the Zodiacal Light, polar ice cap and equinox, just to name a few.


Woods in the springtim with a creek, new greenery

Photo by Vilseskogen, courtesy of Flickr

Embrace nature’s springtime beauty on the Pagan and Wiccan holiday of Ostara. Originally centered around an ancient Germanic pagan goddess, Eostre, most adherents now celebrate Ostara with feasts of springtime foods, walks in nature and the planting of seeds or a garden. (Learn more at As weather continues to get warmer, Wiccans welcome fertility; the Sun God and Maiden Goddess mark a sacred marriage, which will create a Mother Goddess in nine months.

Eggs and rabbits represent the fertility of springtime, and meditations of this time are directed toward the earth. Feasts are also common for Ostara, and springtime foods like sprouts, leafy green vegetables, dairy and seeds grace the table. Activities and craft suggestions—like naturally colored Ostara eggs and a miniature greenhouse—along with tips for setting up an Ostara altar, can be found at Ideas for eggs, springtime treats and more are on Pinterest.


One of nine holy days of the year, Naw-Ruz starts a new calendar with a festive atmosphere. When the Bab—the forerunner to the founder of the Baha’i faith—adopted the Persian Norouz as a holy day, he correlated it with the Most Great Name of God. He drew up a new calendar of 19 months of 19 days each, and renamed Norouz as the Baha’i Naw Ruz, calling it “the day of God.” Later, Baha’u’llah, the founder of the Baha’i faith, instituted a festival for Naw-Ruz that would reward those who had observed a fast for the past month (the Nineteen Day Fast). Years following, Baha’u’llah’s son, Abdu’l-Baha, would describe Naw-Ruz and the equinox as a symbol of the Manifestations of God; just as the Manifestations brought a “spiritual springtime” in their messages, so, to, does equinox bring new life to earth. (Reflect with help from the New York Baha’i.)

Work is suspended on Naw-Ruz, and prayers and music are common in gatherings. The month of fasting has ended, and most devotees partake in a large feast with family and friends. Currently, Naw-Ruz is fixed on March 21 for Baha’is outside of the Middle East. (Note: Since Baha’i days begin at sunset, Naw-Ruz kicks off at sundown on March 20.)


Formal table in a dimly lit room, with a mirror, lit candles, sprouts, apples and other Haft Sin items on top

Items on a Haft-Sin table in Tehran. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Having qualified for the UNESCO List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, Norouz (spellings vary) has been a part of Iranian history for at least 3,000 years. Some believe that Norouz originated with Zoroaster (or Zarathustra), who received his revelation from God on that day; others attest that the festival stems from even earlier celebrations. Zoroastians date Norouz to the mythical king Jamshid who, tradition says, saved mankind. Following his feat, the world’s creatures admired him en masse, and this wondrous day was called Norouz. Today, Norouz is a 13-day holiday that resonates across Iran, the Zoroastrian faith and much of the Middle East and Central Asia. (Learn more from

Weeks of preparation give way to the extensive Norouz holiday: cleaning and decorating the home, purchasing new garments and gathering materials are carried out with pride. A central element of Norouz is the Haft Sin table—which varies slightly in various regions and cultures—and is meticulously prepared. Seven items are placed on the Haft Sin table: sazbeh (wheat or lentil sprouts); samanu (creamy pudding made from germinated wheat); seeb (apple); senjid (dried fruit); sir (garlic); somagh (sumac berries, or fruit the color of the sun); and serkeh (vinegar). Zoroastrians also may place a picture of Zarathustra, candles, incense and a mirror on the table.

From the first day of Norouz events, celebrants exchange visits with family members and friends. The visits, dancing and singing continue for 12 days, until Sizdeh-be-Dar. On “thirteen-in-the-outdoors,” everyone heads outside for picnics in the fields and hikes through the woods. (Learn more from Iran Chamber Society.) Ancient Persian belief is that the 12 constellations of the Zodiac controlled the months of the year, with each ruling the earth for 1,000 years; at the end of the Zodiac reign, the earth will break down from the pandemonium. The 13th day of Norouz represents the time of chaos, and society’s structure is put aside for a day while everyone, young and old, plays outside.

Interfaith Calendar: Religious and Cultural Observances 2022

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.


A Global Source for More than a Decade

Holidays & Festivals expert Stephanie Fenton is internationally known for her reporting on major holidays, festivals and milestones that shape community life around the world. There are many other calendars that claim to provide this information at the click of a link or an app, but Stephanie is the leading journalist focused on actively reporting about these milestones. That’s important, because dates and times and even the names of these observances vary—as well as the meaning of these observances in various countries and cultures. In her columns, Stephanie explains the fascinating stories behind these events, advises readers on newsy updates—and always provides an array of links to learn more about everything from the history of the holiday to DIY holiday-related crafts and tasty traditional recipes.

It’s simple to find these columns. Just go to the master year-long calendar via

Got a question? Perhaps you’re questioning one of the listed dates—or you wish we would list an observance that particularly interests you. Please, contact us at [email protected]

Holidays and Festivals January 2022

Black-and-white photo of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in suit with microphones, speaking outdoorsJANUARY is named for Janus, the Roman god associated with beginnings and transitions. The many month-long observances in various parts of the world include a special focus on Alzheimer’s disease (Canada) and on combatting human trafficking and slavery (U.S.). Over the past two decades in the U.S., January also has been designated National Mentoring Month.

1—Mary, Mother of God (Catholic Christian)

1—Feast of St. Basil (Orthodox Christian)

5—Twelfth Night (Christian)

6—Epiphany (Christian) (Note: Observed in some denominations on the nearest Sunday, January 2, in 2022.)

6—Theophany (Feast of the Epiphany) (Orthodox Christian)

6—Dia de los Reyes (Three Kings Day) (Christian)

7—Feast of the Nativity (Orthodox Christian, Julian calendar)

9—Baptism of the Lord (Christian)

9—Birthday of Guru Gobindh Singh (Sikh)

10—Bodhi Day (Rohatsu) (Buddhism)

13—Maghi Lohri (Sikh)

14—Makar Sankranti / Pongal (Hindu)

16—World Religion Day (Baha’i)

16—Sundown, Tu BiShvat (Jewish)

17—Martin Luther King, Jr. Day (U.S.)

18—Week of Prayer for Christian Unity begins (Christian)

19—Timkat (Ethiopian Orthodox Christian)

21—Chinese New Year

25—Conversion of St. Paul (Christian)

27—International Holocaust Remembrance Day

30—New Year (Buddhist, Mahayana)


Holidays and Festivals February 2022

Black-and-white stamp of Four Immortal Chaplains

This U.S. postage stamp was issued in honor of the Four Immortal Chaplains in 1948.

FEBRUARY is another echo of ancient Rome, where februum meant “purification.” Among February’s month-long observances are Library Lovers Month and Black History Month in Canada and the U.S. (October in the UK).

1—Feast of St. Brighid of Kildare (Celtic Christian)

2—Candlemas (Presentation of Christ in the Temple) (Christian)

2—Imbolc (Lughnassadh) (Northern/Southern hemisphere) (Wicca, pagan)

2—Groundhog Day

3—Four Chaplains Day (Interfaith) Sunday observances may be on February 6, 2022.

5—Vasant Panchami (Hindu)

11—Our Lady of Lourdes (Catholic Christian)

13—Triodion begins (Orthodox Christian)

14—St. Valentine’s Day (Christian, international holiday)

15—Parinirvana Day (Nirvana Day) (Buddhist, Jain)

16—Magha Puja Day / Sangha Day (Buddhist)

21—Presidents’ Day (U.S.)

25—Ayyam-i-Ha (Intercalary Days) begins (Baha’i)

27—Meatfare Sunday (Judgment Sunday) (Orthodox Christian)

28—Sundown, Lailat al Miraj (Isra Mi’raj) (Islam)


Holidays and Festivals March 2022

St. Patrick stained glass

A stained-glass representation of St. Patrick.

MARCH‘s name recalls Mars, yet another Roman deity. This year, the moveable season of Lent begins in March for the majority of Christians around the world. Among March’s month-long observances are National Social Work Month and Women’s History Month, which includes International Women’s Day.

1—St. David of Wales (Christian)

1—Maha Shivaratri (Hindu)

1—Shrove Tuesday (Mardi Gras) (Christian)

2—Ash Wednesday / Lent begins (Christian)

2—Nineteen-Day Fast begins (Baha’i)

6—Cheesefare Sunday (Forgiveness Sunday) (Orthodox Christian)

7—Clean Monday / Great Lent begins (Orthodox Christian)

13—Birthday of L. Ron Hubbard (Scientology)

13—Feast of Orthodoxy / Sunday of Orthodoxy / Orthodox Sunday (Orthodox Christian)

13—Daylight Saving Time begins

16—Fast of Esther (Jewish)

16—Sundown, Purim (Jewish)

17—St. Patrick’s Day (Christian, international holiday)

17—Holika Dahan (Hindu)

18—Hola Mohalla (Sikh)

18—Holi (Hindu)

18—Sundown, Lailat al Bara’ah (Mid-Sha’ban) (Islam)

19—St. Joseph’s Day (Christian)

20—Vernal (spring) equinox (Northern Hemisphere)

20—Ostara (Mabon) (Wicca, pagan) (Northern/Southern hemisphere)

21—Naw-Ruz (Baha’i)

21—International Day of Nowruz, Nowruz (Zoroastrian)

25—Feast of the Annunciation (Christian)

27—Mothering Sunday (UK)


Holidays and Festivals April 2022

Ramadan begins in April in 2022.

APRIL‘s origin is debated by scholars but its name may reflect aperire, which means “to open.” Among April’s month-long observances are Arab American Heritage Month and Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

2—Ugadi / Gudi Padwa (Hindu)

2—Sundown, Ramadan begins (Islam)

10—Rama Navami (Hindu)

(Note: Some Hindus begin reading the Ramayana nine days prior to the start of Rama Navami)

10—Palm Sunday (Christian)

10—Swaminarayan Jayanti (Hindu)

14—Baisakhi (Vaisakhi) (Sikh)

14—Maundy Thursday (Christian)

14—Mahavir Jayanti (Jain)

15—Lord’s Evening Meal (Jehovah’s Witness Christian)

15—Good Friday (Christian)

15—Fast of the Firstborn (Jewish)

Passover and Easter both occur in April 2022.

15—Sundown, Pesach (Passover) begins (Jewish)

16—Hanuman Jayanti (Hindu)

16—New Year (Buddhist, Theravada)

16—Black (Holy) Saturday (Christian)

16—Lazarus Saturday (Orthodox Christian)

17—Easter Sunday (Christian)

17—Palm Sunday (Orthodox Christian)

18—Easter Monday (Christian)

21—First Day of Ridvan (Baha’i)

22—Earth Day

22—Holy Friday (Orthodox Christian)

23—Holy Saturday (Orthodox Christian)

24—Great and Holy Pascha (Easter) (Orthodox Christian)

27—Sundown, Yom HaShoah (Jewish)

28—Sundown, Lailat al-Qadr (27th night of Ramadan) (Islam)

29—Ninth Day of Ridvan (Baha’i)


Holidays and Festivals May 2022

Words for Mother's Day on yellow with flowersMAY‘s name also comes from an ancient deity, in this case associated with fertility. Among May’s month-long observances are special devotions to Mary in Catholic communities, Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, Jewish American Heritage Month and Military Appreciation Month.

1—Beltane (Samhain) (Wicca, pagan) (Northern/Southern hemisphere)

1 or 2—Sundown, Eid al-Fitr (Ramadan ends) (Islam)

2—Twelfth Day of Ridvan (Baha’i)

3—Akshaya Tritiya (Hindu, Jain)

3—Sundown, Yom HaZikaron (Jewish)

4—Sundown, Yom Ha’Atzmaut (Jewish)

5—Cinco de Mayo

5—National Day of Prayer (U.S.)

6—Vesak (Buddha Day) (Buddhist) (Note: Observance dates vary)

8—Mother’s Day (U.S.)

12—Trinity Sunday (Christian)

18—Sundown, Lag B’Omer (Jewish)

24—Declaration of the Bab (Baha’i)

26—Ascension of the Lord (Ascension of Jesus) (Christian)

(Note: Observed in some denominations on nearest Sunday, May 29, in 2022)

29—Ascension of Baha’u’llah (Baha’i)

30—Memorial Day (U.S.)


Holidays and Festivals June 2022

JUNE brings a wideDad tie words range of festivals and summer-themed observances in communities around the Northern Hemisphere. In the U.S., Pride Month commemorates the Stonewall Riots in June 1969 and the birth of the gay-rights movement.

2—Holy Ascension / Feast of the Ascension (Orthodox Christian)

3—Martyrdom of Guru Arjan Dev Sahib (Sikh)

4—Sundown, Shavuot (Jewish)

5—Pentecost (Christian)

6—Whit Monday (Christian)

9—St. Columba of Iona (Christian)

12—Trinity Sunday (Christian)

12—Pentecost (Orthodox Christian)

14—Flag Day (U.S.)

16—Corpus Christi (Catholic Christian)

(Note: Observed in some denominations on nearest Sunday, June 19, in 2022)

19—New Church Day (Swedenborgian Christian)


19—Father’s Day (U.S.)

19—The Sunday of All Saints (Orthodox Christian)

21—Summer solstice (Northern Hemisphere)

21—Litha (Yule) (Wicca, pagan) (Northern/Southern hemisphere); Midsummer

23/24—St. John the Baptist (Christian)

(Note: In the Roman Catholic church, the Nativity of St. John the Baptist is transferred from June 24 to June 23 in 2022, as June 24 is observed as the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.)

24—Sacred Heart of Jesus (Catholic Christian)

29—Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul (Christian)



Holidays and Festivals July 2022

JULY‘s name honors Julius Caesar, who was born in this month. More summer-time festivals are sprinkled around the Northern Hemisphere, including National Hog Dog Month and National Ice Cream Month in the U.S. That’s appropriate since this is the month of American Independence Day.

4—Independence Day (U.S.)

7—Sundown, Hajj begins (Islam)

8—Sundown, Waqf al Arafa (Day of Arafat) (Islam)

9—Sundown, Eid al-Adha (Islam)

10—Martyrdom of the Bab (Baha’i)

13—Asalha Puja Day (Dharma Day) (Buddhist)

15—Obon (Ullambana) (Buddhist) Note: This observance is Shichigatsu Bon; Hachigatsu Bon / Kyu Bon, or “Old Bon,” commences in August.

16—Fast of Tammuz 17; The Three Weeks begins (Jewish)

23—Birthday of Haile Selassie (Rastafari)

24—Pioneer Day (Mormon)

29—Sundown, Hijri (New Year) (Islam)


Holidays and Festivals August 2022

Grains, breads and rolls on table

Lughnasadh and Lammas have long been a first harvest festival, giving thanks for grains and baking with the freshly-sown crops. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

AUGUST was named after another Roman emperor, Augustus. Among the month-long observances are Happiness Happens (no kidding!) and National Immunization Awareness Month, which is promoted by the CDC in the U.S.

1—Lammas (Christian)

1—Lughnasadh (Imbolc) (Wicca, pagan) (Northern/Southern hemisphere)

6—Feast of the Transfiguration, Transfiguration of Our Lord (Catholic Christian, Anglican Christian, Orthodox Christian)

6—Sundown, Tisha B’Av (Jewish)

7—Sundown, Ashura (Islam)

11—Raksha Bandhan (Hindu)

11—Sundown, Tu B’Av (Jewish)

13—Obon (Ullambana) (Buddhist) (See note in July Obon entry)

14—Dormition Fast (Orthodox Christian)

15—Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Catholic Christian, Oriental Orthodox, Anglican Communion)

15—Dormition of the Theotokos (Orthodox Christian)

18—Krishna Janmashtami (Hindu)

24—Paryushan Parvarambha begins (Jain)

31—Ganesh Chaturthi (Hindu)


Holidays and Festivals September 2022

Honey and biscuits

Honey is eaten with various foods on Rosh Hashanah. Photo courtesy of Pixnio

SEPTEMBER‘s name is a remnant of the fact that Romans once had 10 months and this was the seventh, hence “sept.” A whole series of cancer-awareness observances have been clustered in September, including special efforts to highlight childhood cancers, gynecologic cancers, leukemia, lymphoma, ovarian cancer and thyroid cancer.

1—Ecclesiastical New Year (Orthodox Christian)

1—Samvatsari Parva begins (Jain)

5—Labor Day (U.S.)

8—Nativity of the Virgin Mary/Theotokos (Christian)

11—Patriot Day (U.S.)

11—Enkutatasch (Ethiopian New Year) (Rastafari, Ethiopian Orthodox)

21—Mabon (Imbolc) (Wicca, pagan) (Northern/Southern hemisphere)

22—Autumnal (fall) equinox (Northern Hemisphere)

25—Sundown, Rosh Hashanah (Jewish)

26—Navaratri (Hindu)

27—Meskel (Ethiopian Eritrean Orthodox Christian)

29—Michael and All Angels (Christian)


Holidays and Festivals October 2022

Girl poses with candle-lit bowls of oil

A girl with diya lamps lit for Diwali. Photo by Partha Sarathi Sahana, courtesy of Flickr

OCTOBER retains its old reference to this being the eighth month in the old Roman system, thus “oct.” One of the biggest cancer-awareness campaigns—Breast Cancer Awareness Month—takes place each October. This also is National Bullying Prevention Month.

4—St. Francis Day (Blessing of the Animals) (Catholic Christian)

4—Sundown, Yom Kippur (Jewish)

5—Daesara, Dussehra (Hindu)

7—Sundown, Mawlid an-Nabi (Islam)

9—Sundown, Sukkot (Jewish)

10—Indigenous Peoples Day

10—Columbus Day (U.S.)

10—Thanksgiving (Canada)

16—Sundown, Shemini Atzeret (Jewish)

17—Sundown, Simchat Torah (Jewish)

18—St. Luke, Apostle and Evangelist (Christian)

24—Diwali (Deepavali) (Hindu, Jain, Sikh)

26—Birth of the Bab (Baha’i)

27—Birth of Baha’u’llah (Baha’i)

31—Reformation Day (Protestant Christian)

31—All Hallows Eve (Christian)

31—Samhain (Wicca, pagan)


Holidays and Festivals November 2022

Assortment of fake pumpkins and autumn vegetables, with straw turkeyNOVEMBER was named for novem or “ninth,” continuing the ancient Roman custom of numbering months. This is Native American History Month, We’ve got books: Dancing My Dream as well as The Flavors of Faith, among others. November also is National Family Caregivers Month and National Hospice Month.

1—All Saints (Christian)

2—All Souls’ Day (Catholic Christian)

6—Daylight Saving Time ends

11—Veterans Day (U.S.)

15—Nativity Fast begins (Orthodox Christian)

20—Christ the King (Christian)

24—Martyrdom of Guru Tegh Bahadur Sahib (Sikh)

26—Day of the Covenant (Baha’i)

24—Thanksgiving (U.S.)

27—First Sunday of Advent (Advent begins) (Christian)

28—Ascension of Abdu’l-Baha (Baha’i)

30—St. Andrew’s Day (Christian)


Holidays and Festivals December 2022

Man with red bishop's hat and white beard waves with white gloved hand

Sinterklaas arrives in the Netherlands.

DECEMBER, with dec for “ten,” wraps up the old Roman system of numbering months.

6—St. Nicholas Day (Christian)

7—Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day (U.S.)

8—Immaculate Conception of Mary (Catholic Christian)

12—Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe (Hispanic Catholic Christian) Note: In the Roman Catholic church, this feast is omitted in 2022 due to its occurrence on the third Sunday of Advent. However, Our Lady of Guadalupe is permitted to be honored in the Homily, in prayers and hymns, and in a Mass before or after Dec. 12.

16—Posadas Navidenas begins (Hispanic Christian)

18—Sundown, Hanukkah (Chanukah) begins (Jewish)

21—Yule (Christian, Wicca, pagan)

21—Winter solstice (Northern Hemisphere)

25—Christmas (Christian)

25—Feast of the Nativity (Orthodox Christian)

26—Kwanzaa begins

26—Feast of St. Stephen (Christian)

28—Holy Innocents (Christian)

30—Feast of the Holy Family (Catholic Christian)

31—Watch Night (Christian)




We continue to update this list, month by month. As you read the list, you may discover we have missed a fascinating observance or detail. If so, please email us at [email protected].

Mother’s Day: ‘Arise, women!’ (Know the origins of the holiday?)

“Arise, then, women of this day! Arise, all women who have hearts, whether your baptism be that of water or of tears! Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn all that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.”

-Excerpted and adapted by Ken Sehested, from Julia Ward Howe’s “Appeal to Womanhood Throughout the World,” September 1870

Caucasion mother kisses baby over shoulder

Photo courtesy of Goodnight Photography Studio, via Flickr

SUNDAY, MAY 12: Give thanks to Mom, Grandma and any maternal figure in your life today on this, the second Sunday of May—it’s Mother’s Day.

The modern observance of Mother’s Day began with Anna Jarvis in 1908, when she collaborated with the founder of Bethany Temple Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia. From the beginning, Jarvis specified the day should be “Mother’s Day,” as a singular possessive, so that each person would honor their own mother. Jarvis herself promoted the holiday tirelessly until she caught the attention of President Woodrow Wilson, who made the day an official national holiday in 1914. (Wikipedia has details.) Unfortunately, the day became so commercialized that Jarvis later regretted having established the holiday at all.

Did you know? Mother’s Day yields the highest church attendance after Christmas Eve and Easter. Most churches honor their congregation’s mothers in some way—with a special prayer, perhaps, or in many congregations with a flower.

In search of the perfect gift? Kaboose offers up do-it-yourself ideas for kids, while Mother Nature Network suggests gifts for moms who love gardening. For unique moms, Huffington Post has “weird” gifts, and Fox News suggests gifts that will boost Mom’s health.

Cooking Mom brunch? Look to Martha Stewart and AllRecipes for ideas and recipes. Or, visualize America’s 10 coolest Mother’s Day Brunches with a photo slideshow from ABC News.

African mother carries sleeping baby

Photo courtesy of Fotopedia

Care to care more? The Mother’s Day Movement supports women and girls in the developing world, with the belief that empowered women strongly impact the lives of their children and their communities. Help these women by donating your portion of the $14 billion spent annually on Mother’s Day. This year, the Mother’s Day Movement is focusing on the Fistula Foundation, which aids women who often suffer lifelong isolation resulting from difficulties in childbirth.

Or, try a Mother’s Day Prayer or learn the Catholic perspective with these Mother’s Day resources.

Want Mother’s Day By the Numbers? Check out


ReadTheSpirit is offering a couple of great ideas:
columnist Bobbie Lewis writes about the importance of actually setting aside time to talk to Mom and to listen to her. She calls her story Questions Left Unanswered; Stories Left Untold. Simple. Free. And, a great idea.
Second, ReadTheSpirit recommends a Hallmark movie debut this week, called The Confession, based on a best-selling Amish-themed novel by Beverly Lewis. It’s about a wealthy mother trying to find her long-lost Amish daughter.


Asian origin mother and baby look into distance

Photo courtesy of Flickr

While the modern observance of Mother’s Day began just a century ago, celebrations for women and mothers have been common throughout history. Greeks worshipped the mother goddess Cybele, while the Romans held the festival of Hilaria; Christians have observed Mothering Sunday for centuries, while Hindus have honored “Mata Tirtha Aunshi,” or “Mother Pilgrimage Fortnight.” The first American attempts for a “Mother’s Day for Peace” arose in the 1870s, when Julia Ward Howe called on mothers to support disarmament in the Civil War and Franco-Prussian War. Several decades later, Anna Jarvis created a holiday that became the Mother’s Day we know today.

Cinco de Mayo: Celebrating Mexican courage, culture, cuisine and Our Lady of Guadalupe, too


An hispanic young woman wearing a colorful traditional dress dancing in street festival

A Cinco de Mayo dancer in a festival organized by Columbia University. Photo in public domain

Bring out the salsa verde and turn up the Latin music! It’s Cinco de Mayo. For one day, Mexican culture resonates around the world: The American President officially declares the holiday; Canadians hold street festivals; Australians put on a cultural fest and Brits celebrate with a toast to Mexico. (Wikipedia has details.) Ironically, this global recognition of the Mexican nation didn’t start in Mexico. It started in the United States, where Americans of Mexican origin were commemorating a Mexican victory in the Battle of Puebla of 1862.

That era in Latin American history is complex, but basically involved European imperial powers seeking to take over Mexico. The force that landed in 1862 and waged war for five years was French. Other European powers assumed that the French would conquer Mexico with little resistance. The Battle of Puebla—on May 5, 1862—certainly did not win the war for the Mexicans. Nevertheless, the Mexican victory was celebrated as demonstrating the people’s courage and ability to defeat one of Europe’s most powerful armies. (Learn more at

May 5 is still celebrated throughout the state of Puebla, in Mexico, and most widely in the United States. Many American schools and communities hold Mexican educational events, and iconic Mexican symbols—including the Virgin of Guadalupe—are displayed.


Of course, what is Cinco de Mayo without some tantalizing Mexican recipes? Try a few suggestions from Food Network, the Huffington Post and Fox News. For kids, Kaboose has Cinco crafts and activities.

This year’s yummiest Cinco de Mayo food story, though, comes from the Smithsonian Magazine. Given the Smithsonian’s interest in cultural authenticity, the magazine story reports: “What America’s Cinco de Mayo misses is the traditional food of Mexico, named to the UNESCO Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage, a recognition given to only one other cuisine (French). … What makes traditional Mexican fare worthy of such a distinction? You won’t find cumin-soaked ground beef in hard shell tacos topped with iceberg and cheddar. But, you will find beef barbacoa that has been smoked underground in banana leaves or carnitas topped with queso fresco, pickled onions and homemade salsa verde wrapped in a warm homemade corn tortilla that has been ever so lightly heated on a comal.”

Read the entire Smithsonian story, complete with a half dozen tasty—and authentic—recipes!

(Originally published at, an online magazine covering religion, values and cultural diversity.)

National Day of Prayer: Evangelicals mobilize; others diversify


Each year, many men and women serving in the U.S. military participate in the National Day of Prayer. Last year, in this photo, a Marine bows in the prayer event. Photo by Cpl. Jo Jones, released for public use via Wikimedia Commons.

Each year, many men and women serving in the U.S. military participate in the National Day of Prayer. Last year, in this photo, a Marine bows in the prayer event. Photo by Cpl. Jo Jones, released for public use via Wikimedia Commons.

THURSDAY, MAY 2: For more than 20 years, the official “National Day of Prayer” organization has been coordinated by Dr. James Dobson’s Focus on the Family. While it is true that more than 30,000 prayer circles will form across the United States today, most of those gatherings will be limited to evangelical Christians. That’s not surprising, considering that the group’s official guidelines, “How to Pray,” instruct men and women to “recognize Jesus as a Friend and a Brother. Recognize the Holy Spirit as your Comforter and Guide. Come to the Father in Jesus’ name.”

The current custom of a National Day of Prayer, founded in 1952 by President Harry Truman, was intended as an appeal to all Americans to pray according to their own traditions. Of course, in the early 1950s, politicians in Washington D.C. were focused primarily on Christian Americans. Now that the chief organizing body for the event is firmly in the grasp of Focus on the Family, the National Day of Prayer is as much about mobilizing a political demonstration as it is about prompting prayer. The supporting materials provided by the National Day of Prayer task force include instructions to pray that America will become a more “biblical” nation, defining that with a laundry list of political positions from the Religious Right.

That’s not to say that every person who shows up at a National Day of Prayer event supports the political agenda of Focus on the Family. However, in the days leading up to the event this year, gay-rights activists related to the U.S. armed forces have objected to the National Day of Prayer lineup of speakers in Washington D.C. Since gay men and women now are allowed to serve in the armed forces, activists argue that it is inappropriate to showcase clergy at the Washington D.C. event who are outspokenly anti-gay in their preaching. Organizers of the Washington D.C. program say they are not changing their plans.


Wherever you live across the United States, you may want to Google local events listed by regional newspapers or by interfaith organizations. Many interfaith groups across the U.S. organize events each year to showcase the breadth of the entire religious community. In addition, many non-Christian houses of worship are hosting special prayer times today, wanting to provide their members an opportunity to pray for the nation in their own way. No one is keeping a census of these alternative prayer events, but observers estimate that May 2, 2013, will bring thousands of events that are independently organized outside the political umbrella of the Focus on Family organization.

This year also is the 10th anniversary of the main nonprofit organization the National Day of Reason that was organized to peacefully protest the National Day of Prayer organization. The National Day of Reason “News” website showcases news items about co-sponsors and the handful of cities across the U.S. issuing National Day of Reason proclamations. The group says that it hopes to “encourage all citizens, residents and visitors to join in observing this day and focusing upon the employment of reason, critical thought, the scientific method, and free inquiry to the resolution of human problems and for the welfare of human kind.”

EARTH DAY: Add spirit to the world’s largest secular holiday

View of top portion of Earth from space

Photo in public domain

MONDAY, APRIL 22: What began as a progressive political movement spearheaded by Wisconsin’s Sen. Gaylor Nelson in 1970 is today a worldwide movement with deep spiritual connections. The Earth Day Network welcomes religious participation, explaining: “Faith leaders have been a driving force behind the most important and successful social movements. We encourage all people of faith across the globe to join us on Earth Day this April as we show the world The Face of Climate Change.”


Click the Face of Climate Change logo to visit this online hub of activism.

Click the Face of Climate Change logo to visit this online hub of activism.

The Earth Day Network, which is the global hub of this annual event, offers a wide array of faith-based resources:
For Congregations: The Network provides sample sabbath invitations, plus a 1-page bulletin insert for use at weekend worship.
Earth Stewardship: Convenient links will take you to statements of concern for the Earth from a host of religious groups. Need some inspiring material to carry with you into your congregation? You’ll find plenty of choices from that online starting point.
The Face of Climate Change: Here’s the portal to the big 2013 theme called “The Face of Climate Change.” This is a grassroots opportunity for anyone to add to the global effort by uploading photos of environmental change in your part of the planet. The invitation says: “Help us personalize the massive challenge climate change presents by taking a photo and telling your story. How has climate change impacted you? What are you doing to be part of the solution?”


Environmental activists began brainstorming the idea behind Earth Day in the late 1960s, leading to the first Earth Day in 1970. (Wikipedia has details.) While that first Earth Day drew some 20 million American participants mainly associated with schools and colleges, today’s observance spans 192 countries and gathers approximately 1 billion volunteers.

The Earth Day Network, founded in 1993, launched the concept into a new dimension, organizing large-scale, international events such as The Canopy Project, which pledges to plan 10 million trees in impoverished areas within the next five years. True to its grassroots beginnings, the Earth Day Network launched The Canopy Project to combat land degradation, energy loss and pollution in impoverished communities—one tree at a time. Of course, anyone can plant a tree on Earth Day, and anywhere. Today, original Earth Day organizer Dennis Hayes calls the observance “the largest secular holiday in the world.”

Find out what the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is doing for the holiday by checking out its site.

Two Indian women wearing head scarves and smiling

Earth Day Network is turning to India as the possible largest consumer and producer of organic foods. Photo in public domain


With a rapidly growing population and the ability to produce organic crops on a massive scale, Earth Day Network is turning to India as a major player in protecting our planet.

“India is poised to become the world’s largest supplier and consumer of certified organic foods,” reported the CEO of a major group of companies in India. “The farmers across the country are keen observers and are learning from each other about the benefits of richer soil, richer crops and richer pockets!”

Earth Day Network launched a permanent India Program in 2010, and is preparing the next generation by helping teachers incorporate environmental education into their curricula. Earth Day Network-India coordinated more than 1,000 events across India last year, with more than 30 million participants. This year, the organization is reaching out to Indian women with a Go Organic Garden Party, encouraging the citizens who make 85 percent of consumer choices to buy organic. Earth Day Network also works with top women leaders in India to create a network that would promote women’s roles in creating a green economy.


Engineers may design eco-friendly energy sources and leaders support a “green economy,” but Earth Day Network insists it’s everyday people—those who live sustainably by conserving resources, recycling, buying organic produce and performing other individual acts—who truly make a difference on a global scale.

Just take it from Ria Chhabra, a 16-year-old near Dallas whose school project on fruit flies and organic produce garnered international attention and the assistance of university labs. (Read the article in the New York Times.) Want more ideas for young people? Kids can access Earth Day crafts and recipes at Kaboose.

Earth Day Network also coordinates and inspires several events across the U.S., which includes the Earth Month Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math Fair (STEM Fair); the Environmental Film Festival; and the Green Fashion Show. The STEM Fair was underwritten by NASA, Grant Thornton, Chobani and Copia.

(Originally published at, an online magazine covering religion, values and cross-cultural issues.)