The Festival of the Virgin of Guadeloupe

The Virgin Mary is the patron saint of Mexico. The story says that she appeared three times in December 1531 to a poor man by the name of Juan Diego. Each time, she told him to tell the bishop to build a church on that spot.

After the first two appearances the bishop didn’t believe the story, but after the third time a rose bush grew on the spot where she had appeared, and her image could be seen on Juan Diego’s cloak. After that, the bishop believed him and the church, the Basilica de Guadeloupe, was built.

The festival of the Virgin of Guadeloupe begins the Christmas celebrations in Mexico. It   lasts for nine Days, from 3rd to 12th December and pilgrimages are made to the church during this time. On the 11th December there are fireworks and light displays and people dance until the following morning which is her feast day.

The story of the Flor de Nochebuena

Once upon a time, everyone in Mexico was taking flowers to the church. It was Christmas time and they were taking them to offer the baby Jesus as a welcoming gift.

One young girl was so poor that she couldn’t afford any flowers, so she stopped at the roadside and gathered up a bunch of weeds. People pointed and laughed at her as she arrived at the church.

“You can’t give weeds to the baby Jesus!” said one lady, horrified.

“Show some respect or go away!” cried a young man in disgust.

Undeterred, she made her way to the Nativity scene, and laid her weeds alongside the many extravagant gifts near the manger. Suddenly the weeds transformed into the most beautiful flowers of the deepest red, with rich, lush green leaves.

Everybody gasped in disbelief at this miracle, and the flowers became known as Flores de Nochebuena (Christmas Eve flowers, or Holy Night flowers).

To this day these flowers bloom every December, and are the ones we know as poinsettia.

Black History Month

Black history month always seems to focus on the same few people: Mary Seacole, Rosa Parks, Nelson Mandela…. or else people from the worlds of sport or entertainment are chosen. I’m not saying that these people are not important, I’m just saying that the fields of scientists and inventors always seem to be neglected. Why not change that this year and find out about some of these people instead?

The Black Inventor Online Museum

BBC news – The black history you might not learn at school

What is Yom Kippur?

Yom Kippur is the most important date in the Jewish calendar, and even Jews who don’t celebrate other Jewish holidays will mark this one. It is the holiest day in the year in Judaism, and falls on the 10th day of the month of Tishri.

Yom Kippur translates as Day of Atonement and it is a day for represented for repenting sins. Atonement on this day is between Man and God only. Sins against other people have to be dealt with separately, and so the day before Yom Kippur is often spend asking for and giving forgiveness, and being charitable.

Jews have to fast on this day, beginning at sunset on the day before, and ending at sunset on the day itself. A festive meal is held before sunset on the previous day so that everybody eats well before the fast begins. Children under the age of 9 are not allowed to fast, and nor are women who have just given birth. In addition to this, it is not permitted to work; to wash or to wear perfumes, lotions or deodorant; or to wear leather.

The day is spent in prayer at the synagogue, and there is a communal confession of sin. The Ark, where the Torah is kept, remains open throughout the service, so people have to stand for the whole service. White is worn to symbolise purity.

Related posts: Sukkot     Hannukah

International Left-handers’ Day

Monday 13th August is International Left-handers’ Day.

Only 10% of people are left-handed. This means that in general the world is geared up for right-handed people, and it means that sometimes left-handed people can feel inadequate through no fault of their own. For years my mum thought she couldn’t slice bread properly. It was always obvious when she’d been the last one to cut a slice off because the remaining loaf would look like it’d been attacked by a wild animal. Then one day we found a shop that sold left-handed knives… It turned out she could slice bread properly after all when she had the right tools for the job. After that we bought her a left-handed cake fork and she carried it everywhere with her because the one she was given in tea rooms always had the cutting bit on the wrong side.

Life isn’t just about bread and cake though. Our writing system is also more favourable to right-handers, and left-handed people often feel clumsy and awkward when they drag their hands through what they’ve just written, smudging it. To avoid this they often adopt a hook position when writing ie they place their hand above the line they are writing on and curve it round. Not only does this make it more difficult to control the pen resulting in writing just as messy as if they’ve smudged it, but it’s also uncomfortable and difficult to maintain for a long period. What’s the solution? First of all make sure they have plenty of space. Never put a left-handed person on the right hand side of the table or they’ll keep bumping into their neighbour. Then get them to adopt a ‘twist the paper not yourself” position. Get them to sit square onto the table. Then twist the book or paper clockwise to about a 45° angle. This way they can keep their wrists straight, as a right-handed person, would and they can see what they have written.

Other equipment that can be difficult for a lefty are scissors and rulers. Most people know that you can get left-handed scissors, but not many know that you can also get left-handed rulers where the numbers start at the other end for all those people who will automatically try to measure lines from the left.

There’s a brilliant online shop I found called www.anythinglefthanded.co.uk . Why not celebrate International Left-handers Day by buying a left-handed gift for the leftie in your life?