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march 20


According to the UN’s World Happiness Report, Norway is the happiest place on Earth, toppling neighbor Denmark from the number one position.

The report measures “subjective well-being” – how happy the people are, and why.

Denmark, Iceland, Switzerland and Finland round out the top five while the Central African Republic came last.

Western Europe and North America dominated the top of table, with the US at 14th.

Countries in sub-Saharan Africa and those hit by conflict have predictably low scores. Syria placed 152 of 155 countries – Yemen and South Sudan, which are facing impending famine, came in at 146 and 147.

The World Happiness Report was released to coincide with the UN’s International Day of Happiness on March 20.

It mainly relies on asking a simple, subjective question of more than 1,000 people every year in more than 150 countries.

“Imagine a ladder, with steps numbered from 0 at the bottom to 10 at the top,” the question asks.

“The top of the ladder represents the best possible life for you and the bottom of the ladder represents the worst possible life for you. On which step of the ladder would you say you personally feel you stand at this time?”

The average result is the country’s score – ranging from Norway’s 7.54 to the Central African Republic’s 2.69. But the report also tries to analyze statistics to explain why one country is happier than another.

The report looks at factors including economic strength (measured in GDP per capita), social support, life expectancy, freedom of choice, generosity, and perceived corruption.

This year’s report also contains a chapter titled “restoring American happiness”, which examines why happiness levels in the US are falling, despite constantly-increasing economic improvement.

“The United States can and should raise happiness by addressing America’s multi-faceted social crisis – rising inequality, corruption, isolation, and distrust – rather than focusing exclusively or even mainly on economic growth,” the authors said.

“America’s crisis is, in short, a social crisis, not an economic crisis.”

According to Jeffrey Sachs, the director of the Sustainable Development Solutions Network, which published the report, President Donald Trump’s policies were likely to make things worse.

“They are all aimed at increasing inequality – tax cuts at the top, throwing people off the healthcare rolls, cutting Meals on Wheels in order to raise military spending. I think everything that has been proposed goes in the wrong direction,” Jeffrey Sachs told Reuters.

The report also suggests that professional “white collar” jobs are associated with improved happiness over “blue collar” roles – but that having a job at all is one of the biggest factors.

While “those in well-paying jobs are happier and more satisfied with their lives”, that effect has diminishing returns – “an extra $100 of salary is worth much more to someone at the lower end of the income distribution than someone already earning much more”.

The World Happiness Report has been published for the past five years, during which the Nordic countries have consistently dominated the top spots.

The clear dominance of those countries – and Denmark in particular – has encouraged other nations to adopt the Danish concept of “Hygge” – a cultural concept of coziness and relaxation.


March Equinox or the official start of spring sees druids and pagans marking the season of renewal at dawn among Stonehenge’s standing stones, the best known prehistoric monument in Europe.

Druids, pagans and revelers gathered at dawn by Stonehenge’s ancient stones in England to mark the Vernal Equinox, the official beginning of springtime.

Twice a year, the earth’s axis is angled so that the world gets an equal amount of daylight and night, a highly-significant event in the pagan calendar.

At the Spring Equinox, the sun rises exactly in the east, travels through the sky for 12 hours and then sets exactly in the west. All over the world, day and night are of equal length.

As the earth’s axis begins to tilt further in the coming days and weeks, the northern hemisphere will receive more direct sunlight, leading to spring and summer’s warmer temperatures.

Druids and pagans mark Spring Equinox among Stonehenge's standing stones

Druids and pagans mark Spring Equinox among Stonehenge’s standing stones

The occasion helps mark important celebrations around the world, including Easter, Passover and Nowruz, the Persian New Year. The Autumnal Equinox will occur on September 22.

The term “equinox” derives from the Latin aequues (equal) and nox (night), although strictly speaking, an equinox is not a day but a point in time. The days themselves when day and night are equal are referred to as equiluxes.

Traditionally, druids and pagans congregate at Stonehenge and other standing stone sites to greet the dawn and watch the sun rise while performing fertility rites.

English Heritage opened Stonehenge from 5.45 a.m. until 8.30 a.m. to allow worshippers to take part in the event to mark the season of renewal.

The druids and pagans were celebrating the ancient Saxon goddess Eostre, who symbolizes fertility and new beginnings.

The goddess is symbolized by eggs, representing new life, and rabbits or hares, for fertility. The name is also the root of the term given to the female hormone oestrogen.

Some regard elements of the Easter celebrations as deriving from this tradition, with the Christian festival marked by the “Easter Bunny” bringing us gifts of chocolate eggs.

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In 2012, the UN had the initiative to declare March 20 to be observed as the International Day of Happiness.

The International Day of Happiness recognizes that happiness is a fundamental human goal, and calls upon countries to approach public policies in ways that improve the well being of all peoples.

International Day of Happiness 2014

International Day of Happiness 2014

By designating a special day for happiness, the UN aims to focus world attention on the idea that economic growth must be inclusive, equitable, and balanced, such that it promotes sustainable development, and alleviates poverty. Additionally the UN acknowledges that in order to attain global happiness, economic development must be accompanied by social and environmental well being.

The initiative to declare a day of happiness came from Bhutan.

Bhutan’s citizens are considered to be some of the happiest people in the world. The Himalayan Kingdom has championed an alternative measure of national and societal prosperity, called the Gross National Happiness Index (GNH). The GNH rejects the sole use of economic and material wealth as an indicator of development, and instead adopts a more holistic outlook, where spiritual well being of citizens and communities is given as much importance as their material well being.

The March Equinox, also known as the Spring Equinox, often falls on March 20th as well.

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