Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Holidays and Observances for Feb 17 2015

Mardi Gras

A Christian holiday and popular cultural phenomenon, Mardi Gras dates back thousands of years to pagan spring and fertility rites. Also known as Carnival, it is celebrated in many countries around the world–mainly those with large Roman Catholic populations–on the day before the religious season of Lent begins.Brazil, Venice and New Orleans play host to some of the holiday’s most famous public festivities, drawing thousands of tourists and revelers every year.

According to historians, Mardi Gras dates back thousands of years to pagan celebrations of spring and fertility, including the raucous Roman festivals of Saturnalia and Lupercalia. When Christianity arrived in Rome, religious leaders decided to incorporate these popular local traditions into the new faith, an easier task than abolishing them altogether.As a result, the excess and debauchery of the Mardi Gras season became a prelude to Lent, the 40 days of penance between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday.Along withChristianity, Mardi Gras spread from Rome to other European countries, including France, Germany, Spain and England.

Traditionally, in the days leading up to Lent, merrymakers would binge on all the meat, eggs, milk and cheese that remained in their homes, preparing for several weeks of eating only fish and fasting. In France, the day before Ash Wednesday came to be known as Mardi Gras, or “Fat Tuesday.” The word “carnival,” another common name for the pre-Lenten festivities, may also derive from this vegetarian-unfriendly custom: in Medieval Latin, carnelevarium means to take away or remove meat.

Many historians believe that the first American Mardi Gras took place on March 3, 1699, when the French explorers Iberville and Bienville landed in what is now Louisiana, just south of the holiday’s future epicenter: New Orleans. They held a small celebration and dubbed the spot Point du Mardi Gras. In the decades that followed, New Orleans and other French settlements began marking the holiday with street parties, masked balls and lavish dinners. When the Spanish took control of New Orleans, however, they abolished these rowdy rituals, and the bans remained in force until Louisiana became a U.S. state in 1812.

On Mardi Gras in 1827, a group of students donned colorful costumes and danced through the streets of New Orleans, emulating the revelry they’d observed while visiting Paris. Ten years later, the first recorded New Orleans Mardi Gras parade took place, a tradition that continues to this day. In 1857, a secret society of New Orleans businessmen called the Mistick Krewe of Comus organized a torch-lit Mardi Gras procession with marching bands and rolling floats, setting the tone for future public celebrations in the city. Since then, krewes have remained a fixture of the Carnival scene throughout Louisiana. Other lasting customs include throwing beads and other trinkets, wearing masks, decorating floats and eating King Cake.

Louisiana is the only state in which Mardi Gras is a legal holiday. However, elaborate carnival festivities draw crowds in other parts of the United States during the Mardi Gras season as well, including Alabama and Mississippi. Each region has its own events and traditions.

Across the globe, pre-Lenten festivals continue to take place in many countries with significant Roman Catholic populations. Brazil’s week long Carnival festivities feature a vibrant amalgam of European, African and native traditions. In Canada, Quebec City hosts the giant Quebec Winter Carnival. In Italy, tourists flock to Venice’s Carnevale, which dates back to the 13th century and is famous for its masquerade balls. Known as Karneval, Fastnacht or Fasching, the German celebration includes parades, costume balls and a tradition that empowers women to cut off men’s ties. For Denmark’s Fastevlan, children dress up and gather candy in a similar manner to Halloween–although the parallel ends when they ritually flog their parents on Easter Sunday morning.

My Way Day

It’s My Way Day! Today is the official day to do everything your way. Sleep in late, eat whatever you want, and take as long as you like in the shower. The world revolves around you for the next twenty-four hours, so make sure that no one else influences your decisions. Do everything simply because you want to do it (but just make sure it's legal first).

Many notable events have taken place on February 17. In 1867, the first ship passed through the Suez Canal. In 1933, Newsweek Magazine published its first issue. In 1996, a NASA spacecraft orbited and landed on an asteroid for the first time.

All of these historical moments took place because someone had a brilliant idea and followed through with it, their way. So don't be afraid to express your ideas today, stand up for what you believe in, and do everything your own way!

National Champion Crab Races Day

It was sort of hard to celebrate today because, unfortunately, I'm all out of racing crabs. So instead I looked it up. There was a World Championship Crab Race today in California where crabs raced on a four foot raceway. I guess they eat a ton of crab at these things too. Don't you think that's sort of barbaric? To race them and have this huge celebration for the winner.... and then eat it's family?? I don't know. It sounds pretty heartless if you ask me. Have some respect!

I think it's pretty sad that all people could think of for February 17th is racing crabs. I mean, someone had to have thought of all these holidays, right? Were they just sitting around thinking, "Hm... February 17th... We already have International Polar Bear Day, what else is there? How about crab racing!" I mean, how random can you get?? But I guess some people really care about racing crabs. Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against crab racing. Nothing sounds more thrilling than watching a crustacean shuffling down a track. I'm going to have to see that sometime.

The National Crab Racing Association (N.C.R.A.) was formed in 1979 by Jim Morgan, who as founder, immediately appointed himself “Commissioner for Life”, thereby ensuring that no one could vote him out of office as they do in other sports.

The biggest challenge, since this was a brand new sport, was finding championship class racers. Commissioner Morgan spent many frustrating months scouring the beaches and mud-flats of Florida with no success. There were lots of crabs but none with championship qualities. However, fate was not to be denied.

One sunny day, Morgan was searching the beaches of Siesta Key, when he struck up a conversation with a guy having an outing with his family. As luck would have it, he was the largest importer of Hermit crabs in the world. Thus began the 34 year relationship between Commissioner Morgan and Florida Marine Research (FMR).

Only the strongest and leanest crabs are selected and put through an extensive training program dealing mainly with discipline and attitude, which are two characteristics of all great athletes.

The best crabs are assigned to the roster of the official racing circuit for six months. At the end of their racing careers, they are retired as true champions and adopted out to good homes as pets.

Each year one champion is honored with the prestigious Morgan Trophy which is comparable to the Heisman Trophy in college football.

Over the past 34 years, the NCRA has toured all over the USA and Canada. As in other sports, rival associations (imitators) have sprung up. Most have come and gone, but a few have managed to grope along in our shadow using the seeds that Commissioner Morgan has sown.

The NCRA has continuously maintained recognition as #1 in its field. After all, in the Commissioner’s words:
 "There’s only one Kentucky Derby, there’s only one Indy 500, and there’s only one crab race – the NCRA."
National Café au Lait Day

February 17 is National Café au Lait Day! Café au lait is a French coffee drink, consisting of coffee with hot milk added. The name is literally translated from French as “coffee with milk.”

We're not sure why this day was chosen to honor this delicious coffee beverage, but if you need a pick-me-up, then today is the perfect day to celebrate! In Europe, café au lait is usually prepared using an espresso machine, mixing espresso with steamed milk. To contrast, in the United States, café au lait is usually made using a dark roasted drip or French press prepared coffee with steamed milk added.

In Europe, "café au lait" stems from the same continental tradition as "café con leche" in Spain, "kawa biała" ("white coffee") in Poland, "Milchkaffee" ("milk coffee") in Germany, "tejeskávé" in Hungary, "koffie verkeerd" ("incorrect coffee") in The Netherlands, and "café com leite" ("coffee with milk") in Portugal and Brazil. In the French-speaking areas of Switzerland, a popular variation is the "café renversé" ("reverse coffee"), which is made by using the milk as a base and adding espresso, in reversal of the normal method of making a "café au lait". In northern Europe, café au lait is the name most often used in coffee shops.

At home, café au lait can be prepared from dark coffee and heated milk; in cafés, it has been prepared on espresso machines from espresso and steamed milk ever since these machines became available in the 1940s—thus it refers to the usual "coffee and milk" combination, depending on the location, not to a specific drink.

"Café au lait" and "caffè latte" are used as contrasting terms, to indicate whether the beverage is served in the "French" or the "Italian" way, the former being in a white porcelain cup or bowl, the latter in a kitchen glass and always made from an espresso machine, whereas "café au lait" might be espresso or dark coffee based.

In many American coffeehouses, a café au lait is a drink of strong drip brewed or French pressed coffee, to which steamed milk is added; this contrasts with a caffè latte, which uses espresso as a base. American café au lait is generally served in a cup, as with brewed coffee, being served in a bowl only at shops which wish to emphasize French tradition.

The beverage gained a significant amount of popularity in New Orleans, where the well-known cafe, Café du Monde, located in the French Quarter, serves a popular version which includes the addition of chicory to their coffee. The chicory has a slightly bitter flavor that offsets the taste of beignets, which are deep-fried pastries covered in powdered sugar. Though café au lait has become a favored coffee drink for many, there are some who think adding milk to your coffee detracts from the flavor of the coffee too much. French author Honoré de Balzac once called café au laits a “ludicrous” drink.

While we suggest going to your favorite coffee shop to get a café au lait today, you can also make this caffeinated drink at home.

National PTA Founders Day

PTA Founders Day, February 17, is a reminder of the substantial role that PTA has played locally, regionally, and nationally in supporting parent involvement and working on behalf of all children and families. It's a time to renew our commitment to be a powerful voice for all children, a relevant resource for families and communities, and a strong advocate for public education.

Three pioneering women created a national voice for all children: PTA.

Alice McLellan Birney, Phoebe Apperson Hearst, and Selena Sloan Butler

The organization was founded in 1897 in Washington D.C. as the National Congress of Mothers by Alice McLellan Birney and Phoebe Apperson Hearst. If not for these women and their vision and determination, there would not be a PTA—an organization that has been woven into the very fabric of American life. Their concern and dedication to the nation’s children was and still is truly inspirational.

National PTA was created to meet a profound challenge: to better the lives of children. Today, PTA is the largest volunteer child advocacy organization in the nation and it continues to flourish because PTA has never lost sight of its goal—to change the lives of children across our great nation for the better. For more than a century, Parent Teacher Association (PTA) has provided support, information and resources to families focused on the education, safety, health and well-being of children. PTA’s founders, Alice McLellan Birney and Phoebe Apperson Hearst, and the founder of Georgia’s Congress of Colored Parents and Teachers, Selena Sloan Butler, were women of imagination and courage. They understood the power of individual action, worked beyond the accepted barriers of their day and took action to literally change the world. They had a simple idea to improve the lives and futures of all of our children. As much as other conditions in America may have changed, that idea has not. PTA members, units and councils keep it alive.

National Founders Day has been observed by the National PTA since 1910 and continues strongly today. Founders Day is a reminder of the substantial role that PTA has played locally, regionally and nationally in supporting parent involvement and working on behalf of all children and families. It is a time to reflect and take pride in our many accomplishments and to renew our commitment to be a powerful voice for all children, a relevant resource for parents and a strong advocate for public education.

Many PTA Units and Councils hold yearly celebrations in observance of this day. These celebrations are held in honor of all the outstanding accomplishments and milestones that PTA has reached. Local Units and Councils may celebrate in any manner in which they choose.

Some of the ways you might celebrate include:
  • Holding an annual dinner for PTA officers and school staff. This could be a formal sit down dinner or it might be a buffet or even a picnic.
  • You may wish to recognize a special principal, teacher or staff member who has made positive differences in the lives of children. You can honor them with a Missouri PTA Distinguished Service Award
  • Donations of books to the library in honor of someone who exemplifies what PTA stands for.
  • Donations to the State or National PTA, showing continued support of the efforts of PTA.
  • Message on a billboard or sign recognizing PTA Founders Day.
  • At your February meeting have a birthday cake and invite all your past presidents to join you, recognize them with a flower or similar item.
However you choose to celebrate Founders Day, just remember what we are celebrating--our founders and all the hard work that they did and our current and past PTA officers who continue to work tirelessly on behalf of children.

Random Acts of Kindness Day

In our crazy, scheduled worlds, we rarely take the time to slow down and reflect on how fortunate we are to live in a community such as ours. Kitchener-Waterloo has a long-cherished reputation for community building and generosity. Random Act of Kindness Day® is an opportunity to encourage others to do nice things for their neighbors; ultimately resulting in building a stronger, better community for all.

For each of the past two years, support and participation in Random Act of Kindness Day® has surpassed expectations! And this year is already ramping up to be another amazing success! 

Dreaming Big....
The KWCF was dreaming big when, in 2008, it had 100,000 Random Act of Kindness Day® cards printed with hopes to get them out into the community and spread the word. Those cards encouraged the holder to perform a simple act of kindness for someone, hand the card over to that person, and encourage that person to do the same. A very simple concept with a powerful community impact! 

Since then, 150,000 of those cards make their way into the hands of roughly 25% of Kitchener-Waterloo population each year. An amazing and remarkable feat accomplished by a mere staff of six with support from a committee of dedicated volunteers! This generous group called “Friends of the Foundation” takes time out of their already busy schedules to create awareness and help promote Random Act of Kindness Day® in the community. 

Kindness begets kindness....
And, the simple acts of kindness and generosity are endless! Citizens can buy someone a coffee, congratulate someone on a job well done, offer to drive someone to an appointment, hold a door open, pay a parking meter, help someone with their homework, carry someone’s groceries, and the list goes on and on....

The KWCF also provides posters to help promote the day. Individuals interested in supporting the day place posters and cards in high traffic locations around the community – they can be found in banks, offices, counters at local businesses, elevators, school offices, libraries etc. and can also be found as a cut out in the regional paper. One of our local businesses even made sure that every single one of their (9,000) employees received a card on their desk last year!

Schools (including elementary, high school, colleges, and universities) have been very supportive of Random Act of Kindness Day® . Students and teachers have developed creative and innovative activities to promote the day – which The KWCF has been told is a very good fit with the school boards’ anti-bullying campaigns.

Random Act of Kindness Day® is a very high profile event in Kitchener-Waterloo. It has helped to build fantastic community partnerships with many businesses, organizations, and individuals getting involved. The media has also been wonderful with their support – helping to spread the message through video ads, psa’s, interviews, articles, stories, and on-air promotions.

Get involved! Help spread kindness through citizen engagement and make your community a better place to live, work, and play!

World Human Spirit Day

On 17th February, people all over the world will come together in mind and spirit to celebrate their connection with each other with two minutes silence at 3.00 pm, USA, Eastern Time.

There is a spark of freedom that lives deep within all humanity... It is called a free spirit and on World Human Spirit Day, it will be communicating to the human race loud and clear;
I'm A Free Spirit ... I kindly request peace and harmony on earth.

It is now time for the human spirit to live the creative, peaceful life it is meant to live, and for the personal human ego to serve that purpose...Together we can all make a difference.

People will sense a connection between each other when they go into the two minutes silence on Human Spirit Day. It will be a very powerful silent meditation and the more people that participate, the more powerful it becomes to bring about world peace and harmony.

Silence connects us to spirits meaningful forces and in the silence we are renewed and refreshed. If we allow the negative forces to engulf us and do not take authentic action when we can, we are held in bondage ... slaves to ideas, perceptions, beliefs and dogma that do not bring any lasting love and joy.

If we take a story from the Bible, Moses asked Pharaoh to release his people from slavery. Pharaoh did not take any notice and it took ten plagues to make him change his mind. We can look on that story as is in the literal sense, or we can dig a little deeper for meaning and use it as an analogy, to examine our own lives, and find out if we are slaves to our own egos ... Are our own perceptions of life plaguing us into negative mood swings, which will end in ill health, by the fact we are ignoring spirits true intent?

It is far better to prevent ill-health and avoidable mishaps, before it they hold ... There is no better way I know than by tuning into the forces of a free spirit.

Let all the people of the globe connect on World Human Spirit Day to make this world a place of peace and harmony. By giving your time to inform others, you are doing the work of a true soul.