DID YOU KNOW . . . Kwanzaa

Kwanzaa is a week-long celebration held in the United States and also celebrated in the Western African Diaspora in other nations of the Americas. The celebration honors African heritage in African-American culture, and is observed from December 26 to January 1, culminating in a feast and gift-giving.

Kwanzaa was created by Maulana Karenga in 1966 as a specifically African-American holiday, “an opportunity to celebrate themselves and their history” as he termed it. The name Kwanzaa derives from the Swahili phrase “matunda ya kwanza”, meaning “first fruits of the harvest”. Many African Americans who celebrate Kwanzaa do so in addition to observing Christmas.

Kwanzaa celebrates what its founder called the seven principles of Kwanzaa, or Nguzo Saba, which Karenga said “is a communitarian African philosophy,” consisting of what Karenga called “the best of African thought and practice in constant exchange with the world.” These seven principles comprise Kawaida, a Swahili term for tradition and reason.

  • Umoja (Unity): To strive for and to maintain unity in the family, community, nation, and race.
  • Kujichagulia (Self-Determination): To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves, and speak for ourselves.
  • Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility): To build and maintain our community together and make our brothers’ and sisters’ problems our problems, and to solve them together.
  • Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics): To build and maintain our own stores, shops, and other businesses and to profit from them together.
  • Nia (Purpose): To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.
  • Kuumba (Creativity): To do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it.
  • Imani (Faith): To believe with all our hearts in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders, and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.

Kwanzaa symbols include a decorative mat (Mkeka) on which other symbols are placed, corn (Muhindi) and other crops, a candle holder kinara with seven candles (Mishumaa Saba), a communal cup for pouring libation (Kikimbe cha Umoja), gifts (Zawadi), a poster of the seven principles, and a black, red, and green flag. The symbols were designed to convey the seven principles.

Families celebrating Kwanzaa decorate their households with objects of art; colorful African cloth such as kente, especially the wearing of kaftans by women; and fresh fruits that represent African idealism. It is customary to include children in Kwanzaa ceremonies and to give respect and gratitude to ancestors. Libations are shared, generally with a common chalice, Kikombe cha Umoja, passed around to all celebrants. The holiday greeting is “Joyous Kwanzaa”.

DID YOU KNOW . . . Christmas

Christmas is the annual commemoration of the birth of Jesus Christ, celebrated on December 25 as a religious and cultural holiday by billions of people around the world.

A feast central to the Christian liturgical year, it closes the Advent season and initiates the “twelve days of Christmastide” which ends this season on January 4th in 2015 with the Christian Feast of the Epiphany.

Christmas is a civil holiday in many of the world’s nations, is celebrated by an increasing number of non-Christians, and is an integral part of the Christmas and holiday season.

The birthday of Christ was widely celebrated in the early Christian Church as early as the late First and early Second Centuries, but it was in the early-to-mid Fourth century that the Western Christian Church first placed Christmas on December 25, a date later adopted also in the East. Theories advanced to explain that choice include that this date falls exactly nine months after the Christian celebration of the conception of Jesus, or that it was selected to coincide with either the date of the Roman winter solstice or of some ancient pagan winter festival.

The original date of the celebration in Eastern Christianity was fixed on January 6, in connection with Epiphany, and that is still the date of the celebration for the Armenian Apostolic Church and in Armenia, where it is a public holiday. The popular celebratory customs associated in various countries with Christmas have a mix of pre-Christian, Christian and secular themes and origins. Popular modern customs of the holiday include gift giving, Christmas music and caroling, an exchange of Christmas cards, church celebrations, a special meal, and the display of various decorations, including Christmas trees, lights, nativity scenes, garlands, wreaths, mistletoe, and holly.

In addition, several closely related and often interchangeable figures, known as Santa Claus, Father Christmas, Saint Nicholas and Kris Kringle (among other names), are associated with bringing gifts to children during the Christmas season and have their own body of traditions and lore. Because gift-giving and many other aspects of the Christmas festival involve heightened economic activity among both Christians and non-Christians, the holiday has become a significant event and a key sales period for retailers and businesses.

DID YOU KNOW . . . Hanukkah

Tonight at sunset begins the Jewish Festival of Hanukkah, also known as the Festival of Lights, which is an eight-day holiday commemorating the rededication of the Holy Temple (the Second Temple) in Jerusalem at the time of the Maccabean Revolt of the 2nd century BCE.

The festival is observed by the kindling of the lights of a unique candelabrum, the nine-branched Menorah or Hanukiah, one additional light on each night of the holiday, progressing upward to eight on the final night. (One extra candle called the shamash candle is present to provide light as needed throughout the holiday.)

By 165 BCE the Jewish revolt against the Seleucid monarchy was successful and the Temple, which had been desecrated, was subsequently liberated and purified. According to the Talmud, olive oil was needed for the menorah in the rededicated Temple, which was required to burn throughout the night every night. The story goes that there was only enough oil to burn for one day, yet it burned for eight days, the time needed to prepare a fresh supply of oil for the menorah. An eight day festival was declared by the Jewish sages to commemorate this miracle.

The reason for the Hanukkah lights is not for the “lighting of the house within”, but rather for the “illumination of the house without,” so that passersby should see it and be reminded of the holiday’s miracle. Hanukkah lights should burn for at least one half hour after it gets dark.

Hanukkah is further celebrated by a series of rituals that are performed every day throughout the 8-day holiday, some are family-based and others communal. There are special additions to the daily prayer service, and a section is added to the blessing after meals. Many families exchange gifts each night, and fried foods are eaten.


Suicide Prevention and PTSD: How To Recognize The Signs And What You Can Do To Help

In response to many needs in this area of late, the Spirituality Pillar offers the following presentation which is designed to give a basic overview of how to understand and recognize the warning signs of suicide and PTSD so as to be able to assist those in need:

Spirituality Activated: Solutions – Chaplain’s Stakeholder Recognition Program

PAT ON BACKBased on goal setting accomplished this year with facility administrators, the Spirituality Pillar is developing and piloting new programming to further address specific needs in our facilities.

One program called the “Pat on the Back Recognition Program” was pioneered at Signature HealthCARE of Buckhead. It utilizes chaplain-managed, weekly public recognition sessions for “above and beyond” stakeholder customer service in targeted locations throughout the facility in an attempt to help reduce turnover levels over time.

The program was designed, and evaluated via case study, to address issues of facility wide turnover levels with special efforts made to track and evaluate the program’s effectiveness over time on Total Turnover Cost. This was done in partnership with Human Resources and with the full cooperation of both the operations and clinical teams so as to further assist in the management of this significant issue.

While the findings of the study show a marked seasonality in turnover numbers, the results so far have been very encouraging. The full details of the case study can be found HERE.

Spirituality Activated: Solutions – Chaplain Pain Reduction Program

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Chaplain Pain Reduction Study

Based on goal setting accomplished this year with facility administrators and clinical teams, the Spirituality Pillar is developing and piloting new programming to further address specific clinical conditions in our facilities.

One program being developed at Signature HealthCARE of Lafayette utilizes chaplain-led, specialized intervention efforts to help reduce pain levels for selected residents.

The program was designed, and evaluated via case study, to address issues of reported high levels of pain among new admissions in an attempt show that customized chaplain interventions, based upon focused and attentive spiritual care, prayer and a listening presence, and in partnership with clinical efforts and prescribed medications, can have a significant positive impact on pain levels for those in need.

By utilizing MDS data, and under the supervision of the Director of Nursing, all new residents were surveyed by the chaplain within 24 hours of their admission and, based upon their levels of pain, were categorized into various spiritual treatment groups. This was done so as to best assign the differing levels of attention they would be targeted to receive from the chaplain during the subsequent 90 day period. 

A multitude of spiritual techniques were used during the study, such as centering and intercessory prayers, calm breathing exercises and many others, in an attempt to bring comfort and personalized attention to those in need, so as to better soothe their spirits and promote their own inner healing. This was done with the full cooperation of the clinical teams so as to further assist in their ongoing pain management efforts.

The findings of the study have been very encouraging so far with the results so far showing a 13% decrease in pain levels for those receiving the specialized chaplain care. The details of the case study can be found HERE.

To find out more about the many different chaplain intervention programs available for implementation in your facility, or to join any of our many spiritual programs like the Daily Devotional, the Early Plunge or the Prayer Chain, please email us at spiritualitydept@signaturehealthcarellc.com.



Spirituality Activated: Solutions – Fall Prevention Clinical Partnerships

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Fall Prevention Clinical Partnership

Based on goal setting accomplished this year with facility administrators and clinical teams, the Spirituality Pillar is developing and piloting new programming to further address specific clinical conditions in our facilities.

One program developed at the Bridge at Rockwood entitled “You Raise Me Up” utilizes chaplain-led, specialized interventions for applicable residents to prevent falls.

The program was designed, and evaluated via case study, to show that customized chaplain care based upon focused one-on-one visits and personalized prayer interventions can help decrease anxiety so as to have a positive impact on incidents of falls for those at risk. The details of the case study itself can be found HERE.

During the case study period, the chaplain made repeated one-on-one visits with each of these individuals and applied both direct prayer and continuous encouragement to them towards this specific issue, so as to relieve their anxiety issues by seeking divine assistance and comfort applied to their areas of concern.

The findings of the study were promising in their results with all residents responding well to the interventions. The chaplain’s efforts had the effect of not only preventing any increase in falls for those participating but also of actually reducing fall levels for well over half of them during the case study period.

To find out more about the many different chaplain intervention programs available for implementation in your facility, please email us at spiritualitydept@signaturehealthcarellc.com.

Pray Your Way and receive uplifting messages throughout the work week by texting Endless Hope to 24587




DID YOU KNOW . . . Veteran’s Day

Today we celebrate Veterans Day, formerly known as Armistice Day, which is an annual United States federal holiday honoring military veterans observed on November 11th. It coincides with other holidays around the world such as Armistice Day or Remembrance Day, which mark the anniversary of the signing of the Armistice that ended World War I. (Major hostilities of World War I were formally ended at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918 when the German government signed the Armistice agreement.)

The U.S. President Woodrow Wilson first proclaimed “Armistice Day” for November 11, 1919. The United States Congress passed a concurrent resolution seven years later on June 4, 1926, requesting that then President Calvin Coolidge issue a proclamation to observe November 11th with appropriate ceremonies.

In 1953, an Emporia, Kansas man named Alvin King the owner of a shoe repair shop, had the idea to expand Armistice Day to celebrate all veterans, not just those who died in World War I. He began a campaign to turn Armistice Day into “All” Veterans Day. With the help of U.S. Representative Ed Rees, also from Emporia, a bill for the holiday was pushed through Congress. President Dwight Eisenhower signed it into law on May 26, 1954 and Congress amended this act on June 1, 1954, replacing the word “Armistice” with “Veterans,” and it has been known as Veterans Day ever since.


DID YOU KNOW . . . All Souls’ Day/ Day of the Dead

In many Christian denominations, today, November 2nd is designated as All Souls’ Day, a special day which specifically commemorates the “departed faithful”.

This day attempts to extend the care and help shown towards those in need here on Earth towards those who have already died, presuming at least some, if not many, benefit from prayers offered for them, even after death. In the Roman Catholic tradition, special masses for the dead are usually said on this day, and although mass attendance on this day is often common, it is not a requirement.

The custom of setting apart a special day for intercession on November 2 was first established by St. Odilo of Cluny at his abbey of Cluny in France in the year 998. The celebration was soon adopted throughout the region, and from there it spread throughout the Christian West.

The “Day of the Dead” celebration (in Spanish “Día de los Muertos”) is a special culturally-oriented observance of the All Souls Day in Hispanic countries and communities which focuses on gatherings of family and friends to pray for and remember friends and family members who have died. It is particularly celebrated in Mexico, where it attains the quality of a National Holiday, celebrated over three days.

Traditions connected with the holiday include building private altars honoring the deceased using sugar skulls, marigolds, and the favorite foods and beverages of the departed. During the three-day period, from October 31st through November 2nd, people often go to cemeteries where they will clean and decorate the graves as well as build small altars there containing the favorite foods and beverages, as well as photos and memorabilia, of the departed. Celebrations can sometimes take a humorous tone, as celebrants may remember funny events and anecdotes about their departed loved ones.

Among Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholic Christians, there are several All Souls’ Days celebrated during the year. Most of these fall on Saturday, since Jesus lay in the Tomb on Holy Saturday. These are referred to as Soul Saturdays.