Two hundred and fifty-one

Eid al-Adha, the “Feast of Sacrifice”

Eid al-Adha is an important Muslim holiday, concluding the pilgrimage to Mecca.  “Eid al-Adha lasts for three days and commemorates Ibraham’s (Abraham) willingness to obey God by sacrificing his son. Muslims believe the son to be Ishmael rather than Isaac as told in the Old Testament. Ishmael is considered the forefather of the Arabs. According to the Koran, Ibrahim was about to sacrifice his son when a voice from heaven stopped him and allowed him to sacrifice a ram instead.” (kumc.edu)

Eid al-Adha is celebrated annually on the 10th day of the 12th and the last Islamic month of Dhu al-Hijjah of the lunar Islamic calendar. (Wikipedia) Men, women and children dress in their best clothes to pray to Allah to give thanks for His grace and favours, remember the dead, and help the needy and vulnerable.  After prayer, there is a short sermon, then socializing in each other’s homes.  Those who can afford it sacrifice a domestic animal, usually a sheep, to remember Ibraham’s sacrifice. (religioustolerance.org)

The Feast of Sacrifice is celebrated by Muslims throughout the world.  In Turkey it is an official four-day holiday.  “Traditionally, on the first day of the Sacrifice Feast in Turkey, men of each family go to a mosque for a special morning prayer. Then the sacrifice ritual begins. In some regions in Turkey, people paint the sacrificial animal with henna and adorn it with ribbons. The butcher reads a prayer before slaughtering the animal. Families share about two-thirds of the animal’s meat with relatives and neighbors, and they traditionally give about one-third to the poor.” (timeanddate.com)

In recent years, people have decided to make donations to help the poor and needy instead of the animal sacrifice.

Guy Fawkes Day Recap

Photo by Will O'Hare, from Occupy Toronto

When I attended Bonfire Night in England many years ago I was intrigued by the spectacle and enjoyed the party, but I never really thought of the political history that created the celebration.  Even as I wrote my post yesterday about the Guy Fawkes story, it didn’t really hit home.  Bonfire night is originally about lighting fire to effigies of Guy Fawkes to celebrate that he was executed and didn’t kill the King and the Parliament.  Now it has become more anti-government, almost celebrating what Guy Fawkes tried to achieve, as opposed to his demise.  Guy Fawkes masks are used as a symbol against government tyranny.  Effigies of politicians are burned.

How was I to celebrate this in Toronto?  After passing up a suggestion to create an effigy of Rob Ford and burn it on the steps of City Hall (as much as I want to celebrate Guy Fawkes, I don’t want to end up with his same fate) and giving up on the notion that I light firecrackers and create a bonfire (I did this on Canada Day on the Island and it wasn’t very political then), I decided to honour the sentiment.  Of course I couldn’t do it without a Guy Fawkes doll to accompany me (homemade of an old t-shirt, some duct tape, and stuffed with newspaper).

My Guy Fawkes doll at the Occupy Toronto camp. Photo by Will O'Hare.

Occupy Toronto tent city, where I can find a lot of people who understand that sometimes drastic measures have to be taken in order to achieve your political goals.  I’ve been avoiding going there because I have major questions about what it is achieving and what is the end goal.  I support some of the causes, but question the means.  I needed to ask how and why and Guy Fawkes Night was the perfect night to do it.

After walking throughout the tents, free school, information booth, placards and drum circle, I was watching a group of people singing and dancing.    A gentleman approached me and asked me why I was watching and not taking part.  I explained my reservations and told him my questions.  Turns out he’s from Egypt here for six weeks in the Occupy Toronto camp – he was part of the revolution in Egypt.  We spoke for a long time about the what, why and how.  He believes in the need for parallel revolutions and a united people.  He was part of what Guy Fawkes didn’t achieve.  He gave me a different perspective.

I didn’t end up burning my Guy in the end.  He is a symbol of resistance to the status quo and I didn’t want that to go up in flames.  We need that.  Although there were no fireworks or bonfires or crowds of people parading through the streets, this Guy Fawkes Night was the first time I actually understood what it was all about.

Two hundred and fifty

Guy Fawkes/Bonfire Night!

Remember, remember, the 5th of November
The Gunpowder Treason and plot ;
I know of no reason why Gunpowder Treason
Should ever be forgot.

Guy Fawkes, Guy Fawkes,
‘Twas his intent.
To blow up the King and the Parliament.
Three score barrels of powder below.
Poor old England to overthrow.
By God’s providence he was catch’d,
With a dark lantern and burning match

Holloa boys, Holloa boys, let the bells ring
Holloa boys, Holloa boys, God save the King!

And what shall we do with him?
Burn him!

I can remember my first Bonfire Night so clearly.  I swore I’d never go back.  Firecrackers being thrown at my feet, crowds of people pushing me over, a parade down the streets of Lewes, England with lots of fire.  Now that I look back on it, though, it was heaps of fun.  I was living in England at the time and my friends insisted I go to celebrate a true British ‘holiday’.  I still can’t believe there is a celebration where people are allowed to walk the streets and burn effigies of the Pope, Guy Fawkes and political figures (there was one of George W. Bush when I was there)!

The Gunpowder Plot (and how Bonfire Night started), from bonfirenight.net:

After Queen Elizabeth I died in 1603, English Catholics who had been persecuted under her rule had hoped that her successor, James I, would be more tolerant of their religion. James I had, after all, had a Catholic mother. Unfortunately, James did not turn out to be more tolerant than Elizabeth and a number of young men, 13 to be exact, decided that violent action was the answer.

A small group took shape, under the leadership of Robert Catesby. Catesby felt that violent action was warranted. Indeed, the thing to do was to blow up the Houses of Parliament. In doing so, they would kill the King, maybe even the Prince of Wales, and the Members of Parliament who were making life difficult for the Catholics. Today these conspirators would be known as extremists, or terrorists.

To carry out their plan, the conspirators got hold of 36 barrels of gunpowder – and stored them in a cellar, just under the House of Lords.

But as the group worked on the plot, it became clear that innocent people would be hurt or killed in the attack, including some people who even fought for more rights for Catholics. Some of the plotters started having second thoughts. One of the group members even sent an anonymous letter warning his friend, Lord Monteagle, to stay away from the Parliament on November 5th.

The warning letter reached the King, and the King’s forces made plans to stop the conspirators.

Guy Fawkes, who was in the cellar of the parliament with the 36 barrels of gunpowder when the authorities stormed it in the early hours of November 5th, was caught, tortured and executed.

That night, Nov 5, 1605, bonfires were set alight to celebrate the King’s safety.  Every year since then England has lit bonfires and burned effigies of Guy Fawkes on November 5th.  Children often walk around with Guy Fawkes dolls they made and beg “a penny for the guy”, where people give them pennies for the doll to be torched.

The Guy Fawkes mask, made popular by the 2006 film V for Vendetta, has now become an anti-government symbol, protesting tyranny.  You can see these on many of the protesters at the Occupy movements across North America.

A demonstrator wearing a Guy Fawkes mask hodls a sign outside Austin City Hall during the first day of Occupy Austin on Thursday, October 6, 2011. (AP Photo/Trent Lesikar - Daily Texan) Photo: Trent Lesikar | Daily Texan Staf / Trent Lesikar | The Daily Texan (from chron.com)

More information on Guy Fawkes and Bonfire Night:

Introduction to Guy Fawkes Day in England

“Five things you should know about Guy Fawkes and those masks” chron.com

Bonfirenight.net

“For Occupy protesters, every day is Guy Fawkes Day” latimesblogs.latimes.com

ProjectBritain.com

Wikipedia

National Chicken Lady, Candy, Common Sense, King Tut, Russian Unity Day recap

I had a little protest of these ridiculous holidays and decided not to eat candy or wear an Egyptian headdress or celebrate an event that happened in Russia in 1612.  My friend told me I was cheating, that I wasn’t being very much fun and that if I continued to ‘celebrate’ holidays this month by protesting them I wouldn’t have any readers left to write for!  I told him I was celebrating Common Sense Day and my common sense told me to protest!