Monday, September 28, 2015


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


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.