July 15, 2020
Day 197 of 366
July 15th is the 197th day of the year. It is the Festival of Santa Rosalia, the patron saint of Palermo in Italy, Camargo, Chihuahua, and three towns in Venezuela: El Hatillo, Zuata, and Anzoátegui. She is especially important internationally as a saint invoked in times of plague (disease), and this year she is being invoked by the citizens of Palermo to protect the city from COVID-19.
Historical items of note:
- In 484 BC, the Temple of Castor and Pollux in ancient Rome was dedicated.
- In 1099, Christian soldiers took the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem during the First Crusade after the final assault of a difficult siege.
- In 1149, the reconstructed Church of Holy Sepulchre was consecrated in Jerusalem.
- In 1606, Dutch painter and etcher Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn was born.
- In 1738, Baruch Laibov and Alexander Voznitzin were burned alive in St. Petersburg, Russia. Vonitzin had converted to Judaism with Laibov’s help, with the consent of Empress Anna Ivanovna.
- In 1789, Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette, was named by acclamation Colonel-General of the new National Guard of Paris.
- In 1799, the Rosetta Stone was found in the Egyptian village of Rosetta by French Captain Pierre-François Bouchard during Napoleon’s Egyptian Campaign.
- In 1834, the Spanish Inquisition was officially disbanded after nearly 356 years.
- In 1838, Ralph Waldo Emerson delivered the Divinity School Address at Harvard Divinity School, discounting Biblical miracles and declaring Jesus a great man, but not God. The Protestant community reacted with outrage.
- In 1916, William Boeing and George Conrad Westervelt incorporated Pacific Aero Products in Seattle, Washington. It was later renamed Boeing.
- In 1944, actor Jan-Michael Vincent was born.
- In 1952, actor Terry O’Quinn was born.
- In 1961, actor Forest Whitaker was born.
- In 1963, actress Brigitte Nielsen was born.
- In 1967, actor and special effects designer Adam Savage was born.
- In 1974, television news reporter Christine Chubbuck shot herself, becoming the first person to commit suicide in a live television broadcast.
- In 1975, the Apollo–Soyuz Test Project featured the dual launch of an Apollo spacecraft and a Soyuz spacecraft on the first joint Soviet-United States human-crewed flight. It was both the last launch of an Apollo spacecraft and the Saturn family of rockets.
- In 1977, actress Lana Parrilla was born.
- In 1988, Die Hard was released.
- In 2003, AOL Time Warner disbanded Netscape. The Mozilla Foundation was established on the same day.
- In 2006, Twitter was publicly launched, later becoming one of the largest social media platforms in the world.
July 15th is the Bon Festival, known as Obon (お盆) or Bon (盆), a Japanese Buddhist custom to honor the spirits of one’s ancestors.
The Buddhist-Confucian custom has evolved into a family reunion holiday. People have been known to return to ancestral family places and visit and clean their ancestors’ graves when the spirits of ancestors are supposed to revisit the household altars. The custom has been celebrated in Japan for more than 500 years and traditionally includes a dance, known as Bon Odori.
The festival of Obon lasts for three days, but the starting date varies within different regions of Japan. When the lunar calendar was changed to the Gregorian calendar at the beginning of the Meiji era, the localities in Japan responded differently, which resulted in three different times of Obon.
Shichigatsu Bon (Bon in July) is based on the solar calendar and is celebrated in eastern Japan (Kantō region such as Tokyo, Yokohama, and the Tōhoku region). This also coincides with the Ghost Festival Chūgen.
Hachigatsu Bon (Bon in August) is based on the lunar calendar and is celebrated around August 15th. It is the most commonly celebrated time. Kyū Bon (Old Bon) is celebrated on the 15th day of the seventh month of the lunar calendar, thus varying each year between August 8th and September 7th.
One exception was in 2008 and 2019 when the solar and lunar calendars matched, so Hachigatsu Bon and Kyū Bon were celebrated on the same day.
The Buddhist tradition originates from the story of Maha Maudgalyayana (Mokuren), a disciple of the Buddha, who used his supernatural powers to look upon his deceased mother only to discover she had fallen into the Realm of Hungry Ghosts and was suffering. Greatly disturbed, he went to the Buddha and asked how he could release his mother from this realm. Buddha instructed him to make offerings to the many Buddhist monks who had just completed their summer retreat on the fifteenth day of the seventh month. Mokuren did this, securing his mother’s release, but he also began to see the true nature of her past selflessness and the sacrifices she had made for him during her lifetime. The disciple, happy because of his mother’s release from suffering and grateful for her many kindnesses, danced with joy. This gave birth to the Bon Odori or “Bon Dance”, a time during which ancestors and their sacrifices are remembered and appreciated.
The Thing About Today is an effort to look at each day of 2020 with respect to its historical context.
For more creativity with a critical eye, visit Creative Criticality.