Back in February I wrote a blog entry about Eagle’s new Diversity program. In addition to providing all of our staff with training about diversity, we have introduced a number of diversity related initiatives. One of them is essentially an education program about the various and sundry “special days” that are important to people in different cultures. many of them are very familiar to us here in North America but some are not so familiar … so this is a good way to learn about them
Today I will introduce three “Special Days” that are celebrated around this time.
National Aboriginal Day is celebrated on June 21st and is a statutory holiday in the Northwest Territories. Canadians celebrate the rich contributions of the Aboriginal peoples in Canada.
Governor General Romeo LeBlanc proclaimed June 21 as National Aboriginal Day and proclaimed that, “… the Aboriginal peoples of Canada have made and continue to make valuable contributions to Canadian society and it is considered appropriate that there be, in each year, a day to mark and celebrate these contributions and to recognize the different cultures of the Aboriginal people of Canada.”
Together the Government of Canada and several national Aboriginal organizations chose June 21st for National Aboriginal day because it is also the Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year. For generations, many Aboriginal peoples have celebrated their culture and heritage on or near this day.
Canadians are proud to recognize the unique achievements of its Aboriginal peoples – in fields as diverse as agriculture and the environment to nation building and the arts, with a national celebration. National Aboriginal Day events are organized locally and regionally.
The celebration of Summer Solstice was from ancient times linked to Midsummer’s Eve. People believed that mid-summer plants had miraculous healing powers and they therefore picked them on this night. Bonfires were lit to protect against evil spirits which were believed to roam freely when the sun was turning southwards again. In later years, witches were also thought to be on their way to meetings with other evil powers.
The solstice itself has remained a special moment of the annual cycle of the year since Neolithic times. In Sweden, Finland and Estonia, Summer Solstice (Midsummer’s Eve) is considered the greatest festival of the year, comparable only with Christmas Eve, and New Year’s Eve.
In the 7th century, Saint Eligius (died 659/60) warned the recently converted inhabitants of Flanders against these pagan solstice celebrations. Indeed, as Christianity was introduced to previously pagan areas, midsummer celebrations were translated to new Christian holidays, often resulting in celebrations that mixed purely Christian traditions with traditions derived from pagan Midsummer festivities.
In the northern hemisphere, the Summer Solstice is the longest day of the year in that the length of time between sunrise and sunset is at the maximum for the year as the sun is farthest North point. The summer solstice marks the first day of Summer.
Father’s Day is a celebration which originated in the United States in the early 20th century to compliment Mother’s Day. Father’s Day celebrates fatherhood and male parenting, and to honour and commemorate fathers and forefathers everywhere. In Canada and many other countries, Father’s Day is celebrated on the 3rd Sunday of June, families bring gifts and prepare special dinners or events for fathers.