Have you made your New Year’s resolutions? New Year’s Day falls on January 1 and marks the start of a new year. The period leading up to New Year’s Day is a time for setting things straight and reflecting on one’s shortcomings. In many cultures, people jump into the sea or a local body of water to literally “wash” the slate clean. From ancient times, people have welcomed the new year with rituals to attract good fortune. The American custom of spending the night with the one you love and kissing them at midnight ensures the relationship will flourish in the coming year, and millions of people make annual resolutions to improve their lives. Different cultures believe different foods eaten on New Year’s Day, including greens, beans and noodles, will bring good luck in the coming year. All of these customs stem from a common belief: by ending the old year with respect and beginning the new one on a positive note, we acknowledge an important transition and welcome a fresh start.
A sizable population of Christians in the world celebrate Christmas on January 7. The majority of Orthodox churches worldwide use the Julian calendar, created under the reign of Julius Caesar, and have not adopted the Gregorian calendar, proposed by Latin Pope Gregory in Rome some 1,500 years later. Many Orthodox churches in the former Soviet Union and Middle East tend to celebrate Christmas in January. Their Christmas holiday is spread over three days and includes various fasts and services of worship.
The third Sunday in January is annually celebrated as World Religion Day, a day that encourages interfaith understanding. Many organizations celebrate the day by holding interfaith events to talk to and listen to people from different faiths and to understand the basic tenets of other religions. The day was established by the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’i, which is a form of faith that emerged in 19th century Persia and follows three core principles: unity of God, religion and humankind. It is based on the belief that there is a single God and the spirituality of all religions in the world stem from this single god.
January 19 is an American federal holiday marking the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. King was the chief spokesman for nonviolent activism during the United States civil rights movement. He successfully protested racial discrimination in federal and state law before he was assassinated in 1968. His birthday celebration was combined with a day of service in 1994 to encourage citizens to give back to and engage with their communities in honor of King, who once said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: What are you doing for others?”
The General Assembly of the United Nations designated January 27 — the anniversary of the 1945 liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, a Nazi-German concentration and extermination camp — as International Holocaust Remembrance Day. The Holocaust was a defining moment in the history of humanity. The Nazi regime and its collaborators systematically murdered some 6 million Jewish men, women and children during the Second World War, in a continent-wide program of destruction of all Jewish communities that fell within its grasp. They also persecuted and killed millions of other people because they were considered as “racially inferior” or for political, ideological or behavioral reasons. The day is an opportunity to commemorate the victims and their legacy and to teach younger generations the lessons of the Holocaust to help prevent such acts from ever occurring again.
Neil M. Meltzer
President and CEO
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