The Reason January 1st is the Beginning of the New Year

The tradition of January 1st being the beginning of the new year is derived from the Ancient Romans. The feast of the Roman god Janus, for whom the month is named, falls upon January 9th of the Julian calendar. Ancient Roman Emperor Julius Caesar felt January to be the perfect month to celebrate the beginning of the new year as it paid tribute to the deity who was responsible for new beginnings as well as doors and gates, personified as a dual faced god that can see both the past and the future

The Origin of the Christmas Tree Tradition

Sélestat, France (pronounced “sill-eh-schtat”) is the birthplace of the Christmas tree tradition, a ritual started in 1521 as logged by town records of the first trees cut solely for decorative purposes. The first Christmas trees were hung from the ceiling of St. George’s Cathedral, a gothic church from the 15th century

The Original Intention of the 13th Century Italian Carnival Festival

The Italian festival of Carnival which takes place during the winter in Venice, Italy, is a 13th century tradition designed to allow anonymity and indulgence before Lent commences. Ash Wednesday marks the end of Carnival and the beginning of Lent, a 40 day period of fasting and reflection. Catholic priests mark patrons forerheads with ash, a symbol of purification by fire. The 40 days of Lent represent the 40 days Jesus Christ spent in the wilderness, preparing for the culmination of his ministry upon Earth whilst being tempted by the devil. Historically, Lent was the final stretch of winter, with the last of any meat being finished during Carnival. Because of the challenges associated with winter, European Christians turned to their faith to help guide them through to the other end

The Creation of the Taliban in Afghanistan and Other Islamist Extremist Organizations

In Peshawar, Pakistan, Arabs who supported the Afghan Mujahideen during the Soviet-Afghan War reached out to displaced Afghan youth refugees, paying particular attention to the youngest and most impressionable minors. All camps had madrasas installed, which are religious educational facilities that young boys would attend, virtually always freely provided by their own families as the families believed this would provide a better future for themselves and Afghanistan. It has been argued by that these young boys were segregated so that they could be brainwashed and taught to fight violently as it was these same boys who grew up, created, developed, and became the Taliban. No formal education was provided to the selected youth outside of Quranic texts which is why this tactic was so effective. The Soviet-Afghan War led to the collapse of the Soviet Union, and permitted for the development of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria proliferated from al-Qaeda which had propagated from the Taliban which had developed from the Mujahideen, all of these groups cultivated at their root by the U.S. and Soviet need to control this region of the world with both groups sharing equal liability and responsibility

The Baptistère de Saint Louis and its Significance to European Culture

The Baptistère de Saint Louis was created by Malmuk craftspeople to be used as a luxury bowl to hold holy water during christenings, in fact King Louis XIII used the same object during his christening as an infant. Despite being created by Islamic craftspeople and depicting graphic violence of decapitation and limb severance, the Baptistère de Saint Louis was used for hundreds of years, seemingly without conflict between Islamic and Christian traditions and viewpoints. The object itself is a basin of metal and copper alloy which is inlayed with silver and was crafted in Syria or Egypt during the mid 14th century

 

The Indigenous People of Tanna Island, Vanuatu and Their Religious Cult Honoring and Deifying the U.S. Military

On Tanna Island, Vanuatu, every year on February 15th, residents of the Pacific Ocean island chain engage in a military parade with the term “USA” painted in red or tattooed upon the chest of men who carry large bamboo spears with red tipped, pointed ends, a tradition which began more than 60 years ago, inspired by events which took place during World War II, when the U.S. military descended upon the island with modern machinery and supplies (e.g. canned food and cotton clothing etc.). The native inhabitants were in awe of these technologies which lead them to believe that the Americans were in possession of magic. Science fiction author Arthur Charles Clarke’s Third Law states that “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”. When World War II ended, the U.S. closed its bases in Vanuatu and left seemingly overnight, taking their technologies and goods with them. In honor of U.S. soldiers in the hope that it would entice them to return, the indigenous people created a cult which honored those who had appeared from beyond the horizon. These inhabitants started to create replica U.S. military items (e.g. wooden bandolier designed to mimic artillery shell bandoliers, straw aircraft, U.S. military insignia shoulder patches denoting rank which are painted onto skin etc.). Virtually all religions begin with a miraculous event (e.g. comet in the sky fortelling of calamity) followed by the creation of monuments which exemplify the event observed (e.g. large statue of the Buddha as a deity). Religions developed by cultures which worship other beings which have descended upon them are often referred to as a “cargo cult”

The Christian Adaptation of the Pagan Ostara Festival Which Became Easter

Just as Christmas replaced the pagan holiday of Saturnalia, Easter replaced the pagan holiday of Ostara, a festival celebrating the pagan goddess of spring, a time of renewal, fertility, and birth. The Catholic Church strategically adopted the pagan seasonal calendar to fit its own narrative, rebranding the winter season of scarcity with a time of purification for Christians, entitling this period as “Lent”

The Guaranteed Path to Heaven for Muslims and its Relation to Najaf, Iraq and Celebrity Undertaker Ali al-Amiya

Shia Muslims believe that to be buried in Najaf, Iraq, guarantees a path to heaven, with many industries related to death found within the city including the manufacturing and provision of burial plots, caskets, grave stones, and grave digging, ironically with those involved, making a living from death. The largest cemetery in the world is Wadi al-Salam which means the “Valley of Peace” in Arabic, with over 5,000,000 (5 million) gravesites. Ali al-Amiya, the most famous person within this Iraqi industry, works at this cemetery as an undertaker. Traditionally, caskets are white, but al-Amiya started the trend of using black caskets. al-Amiya is famous because of his distinctive tombstone designs, innovative funeral services, and because of the way he digs graves. al-Amiya has over 800,000 followers upon Facebook and has a catchphrase that is known by all Iraqis which is, “who is going to bury you like the Prophet Mohammad? Ali al-Amiya!”. al-Amiya offers heavily discounted or free burials for martyrs and the extremely impoverished. al-Amiya is vehemently disliked by most other undertakers within the industry and has nearly been a victim of multiple sting operations in which prostitutes were sent to solicit him as well as physical threats upon his life and his family’s. Modern, progressive thinking undertakers like al-Amiya face resentment in Iraq but the rise of social media has helped combat this animosity. In 2017, a survey found that 85% of Iraqis use social media, specifically Facebook which has demonstrated instrumental in altering public perceptions of Islamic burial traditions

The Annual Hindu Rain Festival of Ambubachi Mela

For 3 days each June, typically always starting upon June 22 and ending upon June 26, but fluctuating due to various influences, the Hindu festival of Ambubachi Mela is observed. Sadhu’s, that is, holy men of the Hindu faith, and pilgrims from all over India gather at the Kamakhya Temple (pronounced “kah-mah-kee-yah”) in Guwahati, India, a site located upon a hill near the Brahmaputra River, to pray for rain. It is believed by Hindus that the presiding goddess of the temple, Devi Kamakhya, who is the Mother Shakti, goes through her annual cycle of menstruation during this festival. The Kamakhya Temple becomes closed for 3 days during the mela as it is believed by Hindus that the Earth, commonly associated as Mother Earth, becomes unclean for 3 days and therefore should be secluded in the same format that some traditionally practicing Hindu women seclude themselves during their own menstrual cycles. During these 3 days, some restrictions are observed by the Hindu devotees (e.g. cessation of cooking, cessation of performing worship which is referred to as “puja”, cessation of reading holy books, cessation of farming etc.). After 3 days, Devi Kamakhya is bathed by cleaning the statue which represents her with red pigment flowing from her vaginal canal, alongside other rituals which are carried out to ensure that the devi retrieves purity. The doors of the Kamakhya Temple are reopened on the 4th day and devotees are permitted to enter Kamakhya Temple to worship Devi Kamakhya. The devotion of these pilgrims is believed to bring rain and fertility back to the Earth