Do you believe that you should be able to choose what you read? Or should other people be able to decide for you what you can read? Freedom to Read Week celebrates our fundamental freedoms as citizens of democracies and our fundamental rights as human beings. Freedom to Read Week also asks to to beware of the forces at work which erode and seek to destroy your rights and freedoms.
This isn’t just happening in authoritarian states such as North Korea, Iran, China or Russia. This is happening in the so-called free world. This is happening in the United States. So far it hasn’t been as bad in Canada, but challenges are growing here and there are too many who want American censorship to come to Canada.
January 27 is International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Join with us as we take this day to remember the many millions who died during the Holocaust, to learn more about what happened, and resolve to fight against anti-Semitism, racism and other forms of hate and violent oppression.
The term “Holocaust” refers to the period in history in which the Nazi regime of Germany murdered over 6 million Jews, as well as millions of other victims, including Roma, homosexuals, people with physical and mental disabilities, and more. The Nazi persecution of the Jews began in the early 1930’s and reached its most horrific and brutal peak during the period of 1941-1945, as the Nazis adopted as official policy the “Final Solution,” the attempt at completely annihilating the entire Jewish population.
The Holocaust is not the only example of genocide in human history. What makes the Holocaust stand out amongst the long and plentiful list of human atrocities and evil? Germany was amongst the most powerful nations of the world and a leader in science, technology, medicine and engineering. The German contributions to art, music, literature and philosophy put German culture at the heart of what we would call Western Civilization. And yet this supposedly civilized people turned their great achievements and progress towards planning and carrying out ruthless genocidal murder with scientific and economic efficiency.
The date of January 27 was chosen for this solemn observance as the death camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau was liberated on January 27, 1945.
International Holocaust Remembrance Day is coming up on January 27. In Canada we observed Raoul Wallenberg Day on January 17. Join with us this month as we learn more about the Holocaust. Come down to the School Library to see the many books and other resources we have that deal with this horrific atrocity.
Since 2001, January 15 is Raoul Wallenberg Day in Canada. Mr. Wallenberg was a hero who courageously used his position to save tens of thousands of Jews in Hungary during the Nazi Holocaust. Wallenberg was a Swedish diplomat working in Budapest during the Second World War. He and his colleagues, using Swedish passports, letters of protection and other diplomatic tools were able to help thousands of Jews to escape from Hungary and tens of thousands to survive through to the end of the war.
Tragically, Raoul Wallenberg disappeared after the Soviet conquest of Hungary from the Germans in 1945. Some reports suggest he died in a Soviet prison in 1947, but his fate is officially uncertain.
Raoul Wallenberg is considered one of the “Righteous Among the Nations” by Yad Vashem in Israel, and was made an Honorary Citizen of Canada in 1985.
In January we both recognize Raoul Wallenberg Day in Canada, as well as International Holocaust Remembrance Day on January 27. Come down to the School Library this month, in person, and continue to visit us online, for more information on the horrific and tragic history of the Holocaust.
Martin Luther King Jr. Day is observed on the 3rd Monday of January as a Federal Holiday in the United States. The day is observed in celebration of Dr. King’s birthday, January 15, 1929. In 2023 the date of MLK Day is January 16.
Martin Luther King Jr. was the leading figure of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950’s and 1960’s in the USA. In life Dr. King was at the forefront of the fight against segregation, discrimination and other forms of racism, especially as entrenched in state and federal law. Tragically assassinated in 1967, the legacy of King has continued to inspire those who fight against racism and other forms of social injustice.
Martin Luther King Jr. was committed to the principles of non-violence. King was convinced that the only way to fight against the hate and violence and injustice of racsim was to counter it with peaceful resistance and non-violent protest. Perhaps more than anything else, this is why Dr. King is a hero to millions of people in the US, in Canada, and around the world.
The Winter Solstice will occur on December 21 at 1:47 PM
Why are there so many Holidays and Holy Days at this time of year? Why do so many of them, especially in the Northern Hemisphere, seem to emphasize light, especially light in contrast to the darkness? Likely this is because of the Winter Solstice.
The longest night of the year. The shortest day. The Winter Solstice occurs on December 21 (in some years December 22) as the North Pole reaches its maximum tilt away from the sun. The North Pole will experience continuous darkness, the Polar region near total darkness, and the northern hemisphere its shortest day and longest night. Winter begins. Most populations will experience the darkest and coldest time of year.
It is a time where people crave light and warmth, and so it seems natural that the feasts and festivals of December emphasize those things. Moreover, at the darkest moment, hope is renewed, as after the solstice the days will get longer. This is hope for more light, more warmth. Spring will come eventually. New birth. New life.
And so many different observances, feasts, and festivals emereged at this time of the year, many on the day of the Solstice, and others near to it on the calendar.
Yule: Celtic Europe, Scandinavia and Germanic peoples.
Alban Arthan: Wales
Modranhit: Anglo-Saxon Europe
Korochun: Slavic Eastern Europe
Shalako, Soyal :Native American peoples
Dongzhi: China & East Asia
Lohri & Maghi: India, especially the Punjab
Dies Natalis Solis Invicti, Brumalia & Saturnalia: Ancient Rome
Of course, we have spent the last few weeks observing the many holidays and holy days of this time of year. It is not a coincidence that celebrations such as Christmas and New Year have grown to be huge events in the western world, and by extension other cultures, as the west has extended its influence around the globe. In places where modern conveniences such as lighting and heating offset the effect of the cold and dark of December, we might overlook how important it was for our ancestors to hope for the seeming death of one year to turn into the life of a new year, and to celebrate such rebirth.
It goes by many different names. The Holidays. The Festive Season. Yuletide. Winter Holidays. The Christmas Season. Advent. The Holiday Season. While there is no official start or end, in North America it is generally considered to run from American Thanksgiving, through December, and into the New Year.
Traditionally this season of the year was dominated by observances based on the Winter Solstice. Many cultures around the northern hemisphere developed celebrations that emphasize the contrast of the cold and darkness of winter with the promise of new light and life in the coming year.
These themes are central to the holy days and festivals of many faiths today.
In North America and Europe during the Christian Era, the season focused on holy days and the rituals around the Nativity of Christ. Often the traditional winter solstice festivals of the Celts, Saxons, Vikings and others were taken over by these Christmas celebrations.
For some, the season is secular in nature, without religious emphasis. The Holiday Season is a time for celebrating with family and friends, giving gifts, reflecting on the past year and looking forward to the new.
For many the Holiday Season can be about all of the above, as we combine a variety of traditions and new practices from the delightful mix of cultures and peoples from around the world.
There many different and wonderful Holidays and Holy Days in the coming weeks. Christmas tends to dominate, but it is imporant to learn about other observances and festivals, such as Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Rohatsu and many more.
Join us in the School Library as we celebrate this “most wonderful time of the year.” Look for displays and other opportunities for learning about this season of “Holidays and Holy Days.”
Enjoy all that you and your family have brought to this holiday season. Perhaps in learning about other traditions and practices, you might find something new for you to enjoy at this time of year.
One of the great songs of the 1990’s, “Zombie” by the Cranberries is also one of the great anti-war songs of all time. Dolores O’Riordan wrote the song in response to another atrocity of sectarian violence spilling out of Northern Ireland. In this case two young boys were killed, and over 50 people injured, after an IRA bomb exploded in Warrington, in the northwest of England. O’Riordan was sickened by the bombing, and like most people in Ireland, she had had enough of seeing violence carried out in the name of the Irish. “The IRA are not me. I’m not the IRA,” she said. “The Cranberries are not the IRA. My family are not. When it says in the song, ‘It’s not me, it’s not my family,’ that’s what I’m saying.” (source)