Lemon Festival (La Fête du Citron)

Since the 1930s the town of Menton, France, has celebrated its annual Lemon Festival. Festival organizers expect about 300,000 people to visit the town during the festival in order to enjoy the parades—featuring larger-than-life-sized figurines made entirely of citrus fruit, a specialty of the region—and other activities. Performances of local folk music and dance also take place during the festival. In addition, visitors may stroll by scenes from famous stories reconstructed out of citrus fruits and displayed in one of the city’s parks. Discuss

Lupercalia

This was an ancient Roman festival during which worshippers gathered at a grotto on the Palatine Hill in Rome called the Lupercal. The sacrifice of goats and dogs to the Roman deities Lupercus and Faunus was part of the ceremony. Luperci (priests of Lupercus) dressed in goatskins and, smeared with the sacrificial blood, would run about striking women with thongs of goat skin. This was thought to assure them of fertility and an easy delivery. The name for these thongs—februa—meant “means of purification” and eventually gave the month of February its name. Discuss

Birthday of Richard Allen

The son of two slaves, Richard Allen (1760-1831) was born in Philadelphia on this day. By the time he was 26 years old, he had saved enough money to buy his way out of slavery, and soon after that he established America’s first African-American church. Allen’s work among African Americans expanded at such a rapid rate that in 1816 he had to expand the organization of his church nationwide. Members of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church commemorate the birth of their founder and first bishop on this day. Discuss

Myanmar Union Day

In the Union of Myanmar, also known as Burma, Union Day commemorates the day in 1947 that Bogyoke Aung San, a Burmese nationalist leader, helped to unify all of Burma. Five days before Union Day, an annual relay of the Union flag begins. A ceremony to mark the start of the relay is held at City Hall. The flag is carried through 45 townships before arriving at People’s Square on Pyay Road for a Union Day ceremony. Discuss

Candlemas

After observing the traditional 40-day period of purification following the birth of Jesus, Mary presented him to God at the Temple in Jerusalem. According to a New Testament gospel, an aged and devout Jew named Simeon held the baby in his arms and said he would be “a light to lighten the Gentiles”. It is for this reason that February 2 has come to be called Candlemas and has been celebrated by the blessing of candles since the 11th century. In both the Eastern and Western churches, it is now known as the Feast of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple. Discuss

Rwanda National Heroes' Day

Rwandans celebrate Heroes’ Day on February 1. National celebrations take place starting early in the morning with the laying of wreaths at the Heroes’ Cemetery at Remera, Kigali, by the president, officials of the government, and the families of the country’s heroes. Wreaths are also laid at Nyange in memory of students who stood against the rebel forces of the Rwandan genocide. The national Heroes’ Day celebration at Nyange features songs, dances, and poems praising the virtues and good example of the national heroes. Discuss

Douglas MacArthur Day

Douglas MacArthur (1880-1964), five-star general and supreme commander of the Allied forces in the Southwest Pacific during World War II, was born on this day in Little Rock, Arkansas. After the U.S. dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, it was MacArthur who supervised the surrender ceremony in Tokyo. He directed the demobilization of Japanese military forces and the drafting of a new constitution. His birthday is observed in his home state of Arkansas, where he is widely remembered as one of the state’s most famous sons. Discuss

Day of the Black Christ of Esquipulas

For many people in Central and South America, the pilgrimage to the Black Christ of Esquipulas begins well in advance of the January 15 festival. Quite a number make the journey to Esquipulas entirely on foot. Many don wide-brimmed straw hats, to which they attach gray Spanish moss and chiches (breasts), a yellow fruit that resembles a gourd; those making the journey from Quetzaltenango blacken their hands with the juice from a special fruit. Ceremonial sites resembling altars, built from rocks brought by pilgrims, are scattered through the hills surrounding Esquipulas. Discuss

Death of George Fox

George Fox (1624-1691) was the founder of the Society of Friends, or Quakers, which he organized in 1650 to protest the overly formal religion of his time. Fox believed that creeds and scriptures were unimportant in religion; all that really counted was the divine light of Christ as it manifested itself in all people. Church was merely a gathering of friends who were guided by the Inner Light and who were thus able to provide guidance for each other. Quakers all over the world observe the anniversary of their founder’s death in their meetinghouses. Discuss

Dezome-shiki (New Year's Parade of Firemen)

Each year on January 6, the Tokyo Fire Department hosts a parade of vehicles and a display of ladder stunts to remind citizens of the dangers of fire. The event dates from the Edo Period. In those days, ladders were indispensable tools, and the firefighters needed great agility and strength to scale them. The highlight of the present-day parade hearkens back to this tradition, as men dressed from the Edo Period perform acrobatic stunts on bamboo ladders. The event also features large-scale fire-fighting and emergency drills, and a parade of more than 100 fire engines and helicopters. Discuss