Welcoming the Year of the Tiger!

(This post includes Chinese traditional characters and phrases with Cantonese 粵拼 jyutping and Mandarin 拼音 pinyin pronunciations respectively)

 

Lunar New Year / 農曆新年 (nung lik san nin / nóng lì xīn nián) is on Tuesday 01 February this year. This is the Year of the Tiger.

When is Lunar New Year?

Lunar New Year falls on a different date each year as it follows a traditional lunisolar calendar whose dates indicate both the phase of the moon and the time of the solar year. This coming Lunar New Year is on Tuesday 01 February 2022.

 

Why is it the Year of the Tiger?

Each year is represented by one of the 12 Zodiac animals. The zodiac system was originally connected with worship of animals and has existed in Chinese culture since the Qin dynasty which was around 2000 years ago! As such, the zodiac signs play an integral part in Chinese culture. Each animal has different characteristics and meanings which is often used to determine a person’s fortune and luck for the coming year and even their compatibility with other Zodiacs. For instance, those born in the Year of the Ox are said to often be decisive, honest, dependable, and hardworking.

The order the animals come in are:

rat (鼠 – syu / shǔ )
ox (牛 – ngau / niú)
tiger (虎 – fu / hǔ)
rabbit (兔 – tou / tù)
dragon (龍 – lung / lóng)
snake (蛇 – se / shé)
horse (馬 – maa / mǎ)
goat (羊 – yeung / yáng)
monkey (猴 – hau / hóu)
rooster (雞 – gai / jī)
dog (狗 – gau / gǒu)
pig (猪 – zyu / zhū)

(Image sourced from: https://img.meijingku.com/d/file/2020/02/25/3b1eb3eb6572fcbec8b09e9b01f1d605.jpg?x-oss-process=style/w_450-h_auto)

 

You can find out more about the Chinese Zodiac on this TED talk: The Chinese Zodiac, Explained – ShaoLan and on this Ted’Ed video: The Myth Behind the Chinese Zodiac – Megan Campisi and Pen-Pen Chen

 

Celebrations and Decorations

Lunar New Year is celebrated by more than 20% of the world! Many Asian countries, including Hong Kong SAR, South Korea, Singapore, Vietnam and China celebrate Lunar New Year as a national holiday. Usually, celebrations begin on Lunar New Year Eve and can last around 15 days.

Before celebrations begin, it is tradition for people to clean their houses thoroughly, almost like having a big ‘spring clean’. Decorations are then displayed once the house is clean.

Decorations for Lunar New Year are predominantly red – the colour represents happiness and good fortune. People often decorate by hanging up art and calligraphy illustrating certain words and phrases. The most common is 福 (fuk / fú) – meaning happiness and good fortune. It can be written with calligraphy onto a square piece of red paper like in the image below. 福 (fuk / fú) is commonly put up on doors, windows and walls around homes, offices, schools, and stores.

(Image sourced from: https://img.meijingku.com/d/file/2020/02/25/3b1eb3eb6572fcbec8b09e9b01f1d605.jpg?x-oss-process=style/w_450-h_auto)

 

If you have studied or worked at the University of Reading for a little while, you may remember seeing or even picking up one of the 福 (fuk / fú) badges that were created in celebration of the Year of the Pig in 2019.

 

Paper Cutting Arts (窗花 – coeng faa / chuāng huā)

The Chinese character 福 is often incorporated into other decorations such as paper cutting arts. This is a folk craft that is usually seen on windows with the literal translation meaning ‘window flower’. The images on these decorations often include fish (a pun for blessings), grains (representing hope for a good harvest) as well as dragons and peaches (symbols from folktales and legends). The zodiac for the year is often the image on these decorations too.

Lanterns ( – dang lung / dēng lóng)

There are often different activities for each day of the Lunar New Year holidays, often including the lantern festival. Some places still release lanterns for the festival, but for environmental reasons, many people choose to simply display their lanterns at home. There are many different styles of lanterns that are displayed ranging from red spheres to dragons!

Red Packets

(Image Sourced from: https://marketingweek.imgix.net/content/uploads/2018/02/15170414/chinese-new-year-750.jpg?auto=compress,format,&crop=faces,entropy,edges&fit=crop&q=60&w=750&h=400)

 

Red packets (red envelope / Lai See 利是/ Hong Bao 紅包 / Ang Pao) There are many names for these little red gifts! But all of these contain money. It is tradition for many in the ESEA (East and Southeast Asian) community and diaspora to exchange these as a symbol of good luck. It is tradition for elders to give them to children in hope of passing on good fortune and blessings for the year to come. Younger generations also commonly give their elders red packets as a sign of gratitude and as a blessing of longevity.

 

Online Activities and Events
Lunar New Year is a time for family, and this is seen as the most important part of the holiday.

With the ongoing pandemic and various restrictions on travel, many continue not be able to see family and loved ones in-person. Nevertheless, where possible, some celebrations continue to take place in-person and some online!

See below for some of the online events we have come across!

 

  • Celebrating Chinese/Lunar New Year 2022 at SACLL

Friday 28 Jan 2022, 12:30-1:30pm

Online

You’ll be able to:

watch how UoR alumni celebrate the biggest festival in various places of China

play games

show talents

have fun

and hopefully win some dumplings

Sign up here to join us at SACLL to celebrate Chinese/Lunar New Year and the arrival of spring or contact SACLL Director Carrie Zhang:c.x.zhang@reading.ac.uk

Download the Celebrating Chinese/Lunar New Year 2022 at SACLL flyer here.

 

  • The Lunar New Year Early Years Learning Resource

Free resource accessible online here

(https://www.besean.co.uk/resources-posts/the-lunar-new-year-early-years-learning-resource)

In collaboration with Early Years and Primary education experts with a combined experience of over 25 years, besea.n have created a learning resource that takes the work out of lesson planning.

There are two packs available to download. One contains all the information and activities, the second is an image resource to support learning.

The packs are free to download, however, we encourage a donation towards our non-profit organisation in order to continue our work advocating for East and South East Asian communities, including the creation of educational resources.

 

Wednesday 26 Jan 2022 at 10:00 | Eventbrite

Part 2 – Chinese New Year Virtual Celebration (10:38-11:00)

Chinese New Year Cooking Show

Performance 1: Chorus (tbc)

Performance 2: Traditional Chinese dance (tbc)

Performance 3: Music ensemble “You Are the Miracle”

 

Friday 29th January 2022 – Daytime

Join in online with the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich for a fantastic new year celebration

 

Saturday 5th February from 5:00pm – 7:00pm

Chinese New Year celebrations, online again from Birmingham Chinatown! Celebrate Chinese New Year in the comforts of your own home yet again with an online celebration on

 

 

 

 

Is there religion in your Christmas?

By Rowan Watson, Chaplaincy Assistant, University of Reading  

A picture of three dolls depicting the nativity scene

Through working at the Chaplaincy, we experience a great variety of world views. Some students explain their strong belief in monarchy as the best form of government, others assure me that all life on Earth is evolving into crabs. One of our favourite topics of conversation is simply asking ‘What do you believe God is like?’. 

A popular answer is the description of a distant and uncaring being, living in the clouds. Occasionally God has been described to me as apathetic to our pain, watching His creations suffer and disdainfully refusing to do anything about it. It is no surprise that people with these views see Christianity as easily separated from the Santa Claus, Christmas Movies, Turkey and Roast potatoes parts of Christmas, but I don’t think this is entirely true. 

At Christmas, we Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus, who we consider to be God on Earth. The key part of this for me is that God did not choose to be a distant being in the clouds – He saw His creations suffering and refused to ignore it. 

Christmas is about the incarnation. This means part of the indescribable God-ness of God being funnelled into human form. Jesus was fully God whilst also being fully Man. In easier terms, the incarnation is about God taking a human shape and moving into our neighbourhood, right next door. God draws near to us.  

Over the centuries, this idea has morphed into traditions about being generous to one another, opening our homes to guests and giving them the best we have. God is a close friend and treats us better than we deserve, so let’s treat others that way too!  

This part of Christmas has something more to say to those who experience a less joyful Christmas. When the night draws in and the cold confines us to our houses, winter can leave some of us withdrawn from our social circles. International students can find this time particularly challenging because of their UK friends returning home and campus shutting shop for the holidays.

A stained glass window depicting an angel and the Star of Bethlehem

Those with difficult family relationships face a different sort of loneliness. Being estranged from those who are meant to support you unconditionally can cause a lot of pain at Christmas. In the UK our cultural focus is around families and generosity, but these are not a light in a dark time for everyone. 

Not to mention that ‘isolation’ has taken on a whole new meaning recently. As I write, it is uncertain to what extent this will be a feature of our collective Christmases. I personally experience some of these issues, albeit not as severely as some, and so Christmas time can bring about a feeling of loneliness.  

I find that Christmas, at its core, sets out to tackle issues like these. We believe that God is so fond of His Creations that He chose to walk among them, and that this love continues. When I find myself feeling isolated, afraid and pessimistic about the future, I remind myself of that God comforts me by sitting beside me. I am loved by the Creator of everything in existence.  

And it is not only through God that we can find this comfort. Many Christians take this time to reach out to those in the community who are struggling. Some members of our community are offering places at their Christmas table for the most important meal of the year in this spirit, details on how to take a place at a local person’s table, are below. 

Beyond that, participating in Christmas festivities can bring opportunities to meet a new side of the community. If family cannot be part of your Christmas celebrations, a ‘friends’ style family embodies the spirit of the season and is just as joyful and fulfilling. I find that online celebrations can feel distant, but when a loved one is the other side of the world, it can bring them into your living room and allow you to celebrate together. 

Check out the University Chaplaincy list of What’s On in Reading this season, and go and seek God while He is near, either through religious ceremony or through a bottle of mulled wine with a friend on Facetime. He’s in both places. 

 

 

What’s on this Christmas? 

Events collated by the University Chaplaincy and shared in good faith. For more events see: https://www.whatsonreading.com/ 

 

Market Yard 

When: 26th November – 23rd December  

Where: Reading Printhouse 

What: Market Yard is transforming into a unique space to socialise, eat and drink 

Cost: Free 

More information here: https://www.marketyard.co.uk/ 

 

Winter Wonderland 

When: 13th November – 3rd January 

Where: Hills Meadow by Reading Bridge 

What: An exciting Christmas adventure for people of all ages that includes ice skating, Santa’s grotto and a variety of food and drink 

Cost: From £12 

More information here: https://www.facebook.com/outdooricerink.co.uk/ 

Book tickets here: https://www.ticketsource.co.uk/ice-skating 

 

The Invisible Dress Exhibition 

When: 28th November – 5th January  

Where: HUMOS, Caversham 

What: ‘The Invisible Dress’ refers to the scents that we use to complete our look. This exhibition combines fashion illustration, perfume and floral arrangements. 

Cost: Free 

More information here:
https://whatsonreading.com/venues/humos/whats-on/invisible-dress 

 

Twilight Trail: Biscuit Town 

When: 3rd – 31st December 

Where: Abbey Ruins and Forbury Gardens 

What: An accessible open-air light trail experience 

Cost: From £8 

Book tickets here: https://web.livingreading.co.uk/twilight-trail-2021 

 

The Snow Queen 

When: 3rd – 24th December 

Where: South Street Arts Centre 

What: A new play, based on the original story by Hans Christian Anderson about two best friends and a dangerous journey across Scandinavia  

Cost: From £12 

Book tickets here: https://whatsonreading.com/snow-queen 

 

A Christmas Carol 

When: 3rd – 31st December 

Where: Reading Rep Theatre 

What: A live performance of the Christmas classic, A Christmas Carol, performed by Reading Rep Theatre 

Cost: From £14 

Book tickets here: https://www.readingrep.com/a-christmas-carol/ 

 

Forgetful Elf Trail 

When:4th – 23rd December 

Where: Reading Museum 

What: Help the Elf find his lost belongings around the museum. Includes writing letter to Santa and Christmas craft pack 

Cost: £3 per pack 

More information here: https://www.readingmuseum.org.uk/holiday-fun-reading-museum 

 

Beauty and the Beast 

When: 4th December – 3rd January 

Where: The Hexagon 

What: An exciting pantomime featuring Justin Fletcher, also known as Mr Tumble 

Cost: From £15 

Book tickets here: https://whatsonreading.com/beauty-and-beast 

 

Student Christmas Day Lunch 

When: 25th December, 1-2.30pm 

Where: Our Lady of Peace church hall 

What: Turkey lunch hosted by Chaplain, Sister Vivian (10 spaces). Booking essential: email with food allergy details before Friday 17th December 5pm to: v.onyeneho@reading.ac.uk 

Cost: Free 

 

For times of (free) Christmas and Carol services, Google your nearest church. 

 

General

Reading Museum 

What: Archaeology, Art, History and Natural History. Café and shop. 

Cost: Free 

Opening times and more information here: https://www.readingmuseum.org.uk/ 

 

Museum of English Rural Life (MERL) 

What: History of English farming and country life. Garden, café, and shop 

Cost: Free 

Opening times and more information here: https://merl.reading.ac.uk/ 

 

Want to be hosted for a meal or receive hospitality from a local family during the break? 

Friends International connects international students with local hosts. Download the App: https://www.friendsinternational.uk/international-student-app/ click on “Local Link”. 

 

Trans Day of Remembrance 2021

 

Trans Day of Remembrance 2021 
 

Trans Day of Remembrance is on Saturday 20 November every year. Each year this day is a solemn reminder to honour those who have lost their lives in acts of anti-trans violence.  

Data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows that trans people are significantly more likely to be a victim of crime (one in four trans people (28%) experienced crime in the year ending March 2020) compared with 14% of people whose gender identity is the same as the sex they were registered at birth.
 

This year, we marked Trans Day of Remembrance with a flag raising event and speeches from staff and students on Whiteknights Campus.   

This year we had speeches from the Dean for Diversity and Inclusion, Dr Allán Laville; RUSU President, Ben Knowles; RUSU Trans Officer, Charlie Dennis; LGBT+ Staff Network, Representative, Quincy Bastow; Guest speaker, Rose Taylor and closing remarks from Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Pro-Vice-Chancellor UEB LGBT+ Champion, Professor Parveen Yaqoob.   

 

 

Dean for Diversity and Inclusion, Dr Allán Laville 

Hello everyone, I’m Al Laville, the Dean for Diversity and Inclusion. 

Trans Day of Remembrance is held every year on 20th November to honour the memory of those who have died as a direct result of transphobic hatred or prejudice. 

Trans Day of Remembrance was founded in 1999 to honour Rita Hester, an African American trans woman, whose murder sparked the “Remembering Our Dead” web project and a San Francisco candlelight vigil. Rita Hester’s murder — like most transphobic murder cases — has yet to be solved. 

Over the past 12 months, for trans and gender-diverse people, there has been 375 registered murders between October 2020 and September 2021. This represents a 7% increase from the 2020 update. 

Remembering those who’ve been killed or driven to suicide cannot bring them back. However, by remembering those who had their lives cut short this year, we are reminded that it starts with hate.  

I would like to read out a Nelson Mandela quote, which encapsulates my main thoughts today: 

 People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite. 

So, what can we do? We can be allies for each other. We can listen to and uplift trans people’s voices. We can allow no space for bigotry and hatred. We can create a society in which every person can live a dignified life.  

 Thank you for listening, I will now handover to Ben Knowles, RUSU President. 

 

RUSU President, Ben Knowles 

On behalf of everyone at Reading University Students’ Union, I am proud to join friends and colleagues in commemorating this incredibly poignant and important date in our calendars. Transgender Day of Remembrance is a time for us to come together in recognition of the challenges still faced by the transgender community, whilst remembering the individuals who have lost their lives throughout the last year as a result of their gender identity. 

At RUSU, we are committed to continuing our stance as a passionate ally of the transgender community, both in our work on campus and beyond. We will always strive to ensure the voice of all transgender students is represented at Reading, whether that’s through our Trans Part-time Officer, through myself and my Full-time Officer colleagues, or through our fantastically supportive LGBT+ student society. As a full member of the National Union of Students, we will continue to support nation-wide campaigns that work towards a more gender-inclusive society, by providing a dedicated platform for transgender students to participate in NUS’ democratic processes at their annual Liberation Conference. 

As an ally myself, I understand the importance in recognising my own privilege, and taking the time to educate myself on the everyday challenges that the transgender community faces. We all have a role to play in eradicating transphobia and making our society a more inclusive place – whether that’s by challenging anti-transgender behaviour, or by setting a tone of inclusivity through the language we use in our daily lives.  

I’d just like to finish by thanking everyone who has joined us today to honour Transgender Day of Remembrance. Together with my colleagues at RUSU, we want to make sure everyone feels supported by their students’ union – regardless of their gender identity. Thank you. 

 

RUSU Trans Officer, Charlie Dennis 

I was around 16 when I first went to an event for Trans Day of Remembrance, and every year since then I have attended one. I am about to turn 22, and yet already I feel as though I have mourned enough for a lifetime. If I must attend a Trans Day of Remembrance event every year for the rest of my life, I will, but I truly hope I do not have to.  

Every year we see these figures, the names, the ages, and it doesn’t really get easier to digest. Sometimes people get caught up in numbers and figures, there’s this percentage of trans people in the world, there’s this many stuck in waitlists, there’s this many of us who died this year- and we forget that all of those one’s are people. Every name on that list was someone. Someone who should still be here. There really is no way to sugarcoat the fact that transphobia kills and will continue to if changes aren’t made. But the thing is, I want trans people to do more than just survive, I want them to be able to flourish, to be happy.  

I know and love a lot of trans people, and they all have dreams- whether that be to own a house with a beautiful garden, or to help others, or to open a club, or to start a family. They all hope for something else as well though, they all want peace. Often people will say that we should feel lucky to be in this country, that it could be worse. And it is true in a way, there are other countries where being trans is much more high risk. It is also important to not ignore that the most vulnerable within the community are black trans women and sex workers, who make up a large proportion of the names read out each year.  

However, it is possible to both recognise these facts and recognise that privilege whilst also being aware that the situation for all trans people in this country is worsening. Transphobia is found within both our main political parties, access to trans healthcare is becoming more difficult, and gender critical ideologies are appearing in almost every field. If there is anything that you take from me today, I would like it to be that if you don’t already, now is the best time for you to commit to standing in solidarity with the trans community.  

Educate yourself on not just the issues we face, but on how diverse and wonderful the community is, and do what you can to show kinship consistently. 

 

LGBT+ Staff Network, Representative, Quincy Bastow 

Hi, my name is Quincy my pronouns are they/them and I am speaking on behalf of the LGBT+ staff network. Tomorrow, 20th November, is Trans Day of Remembrance, a day that honours the memory of the trans people whose lives were lost in acts of anti-trans violence, but also a day in which we remember those who took their own life due to continual abuse and harassment.  

 More than one in 27 percent of young trans people have attempted to take their own life and 89 percent have thought about it. I am one of those many trans people that are a part of that statistic. As trans siblings, we face continual backlash from society on social, continual misgendering, disconcerting looks, inappropriate touching, or physical abuse. Shockingly, half of trans people have hidden their identity at work for fear of discrimination. I have been a victim of many of these phenomena. 

 Such behaviours towards trans people negatively affects their mental health, sometimes leading them to take their own lives due to harassment and abuse. Such instances may not all appear in the statistics, but trans are people aren’t a statistic to be summed to be placed in an equation we are all individuals we are people, and we should all be treated as such. These people are from around the world but also in the UK, which is currently one of the worse places for trans people to live: even though we have an inclusive community here at the University of Reading, many forms of abuse still happen and get unreported.  

 As a staff network, we are here to support you, so look for the rainbow postcards and if you see or are a victim of abuse and harassment report to RUSU or to inclusive staff member hashtag it’s never okay.  

 Trans people are people and trans rights are human rights; today and tomorrow we must remember not just those individuals that have died to violence but those who have died due to abuse and harassment.  

I want to remember those who are forgotten, those who aren’t remembered because they should be and will be remembered 

 

Guest speaker, Rose Taylor 

Transgender Day of Remembrance (TSOR) was started in 1999 by Gwendolyn Ann Smith to honour the memory of Rita Hester – a transgender woman who was killed in 1998. The vigil commemorated all the transgender people lost to violence since Rita Hester’s death, and began an important tradition that has become the annual Transgender Day of Remembrance.  

“Transgender Day of Remembrance seeks to highlight the losses we face due to anti-transgender bigotry and violence. I am no stranger to the need to fight for our rights, and the right to simply exist is first and foremost. With so many seeking to erase transgender people – sometimes in the most brutal ways possible – it is vitally important that those we lose are remembered, and that we continue to fight for justice” – Transgender Day of Remembrance Founder, Gwendolyn Ann Smith 

Today we continue this vigil and remember those who have been lost to violence in that last year. I am struck by the words of Gwendolyn Ann Smith when she talks about the right to simply exist. This fight is still true and with the things we see in the media here we are reminded of it every day. My hope is that we will one day not need to read these lists of names. 

 

In her closing remarks, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Pro-Vice-Chancellor UEB LGBT+ Champion Parveen Yaqoob thanked those who spoke and those who took time out of their day to share a few moments of reflection and reminding colleagues that we all have a part to play in standing up against bigotry and hatred. 

 

 

 

List Of Names Of Those Who Have Died In The Last Year 

Kiér Laprí Kartier, USA 

Nuray Nuriyev, Azerbaijan 

Bryan Gallan, Philippines 

Ivanna Angeline Macedo, France 

Iratxe Otero, Spain 

Vika Basakovskaya, Russia 

Dimitra Kalogiannis, Greece 

Surya, India

J A. da Silva, Brazil

Kadir Murat Sözübir, Turkey 

Jeffrey Bright, USA 

Bubbli, Pakistan 

Tiara Banks, USA 

Jaqueline Saviery Silva, Brazil 

Claudia Madonna Ramírez, Colombia 

Santiago Cancinos, Argentina 

Ambre Audrey Istier, France 

Adrieli, Italy 

Mia Zabala, Honduras 

Soledad Rojas Paúcar, Peru 

Cristina Hernández Castillo, Mexico 

Thaw Thaw, Myanmar 

Lupita da Silva, Brazil 

Angelita Seixas Alves Correia, Brazil 

Vivianne López, Chile 

Alessandra Ferrati, Bolivia 

Diamond Kyree Sanders, USA 

Mumtaz, Pakistan 

Krys Brandon Ruiz, USA 

Paula Migeon, France 

Cecy Caricia Ixpatá, Guatemala 

Elizabeth Rondón, Venezuela 

Oliver Taylor, USA 

Darla, Brazil 

Dakshayani, India 

Dzhakonda, Kazakhstan  

Kelly Alves, Brazil 

Chyna Carrillo, USA 

Pam, Turkey 

Nelly Garcia, Mexico 

Fabiola Pamela Ramírez, Argentina 

Marcinha Vaz, Brazil 

Yeray Hurtado, Colombia 

Lala Contreras, Nicaragua 

Tiffany Thomas, USA 

 

 

Trans Day of Remembrance Staff Portal piece: https://www.reading.ac.uk/internal/staffportal/news/articles/spsn-861476.aspx  

 

 

Celebrating Diwali!

Our staff and students at UoR have shared their Diwali celebrations with us in this blog! 

 

NHSF Reading 

Diwali is a very important festival for me. This allows me and my family to be together and celebrate. Last year, for Diwali we put Diyas around the house and got some sparkles to play with in the garden. Additionally, at university we had a Diwali ball during my first year which made me realise that this festival allows people to unite and have fun. It was full of dancing and taking loads of pictures. 

– Saumya(Co-president) 

 

Diwali is a time where all of my extended family get together. We play games and eats lots of freshly prepared Indian snacks and sweets. 

– Raj(Co-president) 

 

Diwali for me is about spending time with my family eating Indian food, playing games and watching the fireworks.  Growing up in Leicester I was surrounded by the biggest Diwali celebrations outside of India, I am so grateful to have celebrated and still celebrate in such a huge manner. 

– Bhavani(Sewa and Sanskaar) 
 

For me Diwali is about spending time with family and friends. Me and my family celebrate it by lighting Diyas(candles) outside our house and eating plenty of Indian Sweets. During this time, we also do fireworks and make rangoli which is a special type of art using different colours of powders to make beautiful designs. 

– Priyan(secretary and media) 

 

 

This Diwali, light a candle for hope 

Santosh Sinha (Staff Engagement Manager; Co-Chair of BAME Staff Network) 

 

What a difference a year makes! 

Diwali (the Hindu festival of lights) feels much brighter this year. Earlier this week, I was taking my son for his taekwondo class when the sky lit up with colours and sounds of fireworks.  

I am sure that the private school, which put on this display, was either celebrating Guy Fawkes Night a bit early or trying to cheer up its pupils. However, for me – and to some extent, my son – fireworks at this time of the year mean that other are joining in, in the celebration of Diwali (though some Indian friends suspect that this year it might also be English and Pakistani cricket fans celebrating yet another disappointing performance by India at the T20 Cricket World Cup). 

There is something about the fireworks that cheers you up. Over the years, we have toned down our use of fireworks. As parents, a sparkler seems to be the safest device your child can handle and the rest has to be done in moderation to be a good neighbour. 

Unlike last year, when the celebration were non-existent, this year’s celebrations started over the weekend for us. We had invited some families for dinner and Diwali celebrations with us. With COVID19 continuing to cast a shadow, we had to go for a much smaller gathering that we are used to.  

It did feel like Diwali. We had sweets. We had terracotta lamps. We had firecrackers. But most importantly, we had friends to celebrate the day with – friends who understand how important Diwali is and how it brings people together. 

It was nearly two in the morning by the time we wrapped up, but the clocks were changing that night and we were able to gain an extra hour of sleep. Definitely my best Diwali gift ever! 

Tonight we will be setting out to be with our friends, who we have celebrated Diwali with every single year that we have known them. The children look forward to it every year, and we enjoy spending Diwali with friends who are almost family to us. 

My wife and I have been able to see our mothers after almost three years – she had to visit India to see hers and mine is visiting us at the moment.  

As I wrote last year, most of us were hoping to meet up “soon” while being acutely aware that “soon” may be months away. Increased vaccination and the easing travel restrictions mean that the hope is now a reality. 

So let’s light a candle tonight to hope that the next year is an even better year than this one! 

 

Happy Diwali!

Prof Vimal Karani S (Professor of Nutrigenetics & Nutrigenomics) 

http://blogs.reading.ac.uk/diversereading/files/2021/11/Diwali-2_Trim2_1-Prof-Vimal-Karani.mov 

 

 

 

Diwali – Celebrating The Light Within 

Shweta Band (Lecturer and PhD Candidate, School of Law) 

 

The fragrance of sandalwood incense sticks and listening to the song ‘Uthi uthi Gopala’ in the blissful voice of Pandit Kumar Gandharva ji, the doyen of Indian classical vocal music- this is my earliest memory of a Diwali morning growing up in India. It was a decades-old family ritual and something that I miss every year celebrating Diwali away from home. As immigrants from India, I always find myself making eager attempts to relive and recreate all cultural traditions and rituals as an experience-legacy for my children. But there’s something magical in celebrating Diwali back home- surrounded by family and amidst the millions of lights and colours everywhere!  

I’m sure you all know Diwali as portrayed by social media, but if you’ve ever wondered how an actual Diwali day in India looks like- join in this visual journey- from my Diwali trip to India in 2019 (something I had managed after eight long years).  

As we celebrate Diwali away from home every year, we try and live the beautiful spirit of the festival- of the value of celebrating with family and friends, of the joy of gifting, of being thankful to the wealth (in whatever form!) that life has given us and of the eternal hope that good triumphs over evil and light over darkness. Diwali isn’t just about the light from the sparkles of the diya-lamps, or the lanterns or from the firecrackers. On a spiritual level, Diwali is all about being enlightened by the light within! It’s a beautiful reminder that one whose heart is filled with light, will brighten all lives around! This is what I love about my favourite festival.  

So here’s the Diwali wish I leave you with –  

Roshan karo, roshan raho!  

May you spread the light. May you be the light!  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All About Diwali

What is Diwali?  

Diwa, also known as Divali or Deepawali, is a festival celebrated by people of different faiths including Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, Muslims and some Buddhists across the globe. 

Diwali originates from the Sanskrit word ‘deepavali’, which means ‘rows of lights’. 

Diwali is often referred to as the festival of lights. It celebrates the triumph of good over evil, and light over darkness, marking the start of the Hindu New Year. As one of the prominent festivals of India, celebrations take place together with family and friends, whilst new and old relationships are kindled through Indian sweets, delicacies and laughter.

 

When is Diwali?  

Diwali takes place over 5 days. The main festival day falls on a different date in the autumn each year, in line with the Hindu lunar calendar, in the Hindu lunar month Kartika. Usually, Diwali falls in October or November in the Gregorian calendar. This year, Diwali is on Thursday 04 November 2021. 

 

How is Diwali celebrated?  

Diwali is a five-day festival, with the height of the festival being celebrated on the third day, which is Thursday 04 November 2021. 

Preparations for the festival involve people cleaning and decorating their homes in the lead-up to the festival.  

Diwali is celebrated with joy, sweets, and also fireworks, string lights and candles. Many towns celebrate as a community by throwing parties. Traditional celebrations include lighting diyas (oil lamps) in workplaces and homes. Diyas are a guidance for Goddess Lakshmi to find her way home. They also act as a spiritual reminder that inner light can protect homes from spiritual darkness.  

Each day of Diwali has it’s own significance:  

Day 1, Dhanteras – Cleaning homes and shopping  

Day 2, Chhoti Diwali / Naraka Chaturdasi / Kali Chaudas  – Decorating homes with lamps and creating design patterns called rangoli using coloured powders or sand.  

Day 3, Diwali / Deepawali / Lakshmi Puja – The main day of the festival! Families and friends gather for prayers to Goddess Lakshmi, often followed by feasts and festivities – sometimes fireworks!  

Day 4, Govardhan Puja / Padva – The first day of the new year. Friends and families often visit each other with gifts and best wishes for the season.  

Day 5, Bhai Dooj / Yama Dwitiva – A day for brothers and sisters to honour one another. Siblings often pray for one another and participate in a ceremony called tilak. Often also followed by feats and festivities!  

  • Diwali Ball  

Date/Time: 25th November, 7pm-11pm
Location: 3sixty, Reading University Students’ Union 
Find out more by contacting NHSF Reading at nhsfreading@gmail.com  

 

 

Further Resources:  

Diwali.org – https://www.diwalifestival.org/ 

25 Facts About Diwali – https://parade.com/1116817/marynliles/diwali-facts/  

17 Indian Street Food Recipes – https://parade.com/843981/manuzangara/17-indian-street-food-recipes/ 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Proud to be: Celebrating Black History Month

 

October is Black History Month and this year’s theme is Proud To Be. The campaign is aiming to make Black History Month 2021 unique and personal to individuals, families and communities. In addition to this aim, this theme also focuses on the achievements and contributions of Black people throughout history.  

 At the University of Reading, we are proud to be celebrating Black History Month and continuing conversations around race beyond just the month of October. In this blog piece, we’ve compiled a list of resources in various formats that encourage thinking and discussions on race for more than just a month.  

 

 

Books

on Black British History: 

on Anti-Racism: 

  • Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race – Reni Eddo-Lodge  
  • So You Want To Talk About Race – Ijeoma Oluo 
  • The Good Ally – Novara Reid 

On Race:  

  • Afropean: Notes from Black Europe – Johnny Pitts
  • Biracial Britain: A Different Way of Looking at Race – Remi Adekoya
  • Brit(ish): On Race, Identity and Belonging – Afua Hirsh
  • In Black and White: A Young Barrister’s Story of Race and Class in a Broken Justice System – Alexandra Wilson
  • Mixed/Other: Explorations of Multiraciality in Modern Britain – Natalie Morris

 

 

Podcasts 

American Podcasts: 

 

 

Videos about Black British History: 

 

 

Videos about Anti-Racism: 

 

 

Resources & events:


 

Other resources: 

 

 

 

 

 

University of Reading at Reading Pride Love Unites Festival 2021

Saturday 4th September 2021, King’s Meadow, Reading 

 

An article written with collaborative input from, and with special thanks to: 

Abi Flach, Al Laville, Aleiah Potter, Alice Mpofu Coles, Amrit Saggu, Amy Sheffield, Becky Kite, Carol Fuller, Clare Hallcup, Eva van Herel, Florian Roithmayr, Gordon Short, Hatty Taylor, Javier Amezcua, Jessica Tyers, Jude Brindley, Kat Bicknell, Lucy Guest, Mark McClemont, Martina Mabale De Burgos, Mathew Haine, Susan Thornton, Nozomi Tolworthy, Parveen Yaqoob, Peter Scarfe, Rachel Helsby, Ruvi Ziegler, Sadie Bartholomew, Saif Maher, Sinead O Flynn and Sheldon Allen. 

 

Love Unites!

We were so excited to hear that Reading Pride – Love Unites Festival was back on in person this year and it did not disappoint! We had our usual stand in the festival’s marketplace where we could engage with the community.  

We talked about life on campus, working at the University, the student experience at the University. We also talked about inclusive recruitment, and ways one could join the University, as staff or prospective students. We celebrated the current and ever-expanding support for LGBT+ students and staff at the University, including RUSU’s LGBT+ student society, the LGBT+ Staff Network and much more!  

The University's Stand at the Love Unites festival set up, waiting for guests to arrive; A 6 metre by 3 metre Gazebo with a hot pink covering. Two large tables are under the gazebo, covered by the University of Reading tablecloths, in our signature red colour. A large rainbow flag hangs from the back of the Gazebo Three large signs are standing on easels in front of the stand, showing the Lord Wolfenden and the cover of his report. There is text explaining the Wolfenden legacy, and another image in modern day, showing University of Reading. The text describes the modern-day impact of the Wolfenden report on staff, students, and the wider community.

 Professor Kat Bicknell, Head of the Department of Pharmacy, Nozomi Tolworthy, Diversity and Inclusion Advisor and Professor Carol Fuller stand under the gazebo at the University of Reading stall. They are standing in front of a table which has a red University of Reading table cloth and is covered with rainbow lanyards, postcards and pronoun badges.

 

Free Handouts for All!

We engaged the crowds with our handouts; rainbow lanyards, progress flag/UoR stickers. A particular favourite was the pronoun badges we were giving out. In 2019 we launched four styles of pronoun badges: He/Him, She/Her, They/Them, and a badge with a blank box for custom pronouns. These were a huge, and unique hit at the festival and were very welcome amongst the attendees.  

We initially wrote about the importance of pronouns in our blog piece back in February 2019 – Pronoun Badges at the University of Reading. We want our trans and non-binary colleagues, students and members of the wider community to know, as well as our cisgender colleagues, students, and members of the wider community that we not only support but encourage their expression of their gender identity. We want to recognise and respect the entire spectrum of gender and do all that we can to represent and celebrate the diverse community of identities that we have at Reading. You can read more about the importance of pronouns here 

 

Digital Takeover

Martina Mabale De Burgos, Student Outcomes Coordinator and University of Reading Community Champion and Sheldon Allen, Law Student and UoR Community Champion, did an awesome job of taking over the University of Reading’s social media channelsStarting at the parade, they made their way through the town with the hundreds of others in the Parade. They made sure everyone who couldn’t be there felt included in the day by sharing photographs and posts throughout the day. We used the University’s iconic social media frame, which is being modelled in the image above by Parveen Yaqoob, who is the LGBT+ champion on the University’s Executive Board, and Sheldon.   

 

Celebrating the Wolfenden Legacy

We had placards printed which told the story of Lord Wolfenden. In 1957, John Wolfenden released a report which proposed that ‘homosexual intercourse between consenting adults should be decriminalized’. The uproar it produced in politics, the press and public discourse eventually helped pave the way for LGBT+ rights in the UK.  

Lord Wolfenden was Vice Chancellor of the University of Reading between 1950–1964 and future Director of the British Museum, was chosen to head the Departmental Committee on Homosexual Offences and Prostitution in 1954.

We mark this important moment in history annually with the Wolfenden Lecture.  

This year the Wolfenden Lecture was presented by special guest, Hafsa Qureshi, Stonewall Bi Role Model of the Year 2019. 

The event this year was named ‘Why We Are Not All Equal’; 

As a modern society, we treat the problem of inequality as a thing of the past. This lecture aimed to dispel the notion that equality has been achieved. We looked at the ways society has adapted the way we discriminate against one another, and what we can do to oppose this. 

 

 

Pride as a Protest

We were very happy this year to see the traditional roots of LGBT+ Pride were given consideration, with a ‘grassroots protest’ art instillation at the Main entrance to the festival. LGBT+ Pride is well known as a celebration of the diverse identities and people within the LGBT+ community, but it is also a protest.

The Pride celebrations that we know and love all over the world today were born in New York City. Following the Stonewall riots, (also known as the Stonewall uprising or the Stonewall rebellion) which were a series of spontaneous demonstrations by members of the LGBT+ community in response to a police raid that began in the early morning hours of June 28, 1969 at the Stonewall Inn.  

The first Pride March, on 28th June 1970 was called the Christopher Street Liberation Day March (which is the name of the road the Stonewall Inn is on) and the event had both an element of celebration and protest. 

 

We had a truly brilliant time at the Love Unites festival. We are also aware we can always improve. Some of the ideas we have had for next year already include things such as: 

  • A UoR flag flying high from the stall, so people can find us easily from a distance,  
  • Changing or adapting our hand-outs so that they are environmentally friendly,  
  • A ‘photo booth’ with our amazing frame (as modelled by Ruvi in the image above) including the famous disco ball from the Art Department.  

 

 

If you have any comments, feedback or any exciting ideas for next year, we would love to hear from you. Please send us an email at diversity@reading.ac.uk with your comments.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Celebrating Lesbian Visibility Week 2021

by Hatty Taylor and Nozomi Tolworthy, UoR Diversity and Inclusion Advisors 

 

This year Lesbian Visibility Week runs from Monday 26 April – Sunday 2 May. The aim of this week, according to the organisers is 

 

“Both to celebrate lesbians and show solidarity with all LGBTQI women and non binary people in our community. We believe in unity, and lifting up those who are most marginalised.” 

 

Lesbians are a marginalised community within the marginalised community that is LGBTQ+. Lesbian visibility week is important because lesbians have been erased, ignored, and misunderstood, so many times throughout history. When homosexuality was illegal, lesbians were not criminalised which could be considered as leniency, though it would be naïve not to consider that this might have been erasure or incomprehension of lawmakers at the time.  

Fast forward to present day, and lesbian representation in mainstream media and entertainment still has a long way to go. Too often, characters are at best engaged in the likes of coming of age drama or straight-woman-turned-lesbian tragedy, and at worst fetishized for the male gaze.  

 

Even representation falters when interpretation can lead to erasure.

Consider the incident of famous actor and lesbian, Samira Wiley, whose wedding photo went viral after a fan requested pictures of her and her wife’s ‘husbands. Assumptions of bffs’, galpal relationships, ‘special friendships’ and various other euphemistic language serves only to minimise, erase and extinguish the validity, nuance, and depth of lesbian relationships 

 

Like many marginalised groups right now, the community is also challenged by a period in time where opinions within it are polarised. Lesbians are being pressured to take opposing sides and energy is being drawn away from unity against the oppression, to infighting amongst the community. While the subjects dividing opinion are no doubt important, one has to question whether the division of a marginalised group is helpful for any of it’s members, and who this division ultimately benefits. The message of this year’s lesbian visibility week is one of unitand carries a loud and clear call for solidarity among all LGBTQ+ women and non binary people in the community.

 

Year-Round Visibility  

Below you can find some inspirational LGBTQ+ women, media outlets and organisations who are keeping lesbians visible every day of the year and represent the multifaceted lesbian experience.  

First published in 1994, the world’s best-selling magazine for LGBTQI women, DIVA magazine  who are sponsors of Lesbian Visibility Week, produce content which does not fit within the narrow lines often prescribed to the lesbian experience.  

Tanya Compass, an award-winning youth worker, community organiser and founder of Queer Black Christmas. After working in the charity sector for 6 years delivering programming and supporting vulnerable young people, Tanya realised that there was no better time than now to finally set up Exist Loudly, an official organisation and create programming for Queer Black Young People in London.  

Hannah Gadsby, comedian, writer and actress shares her experiences both as a lesbian and as a neurodiverse person. Her beautifully honest stand up is both heart-breaking and hilarious. Watch Nanette on Netflix (have tissues ready!) 

 

 

Organisations Around Reading – Learn More, Get Support 

SupportU provide awareness raising events and support to the entire LGBTQ+ community in the Berkshire area. SupportU are currently producing an online series in collaboration with Club F.O.D, a charity dedicated to combatting LGBTQ+ social isolation, titled ‘Sofa TalksThe series covers a wide range of issues faced by the LGBTQ+ community.  

 

Reading Culture Live have been showcasing a series of events, ‘Under the Brolly’ in collaboration with local organisation myumbrella LGBT+and they are exploring marginalised identities within the LGBTQ+ community, including this video, covering Lesbian Visibility Week and World Autism Day. This is a really wonderful series, raising awareness and celebrating lesser known identities within the community. 

 

 

Events  

Lesbian Visibility Week events are FREE and will be live streamed through Facebook and YouTube unless otherwise stated.  

View all events taking place from Monday 26 April to Saturday 01 May 2021 over on the Lesbian Visibility Week Events Webpage. Here’s a peek at what’s going on!  

 

 

 

 

 

Celebrating International Trans Day of Visibility and Autism Awareness Week

by Hatty Taylor and Nozomi Tolworthy, Diversity and Inclusion Advisors at the University of Reading

 

 

International Trans Day of Visibility is an annual event, occurring on 31st March that is dedicated to celebrating trans people and raising awareness of discrimination faced globally by people whose gender does not align with that which was assigned to them at birth.  

World Autism Awareness Week (29th March – 4th April) is an opportunity to celebrate individuals with autism as well as encouraging awareness and education of challenges faced by those individuals.  

You may think these two events are unconnected, but we would like to shine a light on the unique experiences of people with autism, who also identify as trans or non-binary. 

Recent data suggests that trans and nonbinary people are ‘three to six times as likely to be autistic as cisgender people are. According to the largest study yet to examine the connection, gender-diverse people are also more likely to report autism traits and to suspect they have undiagnosed autism.’  An analysis of five unrelated databases that all include information about autism, mental health and gender has led to these conclusions. You can read more about it here – Largest study to date confirms overlap between autism and gender diversity.
 

 

The National Autistic society also highlights this intersection of identities, and shares some personal stories which can really help us to understand the unique experiences of those who identify as trans, non-binary and as a person with autism:

 

Sophie Gribbena non-binary autistic person, talks about celebrating Pride Month. They said: 

“One of the things I have difficulty with is attending Pride festivities. I am sensitive to noise, and crowds, but if I am properly accommodated then I really enjoy myself!”

 

Dr Wenn Lawsonautistic advocate, researcher, and psychologist, said: 

 ”The non-autistic world is governed by social and traditional expectations, but we may not notice these or fail to see them as important. This frees us up to connect more readily with our true gender.”

 

Researchers across several Universities contributed to a paper – Autism and transgender identity: Implications for depression and anxietywhich looks into this connection, and also highlights the increased risk of common mental health issues for people with these intersecting characteristics.  

 

In addition to the increased risk of mental health issues, trans people who also have autism often face barriers from health care professionals, who can undermine their trans identity, as explained in this article – The link between autism and trans identity It also highlights the ways in which the implications of this correlation are proving problematic and sometimes tragic for trans, autistic communitiesPlease be advised that the article relates to Kayden Clarke, a trans autistic man who was killed by police in the US, and therefore contains some upsetting content that you may not want to read.  

 

 

Intersectionality  

Intersectionality – This word has been used a lot more recentlyHere is short video where Kimberlé Crenshaw talking about what intersectionality means and the origin of the term.

It is crucial that we understand that people do not have protected characteristics in isolation, that marginalised groups exist within marginalised groups, and by beginning to hold these conversations, we create space for learning about each other, networking, supporting one another.  Multiple protected characteristics can also influence each other, exacerbate challenges and make barriers even taller than they would be without additional considerations. By talking about identities within marginalised groups, we can make steps in starting to see each other as the complex, multi-faceted beings that we are, with unique experiences and identities.  

It is important to note that though there may be a higher correlation of autistic individuals in the trans community this in no way suggests that the majority of trans individuals should be assumed to have autism, or that the majority of individuals with autism are trans. It’s important to recognise that larger more comprehensive studies need to be conducted on the topic which better reflect trans and autistic people’s views and experiences and how these experiences overlap. 

 

 

Events  

We have collated several external online events which you can attend in the coming days/weeks to learn more about autism, and trans identitiesJoin celebrations and even watch a film screening. Lockdown has never looked so exciting!   

 

  • Thinking Differently about Autism at Work

Employers Network for Equality & Inclusion (ENEI)

Wed, 31 March 2021, 09:30 – 12:30 BST

UoR are members of ENEI, and all staff and students can register for FREE using their ‘@reading.ac.uk’ email address via this link

 

 

  • Bi, Trans & Non-Binary Intersectionality: a Parallel Journey to Acceptance

Global Butterflies, The London Bisexual Network and the Law Society

Wed, 31 March 2021, 12:30 – 13:30 BST

To mark Trans Day of Visibility 2021, Global Butterflies, the London Bisexual Network and the Law Society are partnering to host a panel on the intersectionality between being Trans or Non-Binary and Bisexual.

Register for FREE via this link

 

 

  • Spring Feast 2021: Virtual LGBTQ2S Family Celebration

The 519 EarlyON Child and Family Centre

Wed, March 31, 2021, 15:30 – 16:30 BST

Register for FREE via this link

 

 

  • Trans Day of Visibility – Screening of Disclosure

University College Dublin Students Union

Wed, 31 March 2021, 18:30 – 20:00 BST 

Register for FREE via this link

 

 

  • 2021 Transgender Day of Visibility

Transgender Health and Wellness Center

Wed, Mar 31, 2021 23:00 – Thurs, Apr 1, 2021 01:00 BST 

Register for FREE via this link

 

 

  • Trans Presence: Beyond Visibility Panel

Play Out Apparel and SelectHealth  Thurs, April 1, 2021, 01:00 – 02:30 BST

Live stories & music, a raw unfiltered panel discussion about trans diverse experiences, & more! On Transgender Day of Visibility, this event is going beyond visibility by sharing inspiring, informative, and diverse trans stories, spotlighting artists, and presenting important information about accessing health services.

Register for FREE via this link

 

 

  • Trans Inclusion Training

University of Reading

Mon, 17 May 2021, 10:30 AM – 12:30 PM BST

This is FREE to attend

Staff can register on UoRLearn via this link

Students can email diversity@reading.ac.uk to register 

 

 

 

 

Further Resources 

Autism and Gender Identity | National Autistic Society 
https://www.autism.org.uk/advice-and-guidance/what-is-autism/autism-and-gender-identity
 

Trans Day of Visibility | LGBT Foundation 
https://lgbt.foundation/who-we-help/trans-people/trans-day-of-visibility
 

The urgency of intersectionality | Kimberlé Crenshaw
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=akOe5-UsQ2o 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Holi 2021

by UoR Hindu Society 

 

Holi is a Hindu festival that is known as the ‘festival of colours’. It is a festival that celebrates positivity, whether that be the victory of good over evil, the arrival of spring or love.

 

What is Holi and Why is it Celebrated?

Holi gets its name from Holika, the sister of demon king Hiranyakashyap.

The story of Holi begins when King Hiranyakashyap received a boon from Lord Vishnu that made him invincible. King Hiranyakashyap though these powers made him worthy of worship and decided everyone should worship him over God. However, the King’s son Prahlad refused and continued to worship Lord Vishnu. The King was angered and tried to kill Prahlad with the help of his sister Holika. Holika convinced Prahlad to sit on a pyre with her as she had a special shawl to protect her from getting burnt. However, the shawl flew off Holika and protected Prahlad instead and he remained unharmed while Holika burned.

This story illustrates the triumph of good over evil.

 

How do we Celebrate?

Every year, a Holika bonfire is lit in order to remind us of this victory of good over evil. The next day people come together, throwing colours at each other, singing and dancing.

 

Events This Year 

Every year, the Hindu Society here at UoR hosts a Holi event for everyone to take part in. It includes music, dancing and lots of colour! Unfortunately, due to Covid-19, this year will be a bit different. The Hindu Society will be hosting a (virtual) Holi dance social on Tuesday 30th of March. It is open to everyone and more information can be found on our social media.

Get in touch through any of the below!

Instagram: @nhsfreading

Facebook: @ReadingHinduSociety

Email: nhsfreading@gmail.com