Monday, September 29, 2014

Holidays and Observances for September 29 2014

Confucius Day


Confucius Day is held annually on Confucius’ Birthday September 28 to pay homage to Confucius, China’s ‘First Teacher.’

Confucius (551-479 BC) was a sage, scholar and philosopher. Confucius passed on his passion for education by emphasizing the importance of education. A slew of accolades, including a posthumous award of “Supreme Teacher” in 1AD, an imperial decree deeming him a "Grand Master" in 581AD, and the bestowing of the title “Prince of Culture” in 739AD led to Confucius’ continued popularity.

The Confucian ceremony has been traced to the Zhou Dynasty (1046BC-221BC). After Confucius’ death, ceremonies to honor him were held by Confucius' family members. Emperor Lu Aigong converted Confucius’ home in Qufu, in Shandong Province, to a temple so Confucius' descendants could honor him. It wasn't until after Han Emperor Gaozu Liu Bang paid his respects to Confucius that all emperors began to worship Confucius. Confucian Ceremonies have been held regularly since the Han dynasty (206BC-220AD).

During the Three Kingdoms Period (220AD-280AD), Emperor Cao Cao established the biyong, an institute for teaching the emperor how to conduct the Confucius ceremony.

The modern Confucian ceremony is 60-minutes long and is celebrated at Qufu (Shandong), the birthplace of Confucius, the Confucius Temple in Taipei, Taiwan, and at temples throughout China. The Confucius ceremony is held at day break each Sept. 28 on Confucius’ birthday. The modern Confucian Ceremony consists of 37 parts which are each precisely choreographed.

The ceremony starts with three drum rolls and a procession of attendants, musicians, dancers and participants who include political leaders, school principals and students, musicians in Ming Dynasty style red robes and black hats and 64 dancers dressed in Soong and Ming Dynasty style yellow silk robes with dark blue waistbands and black hats. Each person must stop every five steps and pause before continuing to his designated spot where each person remains standing for the entire ceremony.

The next portion of the ceremony involves opening the gates of the temple, which are only opened during the Confucian ceremony. A sacrifice is buried and the spirit of Confucius is welcomed into the temple. After three bows, food and drink, which traditionally included a pig, a cow, and a goat, is offered as a sacrifice to Confucius. Nowadays, livestock have been replaced with fruit and other offerings at some ceremonies including the one at the Confucius Temple in Taiwan.

After the food offering, “The Song of Peace” is played with traditional Chinese instruments while the dancers, who are all students, perform the Ba Yi dance, an ancient dance that started in the Zhou Dynasty as a way to pay respect to people of different social positions. Yi means ‘row’ and the number of dancers depends on who is being honored: eight-rows for an emperor, six-rows for a duke or princess, four-rows for high ranking government officials, and two-rows for lower ranking officials. Eight rows of eight dancers are used for the Confucian Ceremony. Each dancer holds a short bamboo flute, which symbolizes balance, in the left hand and a long pheasant tail feather, which symbolizes integrity, in the right hand.

Incense is offered and after a few moments of chanting, there is another round of three bows. Next, each official group makes a presentation and, in Taiwan, the president offers incense before chanting a blessing and giving a short address. Some years the president of Taiwan is unable to attend so another high ranking political person delivers the speech on his behalf. When the president finishes chanting, there is another round of triple bows.

The sacrificial feast is removed to symbolize it has been eaten by the spirit of Confucius. His spirit is then escorted out of the temple. A final round of three bows precedes the burning of spirit money and prayers. The participants move from their appointed places to watch the pile of money and prayers burn. They return to their places before the gates of the temple are closed.

Once the gates are locked, the participants exit and the ceremony concludes with the participants and observers feasting on a ‘wisdom cake’. It is said eating the special rice cake will bring luck with one’s studies so hundreds of students line up each year hoping a bite of this cake will make them as smart as Confucius or at least garner better academic performance.

International Coffee Day


International Coffee Day takes place on September 29. International Coffee Day is an annual event observed in a handful of countries for the celebration and enjoyment of the popular beverage coffee. This day is also used to promote fair trade coffee and to raise awareness for the plight of the coffee growers. 

On this day, many businesses around the world offer free or discounted cups of coffee. Some businesses share coupons and special deals with their loyal followers via social networking. Some greeting card companies sell National Coffee Day greeting cards, as well as free e-cards to help celebrate the occasion. While the exact origin of International Coffee Day is unknown, many countries around the world participate in this event. 

The global spread of coffee growing and drinking began in the Horn of Africa, where, according to legend, coffee trees originated in the Ethiopian province of Kaffa. It is recorded that the fruit of the plant, known as coffee cherries, was eaten by slaves taken from present day Sudan into Yemen and Arabia through the great port of its day, Mocha. Coffee was certainly being cultivated in Yemen by the 15th century and probably much earlier. In an attempt to prevent its cultivation elsewhere, the Arabs imposed a ban on the export of fertile coffee beans, a restriction that was eventually circumvented in 1616 by the Dutch, who brought live coffee plants back to the Netherlands to be grown in greenhouses.

Initially, the authorities in Yemen actively encouraged coffee drinking. The first coffeehouses or kaveh kanes opened in Mecca and quickly spread throughout the Arab world, thriving as places where chess was played, gossip was exchanged and singing, dancing and music were enjoyed. Nothing quite like this had existed before: a place where social and business life could be conducted in comfortable surroundings and where - for the price of a cup of coffee - anyone could venture. Perhaps predictably, the Arabian coffeehouse soon became a centre of political activity and was suppressed. Over the next few decades coffee and coffeehouses were banned numerous times but kept reappearing until eventually an acceptable way out was found when a tax was introduced on both.

 By the late 1600’s the Dutch were growing coffee at Malabar in India and in 1699 took some plants to Batavia in Java, in what is now Indonesia. Within a few years the Dutch colonies had become the main suppliers of coffee to Europe, where coffee had first been brought by Venetian traders in 1615. This was a period when the two other globally significant hot beverages also appeared in Europe. Hot chocolate was the first, brought by the Spanish from the Americas to Spain in 1528; and tea, which was first sold in Europe in 1610. At first coffee was mainly sold by lemonade vendors and was believed to have medicinal qualities. The first European coffeehouse opened in Venice in 1683, with the most famous, Caffe Florian in Piazza San Marco, opening in 1720. It is still open for business today. The largest insurance market in the world, Lloyd's of London, began life as a coffeehouse. It was started in 1688 by Edward Lloyd, who prepared lists of the ships that his customers had insured.

The first literary reference to coffee being drunk in North America is from 1668 and, soon after, coffee houses were established in New York, Philadelphia, Boston and other towns. The Boston Tea Party Of 1773 was planned in a coffee house, the Green Dragon. Both the New York Stock Exchange and the Bank of New York started in coffeehouses in what is today known as Wall Street.

In 1720 a French naval officer named Gabriel Mathieu de Clieu, while on leave in Paris from his post in Martinique, acquired a coffee tree with the intention of taking it with him on the return voyage. With the plant secured in a glass case on deck to keep it warm and prevent damage from salt water, the journey proved eventful. As recorded in de Clieu's own journal, the ship was threatened by Tunisian pirates. There was a violent storm, during which the plant had to be tied down. A jealous fellow officer tried to sabotage the plant, resulting in a branch being torn off. When the ship was becalmed and drinking water rationed, De Clieu ensured the plant’s survival by giving it most of his precious water. Finally, the ship arrived in Martinique and the coffee tree was re-planted at Preebear. It grew, and multiplied, and by 1726 the first harvest was ready. It is recorded that, by 1777, there were between 18 and 19 million coffee trees on Martinique, and the model for a new cash crop that could be grown in the New World was in place.

But it was the Dutch who first started the spread of the coffee plant in Central and South America, where today it reigns supreme as the main continental cash crop. Coffee first arrived in the Dutch colony of Surinam in 1718, to be followed by plantations in French Guyana and the first of many in Brazil in the state of Pará. In 1730 the British introduced coffee to Jamaica, where today the most famous and expensive coffee in the world is grown in the Blue Mountains.

The 17th and 18th centuries saw the establishment across Brazil of vast sugar plantations or fazendas, owned by the country’s elite. As sugar prices weakened in the 1820’s, capital and labour migrated to the southeast in response to the expansion of coffee growing in the Paraiba Valley, where it had been introduced in 1774. By the beginning of the 1830’s Brazil was the world’s largest producer with some 600,000 bags a year, followed by Cuba, Java and Haiti, each with annual production of 350 to 450,000 bags. World production amounted to some 2.5 million bags per year.

The rapid expansion of production in Brazil and Java, among others, caused a significant decline in world prices. These bottomed out in the late 1840’s, from which point a strong upward movement occurred, reaching its peak in the 1890’s. During this latter period, due mainly to a lack of inland transport and manpower, Brazilian expansion slowed considerably. Meanwhile, the upward movement of prices encouraged the growth of coffee cultivation in other producing regions in the Americas such as Guatemala, Mexico, El Salvador and Colombia.

In Colombia, where coffee had been introduced by the Jesuits as early as 1723, civil strife and the inaccessibility of the best coffee-growing regions had hampered the growth of a coffee industry. Following the “Thousand Days War” of 1899 to 1903, the new peace saw Colombians turn to coffee as their salvation. While larger plantations, or haciendas, dominated the upper Magdalena river regions of Cundinamarca and Tolima, determined peasants staked new claims in the mountainous regions to the west, in Antioquia and Caldas. New railways, relying on coffee for profit, allowed more coffee to be grown and transported. The opening of the Panama Canal in 1914 permitted exports from Colombia’s previously unreachable Pacific coast, with the port of Buenaventura assuming increasing importance.

In 1905 Colombia exported five hundred thousand bags of coffee; by 1915 exports had doubled. While Brazil desperately tried to control its overproduction, Colombian coffee became increasingly popular with American and European consumers. In 1914 Brazil supplied three-quarters of U.S. imports with 5.6 million bags, but by 1919 that figure had fallen to 4.3 million, while Colombia’s share had risen from 687,000 to 915,000 bags. During the same period Central American exports to the U.S. had risen from 302,000 to 1.2 million bags.

In spite of political turmoil, social upheaval and economic vicissitude, the 20th century saw an essentially continuous rise in demand for coffee. U.S. consumption continued to grow reaching a peak in 1946, when annual per capita consumption was 19.8 pounds, twice the figure in 1900. Especially during periods of high global prices, this steadily increasing demand lead to an expansion in production throughout the coffee-growing regions of the world. With the process of decolonisation that began in the years following the Second World War, many newly independent nations in Africa, notably Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda and Burundi, found themselves in varying degrees dependent on coffee export revenue.

For US coffee drinkers, the country’s wettest city, Seattle, has become synonymous with a new type of café culture, which, from its birth in the 1970s, swept the continent, dramatically improving the general quality of the beverage. This new found 'evangelism' for coffee has spread to the rest of the world, even to countries with great coffee traditions of their own, such as Italy, Germany, and Scandinavia, adding new converts to the pleasures of good coffee. Today it is possible to find good coffee in every major city of the world, from London to Sydney to Tokyo; we are drinking more and, more importantly, better coffee.

The importance of coffee to the world economy cannot be overstated. It is one of the most valuable primary products in world trade, in many years second in value only to oil as a source of foreign exchange to producing countries. Its cultivation, processing, trading, transportation and marketing provide employment for hundreds of millions of people worldwide. Coffee is crucial to the economies and politics of many developing countries; for many of the world's Least Developed Countries, exports of coffee account for more than 50 percent of their foreign exchange earnings. Coffee is a traded commodity on major futures and commodity exchanges, most importantly in London and New York.

Many studies have examined the health effects of coffee, and whether the overall effects of coffee consumption are positive or negative has been widely disputed. The majority of recent research suggests that moderate coffee consumption is benign or mildly beneficial in healthy adults. However, coffee can worsen the symptoms of some conditions, such as anxiety.

National Attend Your Grandchild's Birthday Day


Beginning in 2002, September 28 has been designated as “National Attend Your Grandchild’s Birth Day.” It is being set aside each year to encourage grandparents participate in their grandchild’s birth as well as his or her life.

Have you been invited to attend the birth of your grandchild? Are you reluctant to go or are you looking forward to it?

With the ease in hospital regulations and the exploding senior population, many grandparents are now present during the delivery of their grandchildren. Attending the birth is a way to begin the lifelong love affair with your grandchild.

When you attend the birth of your grandchild, the birth event becomes a “rite of passage” where everyone celebrates the addition of a new generation to the family. Your children become parents and you become grandparents. You all move up a branch on the family tree. It is an emotional and spiritual event that touches everyone in attendance. Sharing your grandchild’s birth provides unforgettable memories.

“A new baby can cement and affirm family bonds,” says Dr. Arthur Kornhaber, President and Founder of The Foundation for Grandparenting, who has long advocated the attendance of grandparents at the birth of their grandchildren. “But many grandparents are hesitant about attending their grandchild’s birth. They ask many questions about the “how”, “why” and “when” of getting involved.”

If it has been over twenty years since you were in a maternity ward, you probably realize that things have changed a lot. Perhaps you were sedated during the birth of your children and have never actually seen a baby being born. Or if you had your children during the 70′s, you may have had natural childbirth. But today’s hospital birth is very mechanized and a delivering woman can look like she is in intensive care. Despite all the propaganda about new pain relieving procedures, women still have some degree of pain at some time during most deliveries. Watching your daughter give birth is a very different experience than giving birth yourself and watching her in pain can be overwhelming if you don’t understand what is taking place.

It is no wonder some grandparents are hesitant. Many often feel that birthing is a private event and they shouldn’t intrude. But if you are invited to be there, don’t pass up the opportunity. This is your child who is having a child. It is an important event. A little preparation will assuage any fears that linger.

Preparation makes the event more comfortable for everyone present: the doctor, the expecting couple, the hospital staff, and the grandparents, and preparation begins with the first announcement that a baby is expected.

Here are ten tips to enhance your expectant grandparent experience:
  1. Be informed. Read about how pregnancy is managed today and about birthing practices and how they have changed. Know the tools and terminology.
  2. Be positive. Keep a positive attitude. Refrain from scary talk even when you are worried. Tell only positive birth stories.
  3. Be attentive. Be ready to help when asked, listen to a daughter or son’s pregnancy updates with enthusiasm, and recognize this milestone in their life.
  4. Be available. Go shopping together, attend a doctor’s visit, take a hospital tour, and help fix up the nursery, stay in touch.
  5. Be prepared. Have your camera in good working condition; keep yourself healthy, study up on baby care, childproof your home, get your own baby equipment for future visits.
  6. Be available. Postpone a vacation or cancel a function if it means you might miss the birth. This day will not come again.
  7. Be supporting. Even if you don’t agree with plans your children make, try to support them. This is their birth and their baby. You don’t want family disputes now.
  8. Be Proud. Let everyone know you are looking forward to this grandchild and to being a grandparent; least you hurt your children’s feelings.
  9. Be Patient. Have a thick skin, as pregnant and laboring women aren’t always in a good mood. Don’t take things personal.
  10. Be kind. Don’t forget other grandchildren. Think of everyone else’s needs before your own during this time.
Whether you are in the room or waiting nearby, being there when your grandchild is born is an exciting experience and one you shouldn’t miss. Your children will appreciate your help and support during this milestone in their life.

National Mocha Day


September 29 is National Mocha Day!

Mocha lovers from all over – today is the day to indulge in the rich, delicious mocha flavored beverage of your choosing. If you like your coffee plain, maybe branch out today and try something with a mocha twist.

When you step into your local coffee shop and order a café mocha, mocha latte or mocha java, do you really understand what you are ordering and the origin of the drink. Here is a little insight into the history of your drink.

Mocha, also spelled Mokha, is used to describe a varietal of coffee bean. Smaller and rounder than most other varieties, these beans are derived from the coffee species Coffea Arabica (Arabica coffee) which is native to the Middle East country of Yemen. Although, the beans originally shipped from the port of Mocha, Yemen were thought to have had a chocolate-like taste, current mocha beans from Yemen usually do not.

It is commonly believed that the coffee bean that originated in the port city of Mocha (Mokha), Yemen and was first encountered by Marco Polo on his trip through the Arab World. After the month and a half into Polo’s troubled journey, his party was forced to go ashore, into what is now modern day Lebanon, to resupply their stocks, because their captain had provided insufficient room for food storage. In the marketplace, Polo found a salesman, from Yemen, who had brought coffee beans from Mocha. He purchased some and ultimately returned with them to Europe. However, the bean was not widely known throughout Europe until the 17th century.

“Mocha coffee” can refer either to coffee brewed with mocha beans, which were originally cultivated in Yemen and exported through the port of Mocha or to a popular, yet bastardized, drink made of coffee infused with chocolate.

The term “mocha” in relation to chocolate and coffee–chocolate blends is strictly a result of European influence. Chocolate is not cultivated at Mocha nor imported into it. Mocha Java refers to a blend of beans from both Mocha, Yemen and the island of Java in Indonesia. Now you know.

National Poisoned Blackberries Day


It’s Poisoned Blackberry day! We are celebrating this day around my house with – guess what? Lots and lots of blackberries! 

So just what the heck is Poisoned Blackberry Day anyway?

The reason for the day actually has a couple of theories behind it. The first, English, legend says that after the Devil was kicked out of Heaven on September 29,  he sought revenge by spitting – and some other, ickier legends even say peeing - on the blackberries! This made them unfit to eat and therefore, they were known to be poisoned blackberries.

There is another, perhaps more reasonable, explanation as to what Poisoned Blackberry Day is all about. This one dates back to the 1700s and it doesn’t have anything to do with the Devil or his bathroom functions. This theory states that during that time, blackberries were thought to cause more deaths than any other fruit that comes off a vine or a bush. Ever since, dozens of people have gone roaming the countryside on Poisoned Blackberry Day to hunt for the lethal blackberries that kill immediately upon consumption.

I have no idea whether there’s any merit to be given to either of these theories. But I do know that it’s Poisoned Blackberry Day. And that’s one more reason to take some berries out of the freezer, and figure out something new to do with them!

VFW Day


Each year on September 29th VFW Day is celebrated at Posts and in communities around the world. It’s a day devoted to the organization and its dedicated members who are so deeply committed to serving those who bravely serve this nation.  

This year marks the 115th year since the VFW was established. On this date in 1899, a small group of Spanish-America war veterans joined together to form what would become the nation’s largest and most dedicated group of combat veterans.  

For 115 years the VFW has been unwavering in its devotion “to honor the dead by helping the living.” VFW and its Auxiliary members carry out this mission by promoting good will, patriotism and youth scholarship. Their commitment is demonstrated through national veterans and legislative services, military assistance and community service programs, youth activities and scholarship programs, as well as millions of volunteer hours in their local communities each year.  

Show your support by honoring all members and veterans in your community. Today everyone is invited to celebrate the tradition of continuous service and steadfast devotion that defines the VFW.