01 November 2005

Good Morning World

I hope everyone is having a wonderful All Saints Day. Here is the meaning of All Saints' Day:

All Saints Day is a universal Christian Feast that honors and remembers all Christian saints, known and unknown. In the Western Church (esp. Roman Catholics, Lutherans, Anglicans) it is kept on November 1. The Orthodox Churches observe it on the first Sunday after Pentecost.

Ephrem Syrus (d. 373) mentions a Feast dedicated the saints in his writings. St. Chrysostom of Constantinople (d. 407) was the first Christian we know of to assign the Feast to a particular day: the first Sunday after Pentecost.1 The Feast did not become established in the Western Church, however, until the Roman bishop Boniface IV consecrated the Pantheon at Rome to Christian usage as a church on May 13, 609 or 610.2 The Feast was observed annually on this date until the time of Bishop of Rome, Gregory III (d. 741) when its observance was shifted to Nov. 1, since on this date Gregory dedicated a chapel in the Basilica of St. Peter's to "All the Saints." It was Gregory IV (d. 844), who in 835 ordered the Feast of All Saints to be universally observed on Nov. 1.3

As mentioned above, All Saints Day is celebrated by Roman Catholics, the Orthodox, Anglicans, and Lutherans However, because of their differing understandings of the identity and function of the saints, what these churches do on the Feast of All Saints differs widely. For Roman Catholics, the Orthodox, and to some extent, Anglicans, All Saints is a day to remember, thank God for, but also to venerate and pray to the saints in heaven for various helps. For Lutherans the day is observed by remembering and thanking God for all saints, both dead and living. It is a day to glorify Jesus Christ, who by his holy life and death has made the saints holy through Baptism and faith.



I also hope everyone is having a wonderful Diwali. Here is an explanation of Diwali:

{ Introduction to Diwali }
Every Year On the dark nights if Diwali the sound of firecrackers announces the celebration of the favourite festival of Indians. Homes are decorated, sweets are distributed by everyone and thousands of lamps lit to create a world of fantasy. Of all the festivals celebrated in India, Diwali is by far the most glamorous and important. Enthusiastically enjoyed by people of every religion, its magical and radiant touch creates an atmosphere of joy and festivity. Diwali Celebrations in India are similar to Christmas celebrations in the USA.


{ Origin of Diwali }
The ancient story of how Diwali evolved into such a widely celebrated festival is different in various regions and states of India. In the north, particularly in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Bihar and the surrounding areas, Diwali is the day when King Rama's coronation was celebrated in Ayodhya after his epic war with Ravana, the demon king of Lanka. By order of the royal families of Ayodhya and Mithila, the kingdom of which Sita was princess, the cities and far-flung boundaries of these kingdoms were lit up with rows of lamps, glittering on dark nights to welcome home the divine king Rama and his queen Sita after 14 years of exile, ending with an across-the-seas war in which the whole of the kingdom of Lanka was destroyed.




{ How Diwali is celebrated all across India }

{ The first day : Dhana Teras }
The first day of Diwali is Dhanatrayodashi or Dhanteras. Doorways are hung with torans of mango leaves and marigolds. Rangolis are drawn with different coloured powders to welcome guests. The traditional motifs are often linked with auspicious symbols of good luck. Oil diyas are arranged in and around the house. Because of these flickering lamps, the festival has acquired its name : Dipawali or Diwali meaning `a rows of lamps'. On this day, people buy something for the house or some jewellery for the women of the house. It is auspicious to be buy something metallic, esp silver.




{ The second day : Kali Chaudas }
The next day or Kali Chaudas is also called Chhoti Diwali.



{ The third day : Diwali }
On the dark new moon night, the entrances to all homes are lit up and decorated with rangoli patterns to welcome Lakshmi, the radiant consort of Vishnu and the goddess of wealth and lustre. Lakshmi Puja is performed on this day. Diwali is the last day of financial year in traditional Hindu business and businessmen perform Chopda Pujan on this day on the new books of accounts.

The day ends with a mega cracker bursting sessions. For 5-6 hours, every family burns fire crackers worth thousands of ruppees. Poplular fire crackers are sparkling pots, bombs, rockets etc.





{ The fourth day : New Year day or Bestavarsh }
The day after the Lakshmi Puja, most families celebrate the new year by dressing in new clothes, wearing jewellery and visiting family members and business colleagues to give them sweets, dry fruits and gifts. Among the business communities of Gujarat, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra, Diwali is the festival when the new
business year begins. All business establishments and families perform muharat pujan or veneration of their books. Stock brokers do mahurat trading or symbolic auspicious business deals to i iwali : Time to shop or start new ventures }

Diwali, one of the longest festivals in the Hindu year, is a time when everything in India comes to a standstill except family life, feasting and shopping. Diwali is considered auspicious for shopping, inaugurations of new homes, business deals or for starting any new ventures and projects.



{ Diwali in Krishna Temples }
In many Krishna temples, Diwali is celebrated as a day of feeding and venerating cows. In Nathdwar, for instance, there is a day-long feast for cattle called Annakoot. The reason for this special place given to the cow lies deep in the religious consciousness of Indians.The sacredness of the cow goes back to the myth of the churning of the cosmic ocean by the gods. Of the 14 `jewels' which the ocean gave to the gods, Kamadhenu ,the celestial cow, was one. She was venerated as the mother of the universe. The celestial cow is also called Surabhi or Nandini, the giver of joy and plenty. A cow is the constant companion of Krishna.



{ Diwali in South India }
In the south, Diwali has two more legends connected with it. The first legend again concerns the victory of good over evil. Narakasura the demon of hell, challenged Krishna to battle. After a fierce fight lasting two days, the demon was killed at dawn on Narakachaturdashi.To commemorate this event, people in peninsular India wake before sunrise and make imitation blood by mixing kumkum or vermillion with oil. After crushing underfoot a bitter fruit as a symbol of the demon, they apply the `blood' triumphantly on their foreheads. They then have ritual oil baths, annointing themselves with sandalwood paste. Visits to temples for prayers are followed by large family breakfasts of fruits and a variety of sweets. The second legend is about King Bali, the benevolent demon king of the netherworld. He was so powerful that he became a threat to the power of celestial deities and their kingdoms. Intimidated by his expanding empire and taking advantage of his well-known generosity, they sent Vishnu as the dwarf mendicant Vamana, to dilute Bali's power. Vamana shrewdly asked the king for land that would cover three steps as he walked. The king happily granted this gift. Having tricked Bali, Vishnu revealed himself in the full glory of his godhood. He covered the heaven in his first step and the earth in his second. Realizing that he was pitted against the mighty Vishnu, Bali surrendered and offered his own head inviting Vishnu to step on it. Vishnu pushed him into the nether world with his foot. In return Vishnu gave him the lamp of knowledge to light up the dark underworld. He also gave him a blessing that he would return to his people once a year to light millions of lamps from this one lamp so that on the dark new moon light of Diwali, the blinding darkness of ignorance , greed, jealousy, lust, anger ego, and laziness would be dispelled and the radiance of knowledge, wisdom and friendship prevail. Each year on Diwali day , even today, one lamp lights another and like a flame burning steadily on a windless night, brings a message of peace and harmony to the world .




{ Diwali : Time to rejoice and enjoy }
Whatever may be the fables and legends behind the celebrations of Diwali, all people exchange sweets, wear new clothes and buy jewellery at this festive time. Card parties are held in many homes. Diwali has become commercialised as the biggest annual consumer spree because every family shops for sweets, gifts and fireworks. However, in all this frenzy of shopping and eating, the steady, burning lamp is a constant symbol of an illuminated mind .



I also hope everyone is having a wonderful day of the dead. Here is a little something about this holiday:

This is an ancient festivity that has been much transformed through the years, but which was intended in prehispanic Mexico to celebrate children and the dead. Hence, the best way to describe this Mexican holiday is to say that it is a time when Mexican families remember their dead, and the continuity of life.
Two important things to know about the Mexican Day of the Dead (Día de los Muertos) are:

It is a holiday with a complex history, and therefore its observance varies quite a bit by region and by degree of urbanization.

It is not a morbid occasion, but rather a festive time.
The original celebration can be traced to many Mesoamerican native traditions, such as the festivities held during the Aztec month of Miccailhuitontli, ritually presided by the "Lady of the Dead" (Mictecacihuatl), and dedicated to children and the dead. In the Aztec calendar, this ritual fell roughly at the end of the Gregorian month of July and the beginning of August, but in the postconquest era it was moved by Spanish priests so that it coincided with the Christian holiday of All Hallows Eve (in Spanish: "Día de Todos Santos.") This was a vain effort to transform the observance from a profane to a Christian celebration. The result is that Mexicans now celebrate the day of the dead during the first two days of November, rather than at the beginning of summer. But remember the dead they still do, and the modern festivity is characterized by the traditional Mexican blend of ancient aboriginal and introduced Christian features.

Generalizing broadly, the holiday's activities consist of families (1) welcoming their dead back into their homes, and (2) visiting the graves of their close kin. At the cemetery, family members engage in sprucing up the gravesite, decorating it with flowers, setting out and enjoying a picnic, and interacting socially with other family and community members who gather there. In both cases, celebrants believe that the souls of the dead return and are all around them. Families remember the departed by telling stories about them. The meals prepared for these picnics are sumptuous, usually featuring meat dishes in spicy sauces, chocolate beverages, cookies, sugary confections in a variety of animal or skull shapes, and a special egg-batter bread ("pan de muerto," or bread of the dead). Gravesites and family altars are profusely decorated with flowers (primarily large, bright flowers such as marigolds and chrysanthemums), and adorned with religious amulets and with offerings of food, cigarettes and alcoholic beverages. Because of this warm social environment, the colorful setting, and the abundance of food, drink and good company, this commemoration of the dead has pleasant overtones for the observers, in spite of the open fatalism exhibited by all participants, whose festive interaction with both the living and the dead in an important social ritual is a way of recognizing the cycle of life and death that is human existence.

In homes observant families create an altar and decorate it with items that they believe are beautiful and attractive to the souls of their departed ones. Such items include offerings of flowers and food, but also things that will remind the living of the departed (such as their photographs, a diploma, or an article of clothing), and the things that the dead prized and enjoyed while they lived. This is done to entice the dead and assure that their souls actually return to take part in the remembrance. In very traditional settings, typically found only in native communities, the path from the street to the altar is actually strewn with petals to guide the returning soul to its altar and the bosom of the family.The traditional observance calls for departed children to be remembered during the first day of the festivity (the Day of the Little Angels, "Día de los Angelitos"), and for adults to be remembered on the second day. Traditionally, this is accompanied by a feast during the early morning hours of November the 2nd, the Day of the Dead proper, though modern urban Mexican families usually observe the Day of the Dead with only a special family supper featuring the bread of the dead. In southern Mexico, for example in the city of Puebla, it is good luck to be the one who bites into the plastic toy skeleton hidden by the baker in each rounded loaf. Friends and family members give one another gifts consisting of sugar skeletons or other items with a death motif, and the gift is more prized if the skull or skeleton is embossed with one's own name. Another variation found in the state of Oaxaca is for bread to be molded into the shape of a body or burial wrap, and for a face to be embedded on one end of the loaf. During the days leading up to and following the festivity, some bakeries in heavily aboriginal communities cease producing the wide range of breads that they typically sell so that they can focus on satisfying the demand for bread of the dead.

The Day of the Dead can range from being a very important cultural event, with defined social and economic responsibilities for participants (exhibiting the socially equalizing behavior that social anthropologists would call redistributive feasting, e.g. on the island of Janitzio in Michoacan state), to being a religious observance featuring actual worship of the dead (e.g., as in Cuilapan, Oaxaca, an ancient capital of the Zapotec people, who venerated their ancestors and whose descendants do so to this day, an example of many traditional practices that Spanish priests pretend not to notice), to simply being a uniquely Mexican holiday characterized by special foods and confections (the case in all large Mexican cities.)

In general, the more urban the setting within Mexico the less religious and cultural importance is retained by observants, while the more rural and Indian the locality the greater the religious and economic import of the holiday. Because of this, this observance is usually of greater social importance in southern Mexico than in the northern part of the country.




Happy Ramadan. This is another holiday celebrated today. Here is the story of Ramadan:

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic Lunar calendar and the holiest of the four holy months. It begins with the sighting of the new moon after which all physically mature and healthy Muslims are obliged to abstain from all food, drink, gum chewing, any kind of tobacco use, and any kind of sexual contact between dawn and sunset. However, that is merely the physical component of the fast; the spiritual aspects of the fast include refraining from gossiping, lying, slandering and all traits of bad character. All obscene and irreligious sights and sounds are to be avoided. Purity of thought and action is paramount. Ordained in the Quran, the fast is an exacting act of deeply personal worship in which Muslims seek a raised level of God-consciousness. The act of fasting redirects the hearts away from worldly activities, towards The Divine.

The month of Ramadan is a time for spiritual reflection, prayer, doing good deeds and spending time with family and friends. The fasting is intended to help teach Muslims self-discipline, self-restraint and generosity. It also reminds them of the suffering of the poor, who may rarely get to eat well. It is common to have one meal (known as the Suhoor), just before sunrise and another (known as the Iftar), directly after sunset. This meal will commonly consist of dates, following the example of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon Him. Because Ramadan is a time to spend with friends and family, the fast will often be broken by different Muslim families coming together to share in an evening meal.

Ramadan derives from the Arabic root: ramida or ar-ramad, meaning scorching heat or dryness. Since Muslims are commanded to fast during the month of Ramadan, it is believed that the month's name may refer to the heat of thirst and hunger, or because fasting burns away one's past sins. Muslims believe that God began revealing the Qur'an to the Prophet Muhammad during Ramadan (in the year 610 C.E.). The Qur'an commands: "O ye who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that ye may (learn) self-restraint...Ramadan is the (month) in which was sent down the Qur'an, as a guide to mankind, also clear (Signs) for guidance and judgment (between right and wrong). So every one of you who is present (at his home) during that month should spend it in fasting..." (Chapter 2, verses 183 and 185). Fasting during Ramadan did not become an obligation for Muslims until 624 C.E., at which point it became the third of the Five Pillars of Islam. The others are faith (Shahadah); prayer (Salah); charitable giving (Zakah); and the pilgrimage to Makkah (Hajj).

Another aspect of Ramadan is that it is believed that one of the last few odd-numbered nights of the month is the Laylat ul-Qadr, the "Night of Power" or "Night of Destiny." It is the holiest night of the holiest month; it is believed to be the night on which God first began revealing the Qur'an to the Prophet Muhammad through the angel Jibril (Gabriel). This is a time for especially fervent and devoted prayer, and the rewards and blessings associated with such are manifold. Muslims are told in the Qur'an that praying throughout this one night is better than a thousand months of prayer. No one knows exactly which night it is; it is one of God's mysteries. Additionally, Muslims are urged to read the entire Qur'an during the month of Ramadan, and its 114 chapters have been divided into 30 equal parts for this purpose.

When the first crescent of the new moon has been officially sighted by a reliable source, the month of Ramadan is declared over, and the month of Shawwal begins. The end of Ramadan is marked by a three-day period known as Eid ul-Fitr, the "Festival of Fast-breaking." It is a joyous time beginning with a special prayer, and accompanied by celebration, socializing, festive meals and sometimes very modest gift-giving, especially to children.

When Ramadan ends, Muslims give charity in a locally prescribed amount, calculated to feed one poor person in that region for one day. This is known as fitra, and is meant as another reminder of the suffering endured by many. Many Muslims also take this occasion to pay the annual alms which are due to the poor and needy, known as Zakah (2.5% of assets).

At the beginning of Ramadan, it is appropriate to wish Muslims "Ramadan Mubarak" which means "Blessed Ramadan." At its conclusion, you may say "Eid Mubarak.



I sincerely hope everyone had a wonderful and safe Halloween last night. It was a new moon, so it was very dark. At perryopolis.com the web master messed up and posted that trick or treat was Sunday night. So my husband and I were ready for trick or treaters that never came, though our neighbor did get one who they sent away stating trick or treat was not until Monday night. So last night, we got some trick or treaters, but only a fraction of what we got last year. Still, the kids were absolutely adorable.

There was one little boy who saw our cats in the glass door and ran right for the cats. Then he got some candy out of the bowl with the animated hand inside. This little toddler had absolutely no fear of the hand and told his dad to "do it again" (make the hand move). This kid was far too cute, as were all the kids who came by last night.

At the end of the night, I was telling kids to take handfuls. So one adorable little girl wanted to take the entire pumpkin bowl. I told her I needed the bowl for next year, but she did not want to let go. That is definitely my kind of girl. Definitely too cute.

We still have over 12 lbs of candy left, so John took some of it to work with him. With all the candy we have, I would not be surprised if we still had some for Thanksgiving.

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