Week of Prayer for Christian Unity: Pursuing Justice Is 2019 Theme for Global Resources

A gathering of some of the leaders active in the World Council of Churches.

Beginning FRIDAY, JANUARY 18: The world’s more than 2 billion Christians are urged to participate in this eight-day observance that is more than a century old—the international Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. The observance falls between the Feast of the Confession of Peter and the octave of Sts. Peter and Paul.

In 1908, this idea was launched by Father Paul Wattson—and now has circled the globe, co-sponsored by the World Council of Churches and the Vatican.

Note: In the Southern Hemisphere, where January is typically a time for vacations, churches may celebrate the Week of Prayer at a different time.

2019 Resources for Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

The World Council of Churches reports: “At least once a year, Christians are reminded of Jesus’ prayer for his disciples that ‘they may be one so that the world may believe’ (see John 17.21). Hearts are touched and Christians come together to pray for their unity. Congregations and parishes all over the world exchange preachers or arrange special ecumenical celebrations and prayer services. The event that touches off this special experience is the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.”

Church leaders can download a free 40-page resource guide co-sponsored by the World Council of Churches via a link on this page within the Council’s website.

At the Vatican, the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity also provides detailed resources, ranging from Bible passages to liturgical readings.


Daylight Savings Time: Participating states, countries ‘spring ahead’ 2018

Wall with various clocks hanging

Photo courtesy of pxhere

SUNDAY, MARCH 11: At 2 a.m. today, it’s time for spring—or, at least, to “spring” clocks forward by one hour, as Daylight Savings Time begins. First proposed by New Zealand’s George Vernon Hudson in 1895, the concept of Daylight Savings Time was originally proposed to utilize after-work hours for leisure activities with extra daylight. Though DST has fallen in and out of favor for decades, it is still widely used today throughout Europe and most of the United States.

DST: Did it begin with a Founding Father? Americans like to name Benjamin Franklin as the first proponent of Daylight Savings Time, because of a satirical essay he published while serving as an American envoy to Paris in 1784. Among other things, he urged the ringing of church bells and the firing of canons to get Parisians out of bed earlier each morning. However, historians now say that’s not the same as proposing Daylight Savings Time, which refers to a public shift in timekeeping. The 18th-century world had no concept of nationally standardized timekeeping, as we do today. Thus, many contemporary scholars don’t credit Ben with this particular innovation.


Still, many question its value in 21st century society, and arguments are made for the disruptions it causes in sleep patterns, traffic accidents, health issues and business.

Not all states in America practice Daylight Savings Time, and currently, several states are in the midst of deciding whether or not to keep Daylight Savings Time. Around the globe, Europe still relies heavily on DST, while Asia, Australia and Africa largely use standard time.

Fourth of July: Americans from coast to coast celebrate nation’s birthday

Kids parade Juy 4th

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

TUESDAY, JULY 4: Stars and Stripes fly high as Americans celebrate freedom: parades, picnics and reunions with family and friends fill streets, fields and parks and fireworks explode in the night sky. Though the legal separation of the Thirteen Colonies from Great Britain took place on July 2, 1776, it was two days later—July 4—when the Second Continental Congress gave its approval, and Americans observe this day in grand ceremony. So fire up the grill, deck out your yard (or yourself) in red, white and blue, and enjoy summer’s all-American holiday!

Fireworks in night sky

Photo by PublicDomainImages, courtesy of Pixabay

Boston Pops: Tune in to CBS for the live webcast of the Boston Pops concert and fireworks, which will feature celebrities Andy Grammer, Melissa Etheridge and Leslie Odom, Jr., this year, and is attended by a half million people annually.

A Capitol Fourth 2017: A Capitol Fourth—a free concert broadcast live by PBS, NPR and the American Forces Network—takes place on the Capitol lawn in Washington, D.C. In 2017, John Stamos will host the 37th annual show, which will feature performances by Dan Aykroyd and Jim Belushi of The Blues Brothers; The Beach Boys; The Four Tops and The Voice Season 12 winner Chris Blue.


With the fledgling battles of the Revolutionary War in April 1775, few colonists considered complete independence from Great Britain. Within a year, however, hostilities toward Great Britain were building and the desire for independence was growing, too.

Did you know? Congress declared July 4 a national holiday in 1870.

In June 1776, the Continental Congress appointed a five-person committee to draft a formal statement that would vindicate the break with Great Britain: Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Roger Sherman and Robert R. Livingston. Jefferson, considered the most articulate writer in the group, crafted the original draft.

Did you know? A total of 86 changes were made to the draft before its final adoption on July 4 by the Second Continental Congress; on July 5, 1776, official copies of the Declaration of Independence were distributed.

One year following, in 1777, Philadelphia marked the Fourth of July with an official dinner, toasts, 13-gun salutes, music, parades, prayers and speeches. As the new nation faced challenges, celebrations fell out of favor during ensuing decades. It wasn’t until after the War of 1812 that printed copies of the Declaration of Independence again were widely circulated, and festivities marked America’s Independence Day.

Red, white and blue flag cake

Photo by Andreas Ivarsson, courtesy of Flickr

Fun Fact: In 1789, the new U.S. Constitution went into effect and the Continental Congress was replaced by the U.S. Congress.


Nothing sets the stage better for a summer party than the Fourth of July!

From hot dogs and gourmet hamburgers to red, white and blue cakes and treats, find recipes from Martha Stewart, AllRecipes, Food Network, Food & Wine, Taste of Home, Rachael Ray and Real Simple.

For party and decor tips, check out HGTV’s Americana style suggestions and backyard party tips.

Patriotic game ideas are at Reader’s Digest, offering fun party games fit for any July Fourth celebration.

Labor Day: Americans honor U.S. workers, give one last hurrah for summer

Black-and-white photo of crowd of people with Labor Day pledge

Historic photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 5: Enjoy an outdoor picnic, watch a parade and just relax today—you’ve earned it! Today is Labor Day in the United States. Since 1882, Americans have set aside a day to hail the contributions of U.S. workers.

The first proposal for this holiday called communities to create a street parade that exhibited “the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations,” followed by a festival for workers and their families. Traditions haven’t changed too much in more than 100 years. (Kids—looking for Labor Day coloring pages, word searches and short stories? Click here for more.)

Labor Day is also unofficially regarded as the last day of summer. Along with a dedication to workers, Labor Day has evolved into a cultural “change of seasons” for Americans: Many families take one last vacation before the new schoolyear begins, and the NFL and college football seasons begin on Labor Day. The first Sunday in September is traditionally the last acceptable day for women to wear white, although that rule has relaxed. (History.com has more on the impact of Labor Day on American history.)


It’s debated who first proposed Labor Day, but the first observance was by the Central Labor Union—the first integrated major trade union in the country. Labor Day grew into a federal holiday just two years after its first observance, mainly in the wake of worker deaths in the Pullman Strike of 1894.

Since some workers had been killed by government officers, President Grover Cleveland made amends by pushing Labor Day through Congress and into law six days after the end of the strike. A spiritual aspect of Labor Day was highlighted in 1909, when the American Federation of Labor declared the Sunday preceding Labor Day as Labor Sunday, a time when the spiritual and education characteristics of the labor movement were examined.


Grill kabobs Labor DayLooking for the perfect recipe for a picnic or Labor Day gathering?

  • For the home cook, AllRecipes has a great selection of easy-to-follow recipes.
  • To wow guests or friends and family, try making a dish from Food Network.
  • Trying to eat healthier? Try a tantalizing Labor Day recipe from Eating Well.

Mother’s Day: Millions of Americans celebrate ‘Mom’—however defined

Woman with two twin girls, young

Photo by Donnie Ray Jones, courtesy of Flickr

SUNDAY, MAY 8: Honor Mom today with a bouquet of flowers, a homemade card or just your time, as today marks the American version of Mother’s Day.

A 1908 church service in West Virginia gave birth to the holiday now known across the U.S. as Mother’s Day—a national holiday that, annually, grosses billions of dollars in flowers, gifts and cards and pays homage to the millions of mothers across the country. Though versions of the current American Mother’s Day predated its creation—and, worldwide, several variations have existed for centuries—today’s modern holiday holds no ties to a particular historical saint or figure, but, rather, just to Mom. The first “official” service took place at the Andrews Methodist Episcopal Church in Grafton, West Virginia, where a woman by the name of Anna Jarvis honored her own mother. After exhaustive campaigning by Jarvis, President Woodrow Wilson set aside the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day, by 1914.

It may seem ironic that the primary advocate of the first Mother’s Day—Anna Jarvis—soon regretted having petitioned so persistently for the holiday, as the commercialism that rapidly followed its ascent was a stark contrast to the small-scale, personalized holiday that had originally been envisioned. Nonetheless, experts attest that had it not been for the early commercialization of Mother’s Day, it—like other smaller holidays of its time—would likely have fizzled out.

Did you know? Andrews Methodist Episcopal Church of Grafton, built in 1873, became the site of an International Mother’s Day Shrine in the 1960s. In 1992, it was designated a National Historic Landmark.

During the 1850s, Ann Reeves Jarvis of West Virginia held Mother’s Day work clubs to improve sanitation conditions, lower rates of infant mortality, fight disease and contamination and assist other mothers. When the Civil War broke out, women in these clubs looked after wounded soldiers. Upon the death of Ann Reeves Jarvis in 1905, her daughter, Anna Jarvis, was prompted to organize a tribute service for her at her church. Jarvis distributed hundreds of carnations—her mother’s favorite flower—to mothers at Andrews Methodist Episcopal Church, in Grafton.


Hallmark is releasing cards for Mother’s Day 2016 geared toward the “new normal” of family structures, reports USA Today. This year, card messages focus not only on traditional moms, but also on stay-at-home dads, divorced parents and same-sex couples. According to a Hallmark representative, “Now you see a huge range of situations represented … We are really trying to represent a diverse range of relationships that represent current society.”


Thanksgiving: Gather in gratitude (and pass the turkey) on America’s oldest holiday

Above table with Thanksgiving type dishes of food and multiple hands toasting glasses

Photo by Satya Murphy, courtesy of Flickr

THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 26: Clasp hands in gratitude and share a custom embedded in American history, on the national holiday of Thanksgiving. Originally a 1621 feast shared between Pilgrims and Wampanoag Native Americans, the turkey-centered meal that graces most American tables today has changed significantly since its initiation. This year, New York Times features a look at Julia Child’s impact on Thanksgiving (plus a few of her favorite recipes), and USA Today examines the turbulent relationship between Thanksgiving and Black Friday.

Keep reading, and you’ll find Thanksgiving history tidbits to share at your dinner table, tantalizing dish suggestions, activities for kids and more.

Ready? Let’s turkey!


Days for thanksgiving have an integral place in many faiths, and it was a day for gratitude that Pilgrims and Wampanoag Native Americans shared, in 1621, that became the American secular holiday known as Thanksgiving today. For the Wampanoag, giving thanks for the Creator’s gifts was a long-standing tradition; for the European Pilgrims, an abundant harvest gave more than enough reason for a celebration of gratitude. The 1621 feast lasted three days, and historic estimates point to approximately 50 Pilgrims and 90 Wampanoag Native Americans in attendance.

By the 1660s, an annual harvest festival was common in New England—a custom often proclaimed, in early years, by church leaders. Continental Congress declared the first national Thanksgiving in 1777, and years later, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed Thanksgiving as a federal holiday. In 1941, Thanksgiving was permanently placed on the fourth Thursday of November on the American calendar.

Illustration on old postcard of boy and turkey quarreling

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons


In tradition held almost as dear as the turkey, Thanksgiving in America has become an occasion for football—after all, the National Football League has played games on Thanksgiving since its inception. Since 1924, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade has marched down the streets of New York City, and in Detroit, America’s Thanksgiving Day Parade also has a long history. Many cities across the U.S. today host a Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving morning.


From traditional sweet potatoes to a new twist on cranberries, there’s no shortage of Thanksgiving recipes—find menus to satisfy any cook from Food Network, AllRecipes, Food & Wine and ReadTheSpirit’s own FeedTheSpirit.

Feeling crafty? Adult DIY instructions for Thanksgiving décor are at HGTV, and kids can get creative while the turkey’s cooking with ideas from Disney and Parenting.

Julia Child—the national Thanksgiving commander-in-chief? Read a fascinating history of Julia Child and the American Thanksgiving, and click here for Aunt Helen’s Fluffy Pumpkin Pie, Sherry Vinegar-Glazed Onions, Spicy Dried Fruit Dessert Sauce and more tempting recipes.

‘Organic’ or ‘All Natural’? Learn how to read turkey labels, with help from USA Today.

Volunteering this Thanksgiving? Learn the facts ahead of time—of how to be the most help—and understand how to really pitch in.

Traveling? Get the 2015 Travel Outlook. For travel tips, check out this article from the Washington Post.

Juneteenth: Celebrating 150 years of America’s end-of-slavery commemoration

African-American women at a table with purple t-shirts that read 'Juneteenth'

Women at a 2013 Juneteenth celebration. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

FRIDAY, JUNE 19: It was a sweltering day 150 years ago in Galveston, Texas, when Union soldiers—led by Major General Gordon Granger—landed, with news and an announcement: The war had ended and the enslaved were now free.

Though slaves had been freed more than two years earlier under President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, slaves in the deep South had felt minimum impact. However, with the surrender of General Lee in April 1865, Northern forces were now strong enough to overcome resistance in the South.

On June 19, 1865, General Gordon Granger publicly read General Order Number 3, which read, in part:

“The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with the Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of rights and property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and free laborer.”

In reaction to the news, men and women who had been enslaved danced in the streets. Some immediately left their former masters in search of freedom or to find family members. (Check out PBS for more.) The next year, freedmen organized the first annual “Juneteenth” celebrations in Texas, using public parks, church grounds and newly purchased land for the jubilant parties. (Wikipedia has details.) Juneteenth became an occasion for prayer, family reunions, shared outdoor meals and public readings. Celebrations attracted larger crowds for many years, until looming economic and cultural issues of the early 20th century caused a decline. Juneteenth came back into favor during the Civil Rights movement, and in 1980, it became an official state holiday in Texas.

Peacemakers-cover-3D-120x180Did you know? Prior to emancipation, sisters Sarah and Angelina Grimke—daughters of a slaveowner— fought for complete abolition of slavery. Read about the sisters in Daniel Buttry’s Interfaith Peacemakers, or in Sue Monk Kidd’s 2014 bestseller, The Invention of Wings.

Today, Juneteenth is observed across America with Miss Juneteenth contests, parades, barbecues, traditional foods and outdoor games.  (Find recipes here.) Major institutions such as the Smithsonian and Henry Ford Museum have begun sponsoring Juneteenth activities, and in many areas, portions of General Order Number 3 are read. Juneteenth has, from its beginnings, focused on education and self-improvement, and celebrations often include public readings of the writings of noted African-American writers and singing. (Learn more from AmericasLibrary.gov.) Currently, 43 states—along with the District of Columbia—recognize Juneteenth as a state holiday or day of observance.