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Coat of Arms of Iceland

Coat of Arms of Iceland

Iceland celebrates June 17th as their National Day each year commeorating when, in 1944 the island disolved it’s union with Denmark. In 1918, the Act of Union allowed for a revision of the relationship between the two areas in 1940 and then three years later the union could be disolved. Due to World War II and the country of Denmark being occupied at the time there was no resistance from there to Iceland’s actions but the forces that occupied the country at the time requested that they still wait the three years which they did. King Christian X of Denmark sent a letter congratulating Iceland of forming their republic on June 17th.

Jon Sigurdsson

Jon Sigurdsson

June 17th was also chosen for the day as it is the birthday of Jón Sigurðsson, who is credited as being one of the major voices in independence of the region.

Today the country celebrates with parades lead by marching bands and scouts as flag bearers and major figures give speeches. After the official celebrations then parties start with bands playing and people just enjoying themselves.

Wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Icelandic_National_Day

Other: http://icelandreview.com/icelandreview/daily_news/?cat_id=29314&ew_0_a_id=335662

http://goscandinavia.about.com/od/annualeventstraditions/f/independdayice.htm

http://blog.birkiland.com/post/38734520/today-is-the-icelandic-national-day

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KamehamehaportraitKamehameha Day, June 11th, is the only public holiday in the United States that is in recognition of a monarch.  This holiday is in commemoration of King Kamehameha the Great, known for being the first ruler to unit Hawai’i under one kingdom.  Kamehameha Day was first recognized when his great grandson Kamehameha the V sent out a royal decree in 1871.  It also was one of the first holidays to be recognized by the state when it join the union in 1959.

Some of the events people participate in to mark this day are floral parades, carnivals and hula contests, to name a few.  The most important of the actual ceremonies is the draping festivals that happen to the four statues of Kamehameha.  Three of these statues are on the islands ofHawai’i and the fourth stand at the United States capital building.  All four statues are draped with fresh leis created on the islands.  The statue at eh U.S. capital is also accompanied by a hula dance and attained by officials from the government.
450px-Kamehameha_Day

Links:
Wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kamehameha_Day

Other: http://www.alohavalley.com/lifestyle-culture/to-commemorate-kamehameha-day.html
http://www.hawaiiforvisitors.com/events/king-kamehameha-day.htm
http://www.timeanddate.com/holidays/us/kamehameha-day

Luís de Camões

Luís de Camões

Celebrated through out the world in Portuguese populations, June 10th stands as Portugal Day.  This day marks the death of one of Portugal’s greatest writers, Luís de Camões.  Camões wrote the epic poem which tells of the great Portuguese culture and society.  Normally someone like this would be honored on their birthday but no one is sure when Camões’ was born so his death was chosen.  He was not just a writer though, he lived a life of adventure, losing an eye while in a fight and even, legend has it, taking the poem itself on an adventure.  It is said that when his ship wrecked off the coast of present Vietnam he saved it by swimming to shore with one arm and keeping the other out of the water.

Links:
Wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Portugal_Day

Other: http://portugalday.com/

Continuing from yesterday, June 7th is Union Dissolution Day in Norway.  This is the date when the union between Norway and Sweden that had existed since 1814 was dissolved in 1905.  While not a public holiday June 7th 1905 marks the first time in 586 years that Norway had it’s own King.

An interesting historical footnote is that the King and his cabinet had to leave Norway during World War II on this same date in 1940 due to the country being occupied by Germany.  The stayed in London during the war, in exile and returned again on the same date in 1945.

Links:
Wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Union_Dissolution_Day
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Norway

Flag of Sweden

Flag of Sweden

Prior to 1983, the 6th of June was known as flag day in Sweden but since then it has been the National Day of Sweden.  The idea for this date to be chosen as a national day dates back to the 1890’s when it was suggested by the founder of the Skansen, Artur Hazelius.  He suggested this date because a new constitution was signed on this day in 1809 and King Gustav Vasa was crowned on this day in 1523.  In 1916 the idea was adopted to commemorate Sweden receiving it’s own flag back in 1905 when the union with Norway was dissolved.

As you can see it took quite awhile for the date to become the official National Day and many have suggested that it lacks credibility because of this.  2005 marked thebeginning of it being an official public holiday, taking the place of Whit Monday.

Sweden has managed to stay out of all the wars of the modern era and this, some suggest, is the source of the hesitance in the country making a big deal of the National Day.  Prior to 1983 many people did not even see any symbols of the day being special other than the flag of Sweden adorning buses.  Today, there are still not many celebrations that go on but many businesses are closed allowing people the opportunity to visit family and friends.

Links:
Wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Day_of_Sweden

Other: http://www.sweden.se/eng/Home/Lifestyle/Traditions/Celebrating-the-Swedish-way/National-Day/

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Sweden National Day
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Day_of_Sweden
http://www.sweden.se/eng/Home/Lifestyle/Traditions/Celebrating-the-Swedish-way/National-Day/

June 7th Union Dissolutuin Day
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Union_Dissolution_Day

June 8th World Ocean Day
http://www.un.org/depts/los/reference_files/worldoceansday.htm
http://theoceanproject.org/wod/

June 10th Portugal Day
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Portugal_Day
http://portugalday.com/

June 11 Kamehameha Day
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kamehameha_Day
http://www.timeanddate.com/holidays/us/kamehameha-day

June 12 Loving Day
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loving_Day
http://www.lovingday.org/

400px-koinobori4797In Japan the 5th of May is known as Children’s Day or Kodomo no Hi.  Part of Golden Week, it is one of several festivals that celebrated during this time of year.  A national holiday that actually incorporates both Boy’s Day (May 5th) and Girl’s Day (March 3rd), many people still think of it as just Boy’s day.

Many of the traditional symbols of the celebration still revolve around boys, like the displaying of a traditional helmet and samurai dolls representing great warriors of the past.  The most common thing displayed is a carp kite.  The carp is chosen as it is said when one swims against the current it turns into a dragon, symbolising success.  The carp also drives away evil spirts.

Links
Wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kodomo_no_hi

Others:
http://web.mit.edu/jpnet/holidays/May/kodomonohi.shtml
http://www.essortment.com/all/kodomonohijap_rnsd.htm

On April 21, 1792 Joaquim José da Silva Xavier, better known as Tiradentes was put to death in Brazil for organizing a resistance movement against the Portuguese government.  Shortly after his death Brazil gained it’s independence.  Now this date is a national holiday in Brazil.

Links:
Wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tiradentes

Other: http://darkwing.uoregon.edu/~sergiok/brasil/tiradentes.html
http://www.v-brazil.com/culture/historic-characters/tiradentes.html
http://gosouthamerica.about.com/cs/brazabout1/a/Tiradentes.htm

laos_landscape_in_vang_viengToday, April 13 is the start of Lao New Year a three day festival.  Like many of the other New Year festivals, there are many customs related to cleansing your surroundings and of visiting others.  On top of the the cleaning of the houses all images of the Buddha as also cleaned.

The festival is split with different days having different meanings and traditions associated with them.  The first day is the last day of the old year when the cleaning is mostly done, the second day is the day between years when most visiting is done and the third day is the beginning of the new year itself.

In of the more well known traditions is people sprinkle on others, this is done lightly on the elderly and the monks in a sign of respect but those who are younger may have a sprinkle that is contained in a bucket.  While not as manic as that of the Thailand traditions typically you may get quit wet.  But if you happen to be around any of these celebrations take it as a compliment and wishes of good luck for the coming year if someone chooses to “sprinkle” water on you.

Another of the traditions is to tie a white string around the wrist of another person.  The information that I found indicated this is equivalent to a greeting card in the United States though it seems to be a stronger wish of good fortune.  There is a ceremony that goes with this tradition and the message is given verbally.  For the good fortune to be effective you should wear the string for three days.

According to wikipedia the traditional greeting are “souksan van peemai” or “sabidee pimai

I think I had a very good start to my Lao New Year as last night I attended a screening of Nerakhoon (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1157685/) in Nashville with the Laotian American Outreach (http://laotianamericanoutreach.org/) group in Nashville.  After the film we went to a restaurant where I heard a number of stories of how many of the people could relate to the events as they were similar to their life.  If you are like most people in the United States and know little about the Lao people and what they have gone through I highly suggest watching this film.  I have read a number of times in different places about how friendly the Lao people are and if my experience is typical I have to agree they are one of the friendliest in the world.

So here is to wishing all a Happy Lao New Year!

Links:
Wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lao_New_Year

Other: http://www.laopress.com/news/eculture.htm
http://www.asianweek.com/2009/04/03/first-international-lao-new-year-festival/
http://www.thingsasian.com/stories-photos/1731
http://www.fathertimes.net/laonewyear.htm

oni in pilgrims clothing

oni in pilgrims clothing

While not an official holiday Setsubun is celebrated every February 3rd as part of the Lunar New Year celebration in Japan.  Though the Japanese will typically celebrate the Gregorian New Year as well traditions that held for generations still are practiced today. Setsubun can be thought of as a New Years Eve with the next day being the start of Spring and a new year.

As with many new year traditions the customs preformed are to assure good luck for the coming year while chasing away the bad luck of last year.  The most common tradition is the throwing of roasted soy beans at home while saying “oni wa so to, fu ku wa uchi”, translated to “get out demons, come in happiness”.  This is done by either throwing the beans out the front door, around the house or at a person wearing a oni, demon, demon mask.  It is not uncommon to see children in masks throwing the beans at one another in the street repeating the saying.  Though not just a children’s game, this ceremony is also carried out with in the temples of Japan by the monks there.  It is also said to bring good luck if one picks up a number of the beans that have been thrown that corresponds to their age and eats them.

Not Japanese but roasted soy beans none the less

Not Japanese but roasted soy beans none the less

Another tradition is the eating of a special sushi roll while facing in the lucky direction based on the year.  This custom has become wide spread but was once a regional tradition.  To truly get the luck a person is said to have to eat the whole roll without saying a word.

Links:
Wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Setsubun

Other: http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2285.html
http://www2.gol.com/users/stever/setsubun.htm
http://gojapan.about.com/cs/japanesefestivals/a/setsubun.htm

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