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Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Weekend June 2 – June 5

60 years ago on the evening of February 6, 1952, Queen Elizabeth II ascended the throne to become Queen of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth realm after the passing of her father George VI at the age of 56. While reign of the Commonwealth would automatically be passed down to her upon the death of her father, as she was the eldest of his two daughters, her official coronation would not be held until June 2, 1953. Today, the Monday or Saturday closest to the June date, depending on the country in the Commonwealth realm, is an annual public holiday celebrating her coronation, and has been selected as the date for Her Majesty the Queen’s official Diamond Jubilee Celebration.

Queen Elizabeth II with her husband Prince Albert (Creative Commons)

When her father died, Queen Elizabeth was not even present in the country, let alone the continent. At 25, she had already been married for 5 years and was traveling through Africa with her husband Prince Philip when she received the news. For some years already, however, the Queen had known about the ill health of her father and had been standing in for him at many official events in preparation for the day when she would eventually rule herself. Upon hearing the news of the passing of her father, she and Philip quickly returned back to Britain. Little did she know that she would reign over the Commonwealth for 60 years, becoming only the second person in history to hold title for so long; her Grandmother Queen Victoria being the first who reigned a total of 64 years from 1837 to 1901.

That fateful day was over 60 years ago, and this week Britain marks the anniversary with a special public holiday on Tuesday the 5th, just one day after their annual Early May bank holiday. The four day weekend is packed with entertainment including a 1,000+ boat flotilla that will lead the royal family down the Thames River and through the very center of London on Sunday. Other festivities will include a concert at Buckingham Palace and several street parties around London. Millions are expected to participate in the events, more than twice as many as those who came out for last year’s Royal Wedding between Prince William and Kate Middleton. The Queen will wind down celebrations on Tuesday with a service of Thanksgiving that will be held at St. Paul’s Cathedral.

For a list of all the planned activities for the 4 day period, click here

Flag of the Commonwealth of Nations. The 16 nations that consist of this union have Queen Elizabeth II as Sovereign

In addition to traveling around her own country to celebrate the 60th year of her reign, the rest of the royal family will travel on her behalf to many of the other Commonwealth countries.

William & Kate will travel to Malaysia, Singapore, Solomon Island and Tuvalu

Prince Harry will make visits to the Bahamas, Jamaica, and Belize

Prince Charles and Camilla will travel to Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Papua New Guinea

The following are the 16 countries where Queen Elizabeth is recognized as sovereign, otherwise known as the Head of State:

Antigua & Barbuda
Australia
The Bahamas
Barbados
Belize
Canada
Grenada
Jamaica
New Zealand
Papua New Guinea
Saint Kitts and Nevis
Saint Lucia
St. Vincent and the Grenadines
Solomon Islands
Tuvalu
United Kingdom

In addition to these 16 countries, Fiji ceremoniously recognizes her as Parliament Chief, although she does not possess any sway in government.

Victory Day in Europe and the Ex-Soviet Republics

Victory in Europe Day (V-E Day) May 8

Victory Day, Ex Soviet Republics May 9

Victory Day Poster in a Shop window in Russia

From 1939 to 1945, war between Nazi Germany and the allied nations raged across several fronts around the globe. Millions of men and women died, not only on the front lines, but also from starvation and inclement living conditions in their own homes. For Russia, this day is a haunting reminder of the 25+ million citizens who died directly and indirectly from the war that raged all around them, better known to them as “The Great War”. In Central and Western European countries, the air around Victory Day, which is most cases is not a public holiday, is not solemn in nature, but rather a day to give thanks for the freedoms that they enjoy because of the sacrifices given by their soldiers.

The First Moments of Victory Day 1945

News of the final surrender began circulating in the spring of 1945 with rumors emerging from the formative conference of the United Nations in San Francisco on April 28. By the evening of May 7, the world got what they desperately hoped for: the unconditional surrender by the Nazi German forces. German radio had broadcasted that General Gustav Jodi signed the official surrender at 2.41 a.m. local time in a small schoolhouse in Rheims, France, but allied forces chose to withhold the official announcement in their respective countries for 24 hours until the signing became official the next day. Once word finally broke of the surrender, it immediately prompted jubilation across the globe with church bells being rung in many communities. Winston Churchill, Britain’s wartime Prime Minister, declared a public holiday for the following day, leading to over a million people in London alone to pour onto the streets to celebrate.

Victory Day Celebrations in London when over a million people packed Picadilly Circus to celebrate the end of the war

For the Soviet Union, Nazi Germany’s surrender on the eastern front came in a separate signing late into the night at 11 p.m. in Berlin. This secondary signing allowed Soviet government officials to be present but meant that the time zone difference made it past midnight in Moscow. Because of this, the countries of the former Soviet Union celebrate Victory Day on May 9.

 

Celebrations

For countries in western & central Europe, former Czechoslovakia, and the Baltic countries, the holiday is observed on May 8, with Slovakia, Czech Republic, and France observing it as a non working public holiday. The majority of the former soviet countries still continue to celebrate the day, May 9, as a public holiday, and it is often the case where the largest celebrations are had. Russia, the largest of the former Soviet Block nations, holds a large military parade in its iconic Red Square in Moscow as hundreds of thousands of onlookers watch thousands of soldiers and hundreds of military vehicles roll down the streets in an elaborate display of military might.

See a video of lasts years parade:

While Victory Day in Russia is especially popular, it is a rather solemn occasion in other former Soviet countries, including Kazakhstan and Georgia, where it is more common to pay respects to the soldiers by laying wreaths/visiting the graves of those who have past, and less about current military potency of a nation.

To see exactly what has been done in the years past, here is a blog post about some of the promotions Kazakhstan does for its World War II veterans:

http://kazakhnomad.wordpress.com/tag/victory-day/

Australia & New Zealand Remember Their Fallen Soldiers on ANZAC Day – April 25

ANZAC Cove Memorial in Gallipoli, Turkey

Today is ANZAC day in Australia and New Zealand, a day that marks the landing of these two nation’s soldiers on the Gallipoli Peninsula in Turkey and the first major combat seen by both troops during World War I. ANZAC, meaning Australian and New Zealand Army Corps, is a rare example of a public remembrance day holiday celebrated by two sovereign nations. In general, it is a somber day filled with tributes to fallen soldiers from all wars, similar to Veterans’ Day in the United States, but also a time for patriotism and for appreciating the freedoms secured through history.

The decision to attack the German aligned Ottoman Empire was originally designed to capture the Dardanelles, the gateway into the Black Sea and one of the only non land routes that would allow allied troops into the area. Early on, the British generals underestimated the strength of the Turks and hastily mounted a naval attack alongside their French counterparts. The Turks quickly sank several ships and it was decided that the only way to win Istanbul and the Dardanelles was to make a mass landing near Gallipoli. The ANZACs were called upon to make the landing alongside the rest of the allied forces as they were stationed in nearby Egypt at the time. Sailing from Egypt to Turkey and arriving in the predawn hours of April 25, the

Modern Day Image of the City of Gallipoli, Turkey

ANZAC troops were ordered into small boats and went ashore, knowing that they would need to go as far inland as possible to make room for more troops coming ashore later on. However, what they did not know was that the Turkish forces were well prepared and waiting for their arrival. Under heavy fire, the ANZACS rushed ashore. To their dismay, they had landed in the wrong place and were caught off guard. At the end of the day some 2,000 ANZAC soldiers lay dead. Within the first week, some 6,000 would be among the count of the over 10,000 ANZACs that would perish in the entire 8 month campaign. In the end, it was eventually decided that the battle of Gallipoli, which was fought over the area the size of two football fields, was too costly to continue and the ANZAC troops were soon evacuated.

CWGC Commonwealth Cemetery in Gallipoli, Turkey

One year after the battle in 1916, ANZAC day got its official name and many ceremonies and tributes were given in both countries to commemorate the service of the fallen. By 1920, New Zealand had declared the day a public holiday, with Australia following by the end of the decade depending on the state or territory. Since World War II, ANZAC day has come to symbolize the remembrance of not just only those who died during Gallipoli and World War I, but all of the military men and women who have served throughout the years.

On ANZAC day, commemoration services held at dawn are popular along with parades and other processions through the streets. Two-up, a gambling game involving two or three coins and popular with soldiers in WWI and beyond, is played in pubs and other venues across the two countries. Others will tune in to watch Australian Rules Football or Rugby matches.

Passing Judgement Quickly May Cause Businesses to Lose Out on Talented Employees

Like many folks in the past few days, I have watched the video of Britain’s Got Talent contestants Jonathan and Charlotte. As they walked on stage for the first time, Simon Crowell leant over to the fellow judge and said “just when you think things couldn’t get any worse.”  What he was doing was making a snap judgment based upon the appearance of Jonathan and Charlotte. They are a bit of an incongruous pair. Charlotte looks like a typical teenager with make-up, long hair and a stylish outfit, and Jonathan has long hair, jeans and a t-shirt covering his large body size.

A mere 4 minutes later, Simon is comparing Jonathan to Pavarotti and suggesting that Charlotte will hold him back in the competition. Jonathan, to his credit, tells Simon that they came in as a team and they are going on as a team.

There are numerous insights that can be gained from the short clip. We learn that Jonathan has struggled with this weight all of his life and that Charlotte has been willing to stand by him and to serve as his advocate, boosting his confidence to new levels. After their performance, when it is clear that Jonathan has a tremendous voice and has been  “discovered” on a national stage, he gains strength and appears more confident in the somewhat overwhelming social setting. Jonathan returns the favor that Charlotte demonstrated over the course of their friendship by advocating for her and saying that they will go on together as a team as opposed to separating as Simon suggests because as he says, Jonathan “would be a stronger competitor without her”.

People who face discrimination in their lives, for whatever reasons, need advocates who are willing to see beyond the race, accent, gender, disability or body size to see the talents that lie within. Sometimes the support of an advocate can be life changing. In this case, Jonathan says he would not have had the confidence to compete if Charlotte was not with him.

What did Charlotte see in Jonathan that the rest of the audience didn’t see when Jonathan walked on stage? His talent and the person inside? How many times have we missed out on a great employee, friend or teammate because we did not take the time to see the talent and the person behind the gender, disability, race, body or accent?  When we make snap decisions, we must remember Simon’s lesson that he almost missed out on hearing the next Pavarotti because of his quick judgment. Make sure you don’t lose out on the Pavarotti superstar of your industry by leaping to a snap decision too.

Gender Inequality in the Arts & Culture Field. Where are the men?

I was rummaging around the blogosphere this morning and came across this article published on the UK’s Guardian website. While a lot of attention has been focused on women and minorities in the workplace and the various efforts to promote/recruit them, there are industries where men are outnumbered and gender inequality persists in this sense. For example, as you will read below, the Arts/Culture industry is heavily populated by women in the UK at least. The author, Steve Messam, points this out with his experiences in the board room and at private meetings where he is noticeably the only male in the room, or one of few. So, for those reading the blog: what have you noticed? Do you work in the Arts/Culture business and have similar experiences? Please let me know in the comments below and I will do my best to get back to you.

Article by Steve Messam can be found here via the Guardian’s website:

Thanks to Steve Messam for sharing his insight into the arts world. Check out his blog here.

A Brief History of Women’s History Month

Women’s History Month 2012: Women’s Education – Women’s Empowerment

March marks the start of Women’s History Month in the US, Australia and UK, and is a time for celebrating not only the historical achievements of women through the years, but also serves to empower future generations of women to leave their mark on society. Each year, the President of the United States issues a proclamation to honor the accomplishments of women and their role in shaping the course of history of the United States. (Click here for the proclamation for 2012) What many Americans do not know, however, is the history behind the month long celebration.

Women’s History Month can trace it roots back to the first International Women’s Day in 1911 held in Europe. It was first pioneered by German Socialist Clara Zetkin to demand equal rights for women with the question of equal suffrage taking center stage. Up until this point only 2 nations gave women the universal right to vote: Finland and New Zealand, with Australia giving rights to women who were not indigenous peoples. (Australia would not allow universal suffrage until 1962.) At the first International Conference of Working Women 1910 in Copenhagen, Denmark, Zetkin proposed the notion that the international community should have a designated day of the year for women to demand these rights. The attendees at the conference unanimously approved her idea, and thus the first International Women’s Day was born the following year on March 19th.  Initial demonstrations were held in Germanic speaking countries (Denmark, Austria, Germany) where meeting halls and public streets became gathering places for women to come together and show support for their common demands.

Over the next several decades, the women’s rights movement continued to experience highs and lows of success. High points, such as women finally gaining suffrage in the United States in 1920, transitioned into major lulls during the years of the Great Depression and early on in World War II when women’s rights were not deemed as pressing issues during the turbulent times. However, when the men went to war, the women took charge of the workforce back home. When the soldiers returned, they were surprised to find that the women were in many cases reluctant to give up their positions. The experience of working gave many women a feeling of empowerment; for the first time in their lives they were contributing to the greater good and had a purpose outside the home. It was not until the 1960’s however, when the Women’s Liberation movement really exploded and sparked the greater population’s interest in the contributions of women throughout history. For the first time the academic world developed curriculum and courses specifically on women’s history, which in turn produced more literature and sparked intelligent civic debate that would contribute to a thriving women’s movement.

The advances in promoting the contributions of women in society by academic institutions continued successfully for many years thereafter. In California’s Sonoma County, the Commission on the Status of Women began a “Women’s History Week” that would coincide with International Women’s Day, which by now had been moved to March 8th. Soon, many schools began adopting the idea and the Sonoma Country Commission soon had encouraged enough support to ask Congress to establish a “National Women’s History Week” which was passed in 1981. The concept only gained in popularity when six years later in 1987, Congress expanded the week to a month, and the current form which we celebrate today, thanks in large part to the National Women’s History Project (NWHP) which was the leading force in lobbying Congress for the approval.

Each year since the national designation of Women’s History Month, a new theme is established in order to draw closer attention to some of the issues that women have faced in the past and will continue to do so in the future. For 2012, the theme is “Women’s Education – Women’s Empowerment” which puts the spotlight on the importance of education and the resulting economic, political, and personal empowerment with which it goes hand in hand. (See below for a list of compiled themes over the past 25 years)

As the month of March progresses, we will continue to pay tribute to the generations of women whose commitments and messages have proved invaluable to society. Please check back for more posts on the blog with biographies of American women who have made an impact on American history.

Past Themes for Women’s History Month

2012: Women’s Education – Women’s Empowerment

2011: Our History is Our Strength

2010: Writing Women Back into History

2009: Women Taking the Lead to Save Our Planet

2008: Women’s Art – Women’s Vision

2007: Generations of Women Moving History Forward

2006: Women: Builders of Communities and Dreams

2005: Women Change America

2004: Women Inspiring Hope and Possibility

2003: Women Pioneering the Future

2002: Women Sustaining the American Spirit

2001: Celebrating Women of Courage and Vision

2000: An Extraordinary Century for Women – Now, Imagine the Future

1999: Women Putting Our Stamp on America

1998: Living the Legacy of Women’s Rights

1997: A Fine and Long Tradition of Community Leadership

1996: See History in a New Way

1995: Women’s History: Promises to Keep

1994: In Every Generation, Action Frees Our Dreams

1993: Discover a New World: Women’s History

1992; Women’s History: A Patchwork of Many Lives

1991: Nurturing Tradition, Fostering Change

1990: Courageous Voices Echoing in our Lives

1989: Heritage of Strength and Vision

1988: Reclaiming the Past, Rewriting the Future

1987: Generations of Courage, Compassion, and Conviction

Diversity and Inclusion Training Continue at the Olympic Games in London for 2012

I’ve been reading a lot about some of the diversity and inclusion training efforts going on at the Olympic games and the press (some good, some bad) that is associated with it. I am glad it is getting done, as the olympics are the prime stage for the world to celebrate its diverse heritage. That being said, the Telegraph published this story about some of the questions being proposed to the volunteers in order for them to better address the guests and athletes that will be coming from around the world to London this summer. While some have found it patronizing, such as in this article, I think in the end that many of the volunteers will remember this time when these questions do pop up, and will be better equipped to handle them. Here is the article from the Telegraph this morning below:

Click here for the original article. If you are interested in seeing some of the questions being proposed to the volunteers, click here.

Celebrating Imbolc and St. Brigit of Kildare – February 1 & 2

For Neo Pagans, Wiccans, and Druids in the Northern Hemisphere, February 1 is the traditional day for celebrating Imbolc: the halfway point between the winter solstice and spring equinox. While Germanic mythology separates the year into quarters denoted by the solstices/equinoxes of summer, winter, fall, and spring, the Gaelic calendar takes it a step further and splits into 8ths with additional dates at the halfway points in between.

Imbolc has been celebrated by the Celtic peoples of the UK and Ireland for centuries and refers to the period in the New Year when ewes (female sheep) begin to lactate in preparation for giving birth in a few short weeks during the springtime. For the largely agrarian peoples who inhabited these lands early on, this was a time of preparation and excitement symbolizing that winter was coming to an end and spring would bring new life to the earth.

Old Irish: I mbolg – “in the belly”

Medieval Irish: Oimelc – “Ewe’s Milk”

Rituals:

From medieval texts we know that Imbolc was celebrated by drinking milk and eating butter & cheese that would have been made from sheep and or goats. This would have been eaten with bread, a staple, and any stored onions/leeks or other grains or vegetables that the family would have fortunately been left with during the harsh winter months. Forms of weather speculation for the upcoming season would have been common. The emergence of snakes from their winter boroughs on Imbolc would have been symbolic to the Celts as a sign of the coming spring. References to this event can be seen in this Scottish Highlands Proverb:

Thig an nathair as an toll
Là donn Brìde,
Ged robh trì troighean dhen t-sneachd
Air leac an làir.

The serpent will come from the hole
On the brown Day of Bride,
Though there should be three feet of snow
On the flat surface of the ground.

Additionally, the legend of Cailleach, the keeper of winter, is important to the weather forecast. It is said that on Imbolc, Cailleach sets out to gather firewood for the rest of the winter. If she decides winter is to continue for a longer period of time, the day will be sunny and warm so that she can spend the whole day collecting the firewood needed to see her through the rest of the season. If the day is filled with foul weather, then Cailleach has not awoken and will run out of firewood, putting an early end to winter.

For modern ways to celebrate the holiday, please see the ritual section of this page.

Christianization of the holiday:

Like many other holidays in Europe, Christianity and local beliefs have found a harmonious balance. Imbolc is no exception as it is has also been associated with the Goddess Brighid (or Bride in Scots Gaelic). Óiche Fheil Bhrighide, or ‘Eve of St. Brighid’, is the Christianized name of the holiday. St. Brighid, whose feast day is February 2, is one of three patron saints of Ireland (specifically of farmers, education, and fertility). St. Brighid’s deity counterpart also represents these qualities.

Holiday Spotlight: Guy Fawkes Day, November 5th 2012

Guy Fawkes Day

While most holidays are thought of as daytime celebrations, Guy Fawkes Day will literally blow you away with its brilliant display of nighttime fireworks and large, glowing bonfires. Held annually on the 5th of November throughout Great Britain, this holiday celebrates the failed attempt to blow up the British Parliament and thus starting a war between religions. The day is not an official public holiday in the UK, yet is well embedded in the traditions of the culture, similar to the celebration of Halloween in the United States.

Upcoming Date:

Saturday, November 5th (Annual)

Historical Origin:

During the 16th and 17th centuries, Protestant lawmakers and clergymen heavily influenced the laws of the land enough for many Catholics to feel severely alienated and virtually powerless in their own country. A plan was hatched between Guy Fawkes and a few Catholic conspirators to blow up the Parliament with several barrels of gunpowder in hopes of killing King James I and starting a religious war between the two groups. However, the plot failed, and Fawkes was caught, tortured, and executed. King James I later declared the day a national holiday to celebrate the failure of the plot.

Customs:

Several of the customs have evolved over the past four centuries. For example, while making effigies of Guy Fawkes to burn in a bonfire is still common practice, it is no longer customary for children to parade the effigy around town to ask passersby if they can donate a “penny for the Guy”. Families and friends continue to gather during the night and light bonfires and fireworks. This is also the time when the effigy of Fawkes is burned. It is often said that this night is the smokiest in Britain. While the original meaning may not be so important for the British in today’s modern times, it still is a cause for a fantastic display of fire and light.