Edinburgh Napier University

Category: History (Page 2 of 2)

Chinese New Year

For Chinese New Year, it is the year of the Tiger and one of the most important celebrations!

 

It celebrates the beginning of a new year also known as the Lunar Year from the 1st of February to the 15th of February. The holiday is called the Lunar Year because the dates follow the phases of the moon. Chinese New Year originates from around 3,500 years ago. Legend has it a monster named Nian (meaning Year), would attack villagers, livestock, and crops on the eve of new year. However, it would be afraid of loud noises, lights, crackled bamboo and red (often associated with danger), which were used to chase the monster away!

 

As the year ends and a new one begins, it is said to bring luck and prosperity by celebrating with feasts, decorations, firecrackers, fireworks, dragons, and red envelopes. It is quite an elaborate display spent with friends and family. Other traditions include cleaning the home to rid of any bad luck or spirit.

 

Confectionery

Confectionery

 

The last event of Chinese New Year is the lantern festival where people hang or carry glowing lanterns during an evening parade. A vivid and decorative dragon associated with luck is usually carried by dancers through the streets.

 

 

Lanterns

Lanterns

 

12 zodiac animals represent each year in the repeated zodiac cycle of 12 years, such as the Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, and Pig. As it is the year of the Tiger, this animal symbolises bravery and strength! People born in the years of the Tiger are 1938, 1950, 1962, 1974, 1986, 1998, 2010 and 2022.

 

The Year of the Tiger

The Year of the Tiger

 

 

You can find past news on Chinese New Year at Edinburgh Napier, like the year of the Ox in 2021:

https://www.napier.ac.uk/alumni/alumni-news/latest-news/lny-2021

 

There is also the travel guide below to find more information about Chinese New Year and the Tiger zodiac:

https://www.chinahighlights.com/travelguide/special-report/chinese-new-year/

 

Other links include:

https://www.britannica.com/topic/Chinese-New-Year https://www.chinahighlights.com/travelguide/festivals/chinese-new-year-history.htm

 

Edinburgh Napier University Library wishes you all a wonderful Chinese New Year!

Scottish Traditions: Burn’s Night

Burns Night

Burns Night is a traditional celebration of Scotland’s national bard, or poet, Robert Burns. It is held on 25th January, Burns’s birthday, when Burns suppers are held. They consist of a meal, poetry recitals and songs. The first supper was held at Burns Cottage by his friends on 21st July 1801, the fifth anniversary of his death.

If you think that you don’t know any of Burns’s work, ask yourself if you have ever sung Auld Lang Syne on Hogmanay/New Year’s Eve or used the lines “My love is like a red, red rose” on a Valentine card. If you have then you are familiar with some of his best-known work. Burns wrote his first poem aged 15 and in his short life wrote a vast number of songs and poems that can be accessed here. He wrote in a light Scots dialect which was easier for those outside Scotland to understand and often wrote about very humble subjects, for example, his poem “To a Mouse” is inspired by the field mice Burns saw while ploughing on his farm.

The Life of Robert Burns

Burns was born on 25th January 1759 in Alloway south of Ayr, the son of poor tenant farmers. He received little regular schooling, but his father taught him to read and write along with arithmetic, history and geography. He was also taught Latin, French and maths by John Murdoch.

For much of his life Burns, like his father, was a tenant farmer, all the while writing poetry and songs. But he struggled to make a living from farming and when he was offered a position on a plantation in Jamaica, he decided to emigrate. He could not afford the passage and a friend suggested he try to publish some of his work to raise the funds. In 1786 Poems in the Scottish Dialect was published and became an immediate success. Later that year Burns left for Edinburgh to publish a second edition which again was successful and earned him a substantial sum of money. He was well received in Edinburgh, often a guest of aristocracy, and made many friends, some becoming sponsors.

In 1787 Burns returned to southwest Scotland taking a lease on a farm in Dumfriesshire, but he also trained as an exciseman in case the farm was unsuccessful. He gave up farming in 1791 and moved to Dumfries where he made contributions to several volumes of songs, sometimes adding his own lyrics to traditional folk melodies and composing his own melodies from fragments of tunes. He continued to write poetry too, some advocating reform such as “The Slaves Lament”.

He continued to work as an exciseman, often making long journeys on horseback in all weathers and this may have contributed to his ill-health at a rather young age for the time. On 21st July 1796 Burns died aged just 37.  His body lies in the Burns Mausoleum is St. Michael’s Kirkyard, Dumfries along with that of his wife at the time, Jean Armour.

Burns is renowned for having had many romantic relationships which resulted in several children being born, although not all survived infancy. Today over 900 people worldwide claim to be descendants of Burns.

Host your own Burns Night

Due to covid-19 restrictions, many Burn’s suppers will be cancelled this year, but you could host your own with your household.

Need some inspiration to host your own Burns Supper? Why not try out some Burns Night recipes here. Penguin books have a guide on how to run your night and for inspiration, you can listen to or read some of Burns’s work through our Library.

By Vivienne Hamilton

Learn about other World traditions on our blog by reading:

New Year Traditions from Around the World

Spanish Christmas Traditions

The Ethiopia Timkat Festival

The Timkat Festival

Christmas is a distant memory for most of us, but for Ethiopians, Christmas is a whole season that’s just coming to an end now. Ethiopia was one of the first countries in the world to adopt Christianity, and as such it adheres to the ancient traditions that sit at the heart of its Orthodox Tewahedo Church. Timkat, celebrated every year on the 19th of January, is one of those traditions, possibly the most important in the Church’s calendar.

The Amharic word timkat means “baptism”, and the festival marks the baptism of Christ in the River Jordan.

Preparations

Timkat is a huge deal and a seriously religious festival. Preparations for this spectacular event, possibly one of the biggest and most colourful on the African continent, begin on the 18th, when “tabots” – models of the  Ark of the Covenant – are wrapped in fine cloths and carried on the heads of priests down to the river or other place of worship. Local people don white shawls – Ethiopians wear white when they go to church – and follow the procession.

The Festival

Mass starts in the early hours of the 19th and continues for hours. When Mass is over, the water is blessed and the congregants take to the rivers, submerging themselves in a re-enactment of Christ’s baptism. Of course, it’s a happy occasion and that means the celebrations go on all day and are accompanied by feasting and music.  As well as eating their favourite Timkat food, Ethiopians celebrate important occasions with elaborate coffee ceremonies.

On the 20th, the tabots are carried back to the churches in another procession that marks the end of the festival.

One of the best places to observe Timkat is the town of Gondar, home to the 17th century castle built by King Fasilides. In the grounds of the castle is a huge open-air bath. The bath is usually empty, but during Timkat it’s filled with water and the locals dive in. A few years ago I was fortunate enough to visit Ethiopia over the festive season. I missed Timkat by a couple of weeks. When I visited King Fasilides castle it was empty. Next time I go, I’m definitely going for Timkat, and I’m taking my swimming costume.

Want to learn more about other traditions from around the world? Read our article here.

By Lesley McRobb

Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Today is Martin Luther King day, an American holiday that is always celebrated on the third Monday in January. It’s almost 54 years since Dr King, a Baptist minister and lifelong campaigner, was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee, but the work to which he sacrificed his life continues.

MLK is most famous, for his “I had a dream…” speech, but the reality of civil rights activism is that it’s less about rallies and speeches and more a daily struggle for the most mundane of rights – a struggle that is played out in factories, playgrounds, homes and schools, well away from the cameras and microphones.

 

 

Martin Luther King

Martin Luther King

 

King was in Memphis in April 1968 to support African American sanitation workers who were deprived of the most basic of rights that their white counterparts enjoyed – the right to shelter from the rain, the right to shower after their shift, the lack of overtime payments. The final straw came when 2 black workers were crushed to death by a malfunctioning garbage truck and their families were barely compensated. The workers went on strike, and MLK went to support them.

In recognition of King’s contribution to the struggle for equality, Illinois was the first US state to acknowledge the holiday, and King was the first African American to have a national holiday in his honour.

 

March

March

 

The international struggle for equality continues. As King himself said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

 

Read Dr King’s most famous speech in full. You’ll find it in LibrarySearch:

The Penguin book of twentieth-century speeches

Becoming King Martin Luther King, Jr. and the making of a national leader

 

By Lesley McRobb

 

Remembrance Day and The Poppy

World War One, Remembrance Day and The Poppy

The battles of the First World War (WWI) devastated the countryside of Western Europe. One of the plants that survived the churned-up battlefields was the poppy. As the soldiers saw scarlet poppies bloom through the terrible destruction, they were encouraged to see that life could recover. One soldier, Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae was inspired to write the poem, In Flanders Fields, in the spring of 1915. 

“In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky 

The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie, 

 In Flanders fields

Take up our quarrel with the foe: 

To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Subsequently, Since WW1 the poppy has become the universal emblem of remembrance, symbolising the sacrifices that soldiers in past wars made for us. 

The Selling of Poppies

In the United Kingdom, artificial poppies are sold by the Royal British Legion in the run-up to 11th November (Poppy Day). Importantly this is when the Armistice (an agreement to end the fighting) began at 11am on 11th November 1918. Furthermore, sales from the poppies go to providing financial, social and emotional support to British Armed Forces serving soldiers, former soldiers and their dependents. This year is the centenary of the UK Poppy Appeal. 

The original Poppy Days were created by Madame Guerin to raise funds for the French widows and orphans of the War. In 1921 she took samples of her artificial poppies to the Royal British Legion and proposed an Inter-Allied Poppy Day during which all WW1 allied countries use artificial poppies as an emblem of remembrance.

The poppies would be made by French widows and orphans and raise funds for the families of the fallen as well as survivors of the conflict. Although the idea was initially not well received by the British public, the WW1 British Army commander Earl Haig was keen, and after that, when the Royal British Legion held its first Poppy Day on 11th November 1921, it was a great success. Those first poppies were made in France, but from 1922 British veterans made the poppies at the Richmond factory which now employs 50 ex-servicemen all year round. In 1926 Lady Haig’s Poppy Factory in Edinburgh was established to produce poppies for Scotland. Over 5 million Scottish poppies are made by hand each year. 

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