HOME ABOUT US SITE MAP PARTNERS ARCHIVES SERVICES VOLUNTEERS SOCIAL MEDIA

Part 3: September-December

Part 3c: September - December

Treasury of Celebrations:

Intro/Cover Page | Gifts | Jan-Apr | May-Aug | Sep-Dec | Advent | Christmas | Rites of Passage


Index for this Section

From Alternatives' Treasury of Celebrations, published by Northstone Books. The entire 288 page book is available for $12.

Items from the books "Treasury of Celebrations" and "To Celebrate: Reshaping Holidays and Rites of Passage" are Free Resources on our Website. These are text files. If you want the graphics and formatting, get the whole book.

You're welcome to download and copy this information -- but not sell it -- as long as you include on each copy: "©Creative Commons. Used by permission. For more ideas to simplify your life, visit SimpleLivingWorks.org"

 

September-December (minus Advent and Christmas)

 

Top of Page  Index  


NEW - 9/11

9/11

Walter Brueggemann on Empire vs. Neighborhood on Seminary Dropout (podcast) #54: Walter Brueggemann Talking Reality, Grief, Hope

Let's Put 9/11 in Perspective (scroll down to 'Comment of the Week.')


NEW - Happy Indigenous People's Day!

The Green Shadow Cabinet supports renouncing Columbus Day and replacing it with Indigenous People's Day.

Christopher Columbus is an important historical figure. He should be studied as part of our colonial history, a tragic era of plunder, pillage, empire, genocide and slavery that's been largely omitted from mainstream history books. Establishing Indigenous People's Day is an important step in setting the record straight, and ending the celebration of a man representing one of the most brutal chapters in recorded history.

Indigenous People's Day celebrates the pre-Columbus nations, as well as the ongoing contribution of Indigenous Peoples to American culture and society. The survival of a people and their culture - despite brutal attempts to destroy both - is an inspiring and instructive story which deserves dedicated discussion in both U.S. school curriculum, and broader public discourse.

This struggle, of course, continues. Indigenous Peoples around the world are under assault by neoliberal resource extraction, water privatization, industrial agriculture and land grabs - fostered in part by market-based false solutions to the climate crisis. Yet despite poverty, unemployment and high cancer rates resulting from these toxic assaults, Indigenous communities are leading the charge, putting their bodies on the line to protect air, water, land, climate, biodiversity, Mother Earth and all of her inhabitants - including all of us.

Their courage is an inspiration to us all. As disaster capitalism broadens its targets from the most oppressed communities to encompass us all, we have all the more reason to emulate and celebrate Indigenous resistance and resilliance. Please join us in calling for an end to Columbus Day, and the creation of a new federal holiday of Indigenous People's Day.

~ Jill Stein, Green Shadow Cabinet President; former Green Party presidential candidate

  • Rejecting Columbus Cities Forge Path Toward System Alternative

    Labor Day

    This day to recognize organized labor is a legal holiday observed throughout Canada and the United States on the first Monday in September. The first parades and rallies to celebrate the contribution of organized labor in Ontario were held in 1872.

    Peter J. McGuire, president and founder of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners, instituted Labor Day to recognize the contributions of laborers and to acknowledge the role unions have played in protecting workers from exploitation. Labor Day has been celebrated in the U.S. since 1882.

    In Europe, Labor Day has been celebrated since 1889, and is celebrated on May first. North Americans have traditionally celebrated in September.

    Labor Day weekend has become a time for final outings and vacations before students return to school. Leisure activities are particularly appropriate since paid holidays and vacations are possible, in large part, because of the labor movement. Labor Day provides a chance to learn more about the productive history of the labor movement as well as its recent history of decline. This is a day to be grateful for those who labor. It is also a day to be more aware of those who want to work but remain jobless.

    [See also May Day.]

    Top of Page  Index  


    Autumn begins

    Although Labor Day marks the end of summer social activities, autumn officially begins on September 22 or 23, when the autumnal equinox occurs. On this day, like the vernal equinox which marks the beginning of spring, the sun appears directly above the equator.

    Learn about the changing seasons. Teach children - with a walk in a park, in the back yard, or out in the country - about what happens in nature. In areas with distinct seasons, autumn is the time when nature prepares for winter: flowers die, trees lose their leaves, animals develop warmer coats.

    Top of Page  Index  


    Rosh Hashana

    Jewish New Year

    Rosh Hashana, celebrated on the first day of the lunar month of Tishri, falls sometime in September or October. In contrast to the frivolity associated with many New Year's Day celebrations, Rosh Hashana, or Jewish New Year, is a solemn holiday. On that sacred day, according to Jewish tradition, the world is created anew and set right by God's power. Ancient ritual for worship dictates that the shofar, a ram's horn, be blown to call the faithful to purify themselves. Those who are not totally right with God and their fellow humans have ten days, the Days of Awe, before Yom Kippur to make reparations through fasting, prayer, penitence, and righting wrongs.

    Top of Page  Index  


    Yom Kippur

    Day of Atonement

    Yom Kippur, Judaism's highest holy day, is held in such high regard that it is known as "a Sabbath of Sabbaths." According to tradition, on this day, Moses descended from Mount Sinai with the Ten Commandments after God forgave the Israelites for worshiping the golden calf.

    Yom Kippur is a day of strict fasting for everyone except children and sick people. No business is transacted and normal routines are suspended. The entire day is devoted to self-examination and repentance.

    Atonement themes found in scripture are read on that day: Leviticus 16, Numbers 29:7-11, Isaiah 57:14-58:14, and finally, the book of Jonah. When Yom Kippur was observed in the Temple in Jerusalem, the emphasis was on seeking forgiveness from God through the mediation of the High Priest. Since the destruction of the Temple, the emphasis is on praying directly to God for forgiveness.

    Yom Kippur ends with the longest and loudest cry of the ancient shofar (ram's horn), sounding a note of hope for the new year. Almost another year goes by before the shofar is heard in the synagogue again.

    Both the personal and communal goal of the ten days of purification is to begin the new year in harmony with God. A Jewish legend says, "It is out of kindness toward his creatures that the Lord remembers them year after year on Rosh Hashanah, that their sins may not grow too numerous... [Otherwise] their sins would grow to such an extent as to doom the world, God forbid. So this revered day assures the world of survival."

     

    At home for Yom Kippur

    In addition to recognizing that this is Judaism's most important holy day, it is also a good day to recall the common roots of modern Judaism and Christianity. Read and discuss Isaiah 57 and 58, scriptures that are immensely important for both traditions.

    Top of Page  Index  


    Sukkot

    Festival of Booths

    The Festival of Booths is celebrated for eight days beginning with the 15th day of the lunar month of Tishri, 15 days after Rosh Hashanah and five days after Yom Kippur. Originally a harvest festival, this day is increasingly being observed by synagogues as a time to share food with those who need it. The custom at Sukkot is to build and live in a hut made of branches and boughs in order to recall times of Jewish homelessness and uncertainty (Leviticus 23:42-43). Sukkot also marks the end of the solemn period of the high holy days.

     

    At home for Sukkot

    Recall times of homelessness and uncertainty in your family history. Remember those who are homeless on this day - those in refugee camps or on city streets. If you are not already doing so, consider joining the effort of those working with homeless people and other refugees.

    Top of Page  Index  


    Thanksgiving

    Harvest festivals have been a part of human history since the beginning of agriculture. With harvesting completed and food stored away for the winter months, those early tillers of the soil celebrated the results of their labor. They also recognized their dependence on elements and forces beyond their efforts that made harvest possible.

    Ancient cultures held harvest festivals in honor of the Earth Mother; the Greeks honored Demeter, and the Romans Ceres. Jews celebrated harvest in several periods throughout the year. In medieval times, many Europeans observed the Feast of St. Martin of Tours on November 11, and harvest home celebrations began with the reign of James I in England. Today, Thanksgiving Day is observed on the second Monday of October in Canada, while in the United States it is on the fourth Thursday of November.

    Obviously, the first thanksgiving rituals and celebrations were varied. The rituals of Inuit living on the Arctic coast differ from the Pueblo people in New Mexico. In Canada, one of the first observances of non-native people was in 1578, when Martin Frobisher celebrated in the eastern Arctic. In the U.S.A., the first non-native celebration was by English settlers in what is now Virginia in December 1619. Their charter required that their arrival date be observed yearly as a day of thanksgiving to God.

    Most American people associate the "first" Thanksgiving with the Pilgrims at Plymouth. Escaping religious persecution in Europe, these colonists attempted to reach the Virginia colony. Their 67-day voyage ended instead at Cape Cod's Provincetown Harbor on November 11, 1620. At a recently vacated Indian settlement, they discovered corn set aside for spring planting. Already on a starvation diet, they were more concerned about their immediate need for food than for anyone's future crop, so they took 10 bushels of the Indian's seed corn in order to survive the winter.

    In the summer of 1621, less than a year after their arrival and after a winter when half of the colonists died, hope was renewed by a good corn crop. Squanto, a Patuxet Indian, helped the colonists during that first winter and spring, showing them how to prepare the fields and plant corn. He acted as go-between for the newcomers and tribes of First Nations peoples, and helped arrange the pact that allowed them all to live in peace.

    The first corn harvest brought rejoicing, and Governor William Bradford decreed that a three-day feast be held. Chief Massasoit was invited to share the celebration. Chief Massasoit and 90 people joined in, probably to celebrate their traditional harvest feast. They brought five deer to add to the Pilgrims' collection of wild geese, ducks, lobsters, eels, clams, oysters, fish, berries, biscuits, breads, corn cooked in a variety of ways, and puddings of cornmeal and molasses. Sweet strong wine from wild grapes supplemented the feast.

    Women cooked, children played, men showed off their marksmanship with firearms and bows and arrows. The feast lasted for days, with little attention to religious services. Some believe that the Pilgrims chose to keep their harvest festival secular because they disapproved of mingling religious and secular celebrations. It seems to have been a one-time occasion, with no thought to future celebrations.

    Serious questions have been raised about the nature and purpose of Thanksgiving Day observances in the subsequent 100 years. William B. Newell, a Penobscot Indian and former chairman of the anthropology department at the University of Connecticut, says that the "first" official Thanksgiving Day was proclaimed by the Governor of Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1637 to celebrate the massacre of 700 Indian men, women, and children at their annual Green Corn Dance (their Thanksgiving). For the next 100 years, says Newell, "every Thanksgiving day ordained by a governor was to honor a bloody victory thanking God for the battle won."

    In November, 1787, President Washington issued a proclamation for a day of thanks. In the same year, the Protestant Episcopal Church announced the first Thursday in November would be a regular yearly day for giving thanks, "unless another day be appointed by the civil authorities." But for many years afterward there was no regular national Thanksgiving Day in the United States.

    In 1863, during the darkest days of the Civil War, President Lincoln proclaimed Thanksgiving a national observance. That he did so was largely due to a campaign by Sarah Josepha Hale, the editor of Godey's Lady's Book, the most widely circulated women's magazine in the late 19th century. For nearly 40 years, Hale publicly promoted the idea of a national Thanksgiving. Even in the midst of civil war, she urged that the celebration not be austere. Fasting, she warned in her magazine, only pointed to the terrible "condition of the country and the deeds of men," while feasting exalted God and the culinary prowess of women.

    Each year, for the next 75 years, the president proclaimed that Thanksgiving Day should be celebrated on the last Thursday of November. In 1939, President Roosevelt set it one week earlier; he wanted to help business by lengthening the Christmas shopping season. Finally, however, Congress ruled that after 1942, Thanksgiving would be observed on the fourth Thursday of November and would be a legal federal holiday.

    In Canada, too, the day jumped around at first. In 1879 it was celebrated November 6. It was celebrated November 11 in conjunction with Armistice Day, too. It was not until 1957 that Parliament declared the second Monday in October as the national holiday for observance. Premier Drury of Ontario lamented that what should have been a day of consideration for farmers, was instead being dictated and celebrated for the convenience of urban people. Drury said the date was too early in the year. Thanksgiving is sometimes "celebrated" by farmers who are still bringing in their harvest.

    According to The Canadian Encyclopedia, Canadian Thanksgiving celebrations draw on three traditions:

    1. Harvest celebrations in European peasant societies (where the symbol of the cornucopia originated).
    2. Formal observances, such as the one celebrated by Martin Frobisher.
    3. The Pilgrims' celebration of their first harvest in Massachusetts in 1621 (where the tradition of the turkey, squash and pumpkins originated). The Pilgrim's tradition was taken north by immigrants in the 1750s.

     

    Observations

    If celebrations give voice to the ideals by which we are trying to live, how should we observe Thanksgiving? It may be easier to think first of how we ought not observe it.

    Thanksgiving should not be a day for thanking God for affluence while others go hungry. The notion that it is God who gives affluence to some and poverty to many not only ignores the role humans have played in arranging patterns of affluence and poverty but flies in the face of the God of love and justice. Nor should it be a time to claim God's special blessing on any nation. As a minority religious group, the Pilgrims knew only too well the problems that occur when the interests of God and nation are identified by a dominant religious group.

    Thanksgiving should also not be an occasion to romanticize the cooperation between "the Indians" and the settlers, unless to recall in sorrow the subsequent centuries' genocide of native Americans. Finally, Thanksgiving should not be a day of rest before the two largest shopping days of the year, when giving thanks is swept out the back door so Christmas commercialism can come in the front.

     

    As a day that gives voice to our highest ideals, Thanksgiving can be a time to remember with gratitude and humility that we alone are not responsible for whatever bounty is in our lives. It can be a time to confess that part of our bounty has come at the expense of others, including native Americans, slaves, farm workers, and hosts of others we do not even know. It can also be a time to share what we have with others, and include in our celebrations those who would otherwise be alone.

    Finally, Thanksgiving can be a time to commit ourselves to creating a world where hungry children are fed, the homeless are provided with shelter, and those who suffer discrimination because of race, sex, religion, or age are respected.

     

    Five grains of corn

    In early New England, at Thanksgiving time it was customary to place five grains of corn at every plate. This served as a reminder of those stern days in the first winter when the Pilgrims' food was so depleted that only five grains of corn were rationed to each individual at a time. The Pilgrims wanted their children to remember the sacrifices, the sufferings, the hardships which made possible the settlement of a free people in a free land. They did not want their descendants to forget that on the day on which their ration was reduced to five grains of corn only seven healthy colonists remained to nurse the sick, and nearly half their number already lay in that windswept graveyard on the hill.

    - Plymouth Congregational U.C.C., Des Moines, lowa

     

    Thanksgiving in the woods

    Thanksgiving has always been a special time for my family in Suwanee, Florida. Twenty-five years ago, along with various relatives, we began celebrating Thanksgiving in the woods because our homes were too small to include everyone. My father, brother, and other men in the family enjoyed hunting after the crops were harvested. Since they were camping in the woods, this seemed to be the place to meet for our celebration.

    Some years there was so much pain in our lives that attempting to celebrate Thanksgiving seemed a farce. I particularly remember the year my husband and I separated. From miles away my mother was trying to comfort me with scripture and song, all to no avail. But Thanksgiving was a glorious day with a vibrant blue sky and warm weather so, as usual, we ate outside. All the people who loved me most were there to affirm that life goes on, even in the midst of the deepest pain.

    Then came the year we celebrated without my father, who had helped to start the tradition. As we gathered for the meal, our sense of loss at his death was tremendous and giving thanks was difficult. However, we gave thanks for the memories that are left to us, for the father who never failed to give thanks, and for the many ways that God meets our needs and cares for us. We celebrated in the way we have grown to love - in the woods with the sound of rushing water nearby, the smell of outdoor fires, dogs barking, birds singing, and people laughing and talking - remembering the Creator who made us all.

    - Kay Deen Mann, Decatur, Georgia

     

    Thanksgiving: Responsibilities of abundance

    If celebrations are symbolic vehicles for nurturing the human spirit, for reaffirming that which is lasting in life, then they need to reflect in contemporary form the original spirit and values of the founding event. For Thanksgiving to look like that it would have to "celebrate native Americans and the elimination of world hunger." This would naturally require considerable homework: what caused the native American to become an oppressed people in their homeland, and what are the root causes of hunger which are planted in the soil of our society?

    It would cause us to redefine the responsibilities of abundance. So long as Thanksgiving continues to be distorted from its original values we can expect native Americans and the world's hungry to view it with cynicism.

     

    Hunger

    The extent of hunger in North America and abroad has been kept from public view because the hungry tend to be silent, unobtrusive, and hidden away in ghettos or remote rural areas. Only recently has the magnitude of world hunger caught the attention of more than a few. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization tells us millions in the world are hungry. Millions of children, millions of women, millions of men. Many of our own citizens lack the necessary income to provide a nutritionally adequate diet. Many children go to school hungry. Food banks and community pantries are now an established part of the North American landscape. And the future hardly looks bright.

    Periodically, hunger can be blamed on drought, skyrocketing grain and petroleum prices, or a shrinking world grain supply. However, overall, world harvests have improved, and grain prices are lower. Yet millions still starve or live stunted, malnourished lives.

    The National Council of Churches has named unjust economic systems as an underlying cause of hunger in the world. This includes the neocolonialism fostered by our trans-national companies which, when unregulated by government or the host country, tend to cost the development process more than they benefit. A second underlying cause is insufficient food production in developing countries, caused by an influx of capital-intensive systems of agriculture and the trend to develop one product for export rather than balanced food production for domestic use. A third factor is rapid population growth, and a fourth is the consumption patterns of the rich, which make heavy demands on the world's output.

    The development of goals which produce personal, social, economic, and political justice - agricultural policies which provide farmers production incentives and which protect them from the often disastrous results of over-production; more ecologically-sound agricultural practices and a goal of domestic self-sufficiency for food production; and the simplification of the North American lifestyle - could help.

    The urgency of the world hunger problem is stirring many to action. If the rich of the world are going to provide any more than "band-aids" for this serious illness, there must be a more concerted effort from institutions to bring about action. Thanksgiving, with its bounty of food for the privileged, is the ideal time to start consciousness-raising efforts and actions on behalf of the hungry and undernourished.

    Feasting has its place in our lives. Few of us are called to unrelenting austerity, and God's bounty is certainly worth celebrating. We don't want to recommend that joyous banqueting be removed from our lives, but that we look at it in a different way. At Thanksgiving, we tend to make a ritual of feeding ourselves and our friends to the point of gluttony, and we only remember the world's hungry in an abstract way. New traditions at this time could serve not only to remind us of our heritage and abundance, but also provide direct action to help those who do not have the advantages we have.

    First United Methodist Church in Rule, Texas, lived out a parable. Several weeks before Thanksgiving, their pastor gave each person a certain amount of money - five dollars to one, two dollars to another, etc. She asked them to serve as stewards and see what they could do with that money for the church. The report on Thanksgiving Day was of many projects to help people, to raise money for the church, and to enhance church life; and the congregation learned a new dimension to stewardship.

    Individually and as families

    1. Extend your family by inviting one or more people who would be alone to share your dinner. Consider especially those who seem unlovely and unloved.

    2. Eat simply, or even fast, on Thanksgiving Day. You could use the time you would have spent preparing and eating a large meal in prayers of thanksgiving and intercession. Send what you would normally have spent for dinner to a local hunger pantry or project.

     

    As a Congregation

    1. Hold a church family dinner. Invite church families to bring their Thanksgiving dinner to share with those who are alone or needy. In one community, several churches got together and held a free, all-day feast (10:00 a.m.-10:00 p.m.), for those in need. Church members agreed to provide food, fellowship, and various kinds of activities (hymn sings, inspirational talks, films, prayer vigils) throughout the day. Radio publicity and posters brought in many who otherwise would have had little to be thankful for.

    2. Several congregations hold "Fastathons" over Thanksgiving. Members ask friends to sponsor them at 10 cents to 25 cents per hour, and join others who are fasting in the church fellowship hall from suppertime Wednesday through suppertime Thursday. (Some bring sleeping bags, others go home to sleep.)

    During this fast, films are shown, magazines and books are available, and simulation games are played to teach hunger facts. Worship services, prayer vigils, and Bible studies focus on God's concern for the world's poor. Money raised is donated to projects designed to help people help themselves. Each "Fastathon" concludes with a community supper of rice and tea, and Communion.

    - Patti Sprinkle, St. Petersburg, Florida

     

    Action Ideas

    The following actions are useful in getting people's attention and beginning the education process. Lifestyle change begins with commitment, study, and experimentation, and it takes a good year to bring into effect. Structural change is hard for an individual to bring about so we urge you to join your local hunger coalition to get the most from your efforts.

    About eight weeks before Thanksgiving, I preached a sermon on worldwide hunger and suggested that the families of the church establish a "poor meal" as a weekly family ritual. One night a week the family would eat a very inexpensive meal without dessert and put the money saved in a container. The families were to choose a container that would be placed on the table. (We used such things as coffee cans and oatmeal boxes.) During the eight weeks, I suggested scriptural texts and questions on hunger for the families to consider on the night they ate their "poor meal."

    Then, on our Thanksgiving Eve worship service, the people came forward as family units and placed their containers on the altar. This was a very moving experience for us as a congregation as something that had become a real part of our daily lives served as a focus for the worship event.

    - Kerry L. Stoltzfus, Erin Presbyterian Church, Knoxville, Tennessee

     

    Study Sessions

    Consider using the Thanksgiving season as a time to start a voluntary simplicity study-action project which would end with an alternative Christmas campaign. (Or maybe not end at all!)

     

    Cooperation

    We had a number of people who were new to the community and without ties to family and friends here. So several men in the church volunteered to cook turkey for Thanksgiving for these people. One woman made a list of things to bring and filled in names of persons willing to bake a pie or bring a vegetable. Many of us were skeptical about how well it would come off, but about two weeks before the holiday approximately 35 people had signed up. We ended up with 60. One of the former ministers of the church came back with his family, so this became a way that they could share in the giving of thanks. While many single people showed up, a surprising number of families did too. Mothers escaped the labor of slaving all day in the kitchen for one big orgy, followed by endless dishwashing while the men watched football.

    Before and after the meal, there were puzzles, games, and discussion starters. Someone was going to bring a television, but fortunately it was broken, so all of us escaped the trappings of the "boob-tube." After the dinner, the price of the meal was announced and people were asked to donate about a dollar if they could.

    It was a real success. Another event was planned for New Year's Day and people are thinking about it for this year again. While the idea is simple, it provided a real opportunity for people without a place to celebrate Thanksgiving and an alternative for those traditionally trapped by "family."

    - Rev. Jerry Haas, Pacific Beach United Methodist Church, San Diego, California

     

    Soup kitchen

    In terms of specific Thanksgiving events, we have done basically the same thing each year. The night before, we have a liturgy in the soup kitchen after which we prepare the food for the following day.

    On Thanksgiving itself, we serve a regular dinner: turkey, potatoes, dressing, green vegetables, juice and desserts to about 300 people - not quite a small family gathering! We get an excellent response from all kinds of people. That evening at the hospitality/pre-trial house, there is again a large dinner (for about 50) for the people who live with us, as well as for members of the community.

    I know that some people have begun a tradition of fasting on Thanksgiving, especially because of the situation of world hunger. I believe it is an admirable response, but because of the work we do, and the kind of people we deal with, we feel that we should feast on that one day, and that the poor deserve the best kinds of food.

    Individuals in the community have taken part in feasts of different kinds, vigiling, and so on for people who wish to share their food with the poor. One thing of importance that I would like to emphasize is that while Thanksgiving is a day when we do think of food, it is important that we spend some time on this day attempting to regain a whole theology of food, about the kinds of food we eat, and why we eat them. Thanksgiving should just be a beginning for that kind of reflection.

    - Rachelle Linner, Community for Creative Non-Violence, Washington, D.C.

     

    A garden

    Last year we began a cooperative congregational garden. We had church school pupils start seeds inside. We also used John Denver's recording, "Whose Garden Was This?" Our garden proved very productive and we distributed much produce from the narthex.

    For Thanksgiving Sunday we pulled it all together with a large display of our harvest. We also used the following litany.

     

    A Thanksgiving Litany for a Garden

    One:
    Whose Garden was this?
    All:
    It was Frank's and Ruth's and God's and ours.
    One:
    Whence came the seed?
    All:
    It came from those rooted in the faith and from some whose faith had not yet taken root.
    One:
    How were the seeds planted?
    All:
    With loving care and the knowledge that seeds can move mountains.
    One
    : How were the seeds cared for?
    All:
    Lovingly and according to the instructions that the tares [weeds] were to be cast aside.
    One:
    What was the harvest?
    All:
    Tomatoes and corn and beans and concern and involvement; the fellowship of sauerkraut suppers, and the knowledge that as we do God's will, we learn God's love.
    One:
    Whose garden is this?
    All:
    It is the Lord's and the fullness thereof, and we are the sheep of God's pasture, the inhabitants of the garden of Eden. Let us give thanks, for God's bounty is great.
    All:
    Amen!

    - Vern Campbell, Peoples Presbyterian Church, Milan, Michigan

     

    Native foods

    As an alternative way to celebrate Thanksgiving, I forward a suggestion from a native American member of the Panel of American Women. Hold a congregational dinner featuring native dishes. Give recognition for the contributions that Indians made to the beginning of the Thanksgiving tradition. Such a program, of course, would be faithful to the truth in historical facts.

    - Shirley Morantz, Executive Secretary Panel of American Women, Kansas City, Missouri

     

    Native Americans - suggestions for action

    - Sources: Fellowship of Reconciliation, Nyack, New York, and The Human Rights and Aboriginal Justice Program Office, United Church of Canada

     

    As with most urgent issues of contemporary interest, book and film resources on world hunger and native Americans are nearly boundless. Contact a church, your local library, a university offering Aboriginal programs, or an Indian Friendship Center for help.

    Top of Page  Index  


    World Food Day

    On October 16, in the midst of the traditional harvest season, more than 150 nations observe World Food Day. Established by the United Nations in 1980, its purpose is to mobilize concern about the systemic dimensions of food production, food distribution, and world hunger.

    In Canada, World Food Day falls around Thanksgiving. Many people combine this sobering commemoration with their traditional or alternative observance of Thanksgiving.

     

    Resolution on world hunger

    The Session of Hamilton Union Church adopted and promoted the following resolution within their congregation:

    Because of our deep concern for the many, many starving people in the world and the many more who are malnourished while a majority of us in the United States and other affluent countries eat more than we should, your Session urges the members of the congregation to do some or all of the following:
    • Have at least one meatless day a week, thereby saving several pounds of grain.
    • Have at least one meatless day a week and periodically send the amount of money you would have spent on meat to Church World Service.
    • Of your total meat consumption, replace some of the beef, veal, and pork with poultry. Poultry meat takes less grain to produce.
    • Eat smaller portions of meat.
    • Eat meat once a day if you are in the habit of having it more often.
    • When you eat in a restaurant, ask the server to bring only the amount you think you can eat since whatever food you leave will be thrown out.
    • Send as large a contribution as you can to Church World Service as an expression of gratitude that you have enough to eat.
    • Write to your congressman, senators, and the president urging that the government do all within its power, compatible with price stability in the U.S., to make food available to the hungry.
    • Secure and read a copy of Diet for a Small Planet by Frances Moore Lappe.

    - The Session of Hamilton Union Church

     

    Welcome to the Hunger Restaurant!

    We did something about hunger! We developed the idea of the Hunger Restaurant. It's a fairly simple project, and any group can do it. What is a Hunger Restaurant?

    First, set up a room in the church as a restaurant. Card tables with checkered tablecloths and candles in bottles do a nice job of setting the atmosphere. Regular menus are used. Host, waiters, and waitresses are secured. You even need a couple of cooks. But don't worry, the cooks need not be experts.

    The next step is to invite people to your hunger restaurant. Your advertising should inform people that it will be an educational experience. It will help hungry people, and a meal will be served. When the people arrive, they are greeted and taken to a table.

    A waitress brings in a glass of water and a menu which includes many fine selections at various prices. A little later, orders are taken.

    Now the educational experience begins. On two walls, slides are shown, depicting hunger around the world. They are flashed rapidly, so as to create a special effect. On tape, a distant drum beats, which helps us to understand and remember that one person dies from hunger for each beat of the drum. The place mats show pictures of starvation and give hunger information. A person who has experienced hunger, or visited hungry people, shares a short presentation. Hunger information is passed out.

    Now we are ready to serve the food. Regardless of what people have ordered, they receive one cup of cooked rice. When it is served, the guests are told that millions of people will receive less food than this for the whole day. As they eat the rice, the hunger pictures continue to flash on the walls. Brief interviews [or news items] about hunger interrupt the taped background music.

    After dinner, the bill is prepared according to the price of the food ordered. When the bill is presented, the guest is told that this is the total amount due, had she received what she ordered. She is then invited to pay that amount, or give a portion of it to help feed the hungry world.

    The whole experience takes less than two hours. Education has taken place. Money has been collected for hungry people, and a meal has been served. The sponsoring group has done something that helps. Everyone is satisfied, even though they are still hungry.

    - Temple United Methodist Church, Muskegon Heights, Michigan

     

    Offering of Letters

    According to a study of the National Academy of Sciences, "If there is the political will in this country and abroad... it should be possible to overcome the worst aspects of widespread hunger and malnutrition within one generation."

    We can help to create that political will by expressing our concern to elected leaders, thus moving our government toward policies that enable hungry people to work their way out of hunger and poverty.

    We can struggle for reforms which make it possible for the poor to become more self-reliant in providing their own food. Such reforms should be seen in the context of a clear and consistent food policy. At present, the United States has a variety of approaches, developed by various agencies, which lack overall vision and sometimes work at cross purposes. By developing a comprehensive food policy, our government could more effectively deal with such issues as food and development assistance, domestic hunger, grain reserves, and the global economics of food.

    Helping shape such a comprehensive food policy is too much to ask of any of us. It is not possible for one person to keep abreast of all fields related to hunger, and rarely can one person, acting alone, change a government policy. The answer lies in joining with others who have a similar concern, drawing upon careful analysis of government policies. With others, we can express our views when key decisions are being made.

    To network with others concerned about hunger, contact the head office of your local denomination or organizations such as OXFAM.

    The Offering of Letters is a way for Christians to express their faith in an act of love on behalf of our hungry brothers and sisters in the world.

    The Offering of Letters is an invitation to people of faith throughout the country to place in the Sunday collection basket, as an offering of our citizenship alongside our regular offering of money, letters to public officials - the president, congresspersons, senators - on a carefully selected public policy issue or piece of legislation which affects the lives of hungry people.

    The Thanksgiving season provides an ideal time for the Offering of Letters in the churches, though many churches, for one reason or another, opt to have their Offering of Letters at other times of the year. Any Sunday is appropriate.

    People may write their letters at home or at church on the Sunday of the offering, depending on local preferences. A special offering basket may be provided or worshipers may bring the letters forward in a procession. In one parish, a procession outside to the mailbox was incorporated into the service.

    Top of Page  Index  


    NEW - Black Friday / Buy Nothing Day / Cyber Monday

    On the day after Thanksgiving participate in International Buy Nothing Day on this, the biggest shopping day of the year, by doing no shopping, by writing a letter to the editor promoting sustainability or by focusing on overconsumption with street theatre. Information at Adbusters (800) 663-1243.

    50 Things to Do Other Than Shop on Black Friday from PostConsumer.com

    Are Black Friday, Cyber Monday and other hallmarks of holiday consumerism examples of genuine supply and demand, or is capitalism manufacturing an unnecessary need in order to to feed itself? In this Moyers Moment from Bill Moyers Journal, political theorist Benjamin Barber, author of Jihad vs. McWorld, says we're buying things 'we don't want or need or even understand.'

    'Capitalism needs us to buy things way beyond the scope of our needs and wants [in order to] to stay in business. That's the bottom line,' Barber tells Bill. 'Capitalism is no longer manufacturing goods to meet real needs and human wants. It's manufacturing needs to sell us all the goods it's got to produce.'


    United Nations Day

    On October 24, 1945, the United Nations Charter was approved by a majority of its member nations. The mandate of the United Nations is:

    In 1947, the UN General Assembly passed a resolution designating October 24 as United Nations Day. The importance and hope for peace attached to the UN was so great that the National Council of Churches moved the date of World Order Sunday, a time for churches to reaffirm their responsibility for world peace and justice, to conform to United Nations Day - even before the UN General Assembly had made that day official.

     

    Telling the children

    United Nations Day presents an important opportunity to remember how interrelated the world has become, and how critical the need for international cooperation if humankind is to survive. Honor the day by teaching your children about its work, which includes peacekeeping, agricultural research, children's emergency work, the advancement of women, as well as health education, meteorological, maritime, and environmental programs.

    Top of Page  Index  


    Halloween

    Halloween refers to the evening before All Halloween or All Saints' Day and is celebrated on October 31. The origins of the day come from the Druids' New Year celebration. Along with some other groups, the Druids believed that on the last day of the year the dead came back to mingle with the living. In the eighth century, Pope Gregory III moved All Hallow's to November 1, probably in an attempt to provide an alternative to the popular pagan festival. All Saints' Day was in honor of all the saints who had died, whether or not the church had yet officially canonized them. During the Middle Ages, All Hallow's Eve became known as a special time for witches and sorcerers.

    Halloween costumes started in medieval times when churches displayed relics of saints. Those parishes too poor to have relics let parishioners dress up to imitate saints.

    The tradition of Halloween as Mischief Night, when pranks of all sorts were played on the unsuspecting, likely originated with the old belief that on All Hallow's Eve ghosts roamed the countryside playing tricks. Pranks could thus be blamed on the ghosts.

    Many Halloween traditions come from Ireland and Scotland. Bobbing for apples is one of them. The jack o'lantern supposedly comes from an Irish legend about an old sot, Jack, who made a deal with the devil for his soul. The angered devil supposedly threw a live coal at Jack, and it landed in a half-eaten turnip in Jack's hand. The resulting coal in the turnip became a jack o'lantern.

    The blend of legend, religion, and mischief has combined to make Halloween a unique celebration. Commercialism has had its effect on the festivities, as children beg for costumes like their favorite television characters and for treats which are hopelessly lacking in nourishment. Because parents fear for the safety of their children, children are discouraged from accepting any treats that are not commercially packaged.

    While Halloween is very popular with children, several factors compel us to reexamine current practices in celebrating Halloween. First, more candy is consumed by children on Halloween and the day after than in any other 48-hour period of the year. Second, we have witnessed the return of Mischief Night, with malicious and destructive pranks being played, especially in urban areas. Third, trick-or-treaters find harmful things such as razors and poison in their collected goodies.

    Having said that, creativity and planning, combined with moderation and safety, can make Halloween fun.

     

    Halloween Lock-In

    For their traditional Halloween Lock-In, our Youth Group discussed Halloween and its connection to the festival of All Saints. Then each person received an unlighted candle before proceeding quietly to the chancel area of the dimly lit church building. Seated on the floor around the marble steps by the altar, we remembered people, now deceased, who had touched our lives in special ways. We recounted ways we continue to be connected to these people in "the communion of saints."

    The large Paschal candle by the baptismal font had been lighted, symbolizing Christ's resurrection. With that symbol of resurrection assurance filling our thoughts, we shared the name of the person for whom our candle was lighted and what that person's life meant to us. Then, lighting our candles from the Paschal candle, we placed them in front of the altar.

    The light of our candles flooded the church, just as the people they represented continue to illuminate our lives. During a time of quiet prayer we thanked God for the lives of these people, praying that we would be faithful to the light they had shared with us.

    - Pastor Richard L. Schaper, Lutheran Church of the Redeemer, Atlanta, Georgia

     

    Community Pumpkin Patch

    For Halloween we have a community Pumpkin Patch. Our local social service agency has a volunteer-operated community garden. Garden plots for individual use are free, but all takers must help plant and harvest one crop in the community garden to provide fresh produce for the food pantry. These community gardens are located on city land used as a leaf dump, and we have found that pumpkins grow well in uncultivated leaf mounds.

    Just before Halloween our harvested pumpkins, supplemented by others we purchase, are placed in the Pumpkin Patch where customers trade cans of food for pumpkins - two food items for a small pumpkin, four for a medium pumpkin, etc. These canned goods are given to the local food pantry.

    We make money for the food pantry by selling homemade pumpkin baked goods and apple cider. Two local residents set up their apple press and make fresh cider, stimulating sales by giving out free samples.

    In addition, volunteer artists paint a cute or scary face on pumpkins for 25 cents. For entertainment the zoo brings animals to pet, and the recreation center provides clowns for face painting.

    The Pumpkin Patch has become quite a tradition in our community. It raises several hundred dollars for our food pantry and contributes many canned goods. This project requires little work and lasts one Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

    - Mary and Bill Merrill, Columbus, Ohio

     

    All Hallow's Eve

    We celebrate All Hallow's Eve with a hot dog roast and bonfire. Everyone is encouraged to dress as a saint, but no draculas are turned away. We play games such as "Pin the Crown on the Saint," and sing I Sing a Song of the Saints of God (Episcopal hymnal). We end with the service for All Hallow's Eve around the bonfire.

    - Ed, Andrea, Nathanael and Rebekah Wills, Memphis, Tennessee

     

    Fall festival

    We hosted a family party encouraging everyone (not just children!) to come dressed as Bible characters or saints. As folks gathered, we sang fun, campfire-type songs. Then we all told who we were and were given the prize of a bookmark.

    Afterward, the adults played table games (and they must have really enjoyed it, staying as late as they did!) while the kids had their choice of face painting, guessing the number of pieces of candy in a jar, bobbing for apples, bean bag toss, ping-pong, ball toss, or drawing faces on balloons. We had trouble getting people to leave, so perhaps we'll have another celebration next year!

    - Susan Landis, Cheshire, Connecticut

     

    Family Halloween celebration

    Dress the whole family in costume and visit a pediatric ward. Get permission for your visit in advance, making sure your planned gifts to the children there are appropriate. Balloons, coloring books, or comics may make better gifts than candy or gum. Or, if the hospital has no objections, bake cookies together and take them. Visit a few rooms briefly. The joy you bring to the patients and their parents is a real gift.

    - Joel E. Shirk, Cheshire, Connecticut

     

    Finding acceptable alternatives

    Although our four children at home - aged 7 to 11 - were reluctant to give up costumed trick-or-treating, my wife and I had decided that the quantity of candy ingested and the risks to the children warranted stopping the tradition. As an alternative, we proposed a Halloween party at our house. After the children compiled their guest list, I called the invitees and their parents. Guests were to come dressed as historical heroes. Costumes were to be simple and made with whatever was available at home. Each person was to learn some factual data about the hero(ine) chosen, part of which would be required for admission to the party. They were instructed to keep their identity secret from the other participants until it would be revealed in a special game of charades. During the game they gave prearranged clues to their identities and acted out their characters. Among the heroes and heroines were Joan of Arc, Sitting Bull, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Abraham Lincoln.

    In addition to the hero-related activities, we did some of the more traditional things: bobbing for apples, eating homemade cookies prepared by their parents, and going through a haunted house designed by our kids in the loft of the barn.

    In the spirit of ghosts and goblins, we took the kids out back of the barn in a small pasture where we sat down and talked about the spirits of the people who might have lived at this place many years ago: Indians, slaves, slave owners, tenant farmers, and others. While we tried to make it a little scary, it was more an opportunity to remember those who had been there before us.

    This party required a lot of planning as well as time, but the kids did not feel cheated out of Halloween. The next year, we enlarged the party to include the fifth and sixth grade class from our church.

    - Milo Thornberry, Ellenwood, Georgia

     

    Community-building

    Perhaps Halloween offers itself as a good time for us to make our neighborhood more of a community. Groups of parents, who relate only infrequently during the year, could sit down with their children and plan a Halloween block party. Costumes can be made of old clothes, sheets, and paper bags. The party could take place in several homes, interrupted by visits to neighbors' houses to collect money for hunger projects. In addition to the widely promoted UNICEF campaign, you might initiate your own neighborhood project for another of the many international hunger groups, or for a local one in your community.

     

    Hunger project

    Because we are turned on by Food Day, natural foods, and taking care of our bodies, we are turned off by the Great Candy Giveaway in October. Consider baking nutritional goodies or giving fruit. Having become disturbed by the greed, and anger (when the "take" is not good enough) that trick-or-treating has produced at our front door, we tried an alternate approach which may interest you. We bought no candy or fruit.

    Instead, when children came to the door, we told them of our concern for children who had nothing to eat and explained we were giving the money we would have spent on fruit to a hunger project. And our children collected several dollars in the neighborhood for the project. I might add they rejected candy by choice up to the last house - to the astonishment of our neighbors.

    With a little planning, Halloween can be a great family funtime. At the same time, it can be an opportunity to redistribute a tiny portion of our overabundance and to plant a seed of caring in the hearts of our children.

     

    A note instead

    This year we decided that in our own small way we would like to turn childhood greed for candy into something that helped to meet the needs of others, and that would also help youngsters to begin thinking about those needs.

    We printed copies of this statement and put them in each child's goodie bag:

    Dear Trick-or treater:

    We are giving [a donation] to UNICEF for every child who comes trick-or-treating at our home. Because you have come, other children around the world will receive a gift of food and medicine to help them have the joys of life which you have. Thank you for coming to our home and helping us help other children like yourself all around the world.

    This was a small beginning for us this year, but we hope it may get some parents to do some re-thinking when their children ask them to explain what our "treat" is all about.

    - Dan and Jonnie Gerhard, Walla Walla, Washington

     

    Party activity

    Invite children to make "jack o'lanterns" out of apples (just cut out eyes, nose, mouth, etc.). Display them for each other, them eat them up. It's a fun snack. You may also want to insert raisins or nuts in the eyes, nose, and mouth holes. Adult help, of course, is needed for the little kids!

    Top of Page  Index  


    Remembrance Day

    See Memorial Day 

    Top of Page  Index  


    Hanukkah

    Feast of Dedication

    This annual Feast of Dedication (Hanukkah means "dedication" in Hebrew; it is sometimes spelled Chanukah) is celebrated for eight days, beginning on the 25th day of the lunar month of Kislev, falling normally in December. Hanukkah commemorates the victory of the small military force under the leadership of the Maccabees. Against great odds, they defeated the Syrian army which occupied their land. Syria had tried to force a corrupt form of Hellinization on the Jews through a series of repressive decrees, which included turning the Temple in Jerusalem into a house of worship for the Greek god Zeus. When the Maccabees succeeded in driving the Syrians out of Jerusalem and recovered the Temple, an eight-day festival to rededicate the Temple to the service of God was proclaimed.

    In 165 BCE, when the Jews were preparing for the Temple rededication, it was discovered that there was only enough sanctified oil to burn in the menorah for one day. However, enough for eight days was required.

    The story that is celebrated, in addition to the military victory, is that the small amount of oil lasted for the full eight days. The following year, these eight days were ordained as a time to give thanks and praise for the miracle of the flask of oil. The lights are a sign of God's presence.

    Today, Jews throughout the world celebrate by lighting the menorah (which is oil or candle-burning) in their homes and synagogues over an eight-day period. During the lighting, special prayers are recited. On one of the days, families and friends gather to visit, play special games, eat festive foods, and exchange gifts. In some communities, huge outdoor menorahs are lit in public celebration.

     

    Light in the subarctic darkness

    The December nights are long in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories. Longer than in southern climes! While her Christian neighbors lit their houses with festive Christmas lights, artist Esther Tennenhouse brightened the darkness within her own tradition. She created a yard-sized menorah from ice and hard-packed snow. Candles burned brightly within the ice to create a wondrous sight.

    The local newspaper photographed this menorah. Someone in southern Canada read the paper, and sent a copy to a friend in the United States. The photograph was published there, too. Someone else sent a copy to a friend in Israel, where it was published again. The light from one northern menorah traveled half-way around the world that year!

     

    On combining Hanukkah and Christmas

    The convergence of Christmas and Hanukkah should not become an occasion for alienation between Jews and Christians. On the contrary, I think both face a common moral dilemma as a result of the vast commercialization of both holidays.

    I ask Jews to study the history and meaning of Hanukkah. Hanukkah was always a beautiful, but quite modest, holiday. It focuses primarily on the inspiring story of how the Maccabees fought the first struggle in human history for religious freedom.

    The Hanukkah tradition of giving gifts to children was not meant to overindulge them. The idea was to give gifts to the poor. The central theme was not spoiling kids but to instill a deep sense of social responsibility. I think that holiday has to be recaptured. Rather than spending $400 on toys that are discarded in a week or a month, give the children money and let them give it to the poor or the homeless.

    Jews tempted to integrate Christian symbols into their holiday should consider that decision carefully. If one wants to become analytical, it reduces the meaning of both holidays to the lowest common denominator. Because if one takes Christianity seriously, then Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus as Lord and Savior. And if you don't share that theological conviction, then you are really engaging in a false act or reducing the core idea of Christianity to some kind of social ritual. You're lowering it to the level of Santa Claus and Rudolph the Red-Nose Reindeer.

    - Rabbi Marc Tanenbaum, New York, New York

     

    Hanukkah: Challenge for contemporary America

    Even though a distinctly Jewish festival, Hanukkah nonetheless has a challenge for contemporary America. Our nation's strength has been in its avowal of pluralism and respect for all religious traditions. The First Amendment and other important documents have created a wall of separation between church and state so that no one's religion is entitled to special privileges or status, and no doctrine may be elevated above the others. For more than two centuries, this tradition of granting credibility to all religious expressions has served us all.

    This tradition, sadly, is under attack these days. Zealots within the "Religious Right" openly admit that their goal is to have our public institutions reflect that the majority of Americans are Christians. Hence the pressure for prayers in the public schools and for teaching the first two chapters of Genesis as an alternative scientific theory to evolution. Hence the insistence to place crêches on public property and to affix Christian symbols in city halls and in other government buildings. Hence the cry of fundamentalist church leaders that elected officials and appointed judges be "true believers." Hence the behemoth crusade against secular humanism - code words for all views inconsistent with a fundamentalist Christian outlook.

    Hanukkah is a timely context in which to focus on the message of religious liberty and of the right of all faith communities to enjoy equality before the law. Religious conformity, whether it be imposed by force, as in the days of Antiochus, or by law or judicial decree, as attempted in our day, must cause darkness to descend upon our society. The hope for light, implicit in the Hanukkah ritual of adding candle to candle, affirms that only the ongoing commitment to pluralism and to protecting the rights of all to worship - or not to worship - can keep America strong.

    - Rabbi Arnold M. Goodman, Atlanta, Georgia


    NEW - Boxing Day (Canada), Dec. 26

    Faith And Giving: What Do Various Religions Have In Common?


    Top of Page | Index  


    Gifts | Jan-Apr | May-Aug | Sep-Dec | Advent | Christmas | Rites of Passage


    Page updated 17 Aug. 2016

    Simple Living Works! * SimpleLivingWorks@Yahoo.com
    BLOG: SimpleLivingWorks.WordPress.com | Blog INDEX
    PODCAST | Podcast INDEX
    VIDEOS: YouTube.com/SimpleLivingWorks
    MISSION: Equipping people of faith to challenge consumerism, live justly and celebrate responsibly // An all volunteer educational organization.