Monday, May 30, 2011

May 30th- Canary Islands' Day (Canary Islands)

The Canary Islands are made up of 7 inhabited islands between Europe and Africa: Gran Canaria, Fuerteventura, Lanzarote, Tenerife, El Hierro, La Palma and La Gomera, and Chinijo Archipelago (which is made up of the smaller islands La Graciosa, Alegranza, MontaƱa Clara, Roque del Este and Roque del Oeste). The Canary Islands are an autonomous (meaning self-governing) Spanish community with their own parliament. Canary Islands Day marks the day of the Canary Islands' very first parliament session in 1983. 

Although the holiday celebrates government, it is also a celebration of the islands' rich culture. On this day, schools hold extra classes about the history of their homeland. The Canarians eat communal meals and host festivals in honor of the day. There are also domestic animals shows and exhibits of cows pulling sleighs. Another large part of the celebration consists of children singing cultural music and playing traditional games such as "watch-your-step" and "tug-of-war". This is indeed the day when the people of the Canary Islands celebrate their ancestry and exhibit their pride for bringing joy to so many. 

Map of Canary Islands

View from Canary Islands Beach
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Sunday, May 8, 2011

May 8th- White Lotus Day (Theosophy)

Although this Sunday is Mother's Day in America, there is an additional holiday that is much lesser known held annually on May 8th. This holiday is called White Lotus Day, and it is celebrated to commemorate the passing of Madame Helena Patrovna Blavatsky (also referred to as HPB). Madame Blavatsky was born into a well-to-do Russian family in 1831. During her life, she travelled around the world never staying in any one place very long. Madame Blavatsky was known as a psychic and was one of the founding members of the Theosophical Society. She is credited with launching the Theosophical Movement and first introducing the knowledge of Eastern Religions to the West. 

White Lotus Day is a holiday that encourages meditation and observation of the metaphor of the lotus. The lotus's life begins in the mud and travels through the water to reach the clear air and warmth of the sun. Madame Blavatsky and her fellow members of Theosophy believed that life structured itself in a quite a similar way. White Lotus Day is celebrated in several ways: 

1. At noon, a commemorative meeting is held at headquarters in which excerpts from Theosophical works are read. 
2. Food is given in Madame Blavatsky's to the poor fishermen of Adyar, India.
3. The flag is half-masted from sunrise to sunset. 
4. The convention hall is adorned with white lotus flowers. 
5. All braches of Theosophy meet on this day and express their love for Madame Blavatsky "in some simple, unsectarian, yet dignified way, avoiding all slavish adulation and empty compliments [...] for her who brought us the chart of the climbing Path which leads to the summits of Knowledge". 

White Lotus

Madame Blavatsky

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Saturday, May 7, 2011

May 7th- Radio Day (Russia, Bulgaria, and Armenia)

The invention of the radio in 1895 had a large impact on communication for individual countries and the world as a whole. Radio Day (or Radio and Television Day, as it is called in Bulgaria) became a holiday on May 7th 1945, exactly 50 years from the Day Alexander Popov first successfully established the Radio as a tool. The brilliant Russian physicist built upon Tesla and Marconi's prior achievements in the process of radio development and is generally credited in Eastern Europe with its invention. Because Tesla and Marconi had already begun work with the idea of "emission and reception of signals by means of electromagnetic oscillations", Western Europeans typically acknowledge them as the radio's inventors. 

In celebration of the holiday, some radio stations in Russia, Bulgaria, and Armenia will be running commercial-free all day. In downtown Sofia, The Bulgarian National Orchestra will be conducting a concert to mark the day. Today in Armenia, the Prime Minister visited the Yerevan Office for RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty and praised them for their exposure of "problems and shortcomings in Armenian society". However they may celebrate, it is clear that the people in these  Eastern European countries have an appreciation for all that radio broadcasting has done for the world's expansion of communication. 

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Tuesday, May 3, 2011

May 3rd- Polish Constitution Day (Poland)

Polish Constitution Day is the 3rd day in a series of Polish holidays following Labor Day on May 1st and Flag Day on May 2nd. 

The Polish Constitution, adopted in 1791, was based on ideals of the Age of Enlightenment and established Poland's move toward a parliamentary system and rule of law. The Polish Constitution was the first modern, codified constitution in Europe and only the second one in the world, preceded by that of the United States. The constitution instituted the world's first Constitutional Monarchy, meaning that the king keeps his status as head of state, but it still subject to the law's rules. It also abolished the "Liberum Veto" (Latin for "I freely forbid), which allowed any one nobleman to veto the decision come to by the Nobleman's Assembly led by the king. 

The Polish Constitution was retained for a year but fell when the king joined the Targowica Confederation, and Poland was divided between Russia, Prussia, and Austria. 125 years later, Poland finally regained is sovereignty and constitution. May 3rd was even banned as a holiday several times, but it was restored in 1989 after the fall of communism. Even though it went back and forth as a legal holiday, Constitution Day was always honored as a celebration of hope and inspiration for the Polish people. 

The President of America, Barack Obama, released a statement yesterday wishing the Polish well on their celebration of Constitution day. He says, "Even today, fledgling democratic movements look to Poland as an example and guide."

Polish Flag

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