The Holidays We Celebrate
Among the most ethnically diverse townships in the state and country, Niles Township further distinguishes itself by celebrating that diversity and creating a respectful and welcoming home to all.
Many Niles Township residents come from places all over the world, bringing with them rich traditions and celebrating holidays of great importance to them. We celebrate along with our neighbors, sharing the meaning of holidays observed in Niles Township.
What Is Black History Month?
Since 1976, American presidents have not only designated February Black History Month, but endorsed a specific theme for the given year.
The Black History Month 2024 theme, “African Americans and the Arts," spans the many impacts Black Americans have had on visual arts, music, cultural movements, and more. African American artists — poets, writers, visual artists, and dancers — have historically served as change agents through their crafts.
Through art, important issues and figures in African American history are exalted, and underrepresented stories are preserved. For the entire month of February, celebrating art and its relationship with justice will be highlighted. Art plays a role in communicating emotions, building community and inspiring action.
The seeds of Black History Month were planted in 1926 when G. Woodson Carter established Negro History week with the idea of having a theme each year to better focus public attention. The designation expanded to a month, but the idea of an annual theme has remained in place.
Black History Month is celebrated in February in the United States and Canada, but in October in Europe. February is the birth month of Abraham Lincoln, who issued the Emancipation Proclamation, and African American abolitionist, author, and orator Frederick Douglass.
What Is World Hijab Day?
An annual event founded in 2013, World Hijab Day encourages women of all religions and backgrounds to wear and experience the hijab, a head covering worn by some Muslim women in public.
The event was created by social activist Nazma Kahn. The annual date was chosen for the anniversary of Ayatollah Khomeini’s return to Iran in 1979 and the subsequent compulsion of Purdah, a religious and social practice of female seclusion prevalent among some Muslim and Hindu communities.
The event is marked each year in some 190 countries throughout the world.
Millions of Muslim women choose to wear the hijab to reflect living a life of modesty. Educational and celebratory events are often held on World Hijab Day.
What Is Candlemas?
Candlemas, which is also known as the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus Christ, the Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the Feast of the Holy Encounter, commemorates the presentation of Jesus at the Temple.
An annual Christian Holy Day, it springs from the account of the presentation of Jesus in Luke 2:22–40. In accordance with Leviticus 12: a woman was to be purified by presenting a lamb as a burnt offering, and either a young pigeon or dove as sin offering, 33 days after a boy's circumcision.
Candlemas always falls on Feb. 2 — traditionally the 40th day of and the conclusion of the Christmas–Epiphany season. Some Christians historically remove decorations after Candlemas.
On Candlemas, many Christians (especially Anglicans, Methodists, Lutherans, Orthodox and Roman Catholics) also bring their candles to their local church, where they are blessed and then used for the rest of the year.
For Christians, these blessed candles serve as a symbol of Jesus Christ, who referred to Himself as the Light of the World.
What Is the Chinese New Year?
The Chinese New Year 2024 is the Year Of the Dragon.
Fireworks, dragons, lions, and Nian gao all signify the start of the Chinese New Year. This is one of the most important holidays in China. It’s observed all over the world. Similar celebrations occur in Japan, Korea, and Vietnam, known as the Lunar New Year or the Spring Festival.
Most Chinese holidays follow the lunar calendar, so the date varies from year to year. The Chinese New Year always occurs in January or February on the second new moon after the winter solstice, though occasionally it has been the third new moon. This year, the Chinese New Year is Feb. 10.
A long time ago, the emperor determined the start of the New Year. Today, celebrations are based on Emperor Han Wu Di’s almanac. It uses the first day of the first month of the Lunar Year as the start of the Chinese New Year. Each year has a ruling animal based on the Chinese Zodiac.
Traditions observed during the New Year stem from legends and practices from ancient times. Legend tells of a village thousands of years ago that was ravaged by Nian, an evil monster, one winter’s night. The following year, the monster returned and again ravaged the village. Before it could happen a third time, the villagers devised a plan to scare the monster away.
Since the color red protects against evil, red banners were hung everywhere. People set off firecrackers and banged on drums and gongs, creating loud noises to scare the beast away. The plan worked. The celebration lasted several days, during which people visited with each other, exchanged gifts, danced, and ate tasty comestibles. Today, celebrations last for two weeks. They are both literal and symbolic.
What Is Mardi Gras?
Mardi Gras, a carnival celebration beginning on the Feast of Epiphany and culminating the Tuesday before Lent, is best known in New Orleans where it’s a state legal holiday. Mardi Gras is French for Fat Tuesday.
Its traditions are rooted in ancient Greek and Roman customs. Carnival in Rome became popular around the middle of the second century as a way to feast and act wild before the somber days of Lent.
It’s believed the first American Mardi Gras took place March 3, 1699, when the French explorers Iberville and Bienville landed in what is now Louisiana. They held a small celebration. Each year, it grew bigger with street parties, masked balls, and extravagant dinners. However, when the Spanish took over, the celebrations were banned until Louisiana became a U.S. state in 1812.
On Mardi Gras in 1827, a group of students wearing bright costumes danced through the streets of New Orleans, emulating the revelry they’d observed in Paris. Ten years later, the first recorded New Orleans Mardi Gras parade took place.
What Is Valentine’s Day?
Everyone knows Valentine’s Day occurs Feb. 14 not only across the United States but in other places around the world as well. The celebrations include candy, flowers and gifts exchanged between loved ones, all in the name of St. Valentine.
But the history of Valentine’s Day—and the story of its patron saint—is somewhat shrouded in mystery. February has long been celebrated as a month of romance as St. Valentine’s Day, as we know it today, contains vestiges of both Christian and ancient Roman tradition.
The Catholic Church recognizes at least three different saints named Valentine or Valentinus, all of whom were martyred.
One legend contends that Valentine was a priest who served during the third century in Rome and was killed for performing marriages that were forbidden. Others believe that it was Saint Valentine of Terni, a bishop, who was the true namesake of the holiday. He, too, was beheaded by Claudius II outside Rome. Other stories suggest that Valentine may have been killed for attempting to help Christians escape harsh Roman prisons, where they were often beaten and tortured.
Even the celebration of Valentine’s Day is the subject of different theories. Some believe that Valentine’s Day is celebrated in the middle of February to commemorate the anniversary of Valentine’s death or burial. Others claim that the Christian church may have decided to place St. Valentine’s feast day in the middle of February to “Christianize” the pagan celebration of a fertility festival called Lupercalia.
What Is Ash Wednesday?
Lent, a Christian observance beginning after Shrovetide, lasts 40 days, excluding Sundays, beginning on Ash Wednesday (this year Feb. 14) and ending on Easter Sunday. Easter falls on the Sunday that coincides with the first Sunday after the full moon following the Spring Equinox.
Traditionally, Lent is a penitential time with prayer, penance, repentance, almsgiving, and self-denial. It’s the annual commemoration of Holy Week, marking the Death and Resurrection of Jesus. During Lent, devout Christians fast by giving up decadent foods and/or luxuries.
Ash Wednesday marks the first day of Lent. Many Christians attend morning services. They are blessed and a cross of ashes is drawn on their foreheads to renew their faith in God and to apologize for wrongs committed during the previous year.
Four days later is Quadragesima Sunday. In Roman Catholic tradition, it’s the first Sunday during the holy season of Lent. Like on other Sundays of Lent, it’s customary to dispense from the fast, as Sundays are not counted among the 40 days of Lent.
What Is Basant Panchami?
Haryana and Punjab, India, celebrate this Festival of Spring, which occurs in January or February. This year, the day falls on Feb. 14.
Basant Panchami is also known as Vasant Panchami, Saraswati Puja, Shree Panchami, and the Festival of Kites. It’s held on the fifth day of Magha (a month in the Hindu calendar).
It’s a time to say goodbye to winter and welcome spring. Yellow is the color of the day. Mustard fields bloom with bright golden flowers. Yellow symbolizes knowledge, light, energy, prosperity, and peace. It is an auspicious time to begin new ventures.
On this day, Hindus worship Saraswati Devi, the goddess of knowledge, music, art, and culture. Statues of Sarasvati are dressed in yellow and worshiped. People dress in yellow clothing. People eat sweet saffron rice and yellow-colored sweets. Children fly kites filling the sky with a rainbow of colors.
Forty days later is Holi.
What Is Random Acts Of Kindness Day?
Each Feb. 17, National Random Acts of Kindness Day is celebrated by individuals, groups and organizations nationwide to encourage acts of kindness.
The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation, an internationally recognized non-profit organization, celebrates Random Acts of Kindness Week, providing resources and tools that encourage acts of kindness.
In New Zealand, where this day originated, Random Acts of Kindness Day is celebrated on Sept. 1. However, some there recognize the day at other times throughout the year. One of the key messages of the day is that doing random acts of kindness is something that can be done every day of the year.
In the United States, Random Acts Of Kindness Day was first created in Denver in 1995. Random Acts of Kindness Week, which contains Random Acts Of Kindness Day, was introduced in 2018.
For more information on ways to mark Random Acts Of Kindness Day and celebrate kindness, visit www.randomactsofkindness.org.