Category Archives: Holiday Lore

National Hummingbird Day — Small But Mighty

Image from our Praise for the Pollinators 2022 Wall Calendar. Illustration by Colin Johnson.

The first Saturday of September is National Hummingbird Day! Let’s celebrate this amazing and beautiful pollinator.

In the hummingbird world, parenting responsibilities rest solely on the mother’s tiny shoulders. After her jelly bean–size chicks are born, she provides them with protein in the form of miniscule insects every 20 minutes. Two weeks later she turns her attention to teaching her fledglings the art of aeronautics — how to hover, dive, and defend their territories, how to catch mosquitoes in midair, and even how to snitch prey from a spider’s web before its owner can get to the catch. She also passes along her knowledge of which flowers replenish their nectar most frequently. With their mama’s guidance, baby hummers enter adulthood by their one-month birthdays fully prepared to assume their role of pollinator.

Here’s some more fun facts about these miraculous creatures from The Old Farmer’s Almanac:

WHAT IS A HUMMINGBIRD’S SIZE?
These diminutive birds weigh only about 4 grams — or .141 ounce! That’s tiny! For comparison, a U.S. penny weighs 2.5 grams. The egg of a hummingbird weighs just 0.4 gram to 2.4 grams. A newly hatched bird is just 0.62 gram. However, when it’s time to migrate, hummers pack on the grams for the long trip — sometimes doubling their weight.

They are among the smallest birds, too, with most species measuring 3 to 5 inches long. The smallest bird, the bee hummingbird, is only 2 inches long — and weighs less than 2 grams.

HOW FAST DO HUMMINGBIRDS BEAT THEIR WINGS?
Hummingbirds, with their iridescent colors and fairly short wings, beat their wings as fast as 80 times per second! They do NOT flap their wings — they rotate them in a figure 8, which makes it even more remarkable! In fact, their name comes from the fact that they move their wings so fast that they make a humming noise. Hummingbirds can hover, stop instantly, and fly in different directions (even upside down) with exquisite control.

HOW FAST IS A HUMMINGBIRD’S HEART RATE?
Hummingbirds have a very high metabolic rate, with heart rate of 1,260 beats per minute and breaths of 250 times per minute.

The long flights and wing-beating can make a hummingbird weary. As often as every 15 minutes, they look for a place to rest on trees and shrubs with small leaves. Particular plants include birch trees, butterfly bushes, and honey locusts. Don’t worry if you do not have these plants in your yard — your hummingbird might also rest on your feeder’s hanger.

WHAT’S A HUMMINGBIRD’S LIFE SPAN?
The life expectancy of a hummingbird is from 3 to 6 years. The oldest surviving hummingbird was 9 years old. Females outlive males by several years, probably due to the males’ high energy costs of defending territories and the long spring and fall migrations.


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Guru Purnima

Image from our Meditation 2022 wall calendar. Click for more info.

Guru Purnima is considered to be one of the most auspicious days in the Hindu calendar. This festival is dedicated to one’s Guru, mentor, or teacher. Also known as Vyasa Purnima, Guru Purnima falls on the full moon day (Purnima) of the Hindu month of Ashadha. This year, India is celebrating Guru Purnima on July 24.

It is widely believed that Lord Buddha gave his first sermon on Guru Purnima in Sarnath, Uttar Pradesh, after weeks of achieving enlightenment under the Bodhi tree. The day also holds significance in The Mahabharata and other holy books of the Hindus.

The word Guru is derived from two words, gu and ru. The Sanskrit root gu means darkness or ignorance, and ru denotes the remover of that darkness. Therefore, a Guru is one who removes the darkness of ignorance. In addition to having religious importance, Guru Purnima also has great importance for Indian academics and scholars who celebrate this day by thanking their teachers as well as remembering past teachers.


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Bringing in the May

Image from our Fireweed 2021 wall calendar featuring artwork by Anahata Joy. Click for more info.

Many May Day customs involve flowers and green branches. Flowers are woven into wreaths to exchange as gifts between lovers or to hang on doors as decoration. Or flowers are placed in baskets and left on doorsteps for the recipients to find when they arise in the morning.

In Ireland, Beltane is the only safe day for wearing Irish lilacs. In France, the flower of May Day is the lily of the valley. Any wish made while wearing it comes true. The marsh-marigold or kingcup is called the herb of Beltane and is strewn against evil in the Isle of Man. Rosemary is another Beltane herb.

In England, there was a tradition of carrying about May garlands. At Horncastle in Lincolnshire, young boys carried May gads: peeled willow wands were wreathed with cowslips. In other parts of England, the garlands are small wooden crosses covered with flowers and greenery. But the hoop-garland is the most common: made from a framework of intersecting hoops so that the final effect is of a flower-covered globe. Sometimes a May Doll (sometimes said to represent Flora) is placed within or upon it. In Italy, the Bride of May carries the maggio, a green branch garlanded with ribbons, fresh fruits and lemons.

Sometimes flowers were given as messages: plum for the glum, elder for the surly, thorns for the prickly, and pear for the popular. In Lancashire, the flowers rhymed with their qualities. Any kind of thorn meant scorn (except for whitethorn or May), while holly was folly, briar for liars, rowan for affection and a plum in bloom rhymed with “married soon.” According to Porter, in Cambridgeshire, boys gave the popular girls sloe blossoms, while “the girl of loose manners had a blackthorn planted by hers’ the slattern had an elder tree planted by hers; and the scold had a bunch of nettles tied to the latch of her cottage door.” According to Hole, lime (which rhymes with prime) was a compliment and so was pear which rhymed with fair. The rowan (or quicken) since it rhymes with chicken was a sign of affection. But briar, holly and plum stood for liar, folly and glum while the alder (pronounced “owler” in some districts) rhymed with “scowler.” Other plants you did not want to receive included nettles, thistles, sloes, crab-tree branches and elders. Obviously there are some contradictions in this list, and some unkindness as well.

I find it interesting that the three plants most often associated with May Day: Sweet Woodruff, Lily of the Valley, and Hawthorn, all are connected in folklore with the heart. Summer is the time when Chinese medicine places the emphasis on strengthening the heart and the circulatory system. It also seems appropriate for the time of the year when we are focused on relationships and coupling.

References:
Field, Carol, Celebrating Italy, William Morrow 1990
Hole, Christina, A Dictionary of British Folk Customs, Granada Publishing 1976
Hutton, Ronald, The Stations of the Sun: A History of the Ritual Year in Britain, Oxford University Press 1997
Porter, Enid, Cambridgeshire Customs & Folklore, 1969, quoted in Hutton


Waverly FitzgeraldWaverly Fitzgerald was a writer, teacher, and calendar priestess who studied the lore of holidays and the secrets of time for decades. She shared her research and her thoughts on her Living in Season website and in her book, Slow Time. Waverly passed away in December 2019 and is remembered for being kind, talented, and generous—especially in the aid she provided to many writers, both aspiring and well-established, with her wellspring of knowledge.

 

 


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Celebrate Pi

Photo from Pillsbury.

We love celebrating special days during each month of the year. It’s even better to celebrate by sharing pie!

Pi Day is an annual celebration of the mathematical constant π (pi). Pi Day is observed on March 14 (3/14 in the month/day format) since 3, 1, and 4 are the first three significant digits of π. In 2009, the United States House of Representatives supported the designation of Pi Day. UNESCO’s 40th General Conference decided Pi Day as the International Day of Mathematics in November 2019.

Math Solutions offers more intriguing information:

Pi Day is when mathematicians and math lovers around the world celebrate pi, often approximated to 3.14, which is the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter.

The circle is often the first shape many learn in childhood, and can be observed in nature in pinecones, apples, oranges, the cornea in our eyes…the circle is everywhere!

The first calculation of pi was done by Archimedes of Syracuse (287-212), an ancient Greek mathematician and astronomer. He calculated the area of a circle with the use of the Pythagorean Theorem.

Pi has been used by different cultures throughout history. The ancient Babylonians and Egyptians used approximations for pi when calculating the area of a circle. Zu Chongzhi (429–501), a Chinese mathematician, created his own ratio that approximated pi in much the same way Archimedes did. Georges-Louis Leclerc (1707-1788), a French mathematician, showed that Pi could be calculated with probability.

Since its discovery, pi has been used every day. Engineering, construction, GPS, simulation, radio, TV, telephones, power generation, motors…all of this is possible thanks to the magic of pi! Some historians even debate whether pi was used when the ancient Pyramids of Giza were constructed because the structures are nearly perfect geometrically.

If you want to make pie to celebrate pi, here are 100 recipes from Taste of Home. Yum!

And here’s a fun video about pi from TEDEd:


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International Women’s Day 2021: #ChooseToChallenge

Image from our Girl Power 2021 wall calendar featuring illustrations by Kelly Angelovic.

International Women’s Day on March 8 is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating women’s equality.

International Women’s Day (IWD) has occurred for well over a century, with the first IWD gathering in 1911 supported by over a million people. Today, IWD belongs to all groups collectively everywhere. IWD is not country, group or organization specific.

The theme for 2021 is #ChooseToChallenge. Here’s an excerpt from the IWD website:

A challenged world is an alert world. Individually, we’re all responsible for our own thoughts and actions – all day, every day.

We can all choose to challenge and call out gender bias and inequality. We can all choose to seek out and celebrate women’s achievements. Collectively, we can all help create an inclusive world.

From challenge comes change, so let’s all choose to challenge.

Visit the IWD to read about more ways to celebrate.


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Random Acts of Kindness

Illustration by Clairice Gifford from The Art of Kindness 2021 wall calendar.

Random Acts of Kindness Week, which will be observed February 14-20, 2021, is an annual opportunity to unite through kindness. Formally recognized in 1995, this seven-day celebration demonstrates that kindness is contagious. It all starts with one act — one smile, one coffee for a stranger, one favor for a friend. It’s an opportunity for participants to leave the world better than they found it and inspire others to do the same. Since inception, the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation estimates that millions of individuals, celebrities, businesses, schools, and partners have participated in these weeklong celebrations.

Here is more from their website about the theme for 2021:

We are upholding this annual tradition of celebrating kindness because we know everyone can use more kindness in their lives. Scientific evidence shows us the positive effects of doing kind acts for others as well as receiving or even witnessing kindness. Even the smallest act of kindness can change a life.

In 2021, we encourage everyone to Explore the Good and Make Kindness the Norm.

Stories come to us on a daily basis. They are beautiful and heartwarming, but mostly they give us hope. We hear of seemingly insignificant moments where a stranger helps another stranger and impacts the rest of their life with a small gesture. When we tune into kindness happening around us, the day seems a little bit brighter. The week seems a little more manageable.

These stories are nothing new or unique. They are YOUR stories. They are OUR stories. Help us Make Kindness the Norm by spreading it in the simplest ways.

Even with all the challenges facing society, the Random Acts of Kindness foundation wants to remind the world that there is still so much good going on.

There are lots of wonderful resources and free downloadables on the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation website.


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Imbolc and Candlemas: Spring Growth

Brighid’s Mantle by Jen Delyth featured in the Celtic Mandala 2021 wall calendar.

Last week we looked at the Hindu festival of early spring. This week we welcome the early spring with a few British Isles holidays in honor of new growth: Imbolc and Candlemas. Celebrated on February 1 and 2, they fall halfway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox, and can be considered the beginning of spring.

Imbolc is the Celtic name for the holiday celebrated on February 1. The name is alternately derived from words that refer to washing and pregnant bellies and ewe’s milk, because this is the time when lambs are born out in the fields and the earth is prepared for sowing, a time to ask for protection for young animals and tender crops.

February 1 is also the feast day of St. Brigid, who began her life as a pagan goddess and ended up a Christian saint. The goddess, Brigid or Bride, was a fire and fertility goddess with a temple at Kildare where an eternal flame burned, tended by vestal virgins. The saint, Brigid, was born in the fifth century and established the first monastery in Ireland at (where else?) Kildare. Many of the saint’s legends resonate with the qualities and aspects of the goddess. St. Brigid is often associated with light and fire, she multiplies butter and milk, she brings people sheep and cattle, and she can control the weather. To celebrate St. Brigid’s day, people leave a loaf of bread on the windowsill for the saint and an ear of corn for her white cow. Wheat weavings called “Brigid’s crosses” serve as charms to protect homes from fire and lightning.

February 2 is known as Candlemas in the Christian church, thanks to a passage from Luke 2:21 in which the baby Jesus is heralded as “a light for revelation” when Mary goes to the temple for the rite of purification required for women 40 days after giving birth to a baby boy. The spark of the candle burning in the darkness becomes the symbol of new life. Candles are brought to church to be blessed on this day and taken home to serve as protection from disasters. In Hungary, according to Dorothy Spicer in The Book of Festivals, February 2 is called “Blessing of the Candle of the Happy Woman.” In Poland, it is called “Mother of God Who Saves Us from Thunder.”

In North America we celebrate February 2 by observing a groundhog who predicts the weather for the upcoming 40 days by rousing from hibernation to check out the sunshine. If he sees his shadow (meaning it’s a sunny day), he goes back inside and winter continues. If he stays out, then spring will come early.

If you are lucky at Candlemas you can see the stirrings of spring. Here in Seattle, the witch hazel and the boxwood are blooming, perfuming the air with sweet scents. Snowdrops (the flower of St. Brigid) are opening their snowy white bells. In colder climates, you might look for signs of a thaw or just treasure the extra few minutes of light each day.

Originally published January 2015. 


Waverly FitzgeraldWaverly Fitzgerald was a writer, teacher, and calendar priestess who studied the lore of holidays and the secrets of time for decades. She shared her research and her thoughts on her Living in Season website and in her book, Slow Time. Waverly passed away in December 2019 and is remembered for being kind, talented, and generous—especially in the aid she provided to many writers, both aspiring and well-established, with her wellspring of knowledge.

 

 


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Día de los Muertos: November 1–2

Fascination with the Morbs © Cynthia Frenette from our Day of the Dead 2021 wall calendar. Click for more info.

Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is not a Mexican version of Halloween.

Though related, the two annual events differ greatly in traditions and tone. Whereas Halloween is a dark night of terror and mischief, Day of the Dead festivities unfold over two days in an explosion of color and life-affirming joy. Sure, the theme is death, but the point is to demonstrate love and respect for deceased family members. In towns and cities throughout Mexico, revelers don elaborate makeup and costumes, hold parades and parties, sing and dance, and make offerings to lost loved ones.

Day of the Dead originated several thousand years ago with the Aztec, Toltec, and other Nahua people, who considered mourning the dead disrespectful. For these pre-Hispanic cultures, death was a natural phase in life’s long continuum. The dead were still members of the community, kept alive in memory and spirit—and during Día de los Muertos, they temporarily returned to Earth. Today’s Día de los Muertos celebration is a mash-up of pre-Hispanic religious rites and Christian feasts. It takes place on November 1 and 2—All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day on the Catholic calendar—around the time of the fall maize harvest.

Literary Calaveras
Calavera means “skull.” But during the late 18th and early 19th centuries, calavera was used to describe short, humorous poems, which were often sarcastic tombstone epitaphs published in newspapers that poked fun at the living. These literary calaveras eventually became a popular part of Día de los Muertos celebrations. Today the practice is alive and well. You’ll find these clever, biting poems in print, read aloud, and broadcast on television and radio programs.

The Calavera Catrina
In the early 20th century, Mexican political cartoonist and lithographer José Guadalupe Posada created an etching to accompany a literary calavera. Posada dressed his personification of death in fancy French garb and called it Calavera Garbancera, intending it as social commentary on Mexican society’s emulation of European sophistication. “Todos somos calaveras,” a quote commonly attributed to Posada, means “we are all skeletons.” Underneath all our manmade trappings, we are all the same.

In 1947 artist Diego Rivera featured Posada’s stylized skeleton in his masterpiece mural “Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in Alameda Park.” Posada’s skeletal bust was dressed in a large feminine hat, and Rivera made his female and named her Catrina, slang for “the rich.” Today, the calavera Catrina, or elegant skull, is the Day of the Dead’s most ubiquitous symbol.

Altars
The centerpiece of the celebration is an altar, or ofrenda, built in private homes and cemeteries. These aren’t altars for worshipping; rather, they’re meant to welcome spirits back to the realm of the living. As such, they’re loaded with offerings—water to quench thirst after the long journey, food, family photos, and a candle for each dead relative. If one of the spirits is a child, you might find small toys on the altar. Marigolds are the main flowers used to decorate the altar. Scattered from altar to gravesite, marigold petals guide wandering souls back to their place of rest. The smoke from copal incense, made from tree resin, transmits praise and prayers and purifies the area around the altar.

Source: National Geographic by Logan Ward


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Dreaming of 2021… Wall Calendars, Planners, and Desk Pads