Tisha B’Av: A Day of Remembrance

RL554-blogThis Jewish holiday, which falls on the ninth of Av, will be celebrated in 2015 from the evening of Saturday, July 25, through the evening of Sunday, July 26. It is one of those holidays that seems to capture the oppressiveness of summer heat.

It was probably derived from a Babylonian festival, held on the ninth of Av, a day of dread and sorrow, the climax of a month-long celebration focused on torches and firewood. According to Arthur Waskow in Seasons of Our Joy, my favorite book on Jewish holiday customs, the Jews may have chosen this day with its emphasis on fire to commemorate the burning of the Temple. The holiday has come to be associated with other tragedies as well, for instance the massacre of Jews during the Crusades and the Holocaust.

It is a day of deep mourning, the saddest day in the Jewish holiday calendar. Beginning at sundown, the following pleasures are forbidden: eating and drinking, wearing leather, washing, anointing the skin or air with oils or perfume, and making love. These proscriptions remind me of the customs associated with the Dog Days, the hottest days of the year, when men were advised not to have sex as their vital energy could be easily depleted. The Greeks also fast between August 1 and August 15, which would (in the old lunar calendar) occur from the new moon to the full moon of Av.

The synagogue service for Tisha B’Av is conducted like a funeral. The Ark of the Torah is draped in black, or left empty. There are no bright lights, just candles, and in some Sephardic and Eastern congregations, even those are extinguished before the end of the service. The morning service the following day is also solemn, but in the afternoon the mood changes. Women may put on perfume to welcome King Messiah. After sundown, the fast is broken, and Jews wash their faces and go outside to participate in kiddush levana—hallowing the moon.


Waverly FitzgeraldWaverly Fitzgerald is a writer, teacher, and calendar priestess who has studied the lore of holidays and the secrets of time for decades. She shares her research and her thoughts on her Living in Season website and in her book, Slow Time. She is currently working on a series of essays about looking for nature in the city and blogs for the Seattle PI as the “Urban Naturalist.”

 

 


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Now Available — The Hebrew Illuminations 2016 calendar featuring the intricate artwork of Adam Rhine.

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End of Ramadan: Eid al-Fitr

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Artwork by Michael J. Green from our Celtic Blessings 2015 wall calendar.

This holiday (falling on July 18 this year), which is celebrated all over the world, marks the end of Ramadan, the month-long period of fasting when devout Muslims don’t eat or drink from sunrise to sunset. It’s been particularly difficult this year, with deaths reported in Pakistan and India and blamed on the unusually high summer temperatures.

Ramadan is a lunar holiday that begins about eleven days earlier in the calendar each year as it follows the course of the moon. It begins when the first crescent moon is spotted, and it ends when the first crescent moon of the next lunar cycle is spotted and announced with drum rolls and cannons.

The celebration of Eid al-Fitr (the festival of breaking the fast) lasts for up to three days. The first morning begins with a special prayer that is said in large open spaces. People buy new clothes and dress up, especially children. In many cities, there are carnivals with rides and games. Relatives give children coins and sweets as gifts. The poor are also acknowledged with gifts of money. Families gather for feasts, to indulge in the foods that were only enjoyed at night during Ramadan.


Waverly FitzgeraldWaverly Fitzgerald is a writer, teacher, and calendar priestess who has studied the lore of holidays and the secrets of time for decades. She shares her research and her thoughts on her Living in Season website and in her book, Slow Time. She is currently working on a series of essays about looking for nature in the city and blogs for the Seattle PI as the “Urban Naturalist.”

 

 


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2016 calendars have arrived!

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Fourth of July: Celebration of the Sun

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Image from our Hafiz 2016 wall calendar featuring artwork by Silas Toball of Duirwaigh Studio.

I like to think of Fourth of July as a secular version of pagan Midsummer festivals.

Like many historical holidays, Fourth of July seems to have co-opted many of the symbols of the earlier celebrations at this time of year. For centuries at Summer Solstice, people stayed up all night, dancing around bonfires and rolling burning wheels down the hillsides, to honor the sun. On Fourth of July, we set off pinwheels in the street (evoking the circle, the symbol of the sun), wave sparklers around in the darkness (they look like the embers dancing up from a bonfire), and gaze at fireworks blazing overhead late into the night. Continue reading

Happy 80th Birthday to His Holiness the Dalai Lama

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Photo by Tenzin Choejor, courtesy of the Office of His Holiness the Dalai Lama

His Holiness the Dalai Lama has stated that the highest respect one can show the teacher is to practice the teachings. To that end, and in honor of his birthday on July 6th, we offer the Eight Stanzas for Training the Mind from the Tibetan lojong, or mindtraining tradition. Tibetan Buddhism suggests that reciting these verses, meditating on their meaning, and ultimately merging them with one’s mind will greatly assist one on the path to enlightenment. His Holiness has recited these verses every day for most of his life. They provide a tool for transformation and a pathway to the radiant mind of enlightenment. Continue reading