Friday, December 29, 2017
Tuesday, December 26, 2017
The Meaning of Kwanzaa...
Kwanzaa is a Swahili word that means "first" and signifies the first fruits of the harvest. From December 26 to January 1, many people of African descent in America-celebrate Kwanzaa.
In Africa, there are many customs that are common among the various ethnic groups found on the continent. One of these is the celebration of the harvest. At this time of the year, people of the community/village come together to celebrate and give thanks for their good fortune. Working towards a successful harvest is a communal effort, as is the celebration.
Here in America in 1966, Maulana Ron Karenga and the U.S. Organization adopted the basic principles of the harvest celebrations in Africa to create the observance of Kwanzaa. Karenga recognized that on the whole, African Americans do not live in an agricultural setting. Nonetheless, he sought to emphasize that the basic principles found in producing the harvest are vital to building and maintaining strong and wholesome communities.
In this-way, Kwanzaa was developed. Kwanzaa is that time when we reflect on our use of the basic principles, share and enjoy the fruits of our labor, and recommit ourselves to the collective achievement of a better life for our family, our community, and our people.
Symbols of Kwanzaa
There are symbols which have a special meaning to the celebration of Kwanzaa. The mkeka is a straw mat which symbolizes the tradition as the foundation on which all else rests. The kinara is a seven-space candle holder, representing the original stalk from which the African people originated.
The mishumaa saba (seven candles) stand for the Seven Principles. The muhindi are the ears of corn which represent the offspring (children) of the stalk (parents of the house). The zawadi (gifts) represent the fruits of the labor of the parents and the rewards of seeds sown by the children.
During the celebration of Kwanzaa, it is customary to greet friends and family with the Swahili phrase, "Habari gani", meaning, "What is the news?" To respond, answer with the principle of the day. (Umoja, for example, is the response given on December 26th.)
Fasting, or abstaining from food, is often done during Kwanzaa, as a means of cleansing of the mind, soul, and spirit.
The Candlelighting Ceremony
The candlelighting ceremony, central to the celebration of Kwanzaa, takes place at a time when all members of the family are present. Children are encouraged to take an active role in all activities.
The ceremony begins with the TAMBIKO (libation), an African form of praise which pays homage to personal and collective ancestors. To begin, the elder of the household pours wine, juice or distilled spirits from the KIKOMBE CHA UMOJA (unity cup) into the earth or an earth-filled vessel. While pouring, the elder makes a statement honoring departed family members for the inspiration and values they have left with descendants. Friends are also remembered.
After the TAMBIKO, as a gesture of unity, the elder drinks from the KIKOMBE CHA UMOJA and then passes it for all to share. The elder leads the call, "HARAMBEE" (Let's pull together), and everyone participates in repeating the phrase seven times. Candlelighting, central to the ceremony, reinforces the meaning of the principles. The placement of the mishumaa saba (candles) in the kinara is as follows: Black, for the color of African peoples everywhere, is located in the center. Three red candles, represents the blood of the ancestors, are placed to the left. Three green candles that symbolize the earth, life, and the ideas and promise of the future, are placed to the right. Beginning December 26 with the black mushumaa, a different candle is lit for each day, alternating from left to right. After the candlelighting, the principle of the day is discussed.
The evening of December 31 (Day 6) is the KARAMU, a joyous celebration with food, drink, dance, and music for the collective family and friends. It is a time of rejoicing, reassessment and recommitment.
The ZAWADI, handmade or similarly meaningful gifts for children, may be opened at the KARAMU, or on the final day of Kwanzaa, when Imani is observed.
Friday, December 15, 2017
Tuesday, December 5, 2017
How The Furniture Bank of Southeastern Michigan Helps.
Every Holiday Season, we show our generosity and how much we care by helping those less fortunate. This year, we want to make sure local children have warm, comfortable beds to sleep in at night. The Furniture Bank of Southeastern Michigan is a Pontiac-based charity that provides as many as 1,000 beds annually to kids who are living in poverty, transitioning from homelessness or working with child protective services. Main Street Bank is assisting in collecting for the charity!
There are two ways we can help:
- Donate bedding – By purchasing new twin sheets, blankets and/or comforters, the Furniture Bank will be able to provide a child with comfortable bedding in conjunction with the bed they’re receiving.
- Donate money to the Furniture Bank “Beds for Kids” fund – For every $100 the Furniture Bank receives, it is able to purchase a new twin bed that will prevent a local child from having to sleep on the floor.
The Furniture Bank provides beds and other items to 1,400 families annually. It offers free pickup to collect gently-used beds, dressers, sofas, and dining/kitchen table-chair sets from your porch or garage, taking smaller furnishings and housewares when they’re out. Tell them you work at Main Street Bank, and their trained movers will carefully remove any donated items out of your home at no cost!
All donations are tax-deductible and donors receive a receipt when their furniture is picked up. To schedule a pickup or learn more about the Furniture Bank, call 248-332-1300 or visit www.furniture-bank.org.
Tuesday, November 21, 2017
The History of Thanksgiving
In 1621, the Plymouth colonists and Wampanoag Indians shared an autumn harvest feast that is acknowledged today as one of the first Thanksgiving celebrations in the colonies. For more than two centuries, days of thanksgiving were celebrated by individual colonies and states. It wasn’t until 1863, in the midst of the Civil War, that President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national Thanksgiving Day to be held each November.
In September 1620, a small ship called the Mayflower left Plymouth, England, carrying 102 passengers—an assortment of religious separatists seeking a new home where they could freely practice their faith and other individuals lured by the promise of prosperity and land ownership in the New World. After a treacherous and uncomfortable crossing that lasted 66 days, they dropped anchor near the tip of Cape Cod, far north of their intended destination at the mouth of the Hudson River. One month later, the Mayflower crossed Massachusetts Bay, where the Pilgrims, as they are now commonly known, began the work of establishing a village at Plymouth.
Throughout that first brutal winter, most of the colonists remained on board the ship, where they suffered from exposure, scurvy and outbreaks of contagious disease. Only half of the Mayflower’s original passengers and crew lived to see their first New England spring. In March, the remaining settlers moved ashore, where they received an astonishing visit from an Abenaki Indian who greeted them in English. Several days later, he returned with another Native American, Squanto, a member of the Pawtuxet tribe who had been kidnapped by an English sea captain and sold into slavery before escaping to London and returning to his homeland on an exploratory expedition. Squanto taught the Pilgrims, weakened by malnutrition and illness, how to cultivate corn, extract sap from maple trees, catch fish in the rivers and avoid poisonous plants. He also helped the settlers forge an alliance with the Wampanoag, a local tribe, which would endure for more than 50 years and tragically remains one of the sole examples of harmony between European colonists and Native Americans.
In November 1621, after the Pilgrims’ first corn harvest proved successful, Governor William Bradford organized a celebratory feast and invited a group of the fledgling colony’s Native American allies, including the Wampanoag chief Massasoit. Now remembered as American’s “first Thanksgiving”—although the Pilgrims themselves may not have used the term at the time—the festival lasted for three days. While no record exists of the historic banquet’s exact menu, the Pilgrim chronicler Edward Winslow wrote in his journal that Governor Bradford sent four men on a “fowling” mission in preparation for the event, and that the Wampanoag guests arrived bearing five deer. Historians have suggested that many of the dishes were likely prepared using traditional Native American spices and cooking methods. Because the Pilgrims had no oven and the Mayflower’s sugar supply had dwindled by the fall of 1621, the meal did not feature pies, cakes or other desserts, which have become a hallmark of contemporary celebrations.
Pilgrims held their second Thanksgiving celebration in 1623 to mark the end of a long drought that had threatened the year’s harvest and prompted Governor Bradford to call for a religious fast. Days of fasting and thanksgiving on an annual or occasional basis became common practice in other New England settlements as well. During the American Revolution, the Continental Congress designated one or more days of thanksgiving a year, and in 1789 George Washington issued the first Thanksgiving proclamation by the national government of the United States; in it, he called upon Americans to express their gratitude for the happy conclusion to the country’s war of independence and the successful ratification of the U.S. Constitution. His successors John Adams and James Madison also designated days of thanks during their presidencies.
In 1817, New York became the first of several states to officially adopt an annual Thanksgiving holiday; each celebrated it on a different day, however, and the American South remained largely unfamiliar with the tradition. In 1827, the noted magazine editor and prolific writer Sarah Josepha Hale—author, among countless other things, of the nursery rhyme “Mary Had a Little Lamb”—launched a campaign to establish Thanksgiving as a national holiday. For 36 years, she published numerous editorials and sent scores of letters to governors, senators, presidents and other politicians. Abraham Lincoln finally heeded her request in 1863, at the height of the Civil War, in a proclamation entreating all Americans to ask God to “commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife” and to “heal the wounds of the nation.” He scheduled Thanksgiving for the final Thursday in November, and it was celebrated on that day every year until 1939, when Franklin D. Roosevelt moved the holiday up a week in an attempt to spur retail sales during the Great Depression. Roosevelt’s plan, known derisively as Franksgiving, was met with passionate opposition, and in 1941 the president reluctantly signed a bill making Thanksgiving the fourth Thursday in November.
In many American households, the Thanksgiving celebration has lost much of its original religious significance; instead, it now centers on cooking and sharing a bountiful meal with family and friends. Turkey, a Thanksgiving staple so ubiquitous it has become all but synonymous with the holiday, may or may not have been on offer when the Pilgrims hosted the inaugural feast in 1621. Today, however, nearly 90 percent of Americans eat the bird—whether roasted, baked or deep-fried—on Thanksgiving, according to the National Turkey Federation. Other traditional foods include stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie. Volunteering is a common Thanksgiving Day activity, and communities often hold food drives and host free dinners for the less fortunate.
Parades have also become an integral part of the holiday in cities and towns across the United States. Presented by Macy’s department store since 1924, New York City’s Thanksgiving Day parade is the largest and most famous, attracting some 2 to 3 million spectators along its 2.5-mile route and drawing an enormous television audience. It typically features marching bands, performers, elaborate floats conveying various celebrities and giant balloons shaped like cartoon characters.
Beginning in the mid-20th century and perhaps even earlier, the president of the United States has “pardoned” one or two Thanksgiving turkeys each year, sparing the birds from slaughter and sending them to a farm for retirement. A number of U.S. governors also perform the annual turkey pardoning ritual.
For some scholars, the jury is still out on whether the feast at Plymouth really constituted the first Thanksgiving in the United States. Indeed, historians have recorded other ceremonies of thanks among European settlers in North America that predate the Pilgrims’ celebration. In 1565, for instance, the Spanish explorer Pedro Menéndez de Avilé invited members of the local Timucua tribe to a dinner in St. Augustine, Florida, after holding a mass to thank God for his crew’s safe arrival. On December 4, 1619, when 38 British settlers reached a site known as Berkeley Hundred on the banks of Virginia’s James River, they read a proclamation designating the date as “a day of thanksgiving to Almighty God.”
Some Native Americans and others take issue with how the Thanksgiving story is presented to the American public, and especially to schoolchildren. In their view, the traditional narrative paints a deceptively sunny portrait of relations between the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag people, masking the long and bloody history of conflict between Native Americans and European settlers that resulted in the deaths of millions. Since 1970, protesters have gathered on the day designated as Thanksgiving at the top of Cole’s Hill, which overlooks Plymouth Rock, to commemorate a “National Day of Mourning.” Similar events are held in other parts of the country.
Although the American concept of Thanksgiving developed in the colonies of New England, its roots can be traced back to the other side of the Atlantic. Both the Separatists who came over on the Mayflower and the Puritans who arrived soon after brought with them a tradition of providential holidays—days of fasting during difficult or pivotal moments and days of feasting and celebration to thank God in times of plenty.
As an annual celebration of the harvest and its bounty, moreover, Thanksgiving falls under a category of festivals that spans cultures, continents and millennia. In ancient times, the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans feasted and paid tribute to their gods after the fall harvest. Thanksgiving also bears a resemblance to the ancient Jewish harvest festival of Sukkot. Finally, historians have noted that Native Americans had a rich tradition of commemorating the fall harvest with feasting and merrymaking long before Europeans set foot on their shores.
Thursday, November 16, 2017
Wednesday, November 15, 2017
JET Theatre - Invested In Our Communities
As a community bank we are invested in the people and businesses that we live, play and work with. As such we are a proud sponsor of the 2017-2018 JET Theatre in West Bloomfield, Michigan. JET is a professional Equity theatre based in West Bloomfield, Michigan. Founded in 1989 by Evelyn Orbach with a group of prestigious theatre and community leaders, JET was established with the mission “to produce theatre of the highest professional standards and to provide a stage for the exploration of ideas that confront issues of humanity and community from a Jewish perspective. JET serves as a force for Jewish continuity, a platform for new voices, and a bridge of understanding to the general community."
Friday, November 10, 2017
Wednesday, November 8, 2017
What every parent should know about 529 college savings plans
While there may still be a chill in the air, January marks the start of the spring semester. With the cost of higher education continuing to soar, parents should be thinking about setting aside funds for college tuition. Whether your child is gearing up for college in the fall or you still have several years to save, you might want to consider a 529 savings plan. Not sure what that is, or unclear on the specifics? Let us answer some of your important questions here.
What are the benefits of choosing 529 over a regular savings plan?
While all 529 plans involve federal tax advantages, each state has a different plan with various benefits like income tax reductions, credits, and matching contributions. Consider and compare the incentives for investing in your home state’s plan with the benefits of investing out of state.
What are the different types of 529 plans?
There are two types: a prepaid plan and a savings plan. A savings plan is similar to a 401(k) or an IRA in that you invest your savings in mutual funds or investments from a fixed selection. You can withdraw from this account tax-free, as long as you use the funds for qualified higher education.
Prepaid plans allow you to buy select amounts of tuition at a rate closer to today’s prices. These “units” are then cashed in once your child begins college. Almost all states offer the 529 savings plan, but only a few offer the prepaid option.
What are the risks and limitations?
Setting up a 529 savings plan involves some risk. When you invest in mutual funds or securities, there’s always the chance they could lose value. Because of this, it’s best to choose investments that fit your timing and willingness to take risks. Try to create a diverse portfolio to account for market upswings and to protect yourself from any significant losses.
How do you get a 529 plan?
Check out the options your state provides and choose your plan type. You can open a 529 account through a college savings program or a financial advisor. Broker-sold plans are often pricier, but you do receive the benefit of regular financial advice from a professional.
Monday, November 6, 2017
The Pillars of America's Main Street Economy
A community bank is not a little big bank. We're much, much more, invested in the small businesses and consumers within the communities we serve. Here's more information about why you should ditch the big bank and bank with us instead:
Friday, November 3, 2017
7 Ways to Save Money on Thanksgiving Dinner
It's November and Thanksgiving is right around the corner. It is one of the most beloved American holidays, but it can also be the most expensive. The American Farm Bureau Federation estimated the cost of Thanksgiving dinner for 10 people was $49.48 last year. And analysts only expect the cost to go up.
To prepare yourself and your wallet, check out the following tips to ensure your Thanksgiving dinner is a success without breaking the bank.
1. Get an accurate head count. Thanksgiving dinner is usually followed by days of leftovers. To save money and not push the bounds of your refrigerator or your budget, determine how many guests you expect in advance so you can create a more accurate menu and shopping list. Then, plan and stick to a budget using an online personal finance management tool like Mint.com.
2. Keep an eye on local deals. Local newspapers and TV stations often post updated lists the weeks before Thanksgiving on food prices at various grocers. Mobile apps like Grocery Pal are also great for monitoring price changes while on the go. Cross referencing with your grocery list is one way to shave a few extra dollars off your shopping trip.
3. Make it a potluck. The first question friends and family usually ask when invited to any dinner party is, "What can I bring?" Don't be embarrassed to answer. In addition to spirits and cocktails, you can ask guests to bring desserts or side dishes. It'll be cheaper and significantly less work for you, plus it makes everyone feel they helped make the day a special one.
4. Buy in bulk. If you're going to host a large group, take advantage of bulk deals at grocery stores or make a trip to a warehouse retailer for nonperishable items such as alcohol or canned foods. Stocks, canned soup and vegetables are often on sale this time of year and can be used in dishes for many months to come.
5. Shop around for your turkey. It's the centerpiece of the table to be sure, but that doesn't mean you can't get creative to save some money. One way is getting a smaller turkey and supplementing the meal with additional side dishes. Opt for a grocery store turkey, which will cost about $2 a pound, and for an even better deal, visit your grocery store early and store the turkey in your freezer.
6. Invest in real or durable kitchenware. Disposable plates, napkins and silverware are wasteful, and the designs are often kitschy. Invest in plates and cutlery that you can use for life, or borrow from a friend or family member. The same goes for utensils like turkey basters or pie tins that you might only use for Thanksgiving dinner.
7. Create your own decorations. There's no need to spend lavishly on table accents. Check out photo sharing sites like Pinterest for a number of festive, easy to execute ideas. For example, pick up votive candles from a craft store, and arrange them around fall leaves and pine cones from the backyard. The candles will cost a few dollars, and the foliage is free.
The greatest part about Thanksgiving is that there are no rules. Anyone can incorporate their own traditions with foods that represent who they are. Despite consumer confidence falling and an economy that is still shaky, there are ways to create fantastic Thanksgiving memories (focused on the art of eating of course), without having buyer's remorse at the end of the holiday. Make sure you have a plan, be flexible and, most importantly, remember it's about having fun with the ones you love.
Monday, October 30, 2017
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Wishing everyone a Safe and Happy Thanksgiving!