Image from our Day of the Dead 2018 wall calendar. Skull Art Queen with Butterflies © Xrista Stavrou. Click for more info.
Halloween, falling as it does on the start of the darkest time of the year, focuses on those who have departed. In the United States, on October 31, the emphasis may be on ghosts, monsters, and scary pumpkin faces, but in earlier times, and in other cultures, this is the time to honor the dead.
In Mexico, indigenous customs mingled with the Spanish Catholic celebration of All Souls’ Day on November 1 (“Halloween” is an abbreviated version of All Hallows’ Eve), during which people pray for those who have died. The resulting holiday, Day of the Dead (Día de los Muertos), is a joyful celebration of those who have died. Continue reading
Image from our Herb Gardens 2017 wall calendar. Photograph © Laura Berman. Click image for more info.
Very early on, the Catholic Church chose August 15 (which would be the full moon of August if the new moon fell—as it did when the months were lunar—on the first of the month) to honor the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It was proclaimed a holiday throughout the Roman Empire by Emperor Maurice around 600 in the East, and about 50 years later in the West.
This Catholic holiday replaced an earlier celebration that took place in Greece on the full moon of August in honor of Artemis and Hecate, which the Romans gave a fixed place in the solar calendar on August 13. It was known in Rome as Diana’s Feast of Torches. Continue reading
Image from The Organic Kitchen Garden 2017 wall calendar. Colander of blackberries © Sonja Dahlgren. Click image for more info.
In Ireland, the last Sunday in July is known as Bilberry Sunday, although it seems the custom of going to the mountains to look for bilberries has somewhat died out. I found one reference online to a festival in Ardagh, Ireland, in 2015 where the participants climbed Bri Leith (also known as Ardagh Hill) to collect bilberries.
I read of one old custom where the girls would bring home bilberries and bake them into a cake to present to the one they loved. But Máire MacNeill, in her book on the festival of Lughnasa (August 1), says the boys make the girls bilberry bracelets, which are left behind when it’s time to return home. Either way, this is a courting festival like May Day, three months earlier. Continue reading
Image from our Gardens of the Spirit 2021 wall calendar featuring photography by John Lander. Click image for more info.
Thanks to my niece, who found a mention of this festival through her favorite Japanese seasonal treat shop, I recently attended a midsummer purification ritual at the Tsubaki Grand Shrine, a Shinto shrine in Granite Falls, Washington. The purpose of the ritual is to get rid of any negative energy from the first half of the year in order to begin the second half of the year with a fresh start. In Japan at the Tsubaki Shrine, the purification ritual takes place each year on June 30. Continue reading
Image from our Bee Happy 2017 wall calendar. Photograph © DrRave. Click image for more info.
The ancient Romans celebrated Fortuna, the goddess of good fortune, on June 24. In The Book of Goddesses and Heroines, Patricia Monaghan comments that Fortuna meant not merely “luck,” but the principle that drives men and women to mate, an irresistible “Fors.” Fortuna was the goddess of the fertilization of humans, animals, and plants, and thus was especially worshipped by gardeners and by women wanting to become pregnant. As Fortuna Virilis, she made women irresistible to men. It was perhaps on this day that Roman women invaded men’s public baths. Continue reading
Image from our Hebrew Illuminations 2016 wall calendar featuring artwork by Adam Rhine. Click image for more info.
This Jewish holiday celebrated fifty days after Passover (and thus the Jewish equivalent of Beltane) is also known as the Festival of Weeks, the Festival of Revelation, and the Festival of Harvest. This year it will begin at sunset on the evening of June 11.
In ancient times, two kinds of offerings were made at the Temple: two loaves of bread made from the first harvest of wheat and seven kinds of first fruits: wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives, and dates. Later this date was identified as the day God gave the Jews the Torah. Weddings that have been delayed during the Counting of the Omer can be celebrated. Continue reading
Now Is the Time greeting card featuring artwork by Duirwaigh Studios.
Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic year, begins at sunset the evening of June 5 this year.
The Islamic calendar is tied to the circles of the moon, rather than Earth’s journey around the sun, so Ramadan is observed about 11 days earlier every year. It takes 33 years for it to come back to the same time of year. The name of the month comes from a word meaning “hot” or “burned” which suggests that Ramadan was originally a summer month as it is this year.
During this sacred month, Muslims past the age of puberty are required to observe the five pillars of Islam, including fasting; the profession of faith in Allah as the one god and in Muhammad as his prophet; prayer five times a day; the giving of alms to the poor; and the hajj, a pilgrimage to Mecca. Continue reading
Image from our Land Art 2016 wall calendar featuring artwork by Dietmar Voorwold. Click image for more info.
The days directly before and including Ascension Day (May 5 this year) have long been celebrated by processions around the boundaries of a property. This ancient ritual was approved by the Council of Orleans in 511. Sometimes it is called the Rogation Days.
In Belgium, the priest carries a cross and leads a procession around the fields, blessing the crops and praying for rain and abundant harvests. The litany of all saints is chanted, presumably invoking their assistance and protection. Continue reading