Green March – Morocco

November 6


Nope, this has little to do with the environmental movement. Green here signifies the religion of Islam, and the March in question was led by Moroccans protesting Spain’s continued occupation of the Western Sahara (then Spanish Sahara) well into the 1970s.

The Green March was orchestrated by Morocco’s King Hasan II who emphasized Western Sahara’s long-standing ties with his country.

In 1975, faced with growing international opposition and fighting within the territory, Spain announced the possibility of creating an independent state out of Spanish Sahara.

However, both Morocco and Mauritania (to the southeast) had claims to the territory. Hasan took the case to the International Court of Justice. The Court determined that there were ties between the Saharan territory and Morocco, but that the ties were not substantial at the time of Spain’s colonization of the territory; thus the Court recommended a Saharan referendum on self-determination.

In a televised announcement, Hasan emphasized the first part of the Court’s recommendation—the territory’s ties to Morocco—and called on Moroccans to liberate Spanish Sahara by means of a massive peaceful march.

On November 6, 1975, around 350,000 unarmed Moroccans assembled on their southern border and crossed over into then-Spanish territory calling for the return of Moroccan Sahara. The Spanish commanders refused to fire on the unarmed civilians as Hasan had predicted. The Green March went off peacefully and triumphantly. Later that month Spain agreed to temporary joint administration of the territory with Morocco and Mauritania, after which Western Sahara would be split between the two African nations.

Mauritania withdrew from Western Sahara in 1979 after a guerrilla war movement in favor of Saharan independence. The anniversary of Green March is a triumphant holiday in Morocco, although the call for independence is still hotly debated in Western Sahara.

Morocco Since 1830: A History, by C.R. Pennell

Why Green?

There’s little evidence in the Qur’an for green’s emergence as the color most symbolic of Islam, but numerous Muslim countries include green on their flags. In fact Libya’s flag is entirely green, the only single-color banner in the world.

One Surah (76:21) does notes that in paradise, denizens will be clad in green robes of fine silk.

Other sources claim that the Prophet Muhammad wore green and used green in his armies’ banners.

Still other theologians point to green as the color of nature and of life. So in a sense the Green March may have been related  to the environmental movement after all…

Russian Unity Day

November 4


Russia’s current incarnation of Unity Day dates all the way back to the early 21st century. Yep, it’s fairly new in that respect, but the reason for the celebration goes back to 1612.

In the early 17th century Russia faced full-scale invasion from its Polish-Lithuanian neighbors to the West. These days it’s hard to think of Russia as threatened by Poland and Lithuania, but in 1569 the latter two formed a mighty union known as the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.

The Polish army got as far east as Moscow, and surprisingly 5000 Polish cavalry defeated a force of 35,000 Russian soldiers outside the city, a devastating loss to the Russian army and public morale.

This was known as the Time of Troubles in Russia, referring to the period when Russia lacked a Tsar. Tsar Feodor Ivanovich died in 1598 without heir. The Romonov dynasty would not emerge as the clear leader of the country and reestablish the Tsardom until 1613.

In 1612 a local merchant named Kuzma Minin gathered a ragtag volunteer “national militia” to fight against the Poles. Led by Knyaz Dmitry Pozharsky, the group laid siege to the city and finally ousted the the Poles from Moscow in October (Old Calendar) that year.

The Russians began celebrating the anniversary of the ouster on October 22 (Oct. 22 O.S./Nov. 4 New) in the generations thereafter.

After the formation of the Soviet Union the celebration lost popularity in favor of the anniversary of the 1917 October Revolution.

In 2005 Russia re-established November 4 (October 22 Old School) as Russia’s Unity Day.

Today the main square of the Kremlin is named for Minin and Pozharsky, though Pozharsky gets the short end of the deal, as it’s known colloquially as Minin Square.

"Appeal of Minin", Makovsky, 1896
"Appeal of Minin", Makovsky, 1896

Bunka no Hi – Culture Day – Japan

November 3


In Japan, November 3 is Culture Day, or “Bunka no Hi“. The present incarnation dates only to 1948, but Bunka no Hi follows a much older tradition. November 3 was the birthday of the Meiji Emperor (1852-1912) which was celebrated by the whole nation during the Emperor’s reign. The Meiji Emperor is credited for, among other things, ushering Japan into the modern era.

November 3 is also the anniversary of the creation of the post-war Constitution in 1946.

On Bunka no Hi the government awards the Bunka Kunsho—Order of Culture Awards. These are the highest academic and cultural achievement awards in the nation.

Each region has its own ways of celebrating the holiday, but throughout Japan, many communities host parades on November 3. Participants wear the uniforms and dress of olden days and remember the traditions of a bygone era.

“Empty-handed I entered the world
Barefoot I leave it.
My coming, my going —
Two simple happenings
That got entangled.”

— Kozan Ichikyo

Photos and article of Bunka no Hi

All Souls Day

November 2

…For it’s the turn of the year and All Souls’ night,
When the dead can hear and the dead have sight…

Edith Wharton, All Souls

All Souls Day - Aladar Korosfoi-Kriesch

Whereas All Saints Day recognizes the departed whose souls have found refuge in Heaven, All Souls Day remembers those restless spirits still lingering in Purgatory.

All Souls Day originated not in Rome but France.

Around 820 Amalarius of Metz (northwest of Strasbourg) wrote “After the offices of the saints, I have inserted an office for the dead. For many pass over from this present age who are not immediately united with the saints.” (ie. “don’t go directly to heaven.”)

In the early 11th century, St. Odilo, fifth abbot of the Cluny monastery, officiated the feast of All Souls on November 2. Over the century, the tradition was adopted by dioceses across Western Europe.

On All Souls Day, families visit the graves of their loved ones and light candles in their memory.

Fear not the shudder that seems to pass:
It is only the tread of the their feet on the grass…
…For the year’s on the turn and it’s All Souls’ night,
When the dead can yearn and the dead can smite…

…Let them see us and hear us, and say: “Ah, thus
In the prime of the year it went with us!”

All Souls Day is celebrated on November 2, unless the 2nd falls on a Sunday, in which case it’s observed on Monday, November 3 as was the case in 2008.

All Saints Day

November 1

Every day of the Catholic calendar honors at least one Saint.

But for all those Saints who just weren’t saintly enough to get their own day, there’s All Saints Day.

Okay, not exactly.

Medieval liturgists traced All Saints Day in the Catholic Church to the consecration of the Pantheon, originally a pagan temple built by Emperor Hadrian around 125 AD. The Pantheon honored the Roman, well, Pantheon (literally, “All Gods”.)

On May 13, 609 or 610, the Pantheon was consecrated by Pope Boniface IV in the name of the Virgin Mary and All Martyrs. The date, May 13, may harken back to the old festival Lemuralia, during which Romans remembered the dead and cast out restless spirits.

In the 730s Pope Gregory III dedicated a chapel at St. Peters Basilica on November 1 and declared it an annual holy day. The chapel housed the relics “of the holy apostles and of all saints, martyrs and confessors, of all the just made perfect who are at rest throughout the world.

St. Peters Basilica is believed to be the burial place of Saint Peter himself. This, the most famous place of worship in Christendom was built beside the “Circus” of Caligula, where the Emperor Nero organized mass executions of Christians beginning in 65 AD.

St. Peter was crucified there (upside-down) at the site in 67 AD. Today the Vatican City’s Colonnade surrounds what was once the notorious Circus, its center marked by an enormous Obelisk brought to Rome after the conquest of Egypt.

Some historians attribute the November 1 date to the church’s desire to supplant regional harvest festival holidays devoted to the dead, such as the Celtic Samhain.

Today All Saints Day glorifies the memory of those souls, known and unknown, who have found a place in heaven.

For all those stuck in Purgatory, there’s All Souls Day