Category: Believe It Or Not

New Year Facts

A very Happy New Year…. Some facts that I found informative…

– January is named after the Roman god Janus (Latin word for door) who is said to have two faces that allows him to look both backwards into the old year and forward into the New Year at the same time.

– The Gregorian calendar as promulgated in 1582 did not specify that January 1 was to be either New Year’s Day or the first day of its numbered year.

– Traditionally a religious feast, but since the 1900s New Year’s Eve, the night of December 31, has become an occasion for celebration.

– In the United States, the common image used is that of Father Time (or the “Old Year”) wearing a sash across his chest with the previous year printed on it passing on his duties to the Baby New Year (or the “New Year”), an infant wearing a sash with the new year printed on it.

– The New Year’s Day Parade is the biggest New Year street event annually held on January 1 in London. The parade is used to raise funds for charities.

– The New Year Concert of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra that takes place in the morning of January 1 in Vienna, Austria is broadcast around the world to an estimated audience of one billion in 44 countries.

– In Sydney, Australia, the world’s largest fireworks display draws 1-1.5 million people to the harbour.

– It is said that New Year is the most important holiday in Japan. Most businesses shut down from January 1 to January 3, and families typically gather to spend the days together.

– Interestingly, January 1 is the World Day for Prayer for Peace.

It’s X’Mas Facts

“Even before the holiday season, the 2008 recession hurt package carriers – and dearly. The U.S. Postal Service lost $2.8 billion for the year ended Sept. 30 despite $2 billion in cost-cutting measures. Total revenue was flat at $75 billion even though postal rates increased. But the volume of mail handled dropped 4.5 percent to 202.7 billion pieces, the news report said.”

Yet there is no recession when it comes to interesting facts on Christmas. The Internet had many to offer, but I selected a few that I felt was, probably, less known.

1. A Christmas club, a savings account in which a person deposits a fixed amount of money regularly to be used at Christmas for shopping, came into being around 1905

2. Christmas trees are edible. It is said that, many parts of pines, spruces, and firs can be eaten. The needles are a good source of vitamin C. Pine nuts, or pine cones, are also a good source of nutrition

3. The biggest selling Christmas single of all time is Bing Crosby’s White Christmas

4. Santa Claus was the world’s richest fictional character, in 2006, according to Forbe’s list of the “Forbes Fictional 15”

5. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is a 20th century invention by the Montgomery Ward Company, operators of a chain of department stores. It was a promotional gimmick for the Christmas shoppers

6. Sixty year old James Worley with his natural white beard and big belly was mistaken for Santa Claus for years. But Disney World that he visited wanted to preserve the magic of Santa as “Santa was considered a Disney character” and so Worley was ordered to stop looking like Santa…even though it wasn’t a costume

7. Every year the US Postal Service issues US Christmas stamps. Interestingly, the theme of the stamp has often been Madonna and Child

8. Christmas Island in Indian Ocean, discovered on Christmas day in 1643, marked 50 years in 2007, since Britain detonated its first fully operational H- bomb, code-named Grapple X

9. Singing Christmas carols was banned at two major malls in Florida in 1996 as the shoppers and merchants complained that the carollers were too loud and took up too much space

10. Few modern readers realise that Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol was written during a time of decline in the old Christmas traditions

World AIDS Day

It was World AIDS Day on first December. In fact, 2008 marks the 20th anniversary of World AIDS Day. The theme for World AIDS Day (2007-08) was “Lead – Empower -Deliver”. It was promoted with the campaigning slogan, “Stop AIDS. Keep the Promise”.

Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome or AIDS is a medical condition that is caused when the virus, called Human Immunodeficiency virus (HIV), infects a healthy body.

“The concept of a World AIDS Day originated at the 1988 World Summit of Ministers of Health on Programmes for AIDS Prevention. Since then, every year UN agencies, governments and all sectors of civil society worldwide join together to campaign around specific themes related to AIDS.”

AIDS was first reported in 1981 in the United States (in homosexual men in Los Angeles); it is believed to have originated in sub-Saharan Africa.

A recent study states that HIV probably moved from Africa to Haiti, and then around 1969, entered the United States. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), extensive spread of HIV appears to have begun in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

The disease did not have a name then. And the general press called it GRID, which stood for Gay-related immune deficiency. But the disease infected both men and women alike. Therefore, in 1982 a new name was coined. It was called AIDS.

– A for Acquired, means that, the disease develops after birth from contact with a disease causing agent (HIV). It is not hereditary.

– ID for Immunodeficiency, means that, the disease is characterised by a weakening of the immune system. In other words, the system in human body which fights diseases is weakened.

– S for Syndrome refers to, a group of symptoms that collectively indicate the disease, where in the infected human body will have a group of health problems.

In 2007, an estimated 33.2 million people lived with the disease worldwide, and it killed an estimated 2.1 million people, including 330,000 children.

According to our National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), out of a total of 27,332 people who committed suicide due to illness, 952 had AIDS or other sexually transmitted diseases (STD).

Among AIDS or STD patients who committed suicide, 334 were women. The maximum number of people who took their life in this category was in the age group of 30 to 44 years.

Seven boys and three girls below 14 years also “committed suicide” as they had AIDS or STD, the report said.

There is still no report of a complete cure for AIDS. But the AIDS stigma around the world is something that can be worked upon and cured too.

Interesting Facts: Diwali Special

Happy Diwali

It’s interesting to know that Diwali is a universal festival. From the name to the practices, celebrating Diwali differs from state to state and country to country. Yet they all have the lamp that lights to bind them into a family.

1. As the knowledge of Sanskrit diminished, the word Deepavali was popularly modified to Diwali, especially in northern India

2. It is believed that Diwali is the day Lord Shiva accepted Shakti into the left half of the form and appeared as Ardhanarishvara (half man, half-women)

3. There is a legend that Diwali commemorates the killing of Narakasura, an evil demon by Lord Krishna’s wife Sathyabhama

4. Did you know that Sikhs also celebrate Diwali to commemorate the laying of the foundation stone for the Golden Temple in 1577. It is also known as Bandi Chhorh Divas and they illuminate their gurdwaras and homes with Deewé (earthen oil lamps) or candles

5. Lord Mahavira, the last of the Jain Tirthankaras, attained nirvana on Diwali day at Pavapuri. According to Jain tradition the chief disciple of Mahavira, Ganadhar Gautam Swami, also attained complete knowledge on this very day, thus making Diwali a really special occasion for the Jains to celebrate

6. In Malaysia, Diwali is known as ‘Hari Diwali’(except in Sarawak & Federal Territory of Labuan). The festival is also celebrated in the Caribbean, especially in Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana. Believe it or not, Diwali is a public holiday in these countries like in India

7. In Nepal, Diwali is known as Tihar and celebrated during the October/November period. Interestingly, on the fourth day Yama, the Lord of Death, is worshipped and appeased

8. Thailand celebrates Diwali under the name of Lam Kriyongh during the same time. Diyas (lamps) made of banana leaves are made and candles are placed on it along with a coin and incense

9. According to the great epic ‘Mahabharat’, it was ‘Kartik Amavashya’, the time Diwali is celebrated, when the Pandavas returned after twelve years of banishment

10. It is also said that on this very day Lord Vishnu rescued Goddess Lakshmi (and married her) from the prison of Demon king Bali and for that reason Goddess Lakshmi is worshipped on the day of Diwali

11. In Mauritius, Diwali celebration is an age-old tradition. It holds special significance for the natives, who believe that Diwali has been celebrated even long before the return of Lord Rama from 14 years of exile and his coronation as the king

12. Diwali celebrations were held in the White House in 2004, the first festival to be marked after US President George W Bush’s re-election

13. On the auspicious day of Diwali, Swami Dayanand Saraswati, founder of Brahma-Samaj, took Samadhi

14. Kashmiri Pandits have been celebrating Diwali for ages now. It is one of their oldest rituals, and in the scripture (Nilmat Puran) Diwali was called Sukhsuptika (means to sleep with happiness)

15. One of the unique rituals that makes Diwali in Orissa different from other parts of the country is the practice of calling upon the spirits of one’s dead ancestors