Monday, April 25, 2011

April 25th- Liberazione (Italian Liberation Day), Festa di San Marco, and Festa Del Bocolo (Italy)

As you can tell from the title of this post, April 25th is a busy day in Italy! Several holidays fall upon this day, the first being Liberazione--Italian Liberation Day. This holiday commemorates the fall of Mussolini's Italian Social Republic and the liberation of Italy by allied troops in 1945 toward the end of World War 2. The Italians honor Liberazione nationally not only by celebrating, but also by remembering the soldiers and war heroes who gave their lives to fight for Italy's freedom. Although there are parades, concerts, marching bands, flags, and rallies to celebrate the fallen Italians, most restaurants, shops, and public services throughout Italy are closed. 

Coincedentally, April 25th is also the Festa di San Marco in Venice.  This feast day honors Saint Marco who is Venice's Patron Saint. To celebrate, the Venecians host a parade and a procession in the "Piazza San Marco", or Saint Mark's Square. In honor of Saint Mark, the Venetians also celebrate the "Festa Del Bocolo", or Festival of the Blooming Rose. On this day, Venetian men present the women they love with a red rose. There are several myths from which this tradition may have originated. One story tells of a war hero wounded to death on the battlefield who leaves his lover a rose covered in his own blood. Another legend tells of a rose bed growing beside Saint Mark's grave that served as a barrier between two young lovers many years later. Whatever the true story may be, Venetians honor the Festa Del Bocolo similarly to the way Americans celebrate Valentine's Day. 


Saturday, April 16, 2011

April 16th- Birthday of Queen Margrethe II (Denmark)

Queen Margrethe II was born on April 16th, 1940 and ascended to the throne of Denmark on January 14th, 1972. This year, she is celebrating her 72nd birthday as Denmark's second female monarch. The Queen is very well-liked by her people, who know her for love of art and literature. Her talents range from painting, drawing, and watercolor to scenography, textiles, and needlework.  The people of Denmark love their queen so much that they begin celebrating her birthday March 24th and continue through May with concerts, banquets, parades, and exhibitions honoring her life and achievements. On her actual birthday, April 16th,  Queen Margrethe II's tradition is to stand on her castle balcony and waive to the throngs of her people who gather below to cheer for her. Although the celebration of her 71st birthday this year will be significantly smaller than that of last year, she will still be greeting her people and waiving from her balcony with her family. 

Queen Margrethe's II's Birthday

Queen Margarethe II

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

April 12th- Cosmonautics Day (Russia)

April 12th is honored as Cosmonautics Day in Russia because it was the day Yuri Gagarin of the Soviet Union made his historic flight as the first human in space. Yuri Gagarin took the 108 minute orbit around the Earth at 9:08 AM aboard the capsule Vostok 1. The groundbreaking flight left Gagarin both a national and international hero. 

Celebration of Cosmonautics Day in Russia begins with a commemoration ceremony in Korolyov, which is often referred to as the "cradle of space exploration". Participants of the celebration then advance to the Kremlin Wall Necropolis in the Red Square to pay their respects at Yuri Gagarin's grave, which is located alongside the graves of other Soviet leaders and heroes. Next, the group proceeds through Cosmonauts Alley which exhibits busts of significant participants in the Soviet space program including Yuri Gagarin and people such as Sergei Korolyov and Valentina Tereshkova. At the end of the avenue, the procession comes to a close at the monument "To the Conquerors of Space", which was assembled in 1964 to honor Russia's achievement in space exploration. 

Possibly the best part of this holiday is the fact that on April 7, 2011, the UN General Assembly made history by adopting a resolution that declares April 12th the International Day of Manned Space Flight. As a result of this, the holiday will from now on be celebrated not only in Russia, but also throughout the world. 

Yuri Gagarin, Age 27

The Vostok 1 Capsule on display at the 
RKK Energiya Museum


Friday, April 8, 2011

April 8th- Buddha's Birthday (Buddhism)

Although Buddha's birthday is celebrated on different dates throughout Buddhism-practicing countries, Japan celebrates it every year on April 8th because they have adopted the Gregorian calendar. The exact year that Buddha was born is debatable, but most agree that it was between the years of 563-483 BCE. Buddha's Birthday is a day of great celebration throughout Asia boasting parades full of musicians, dancers, floats, and dragons. People hang lanterns in streets and enjoy communal meals. The Japanese refer to  Buddha's birthday as Hana Matsuri, meaning "Flower Festival" because they venture to the temples bringing offerings of fresh spring flowers, especially cherry blossoms. 

One widely spread tradition for Buddha's Birthday that is found in most schools of Buddhism is the washing of the baby Buddha. According to legend, when Buddha was born, he took seven steps and declared, "I alone am the World-Honored One". He then pointed up with one hand and down with the other, which symbolized that he would unite heaven and earth. It is said that the seven steps represent seven directions: north, south, east, west, up, down, and here. The tradition of washing the baby Buddha honors this moment. The process begins with a statue of the baby Buddha being placed on a stand inside an elevated basin. People come up to the alter and pour water or tea on the tiny figurine with a ladle to symbolically wash the baby Buddha. 

Hanging Lanterns in the Streets

The Washing of the Baby Budhha


Thursday, April 7, 2011

April 7th- Day of Maternity and Beauty (Armenia)

On April 7th, the Armenian Church celebrates the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary-- the day, according to the Biblical legend, that "the angels announced the Virgin Mary on the forthcoming birth of Jesus Christ" (Advantour para 2). In the secular lives of the Armenians, this day was turned into the Day of Maternity and Beauty. Keep in mind that April 7th also marks the end of the "Month of Praise of Women" in Armenia that began March 8th on International Women's Day. During the whole month in Armenia, there are festivals, exhibitions, fairs, concerts, and theatre openings held in women's honor. Although this holiday especially celebrates mothers, all females (no matter what status or age) are given gifts from men, who regard them as the "fairer sex". 

The Day of Maternity and Beauty in Armenia may ring a bell to us here in the United States; after all, we do have a Mother's Day celebrated in May. However, The Day of Maternity and Beauty is different from our Mother's day because it celebrates not only mothers, but the entire female population. It is also different from Mother's Day because in Armenia, children congratulate women by giving them not only gifts and candy, but creative artwork as well. Children's creative work for The Day of Maternity and Beauty is showcased in exhibitions all around the country.