Watch Night / New Year’s Eve: Millions welcome 2014

Confetti fills the air in Times Square, from a bystander's perspective

Times Square in New York is showered with confetti just moments after midnight. Photo by Dave Hunt, courtesy of Flickr

TUESDAY, JANUARY 31: To all of our readers, from ReadTheSpirit, we say: Happy New Year!

As the Gregorian year 2013 draws to a close, millions around the world bid farewell to the past 365 days, welcoming the year 2014 with new hopes and resolutions. Alternatively known as the Western calendar or Christian calendar, this is the most widely accepted civil calendar worldwide. Whether you’ll be ringing in the New Year with your congregation’s Watch Night service or potluck, attending a party, logging in to a virtual celebration or just watching the New York Times Square ball drop from home, take some time to ponder over the old year and embrace the new.


The tradition of Watch Night began with Methodism’s founder John Wesley, who created Covenant Renewal Services in 1740. To this day, the United Methodist Church provides online resources for this holiday.

Additional meaning was added on the night of Dec. 31, 1862, when African American slaves gathered in churches to receive word of the declaration that they were legally free, as the Emancipation Proclamation became law. Many African American churches consider these historic events in their Watchnight services.

Other denominations use this time to “call” their members back to God, giving thanks for the blessings of the year past and praying for protection in the year to come. (The United Church of Christ offers a Watch Night poem.) Some church traditions mark Watch Night or Midnight Mass with services, potlucks, dancing, joyful praise and song. Services typically end just after midnight.

Closeup of glass half filled with champagne, another glass in background

Photo by Anders Adermark, courtesy of Flickr


Decorate for your New Year’s bash with help from Martha Stewart. Find her recipes here.

Running out of time? Rachael Ray offers party shortcuts and decorating tips.

An elegant New Year’s Day brunch is made easy with inspirations from HGTV.

The L.A. Times offers up eight champagne cocktail ideas.

Ryan Seacrest and Jenny McCarthy are lined up to host Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Ryan Seacrest 2014, and they’ll be welcoming celebrities like Miley Cyrus, Fall Out Boy, Jennifer Hudson, Enrique Iglesias, Robin Thicke and Blondie. The complete schedule can be found here. Information on watching the event livestream, from your computer or digital device, can be found here.


As social media and virtual devices change the way people communicate, New Year’s Eve 2014 will be no exception: from virtual parties to a New Year’s Eve Times Square Ball app, users can now enjoy the event from the comfort of their own homes.

The New York Times reported on the growing popularity of “virtual” New Year’s parties, for which “attendees” can log in and chat with other partygoers, dance to the same music and even share photos via social media. Supporters cite the virtual parties as a great alternative to parents or others who, for various reasons, cannot go out that night—and, as a bonus, won’t add to the number of drunk drivers on the road that night. Alternatively, the 2014 Times Square Ball app allows users to experience Times Square in all of its six-hour, 20-minute glory, livestreaming the New Year’s Eve event without the filter of a network. (International Business Times has the story.) Users can also interact with attendees at Times Square, or even “talk” with the Times Square Ball, which claims its own Twitter account.

(Originally published at, an on line magazine covering religion, spirituality, values and interfaith and cross-cultural issues.)

Winter Solstice: Seasons change; Pagans, Wiccans observe Yule

Winter scene with snow in woods, sun shining through trees in back

Winter landscape in Sweden. Photo by Lisa Widerberg, courtesy of Flickr

SATURDAY, DECEMBER 21: The vast majority of our readers live in the Northern Hemisphere and to all of you we say: Welcome to the longest night of the year!

We also have many readers in the Southern Hemisphere, especially Australia and New Zealand, and to you we say: Enjoy midsummer!

Wherever you live—and as long as men and women have walked the earth—the solstices have been marked as auspicious turning points in the calendar. For our Northern readers, this is the winter solstice. Often termed Yuletide or Yulefest, the days surrounding winter solstice have long been marked with cold-weather festivals and warm feasts, giving thanks for the “rebirth of the sun” and the reversal from increasing darkness to increasing light. Ancient Germanic peoples observed Yule; ancient Romans held Saturnalia, Brumalia and other festivals for the sun with food, gift-giving, gambling and often ludicrous behavior. Today, Pagans and Wiccans gather for Yule festivities: feasting and the lighting of the celebrated Yule log, which will smolder for 12 days.

Want recipes? Bake a tasty version of a Yule log with recipes from Food Network, Taste of Home and Martha Stewart. Sit back, grab a hot drink and relax in the serenity of winter.

Germanic peoples are credited the religious festival called “Yule,” and during Yuletide—which lasted approximately two months—many participants paid tribute to the Wild Hunt (a ghostly procession in the winter sky) and the god Odin (the leader of the Wild Hunt). Of course, this depended on where you lived in Europe at that time. Traditionally, enormous feasts and livestock sacrifices were associated with Yule. So merry was the atmosphere in these activities, in fact, that Grettis Saga refers to Yule as the time of “greatest mirth and joy among men.” Today’s Pagans and Wiccans often exchange gifts at Yule meals, while praising the rebirth of the sun and various gods. (Learn more from


Pot of wassail with orange slices floating in it, steaming on a stovetop

Wassail cider cooks on a stovetop. Photo courtesy of Flickr

Solstice traditions have many names around the world: Inti Raymi in the Incan Empire in honor of the sun god Inti, and Soyalangwul for the Zuni and the Hopi. In Machu Piccu, there still exists a large stone column known as an Intihuatana, or the “tying of the sun”; ancient peoples would ceremonially tie the sun to the stone so that it could not escape. The East Asian Dongzhi festival recalls yin/yang and the dark/light balance of the cosmos.


Winter got you down? Recharge with some all-natural ideas from the Huffington Post, such as enjoying the beauty of firelight or relaxing to some Classical music. In years past, pagans “wassailed” their fields with cider drinks—but a tasty wassail is great for sipping! (Find a recipe here. For an alcoholic version, check out the New York Times.)

Get in touch with nature by decorating your home with holly, mistletoe and evergreens; for a warm scent, make a pomander by decorating oranges with cloves (get instructions from Martha Stewart), noting the orange’s resemblance to the sun.

(Originally published at, an on line magazine covering religion, spirituality, values and interfaith and cross-cultural issues.)


Lively Spirits of Halloween: All Hallow’s Eve, All Saints’ Day, All Souls’ Day and Dia de los Muertos

3 Pumpkins on a staircase in Shaker Village at Pleasant Hill KYTHURSDAY, OCT. 31: Halloween (All Hallow’s Eve).

FRIDAY, NOV. 1: All Saints’ Day.

SATURDAY, NOV. 2: All Souls’ Day.

NOV. 1-2: Day of the Dead (Dia de Muertos).

FEW AMERICANS know the terms Hallowmass or Triduum of All Hallows, which refer to the traditional Christian remembrance of the saints who have passed from this world. Instead, for millions of men, women and children across the United States and around the world, the end of October brings the secular celebration of Halloween.

That’s 158 million souls in the U.S., to be exact, according to the annual Halloween survey by the National Retail Federation (NRF). This year’s report by the trade group is fueling predictions of a slight reduction in American festivities. The NRF says the 158 million celebrants, this year, will be down from a record 170 million last year. Experts claim that recent economic anxieties have American families hesitant about how much they will spend for candy and colorful costumes.

Nevertheless, the total outlay for this sugar-fueled blast are enormous! This year, “celebrants will spend $2.08 billion on candy and $360 million on greeting cards,” the NRF reports. Halloween now is “second only to Christmas in terms of spending on decorations; Americans will spend $1.96 billion on life-size skeletons, fake cob webs, mantle pieces and other festive decorations.”

What are typical Halloween customs today? We’ve now got annual tracking of the most popular Halloween habits by the NRF, which advises retailers on what to stock. Here are the most popular customs nationwide: “There are a variety of ways Americans will celebrate this year, with handing out candy being the most popular (72.0%). Others will carve a pumpkin (44.2%), visit a haunted house (20.3%), take their child trick-or-treating (31.7%) and decorate their home and/or yard (47.5%)—and 3 in 10 (30.9%) will make the most of the holiday by attending or hosting a party.”

Two well-established trends, this year, reported far and wide in news media: Producing pet costumes now is a multi-million-dollar business. And, TIME magazine reports: More money is spent on adult costumes than on children’s costumes—and your choice of costume may say a lot about your personality on this one flamboyant day, each year.


Among the millions of adults who will dress up, this year, “costumes are communication devices,” writes TIME’s Halloween columnist Kit Yarrow, who chairs the psychology department of Golden Gate University. In her TIME article, Yarrow describes the meaning of several Halloween costuming trends, including a wide array of sexy costumes popular especially among college students and young adults.

More interesting, Yarrow writes, is the ongoing popularity of “dark side” costumes: “Vampires, grim reapers, devils, witches and other powerful, predatory characters are top costume picks across all adult age groups this year, as they have been for the past five years. Yes, dressing up as something spooky and scary is traditional for Halloween. But there may be something else at work here. In a political and economic era where people feel less certainty and control in their lives, there’s a certain allure to being a character that’s unburdened by empathy and more likely to be the perpetrator rather than the victim.”


The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops still reminds the faithful that All Saints is “a holy day of obligation.” The Feast of All Saints gives “Catholics the opportunity to honor all the saints, both those solemnly recognized by the Church and those whose holiness of life is known only to God and to those who knew them.”

The Catholic Bishops provide the readings for the Solemnity of All Saints on their website. The readings include the famous passage from the Bible’s book of Revelation in which John is given a glimpse of what Christians consider the communion of saints surrounding God—”a great multitude,  which no one could count, from every nation, race, people, and tongue. They stood before the throne and before the Lamb, wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands.”

On the following day, November 2, all the dead are remembered in Catholic liturgy of All Souls, for which the bishops also provide readings.

These Christian festivals date back more than a millennia to the age when church leaders were eager to eclipse ancient pagan festivities such as Samhain and Feralia. The establishment of a Triduum of All Hallows was largely a Western Church response to traditions that remained from Roman times. (Our Holidays & Festivals column also is covering Samhain, a festival with a growing number of celebrants around the world.)

Christian churches that look to the East already have celebrated this festival, which is connected to Pentecost in the Orthodox world and is called Sunday of All Saints. In our coverage of that Eastern Orthodox holiday in June, we reported in part: “The Sunday of All Saints always falls on the first Sunday after Pentecost—owing to the belief that the descent of the Holy Spirit (Pentecost) allows humans to rise above a fallen state and attain sainthood.”


Catrina Calavera figures on Dia de Muertos. (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.)

Catrina Calavera figures on Dia de Muertos. (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.)

This hugely popular festival has spread from Mexico to many other parts of the world, mainly because of the creative folk art associated with the holiday: skeleton-themed costumes, decorations, dances and even toys for children. According to Wikipedia, the Mexican festival is usually described as a regional celebration of both the Catholic All Saints and All Souls holidays, spanning both November 1 and 2. However, “scholars trace the origins of the modern Mexican holiday to indigenous observances dating back hundreds of years and to an Aztec festival dedicated to the goddess Mictecacihuatl.”

In a recent Huffington Post column, Dr. R. Andrew Chesnut, professor of religious studies at Virginia Commonwealth University, along with researcher David Metcalfe, wrote about the widespread and complex celebration of Dia de los Muertos these days. They wrote, in part: “Halloween and the Mexican death trinity of Day of the Dead, Catrina Calavera (Skeleton Dame), and Santa Muerte (Saint Death) engage millions of North and South Americans in rituals that reconnect us with our own mortality.”

They add, “While in the United States, All Hallows Eve has taken on the darker image of Halloween, with haunted houses, horror movie themes and the dead returning for trouble rather than tradition, in Latin America and Europe, where Catholic influences have remained strong, the first and second of November continue to hold their ancient ties to festivals associated with sacred remembrance of the influences found in the still living past. In Mexico, Dia de los Muertos … is a time to reconnect with deceased friends, family members and ancestors in a festive spirit of remembrance and celebration.”


The spiritual realm separating the living and the dead has fascinated Christian writers and artists for centuries. In 1945, Charles Williams wrote his final mystical novel about All Hallows’ Eve. For a time, Williams was a member of the famous group of authors and scholars known as the Inklings, a group that included C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. Among the Inklings, Williams penned some of the most imaginative contemporary fiction, including this 1945 novel that explores what relationships might exist between the living and the dead. It opens with an eerie scene in which a dead woman finds her spirit, once again, wandering through London.

Want something less esoteric? The Internet Movie Database (IMDB) has multiple lists, created by various IMDB users, recommending great Halloween movies. One of the biggest is this 100 Great Halloween Movies list.

Too scary? A lot of online movie buffs are offering kid-friendly lists of great Halloween movies. One of the best is a new posting in BuzzFeed, called 20 Movies to Watch with Your Kids  This Halloween. Want a more substantial authority picking the movies for your family? Try this Parenting list of 19 Best Halloween Movies for Kids.

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

Equinox, Mabon: Earth crosses celestial equator; Pagans mark autumn

Women walking in distance down a natural path in autumn

Photo courtesy of Flickr

SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 22: Relish the crisp, autumn air and the warm spices of the season, as Pagans celebrate Mabon and people around the Northern Hemisphere mark the autumnal equinox. For Pagans and Wiccans, Mabon is a type of Thanksgiving, recognizing the gifts of harvest; it is a time to seek blessings for the approaching winter months. Equinox, a celestial event, occurs twice per year and is so named because the length of day and night are (almost exactly) equal. (Wikipedia has details.) The equinox phenomenon can occur on any planet with a significant tilt to its rotational axis, such as Saturn. (Check out photos of Saturn’s equinox at

Did you know? Thousands of years ago, Julius Caesar created his calendar with a drifting equinox. This moving calendar spurred Pope Gregory XIII to create the modern Gregorian calendar in 1582.

“Everything autumn” sums up the fare, symbols and activities of Mabon, as Pagans and Wiccans offer cider, wines and warming herbs and spices to gods and goddesses. Druids call this time Mea’n Fo’mhair, honoring the God of the Forest; Wiccans celebrate the Second Harvest Festival with altars, decorating them with pine cones, gourds, corn, apples and other autumn elements.

A time of mysteries, Wiccans recognize the aging of the goddess and visit ancestors’ graves, decorating them with leaves, acorns and other elements of fall. Tables are covered in feasts of breads, root vegetables and apple cider, as scents of cinnamon and nutmeg fill the air. (Learn more from Families gather, and preparations are made for the coming winter months.

Looking for an autumn activity? The festivities of Mabon can be enjoyed by everyone. Take a walk through the woods, while enjoying the bold colors of autumn; make a horn of plenty that will grace the home through the season. Kids can create corn husk dolls or applehead dolls, and homes can smell like fall with the addition of scented pine cones (get a DIY here).

Enkutatash: Rastafari, Ethiopians worldwide welcome New Year 2006

Red, yellow and green balloons decorating outside of restaurant

An Ethiopian restaurant in Canada, decorated for the New Year (Enkutatash). Photo courtesy of Flickr

WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 11: Dip a piece of injera into stew and toast the New Year with Ethiopians—today is Enkutatash, the end of the rainy season that has long been associated with the Queen of Sheba’s return from a visit with King Solomon. While many regions of the globe look toward autumn and the approaching cool weather, Ethiopia, alternatively, is welcoming spring! Bouquets of fresh flowers, which are blooming across the countryside, are common gifts on Enkutatash, as are cards and in-person greetings. Though not specifically a religious holiday, the largest Enkutatash celebrations in Ethiopia are held at the Ragual Church on Entoto Mountain and in the 14th-century Kostete Yohannes Church in Gaynt, where psalms, sermons and prayers can be heard outside the walls for three days. Colorful processions also dot the landscape. As Rastafari consider Ethiopia to be their spiritual homeland, they, also, mark this New Year. (Learn more at

Note: The Ethiopian calendar is based on the ancient Coptic calendar, although due to varying calculations of the Annunciation of Christ, the Ethiopian calendar is approximately 8 years behind the Gregorian. Thus, this is New Year 2006 in Ethiopia. (Want to know more about this unusual calenar? Wikipedia explains more in a longer article about the Ethiopian Calendar.)


The night before New Year, it’s custom for Ethiopians to bundle dry leaves and wood, then set them on fire in front of their homes while they sing. Early the next morning, many head to church and, afterward, enjoy a feast of traditional fare: injera (flat bread) and wat (stew) forms the base of this meal. Following the feast, children parade from house to house, singing and “selling” drawings for money, which they will spend in the evening. As the day draws to a close, families and friends visit one another and toast to the New Year, partaking in Ethiopian beer and other traditional drinks.

Did you know? Enkutatash means “gift of jewels,” recalling the gems that chiefs presented to the Queen of Sheba upon her return to Ethiopia after a visit to King Solomon in Jerusalem.


Approximately 200,000 Ethiopian-Americans reside in the area surrounding Washington, D.C. In that region of the U.S., celebrations for Enkutatash have grown until they now fill the area around the Washington Monument. Though falling on a solemn day of American remembrance now (see our 9/11 story), many Ethiopian leaders hope to make their holiday as well-known as St. Patrick’s Day or Cinco de Mayo. (Read more from the Washington Post’s Style Blog.)

Rolled flatbread next to colorful Ethiopian dipping foods

Photo courtesy of Flickr

For those who want to experience Ethiopian culture on days other than September 11, check regional listings in your part of the world. Events often take place days before or after the 9/11 New Year date. Last year, an Ethiopian Expo promoted Ethiopian businesses and dancing, reggae music, traditional food and the lighting of torches enlivened areas beneath the Washington Monument. (The Washington Post reported.)

Interested in cooking up some Ethiopian cuisine? A Spicy Perspective breaks down a typical Ethiopian platter, complete with photos and recipes.

Learn proper Ethiopian dinner etiquette, and access more authentic recipes from the University of Pennsylvania’s African Studies Center.

Birthday of Marcus Garvey: John the Baptist-style prophet to many

Group of African Americans drumming and dancing in a park

Drum circle, Marcus Garvey Park, Harlem, New York City. Photo courtesy of Flickr

“With confidence, you have won before you have started.”
Marcus Garvey

Click the DVD cover to visit its Amazon page.

Click the DVD cover to visit its Amazon page.

SATURDAY, AUGUST 17: From reggae bands to kids in Buffalo, from Rastafari to Africans of the Diaspora—all mark the birth anniversary of Marcus Garvey, born on this date in 1887. A Jamaican-born black nationalist who created the “Back to Africa” movement in the United States and is regarded as a prophet by the Rastafari religion, Garvey spent his life globetrotting for the cause of empowering Africans. Among his most notable accomplishments are the creation of the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) and African Communities League, which together claimed millions of members at the height of Garvey’s popularity.

Components of his philosophy for African economic empowerment and awareness, known as “Garveyism,” remain well-known today. Garvey was named the first national hero of Jamaica in 1964.

Q: Who was the first recipient of the Marcus Garvey Prize for Human Rights?
A: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Read more about Garvey at Wikipedia. At Read The Spirit, we also recommend the excellent PBS American Experience production, now available on DVD: The American Experience: Marcus Garvey, Look for Me in the Whirlwind. PBS still maintains the website for the documentary, which includes a transcript and other educational materials.

Marcus Mosiah Garvey, Jr. was born in an impoverished Jamaica to a wealthy family. From his father, Garvey inherited a vast library and a love of reading, which led him to become well-educated by the time he left school at age 14. From this young age Garvey traveled the world, and at age 27, he founded the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA). Reputation exceeded the public speaker, and Garvey’s tours often centered on topics like race pride, social and economic freedom, and unity. In 1935, Garvey moved to London, where he died of a stroke five years later.


During his speeches throughout the 1920s, Garvey often spoke grandly of a vision he had of the future—the appearance of a “black king” in Africa that would soon be crowned, thereby granting deliverance. In one speech, Garvey declared:

“I was determined that the black man would not continue to be kicked about, as I had seen in Central America, and as I read of it in America. Where is the black man’s government? Where is his King and his kingdom? Where is his President, his country, his men of big affairs? I could not find them, and then I declared, ‘I will help to make them.’ My brain was afire.”

After hearing many similar declarations, Garvey’s followers naturally kept a close eye on news from Africa. When Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia was crowned in 1930, members of the Rastafari religion—many of whom regard Selassie as a Messiah—hailed Garvey as a religious prophet. Some regard Garvey as the reincarnation of John the Baptist.


A local essay contest in Buffalo, New York, is set to assist the mayor in solving some of the city’s most pressing issues–from the perspective of students in grades 6 through 12. Participants will take the perspective of city mayor in solving challenges like violence, unemployment and education. (Buffalo News reports.) According to sponsor Eva Doyle, students can earn extra credit by incorporating the principles of Marcus Garvey and Garveyism into their answers.

In San Diego, bands and fans will gather at the WorldBeat Center on Aug. 18, for a tribute to the legacy of Marcus Garvey. A Mexican reggae band will mix African and Mexican cultures, in a way that organizers hope will tackle prejudice and promote unity.

Canada Day: A national day, flood cancelations and royal baby buzz

Fireworks exploding over skyline in Canada, crowd in foreground

Fireworks explode over Canada for Canada Day celebrations. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

MONDAY, JULY 1: “O Canada! Our home and native land!”  So goes the national anthem as Canadians living all around the world celebrate Canada Day—recalling the northern nation’s official confederation 146 years ago on a summer’s day very close to the date of American Independence Day.

Fireworks, parades, barbecues, outdoor concerts, free museum admissions and carnivals mark the fete from coast to coast. Even if you don’t own a red-maple-leaf flag, you can learn more about Canada’s history by reading below and checking out the assortment of red-and-white recipes and party ideas. English royals have attended Canada Day festivities in the past—as the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge did as recently as 2011—but with a royal due date looming near, the family will remain closer to home this year. Still, William and Catherine recently relayed a message to the flood residents and victims’ families in Alberta, just one of the regions where Canada Day 2013 events will be canceled this year. (Wikipedia already has an extensive article online about the June disaster, described as the worst flooding in Alberta’s history.)

And on the looming royal birth? Canadians, along with many other members of the British commonwealth, are reported as “going wild” for the royal baby. The Canadian Globe and Mail is planning a commemorative edition for after the royal birth, which is already estimated to be the best-viewed story of 2013; significant monuments, such as Niagara Falls and Toronto’s CN Tower, will also be lit up in pink or blue.


Canadian flag on wooden dowel

Photo courtesy of Flickr

Canada Day was originally known as Dominion Day, marking the July 1, 1867, enactment of the British North America Act that united three colonies into a single country. Still, British parliament and Cabinet retained some political control over the new country until 1982, when the Canada Act passed and Dominion Day was renamed “Canada Day.” (Wikipedia has details.)

Hundreds of thousands have gathered on the banks of Detroit, Michigan, and Windsor, Ontario, around July 1 since the 1950s, when the two cities hold a joint International Freedom Festival; more recently, global festivities for Canada Day have exploded in popularity. Trafalgar Square in London, England, hosts Canadian performers, activities and much more; Hong Kong marks Canada D’eh with thousands of participants; in Shanghai, China, Canada Day events are held at Bund Beach.


Canada’s biggest party takes place in Ottawa, the nation’s capital: The lawns of Parliament Hill fill with spectators from the early morning, when the Changing of the Guard ceremony and flag raising takes place. By mid-day, city streets are closed down for the abundance of events and by evening, a massive fireworks display fills the sky over Parliament Hill.

Next on this list is Vancouver’s Canada Place, which gathers upward of 250,000 people for 13 hours of free music, dance, food, exhibits and parade. An impressive Lumberjack Show comes to Vancouver on July 1, while in Halifax, the Canadian Museum of Immigration offers free admission, a Multicultural Fair and Official Citizenship Ceremony. (Read more at Canada am.) Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield will make an appearance in Ottawa this year.

Looking for fireworks? Get the official list of public displays across Canada at 680 News.

Crossing the border to celebrate? The Canada Border Services Agency offers tips on getting across safely and efficiently. (Hint: Border wait times are available online.)

Cupcake with red and white frosting and a Canadian flag on top

Photo courtesy of Flickr


What better suits a long weekend than a backyard barbecue? Host your own or find the perfect side dish to take along, with tips and ideas from Canadian publications and sites.

Burgers: Salmon with tomato aioli? Yes, please! Try a new twist on burgers with suggestions from Vancouver Sun.

Let’s Party: Wondering how to craft your invitations and menu for a Canada Day party? Check out ideas from City News Toronto.

Show Your Pride: Each year, children between 8 and 18 create posters, photographs and pieces of writing for the Canada Day Challenge, illustrating what their country means to them. View the winning entries here. If you’re eligible, start crafting ideas for a 2014 entry. Details will be posted in the fall.

PLEASE, help us spread the news to friends: Click the blue-”f” icon, either at top or bottom of this story, and share this article with your friends on Facebook.

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