July 2021 - Celebrating Global Traditions
As a Canadian, I’m proud to start of the month of July with Canada Day! The Constitution Act of 1867 went into effect on July 1, resulting in a celebration called Dominion Day. In 1982, this day was renamed to Canada Day and Canadians have celebrated it ever since with parades, festivals, BBQ and fireworks similar to the many national holidays celebrated around the world this month!
While my American colleagues and friends are celebrating the 4th of July, there are many other countries around the world celebrating their own independence, so, let’s also give nod to several other National or Independence Days this month! I’ll group them together just so you can see how many countries celebrate their national day in July!
July 1st is National Day in Canada
July 3rd is Independence Day in Belarus
July 4th is Independence Day in the United States
July 5th is Independence Day in Algeria
July 5th is Independency Day in Venezuela
July 14th is Bastille Day / National Day in France
July 20th is Independence Day in Colombia
July 21st is National Day in Belgium
July 18th is Independence Day in Peru
July 25th is Constitution Day in Puerto Rico
July 30th is Revolution Day in Egypt!
Being independent doesn’t mean we are alone, so let’s also celebrate July 2nd as World UFO Day; a day for the UFO community to celebrate their beliefs that ‘Unidentified Flying Objects’ are actually visiting aliens. July 2 was chosen to celebrate as it coincides with the famous 1947 Roswell UFO Incident – and the story of an air balloon crash near Roswell, New Mexico was in fact the crash of an alien flying saucer.
Let’s go to the resplendent town of Siena, Italy by July 2nd for the Palio di Siena! Ten horses and riders, bareback and dressed in the appropriate colors, represent ten of the seventeen contrade (the city wards): and make the world famous horse race that is held in Siena, Tuscany twice a year. The Palio held on July 2 is named Palio di Provenzano, in honor of the Madonna of Provenzano, a Marian devotion particular to Siena which developed around an icon from the Terzo Camollia. The second round of the palio is held on 16 August and known as Palio dell’Assunta in honor of the Assumption of Mary. If you’ve been to this amazing town, imagine being in the main town square while these amazing horses race around you!
On July 4, 1776, the Congress of the British Colonies in what is now called the United States passed the Declaration of Independence, announcing to the world that “these United Colonies” are “Free and Independent States” and absolved their ties with England. This declaration launched the American Revolutionary War that eventually ended with the British surrendering to George Washington in Yorktown as ‘the world turned upside down.’ Today, Independence Day (aka the Fourth of July) is celebrated by flying the American flag, enjoying barbecues and picnics, trips to the beach (where possible), parades and, of course, watching brilliant fireworks displays throughout the country (though hopefully only over the ocean on the west coast while they battle extreme drought).
On July 6th, we travel to Eastern Europe to celebrate Kupala Night, also called the Feast of Ivan Kupala; a traditional eastern Slavic celebration of the summer solstice, starting on the night of July 6 into the morning of July 7. Kupula is a Slavic god representing the sun of summer solstice as well as a goddess of joy and water. It was an ancient pagan fertility rite that was adapted by combining Christianity and pagan traditions by concatenating Ivan (the Slavic name for John, as in John the Baptist) and Kupala (the Slavic word for bathing).
From July 11th – July 15th, Mongolia celebrates Naddam. Sometimes this festival is referred to as the Mongolian version of the Olympic Games. “Naadam” in Mongolian literally means “games,” and is primarily centered on three Mongolian pastimes: wrestling, horse racing, and archery. Naadam is sometimes called “Eriin Gurvan Naadam,” meaning “the Three Games of Men.” In recent times, however, women have also participated in horse racing and archery, though not yet in wrestling. Naadam has its origins in the distant past when Mongolia was ruled by warlords and emperors like Genghis Khan and his ancestors. Their armies’ hunting tournaments and parades, nomadic wedding celebrations, and sporting competitions all fed into what later officially became Naadam.
July 12th is Ratha Yatra - a major Hindu festival associated with Lord Jagannath (avatar of Lord Vishnu) held at Puri in India. The Puri Rath Yatra is world famous and attracts more than a million pilgrims every year to experience this amazing “Chariot Festival” involving giant temples built on chariots, pulled through the roads of Puri. The 3 deities have 3 different chariots - the chariot of Lord Jagannath, Nandighosa, has 18 wheels and is 45.6 feet high, the chariot of Lord Balabhadra, Taladhwaja has 16 wheels and is 45 feet high and the chariot of Subhadra, Devadalana has 14 wheels and is 44.6 ft high. Every year these wooden chariot temples are rebuilt.
On July 14th, the world joins our sisters and brothers in France to celebrate its National Day, also known as Bastille Day. This day marks the end of monarchy and the beginning of the French Revolution. Bastille Day was proclaimed a national holiday in 1880 and in 1848 the motto “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity” was reinstated. Like the many other independence days this month, Bastille Day is celebrated with brilliant displays of fireworks, parades, bands, dancing, and general good times!
St. Swithun’s Day is the Feast Day of St. Swithun. His feast day corresponds to the day his body was moved from to Æthelwold’s new basilica on July 15, 971. As the story goes, St. Swithun built a stone bridge over the River Itchen, Winchester, to help the poor cross the river to sell their wares. Legend tells of an old woman, who dropped her basket of eggs while crossing the bridge followed by St. Swithun magically restoring them! St. Swithun was buried outdoors, per his request but a hundred years later his remains were moved to an indoor shine. Apparently, St Swithun’s spirit didn’t like this move, so his anger brought on forty days and nights of rain. According to tradition, whatever the weather is on St. Swithin’s Day will remain that way for forty days and nights.
St Swithun’s day if thou dost rain For forty days it will remain St Swithun’s day if thou be fair For forty days ’twill rain nae mare
Tisha B’av, or the ninth day of the Hebrew month of Av starts on July 17th and ends on the evening of the 18th. It is a fasting day commemorating many tragedies that have befallen the Jewish people over the years that coincidently all occurred on the same date; Tisha B’av, therefore, is also called “the saddest day in Jewish history”. On Tisha B’av, Jews around the world commemorate the destruction of the two temples; the first was destructed by the Babylonians in 586 BCE and the second temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE. The fast of Tisha B’av ends a 3-week mourning period that starts on the 17th day of the Hebrew month of Tamuz. During this time, it is not permitted to get married or have other parties, as well as cutting your hair. In the last 10 days of this period, some people refrain from eating meat or drinking wine, (except on Shabbat) and from wearing new clothes.
On July 18th, we celebrate Nelson Mandela International Day, or Mandela Day, created in 2009 by the United Nations to honor the legacy of the great Nelson Mandela (July 18, 1918 – December 5, 2013). Mandela was the South African anti-apartheid revolutionary, inspiring political leader, and philanthropist who became President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999 and his country’s first black head of state elected in a fully representative democratic election – all after being imprisoned for 27 years as a political prisoner. His government focused on dismantling the apartheid, tackling institutionalized racism, and fostering racial reconciliation.
On July 19th - 20th, the Eid al-Adha festival (also known as Hari Raya Haji) is celebrated throughout the Muslim world as a commemoration of Prophet Abraham's willingness to sacrifice everything for God, including the life of his own son Ishmael. Due to God sparing Ishmael and substituting a ram in his stead, Muslims commemorate the occasion by slaughtering an animal and distributing its meat among family, friends and the needy as a special act of charity for the occasion. As a result of this charity, many poor Muslims are able to enjoy the unusual luxury of eating meat during the four days of this festival. In keeping with the tradition of 'Eid,’ local Muslims will dress up in new or special clothes, visit friends and relatives, hold 'Eid gatherings and parties as well as give gifts to their children.
Eid al-Adha also coincides with the annual pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia. This pilgrimage applies to Muslims worldwide, as they are required to perform the Hajj once in their lives. Some Muslims in other countries may be allowed to travel to Mecca prior to Eid al-Adha to make this pilgrimage. Last year, the Pandemic forced a cancellation of the Hajj in Mecca. This year, stringent vaccination requirements are being set and so far, some restricted access may be granted to pilgrims
Listed above among many other national holidays, Independence Day in Colombia deserves a little more color… on July 20th, 1810, an uprising in Bogota was seen as the catalyst for Colombia’s independence from Spain. In the months leading up to July 20th, there had been several smaller insurrections throughout the country, and it was hoped that it was only a matter of time before similar events would happen in Bogota too. To make sure this happened, the Criollos (original Colombian natives) hatched a plan to make a prominent local businessman, José González Llorente, angry at them, hoping it would incite the locals. On the morning of July 20th, they visited him to ask if they could borrow a flowerpot to give to a fellow Criollo, knowing full well that Llorente would refuse. It's not exactly clear what happened thereafter, but a broken flowerpot proved to be the spark that ignited the riots in Bogota. That afternoon, the people's Junta was formed! It wasn't until 1819 when Colombia became a republic and its independence from Spain was formally recognized.
July 21st is Belgian National Day commemorating the day in 1830 when the southern provinces of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands rebelled against Dutch rule, forcing the Dutch out of the region and securing Belgium’s independence. This independence was approved by the European powers at the London Conference of 1830-31. It’s a perfect day to enjoy some Mussels and Chips!
By July 23rd, let’s go to the Korean peninsula to Boryeong, a small town on the west coast of South Korea for the Boryeong Mud Festival or “Mudfest,” as it’s colloquially called. During the festival days, this quiet city turns into a joyful and lively city with thousands of visitors flying in from around the world to enjoy the various shows, colorful street parades, great food and fireworks! But as its name suggest, it also includes the audience being smeared with gray mud while they participate in diverse contests throughout the town, including mud wrestling, mud sliding and mud swimming! This is high on my bucket list of events to experience! Who’s with me?
July 24th is Asalha Puja (also known as Asadha Puja, Asanha Bucha or Asala Dharma) is a Buddhist festival which typically takes place in July on the full moon of the month of Āsādha. This day is one of Theravada Buddhism's most important festivals, celebrating the Buddha's first sermon in which he set out the doctrine that had come to him following his enlightenment. This first pivotal sermon, often referred to as “setting into motion the wheel of dharma,” is the teaching which is encapsulated for Buddhists in the four noble truths: suffering (dukkha), a state beyond suffering and craving (nibbana); and finally, the way to nirvana is via the eight-fold path. All the various schools and traditions of Buddhism revolve around the central doctrine of these four noble truths.
On the last Saturday of July, the sky over the Sumida River in Japan lights up as the Sumidagawa Fireworks Festival gets into full swing. This annual hanabi-taikai has roots dating back to 1732 when it was first held in remembrance of the those who had died of starvation in the plagues. From its early days, it was a competition between two firework manufacturers—a traditional that exists to this day and the reason why the Sumidagawa Firework Festival has two locations from which the fireworks are launched. This is also the reason you may hear traditional shouts of “Kagiya” or “Tamaya”—these were the two major firework makers back then.
We end the month with Global Tiger Day on July 29th, sometimes referred to as International Tiger Day, was created in 2010 at the Saint Petersburg Tiger Summit to “build tiger conservation awareness.” This day is to promote a global system for protecting the natural habitats of tigers and to raise public awareness and support for tiger conservation issues. In the past century, tiger numbers have plummeted from 100,000 to below 3,500, and continue to fall. Tiger numbers and habitat have declined by 40 percent in the last decade alone, lost largely to habitat loss, poaching, the illegal wildlife trade, and human-tiger conflict. Three subspecies have already disappeared, and none of the other six are secure.
I wish everyone a wonderful July (whether you are enjoying a warm summer or a cold winter) and hope you are either already vaccinated or planning to get vaccinated this month so we can see each other again!