Welcome to the David Victor Vector Blog

Welcome to the David Victor Vector blog. This is blog that covers religious observances around the world international affairs and global business. This blog describes religious holidays for most major religions as well as raising issues dealing with globalization, international business ethics, cross-cultural business communication and political events affecting business in an integrated world economy. I look forward your discussion and commentary on these articles and subjects. Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The PISA International Education Assessment Report

Big news in global education competitiveness arrived with today's much-anticipated release of the 2012 PISA (Program for International Assessment) results.

The PISA tests were run by the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) covering the performance of 15-year-olds in math, science and reading literacy. According to the report,
"Around 510 000 students between the ages of 15 years 3 months and 16 years 2 months completed the assessment in 2012, representing about 28 million 15-year-olds in the schools of the 65 participating countries and economies."
The 2012 report, it should be noted, is counting Shanghai as a separate economy, so there are really only 64 separate nations (counting Hong Kong and Macau as separate as well). China itself was not surveyed as a whole.

The survey covered all 34 members of the OECD as well as 31 non-OECD members.The nations are shown on the map below and listed in the box below.

PISA Participating Countries


Overall, the state of world education is improving -- at least as far as test scores indicate for those nations assessed. Of the 65 participating countries, 25 improved over previous years as an average across all three area. For reading literacy, the results are even more notable with 32 nations showing improvement over previous years.

Only one nation -- Poland -- was able to increase for all three categories its share of students falling in the highest performing category while reducing their share of students among the lowest performing category.

Still, in math, three nations -- Italy, Poland and Portugal -- were able to increase their share of students falling in the highest performing category while reducing their share of students among the lowest performing category.

Likewise in reading literacy three nations -- Albania, Israel and Poland -- were able to increase their share of students falling in the highest performing category while reducing their share of students among the lowest performing category.

In science, six nations -- Estonia, Israel, Italy, Poland, Qatar and Singapore -- were able to increase their share of students falling in the highest performing category while reducing their share of students among the lowest performing category.


Shanghai was tested as a separate entity. It ranked at the the top in all categories. Shanghai's mean score was 613. This was 119 points higher than the OECD average (an equivalent different of three years education).

Of note, the PRC as a whole did not participate. Only Shanghai was tested within the Mainland, while the separate entities of Hong Kong and Macau were included independently.

The top 10 performers for 2012 in each category included seven that were in the top ten in all three categories: Canada, Finland, Hong Kong, Japan, Shanghai, Singapore and South Korea. 

The Top 10 PISA Performers, 2012

 Bottom 5 PISA Performers, 2012

The worst performing participating nation was Peru, ranking 65th of 65 in all three categories.  The five worst-performing participating nations were Jordan (61), Colombia (62), Qatar (63), Indonesia (64) and -- as mentioned already--  Peru rounding off the very bottom. The bottom five jockeyed for position of worst in the different areas. For example, Colombia and Qatar tied for third worst math score with Indonesia as the second worst math score but both Colombia and Indonesia outperformed Qatar in reading scores, and so on as the chart below shows.

Bottom 5 PISA Performers, 2012

 Stagnant US PISA Results 2012

As for the US, the news was not so good. While most nations improved -- many dramatically so -- the US average in all three fields (math, science and reading literacy) remained unchanged from each of the last three assessments. In other words, the United States has had virtually the same performance (we're consistent at least) each year. To quote the US summary:

"The U.S. average mathematics, science, and reading literacy scores in 2012 were not measurably different from average scores in previous PISA assessment years with which comparisons can be made (2003, 2006 and 2009 for mathematics; 2006, and 2009 for science; and 2000, 2003, and 2009 for reading)"

Among OECD nations, the rankings are equally distressing with regard to the United States. For math in particular, the scores are grim. The US ranked 26 out of 34 with 1/4 of US students unable to get beyond the lowest (of 6) levels. For science, the US ranked 21 out of 34 in the OECD. For reading the US did better, ranking 17 out of 34 (still below but nonetheless nearer the OECD average).

Despite political arguments over cutting educational resources in the United States, the PISA report showed that the United States ranked fifth in spending per student from the ages of 6-15 among the 65 nations participating. Only Austria, Luxembourg, Norway and Switzerland spend more per student than does the United States. To put this in comparison, consider that the United States and the Slovak Republic ranked nearly the same in the PISA results. The Slovak Republic, however, cumulatively spends only $53,000 per student from 6-15 while the United States spends cumulatively over twice that amount per student from 6-15 at $115,000.

Regional PISA Result Differences

Significant regional differences within countries were noted as well. For example, in Italy math scores for the nation as a whole were 485, below the OECD mean average of 494. However, when broken into regions, the story was different.

When considered separately, Trento (at 524) and Friuli Venezia Giulia and the Vento (both at 523) had among the highest mean averages worldwide By contrast Sardina (at 458), Campania (at 453) and Sicily (at 447) were far below the OECD math average of 494.

Similarly, the US overall score of 481 in math was below the OECD average, but when Massachusetts was considered independently, the state ranked among the world leaders at 514 (tied with Germany as a nation).


For those wanting to read the report themselves, please go to the links below.

The PISA 2012 link on the OECD main site is at: http://www.oecd.org/pisa/keyfindings/pisa-2012-results.htm 

Also, many nations have their own summary links. Here, for instance, is the US summary link: http://nces.ed.gov/surveys/pisa/pisa2012/

Finally, in closing, it should be noted that the PISA results do not directly correlate with economic success. The  test scores only measure test-taking ability -- and even then only in math, science and reading literacy.  The tests do not cover creative activity or innovative thinking. Both of these are traditionally considered US strong points in global competitiveness, for example, but remain unmeasurable under the current testing.

Nevertheless, the implications of the PISA report is a significant for competitiveness in an economy that increasingly requires greater education.

This was my reading of the results. Please do share your views with me and let me know what you think.

Clip Art Sources

PISA banner: http://www.oecd.org/media/oecdorg/satellitesites/pisa/33958994.GIF

PISA participant map and list: http://www.oecd.org/pisa/pisaproducts/PISA%202012%20framework%20e-book_final.pdf

Top 10 PISA table: http://www.riazhaq.com/2011/12/pisa-timss-confirm-low-quality-of.html

Bottom 5 PISA Performers table: Own compilation based on PISA report

US Flag:  http://www.bing.com/images/search?q=Printable+Pictures+of+USA+Flag&Form=IQFRDR#a

Monday, November 25, 2013

Chanukah 2013 -- The First and Only Coinciding of US Thanksgiving with Chanukah

As part of my religious holiday observance descriptions, I would like to share with you that the Jewish holiday of Chanukah for 2013 begins at sunset on Wednesday night November 27 and lasts for eight days concluding at sunset on Thursday December 5

Chanukah is one of the minor Jewish festivals, although it has received a great deal of emphasis in majority-Christmas countries because of its (usually) close proximity to the Christian celebration of Christmas. This year -- 2013 -- the US holiday of Thanksgiving coincides for the first time with the first day of Chanukah. To that end, I describe the significance of this dating first in this blog. After that, you will find details on the holiday of Chanukah itself.

Chanukah and Thanksgiving: A Once in Eternity Coincidence
For those in the United States, 2013 holds a particularly significant dating for Chanukah since this is the first -- and ONLY -- time that the first day of Chanukah has or ever will fall begin on the US secular holiday of Thanksgiving. 

This deserves some explanation.
Because the Jewish calendar follows the moon and so does not follow the standard solar secular calendar, the dates of Chanukah seem to travel between November and January. For example, in 2012, the holiday began on the night of December 8 and ended at sunset on December 16.  In fact, though on the Jewish calendar, the dates are always the 25th of the Hebrew month of Kislev through the 3rd of the Hebrew month of Tevet. 

Lincoln's Thanksgiving Proclamation
Thanksgiving was set by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863 in the midst of the American Civil War (or War Between the States for those with Southern perspectives on the conflict). President Lincoln set the date as the fourth Thursday of November from there on.  

The Jewish calendar repeats on an approximately 19-year cycle.The date of Thanksgiving repeats on a 7-year cycle. From this, it logically follows that Thanksgiving and the first day of Chanukah would come together every 133 years (that is every 19 times 7 years).   The earliest possible date in the Gregorian (secular) calendar that Chanukah can fall in the existing system is November 28 (that is, the date on which it falls this year).
The last time that the Jewish calendar aligned in such a way that the first day of Chanukah fell on the fourth Thursday of November was in 1861. This was, therefore, two years before President Lincoln would set the date officially. This makes 2013 the first year in which Chanukah fell on the fourth Thursday of November. 

Logically, the next time this should occur would be in 133 years which would be the year 2146 in the secular calendar. That said, there is another factor. The Jewish calendar is slightly out of sync with the Gregorian calendar. The rate of change is actually approximately 4 days per every 1000 years (roughly one day each 250 years, although not exactly so). That change is actually set to occur within the next 133 years.  This means that for the next couple of 19-year cycles, Chanukah can still fall on November 28, but by time the complete cycle will have run its course, the Jewish calendar will have shifted so that the earliest the first day of Chanukah will be able to fall will be November 29. This would no longer allow the first day of Chanukah to fall on the fourth Thursday of November.

As a result, 2013 will be the first and only alignment of US Thanksgiving with the first day of Chanukah... with one exception. Assuming that the Jewish calendar will progress through the entire Gregorian calendar without modification (itself unlikely), the realignment over the cycle of 4 days change per 1000 years would make it possible to have the first day of Chanukah fall on the fourth Thursday of November 77,798 years (that is Thursday, November 28 in the year 79811).

Turkey-themed Menorah

Because of its uniqueness, many US Jews have made much of the unusual pairing of US Thanksgiving with the first day of Chanukah.
Many have good-humoredly called the holiday "Thanksgivukah" and many have combined decorations and the like for the two holidays.  This has resulted in turkey-themed menorahs (for what a menorah is, please see below). These so-called "menurkahs" have the turkey tail feathers as holders for the eight lights of Chanukah. 



Holiday Name
Another point of confusion is the spelling of the name.  Since many sounds in the Hebrew alphabet do not have an equivalent in the English alphabet, there is no accepted way to spell the holiday in English. This carries over even into Hebrew where it already has two spellings: both חנכה or חנוכ.   As a result, English spellings for the holiday have 12 variations in use today: Chanukah, Hannukah, Hanukah, Chanuka, Chanukkah, Hanuka, Channukah, Hanukka, Hanaka, Haneka, Hanika and Khanukkah. 

The word itself means “Dedication” in Hebrew, which itself is a shortening of chanukat ha-mizbeiach meaning “dedication of the altar” or chanukat ha-bayit meaning “dedication of the house” (in this case, the House of the Lord, the Temple in Jerusalem). In English, the holiday is commonly referred to as the “Festival of Lights” because of the candle-lighting ceremony.

A Minor Holiday

Chanukah is one of the minor festivals in Judaism.  As a result, while the holiday has been celebrated for centuries by Jews worldwide, it does not carry the importance of the Jewish New Year, Day of Atonement, Sukkot or Passover.  Chanukah then is not as important as the Christian Christmas. 

That said, though, it is important to note that Chanukah has become especially significant among Jews living in Christian countries, especially the United States, Canada, France, Australia and Argentina -- even among fairly non-religious or secular Jews --wanting to assimilate into the surrounding culture with an equivalent to the gift-giving season surrounding Christmas. 

Traditionally Jews exchanged gifts on Purim, and actually did not exchange gifts on Chanukah aside from small items for children (chocolate coins, called Chanukah gelt, are an example).  This is still largely the case among Jews in Israel, India and Moslem countries, as well as more traditional Jews in Europe and the Americas.

The History Behind the Holiday
Alexander the Great

Chanukah remembers the freedom from persecution by the Seleucid (Greco-Syrian) Empire in the 2nd century BC (or BCE). The Seleucids had tried to forcibly assimilate the Jews into Greek culture.  After Alexander the Great overthrew Darius III in 330 BC, Greeks ruled the entirety of the former Persian Empire, including what is now Israel. Following Alexander’s death in 323 BCE, his empire split up with one of his general’s Ptolemy I Soter (the “Saviour”) of Egypt, taking over the part of Alexander’s empire that had included Egypt and Israel while another general, Seleucus, taking over what had been Babylonia. The portion under Seleucus became the Seleucid Greek Empire.  Alexander the Great had allowed the free practice of all religions, including Judaism. This tradition of respecting freedom of religion was continued under Ptolemy I Soter. This practice of tolerance, however, was not a priority in the Seleucid Greek Empire.

Ptolemaic Egypt and the Seleucid Greeks fought a series of wars (called the Syrian Wars), as the Seleucids tried to expand to the west. In 223 BCE, Antiochus III the Great ascended to the Seleucid throne, and successfully expanded his empire westward, winning the area that is now Israel, Lebanon and Syria in the Fifth Syrian War (202-195 BCE) taking Jerusalem in 200 BCE. When the Seleucid Greeks ousted the Ptolemaic Egyptians from Israel, the era of religious tolerance began to be erased.

The Seleucid Greeks prided themselves on the universalism of their culture and believed strongly that their values could be promoted throughout the world.  Moreover, most of the peoples the Greeks conquered readily assimilated to Greek culture. Indeed, before the Seleucid conquest of the region and the subsequent persecution of the Jews, the Ptolemaic Greeks had been quite successful in assimilating a large number of Jews. These assimilated Jews were called the Hellenist Jews. The Hellenist Jews gave up their religious practices but maintained and even shared with Greek society as a whole many of their cultural traditions (language, foods, non-religious tales). For Hellenist Jews, Greek culture was seen as progressive and modern.  Greeks and Hellenist Jews alike considered those Jews who held to their faith and did not assimilate to be zealots and unenlightened.  Many of the issues surrounding assimilation to various cultures throughout the centuries have been related to the Chanukah story as a result.

Antiochus IV Epiphanes

Antiochus III’s successor as Seleucid ruler was Antiochus IV Epiphanes (215-163 BCE). Antiochus IV Epiphanes (meaning “God’s manifestation”) found that those Jews who refused to assimilate became intolerable. Antiochus IV outlawed Jewish religious practice making it illegal to observe the Jewish Sabbath or circumcise children, and requiring, among other things, that Jews formally recognize the Greek deity Zeus as the supreme deity and dedicated the Temple at Jersulalem to Zeus. The Seleucids also required Jews to sacrifice and eat pigs (which Jews consider unkosher).  Jews who resisted were burnt at the stake, frequently with Torah scrolls wrapped around them to start the fire. In 167 BCE after the Jews resisted with force, Antiochus IV took extreme actions. According 2 Maccabees 5:11-14:

When these happenings were reported to the king, he thought that Judea was in revolt. Raging like a wild animal, he set out from Egypt and took Jerusalem by storm. He ordered his soldiers to cut down without mercy those whom they met and to slay those who took refuge in their houses. There was a massacre of young and old, a killing of women and children, a slaughter of virgins and infants. In the space of three days, eighty thousand were lost, forty thousand meeting a violent death, and the same number being sold into slavery.
As a side note, both Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox traditions consider both books of the Maccabees to be part of the Biblical canon. By contrast, neither Jews nor Protestants consider either of the two books of the Maccabees as canonical sources.

Significantly, the Jews were the only religion among the peoples that Antiochus conquered that he persecuted.  For example, after his conquest of Babylon, Antiochus III actually rebuilt many of the temples and infrastructure that had been destroyed.  Hellenic culture – generally considered one of the most enlightened in history – regularly incorporated values of other cultures into its own. 

The Focus of the Celebration

Chanukah celebrates the victory in 166 BC (or BCE) of the Hasmonean Jews – led by Judah Maccabee and his brothers – over the Seleucid (Greco-Syrian) Empire. However, as Judaism disdains war and therefore would not condone a holiday over a military event, the holiday focuses instead on the “dedication” (in Hebrew “Chanukah”) of the Temple in Jerusalem, which the Seleucids had desecrated by converting it into a center of idol-worship. 

The Menorah Lighting

The miracle of Chanukah occurred with the rekindling the menorah (candelabra) in the Temple. The Jewish Talmud explains that when the Maccabees removed the idols of Greek gods from the Temple and attempted to light the six-branched menorah in the Temple, they could find only enough consecrated oil to light the holy lamp for one day. The miracle came when – as Jewish belief holds -- the oil continued to burn for eight days until new consecrated oil could be obtained.  Hence, today Jews celebrate the holiday by lighting one candle on an eight-branched candleholder (called a menorah or chanukiya) each night for eight nights.

Chanukah Traditions

Potato latkes

Several traditions are associated with Chanukah.  During religious services, special psalms and prayers are recited as well.

Eating special foods is also part of the holiday. These include eating items made in oil such as potato pancakes called latkes. These are served with an accompaniment of sour cream or of something sweet (usually apple sauce or sugar). The latke itself is not particular Jewish in origin. The potato pancake made in the same manner as the Jewish latke is considered the national dish of Belarus and remains a traditional dish in Luxembourgish, German, Austrian, Polish, Czech, Hungarian, Slovak, Russian, Ukrainian and Latvian cuisines. Other cuisines (notably, Irish, Indian, Persian, Swedish and Swiss) have variations of potato pancakes but differ from the compact patty of those just cited above including the latke.
For a recipe on how to make latkes, please see Sunset.com's "Perfect Latkes" at
Sufganiyah being injected with jelly
Another traditional food cooked with oil are special doughnuts called sufganiyah (plural: sufganiot).  Sufganiot are round doughnuts that are deep-fried in oil. While still hot, the sufganiyah is then injected full of jelly. The dough has a spongy texture which is where the doughnut gets its name (sfog in Hebrew means "sponge"). Although more spherical in shape, the sufaniot are very similar to the Polish pączki
For a recipe with photos on how to make sufganiyot, please see eGCI Forum: Sufganiyot at

The significance for both latkes and sufganiyot is that they are made in oil. In this way, they are both meant to recall the oil that burned in the lamps for eight days. 

The giving out of gelt (or chocolate candies made to look like coins) comes as a reminder that the Seleucids had confiscated all the possessions of the Jews.  It is from the giving of gelt that the tradition of gift-giving was developed in Christian countries as an assimiliative gesture to Christmas.


The song Ma'oz Tzur (often translated as "Rock of Ages") is a traditional song of the holiday. A common English translation is

Rock of Ages, let our song, Praise Thy saving power
Thou amidst the raging foes, Wast our sheltering tower
Furious they assailed us, But Thine arm availed us
And thy word broke their sword, When our own strength failed us.
And thy word broke their sword, When our own strength failed us.
Another popular song in both Hebrew and English is Mi Y'maleil? or Who Can Recall. A common English translation of this song begins:

Who can tell of the feats of Israel
Who can count them?
In every age a hero arose to save the people.
Who can tell of the feats of Israel
Who can count them?

In every age, a hero or sage came to our aid.

For the Jews of Yemen traditionally Chanukah was a sort of Jewish “trick-or-treat” time when children would go door to door collected wicks for the oil-burning menorahs used there. People would then give the children wicks along with candy and fruit. If the children received no wicks and treats, they chanted that these people were misers (the trick equivalent).

The Dreidel

Another tradition is to play with a four-sided top called a dreidel.  On the sides of the dreidel are the Hebrew letters of the first words of the four-word Hebrew phrase that translates: “A great miracle happened there.”  In Israel, the fourth letters on the dreidel are different than elsewhere as the phrase translates as “A great miracle happened here.”


I want to share briefly here that the main purpose of this blog post is to discuss the religious holiday of Chanukah. Thanksgiving is primarily a secular US holiday in this context.

Thanksgiving in the United States is usually celebrated with family gatherings and the eating of turkey and fall harvest specialties.It recognizes the first fall of the Pilgrims, the Puritan founders of Massachusetts.
It should be noted that other nations have their own Thanksgiving holidays but on different days than that of the United States. These include Canada (second Monday of October), Grenada (October 25) and Liberia (first Thursday of November). The Netherlands celebrates the same Thanksgiving as the United States (last Thursday of November) as a minor secular holiday in the city of Leiden (where the US Pilgrims lived before setting off for North America). 

It should also be noted that the US Thanksgiving has some controversy about it. Many Native Americans celebrate the holiday as an official day of mourning to commemorate how the initial hospitality the Pilgrims received in Plymouth was the beginning of the destruction of the way of life for North America's original inhabitants.Across the United States, many Native American groups hold public ceremonies of mourning on the day.  For more on this, please see Michelle Tirado's excellent article "The Wampanoag Side of the First Thanksgiving Story" at  

Please note that the Native American response to this is widely unknown among much of the rest of the US population and when it is known has become the subject of outrage and angry reactions, especially among European Americans and African Americans.

Another controversy is that the holiday specifically calls for giving thanks to God while the United States is at least superficially a secular society. This falls into the controversy of the so-called "culture wars" in the United States which pits those who believe the secularization of the the country is against the Puritan foundations of the nation and those who believe the insertion of religion is against the wishes of the nation's Founding Fathers.  It should be noted that the pro-secular movement continues to support Thanksgiving as a holiday, but only expresses concern about its religious orientation when such issues surface. For a clear summary of the anti-secularization view of this controversy, please see G. Jeffrey MacDonald's excellent article "The culture wars make a stop at Thanksgiving" at

For the pro-secularization of US Thanksgiving, please see Austin Cline's "Godless Thanksgiving: Do Atheists Have Anyone to Thank? Thanksgiving is Not a Christian or a Religious Holiday" at
Whatever else can be said, though, Thanksgiving is a widely celebrated holiday in the United States and, as mentioned already, not really the focus of this blog.


As always, I welcome your comments and input. 

Happy Chanukah! Happy Thanksgiving! Happy Thanksgivukkah!

Want to read more?

You may wish to read more about the general background to the holiday at

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Second Issue GABC Journal Is Published

I am delighted to announce the second issue of the Global Advances in Business Communication (GABC) Journal. As Editor-in-Chief of the Journal, I wanted to announce it here on my blog. 

The second issue of the GABC Journal is available for free on line at  

The journal as a whole is available at:


The GABC Journal is a peer-reviewed journal jointly published by the University of Antwerp, the Technological University of Malaysia and Eastern Michigan University.   I am the Editor-in-Chief. The Associate Editors are S. Paul Verluyten at the University of Antwerp and Hadina Habil of the Technological University of Malaysia.

The GABC Journal publishes original research on interdisciplinary business practices which shape and are shaped by the changing nature and level of global business communication.  To this end, the GABC Journal publishes articles that contribute to the knowledge, theory and practice of the global aspects of business communication in one or more of the following areas:
  •  International and cross-cultural business communication and negotiations
  • Global integrated marketing communication (IMC) and public relations
  • Global business ethics and communication (including international law, government-business relations)
  • Languages for business and managerial communication
  • E-Semantics*

      *E-Semantics is a term coined for the GABC Journal referring to the cross-cultural, language-based international issues associated with search terms, string searches, social media expression, web design, web site user friendliness and electronic advertising keywords



This second issue features the articles listed below (the article titles link to the articles themselves)::

Ø    David Victor (Eastern Michigan University),  Addressing Global Advances in Business Communication from a Global Perspective

Ø    Yvonne McLaren-Hankin (Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, Scotland), 
Communicating Luxury to an International Audience: The Case of Scottish Cashmere

Ø    Naoki Kameda (Doshisha University, Kyoto), Japanese Global Companies: The Shift from Multinationals to Multiculturals

Ø   Renata Kolodziej-Smith, Daniel Patrick Friesen, Attila Yaprak (Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan), Does Culture Affect how People Receive and Resist Persuasive Messages? Research Proposals about Resistance to Persuasion in Cultural Groups

Please download all of the articles in this issue.  Our first issue has been very successful with respect to downloads. Indeed, as of October 15, the first issue has had 7310 downloads. This is extremely high for a new journal in a specialized field.


The GABC Journal welcomes articles in all rigorous research methods including both qualitative, theoretical modeling and quantitative approaches.

The GABC Journal applies masked reviews in which an editor and at a minimum of two subject-related experts examine submitted manuscripts.


Now that the first issue is out, the GABC Journal is looking for its next issue of original articles (not under consideration elsewhere). This would be
  • ·    Traditional scholarly studies of 15-35 double-spaced pages, excluding references, notes, and appendices.
  •           Commentaries of 10-14 pages, excluding references, notes, and appendices.

Quantitative manuscripts must report estimates of reliability for all dependent measures, variance accounted for in tests of significance, and power estimates when tests fail to achieve significance. Content analysis employing quantitative measures should note intercoder reliability. Survey research should describe the sampling frame (relevant population), sampling method, sample unit, and response rate. Qualitative research must note standards used to insure the quality and verification of the presented interpretation.

All manuscripts must be in English, following the format specified in the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (5th edition). You may use either U.S. or British spelling, but use U.S. punctuation.  Authors must remove all personal and institutional identification from the body of the submission.

For further information and more detailed guidelines or to submit a manuscript, please go to the main site for the journal at http://commons.emich.edu/gabc/    

Please do submit.


Friday, September 20, 2013

Autumn Equinox, Mabon, and Moon Festival

For 2017,  the Autumnal Equinox falls on Friday September 22 (at least in the Northern Hemisphere).

The Autumnal Equinox is a holiday in several traditions. In Wicca, neo-Druidic and neo-Pagan traditions, it is celebrated as Mabon, Alban Elfed or Mea'n Fo'mhair .

In Japanese Buddhist tradition, it is celebrated as Higan. In Chinese and Vietnamese Buddhist tradition, it is celebrated as the Moon Festival Zōngqiū Jié in Chinese and Tết Trung Thu in Vietnamese. In the East Asian traditions, the holiday may be celebrated at dates varying from the actual equinox and may run for several days. In 2017, for instance both Zōngqiū Jié and Tết Trung Thu falls on October 4. In China, the holiday covers from October 1-8 in 2017. 

While this is a significant holiday for all of  these faiths, it is not a day that would normally require the absence from class or work of faculty, staff or students. That said, those asking for accommodation should be allowed.

In neo-Druidic, neo-Pagan and Wiccan traditions, the Autumnal Equinox is viewed as a Major Sabbath. In all of these traditions, the holiday is celebrated as a harvest festival and as a time to recognize the balance in all things. 

A Wiccan Mabon altar
In all of these traditions, Autumn Equinox altars are set up that represent the balance of light and dark as well as the thankfulness for the harvest. Symbols of the balance of light and dark are placed on the altar (black and white objects of equal size and hanging balances). Symbols of the season on the altar typically reflect the fall colors (oranges, yellows and browns), the end of the harvest (sheaves of wheat, corn husks) and the bounty of the autumn harvest (squash, pumpkin, fall fruits). In some traditions (notably in Wicca), tools of the harvest (scythes and sickles) are also placed on the altar. 
Green Man of the Forest
For neo-Druids and some pagans, the Autumnal Equinox is celebrated as Mea'n Fo'mhair. In this tradition, neo-Druids gather in wooded areas and give offerings of the fall harvest (not only of berries but also of pine cones, acorns, apples and cider) to honor the Green Man of the Forest.   Such woodland harvest offerings are still practiced by neo-Druids and modern pagan (largely in England, Scotland and Ireland but with increasing practice in the US, Canada and New Zealand).


In other neo-Pagan traditions (and notably in the Welsh tradition), the holiday has been known for centuries as Alban Elfed or the “Light of the Sun.” In this tradition, the same sort of offerings are proferred but to “The Lady” who is also called the “Spirit of the Land.”

In Wicca and neo-Pagan traditions the Autumnal Equinox is known as Mabon. This is one of the four Major Sabbats in the eight points of the Wheel of the Year. Mabon marks the time at which day and night are in total balance, and is accompanied by personal efforts of members of these faith to find a similar balance in their lives. 

Mabon is primarily a Wiccan name for the Autumnal Equinox. Other names used by Wiccans and others include the Harvest Moon or the Harvest Home. 

Unlike the ancient names of Mea'n Fo'mhair and Alban Elfed, the Wiccan version of the holiday has been called Mabon only since the latter half of the 20th Century. Unlike many other Wiccan holidays, no corresponding name exists in ancient pagan traditions. Instead, the name was coined by the US Wiccan leader Aidan Kelley soon after the formation in 1967 of the NROOGD (New Reformed Orthodox Order of the Golden Dawn), one of the most important popularizers of the Wiccan faith.Kelley’s adoption of the name Mabon was to honor the early Welsh pagan divine son deity Mabon fab Mellt.
Both in ancient Druidic tradition and in modern neo-Druidic, pagan and Wiccan practice, offerings are often proffered in a horn of plenty called a cornucopia. As a result, Cornucopia is another name some practitioners use for the holiday. 

In Wicca, the holiday recognizes balance in all things. Mabon altars are set with symbols of balance as well the autumn harvest.

It should be noted that while the name Mabon has been growing in popularity in the UK and Ireland, many neo-Druids strongly oppose the term as a neologism. As a result, while it would be appropriate to wish a Wiccan a “Happy Mabon,” this may not be as appreciated for some neo-Druids and modern pagans.

Archangel Michael trampling Satan
by Guido Reni (1636)
When Christianity first spread in the Celtic regions, the Roman Catholic Church attempted to syncretize existing pagan practices by co-opting the celebration of the Autumnal Equinox with a Christian overlay.
To this end, the Church placed great emphasis on Michaelmas which, falling on September 29, came near the same time.  In this co-opting Catholic tradition, the Archangel Michael came to represent the power of light over darkness, an important attribute as the length of daylight began to shorten. 
Today, religious services honoring the Archangel Michael are still practiced in some Roman Catholic, Episcopalian and Lutheran congregations, especially in the United Kingdom. A folk custom still in evidence in the parts of the British Isles warns that it is unlucky to harvest blackberries after Michaelmas, as they have been cursed at that time by Lucifer.This custom that it is unlucky to harvest in the woods most likely has its origin in the woodland offerings of the autumnal harvest in pre-Christian Britain described above.
In Japanese, Chinese and Vietnamese Buddhist traditions, the Autumnal Equinox is celebrated as a significant festival, centered on the moon. It is sometimes called the Moon Festival as a result.
Higan is the Japanese celebration of the equinoxes. Higan is celebrated at both the Autumnal Equinox and the Vernal (Spring) Equinox. On both days, the holiday is an official public holiday in Japan. Buddhists of all major sects in Japan observe Higan.

Emperor Shomu
The holiday has its origins with the institution of worship on that day by the 8th Century Japanese Emperor Shomu. The first official records of its celebration date to the year 806 CE when the government of Japan required all priests in Kokubun-ji temples to recite the Diamond Sutra at the Autumnal Equinox.
Higan in Japanese literally means "the Other Shore." The term can refer to crossing to the other shore from the material world (i.e., to Enlightenment). The term can also refer to the transitory nature of the the material world (as all things are impermanent and must die, thus crossing to the other shore).
In Japan, Higan is traditionally a day for honoring the graves of the dead. The Guide to Japanese Buddhism of the Japanese Buddhist Federation explains:

During this period, it is customary for Buddhists throughout the country to visit temples and graves. They bring flowers, incense, water or their favorite food to be to be offered to the deceased and greet them with refreshed minds to report on their well-being.
Higan is also traditionally one of the days for the beginning of pilgrimages among the country's temples by the devout.
The Autumnal Equinox is celebrated as the Moon Festival or Moon-Cake Festival in Chinese and Vietnamese traditons. In both countries, the holiday is an official day off. Also in both countries, the holiday dates back thousands of years.

Vietnamese Moon Festival Lion Dancers
In Vietnam, the holiday is called Tết Trung Thu. The holiday focuses in large part on children, and has its origins in giving parents the opportunity to be with their children after long periods out of their company during the traditional harvest time. Because of this, the holiday is often called the "Children's Holiday."

Tết Trung Thu is the second most important in the year after Tet. In China, the holiday is also given considerable importance. The holiday is particularly marked by the traditional Lion Dance with lion dancers going door to door asking to dance. These are often performed by children, although professional lion dancers are a part of main events.

Chang-E's flight to the moon
In China, the holiday is known as Zōngqiū Jié. In Chinese tradition, the holiday has its origins in the tale of the mythical Chang-E who ate her husband's dangerous elixir to save him, and flew to the moon as a consequence where she became the moon goddes. As with Vietnamese traditions, the Moon Festival is tied to the Fall Harvest.

While the origins of the Chinese Moon Festival predates historical records, the first known observances go back to at least the Zhou Dynasty (1046-256 BCE).

In many Han Chinese traditions, sacrifices are made to the moon. In many Chinese ethnic minorities, unique customs are practiced. For example, among the Dong people, there is a custom of "stealing" harvested vegetables and fruit (this is, however, only symbolically stolen as these are set out for the purpose). The Bouyei people worship the Moon Grandmother, and bring rice cakes to her shrine. The Maonan people put incense in a hanging grapefruit, to represent the moon. Finally, in some Mongolian traditions, there are practices centered on chasing the moon.
In all traditions, the festival celebrates the autumnal harvest. As the name Moon-Cake Festival suggests, it is customary to eat Moon Cakes at this time.

 Vietnamese Banh trung thu
In Vietnam, Moon Cakes are called banh trung thu and are made up of ground beans, lotus and egg yolks. These are sold at street corners throughout Vietnam and made at home as well. A recipe for banh trung thu  can be found on the Viet World Kitchen site at:



As always in these write-ups, I welcome your feedback. This in no way endorses one practice or another. It is merely meant to be informational.

Please feel free to send me corrections or things you would like me to include next time (and feel equally free to let me know if you find these worthwhile).
May you have a balance in your life on this Autumnal Equinox and a happy Moon Festival!
On Wiccan, neo-Pagan and neo-Druidic traditions:

Celtic Druid School, "Autumn Equinox":
Crystal Links, "Autumn Equinox -- Mabon": http://www.crystalinks.com/autumn.html
Mystic Familiar, "Alban Elfed -- Autumn Equinox": http://www.mysticfamiliar.com/library/witchcraft/alban_lfed.html

Sagento A, Spell Research, "A Mabon Outline": http://spellresearch.com/spellbook/1993/10/12/a-mabon-outline.html

Wicca Chat, "Mabon": http://www.wicca-chat.com/witch_sabats/mabon.htm

Wiggington, Patti, About.com -- Paganism/Wicca, "All About Mabon, the Autumn Equinox": http://paganwiccan.about.com/od/mabontheautumnequinox/a/AllAboutMabon.htm

On Higan

Japanese Buddhist Federation, Guide to Japanese Buddhism, "Major Japanese Buddhist Festivals":http://www.buddhanet.net/nippon/nippon_partII.html

Zenku Smyers, Zen Buddhist Temple of Chicago,  "The Other Shore": http://www.zbtc.org/downloads/zenku-othershore.html

Time and Date, "September Equinox Customs": http://www.timeanddate.com/calendar/september-equinox-customs.html

On the Moon Festival

China Culture, About.com, "The Moon Festival": http://chineseculture.about.com/library/weekly/aa093097.htm

Michael Tartaski, Holidaysia, "Tet Trung Thu 2013 – Vietnam’s Mid-Autumn Festival": http://www.holidaysia.com/events/tet-trung-thu/

Passion Vietnam, "Full Moon (Mid-Autumn) Festival": http://www.passionvietnamtravel.com/en/nord-du-viet-nam/full-moon-mid-autumn-festival.html

Travel China Guide, "Mid-Autumn Festivals": http://www.travelchinaguide.com/essential/holidays/mid-autumn.htm

Fang Yang, Xinhua News Agency, "The Mid-Autumn Festival and Its Traditions": http://news.xinhuanet.com/english2010/culture/2011-09/12/c_131134150.htm


Autumn equinox opening clip art: http://www.examiner.com/images/blog/EXID22753/images/AutumnEquinox.jpg

A Wiccan Mabon altar: http://paganwiccan.about.com/od/mabontheautumnequinox/p/MabonAltarDecs.htm

Green Man of the Forest: http://salemsmoon.files.wordpress.com/2013/09/greenman1_thumb.jpg?w=198&h=205

Mabon blessings: http://www.owlsdaughter.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/Mabon_Blessings_by_FullMoonArtists.jpg

Guido Reni's Archangel Michael Trampling Satan: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Guido_Reni_031.jpg

Emperor Shomu: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/3/3f/Emperor_Shomu.jpg/220px-Emperor_Shomu.jpg

Vietnamese Moon Festival Lion Dancers: http://www.passionvietnamtravel.com/en/nord-du-viet-nam/full-moon-mid-autumn-festival.html

Chang-E's Flight to the Moon: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/b3/The_Moon_Goddess_of_Chang%27e_%28Shi_Yu%29.jpg

Vietnamese banh trung thu :http://www.vietworldkitchen.com/blog/2009/10/how-to-make-moon-cakes-banh-trung-thu.html