Today is Christmas Day, one of the most important celebrations of the year for two billion Christian’s worldwide.

Christmas Day celebrations vary from place to place, but generally include activities such as going to church, gathering with the family, singing Christmas songs, and giving presents to family and friends. Food, of course, is also an essential part of Christmas, and in most families the high-light of Christmas Day is when everyone gets together to have a large meal.

Merry Christmas everybody!

Have a warm, cosy Christmas!

In the United Nations Millennium Declaration, 189 world leaders identified solidarity as one of the fundamental values essential to international relations in the 21st century.

International Human Solidarity Day promotes unity in diversity.

International Human Solidarity Day was proclaimed on December 22nd, in 2005, and first celebrated in 2006.

Today, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon highlighted the benefits of inclusive cooperation, saying that strides made in reducing poverty and advancing democratic freedoms in recent years were proving that point. In his annual statement, Mr. Ban said “We can reach our shared goals if people are able to participate in the formulation and implementation of plans, policies and programmes to shape our common future.”

Activities on the International Human Solidarity Day may include campaigning for the following issues:

  • Banning land mines.
  • Making health and medication accessible to those in need.
  • Relief efforts to help those who suffered the effects of natural or human-made disasters.
  • Achieving universal education.
  • Fighting against poverty, corruption and terrorism.

Today is Human Rights Day! The day commemorates the date in 1948 when the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Today, the declaration is available in 360 languages, with new translations still being added.

Human Rights Day

781 million adults across the globe cannot read or write.

This year’s theme for Human Rights Day is “My Voice Counts.” The United Nations has been hosting a series of Google+ hangouts since November 22nd, giving the public a chance to engage with senior UN officials and leading experts on the rights of minorities, persons with disabilities, to discuss the impact of business on human rights, and beyond.

Although there have been great advancements in gender and race equality since 1948, human rights violations still happen every day all around the world. According to the Amnesty International annual report, in 2006, 20,000 people were on death row. 69 countries still use the death penalty. Similarly, in 2006, 1 in 3 women had been beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused.

Today is Hanukkah, the Jewish festival of lights.

Hanukkah

Hanukkah is celebrated by lighting one candle on the Hanukiah each day.

Hanukkah dates back two centuries before Christianity and literally means rededication. Hanukkah symbolizes how God looked after Jewish people in hard times.

The story goes that an ancient king in Syria tried to make Jewish people worship Greek gods. He built a statue of one Greek god in a big Jewish temple and ordered people to bow to it. The Ten Commandments forbid the worshipping of idols and the Jewish people refused. Three years of war and unrest followed these events. Eventually, lead by a small group called the Maccabees, Jewish people claimed back Jerusalem from the Syrians. Their temple, however, was destroyed. Jewish people then rebuilt the temple and purified it by burning ritual oil.

The purification of the temple marks one of the biggest miracles in Jewish history: only a small amount of oil was found (enough to last for a day) but the lamp in the temple burned a total of eight days.

Volunteer

Today is the International Volunteer Day!

The day aims to thank all volunteers for their efforts, and to highlight the importance of volunteer work in promoting peace and sustainable development across the globe.

International Volunteer Day holds a special importance for me. My first experience of real volunteer work happened, not so long ago, in 2009. I was on my last year in high school and decided to join the school’s Habitat for Humanity club. Habitat for Humanity is an organization that aims to help “families escape the nightmare of housing poverty.” Our high school club arranged various fundraising events throughout the school year, and in May ten of us travelled to Krabi, Thailand to help rebuild a home to one of the families who lost their house in a tsunami a couple of years before. For me the experience was both fun and exciting, but I now feel that I didn’t understand the full meaning of our work until much later.

Today is the International Day for Persons with Disabilities.

According to World Health Organization (WHO), 15% of the world’s population has a disability. That means one billion people worldwide, out of which 11 million reside in the UK.

The UN first established the International Day for Persons with Disabilities in 1992, and originally the day was called International Day of Disabled Persons. The UN day aims to promote understanding of disabilities worldwide, “and mobilise support for the dignity, rights and well-being of persons with disabilities.” In addition, the day  “seeks to increase awareness of gains to be derived from the integration of persons with disabilities in every aspect of political, social, economic and cultural life.”

Each year focuses on a different issue around disabilities. The theme for 2012 is “Removing barriers to create an inclusive and accessible society for all.”

Read more about disability and health, as well as the International Day for Persons with Disabilities, here.

Or, browse the BBC disability blog, Ouch! here.