Monday, December 14, 2015

Advent

If I may be cynical for a bit, Christmas in America is an orgy of consumerism. We begin on Black Friday (the holiest day on the consumerist calendar) and continue shopping till we drop, culminating in a pile of crumpled up wrapping paper on the morning of December 25. After that, we have to quick get those decorations down and put away before the new year rolls around. By contrast, Christmas in the church actually begins on December 25 and leads on for twelve days commemorating the birth of Christ, followed by Epiphany in which Christ is revealed to the world. The days leading up to Christmas are actually a time of prayer, fasting, and self denial (the opposite of consumerism) as we repent and prepare for the coming of Christ (both remembering that first Christmas day but also looking ahead to his return). I know we stand with a foot in each of these worlds, especially as a dad I'm trying to figure out gifts for my kids, but please, try to pause for a moment and remember joy. Yesterday, the third Sunday of Advent, the Joy candle (the pink one - I know, for years I assumed the one that was a different color must be the one right before Christmas) was lit in advent wreaths around the world, and in this LEGO wreath by CJ. Joy to the world, our Lord is coming.


Sunday, December 13, 2015

Hanukkah

Here's a much smaller menorah that a first grader named Maxwell built as a gift for his parents last year. I hope all of my Jewish readers have had a wonderful holiday this year.


Saturday, December 12, 2015

Monday, December 7, 2015

I have a little dreidel, I made it out of LEGO

Jim DeVona gives instructions to build your own dreidel - a top used in a game traditionally played at Hanukkah. In addition to being fun, the game helps remind children that "A great miracle happened there".


Sunday, December 6, 2015

Happy Hanukkah

This evening the first candle will light on menorahs around the world, celebrating the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah. This 14 foot menorah was erected this year outside a synagogue in northern Washington DC. That's not actual LEGO, instead it's EverBlock, a LEGO-like building material. The Rabbi wanted to build something like LEGO, just much larger, and partnered up with the president of EverBlock.



Saturday, October 31, 2015

Happy Reformation Day

In addition to being Halloween, the eve of All Souls Day, which is Día de Muertos in Mexico, and also connections to the occult in some people's view, today is celebrated in Protestant circles as Reformation Day. On this day 498 years ago, Martin Luther sparked the Protestant Reformation by challenging the Roman Catholic teaching on indulgences. Here are two of the giants of the Reformation, on display at Expolorraine 2013: John Calvin (left) and Martin Luther (right).


Thursday, October 22, 2015

Egyptian mummy

In ancient Egypt, the preservation of the body was believed to be necessary for the soul to survive into the afterlife. Because of this, they developed elaborate embalming processes and buried their dead, or at least the rich and powerful, in elaborate tombs. At least for a time, they would leave offerings for their ancestors and ask for their assistance. AnActionFigure made this amazing life-size Egyptian mummy.


Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Bob and Larry

Cody Purviance made Bob and Larry from the Christian children's show Veggietales. Bob the Tomato and Larry the Cucumber tell Bible stories and also have generally silliness, while still reminding kids that "God made you special, and He loves you very much." BTW, even if the cartoon doesn't appeal to you (though it should), you definitely should listen to the show creator's podcast, the Phil Vischer Show.


Monday, September 28, 2015

Sukkot

Last night at sundown Sukkot, or the Feast of Tabernacles, began. This is part a harvest festival but also a remembrance of the Exodus, the years of traveling in the wilderness and depending only on God. During this time Jews build Sukkot, or booths - temporary structures remembering the tent-like homes the people of Israel built during their travels from Egypt to the promised land. These also resemble makeshift shelters built by farmers during the harvest, linking in the harvest-celebration aspect of this holiday. During the week of this celebration families eat their meals and even sleep in these structures built outside their homes. Last year Joanna Brichetto of Bible Belt Balabusta built LEGO Sukkot with grade-school age kids at her local school. Read her article for all of the details on how you can hold your own LEGO event to teach kids about their heritage.



Sunday, September 27, 2015

Mid-Autumn Festival

Today is the Mid-Autumn Festival in China and Vietnam, another of those traditions with roots in religious meanings that is today more of a cultural holiday. This day celebrates the harvest, and focuses on gathering with family and friends, giving thanks, and prayers for future blessings. In its ancient origins, this festival focused on worshiping the mountain gods, a dragon, or the moon god for the crops, and also for the birth of children. Today it is more a day for fun, food, dragon dances, moon cakes, and time with family and friends. Jared Chan made this rabbit--the rabbit is associated with this festival based on the tradition of the moon rabbit, a companion of the moon goddess Chang'e.


Friday, September 25, 2015

Hajj

This is a busy time for a blogger with an eye to world religions, between Jewish holidays, the Pope visiting the US, and it's also the time of the Hajj in Islam. The Hajj is an annual pilgrimage of faithful Muslims to Mecca, the birthplace of Muhammad and the location where he received the Quran, and this year it runs from September 22 to 27. This is one of the five pillars of Islam, and all Muslims are required to make this journey during their lives if they are able. Over 2,000,000 people are there this year (tragically, the press of so many people led to the death of 700 yesterday). A couple of years ago Ibraheem, a ten year old, built a LEGO diorama illustrating different locations and rituals associated with the Hajj. Some of these include:
The Tawaf, a ritual in which pilgrims walk seven times around the Kaaba, a cubic building covered in a black curtain. This structure is believed to have been built by Abraham and Ishmael and includes a black stone brought down from heaven by an angel. In the time of Muhammad this structure was full of idols, but when Muhammad conquered Mecca he removed the idols. Today the Kabaa is surrounded by the huge Al-Masjid al-Haram Mosque, built to accomodate the huge crowds of pilgrims at Hajj time.
Spending the afternoon in prayer, contemplation and repentance on the plain of Arafat. Here one can listen to sermons preached near the foot of the Mount of Mercy, where Muhammad is said to have given his last sermon.
Spending the night under the stars in the field of Muzdalifah.
Going back and forth between Mount Safa and Mount Marwah, where Hagar is said to have run when Abraham left her and Ishmael in the wilderness.
Throwing pebbles at three Jamarats (formerly pillars, now walls) in a ceremony called the Stoning of the Devil.
In addition to these, Ibraheem also built the tent city a Mina, where 100,000 tents house the visitors to Mecca.


Thursday, September 24, 2015

Papal visit

I live in New Jersey, and when you are driving up the 295 past Philadelphia, in characteristic Jersey fashion the freeway signs say "Pope in Philly. Expect delays." If you cross over to the Pennsylvania side the signs are more polite, as Pennsylvanians seem to be (I credit the Amish) (okay, in parts of Philly not so polite, but seriously, keep on driving to Amish country, they're all very nice people out there), anyway, where was I, oh yeah, the signs read something like "Road closures for papal visit".* Anyway, if you can get through the roads, it's a great time to go to Philadelphia. Yes, Pope Francis is going to be there on Saturday and Sunday, but LEGO fans should go to the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia. Nathan Sawaya's Art of the Brick exhibition is still there until October 4, and they just installed a large LEGO Vatican display, in time for the Pontiff's visit. This highly detailed minifig version of St. Peter's Basilica and St. Peter's Square, including tourists, nuns, Swiss Guards, and Francis himself, was built over the past ten months by Father Bob Simon, a Catholic priest from Scranton, Pennsylvania. I'm not sure how long this display will be at the Franklin, but there is a display called Vatican Splendours including art from the Vatican that is running through February 15. I'm sure there will be huge crowds there this weekend due to Catholics coming to the World Meeting of Families (the occasion of Francis' visit). I wonder if Father Simon will have the opportunity to show this to Francis (from the press coverage Francis seems like such a nice guy that I'll be he'd enjoy a LEGO version of himself).



*Update: Delaware is much more subtle, maybe in a form of church/state separation. They just say "Major event in Philadelphia".

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Yom Kippur

Today (well, starting last night at sundown and going through the day today) is Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, the holiest day on the Jewish liturgical calendar. During the days of the Temple in Jerusalem, this day was marked by sacrifices and purification rituals to cleanse the people of their sins. This day was the only time the high priest entered the Holy of Holies to bring the blood of the sacrifice before God. Since the destruction of the Temple in 70, the Day of Atonement has transformed to a day of prayer and fasting, asking others for forgiveness of wrongs done to them on the eve of Yom Kippur, and praying to God for forgiveness of sins on Yom Kippur itself. In anticipation of the High Holy Days (Rosh Hashanah last week and Yom Kippur this week), Yitzy Kasowitz of JBrick built Cantor Berel, a minifig version of Berel Ganz, who I gather from the description was cantor at Yitzy's synagogue before passing away.


Monday, September 14, 2015

Shana Tova!

Today is Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. This holiday, the anniversary of the creation of Adam and Eve in tradition, is largely a day of celebration and blessing leading to the more solemn Yom Kippur next week. Traditions for this day include eating apples and honey (for a sweet new year), blowing of the shofar (an instrument made out of a ram's horn), and the greeting Shana Tova (here in LEGO video form by Mola7171).


BTW, happy still being here, earth! Getting really inside-baseball here, there are some in some areas of Evangelical Christianity who had predicted that there would be huge calamities, largely economic, that were tied to the cycle of years in the Jewish calendar. I won't get into it here, but I don't have a huge deal of respect for apocalyptic date-setting.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Salamanca Cathedral

The Catedral Nueva (New Cathedral) of Salamanca Spain, here in LEGO form by Beth Tice, was commissioned by Ferdinand V of Castile in 1513 and completed in 1733.


Thursday, September 3, 2015

Cristo Redentor

Jens Ohrndorf made this micro version of the Cristo Redentor statue that towers over Rio de Janeiro. BTW I've previously blogged two other versions of this, plus a few related MOCs.


Thursday, August 27, 2015

Ondel-Ondel

One of the prominent folk arts of the Betawi people of Indonesia are the Ondel-Ondel puppets/costumes. These large colorful figures are donned by dancers at various festivals and cultural events. While today it is more of a cultural practice, these figures come from folk beliefs, where they seem to have originally represented the ancestors who watch over the people and protect them from evil spirits. Here are Ondel-Ondel figures and mask by Kosmas Santosa and Dendi Pratama.



Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Dharma Bhakti Buddhist Temple

The Dharma Bhakti Buddhist Temple (here in LEGO by Kosmas Santosa) was originally built in Jakarta Indonesia in 1650 to honor Buddhist priest Guan Yin. The building has gone through renovations and name changes over the years, and sadly was largely destroyed by fire earlier this year.


Friday, August 14, 2015

Leg Godt / Gizmodo

Gizmodo is a prime news site for all things tech-y and geeky, including LEGO. You can read the whole site, or go straight to the LEGO-themed sub-site Leg Godt (btw, the name LEGO came from the Danish phrase 'play well', or 'leg godt'). Anyway, a few days ago writer Titania Danger wrote a piece on GodBricks. Thanks, Titania! Glad you're enjoying the site. Everyone else, please check out her articles on LEGO and other topics.


Friday, August 7, 2015

Notre Dames

Daniel Stoeffler built two different French Notre Dames: Notre Dame de Paris and Notre Dame de Strasbourg. The cathedral in Paris was built from 1160 to 1345 on the Île de la Cité, an island in the Seine. The cathedral in Strasbourg was built from 1176 to 1439, though the originally planned south tower was never built, so I suppose you could argue it is still under construction. .


Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Red Sea

Patric Gnepf portrays the destruction of Pharaoh's army as the Red Sea closes in on them, as depicted in Exodus 14.



Thursday, July 30, 2015

Songkran Festival

In Thailand they celebrate the new year, or the Songkran Festival (here in LEGO by Jared Chan), from April 13-15. Traditions include spending time with your parents, grandparents, and other elders; throwing out what is old to look forward to the new; sprinkling with water in a form of ritual purification; and a tradition called 'bathing the Buddha'. A statue of the Buddha is brought through the streets and splashed with water, again a symbol of cleansing the soul of inner impurity. This tradition of splashing with water has evolved into a party-like atmosphere, with people taking to the streets with buckets, hoses, and super-soaker water guns in a city-wide water-fight, as shown in Jared's MOC.

The structure in this MOC is also of note. Wat Benchamabophit Dusitvanaram is one of the most well-known Buddhist temples in Bangkok. The temple, a little over a hundred years old, houses a statue of the Buddha known as Phra Buddhajinaraja in the inner hall, other statues of the Buddha found throughout the structure, and the remains of King Chulalongkorn, who reigned in Thailand from 1868-1910 and is the one who ordered the temple's construction. Today the temple is a symbol of the nation, a popular destination for tourists and is depicted on a Thai coin.


Monday, July 20, 2015

Our Lady of Lourdes

Freelug, a French LEGO group, is holding a contest for the Tour de France to build sites from around France. Seb Toutouille built the Vierge de Lourdes (Virgin of Lourdes). In 1858 Bernadette Soubirous saw a series of visions of the Virgin Mary. The shrine at Lourdes has been a site of pilgrimages, and the waters of the spring are said to perform miraculous healings. This LEGO rendition is of a statue of the Virgin that is seen now in the shallow cave where Saint Bernadette saw the vision.


Friday, July 17, 2015

Eid Mubarak

Today (or tomorrow, depending on where you are) is Eid al-Fitr, the Muslim festival marking the end of Ramadam. Ramadam is a month-long observance of the revelation of the Quran, a time that Muslims around the world mark with prayers, study of the Quran, fasting, and charity. The month ends with more prayers and a general celebration today. These LEGO renditions come from Mezba Mahtab's site Teaching Kids the Holy Quran that illustrates scenes from the Muslim scriptures.



Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Duomo di Milano

The Duomo di Milano (built here in LEGO by Bright Bricks for Nano Bleu Toys in Milan) was begun in 1386 and completed just in 1965. This cathedral is the fifth largest church in the world and the largest in Italy (though remember that the Vatican is a separate country - St Peters is the largest Christian church in the world), and I can testify that it is massive. I was there once and the columns reminded me most of the giant sequoia trees at Yosemite National Park. This model is built at a 1:200 scale and took the builders much less than the six centuries of the original, just an amazing ten days(!).




Friday, June 26, 2015

Ulm Minster

Ulm Minster is a Lutheran (formerly Catholic) church in Ulm Germany that is the tallest church in the world. Construction began in 1377 but was only finished in 1890, 125 years ago. As part of the anniversary celebration, two Legoland model designers, Vera Feldmann and Anastasia Trautwein, built a 2.3 meter tall LEGO rendition. It was originally displayed at Legoland Germany, but is now installed in the church itself for the rest of 2015. I don't see in the various articles what will happen to the model after that - presumably it will either return to Legoland to become part of the permanent display at some point.



Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The Church: Thermometer or Thermostat

Someone (who?) brought this MOC to the recent BrickWorld gathering, illustrating this passage from Martin Luther King Jr's Letters from a Birmingham Jail:
There was a time when the church was very powerful. It was during that period when the early Christians rejoiced when they were deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed in. In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society. Wherever the early Christians entered a town the power structure got disturbed and immediately sought to convict them for being “disturbers of the peace” and “outside agitators”. But they went on with the conviction that they were a “colony of heaven,” and had to obey God rather than man. They were small in number but big in commitment. They were too God-intoxicated to be “astronomically intimidated.” They brought to an end such ancient evils as infanticide and gladiatorial contest. Things are different now. The contemporary church is often a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. It is so often the arch supporter of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church’s silent and often vocal sanction of things as they are.



Monday, June 8, 2015

Ark of the Covenant

Simon Pickard made this miniland-scale version of the Ark of the Covenant. In Exodus 25, God orders Moses to build the Ark, a gold-covered box, which eventually carried the tablets of the ten commandments, the original version of the Torah, Aaron's rod, and a jar of manna. The Ark became a center of Jewish religious life, as it was said to be the focus of God's presence among them, holding a spot in the Holy of Holies in the Tabernacle and eventually the Temple.


Sunday, May 3, 2015

Communion

For the fifth Sunday of Easter, here is Bourea's LEGO Easter, where we see a priest celebrating the sacrament of communion.


Saturday, May 2, 2015

Szent István-Bazilika

Legorevival made this rendition of Szent István-Bazilika (Saint Stephen's Basilica) from Budapest. This Roman Catholic basilica is the third largest church in Hungary, completed in 1905. It is named for Stephen, the first king of Hungary.




Friday, May 1, 2015

Brick Book of Mormon

Brendan Powell Smith of Brick Testament fame has announced a new project, the Brick Book of Mormon. You can read more here, but it looks like he is just in the planning stages at this point. No estimated time when this will result in fully illustrated stories. I'm looking forward to seeing his take.


Monday, April 27, 2015

Tzedakah

I've previously noted JBrick, started by Yitzy Kasowitz to create and sell Jewish-themed LEGO sets. Here we see two different sizes of tzedakah boxes. Tzedakah means charity, but the word comes from the same root as righteousness, justice, or fairness (see here), so giving is not just seen as generosity, but also fulfilling justice (see, for instance, Deuteronomy 10:18, "He [the Lord your God] executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing. Giving is grouped with prayer and repentence in the liturgy of the High Holy Days. Many Jewish homes have a Tzedakah box to collect coins which will later be given to the needy. These boxes have the word Tzedakah in Hebrew, either in sticker form on the smaller boxes, or built into the LEGO bricks in the larger version.