- Halloween Day
Halloween is a feast that is celebrated on October 31st, Eve of All Saints Day. Very important festival in most English-speaking countries.
Halloween is originally a Celtic feast of Irish origin: the Celtic New Year! About 3000 years ago, the Celtic calendar did not end on December 31st, but on October 31st. And this last night of the year was the night of the god of death (Samain or Samhain).
In October, the nights get longer and the legend tells that the ghosts took the opportunity to visit the living. So to avoid ghosts coming to haunt them, the Celts had some rituals, including dressing up in terrifying costumes to scare the ghosts and get together to party on the evening of October 31st. It was the Irish immigrants who brought with them the Halloween tradition to the United States!
With the arrival of Christianity, Catholics decided from the ninth century to celebrate All Saints (“all saints”) on November 1st. And if we take a closer look at the English word Halloween, it’s kind of a shortcut to the phrase “All Hallows Eve,” which means “the evening of all the saints,” that is, the eve of All Saints, October 31st! #GOOD YEAR THE GHOSTS!
- Valentine’s Day
February 14 is Valentine’s Day, the day of lovers. But who is this Valentin that everyone is talking about? The most famous version is that of a Christian priest named Valentin who celebrated secret marriages in the time of the Romans and who would have died on February 14th.
But we, the favorite story is that of Valentin and Julia: poor Valentin is arrested by the emperor and thrown into prison. He befriends Julia, the daughter of his jailer, who brings him his meals. The girl is blind, so Valentin describes the world so that she can imagine it until the day a miracle takes place! Thanks to the goodness of Valentine, Julia finds the sight and can finally see the world. It is said that when Valentin died, her friend Julia planted an almond tree near her grave. Today, this tree is a symbol of love, like the rose.
- Thanksgiving’s Day
Thanksgiving is a Christian feast day in which we thank God by rejoicing and prayers for the joys that we have been able to receive during the year. Thanksgiving (whose name means “Thanksgiving”) is a holiday celebrated in the United States, Canada, but also in some other countries around the world. It should be noted that in the USA it is one of the most important festivals of the year as well as the day of the National Day (4th of July).
For some Native American peoples, Thanksgiving or Thanksgiving is a commemoration of the Indian wars. In the United States, every year, Americans celebrate this feast around a turkey, from 1789 until today. The origins of this tradition go back to the founding pilgrims of the Plymouth colony (a British town in Devon County). Thanksgiving Day celebrates the Indians’ help to the Pilgrims who landed the Mayflower in 1620. It was not until 1863 that Thanksgiving was introduced as a national holiday by Abraham Lincoln. He also fixed the Thanksgiving holiday on the fourth Thursday of November. Today, Thanksgiving has become an important and respected family tradition in the United States.
- The Saint-Nicolas’s Day
The Saint-Nicolas is a party featuring Nicolas de Myre. It is a perennial tradition in several European countries as well as in the north and east of France, which takes place on December 6 or December 19 for the Orthodox Church using the Julian calendar.
Saint Nicholas was born at the end of the 3rd century in Lycia (south of present-day Turkey). He was bishop of Myre. He was a man renowned for his goodness. But in fact, nothing predisposed him to become the holy man who distributes gifts to children …
During the Crusades, his relics were removed from Myre Church and transported to Bari, Italy. A Lorraine knight has also recovered one of his knuckles. At that time, it was common to collect relics of saint … and the authenticity did not matter! He offered it to the Port Church. Became a pilgrimage site, the city is renamed Saint-Nicolas-de-Port. This good man becomes the patron saint of Lorraine. In 1477, the Duke of Lorraine, René II, awarded him his victory against Charles the Bold, who died in Nancy.
Saint Nicholas performed many miracles, such as having resurrected three children. A popular song tells the story of three little children who had gone to the fields … At night, lost, they knock on the door of a butcher. As soon as he enters, he kills them, cuts them out and puts them in the salt pan. Seven years later, Saint Nicolas passing by, gives them back their life …
Saint Nicolas then becomes the protector of children. He is also the patron saint of unmarried young men. St. Nicholas is to boys what St. Catherine is to young girls. He is also the boss of the navigators: he helped save the crews of the storm.
- The New Year’s Day
New Year’s Day is 1st January, the first day of the year, in the Gregorian calendar, and falls exactly one week after the Christmas Day of the previous year. New Year’s Day is a public holiday in all countries that observe the Gregorian calendar, with the exception of Israel. This makes it the most widely observed public holiday in the year. Some countries may also observe an additional day’s holiday for New Year .Countries who still use the Julian Calendar observe New Year’s Day on 14th January. It is traditionally celebrated with firework displays across the globe at 00:00 in the local time zones.
New Year’s Day was originally observed on 15th March in the old Roman Calendar. It was fixed at 1st January in 153 BCE, by two Roman consuls. The month was named Janus after the name of the Roman god of doors and gates. Janus had two faces, one facing forward and one looking back, a fitting name for the month at the start of the year. During the Middle Ages, a number of different Christian feast dates were used to mark the New Year, though calendars often continued to display the months in columns running from January to December in the Roman fashion. * It wasn’t until 1582 when the Roman Catholic Church officially adopted 1 January as the New Year. Most countries in Western Europe had officially adopted 1st January as New Year’s Day even before they adopted the Gregorian calendar.
- Christmas Day
Christmas Day celebrates the Nativity of Jesus, the date of which according to tradition took place on 25th December 1 BC. 25 December will be a public holiday in most countries around the world. If 25 December falls on a weekend, then a nearby week day may be taken as a holiday in lieu. Whilst the holiday has a strong grounding in the story of the birth of Jesus, many of the traditions we associate with Christmas have evolved from pre-christian beliefs and certainly the traditions have evolved beyond purely a Christian holiday to have a wider secular significance.
The celebration of Christmas in late December is certainly as a result of pre-existing celebrations happening at that time, marking the Winter Solstice.
Most notable of these is Yule (meaning ‘Feast’), a winter pagan festival that was originally celebrated by Germanic people. The exact date of Yule depends on the lunar cycle but it falls from late December to early January. In some Northern Europe countries, the local word for Christmas has a closer linguistic tie to ‘Yule’ than ‘Christmas’, and it is still a term that may be used for Christmas in some English-speaking countries. Under the Julian calendar, the winter solstice was fixed on December 25, and this date was also the day of the popular roman holiday of Saturnalia, in honour of Saturn, the god of agriculture; which was later superceded by Sol Invictus, a day that bundled up the celebration of several sun based gods into one easy to manage festival.
As Christianity began to take a hold across the Roman empire and beyond, the date of when to celebrate the birth of Christ became a bit of an issue, with several different dates proposed.
It wasn’t until 350 AD, when the then Bishop of Rome, Pope Julius I, fixed the official Christmas day on December 25. Unfortunately Julius I didn’t show his working out on how he reached this date; some scholars later suggested that it was calculated as nine months after the Annunciation (March 25), when the angel Gabriel is said to have appeared to Mary and told her she would bear the son of God. Whatever the reasoning, it is clear that, just as key pagan sites were being chosen for new churches, so too the date was chosen with the intention to catapult Christmas into becoming a major festival by placing it over the pre-existing pagan festivals.
- Guy Fawkes Night
Guy Fawkes Night is held annually on 5 November. It may also be called Fireworks Night or Bonfire Night. It commemorates the arrest of Guy Fawkes and the failure of the so-called ‘Gunpowder plot’ to blow up the English Houses of Parliament in 1605. On the night of 4 November 1605, following a tip off through an anonymous letter, Guy Fawkes was caught guarding thirty-six barrels of gunpowder in a cellar beneath the Houses of Parliament in London.
The conspirators of the Gunpowder Plot were Roman Catholics who opposed the lack of religious tolerance under King James I. Their plan was to assassinate James and his government by blowing up the House of Lords during the State Opening of Parliament on 5 November 1605. This was to be the start of a series of actions across England that would lead to the installation of James’ daughter Elizabeth as a new Catholic head of state. Fawkes and seven others were tried and convicted of treason, and executed in January 1606. His head was among those displayed on pikes at London Bridge. Within months Parliament established 5 November as a national day of thanksgiving. The act remained in force until 1859. Some see the promotion of the celebrating of the foiling of the Gunpowder plot as way of having a protestant celebration as an alternative to the pagan Halloween. Ironically in modern day England, Guy Fawkes night is becoming less popular with the traditions being swallowed by the more popular Americanized Halloween festivities.