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celebrating the world

The idea came to me when I discovered that you can switch on hundreds of national holidays in your Google Calendar. I clicked everything on and it turned out that there is a reason to celebrate almost every day.

Great. I quickly found out though I had no idea most of these celebrations even existed. Maybe it would be an exaggeration to say that sometimes I didn’t know about the existence of a few of the countries as well but the fact is that the map of the world has definitely changed since my school days.

In this issue of WT we are presenting the effects of my „research” and the attempts to expand the international holiday calendar. I must admit it wasn’t easy: lunar, solar and solar/ lunar calendars, the sixteenth day of the eight moon, the third Monday of September, special algorithms for date conversion (obviously imprecise), dozens of websites: official ones, the Polish and English Wikipedia, blogs, tourist agencies – usually with contradictory information and links leading to nowhere. I would be surprised if there was not a single mistake in our calendar; if we didn’t miss a thing. We were in fact including only information we could find several sources for.

As we all know holidays are not only religious celebrations, there’s plenty of other „Days” like the national, international, EU and UN ones... Almost every job has its day too, I have even found the Culture Animator’s Day. It falls on the same day with the Printer’s Day, so we will gladly celebrate it next time together with our invaluable Mr Robert Kawka who is – for me – THE printer of the century.
Anyway, I hope we will provide you with many occasions for joyous celebration. Because even though the Power Engineer’s Day doesn’t really apply to many of us, the Desk Cleaning Day is certainly meaningful for a big percentage of population (don’t worry, there’s still plenty of time till January) and the Teddy Bear Day should please everyone.

Many holidays provoke reflection on the changes going through our culture and on the intricate paths of history. Like for example the fact that some countries instead of celebrating the traditional Columbus Day started celebrating Fighting to Keep Identity Days, Meeting of Cultures Days etc. – obviously leaving behind the so much promoted for centuries Europe-centric perspective. Or the fact that there are more and more holidays that are not actually „feasts”, e.g. the World’s Suicide Prevention Day or the International Ozone Layer Protection Day – let’s hope they will be celebrated on all the 365 days of the year. In Eastern Europe, in the ex Soviet Union (similar situations take place in many other countries too) – there are anniversaries completely conflicting with each other and still celebrated – on one hand for example the anniversary of the foundation of the Republic after the revolution what theoretically was a step towards democracy, while on the other a day commemorating the regaining of sovereignty much later – two sides of one coin.

On the two sides of a border two nations seem to commemorate the same event – yet for one of them it meant victory, fo the other – defeat. Apart from religious observances, every country in the world celebrates the Army Day, and/ or the anniversary of Revolution/ Uprisal/ War, whichever (either outbreak or end). And I’m afraid we’ll be getting more of them.

What was nice: masses of interesting information found en passant: I learnt that Lidia Zamenhof, the daughter of Ludwik Zamenhof who invented Esperanto, the universal language, was very active in the Baha’i movement – the universal faith. I learnt that the Inventor’s Day in Europe is celebrated on Hedy Lamarr’s birthday... How come? She was a Hollywood actress after all. Well, It happens that the American actress of Austrian origin invented (in 1942) an early form of spread spectrum communications technology – so it seems it is to her that we owe our cell phones today. I found a lot of most beautiful Holidays of the far East – obviously worth struggling with lunar and Zoroastrian calendars.

But the calendar itself, even though fascinating – was not enough. We wanted to personalise it. First – the photos (not like the ones we can see in travel magazines). Usually (not always though) depicting clashes of different worlds – the new with the old, the East with the West, but also showing ordinary scenes from ordinary lives of ordinary people, which are in fact totaly extraordinary.
And the texts. How we understand multiculturality, what were our contacts with different cultures like, also those encountered in our own environment. It turned out we all understood this notion differently and rather widely. The first comments were that these texts are sad.

Well, that’s the way it is. Sometimes somebody becomes a difficult experience for us, sometimes the situation that seemed perfect turns against us, sometimes meeting other cultures happens in an involuntary context, sometimes something valuable simply vanishes from the landscape. It is clear though that no matter how difficult, tiring or traumatic their experiences were non of our writers would want to change or erase them. Our experiences, meetings with different people, cultures and spaces don’t have to be blissful, because life is not a washing powder commercial nor a travel brochure. But does it make them less fascinating? Does it mean whe should tread towards the awaiting world with less openness? And does it mean that we have less reasons to celebrate?

Klara Kopcińska

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