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DECK THE HOLIDAY'S: 09/05/11

Monday, September 5, 2011

ORIGINS OF HALLOWEEN PARADES!



    Halloween has ancient origins that are embedded in tradition and the Halloween parade is one of the many celebrations associated with this holiday. Halloween parades today represent an opportunity for people to show off their Halloween costumes and even compete for prizes. However, this fun part of modern-day Halloween tradition actually began thousands of years ago, with the intent of warding away malevolent spirits.





   The tradition of having a Halloween parade can be traced back to the earliest origins of Halloween. Halloween actually began as the pagan festival Samhain, which was observed thousands of years ago with the ancient Celts who occupied what was is now Ireland, the United Kingdom, and northern France. Samhain represented a time when human spirits were supposed to come to earth to wreak havoc on human souls.    Each year on Samhain, the Celts dressed up in gruesome animal-like costumes that were usually made from animal heads and skins and they would parade about their communities on Samhain. These precursors to the modern day Halloween parade were




 intended to make a great deal of noise. The belief was that by creating a ruckus, they could drive the souls of the dead away and remain safe from harm. They wore costumes because the disguises would make it impossible for the malevolent spirits to tell who was human and who was a spirit.     As time went by, Samhain came to be known as All Hallows Eve and eventually into what we now know as Halloween. While the name of the holiday has changed over thousands of years, much of the beliefs and customs associated with this holiday have remained constant. For example, the tradition of a costumed Halloween parade began with the gruesome animal costumes worn on Samhain by the ancient Celts to ward away evil spirits.     As the holiday evolved into All Hallows Eve with the spread of Christianity, the Halloween parade of costumes remained a tradition, but the types of costumes evolved. During the days that Halloween was referred to as All Hallows Eve, the most common costumes visible in Halloween parades were saint, devil, and angel disguises. As the holiday further transitioned into what we now know of as Halloween, the tradition of the Halloween parade remained the same, but with a greater variety of costumes.   The Halloween parade today is still very much a big thing. Many schoolchildren enjoy participating in costume contest parades at school and in their social clubs and organizations. In today’s Halloween parades, you are likely to see costumes similar to those worn by Samhain and All Hallows Eve participants throughout history. However, you are also likely to see costumes of superheroes, movie starts, cartoon characters, vampires, and many






other disguises.     Halloween parades aren’t just for children. Adults and children alike enjoy participating in Halloween parades each year. For example, the New York Village Halloween Parade is held each year, with about two million participants. . This is the largest public Halloween parade in America, and has been designated as one of the greatest events on earth by festivals international.

MID AUTUMN FESTIVAL FROM CHINA!!



   Moon Festival, Mooncake Festival, or the August Moon Festival - they are the different names of the same festival, which is popularly also known as the Mid Autumn Festival. It is a celebration of abundance and togetherness.  The Chinese believe in praying to the moon god for protection, family unity, and good fortune. It falls on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month, a date that parallels the Autumn Equinox of the solar calendar.On this day the moon is unusually bright, clear and round. Historical accounts are silent about the exact origin of this festival, but as far as the assumption of the scholars are concerned, it is related to the two customs in China.
   The first customs concern the Chinese farmers. China is an agricultural country and farming in China is intricately associated with the seasons. In the ancient times, the farmers used to worship Earth God and prayed for a good harvest when they sowed the seeds during spring. Once again during autumn, the farmers worshipped the Earth God and offered their gratitude on having reaped a good harvest. This was known as the autumn reward. Some people believed that the Mid -Autumn Festival orginated from the autumn reward ritual.
   The second custom is related to the worship of the moon. The Mid Autumn Festival occurs at the autumn equinox when the sun shines vertically on the equator, equally dividing the day and the night in the northern and the southern hemisphere. At this time, the sunlight shines vertically on the equator, equally dividing the day and night in both the southern and northern hemispheres. In the evening the moon appears with gentle winds and the sky is clear, apart from the light clouds. This is the perfect time to watch the moon. This day was later assigned to the worship of the moon.




   This custom of worshipping the moon,called xi yue in Chinese, can be traced back to the ancient Xia and Shang Dynasties (2000 BCE-1066 BCE). In the Zhou Dynasty too (1066 BCE-221 BCE), the people celebrated the Mid-Autumn Festival to worship the moon. This practice became very prevalent during the time of the Tang Dynasty (618-907 CE) and people enjoyed and worshipped the full moon. In the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279), people started making round moon cakes, as gifts to their relatives as an expression of their best wishes for a family reunion. At night, they came out to watch the full moon to celebrate the festival. Since the Ming (1368-1644), and Qing Dynasties (1644-1911), the custom of Mid-Autumn Festival celebration has become extremely popular and is being grandly celebrated.
   The Mid-Autumn Festival is one of the two most important holidays in the Chinese calendar, the other being the Chinese Lunar New Year, and is a legal holiday in several countries.

 Myths and Legends
    The most popular legend about the origin of the Mid Autumn Festival goes like this:- Once the earth was scorched by ten suns and the people suffered a lot due to this. The crops were parched and the people were plunged into penury. A strong and powerful young man called Hou Yi was quite worried about the entire situation. He ascended the summit of the Kunlun Mountain, exercised his superhuman powers and shot down nine suns one after the other, with his bow and arrow. He also ordered the last sun to rise and set according to a time set by him. Hou Yi was respected and loved by people for his 


Moon cakes


great feat that rescued the lives of many. Lots of people of ideals and integrity came to him to learn martial arts from him. A person named Peng Meng lurked among them.
   Hou Yi had a charming and beautiful wife named Chang E whom he loved immensely and with whom he never wanted to part. Once on his way to the Kunlun Mountain , Hou Yi stumbled upon the Empress Wangmu who was touched by his love for his wife, gave him a parcel of elixir, at the intake of which one would ascend immediately to heaven and become a celestial being. However the elixir was only good to make only one person immortal. Hou Yi however hated to part with his wife and asked Chang E to keep the elixir with her for the time being. Chang E kept it in a treasure box and hid it in secret place. But it could not escape the watchful eyes of Peng Meng.
    A few days later, when Hou Yi went for hunting, Peng Meng grabbed the opportunity he has been waiting for. He rushed into Chang E's chamber, sword in hand and demanded the elixir. Aware of the fact that she was unable to measure up to the strength of Peng Meng, Change E made a prompt decision at a critical moment. She opened her treasure box, took up the elixir and swallowed it in one gulp. After a moment, she felt light and her body floated off the ground, rose higher and reached the sky. Chang E landed on the moon and became an immortal goddess. Peng meng escaped.



Lighting up the night with the launching of lanterns


   Hou Yi could not believe the misfortune that had befallen him. Overburdened with grief, he looked up at the sky and called out the name of his beloved wife. He noticed that the moon was unusually bright and clear that night and on it there was a swaying shadow that resembled his wife. He tried to chase the moon but the moon eluded him.
    Huo Yi began to miss his wife terribly. He had an incense table arranged in the back garden and put fresh fruits and sweet meats on it, that Chang E loved and held a memorial ceremony for her.
   When people heard that Chang E has transformed into a celestial being, they made arrangements for incense table in the moonlight and prayed to her for good fortune and peace. This is how the custom of worshipping the moon became popular among the people.





   Today couples declare their undying love for each other under the full moon of this mid autumn day. Estranged lovers pray for their reunion.
   Another legend concerns Wu Kang, a restless fellow who found it difficult to concentrate on a particular thing. One day he decided that he wanted to be immortal and went to live in the mountains where he met an immortal and asked him to teach him the secrets of immortality. First the immortal taught him about the herbs used to cure sickness. But a few days later his characteristic restlessness surfaced and Wu Kang asked the immortal to teach him chess, but after a short while his enthusiasm again waned. Then Wu Kang was asked to go through books on immortality. As usual, Wu Kang became bored with it in a short while and asked whether they could travel to some new and exciting place. Fed up with Wu Kang's impatience, the master banished him to the Moon Palace commanding him to cut down a huge cassia tree before



Chinese men enjoying some food and drink


returning to the earth. Though Wu Kang continued to chop the tree day and night, yet the magical tree restored itself with each blow, and therefore he is there still chopping the tree.
   China was ruled by the Mongolian people during the Yuan dynasty (A.D. 1280-1368). Leaders from the preceding Sung dynasty (A.D. 960 - 1280) were unhappy at submitting to foreign rule, and set to coordinate a secret rebellion. As the Moon Festival was drawing near, the leaders of the rebellion ordered the making of special cakes.
   At the back of each was a message with the outline of the attack. On the night of the Moon Festival, the rebels successfully attacked and overthrew the government. What followed was the establishment of the Ming dynasty (A.D. 1368-1644). Today, moon cakes are eaten to commemorate this legend.






   According to the legend of the "Jade Rabbit", three fairy sages transformed themselves into pitiful old men and begged to eat something from the fox, a rabbit and the monkey. The fox and the monkey both had food to give to the old men, but the rabbit who had nothing to offer, offered his own flesh instead, jumping into a blazing fire to cook himself. The sages were so touched by the rabbit's sacrifice that they allowed him live in the Moon Palace where he became the "Jade Rabbit."


Significance of the Moon Cake
    There is an interesting story behind the popularity of the Mooncakes. During the Yuan Dynasty (1280 A.D - 1368 A.D), China was ruled by the Mongols. They were very oppressive rulers and were overthrown by the Chinese. It might sound curious but the fact remains that the mooncakes played a significant role in the rebellion. The Mongols did not eat mooncakes and the Chinese were quick to take advantage of that. They found an innovative way of coordinating the revolt. Leaders of the revolt



A Moon Festival play in progress


distributed the mooncakes among the common people under the pretext of celebrating the Emperor's long life. Each mooncake had an outline of the attack baked within its skin. The secret message informed the people to revolt on the 15th of the 8th moon (also the Autumn Moon festival). On the night of the Moon Festival, the rebels successfully attacked and overthrew the government. Since then the mooncakes became a national tradition of China.

THE SECRET LIFE OF CHRISTMAS ELVES!


   Santa’s elves are known to be tiny, dwarf-like creatures, either male or female, with pointed ears. They are immortal and have magical powers that can control what you see and hear. Christmas elves can become invisible any time they wish and are very hard to see. They were once thought to be youthful but are now depicted as more like Santa himself in age. Since they are rarely seen, no one really knows their true ages.
   Nearly two centuries ago the Scandinavian elves, famed for their magic and story telling abilities, revealed through the popular writers of the day what their true purpose was: to help Santa Claus. Since then we know that the elves help Santa design and create the wonderful toys and gifts he brings to the world’s children. The best time to spot an elf is in the days before Christmas. They are believed to be Santa’s spies and report their findings back to him. Since they take their responsibilities very seriously, they sometimes forget to become invisible until spotted by a human. More than likely, a dog, cat or some other small animal will alert the neglectful elf before any child sees him.





   It was first thought that Santa employed only six, then possibly nine, helpers. As the years went on people believed that there were as many as thirteen elves living with Santa. With the world’s population as big as it is now, there must be dozens and dozens of elves working at all types of different jobs.They help Santa not only to design toys, but also to process requests of children that are sent to him through the regular mail or emails.
   Besides that, the elves look after Santa’s reindeer. Since no reindeer live at the North Pole, humans have figured out that there is a secret village with a secret passage, somewhere in Lapland, Finland, where the elves caring for new reindeer can easily get to the North Pole and back. Neither the entrance to the village or the secret passage have been found.





   Several elves have become quite famous, despite attempting to remain out of the limelight. Bushy Evergreen invented a wondrous contraption that quickly, but still magically, creates whatever toy Santa asks for. Alabaster Snowball has the daunting task of keeping track of The List. This is the list of all children and whether they have been naughty or nice. During the past few years Alabaster has converted the entire list to the NPDb, or North Pole Database, and is therefore sometimes referred to as the Geek Elf. Santa only entrusts one elf with the secret of how to enter the North Pole Village, and that is the Guardian Elf Pepper Minstix. However, the Lapland village, where the reindeer are raised and trained, is guarded by Shinny Upatree, who is considered to be the eldest elf of all.


Jenny Nyström


   Mrs. Claus’ right hand elf is Sugarplum Mary, Head of the Sweet Treats. Mary is in the North Pole kitchen from morning to night, always testing out new cookie recipes. She is sometimes called Mary Christmas. Last, but of course not least, is Wunorse Openslae, who actually designed Santa’s original sleigh. Now he maintains and updates the sleigh each year, plus he keeps the reindeer in tiptop flying condition. Some say because of his modifications, Santa can fly faster than you can light up a Christmas Tree.
   Each of the other elves living at the North Pole, and in Lapland, have their own special jobs, but try as we might, humans have just not been able to find out anything more specific. Maybe in a few more centuries, the Christmas Elves will decide to reveal some more secrets to us. Maybe.

LABOR DAY FACTS AND TRADITIONS!



  Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the prosperity and well-being of our country.
   It was hard times in the days of depression that hit the country in the 1880s. It led to widespread wage cuts and unemployment in the traditional pattern of the economic cycle. This was when the
Knights of Labor
came into being. It was their initiative that Labor Day turned out to be a civic event with parades and meetings.

The First Labor Day      Contrary to the present practice the first Labor Day holiday was celebrated on Tuesday, September 5, 1882, in New York City, in accordance with the plans of the Central Labor Union. The Central Labor Union held its second Labor Day holiday just a year later, on September 5, l883.






   However, it was in l884 when the first Monday in September came to be selected as the holiday, as originally proposed. The Central Labor Union urged similar organizations in other cities to follow the example of New York and celebrate a "workingmen's holiday" on that date. The idea spread with the growth of labor organizations, and in l885 Labor Day was celebrated in many industrial centers of the country.

The Founder
    There is a difference of opinion regarding the original founder of the day. Two views, both backed by documentary evidence, are prevalent.
   Some records show that Peter J. McGuire, general secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners and a co-founder of the American Federation of Labor, was the first in suggesting a day to honor those "who from rude nature have delved and carved all the grandeur we behold."
    But Peter McGuire's place in Labor Day history has not gone unchallenged. Many believe that Matthew Maguire, a machinist, not Peter McGuire, founded the holiday. Recent research seems to support the contention that Matthew Maguire, later the secretary of Local 344 of the International Association of Machinists in Paterson, N.J., proposed the holiday in 1882 while serving as secretary of the Central Labor Union in New York.






   Irrespective of the dispute over the name of the initiator it is clear that the Labor Day proposal was initiated in the United States by the
Knights of Labor. Accordingly a committee was formed to plan a demonstration and picnic. In 1882 the Knights of Labor held a large parade in New York City. In 1884 the group held a parade on the first Monday of September and passed a resolution to hold all future parades on that day and to designate the day as Labor Day.
    However the state recognition of the day was yet to come.

The Recognition
     Through the years the nation gave increasing emphasis to Labor Day. The first governmental recognition came through municipal ordinances passed during 1885 and 1886. From them developed the movement to secure state legislation. The first state bill was introduced into the New York legislature, but the first to become law was passed by Oregon on February 2l, l887. During the year four more states -- Colorado, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York -- created the Labor Day holiday by legislative enactment. By the end of the decade Connecticut, Nebraska, and Pennsylvania had followed suit. By 1894, 23 other states had adopted the holiday in honor of workers, and on June 28 of that year, Congress passed an act making the first Monday in September of each year a legal holiday in the District of Columbia and the territories.
   National Labor Day was born off the labor movement during the late 19th century. The Day is a milestone in the history of
American labor movement.






Labor Day Celebrations
   The founder and longtime president of the American Federation of Labor, Samuel Gompers, once said "Labor Day differs in every essential from the other holidays of the year in any country....All other holidays are in a more or less degree connected with conflicts and battles of man's prowess over man, of strife and discord for greed and power, of glories achieved by one nation over another. Labor Day...is devoted to no man, living or dead, to no sect, race, or nation."
   It was in 1884 when Labor Day was first proclaimed to be a federal holiday in the U.S. More than 100 years after, the occassion is going from strength to strength and is still held as the holiday that honours and appreciates the contribution of each worker on whose shoulders the nation rests.






   The form that the observance and celebration of Labor Day should take were outlined in the first proposal of the holiday -- a street parade to exhibit to the public "the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations" of the community, followed by a festival for the recreation and amusement of the workers and their families. This set a pattern for the future celebrations of Labor Day.
   Traditionally, Labor Day is celebrated in the U.S. on the first Monday in September, a custom that has been followed since the inception of the holiday. It is a day of rest for every American worker.

   As for public celebrations, Labor Day is observed mostly through parades. Parades are annually organised in places like Manhattan, Brooklyn and Detroit. In many places rallies and political demonstrations are organised which highlight the problems faced by workers and strives to find ways for the betterment of their lives. Speeches by union leaders and political figures in these rallies attempt to create a general awareness about the condition of American labourers.






   However, festive celebrations form the main and the most joyous part of Labor Day observances. Be it Detroit or Manchester, working families take part in rallies, march in the parades and even organise picnics with their loved ones. Meat delicacies, especially barbecues, form the main attraction of the Labor Day feasts. For kids and teenagers, it is the last opportunity to have some clean festive fun before schools reopen and they have to go back to their studies.               


Labor Movement
   The labor movement took its root long back in the colonial regime spanning between 1619 and 1776 plus. Initially the social set up was overwhelmingly rural with abundant land. A vast majority of the population of the Eastern US, then called New World, were self employed as independent farmers and artisans, or later in urban retail trade and professions. Then with the shift in agricultural pattern from food crops to cash crops and from local consumption to global sale, demand for labor rose.







   To satisfy the demand potential employers turned towards indentured servants and African slaves. The servants and slaves apart skilled craftsmen at first plied their trade independently. But with the growth of urban concentration master workmen set up small retail shops and employed journeymen and apprentices against wage payment. After all, the bustling seaport cities had always needed casual laborers and hired craftsmen.
   Before 1840s the workers' income was based on price, the remuneration they received for the sale of end product of the labor. The payment of wages came about through introduction of machine into a factory. Around mid 18th century the labor scarcity abated with the growth of population and a curb in the supply of lands. As the fruits of industrial era started to yield people migrated to urban area where manufacturing was booming.
   As the erstwhile skills were broken down the competition for these factory jobs increased. On one hand there was trade specialization and developed urban conditions, on the other, the growing fear of unemployment spelled increasing want and discontent. Then with the accumulation of capital by a special class the factory workers lost their independence and also their dignity. This change of status was the basic reason for workers' protests at its earliest form. Evidence of protests with the modern flair was seen as early as 1768 by journeymen tailors. They were joined in by a number of similar organizations later. However, none of them could be termed as labor union.
   The 1830s saw the workers demanding social reforms as far as their rights are concerned. In 1827 a Mechanics' Union of Trade Associations came up in Philadelphia. It was the country's first labor organization.
   During the 1840s it took a defensive form and changed to a state of uprising as the workers sought to cling to the traditions and methods of the past. The protests acquired a new face as the social reformers of the era soon joined hands with the workers.
   However the attitude soon changed. As the workers in the '50s learnt to accept the loss of status they sought to organize around their crafts for the purpose of bargaining collectively with their employers.






   By the '60s large portions of America had become industrialized with around 5 millions wage earners in industry, commerce and agriculture. Keeping pace with this industrial boom unions too kept flourishing. The depression in the late '60s intensified the employers' resistance to any reduction of working hours. The utility of trade unions became more apparent each day. In 1872 New Yorkers were to unleashed the most formidable labor struggle of the epoch. However the movement eventually failed
  It was 1882 when the next significant labor stir came. The
Knights of Labor under the Central Labor Union held a large parade in New York City on the occasion of the national Knights of Labor conference. In 1884 the group held a parade on the first Monday of September and passed a resolution to hold all future parades on that day and to designate the day as Labor Day.
   By the 1890's, when the K of L had all but disappeared, the American Federation of Labor created the 'business union' movement. Although the AFL affiliates encountered vehement employer and judicial opposition, they succeeded in organizing millions of skilled crafts personnel. Courtesy, the able leadership of Samuel Gompers. It soon earned statutory rights to organize for collective bargaining purposes from the federal government.
   The creation of the industrial union movement through the formation of the Congress of Industrial Organizations in the late 1930s led to the organization of mass production industries. Competition between AFL and the affiliates of newly created Committee for Industrial Organization generated significant union growth throughout 1940s and '50s. In mid 1950s with the AFL-CIO merger unions represented approximate 35 per cent non-agricultural labor force.   Even though the private sector union participation rate has declined over the recent past public opinion surveys demonstrate that most American workers continue to believe that employment interest can be advanced through unionization.