Festivals Calendar

Our festivals calendar is provided by the Shap Working Party.  For a printed copy of this material, please visit their Calendar Page where access to the full text of the Shap Calendar Booklet can be purchased and downloaded, as can the Shap Calendar Wallchart, three PDFs and twelve Festival Photos.

 

NOW UPDATED for 2018!

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January
February
March
April
May
June
July
August
September
October
November
December
1st January
NEW YEAR’S DAY / HOGMANAY

National

 

A day widely observed throughout the UK, as is New Year’s Eve the preceding night, and  especially in Scotland, where bagpipes, haggis and first footing are widespread. It is customary to make New Year’s Resolutions at this time.

 

More Information:

 

BBC News: Hogmanay celebrations: Scotland brings in the new year

Rampant Scotland – Hogmanay

Hogmanay-top-facts

British Food and Drink: Hogmanay

History of New-years

 

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1st January
GANJITSU

Japanese

 

New Year’s Day celebrations in Japan are sometimes extended for up to three days, during which businesses are closed, families spend time together, decorations are put up and the first visit of the year is paid to local Shinto shrines.

 

More Information:

 

Guide to Japan – New Year – Ganjitsu

Asian Society: Japanese New Year

Mythic Maps – Ganjitsu

Japanese New Year has arrived -its Ganjitsu

Ganjitsu: Japanese New Year

 

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1st January
THE NAMING AND CIRCUMCISION OF JESUS

Christian

 

This day celebrates the circumcision or naming of Jesus at eight days old in accordance with Jewish custom, as recorded in Luke 2:21.

 

More Information:

 

Thinking Anglicans

Circumstitions – Why Christians need not be circumcised

The circumcision – parallel versions of the Bible account

Video – the Presentation of Christ in the Temple

Godward Archives: The Man who circumcised Jesus

 

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5th January
BIRTHDAY OF GURU GOBIND SINGH (1666 CE)

Sikh

 

This is celebrated as the Birth Anniversary of the tenth Guru, who instituted the Five Ks and established the Order of the Khalsa on Vaisakhi (Baisakhi). Like other anniversaries associated with the lives of the Gurus, the day is referred to as a Gurpurb, and is marked by the ending of an akhand path, an unbroken reading of the whole Guru Granth Sahib, which lasts for 48 hours.

 

More Information:

 

Global World: Birthday of Guru Gobind Singh

Time and Date Holidays: Guru Govind Singh

Guru Gobind Singh Ji 1606-1708

Guru Govind Singh in Images and Cards

Sikh Dharma: Guru Gobind Singh’s Birthday

 

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6th January
EPIPHANY

Christian (Anglican and Roman Catholic)

 

6th and 7th January

 

This is the twelfth day of Christmas. It celebrates the visit of the magi or wise men to the infant Jesus, bearing symbolic gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Some Mediterranean Catholic countries welcome the ‘magic wise men’ who arrive by boat, bearing gifts for children. In the Church calendar the Epiphany season lasts until the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. Roman Catholics celebrate this day on Sunday 7th January. Matthew 21:1-12.

 

More Information:

 

Time and Date: Epiphany

What is Epiphany ?

Topmarks Education – Epiphany

Catholic holydays and holidays – Epiphany

Epiphany – 10 Facts about the history and meaning of Three Kings Day

 

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6th January
CHRISTIAN EVE AND DAY – ORTHODOX AND RASTAFARIAN

Christian – Orthodox and Armenian: Julian calendar)

 

6th – 7th January

 

Many Orthodox and Armenian churches, and certain others related to them (including the Ethiopian and Rastafarian communities) still use the Julian, rather than the Gregorian Calendar, that is currently used by Western Christians. Accordingly they celebrate Christmas and certain other festivals thirteen days after the Western churches, so that the 6th and 7th of January in the Orthodox calendar equate to the 24th and 25th December in the Western one.

 

Many Orthodox Christians attend a special church liturgy on Christmas Day on January 7. In addition, Orthodox churches celebrate Christmas Day with a variety of traditions. For example, many churches light a small fire of blessed palms and burn frankincense to commemorate the three wise men’s (also known as Magi) gifts to baby Jesus. Some parishes also have joint celebrations for Christmas Day.

 

The focus of their celebrations is the arrival of the three Wise Men to celebrate the birth of the infant Jesus, supported by the belief that one of the three came from Ethiopia. The focus on January 7th as the date of his birth is held to be more accurate than the Western choice of a date with pagan connotations relating to the winter solstice.

 

More Information:

 

Why do Russians celebrate Christmas on January 7th?

Orthodox Christmas Day

Topmarks – Christmas/Epiphany

A Serbian Christmas Eve and Eastern European Food

The Calendar of the Orthodox Church

 

Christian – Rastafarian and Ethiopian Orthodox

 

6th – 7th January

 

Many Orthodox and Armenian churches, and certain others related to them (including the Ethiopian and Rastafarian communities) still use the Julian, rather than the Gregorian Calendar, that is currently used by Western Christians. Accordingly they celebrate Christmas and certain other festivals thirteen days after the Western churches, so that the 6th and 7th of January in the Orthodox calendar equate to the 24th and 25th December in the Western one.

 

The focus of their celebrations is the arrival of the three Wise Men to celebrate the birth of the infant Jesus, supported by the belief that one of them came from Ethiopia. Rastafarian tradition holds that Baltazar (Balthasar), one of the Three Kings, was from Ethiopia, and is often depicted as a black man even in the West. In Ethiopia, Lidät is celebrated with a special service at church. The more devout will fast on the gahad (Christmas Eve), and the even more devout for 40 days prior. At home, a big feast is prepared. No tree, no snow, no mistletoe. The main decoration depicts the Manger scene, where the Three Kings pay homage to the Infant. Tradition has it that Balthasar, the Ethiopian King, brought the frankincense. And, only children get presents. On this day, children play a hockey-like game called Genna, from where we get the alternative name of the Feast.

 

To Rastafarians it is a time not only to celebrate the birth of Jesus in the manner prescribed by tradition, but also to reflect on this event in the context of the original prophecy of his birth, seen as a manifestation of God not only as Priest but as King. The focus on January 7th as the date of his birth is held to be more accurate than the Western choice of a date with pagan connotations relating to the winter solstice.

 

Rastafarian Christmas celebrations in particular are lively and vibrant, and are evidence of the buoyant nature of these communities and their customs. At the same time the theological message of the incarnation is always visible in their corporate worship.

 

More Information:

 

RastaMind – Merry Reggae Christmas

Do Rastafarians celebrate Christmas?

Rastafari – An Introduction for Beginners

Rastarian Christmas in Pictures

Beliefs, Practices and Sacraments of Rastafari

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6th January
BAPTISM OF CHRIST

Christian

 

(Orthodox and Armenians observe the Theophany on 6 January)
(Anglicans observe The Baptism of Christ on 7 January)
(Roman Catholics observe The Baptism of the Lord on 8 January)
(Some Orthodox Churches observe on the Julian date: 19 January)

 

Christians commemorate the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist; they recall how at this event the heavens were opened and a voice was heard proclaiming Jesus, while God’s spirit descended on him in the form of a dove. During this event God was manifest as three persons in one – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. ‘Theophany’ means ‘Manifestation of God’. The first miracle of Jesus, performed at Cana in Galilee, is also remembered at this time.

 

More information:

 

Theopedia – The Baptism of Jesus

The Feast of the Epiphany – the Feast of Lights

The Baptism of Jesus

Paintings in Miniature of the Baptism of Jesus

Where was Jesus Baptised?

 

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12th January
BIRTHDAY OF SWAMI VIVEKANANDA

Hindu

 

Born Narendra Nath Datta in 1902 in Calcutta, he was an Indian Hindu monk who became the chief disciple of the 19th century saint Ramakrishna. Vivekananda, as he became known, was a key figure in the introduction of the Indian philosophies of Vedanta and Yoga to the Western world and helped to develop Hinduism during the latter part of the 19th century to the stage where it held the status of a major world religion. He pioneered the development of the Ramakrishna Mission and the creation of the Ramakrishna Vedanta Centre movement first in India and then throughout the world, travelling widely and emphasising the devotional and social aspects of the teaching and practice of his beloved Guru, Ramakrishna.

 

More information:

 

Swami Vivekananda: Life and Teachings

Vedanta Centre UK

Vivekananda and the Vedanta Network

50 Inspiring and Motivational Quotes from Swami Vivekananda

Vedanta philosophy

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13th January
MAKAR SANKRANTI / LOHRI / PONGAL

Hindu

 

Sankranti (Sangrand in Punjabi) is the start of a new zodiac sign i.e. the date is based on the solar rather than the lunar calendar. Tamils celebrate Pongal and eat a rice dish which gives the festival its name. For many Hindus it is a day for almsgiving and patching up quarrels and disagreements. Punjabis (including some Sikhs) celebrate the day as Lohri. Fires are lit outside and peanuts and sesame sweets are eaten round them. The traditional Punjabi meal consists of cornmeal chapatis and a mustard leaf dish. If a baby boy has been born during the previous year he is carried around the fire.

 

More Information:

 

Hindu Festivals – Makar Sankranti

About Hinduism: Festivals/Lohri

SCFI – Lohri

Greetings Cards – Makar Sankranti

Makar Sankranti: Reaping the Benefits of the Season

 

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16th January
SHINRAN MEMORIAL DAY

Buddhist

 

Shinran Shonin (1173-1262) was the founder of Jodo Shin-shu (or Shin Buddhism), one of the schools of Pure Land Buddhism. It is celebrated by some Mahayana Buddhists.

 

More Information:

 

Shinran Shonin – Buddhist Reformer

Shinran – Trailblazing Founder of Jodo Shinshu

Three Letters of Master Shinran’s Wife, Eshinni, to their Daughter, Kakushinni

Notes on the wasan of Shinran

Shinran – a peaceful Buddhist thinker – by George Gatenby

 

 

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18th January
WEEK OF PRAYER FOR CHRISTIAN UNITY

Christian

 

18th – 25th January

 

This week was first set aside in 1908. The theme for 2017 is: ‘Reconciliation – the love of Christ compels us’. Each year the growing commitment to ecumenism has increased the impact and the impetus of the week: special services are held, and dialogue on unity is encouraged; some worshippers attend united services, while others may visit each other’s churches or invite preachers from denominations different from their own. The Week runs from the Confession of Peter (Jan 18) to the Conversion of Paul (Jan 25).

 

More Information:

 

 

World Council of Churches – Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

CTBI: Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

Images for Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

A Selection of Thematic Music for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

Canadian Council of Churches – Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

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19th January
THEOPHANY / BAPTISM OF CHRIST

Christian Orthodox)

 

According to the Julian calendar

 

At Theophany Orthodox Christians commemorate the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist; they recall how at this event the heavens were opened and a voice was heard proclaiming Jesus, while God’s spirit descended on him in the form of a dove. During this event God was manifest as three persons in one – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. ‘Theophany’ means ‘Manifestation of God’. The first miracle of Jesus, performed at Cana in Galilee, is also remembered at this time.

 

More information at …

 

Orthodox Christians celebrate the Epiphany in cold water

Theophany in the Orthodox Church

The Baptism of Christ in the Jordan

Orthodox Epiphany in the River Jordan

Coptic celebration of Theophany

 

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21st January
WORLD RELIGION DAY

Baha’i and other faiths

 

This day promotes interfaith understanding by emphasizing factors common to all faiths. It was first introduced among Baha’i communities in the 1950s, and is now celebrated by a wider spread of communities, including the Baha’i, on the third Sunday of January.

 

More Information:

 

Time and Date – World Religion Day

Blog: World Religion Day

Holiday Lessons for Children for World Religion Day

Images for World Religions Day

Huffington Post – Baha’i World Religion Day

 

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22nd January
SARASWATI PUJA/ VASANT PANCHAMI

Hindu
BASANT Sikh (Punjabi)

 

This festival marks the beginning of Spring, and is widely celebrated in north India. In eastern India, and notably in Bengal, Hindus worship especially Saraswati, the goddess of learning and the arts. Yellow is particularly associated with the festival and so murtis of Saraswati are dressed in yellow. Another (secular) tradition is kite-flying, associated especially with the city of Lahore.

 

More Information:

 

About Hinduism – Saraswati Puja

About Hinduism – Saraswati Puja

Hinduism – Vasant Panchami

Mythic Maps – Vasant Panchami

Saraswati Puja in pictures

Huffington Post – Saraswati Puja

 

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25th January
HONEN MEMORIAL DAY

Buddhist

 

Honen (1133-1212 CE) is one of the outstanding figures in the history of Japanese Buddhism, and was the founder of Jodo Shinshu, one of the schools of Pure Land Buddhism.

 

More Information:

 

Mythic Maps – Honen Memorial Day

What and Where is the Pure Land?

Kyoto National Museum: The Illustrated Biography of Priest Honen

Honen and the Chion-in

New World Encyclopedia entry for Honen

 

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27th January
HOLOCAUST MEMORIAL DAY

National

 

This is a remembrance day for all the different categories of people who suffered at the hands of the Nazis during the second World War (1939-45). It aims to keep fresh in the mind the memory of all those who suffered and died at that period, and to help ensure that no such atrocity happens again. The date was chosen as the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, but for many it is appropriate to remember others who have been victims of subsequent acts of genocide elsewhere in the world.

 

The Holocaust began in 1933 when Adolf Hitler came to power in Germany. It ended in 1945 when Allied powers defeated the Nazis. Jewish people were excluded from public life on September 15th, 1935 when the Nuremberg Laws were issued. These laws also stripped German Jews of their citizenship and their right to marry Germans.

 

Once World War II began, the Nazis ordered all Jews to wear a yellow Star of David on their clothing so they could be easily targeted. Jews were forced to live in specific areas of the city called ghettos after the beginning of World War ll. In the larger ghettos, up to 1,000 people a day were picked up and brought by train to concentration camps or death camps.

 

Kristallnacht occurred on November 9th and 10th, 1938. Nazis pillaged, burned synagogues, broke windows of Jewish-owned businesses, and attacked Jewish people in Austria and Germany. 30,000 Jews were arrested and sent to concentration camps. In prison camps, prisoners were forced to do hard physical labour. Torture and death within concentration camps were common and frequent.

 

11 million people were killed during the Holocaust (1.1 million children). 6 million of those victims were Jewish. Other groups targeted by the Nazis were Jehovah’s Witnesses, homosexuals, disabled people, and Roma. Two-thirds of Jewish people living in Europe at the time of World War II were killed by Nazis.

 

More Information:
Holocaust Memorial Day Trust – Information and Resources

The Guardian: Holocaust Remembrance Day

11 Facts about the Holocaust

Holocaust Memorial Day – Remembering the Horror of Auschwitz

Holocaust Memorial Day – 10 reasons it’s essential we never forget this uniquely evil event

 

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30th January
JASHN-E SADEH

Zoroastrian – Iranian

 

Jashn-e Sadeh is a mid winter festival, celebrated 50 days and nights before the advent of the spring NoRuz, and signifies that the days are getting longer. On this day it is customary to pay visits to the Fire Temple to give thanks to the Creator God, to celebrate with a bonfire after sunset, to recite the Atash Niyayeesh or litany to fire, listen to stories of the legendary Iranians during the reign of King Hoshang, who discovered the art of making fire, share piping hot stew and bread, and enjoy the dancing and merry making.

 

More Information:

 

Farsi: Jashn-e Sadeh – Festival of Fire

Farsinet: Jashn-e Sadeh

Discovery of Fire – and Jashn-e-Sadeh

Celebration of Jashn-e-Sadeh in Iran

An Introduction to Jashne-e Sadeh – Fire Festival

 

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31st January
TU B ‘SHEVAT

Jewish

 

A popular minor festival which celebrates the New Year for trees. Jewish tradition marks the 15th of Shevat as the day when the sap in the trees begins to rise, heralding the beginning of spring. It is customary for Jews all over the world to plant young trees at this time and to eat fruit produced in Israel. For religious accounting purposes all trees have their anniversaries on this festival, regardless of when they were planted.

 

More information at …

 

Jewfaq – Holidays – Tu B’Shevat

Aish – Tu Bshvat – New Year for Trees

Tu B’Shevat for Tots

Images for Tu B’Shevat

My Jewish Learning -Tu B’ishvat

 

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1st February
IMBOLC/CANDLEMAS

Pagan

 

Imbolc, also called Oimelc and Candlemas, celebrates the awakening of the land and the growing power of the Sun. Snowdrops, which appear at this time of the year, are seen as the heralds of spring.

 

More Information:

 

Chalice Centre – Imbolc

History of Imbolc

Imbolc – As the light lengthens, so the cold strengthens

Imbolc through images

Celtic Lore for Imbolc

 

 

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2nd February
THE PRESENTATION OF THE LORD

Christian (Roman Catholic)

 

This is often called Candlemas from the custom of congregations holding lighted candles during the celebration in church.  It records the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple and his recognition by the aged Simeon, expressed in the words of the Nunc Dimittis. The festival was formerly known as the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary – reflecting Mary’s following of Jewish tradition after the birth of a son.

Luke 2:22-38.

 

More Information:

 

Candelmas – The Presentation of the Lord – the Church Year

The book of days – Candlemas

Project Britain – Candlemas Day

Presentation of the Lord in the Temple in pictures

Christian Holidays – Candlemass

 

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2nd February
THE PRESENTATION OF CHRIST IN THE TEMPLE / CANDLEMAS

Christian (Anglican)

 

This is often called Candlemas from the custom of congregations holding lighted candles during the celebration in church. It records the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple and his recognition by the aged Simeon, expressed in the words of the Nunc Dimittis. The festival was formerly known as the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary – reflecting Mary’s following of Jewish tradition after the birth of a son.

Luke 2:22-38.

 

More Information:

 

Candelmas – The Presentation of the Lord – the Church Year

The book of days – Candlemas

Project Britain – Candlemas Day

Presentation of the Lord in the Temple in pictures

Christian Holidays – Candlemass

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3rd February
SETSUBUN/BEAN SCATTERING

Japanese

 

The day for the Bean Scattering ceremony, performed both in homes and in temples.

 

More Information:

 

How to throw beans at Setsubun

Setsubun: Bean Throwing Festival

Setsubun for Kids

Kyoto Visitors’ Guide – Setsubun

Magazine Japan: Drive Away Evil Spirits with ‘Setsubun’

 

 

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8th February
PARINIRVANA

Buddhist

 

8th or 15th February

 

Mahayanists mark the final passing away from this world of Gautama Buddha at Kushinagara, India, at the age of 80. Pure Land Buddhists refer to it as Nirvana Day.

 

The Buddha’s last days are described in the Pali text called the Great Parinirvana Sutra (Parinirvana meaning “completed nirvana“). The Buddha’s living nirvana (achieved during enlightenment) at death transforms to nirvana without any human residue. Self-possessed, without psychological pain, untroubled by the thoughts of death, the Buddha identified four places of future pilgrimage: the sites of his birth, enlightenment, first sermon, and death. “But” he added, “don’t hinder yourself by honouring my remains.”

 

Here is the heart of all Buddhist teaching about Life and Death, where entry into nirvana is the goal of all being, as shown to us today in the perfect example all Buddhists seek to emulate.

 

More Information:

 

BuddhaNet: Kusinara – Place of the Great Passing

About Buddhism – The Parinirvana of the Historical Buddha

Nirvana-Parinirvana-Enlightenment-Buddhahood

Images of the Parinirvana of the Buddha

MahaParinirvana and the Parinirvana of the Buddha

 

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13th February
SHROVE TUESDAY (Pancake Day)

Christian (Western Churches)

 

Commonly known as Pancake Day, this is the day before the start of Lent. Traditionally it is a day for repentance and absolution in preparation for Lent (‘shrive’ means to receive or make confession). Pancakes were originally made to use up all the rich foods, such as butter and eggs, before Lent. In some parts of the world people celebrate Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday) by holding carnivals.

 

More Information:

 

Topmarks: Shrove Tuesday

Time Out: Pancake Day in London

Project Britain – Shrove Tuesday

BBC Good Food – Pancake Day Recipes

Shrove Tuesday – a day for being shriven

 

 

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13th February
MAHASHIVRATRI (Great Shiva Night)

Hindu

 

Every night of the new moon is dedicated to Shiva, but this moonless night in February is particularly important since it is the night on which Shiva is said to perform the cosmic dance, the Tandava Nritya, the dance of primordial creation, preservation and destruction. Many Hindus and all devotees of Shiva fast throughout the festival. All-night prayers focus on Shiva and his shrines and statues, where milk, water and honey are regularly poured on his symbol, the lingam, which is decorated with flowers and garlands. The festival is observed for one day and one night only.

 

Pujas conducted in Shaivite temples during the previous day also have significance. This is because the rituals are conducted strictly in accordance with the method prescribed in the Shiva Purana, a Hindu epic. According to this Purana, pujas should be conducted once in every three hours on Mahashivaratri. According to Hindu mythology Lord Shiva declared that the rituals performed by his devotees on the 14th day of the dark fortnight in the month of Phalgun please him the most. Therefore, year by year, the day is observed as Mahashivratri, and devotees observe the fast, sing songs and bhajans and offer prayers to the Almighty to seek his blessings.

 

To this end jujube fruits, stalks of Bilwa leaves, coconuts, flowers and garlands are offered to the Shiva lingam by the devotees at the shrine. At home, they may perform the Mahashivratri Puja by taking a holy bath (in warm water) early in the morning, wearing new clothes and then smearing bhasm (holy ash) on their forehead.

 

Mahashivaratri is especially important for women, both married and unmarried, who perform Shiva puja and observe the fast with great devotion and sincerity. This is predominantly done to appease Shiva along with his consort, the goddess Parvati, who is often called Ma Gauri. It is believed that Ma Gauri bestows marital bliss on women yet to be married and blesses the married with a healthy and blissful married life. Young girls observe the fast and worship Shiva so that he may bless them with good husbands. They sing devotional songs in praise of the lord, and holy texts are chanted throughout the night. The festival also celebrates the wedding of Shiva and Sati, the divine mother.

 

It is believed that devotion to Shiva on Mahashivaratri will free devotees from their past sins and those who pledge themselves to him on this occasion will be liberated from the cycle of birth and death and so attain moksha or salvation. The devotees of Shiva therefore flock to the temples on this day to offer their prayers.

 

More Information:

 

About Hinduism – Mahashivratri

I Love India – Mahashivratri

BBC Religions – Hinduism: Mahashivratri

Images of Mahashivratri

Times of India – Mahashivratri

 

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14th February
ASH WEDNESDAY

Christian (Western Churches)

 

The first day of Lent when Christians remember the forty days that Jesus spent in the wilderness and the temptations he faced during this time. In Catholic and some Anglican churches, services are held where the worshipper’s forehead is marked with a cross of ash, which has been made from burning the palm crosses of the previous year – hence the name Ash Wednesday.

Matthew 4:1-11, Mark 1:12-13, Luke 4:1-13

 

More Information:

 

Bible Info – What is Ash Wednesday?

Catholic Encyclopaedia – Ash Wednesday

BBC Religions: Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday in pictures

Ash Wednesday in the Orthodox Church

 

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14th February
LENT

Christian (Western Churches)

 

14th February – 31st March

 

A period of forty days (not counting Sundays) that leads up to Easter. It is a time of fasting and discipline in preparation for Easter. Traditionally Christians give up something during this time to mark the forty days Jesus spent in the wilderness, which end on Easter day. Many Christians still do this, but for some the emphasis is now more on following a simpler lifestyle throughout the year. Those who give something up save the cost of these items, perhaps in a box, for Church funds or for a charity. Many Christians feel it is a time for study groups, prayer and Bible reading.

Matthew 3:13-17, Mark 1:9-11, Luke 3:21-22.

 

More Information:

 

About Christianity: Lent

Franciscan Questions about Lent

Project Britain – When and What is Lent?

Prayers for five weeks of Lent

A Labyrinth for Lent

 

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16th February
CHINESE NEW YEAR / SPRING FESTIVAL / CHUNJIE / YUAN TAN

Chinese

 

New Year’s Day is the most important event in the traditional Chinese calendar and marks the beginning of the first lunar month. The festival is colourfully celebrated with fireworks, dances (such as the famous Lion Dance) and the giving of gifts, flowers and sweets. Gold is a dominant colour to symbolise the wish for prosperity, and red is also much used as a lucky colour. Business accounts should be settled and all debts paid before the New Year begins. Celebrations can last three or more days. 2018, which is 4716 in Chinese culture, is the year of the Dog, one of twelve symbolic creatures whose character is held to affect the nature of those born at this time.

 

Chinese New Year is actually celebrated for 15 consecutive days, but the first three days are most important. The 15th and final day is also a big event, where houses are decorated with an abundance of brightly coloured lights. It is a way of ending with a grand finale rather than the festivities just fading away gradually.

 

New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day are celebrated as a family affair, a time of reunion and thanksgiving. The celebration was traditionally highlighted with a religious ceremony given in honour of Heaven and Earth, the gods of the household and the family ancestors. The sacrifice to the ancestors, the most vital of all the rituals, united the living members with those who had passed away. Departed relatives are remembered with great respect because they were responsible for laying the foundations for the fortune and glory of the family.

 

The presence of the ancestors is acknowledged on New Year’s Eve with a dinner arranged for them at the family banquet table. The spirits of the ancestors, together with the living, celebrate the onset of the New Year as one great community. The communal feast symbolises family unity and honours the past and present generations.

 

Chinese New Year celebrations are notable for colour, noise, giving gifts and paying debts. It is a time for looking both backwards and forwards.

 

More Information:

 

Lots to Learn about the Chinese New Year

Public Holidays – Chinese New Year

Information for Teachers on the Chinese New Year

Chinese Zodiac Signs and Animals

A Charming New Year

 

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16th February
LOSAR

Buddhist

 

16th – 17th February

 

Tibetan New Year festival, but it is often celebrated in Nepal as well. Although largely a secular celebration, it also includes the rededication of the country to Buddhism. It especially celebrates the miracles performed by the historical Buddha at Sravasti, the capital city of the kingdom of Kosala.

 

More Information:

 

Losar – Tibetan New Year

Buddhist Holidays: Losar

The World’s Best Festivals – Losar

Losar – Traditions and Dishes

Losar – Tibetan New Year

 

 

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19th February
FIRST DAY OF LENT / THE GREAT FAST

Christian (Orthodox)

 

This is the beginning of the Lenten Fast, which involves abstinence from meat, fish and dairy products until Easter.

 

Unlike the Western tradition, where Lent begins on the Wednesday before the first Sunday of Lent, Eastern Churches start Lent on the Monday before the first Sunday. In addition, since Lent is calculated in relation to Easter, it follows that when the Orthodox date for Easter differs from that of the Western Churches, as here, the whole Lenten period will similarly differ.

 

More Information:

 

The Fasting Rule of the Orthodox Church

Antiochian – Fasting: Great Lent

The Sundays of Great Lent

Blog: Great Lent Gourmet

About Greek Food – Great Lent Food and Traditions

 

 

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1st March
PURIM

Jewish

 

Purim is a carnival festival recalling the saving of the Jewish community of Persia through the actions of a young Jewish woman, which is retold in the Book of Esther (the Megillah). The whole book/scroll is read twice in the synagogue, once on the evening of Purim and then also on the morning after. Colourful costumes and masks are often worn amid lots of noise as the name of Haman (the villain of the story) is drowned out by the congregation with rattles and hooters and boos whenever it is read. Many people come in fancy dress. Hamantashen (cakes filled with poppy seeds, literally ‘Haman’s pockets’, or with jam or chocolate) are baked and eaten at this time.

 

More Information:

 

Jewish Virtual Library – Purim

My Jewish Learning – Purim

Virtual Jerusalem: Purim

Purim colouring pages for Tots

Aish – Purim

 

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1st March
MAGHA PUJA

Buddhist

 

This commemorates the occasion when 1,250 enlightened personal disciples of the Buddha came spontaneously to the Bamboo Grove on the full moon of Magha (usually February). The Buddha predicted his death and recited a summary of his teachings and a code of discipline (which monks are expected to recite every fortnight). The day is observed with meditation, chanting and listening to sermons.

 

More Information:

 

Buddhamind: Festivals – Magha Puja

The Day of Four Marvellous Events

Magha Puja Day – basics

Dhammakaya – Magha Puja Day

Celebrating Magha Puja

 

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1st March
ST DAVID’S DAY

National

 

Anniversary of the death of St David, the patron saint of Wales, who lived in the 6th century CE. As monk, abbot and bishop he helped to spread Christianity among the Celtic tribes of western Britain.

 

More Information:

 

Time and Date – St David’s Day

How to have the most wonderful and welshiest St David’s Day

Project Britain – St David’s Day

St David’s Day in pictures

St David’s Cathedral

 

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2nd March
LANTERN FESTIVAL / YUANXIAOJIE / TENG CHIEH

Chinese

 

This is the Lantern Festival which marks the first full moon of the year and the lengthening of the days. Strings of lanterns in various designs are hung out as decoration.

 

More Information:

 

Chinese Fortune Calendar – Lantern Festival

China: English – Features – Festivals

Project Britain: Teng Chieh

Travel China Guide – Lantern Festival

Chinese New Year and Food for the Lantern Festival

 

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2nd March
THE WOMEN’S WORLD DAY OF PRAYER

Christian

 

This international, interdenominational prayer movement was begun in 1887. The service material is produced by a different country each year. In 2018 the theme will be ‘All God’s Creation is Very Good‘ and the material has been prepared by Christian women in Suriname.

 

More Information:

 

World Day of Prayer – Wikipedia

Fakenham Parish church celebrates Womens World Day of Prayer

St Katharine’s Church, Blackpool – ‘Receive children, receive me’

Images for Womens World Day of Prayer

Adventist Churches: International Women’s Day of Prayer

 

 

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2nd March
HOLI

Hindu

 

A spring festival lasting one to five days. Bonfires are lit and revellers throw coloured powders and dyes over each other. Various stories and customs are associated with the festival: the throwing of coloured dyes is linked with Krishna and his antics with Radha and the gopis (milkmaids); another story associated with Holi is that of Prahlada and Holika: Prahlada worshipped Vishnu in defiance of his father, King Hiranyakashipu’s wishes. Prahlada survived when his aunt, Holika, who was supposedly immune to fire, held him while, as instructed by the king, she sat on a bonfire intended to kill him.

 

During Holi, practices, which at other times could be offensive, are allowed. Squirting coloured water on passers-by, dunking friends in mud pool amidst teasing and laughter, getting intoxicated on bhaang and revelling with companions is perfectly acceptable. In fact, on the days of Holi, you can get away with almost anything by saying, “Don’t mind, it’s Holi!”

 

Women, especially, enjoy the freedom of relaxed rules and sometimes join in the merriment rather aggressively. There is also much vulgar behaviour, often connected with phallic themes. It is a time when pollution is not important, a time for license and obscenity in place of the usual societal and caste restrictions.

 

It is said the spirit of Holi encourages the feeling of brotherhood in society and even enemies turn friends on this day. People of all communities and even differing religions participate in this joyous and colourful festival and in doing so strengthen the secular fabric of the nation.
Mythology of this nature, when re-enacted by the crowds of excited Hindus today, is essentially an act of praise and devotion, and particularly so for those who seek to honour Vishnu, seen as the Lord and Preserver of all life.

 

More Information:

 

The Festival of Holi

Hinduism – Holi – Festival of Colours

Colours of India – Holi

Colourful Holi

Holi Celebration in Mathura – All you need to know

 

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2nd March
HOLA MAHALLA/HOLA MOHALLA

Sikh

 

2nd – 3rd March

 

In 1680 Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth Sikh Guru, introduced this festival at Anandpur in Punjab, India, as an alternative to the Hindu festival of Holi. It includes competitive displays of swordsmanship, horsemanship, archery and wrestling, together with displays of weapons and symposia of poetry. It is a colourful occasion, particularly for young Sikhs. It is celebrated on the day of Holi, or the day after.

 

More Information:

 

All about Sikhs: Holla Mohalla

Hola Mohalla

Hola Mohalla

Images for Hola Mohalla

Sikhiwiki: Hola Mohalla

 

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3rd March
HINAMATSURI / DOLLS’ FESTIVAL / GIRLS’ DAY

Japanese

 

Clay dolls representing the Emperor and Empress of Japan, reminiscent of the ancient Heian court, are displayed in the home; and offerings of peach blossom, rice-wine and rice-cakes are placed before them, along with miniature multi-coloured sweetmeats. The dolls are intended to carry away any illness afflicting or threatening the daughters of the house. The day is widely celebrated by praying for daughters to grow up to be healthy and dutiful.

 

Today in Japan some towns sell ‘nagashi-bina’ sets, paper doll pairs designed to be set afloat – already sitting in boats of wood or straw. There may even be a ceremony in which participants dress like the most elaborate hina dolls, and set them afloat.

 

The Japanese hold ceremonial burnings of many types of objects – needles and umbrellas, dolls and toys, papers, letters, and various other tokens of work accomplished during the year. In some places there is an annual burning of Daruma dolls, which represents the year’s activities. The doll burning ceremony involves some kind of ceremonial cremation, possibly in the hope of conceiving healthy children.
The family lies at the heart of Hinamatsuri, and the health of its daughters is emphasised at this time each year to help ensure the future of the family line. There is an equal emphasis on both the role of the daughter and the respect for and obedience she owes to her parents.

 

More Information:

 

Girls’ Day Dolls

Japanese About – Hinamatsuri

web-japan: Hinamatsuri

Hinamatsuri in Pictures

Kyoto National Museum – All about Japanese Hina Dolls

 

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11th March
MOTHERING SUNDAY (Simnel Sunday)

Christian

 

Mid-Lent Sunday, the 4th Sunday in Lent, has now become secularised and is more popularly known as Mother’s Day. It was, traditionally, a Sunday when Christians revisited their ‘mother church’ and took gifts to their mothers, which often included a simnel cake.

 

More Information:

 

Anglican History: Mothering Sunday

Time and Date: Mothering Sunday

Project Britain – Mothering Sunday

Mothers Day Greeting Cards

Mothers Day Gifts

 

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11th March
FRAVARDIGAN / MUKTAD

Iranian Zoroastrian

 

11th – 20th March (Iranian Zoroastrian)

8th – 17th July (Kadmi)

7th – 16th August (Shahenshai)

 

The Fravardigan festival (the festival of the fravashis), popularly known as Muktad (All Souls), commences ten days before NoRuz and is the last festival of the old year. The Zoroastrian day commences at sunrise and not midnight, and so during sunrise on the first day of the festival the immortal souls, together with their fravashis (the guardian spirits of departed ancestors, artistically depicted as half man/half bird), are welcomed by name by the Zoroastrian Mobeds or Magi (priests).

 

For ten days they reside in the place of worship, hovering around a table full of metal vases, each specifically earmarked for an individual family and containing white flowers. They leave the physical world after the last ceremony, held on the tenth evening, but before the dawn of NoRuz. The designated priest – as a farewell gesture – will then empty the water from one of the metal vases, which he will also turn upside down, signifying that it is time for the immortal souls and the fravashis to return to the spiritual world.

 

Theologically Fravardigan is the most important Zoroastrian festival after NoRuz, and, since it deals with one’s departed ancestors, many Zoroastrians regard it to be their holiest festival. This linking of the past with the present and the future is typical of much of Zoroastrian life.

 

During these ten days Zoroastrians often take time off from work, pray extensively, recite the five Gathas (hymns composed by Zarathushtra) and ensure their houses are thoroughly cleaned. They prepare daily samples of sacred food enjoyed by their departed ancestors while still alive, and take these to the place of worship, to be tasted by them during the daily ceremonies. This ritually consecrated food, along with chosen fruits, is then shared by the living in the special Hamaspathmaidyem Gahambar, a communal feast celebrated after the ceremony is over.

 

More Information:

 

Muktad – When Souls Come-a-Visiting

Muktad

http://www.heritageinstitute.com/zoroastrianism/pateti/index.htm

Images for Fravardigan

What to do and pray during the Muktad
 

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17th March
ST PATRICK’S DAY

National

 

This is a day celebrated in honour of the patron saint of Ireland, who lived in Britain in the 4th century CE. After his escape from being held hostage in Ireland, he became a priest and returned there to evangelise. His symbol is the shamrock, sprigs of which are worn on this day. Parades are held in Dublin and elsewhere, often of a secular nature.

 

More Information:

 

History and fun-facts for St Patrick’s Day

On this day St Patrick dies

BBC Religions – Christianity: Saint Patrick

St Patrick’s Day – Traditional set dance

Welcome to the Quote Garden – Quotations for Saint Patrick’s Day

 

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18th March
PASSION SUNDAY

Christian

 

This is the 5th Sunday in Lent, when Christians begin to concentrate their thoughts on the Passion or suffering of Jesus.

 

More Information:

 

Passion Sunday – it ain’t what it used to be …

Liturgy: Passion Sunday?

Catholic Activity: Carling or Passion Sunday

Images for Passion Sunday

The saints and the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ

 

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18th March
HIGAN

Japanese

 

18th – 24th March

20th MarchSHUBUN NO HI

 

This is the day of the Spring equinox. As at the autumn equinox, harmony and balance are the themes, sutras are recited, and the graves of relatives are visited.

 

More Information:

 

Vernal Equinox Day – Shunbun no Hi

Alien Times – Shunbun No Hi

Kids Web in Japan – Vernal Equinox Day and Higan

Shunbun No Hi in Pictures

The Nihon Sun: Celebrating Shunbun no hi in Japan

 

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19th March
ST JOSEPH’S DAY, HUSBAND OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY

Christian

 

In some churches a feast day is held in honour of Joseph, who, together with Mary, was responsible for Jesus’ upbringing.

 

More Information:

 

Fisheaters: Feast of St. Joseph

St Joseph’sTable – An Age-Old Tradition

St Joseph’s Medals

Images of St Joseph’s Prayer

St Joseph’s Day Altars

 

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20th March
SHUNBUN NO HI

Japanese

 

This is the day of the Spring equinox. As at the autumn equinox, harmony and balance are the themes, sutras are recited, and the graves of relatives are visited.

 

More Information:

 

Vernal Equinox Day – Shunbun no Hi

Alien Times – Shunbun No Hi

Kids Web in Japan – Vernal Equinox Day and Higan

Shunbun No Hi in Pictures

The Nihon Sun: Celebrating Shunbun no hi in Japan

 

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20th March
SPRING/ VERNAL EQUINOX

Spring Equinox (Ostara) Pagan

Vernal Equinox (Alban Eiler or Alban Eilir) Druid

 

Now night and day stand equal. The Sun grows in power and the land begins to bloom. By the Spring Equinox, the powers of the gathering year are equal to the darkness of winter and death. The God (the Green Man) awakens during this season. Some dedicate this time to Eostre, the Anglo-Saxon Goddess of fertility.

 

More Information:

 

Pagan Wiccan: Spring Equinox Celebrations Around the World

The March Equinox

The Spring Equinox

Spring is in the air – and so are these lively festivals

School of the Seasons – Celebrating Spring Equinox

 

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21st March
JAMSHEEDI NORUZ

Zoroastrian (Iranian)

 

The Zoroastrian NoRuz (New Year’s Day) is celebrated on the the first day of spring, and is the most important festival in the Zoroastrian year. Tradition claims it was founded by Prophet Zarathushtra himself, when, it is believed, the prophet received his first revelation from the Creator God, Ahura Mazda. It is popularly known as Jamsheedi NoRuz, since the pre Zoroastrian King Jamsheed assisted the Creator God, Ahura Mazda, by building an underground dwelling (similar to Noah’s Ark). This saved the creation from being utterly destroyed during the prolonged, bitter, snowy winter brought about by the evil spirit (Angra Mainyu).

 

NoRuz represents the resurgence of life and the symbolic victory of the forces of light over darkness. Prior to NoRuz the family springcleans the whole house, and preparations are made to grow green herbs and paint boiled eggs for the haftsheen table, which contains items associated with the seven attributes of Ahura Mazda – these are known as the Amesha Spentas. It is customary to wear new clothes and offer gifts, visit the Fire Temple to seek blessing from Ahura Mazda, and participate in a jashan or thanksgiving ceremony, followed by eating, drinking, dancing and making merry.

 

No Ruz is deeply embedded in Iranian culture, and is still celebrated as the New Year in Islamic Iran, although without any religious connotations.

 

More Information:

 

Norouz – Mary Boyce – The Holiest and Most Joyous Festival of the Iranian Year

Crystal Links: Noruz

Mythic Maps: Jamshedi Noruz

Nauruz Photos and Images

Nowruz Festival 2017

 

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21st March
NAW-RUZ

Baha’i

 

Naw-Ruz is the Baha’i New Year’s Day and coincides with the spring equinox. It is an ancient Persian festival celebrating the ‘New Day’ and it marks the end of the annual nineteen day fast that concludes the old year. Celebrations start at sunset on the day before the festival, often with gatherings for prayer, followed by a festive meal. For this the table is decorated with fruit, cakes, coloured eggs and other treats, as well as symbolic objects such as a holy book and a mirror.

 

Among the best known customs of Naw-Ruz is the haft-sin — the `seven S’s’. These are seven objects beginning – in Persian – with the letter `S’, namely hyacinths, apples, lilies, silver coins, garlic, vinegar and rue, all decoratively arranged on a table. A great deal of time is spent exchanging visits with friends and relations. The celebrations end on the thirteenth day of Naw-Ruz with a picnic in the country. Lentils that have sprouted are thrown into running water, carrying away the bad luck of the previous year.

 

Naw-Ruz is observed wherever Iranian culture has penetrated, notably among the Zoroastrians of India and in the emigré Iranian communities around the world. It is one of only two festivals mentioned by Zoroaster in the Avesta, the holy Zoroastrian scriptures written by Zoroaster himself. It is celebrated as a holy day by these two religions: Zoroastrianism and the Baha’i Faith.

 

This is one of the nine Baha’i holy days on which work should be suspended, and is generally observed with a gathering for prayer and celebration – often combined with a dinner, since the sunset on which Naw-Ruz begins ends the last day of the Baha’i fast. As with all Baha’i holy days, there are few fixed rules for observing Naw-Ruz, although Iranian Baha’is often follow Iranian traditions. Many Baha’is use Naw-Ruz as a day when gifts are given.

 

At its most basic, Naw-Ruz is a celebration of renewal and the coming of spring, as is common for festivals at this time of year. Some believe that their actions on Naw-Ruz will affect their lives throughout the rest of the coming year. Baha’is see it (and the fast that precedes it) as a time of renewal, meant to focus believers on their spiritual development. It is also a time for physical ‘spring cleaning’, clearing the home of old and unneeded items to make room for items that are new.

 

 

More Information:

 

Baha’i Library: Naw-Ruz: The Baha’i New Year
Naw-Ruz – The Baha’i and Zoroastrian New Year

Baha’i – Naw-Ruz

Baha’i Prayers: Naw-Ruz

Naw Ruz – Spiritual Springtime

 

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24th March
AVA MAH PARAB (ABAN JASHAN)

Zoroastrian (Shenshai – Parsi)

 

Ava is short for the divinity Aredvi Sura Anahita, the guardian protector of the waters, who is associated with fertility. On the day of Ava, the 10th day of the month of Ava, the 8th month, Zoroastrians celebrate the birthday of the waters by going to the seas, rivers and streams and reciting the Aredvi Sura Niyayeesh or ‘Litany to the Waters’. They offer thanks to the great purifier who nourishes the world and offer to the waters flowers, sugar, coconuts and specially prepared flat cakes made with sweet lentils.

 

More Information:

 

Frashogard: Ava Mah Parab – The Wondrous Power of Water

Food and Drink Customs during Ava Mah Parab

The Relevance and Significance of the month of Avan

Images for Ava Mah Parab/a>

Wikipedia – Aban Jashan

 

 

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25th March
HOLY WEEK

Christian (Western Churches)

 

25th – 31st April

 

This is the most solemn week of the Christian year, in which Christians recall the events of the final week of the earthly life of Jesus.

 

More Information:

 

Belief Net: Christian Holidays during Holy Week

Holy week in the Catholic Encyclopedia

Holy Week Activities for Kids

Images of Holy Week – for kids

Christianity Today: Articles on Holy Week

 

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25th March
PALM SUNDAY

Christian (Western Churches) (Orthodox date: 24 April)

 

Palm Sunday is the first day of Holy Week, when Christians remember Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, where later he would be arrested and crucified. Many churches commemorate the day by processions, with the congregation carrying symbolic palm leaves folded in the form of a cross, or branches of palm trees.

 

Matthew 21:1-11, Mark 11:1-11, Luke 19:28-40, John 12:12-19.

 

More Information:

 

Catholic Online: Palm Sunday

Share Faith: Palm Sunday

Project Britain – Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday for Kids

Orthodox Christian Palm Sunday

 

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25th March
THE ANNUNCIATION OF THE LORD / LADY DAY

Christian (Anglican and Orthodox) 

NB Transferred for this year to Monday, 9 April (Western), Saturday, 7 April (Orthodox)

 

Lady Day (National)
One of the four Quarter Days in the UK legal calendar.

 

Lady Day celebrates the angel Gabriel announcing to Mary that she is to bear a child, and Mary’s response in the Magnificat. The day provides an opportunity to focus on the doctrine of the incarnation. Luke 1:26-38, 46-55.

 

More Information:

 

Catholic Culture: Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord

BBC: The Annunciation

The Annunciation – Luke 1: 26-38

Leonardo da Vinci – The Annunciation

American Catholic: Annunciation of the Lord

 

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25th March
RAMA NAVAMI

Hindu

 

This is the birthday of Rama, the seventh avatar of Vishnu. It is celebrated at twelve noon (since Rama was reputedly born at noon) by the ceremony of arati (pronounced aar-tee), usually performed in front of either the baby Rama (represented by a doll) in a swinging cradle or a devotional picture showing this.

 

More Information:

 

About Hinduism: Ramnavami – Birthday of Lord Rama

Taj: Festivals – About Ram Navami
Mythic Maps: Ramnavami

Ramnavami: Greetings Cards

Hindupedia: Rama Navami

 

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26th March
KHORDAD SAL

Zoroastrian (Iranian)

 

26th March Zoroastrian (Iranian)

 
22th August Zoroastrian (Shenshai)

 

23th July Zoroastrian (Kadmi)

 

The Birthday of Zarathushtra, one of the most important Zoroastrian festivals. Khordad means perfection and although the actual date of his birth cannot be accurately identified, the festival of Khordad Sal symbolically celebrates the birthday of Prophet Zarathushtra and falls on the sixth day following NoRuz.

 

Khordad means perfection, and it is customary on this day to visit the Fire Temple to give thanks to Ahura Mazda, the Persian name for the one God, for giving humanity the ideal gift of the Prophet Zarathushtra. His followers participate in a jashan or thanksgiving ceremony; listen to stories of his miraculous birth and life; and then celebrate with a lavish community meal, a drink and a dance.

 

On Khordad Sal Parsis clean their houses, hang torans of fresh flowers in the doorways, and create designs made of chalk on the floors (called rangoli). They wear new clothes, cook traditional foods, exchange gifts and salute each other with the greeting: Khordad Sal Mubarak!. Prayers are offered and are followed by festive parties to give thanks for and celebrate the soul that evinced a philosophy of life that is both giving and fulfilling.

 

Zarathustra’s ideas (monotheism tempered by belief in the Devil, the struggle between Good and Evil, a final judgement) greatly influenced today’s major world religions, particularly Judaism, Christianity, Islam and the Baha’i tradition. The Zoroastrian faith has endured many hardships, the most significant being the invasion into Iran by Alexander and later, the Arab conquest of Iran. Though greatly diminished in numbers, Zarathustra’s followers have continued to honour his revolutionary teachings for over 3000 years.

 

Parsi families come together during the festivities that are put on during Khordad Sal – if families are unable to be together then prayers are offered for those who are not in attendance. It is an important celebration for the Parsi community, and because family (and community) is central to the themes of Zoroastrianism, guests are invited to participate in the festivities. Parsis also take the time during Khordad Sal to be introspective. They look at ways in which they can improve the lives of others and themselves.

 

 

More Information:

 

Observe the Greater Noruz on Khordad Sal

A History of Khordad Sal

Mythic Maps – Khordad Sal

Sakshigopal: Happy Khordad Sal! Birthday Day of Zoroaster!

Festivals advices – Khordad Sal – The Birthday of Zoroaster

 

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29th March
MAHAVIRA JAYANTI

Jain

 

This is a festival celebrating the birth in 540, 599 or 615 BCE of Mahavira, the last Tirthankara, the greatest teacher and model for all Jainas. The events surrounding his birth are retold and re-enacted at all Jain temples. If monks or nuns are present, they will read from the scriptures and teach about the rest of Mahavira’s life. The day is marked with processions, the sending of cards, and the bathing of images of Mahavira. At the end of the day lay people will return home to a celebratory feast with distinctive recipes.

 

Mahavira’s injunctions for the monks and nuns were however very exacting. Abstinence from every kind of physical comfort and material possession and absolute dedication to the highest ethical and spiritual discipline were enforced. Even today this pure and upright tradition of the monks has been maintained. Thousands of white clad Sanyasins and Sanyasinis and also nude monks move on foot from village to village and town to town, throughout the length and breadth of the country, carrying Mahavira’s gospel of peace, non-injury and brotherhood among people.

 

Myths and legends abound about the other twenty four great Jain teachers from previous ages, but the birth of Mahavira, the Conqueror, is of central importance in Jain communities everywhere. His influence on the Jain practices of ahimsa (non-violence to others), sharing of knowledge, donating medicines and food, and caring for all living creatures is clearly apparent throughout these celebrations

 

More Information:

 

Festivals: Mahavir Jayanti

Mahavir Jayanti, the Birthday of Mahavira, and ‘Related Issues’

BBC Religion – Jainism: Mahavira

You Tube – Mahavira Jayanti

Times of India – Mahavir Jayanti

 

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29th March
MAUNDY THURSDAY

Christian (Western Churches)

 

Christians remember the Last Supper, at which Jesus blessed bread and wine and commanded his disciples to remember him whenever they did this. From this instruction comes the institution known under a variety of names – the Eucharist, the Mass, the Holy Communion, the Breaking of Bread, the Divine Liturgy. It has become the central act of worship in almost all Christian traditions. In Roman Catholic and some Anglican churches the feet of twelve members of the congregation are washed in remembrance of Jesus’ washing the feet of the twelve disciples. The name ‘maundy’ comes from a Latin term ‘mandatum’ (‘commandment’), signifying Jesus’ new commandment to his disciples, as recorded in John 15:17.

Matthew 26:26-30, Mark 14:22-26, Luke 22:14-20.

 

More Information:

 

Fisheaters: Maundy Thursday

What does ‘Maundy Thursday’ Mean?

Project Britain – Maundy Thursday

Maundy Thursday Poems – in Images

Christianity for Dummies: What is Maundy Thursday?

 

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30th March
GOOD FRIDAY

Christian (Western Churches)

 

This day commemorates the crucifixion of Jesus. Although essentially a sombre day, it is called ‘Good’ since, for Christians, it is the ultimate example of God’s sacrifice when Jesus gave up his life for the world. Meditative services are held in church to mark the time that Jesus spent on the cross. Traditionally, particularly in the Roman Catholic world, fish rather than meat is eaten on Fridays. Hot cross buns, although now found in supermarkets throughout the year, were formerly associated with Good Friday.

 

Matthew 27:32-34, Mark 15:21-32, Luke 23:26-43, John 19:17-27.

 

More Information:

 

Church Year: Good Friday

Catholic Online: Good Friday

Project Britain: Good Friday (Holy Friday)

Anglican Prayers for Good Friday – an anthology

Jerusalem – The Stations of the Cross

 

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31st March
PASSOVER/PESACH

Jewish

 

31st March – 7th April

 

This major Jewish festival lasts eight days and commemorates the liberation of the Children of Israel and their Exodus from slavery in Egypt. The highlight is the Seder meal, held in each family’s home at the beginning of the festival, when the story of their deliverance is recounted, as narrated in the Haggadah (the Telling, or the Story). Matzah, (unleavened bread) is eaten throughout the festival, as are other foods that contain no leaven (yeast). There is a major spring cleaning in the home shortly before the festival to ensure that no trace of leaven is left in the house during Pesach. Coconut pyramids and matza balls (which are put in soups) are foods that might be eaten at this time.

 

Marking the key events in Jewish history is part of the Jewish calendar’s annual programme. Right at the heart of Jewish history is the Exodus with its theme of God’s unconditional relationship with his chosen people. A relationship that does not preclude suffering but eventually demonstrates both God’s power and His continuing commitment to his people. As a result of the regular telling of the story of slavery and freedom, Jews are called upon (more than 30 times in the Torah) to remember the stranger ‘because you were strangers in Egypt’. This sense of having been a slave people and a migrant people is central to Jewish consciousness and is recalled daily in Jewish liturgy and weekly in the practice of Shabbat.

Exodus 7-12.

 

NB The first two days (March 31, April 1) and the last two days (April 6, 7) are full festival days when, for Orthodox Jews, work is not permitted.

 

More Information:

 

Jewfaq: Pesach: Passover

Jewish Virtual Library: Passover – Pesach – History and Overview

Chabad: Passover

Passover in Pictures

Aish: Passover

 

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31st March
HOLY SATURDAY (Easter Eve)

Christian (Western Churches)

 

This is the last day of Lent. Special services involving the lighting of the Paschal Candle and the renewal of baptismal vows take place in the evening in preparation for Easter.

 

More Information:

 

The Voice: The Days of Holy Week

Fisheaters: Holy Saturday

BBC: Holy Week and Holy Saturday

Holy Saturday – Quotes and Images

About Catholicism: Holy Saturday

 

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31st March
HANUMAN JAYANTI

Hindu

 

Hanuman Jayanti is a Hindu festival which recalls the birth of Lord Rama’s supreme devotee, the monkey-headed Hanuman, whose feats figure in the Ramayana epic. Hanuman’s birth is celebrated at sunrise on the full-moon day of the lunar month of Chaitra.

 

More Information:

 

About Hinduism: Lord Hanuman

Hanuman Jayanti – Significance, History and How to Celebrate

Hindu Blog – Hanuman Jayanti

Desi Comments: Hanuman Jayanti in Pictures and Comments

Swaminaryan: Hanuman Jayanti

 

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1st April
EASTER DAY

Christian (Western Churches)

 

Easter Day is the most important festival of the Christian year, since this is when Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus three days after his death by crucifixion in Jerusalem over 2000 years ago. For Christians, Easter is a day marked by special religious services and the gathering of family members together. Easter Candles are lit in churches on the eve of Easter Sunday, as a resurrection symbol of Christ as the light of the world, though some believe that these may have originated in the Pagan customs of lighting bonfires to welcome the rebirth/resurrection of the sun God.

 

Theologians of all Christian traditions regard Easter as the lynchpin of Christian belief, and view faith in the resurrection of Jesus as the determining factor in assessing orthodoxy. The annual rejoicing that ‘Christ is risen; He is risen indeed!’ is common to Eastern and Western traditions alike throughout the world.

 

Easter and the Jewish Passover are closely related, especially in the complex method of fixing the date of Easter. The resurrection of Jesus took place during the Passover. Christians of the Eastern church initially celebrated both holidays together, but the Passover can fall on any day of the week, and Christians of the Western church preferred to celebrate Easter on Sunday, the day of the resurrection.

 

The name Easter comes from Eostre (pronounced yo’ster), an ancient Anglo-Saxon goddess. In pagan times an annual spring festival was held in her honour. Some Easter customs have come from this and other pre-Christian spring festivals.

 

The Easter Bunny, a popular image of the festival, originated with the hare, an ancient symbol for the moon. According to legend, the bunny was originally a large, handsome bird belonging to Eostre, the Goddess of Spring. (Eostre is also known as Ostara, a Goddess of fertility who is celebrated at the time of the Spring equinox.) Eostre ‘resurrected’ the bird into a rabbit, which may explain why the Easter bunny builds a nest and fills it with (coloured) eggs. The first edible Easter bunnies were created in Germany during the early 1800s, made of pastry and sugar.

 

The white lily as a symbol of the resurrection and of purity has become the typical Easter flower. The Madonna lily was used for years as the Easter lily, but it often failed to bloom in time for Easter, and so the Bermuda, or white trumpet, lily is often used instead.

 

The egg is another popular symbol of Easter. Eggs were dyed and eaten during spring festivals in ancient Egypt, Persia, Greece and Rome. Coloured eggs were not, however, associated with Easter until the 15th century. Many churches today follow old traditions of colouring hard-boiled eggs and giving children little chocolate eggs as symbols of the resurrection.

 

Matthew 28:1-11, Mark 16:1-10, Luke 24:1-12, John 20:1-10.

 

More Information:

 

What is Easter? What do Christians celebrate on Easter?

Fisheaters: Easter Sunday

Project Britain – My Easter, by James

The Meaning of Easter

Calendar Updates: Easter

 

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5th April
FESTIVAL OF PURE BRIGHTNESS/TOMB SWEEPING DAY/QINGMINGJIE/CH’ING MING

Chinese

 

This is the first occasion in the year when Chinese visit their family tombs. After sweeping the tombstones, people offer food, flowers and paper replicas of favourite items dear to the dead, such as a telephone, a car or a house; they then burn incense and paper money and bow before the memorial tablets. In Chinese culture, even though a person has died, he/she may still have need of these. This practice reflects a form of belief and care for their deceased family members, who still survive in some way in the after life.

 

Families make a special effort to come together and to return to the family graveyard on this occasion. Many people picnic by the grave to ‘join’ the ancestors in the feast. No food is cooked on this day and only cold meals are served. There should always be an even number of dishes put in front of the grave, along with a bowl of rice with an upright incense stick. Then family members start taking turns to bow before the tombs of the ancestors, starting with the most senior members of the family.

 

The festival is also one of the 24 seasonal division points in China, and falls on April 4-6 each year. In contrast to the solemnity of the tomb sweepers, people also enjoy the hope of Spring, since the Qingming Festival is a time when the sun shines brightly, the trees and grass become green and nature is lively once more. It is the high time for spring ploughing and sowing. Since ancient times, people have followed the custom of Spring outings.

 

People love to fly extravagant kites during the ‘Festival of Pure Brightness. Many people fly kites not only during the day, but also – and especially – at night. A string of little lanterns tied onto the kite or its tail look like shining stars, and therefore are called ‘god’s lanterns’.

 

Respect for the dead and also for the elderly has long been a feature of Chinese practice, belief and culture. This annual family meeting at the tombs is a time of solemnity but not sadness, and enshrines a message of hope for a brighter future ahead.

 

More Information:

 

China – Festivals – Pure Brightness

China Travel – Pure Brightness Festival

Qingming Festival (Tomb-sweeping Day)

Tomb Sweeping Day in Pictures

Chinese Culture: Tomb Sweeping Festival

 

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7th April
THE ANNUNCIATION OF THE LORD / LADY DAY

Christian (Orthodox according to the Julian calendar) 

 

Lady Day celebrates the angel Gabriel announcing to Mary that she is to bear a child, and Mary’s response in the Magnificat. The day provides an opportunity to focus on the doctrine of the incarnation. Luke 1:26-38, 46-55.

 

More Information:

 

Catholic Culture: Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord

BBC: The Annunciation

The Annunciation – Luke 1: 26-38

Leonardo da Vinci – The Annunciation

American Catholic: Annunciation of the Lord

 

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8th April
HANAMATSURI

Buddhist (Japanese)

 

This flower festival marks the Japanese celebration of the Buddha Shakyamuni’s birthday, which Mahayana Buddhists fix at 565 BCE. The flowers accentuate the tradition that the Buddha was born in a garden, so floral shrines are made and an image of the infant Buddha is set in it and bathed.

 

The original Japanese Flower Festival (hana, ‘flower’, matsuri, ‘festival’) was observed to encourage fruit trees to flower early; at the time, the farming community believed that the longer the blossoming, the more prosperous the harvest. Buddhism spread to Japan in the 6th century CE, and sometime around 600 CE the hanamatsuri festival became incorporated into the celebration of the Buddha’s birthday.

 

Nowadays a special altar—the hanamido—is erected and decorated with flowers representing the garden in Lumbini, southern Nepal, where it is said that Queen Maya went into labour. An image of the infant Buddha is placed in a pan and, in a ritual known as kanbutsu, water or sweet tea is poured over it in remembrance of the “sweet rain” that descended from heaven at the moment of the birth.

 

It is told that when Buddha Shakyamuni was born, birds sang and flowers bloomed in honour of his arrival. Pointing with his right hand to heaven and with his left hand to earth, the new born child took seven steps, prophesying that he would become a great sage and deliver humanity from suffering.

 

Hanamatsuri is predominately a Mahayana festival whereas Theravadin Buddhists observe the Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and entrance into nirvana during the festival of Wesak, held in May at the time of the full moon.

 

While Buddhists of all traditions find meaning in these miracle stories of the events of his birth, they are also careful to point to his specific role as a wise teacher whose role was to signpost the way to enlightenment and nirvana.

 

More Information:

 

Hanamatsuri – Buddha’s Birthday

Journal of Shin Buddhism: Hanamatsuri

Mythic Maps: Hanamatsuri

Photos and text for Hanamatsuri

Vatican Greetings to Buddhists for the Feast of Vesakh/Hanamatsuri

 

 

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8th April
PASCHA/EASTER

Christian (Orthodox)

 

Easter is calculated on a lunar calendar, and thus moves each year in relation to the solar calendar. Orthodox and Western churches calculate differently when the necessary intercalary adjustments should be made; consequently there is no consistent relationship between the dates of Orthodox and Western timings of Easter. In 2018 the Orthodox Easter cycle dates fall a week later than the Western traditions.

 

For Orthodox Christians Easter Day is the most important festival of the Christian year, as this is when Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. A vigil is kept during the preceding night, and the resurrection of Christ is greeted with the lighting of candles and the affirmation ‘Christ is risen’. Customs include colouring and decorating of hard boiled eggs as symbols of new life – cracking them symbolises the opening of Christ’s tomb. All Orthodox Christian communities celebrate Easter and the associated cycle of festivals at the same time.

 

Pascha is the name for Easter in Orthodox Christianity. Pascha is preceded by Great Lent, a time of prayer, fasting and penance, just as Easter in western Christianity is preceded by the Lenten season. Pascha is celebrated differently from Easter in that the service typically begins just before midnight with the Nocturne service, the Easter procession at midnight and then Easter matins, which are sung inside a church. The Pascha services are noteworthy for the canon hymns of St. John of Damascus. The service continues with the singing of the Easter hours and the divine liturgy and the Paschal Sermon of St. John Chrysostom. For fuller information, see: It is Pascha – not Easter!

 

Theologians of all Christian traditions regard Easter as the lynchpin of Christian belief, and view faith in the resurrection of Jesus as the determining factor in assessing orthodoxy. The annual rejoicing that ‘Christ is risen; He is risen indeed!’ is common to Eastern and Western traditions alike throughout the world.

 

Matthew 28:1-11, Mark 16:1-10, Luke 24:1-12, John 20:1-10.

 

More Information:

 

Orthodox Church – Easter Sunday – The Holy Pascha

Goarch: The Great and Holy Feast of Pascha

Contemporary views of Pascha

https://Pascha in Images

Orthodox Research Institute: It is Pascha not Easter!

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9th April
THE ANNUNCIATION OF THE LORD / LADY DAY

Christian (Anglican and Roman Catholic) 

9th April Transferred for this year from 25th March

 

Lady Day celebrates the angel Gabriel announcing to Mary that she is to bear a child, and Mary’s response in the Magnificat. The day provides an opportunity to focus on the doctrine of the incarnation. Luke 1:26-38, 46-55.

 

More Information:

 

Catholic Culture: Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord

BBC: The Annunciation

The Annunciation – Luke 1: 26-38

Leonardo da Vinci – The Annunciation

American Catholic: Annunciation of the Lord

 

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12th April
YOM HA-SHOAH (HOLOCAUST DAY)

Jewish

 

A day of remembrance when Jewish people remember the six million Jews, including one and a half million children, who were victims of the Nazi Holocaust. Memorial candles are lit and special services are held. The date is chosen as the closest date (in the Jewish calendar) to the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.

 

More Information:

 

Yom Hashoah – Holocaust Remembrance Day

Reform Judaism: Yom HaShoah – Holocaust Remembrance Day/a>

How to talk to kids about the Holocaust

Yom Hashoah – Remembrance Day Siren in Israel

Jewish Virtual Library: Yom Ha’Shoah – Holocaust Memorial Day

 

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13th April
THE PROPHET’S NIGHT JOURNEY AND ASCENT/LAILAT (LAYLAT) UL ISRA WA-L-MIRAJ

Muslim

 

27th Rajab

 

This festival celebrates the journey of the Prophet Muhammad, in the tenth year of his prophethood, from Makkah to Jerusalem, and through the heavens to the presence of God, all in one night. On this night Muslims believe the Prophet received the command that they should pray five times each day. The rock in Jerusalem from which the Prophet ascended is now contained in the Dome of the Rock. Muslims mark this night by reading the Qur’an and saying additional prayers.

 

Suras 2:144 and 17:1 refer. The full story is in the Hadith, together with the times of prayer.

 

More Information:

 

Sunna Lessons: The Prophet’s Night Journey and Ascension

Essaouira: Lailat al Miraj

. The Night Journey – The Prophet Muhammad’s meeting with Allah
The Prophet’s Night Journey in Pictures

The Night Journey

 

 

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13th April
SONGKRAN

Buddhist

Traditional New Year’s Day festival in Thailand, where containers of water are thrown as a symbol of washing away all that is evil. Fragrant herbs are often placed in the jug or bucket containing the water.

 

More information:

 

What is Songkran?

Things to know about the Thailand Water Festival – Songkran

Everything you need to know about Songkran in Thailand

Seventeen photographs of Songkran in Thailand

Songkran – National Holiday in Thailand/a>

 

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14th April
VAISAKHI/BAISAKHI

Sikh

 

The Sikh New Year Festival

 

In 1699 CE, on Vaisakhi, the tenth Guru, Guru Gobind Singh, founded the Order of the Khalsa. Five men, who later came to be known as the Panj Piare (the Five Beloved Ones), were prepared to offer their lives when the Guru asked for volunteers. According to tradition this is when he initiated both these Panj Piare and many others into the Khalsa, with men taking the name ‘Singh’ (lion) as a reminder to be courageous, and women taking the name ‘Kaur’ (princess) to emphasise their dignity. On this day Sikhs, both young and more mature, are nowadays initiated into the Khalsa by ‘taking amrit’; in doing so they commit themselves to a discipline that includes daily prayers and the wearing of the external markers of Khalsa identity (the Five Ks), dedicating their lives to the service of others and the pursuit of justice.

 

In the Punjab there is boisterous dancing and loud joyous singing as the traditional folk dances of Northern India, called the Gidda and the Bhangra, are performed. People collect in the evening around a bonfire to celebrate the harvest. Outside each gurdwara throughout the world the Nishan Sahib (the Sikh pennant) and its flagpole are taken down, ceremonially bathed and then re-erected.

 

The formation of the Khalsa, the community of committed Sikhs, was the first step to prepare the Sikh people for the day when there would be no further human Gurus. Instead, after the death of Guru Gobind Singh, as they sought for further guidance and following the Guru’s clear instructions, they came to look for authority in the Guru Granth Sahib, the compilation of the writings of the earlier Gurus, and also in the tenth Guru’s writings in the Dasam Granth.

 

More Information:

 

The Holiday Spot: Baisakhi

Sikhism Guide: Vaisakhi

Sikh Net: Vaisakhi – Birth of the Khalsa – Sikh Stories of Children

Baisaki Greetings and Bangra Dancing

The Huffington Post: Vaisakhi

 

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19th April
YOM HA’ATZMA’UT

Jewish

 

Israeli Independence Day, commemorating the declaration of independence of Israel in 1948.

 

More Information:

 

My Jewish Learning: Yom Ha’Atzma’ut

Union of Reform Judaism: Yom HaAtzmaut

Yom Ha’Atzma’ut Activities

Images for Yom Ha’Atzmaut

BJ: Yom Ha’zikaron/Yom Ha’atzmaut

 

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21st April
RIDVAN

Baha’i

 

21st April – 2nd May

 

The most important Baha’i festival. It was in these 12 days that Baha’u’llah declared himself as the Promised One prophesied by the Bab. The festival is named after the garden outside Baghdad in which he was staying. The first, ninth and twelfth days are especially significant and are celebrated as holy days, when no work is done. (This is also true of other Baha’i festival dates.) It is during this period that Baha’is elect their local, national and international governing bodies.

 

More Information:

Baha’i Library: Ridvan

Ridvan – The Greatest Baha’i Festival

BBC Religions: Ridvan – History and Significance

The Ridvan Garden

Universal House of Justice – Annual Messages for Ridvan

 

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22nd April
ADAR MAH PARAB

Zoroastrian (Shenshai – Parsi)

 

On the day of Adar, the 9th day, during the month of Adar, the 9th month, Zoroastrians celebrate the birthday of fire. It is customary for Zoroastrians to go to the fire temple to make offerings of sandalwood or incense at this time, and to thank the holy fire for the warmth and light it has given throughout the year. Traditionally on this day food is not cooked in the house as the fire is given a rest and the Atash Niyayeesh or litany to the fire is recited in honour of the house fire or the ceremonial oil lamp.

 

More Information:

 

Parsikhabar – Celebrating the Atash nu Parab

Atash nu Parabh

Zoroastrian Religion’s Most Frequently Asked Question

Images for Adar Mah Parab

Zoroastrian Places of Worship – Atash Bahram – Modern Fire Temples

 

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23rd April
ST GEORGE’S DAY

National

 

St George is the patron saint of England. His particular significance to England is not clear since he lived and died in the Middle East as a martyr for his Christian faith, but it is possible that his popularity grew after the Crusades, when his red cross on a white background was adopted as the symbol of the English Crusaders.

 

More Information:

 

Britannia History: St George

St George’s Day observed in Spain

Project Britain – St George’s Day

Google creates doodle to celebrate England’s patron saint

The English are ‘too nervous’ to celebrate St George’s Day

 

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28th April
NICHIREN AND THE CHANTING OF THE DAIMOKU

Buddhist

 

On 28th April 1253, at the age of 31, the Japanese Buddhist priest Nichiren (born on Febuary 16th in 1222 CE in the east of Japan) first taught the mantra Nam myoho renge kyo to a small group at the Seichō-ji temple he had entered at the age of 20 in 1233. It was there he had set out to master all the Buddhist teachings available to him in Japan at that time. He came to believe that the profundity of the Lotus Sutra, which expounds the universal potential for Buddhahood, is expressed in this mantra. For Nichiren, the practice of chanting ‘Nam myoho renge kyo, (the daimoku) opens the path to inner transformation from which compassionate action for the happiness of self and others arises.

 

As a result of his radical teachings he met with several attacks from his opponents, including an illegal attempt to execute him, and was twice exiled. During his second exile on Sado Island (in 1272) he inscribed the first Gohonzon, a mandala written in characters which represents life in the balanced state of Buddhahood. The core practices undertaken by believers are a twice-daily recitation from the Lotus Sutra and the chanting of the daimoku in front of the Gohonzon. For Nichiren Buddhists the 28th April is a day of celebration and gratitude.

 

More information:

 

Nichiren Buddhism – an Overview

The Life of Nichiren – and much else

Nichiren Buddhism

Images for Gohonzon

Nichiren and Nichiren Buddhism

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30th April
THE NIGHT OF FORGIVENESS / LAILAT-UL-BARA’AH (14th Sha’ban)

Muslim

BIRTHDAY of 12th IMAM, Muhammad ibn Hasan al-Mahdi (Shi‘a)

 

April 30th – May 1st

 

On the fourteenth of Sha’ban, the eighth month of the Muslim calendar and two weeks before Ramadan commences, Muslims seek forgiveness for their sins. Many Muslims believe that it is on this night that a person’s destiny is fixed by Allah for the coming year, and the night is often spent in prayer, asking for forgiveness and God’s guidance. Some Muslims fast during the daytime in preparation for the night. In certain parts of the world Muslims visit the graves of relatives, and the giving of charity is also traditional. In a number of places the night is marked with firework displays.

 

Lailat-ul-Bara’ah falls on the day that is celebrated by the Ithna Asheri Shi‘a community as being the birthday of the 12th Imam (Muhammad ibn Hasan al-Mahdi), and they therefore observe the night in prayer and worship, and then celebrate the birthday during the daytime.

 

More Information:

 

Travelling the world – Laylat ul Bara’ah

India Forums: Lailat-ul-Bara’h (Night of Forgiveness)

Ummah: Laylat al-Bara’ah or Shab-e-Barat – Night of Salvation

The Night of Bara’ah – in pictures

Islamic Board: Lailat al-Bara’ah

 

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30th April
MAY EVE / BELTAINE EVE

Wiccan/Pagan

 

The wheel of the year continues to turn and spring gives way to summer’s full bloom and the fertility of the land is at its height. Many pagans celebrate Beltaine by lighting fires and leaping over them, or with maypole dances, symbolizing the mystery of the Sacred Marriage of Goddess and God.

 

Beltaine honours Life. It represents the peak of Spring and the beginning of Summer. Earth energies are at their strongest and most active. All of life is bursting with potent fertility and at this point in the Wheel of the Year, the potential becomes conception. On May Eve the sexuality of life and the earth is at its peak. Abundant fertility, on all levels, is the central theme. For this is the night of the Greenwood Marriage. It is about sexuality and sensuality, passion, vitality and joy. And about conception. A brilliant moment in the Wheel of the Year to bring ideas, hopes and dreams into action. And have some fun…..

 

Above all Beltaine is a Fire Festival. The word ‘Beltane’ originates from the Celtic God ‘Bel’, meaning ‘the bright one’ and the Gaelic word ‘teine’ meaning fire. Together they make ‘Bright Fire’, or ‘Goodly Fire’ and traditionally bonfires were lit to honour the Sun and encourage the support of Bel and the Sun’s light to nurture the emerging future harvest and protect the community. Bel had to be won over through human effort. Traditionally all fires in the community were put out and a special fire was kindled for Beltaine. This was the Tein-eigen, the need fire. People jumped the fire to purify, cleanse and to bring fertility. Couples jumped the fire together to pledge themselves to each other. Cattle and other animals were driven through the smoke as a protection from disease and to bring fertility. At the end of the evening, the villagers would take some of the Teineigen to start their fires anew.

 

As Beltane is the Great Wedding of the Goddess and the God, it is a popular time for pagan weddings or handfastings, a traditional betrothal for ‘a year and a day’ after which the couple would either choose to stay together or part without recrimination. Today, the length of commitment is a matter of choice for the couple, and can often be for life. Handfasting ceremonies are often unique to the couple, but include common elements, most importantly the exchange of vows and rings (or a token of their choice). The act of handfasting always involves tying the hands (‘tying the knot’) of the two people involved, in a figure of eight, at some point in the ceremony and then later unbinding them. This is done with a red cord or ribbon. Tying the hands together symbolises that the two people have come together and the untying means that they remain together of their own free will.

 

Another common element is ‘jumping the broomstick’ – this goes back to a time when two people who could not afford a church ceremony, or want one, would be accepted in the community as a married couple if they literally jumped over a broom laid on the floor. The broom marked a ‘threshold’, moving from an old life to a new one.
Mead and cakes are often shared in communion as part of the ceremony. Mead is known as the Brew of the Divine, made from honey which is appropriate for a love ceremony (and is the oldest alcoholic drink known to humankind).

 

There is a natural optimism and forward looking aspect to most pagan celebrations, and nowhere more so than in Spring and Summertime.

 

More Information:

 

The Goddess and the Green Man

Cultural Heritage of Ireland: The festival of Beltaine and the Beltany Stone Circle

Spirit of Old – Beltaine

Newgrange: Beltane – The Fire Festival

Chalice Centre: May – Beltaine: The Return of Summer

 

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1st May
BELTAINE

Wiccan/Pagan/ Druid

 

The wheel of the year continues to turn and spring gives way to summer’s full bloom and the fertility of the land is at its height. Many pagans celebrate Beltaine by lighting fires and leaping over them, or with maypole dances, symbolizing the mystery of the Sacred Marriage of Goddess and God.

 

Beltaine honours Life. It represents the peak of Spring and the beginning of Summer. Earth energies are at their strongest and most active. All of life is bursting with potent fertility and at this point in the Wheel of the Year, the potential becomes conception. On May Eve the sexuality of life and the earth is at its peak. Abundant fertility, on all levels, is the central theme. For this is the night of the Greenwood Marriage. It is about sexuality and sensuality, passion, vitality and joy. And about conception. A brilliant moment in the Wheel of the Year to bring ideas, hopes and dreams into action. And have some fun…..

 

Above all Beltaine is a Fire Festival. The word ‘Beltane’ originates from the Celtic God ‘Bel’, meaning ‘the bright one’ and the Gaelic word ‘teine’ meaning fire. Together they make ‘Bright Fire’, or ‘Goodly Fire’ and traditionally bonfires were lit to honour the Sun and encourage the support of Bel and the Sun’s light to nurture the emerging future harvest and protect the community. Bel had to be won over through human effort. Traditionally all fires in the community were put out and a special fire was kindled for Beltaine. This was the Tein-eigen, the need fire. People jumped the fire to purify, cleanse and to bring fertility. Couples jumped the fire together to pledge themselves to each other. Cattle and other animals were driven through the smoke as a protection from disease and to bring fertility. At the end of the evening, the villagers would take some of the Teineigen to start their fires anew.

 

As Beltane is the Great Wedding of the Goddess and the God, it is a popular time for pagan weddings or handfastings, a traditional betrothal for ‘a year and a day’ after which the couple would either choose to stay together or part without recrimination. Today, the length of commitment is a matter of choice for the couple, and can often be for life. Handfasting ceremonies are often unique to the couple, but include common elements, most importantly the exchange of vows and rings (or a token of their choice). The act of handfasting always involves tying the hands (‘tying the knot’) of the two people involved, in a figure of eight, at some point in the ceremony and then later unbinding them. This is done with a red cord or ribbon. Tying the hands together symbolises that the two people have come together and the untying means that they remain together of their own free will.

 

Another common element is ‘jumping the broomstick’ – this goes back to a time when two people who could not afford a church ceremony, or want one, would be accepted in the community as a married couple if they literally jumped over a broom laid on the floor. The broom marked a ‘threshold’, moving from an old life to a new one.
Mead and cakes are often shared in communion as part of the ceremony. Mead is known as the Brew of the Divine, made from honey which is appropriate for a love ceremony (and is the oldest alcoholic drink known to humankind).

 

There is a natural optimism and forward looking aspect to most pagan celebrations, and nowhere more so than in Spring and Summertime.

 

More Information:

 

The Goddess and the Green Man

Cultural Heritage of Ireland: The festival of Beltaine and the Beltany Stone Circle

Spirit of Old – Beltaine

Newgrange: Beltane – The Fire Festival

Chalice Centre: May – Beltaine: The Return of Summer

 

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3rd May
LAG B’OMER

Jewish

 

The Omer is a period of 49 days, lasting from Pesach to Shavuot. It is a time of sadness, relieved on this, the 33rd day, by a break in the days of mourning. Lag b’Omer recalls the end of a plague in Roman times during the lifetime of Rabbi Akiva, and is often celebrated by out of door, fresh air activities. A large number of weddings take place on this day, since they are not usually permitted during most of the rest of the Omer period.

 

More Information:

 

Jewfaq: The Counting of the Omer

My Jewish Learning: Lag B’Omer

Chabad: Lag B’Omer

Lag B’Omer Customs

Aish: Counting the Omer

 

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10th May
ASCENSION DAY (40th day after Easter)

Christian (40th day after Easter) Christian (Western Churches)

((The Catholic Church in England and Wales celebrates it on the following Sunday, 28 May.)

 

Ascension Day commemorates the last earthly appearance of the Risen Christ, who, according to Christian belief, ascended into heaven in the presence of many witnesses. It is one of the four most important dates in the Christian calendar.

 

Mark 16:19-20, Luke 24:50-53, Acts of the Apostles 1:9-11.

 

More Information:

 

Share Faith: Ascension Day

Amish America: How do Amish Observe Ascension Day?

Project Britain – Ascension Day

Bartleby: Quotations for Ascension Day

Time and Date: Ascension Day

 

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13th May
CHRISTIAN AID WEEK

Christian

 

13th – 19th May

 

Initiated in 1945, this week is devoted to fund raising by members of various churches, mainly through house to house collections and sales of goods of various kinds. The money given is for work with the needy throughout the world. Christian Aid works in nearly 60 countries, helping people, regardless of religion or race, to improve their own lives and tackle the causes of poverty and injustice.

 

More Information:

 

You Tube: This is Christian Aid

Durham Cathedral: Sermon – Christian Aid Week

Life and Work: A Prayer for Christian Aid Week

Meet our Neighbour – Morsheda – Watch the video

Christian Aid – Our Aims and Values

 

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16th May
RAMADAN

Muslim

 

16th May to 14th June

 

Ramadan is the name of the 9th month of the Islamic Calendar.

 

The Muslim year is a lunar year which is about 11 days shorter than the solar year on which the Gregorian (British) calendar is based, so Ramadan occurs ten or eleven days earlier each year in the Gregorian calendar.

 

During the month of Ramadan Muslims fast from dawn to sunset. Fasting (sawm) is one of the five pillars of Islam, requiring self-discipline and giving everyone some experience of deprivation. Those who are not able to fast are expected to give charity to compensate for the lost days. While children may be encouraged to fast, the full fast is not compulsory until maturity, but many young people still attempt to keep some, or even all of it.

 

No food or drink may be consumed during the hours of daylight during Ramadan, and those fasting must also abstain from smoking and from sexual relations. Muslims who are travelling or sick and women who are pregnant or nursing a child are excused from the fast. Travellers and menstruating women are required to make up the days of missed fasting during the year ahead. After the custom of the Prophet, the fast is traditionally broken each evening by taking dates and water.

 

For Muslims it is the holiest month of the year, and one they try to dedicate to spiritual renewal, prayer and intensive devotional reading of the Qur’an. It is the month in which, according to Islamic belief, the Prophet received the first revelation of verses of the Qur’an. It is called Lailat ul Qadr, and to stand in prayer on this one night is said to be better than a thousand months of worship. Ramadan is often called ‘the month of the Qur’an‘ because of this, and many Muslims attempt to recite as much of the Qur’an as they can during the month. Most mosques will recite one thirtieth of the Qur’an each night during the Taraweeh prayers.

 

Surah 2:183-188.

 

More Information:

 

Mkidwai Tripod: Facts of Ramadan – Fasting

BBC Religions: Islam – Ramadan

Ramadan for Kids

Ramadan in Pictures

Jannah: Ramadan – Articles, Resources and Activities for Kids

 

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20th May
SHAVUOT / THE FEAST OF WEEKS / PENTECOST

Jewish

 

20th – 21st May

 

Shavuot, also known as the Feast of Weeks, is a two day festival which falls seven weeks after Pesach. It celebrates the revelation of the Torah to Moses on Mount Sinai, and also marks the time when the first harvest was taken to the Temple. Synagogues are decorated with flowers and dairy foods are traditionally eaten. For Orthodox Jews work is not permitted throughout the festival.

 

Exodus 19 & 20, Leviticus 23:15-22, Deuteronomy 16:9-12.

 

More Information:

 

Reform Judaism: Shavuot

Jewish Facts: Shavuot

Torahtots – Shavuos

Chabad: Shavuot Recipes

About Judaism: Shavuot

 

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20th May
PENTECOST / WHIT SUNDAY

Christian (Western Churches)

 

As the second most important festival in the Christian year, Pentecost is often seen as the ‘birthday’ of the Church, since this is when the disciples of Jesus first proclaimed the Gospel after receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit. It is named after the Jewish festival (Shavuot) on which this event happened, which is celebrated 50 days after Passover. The name comes from the Greek pentekoste, “fiftieth”. Pentecost for Christians accordingly falls on the Sunday 50 days after Easter. The alternative name of Whitsuntide comes from the custom of converts presenting themselves for baptism on this day dressed in white.

Clergy in church often wear robes with red in their design as a symbol of the flames in which the Bible says the Holy Spirit came to the early disciples. The symbols of Pentecost are those of the Holy Spirit and include the dove, the wind, the breath of God and flames. The Acts of the Apostles tells how the followers of Jesus found themselves speaking in foreign languages, inspired by the Holy Spirit. People passing by at first thought that they must be drunk, but the apostle Peter told the crowd that he and the other apostles were full of the Holy Spirit.

Pentecost is a special day for all Christian communities, but it is emphasised particularly by Pentecostal churches, which preach that the Holy Spirit is available to believers during all of their services.

The central Christian belief that God is three in one – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – is at the heart of Christian teaching about the nature of God and is central to preaching and teaching both at this time and on the following Sunday, Trinity Sunday. It is the belief in the divinity of Christ and the reality of the Holy Spirit which separates orthodox Christian faith from other monotheistic religions.

 

Acts of the Apostles 2:1-13.

 

More Information:

 

 

Fisheaters: Vigil of the Pentecost and Whitsunday

Patheos: What is Pentecost? Why Does It Matter?

What is Pentecost?

Watch ‘The Spirit of Pentecost’ – a short film

Explore Faith: Questions of Faith and Doubt – Pentecost

 

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23rd May
ANNIVERSARY OF THE DECLARATION OF THE BAB

Baha’i

 

The Bab heralded the arrival of Baha’ullah and was co-founder of the Baha’i faith. He first declared his mission in Persia in 1844. He inaugurated the Baha’i calendar which is numbered from the year of this declaration.

 

More Information:

 

Baha’i teachings: declaration of the Bab on how religion begins

Mythic Maps: Anniversary of the Declaration of the Bab

Enable Me to Grow: Observing the Declaration of the Bab

The Anniversary of the Declaration of the Bab

Huffington Post: Enter the gate

 

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24th May
ZARATOSHT NO DISO

Zoroastrian (Shenshai;  Parsi)

 

Zaratosht no diso is the death anniversary of the Prophet Zarathushtra and is a sorrowful occasion. Tradition records that this is when he was assassinated at the age of 77. It is customary to visit the Fire Temple, participate in special remembrance prayers to him and to the Fravashis (the guardian spirits of departed ancestors), and ponder upon the Gathas or Hymns of Zarathushtra, which embody his eternal message to humanity.

No one knows how Zarathushtra died, allegedly at age 77. Many legends, and several Zoroastrian traditions, say that he was killed, while praying in the sanctuary, by a foreign enemy of the king; but many scholars believe that Zarathushtra died peacefully.

Although this day is an occasion of sadness, there is an eternal optimism at the heart of Zoroastrian belief which shines through even the darkest of days such as this.

 

More Information:

 

Zartosht no Diso – a History

I Love India: Festivals/Zartosht-no-diso Celebrations

Crystal Links: Zoroaster and Death

The Parsee Society: Images for Zartosht no diso

Zarathustra.com: The Life and Death of Zarathustra

 

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27th May
TRINITY SUNDAY

Christian (Western Churches)

 

In the West, Trinity Sunday is celebrated on the Sunday after Pentecost (or Whitsunday). On Trinity Sunday, Christians reflect on the mystery of God, who is seen as One but is understood in and through God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

 

(Eastern Orthodox Christians celebrate All Saints at this time). 

 

Matthew 28:19; 2 Corinthians 13:14; John 1:18; 15:26.

 

More Information:

 

Church Year: Trinity Sunday

Fisheaters: Trinity Sunday

Trinity Sunday – a basic view

Trinity Sunday in Images

The Painted Prayer Book: Trinity Sunday – Drenched in the Mystery

 

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27th May
PENTECOST

Christian (Eastern Orthodox Churches)

 

An important festival in the Christian year, Pentecost is often seen as the ‘birthday’ of the Church, since this is when the disciples of Jesus first proclaimed the Gospel after receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit. It is named after the Jewish festival day on which this event happened.

 

Acts of the Apostles 2:1-13.

 

More Information:

 

Saint and Feasts – Holy Pentecost

Orthodoxy: The Church Year – Pentecost: The Descent of the Holy Spirit

Pentecost – the Descent of the Holy Spirit

Orthodox Pentecost in Images

Russian Orthodox Church of Three Saints: Pentecost – The Birthday of the Church

 

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29th May
VESAKHA PUJA / WESAK / BUDDHA DAY / BODHI DAY

Buddhist

 

On Wesak Theravadin Buddhists celebrate the birth, the enlightenment under the Bodhi Tree in Bodhgaya in North India, and the final passing away of Gautama Buddha. Mahayanist Buddhists have separate days for each of these events but on Buddha Day they celebrate both the birth and the enlightenment of the Buddha. They also celebrate his enlightenment on Bodhi Day in December. It is common in almost all Buddhist traditions to decorate the houses where Buddhists live with lanterns and garlands, and the temples are ringed with little oil lamps, consisting of a simple cloth or cotton wick in a small clay vessel of oil. Many Buddhists also send ‘Wesak cards’ to their friends.
 
On this day particular stress is laid on the Buddha’s enlightenment and many lay people come together at monasteries for this, the biggest of all the Buddhist festivals. No matter how important the Dharma and the Sangha may be in Buddhist belief and practice, it is the Buddha himself who is the central figure and originator of Buddhist teaching, and the celebration at this festival of his enlightenment is of central importance to all Buddhist communities.

 

More Information:

 

Crystal Links: Wesak

The Significance of Vesak – Buddha Day

BBC: Wesak

You Tube: The Wesak Festival – the full moon of the Buddha

Souled Out: The Significance of Wesak

 

 

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29th May
ANNIVERSARY OF THE ASCENSION OF BAHA’U’LLAH

Baha’i

 

This day commemorates the death of Baha’u’llah at Bahji, near Acre, in northern Israel in 1892. His shrine there is the holiest place on earth for Baha’is and is the focus towards which all Baha’is face when praying.

 

More Information:

 

Baha’i Reference Library: Ascension of Baha’u’llah

Bodybuilding: Baha’is commemorate Ascension of Baha’u’llah

Paintdrawer: Ascension of Baha’u’llah

You Tube: Ascension of Baha’u’llah

Good Reads – Quotations from Bahá’u’lláh

 

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31st May
DAY OF THANKSGIVING FOR THE INSTITUTION OF HOLY COMMUNION

Christian (Anglican)

 

Also Known as Corpus Christi

 

The Anglican church celebrates this on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday (which falls on 11 June this year). The day recalls the act of Jesus in instituting the celebration of Holy Communion.

 

More Information:

 

All Saints Belmont – sermon of Thanksgiving for the Holy Communion

Text for celebration of day of thanksgiving for the instutution of the Holy Eucharist
Anglican Communion – What do Anglicans Believe?

MHSJB Word Press: Corpus Chrisit In Germany

Can we provide Holy Communion over the Web?

 

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3rd June
CORPUS CHRISTI (CORPUS ET SANGUIS CHRISTI)

Christian (Roman Catholic)

 

The festival of Corpus Christi celebrates the institution of the Mass/Eucharist. It falls 60 days after Easter. In the ancient world it was customary to scatter flowers in the path of important people as a sign of respect and reverence, and this custom was adopted by the Church to honour the Blessed Sacrament as it was carried in procession on this festival day.

 

In some countries, including England & Wales, the festival is celebrated on the Sunday after Trinity Sunday.

 

More Information:

 

New Advent: Feast of Corpus Christi

Time and date: Festival of Corpus Christi

Santo Rosario: The Sacrament of the Eucharist – A Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church

Arundel Cathedral: Corpus Christi

Social Journalist: Corpus Christi is a Western Catholic Feast

 

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6th June
LAILAT-UL-QADR / THE NIGHT OF POWER / HONOUR / DIGNITY

Muslim (Shi‘a)

 

6th – 7th June

 

This commemorates the night in 610 CE when the prophet Muhammad received his first visit from the angel Jibril (Gabriel) and his revelation of the Qur’an. Muslims believe that the date of this night is kept secret by God, but that they ‘may seek the Night of Dignity in the odd nights of the last ten days of Ramadan’ (Bukhaari, quoting Aisha, who heard it from the Prophet). Many Muslims spend the last ten days and nights of Ramadan secluded in the mosque, praying and studying the Qur’an, to ensure they receive the special benefits promised for their prayers and devotions on Lailat-ul-Qadr. Muslims “looking for” Lailat ul Qadr tend to gather at sunset and then spend the rest of the night till dawn in the mosque or some other place of worship.

 

For the purpose of communal activities, or for those who can only spend one night in devotions at the mosque, Sunnis favour the 27th day (beginning the evening of the 26th) whilst the Shi‘a favour the 23rd day of Ramadan. Of this night, the Qur’an states, “Lailat-ul -Qadr is better than a thousand months.” Surah 97:1-5 (see esp. 97: 3).

 

The first revelation:  Surah 2:185.

 

More Information:

 

Lailatul Qadar – The Night of Power

Laylatul Qadr – The Night of Power

Win Calendar – Lailat-ul-Qadr

Duas: ‘Common’ A’amaal for Laylatul Qadr

 

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10th June
LAILAT-UL-QADR / THE NIGHT OF POWER / HONOUR / DIGNITY

Muslim (Sunni)

10th – 11th June

 

This commemorates the night in 610 CE when the prophet Muhammad received his first visit from the angel Jibril (Gabriel) and his revelation of the Qur’an. Muslims believe that the date of this night is kept secret by God, but that they ‘may seek the Night of Dignity in the odd nights of the last ten days of Ramadan’ (Bukhaari, quoting Aisha, who heard it from the Prophet). Many Muslims spend the last ten days and nights of Ramadan secluded in the mosque, praying and studying the Qur’an to ensure they receive the special benefits promised for their prayers and devotions on Lailat-ul-Qadr. Muslims “looking for” Lailat ul Qadr tend to gather at sunset and then spend the rest of the night till dawn in the mosque or some other place of worship.

 

For the purpose of communal activities, or for those who can only spend one night in devotions at the mosque, Sunnis favour the 27th day (beginning the evening of the 26th) whilst the Shi‘a favour the 23rd day of Ramadan. Of this night, the Qur’an states, “Lailat-ul -Qadr is better than a thousand months.” Surah 97:1-5 (see esp. 97: 3).

 

The first revelation:  Surah 2:185.

 

More Information:

 

Lailatul Qadar – The Night of Power

Laylatul Qadr – The Night of Power

Win Calendar – Lailat-ul-Qadr

Duas: ‘Common’ A’amaal for Laylatul Qadr

 

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15th June
EID-UL-FITR / FEAST OF FAST BREAKING (1st Shawwal)

Muslim

 

Celebrations of this festival may extend over the first three days of the month of Shawwal, the month following Ramadan, although only the first day’s celebration is religiously sanctioned. It is a time for making gifts to the poor (Zakat-ul-Fitr, the charity of the fast, must be paid before the Eid prayer). Now is a time for new clothes, good food, and presents for children. Families get together and contact friends, especially those who live far away. The community will assemble for Eid prayer and a sermon at the mosque or at a large place which will accommodate the whole community of the town or village. The traditional greeting is ‘Eid Mubarak’ – ‘a happy and blessed Eid’. (There is no reference in the Qur’an but there is in the Hadith, the traditions of the Prophet).

 

    Interesting things to know about Eid:

 

1. It is customary to eat breakfast before the special prayer of Eid, as Prophet Muhammad used to eat something sweet before offering his prayers.
2. In Muslim countries Eid is an official public holiday that lasts for three days
3. As the crescent moon of Eid appears on different dates in different countries, many Muslim communities celebrate Eid on the day it appears over the sky above Mecca.
4. The Eid prayer is different from the regular prayer known as Adhaan. The special prayer can be done anytime between the Ishraq (dawn) and Zawal (midday) prayers.
5. In Turkey, Eid is called Ramazan Bayram which means Ramadan Feast. The Eid delicacies are also known as Şeker Bayram, which is inspired from the popular Turkish sweet baklava.
6. Muslims usually give a special gift of money to charity also known as Zakat-ul-Fitr which is collected and given to Muslims who are poor or in need.
7. In Indonesia, Eid is also called Idul Fitri or Lebaran. On the day of celebrations many Indonesian Muslims visit the graves of their family members and clean the gravesite and offer prayers to Allah for forgiveness.

 

This festival is known as the ‘lesser Eid’, though it is the more popular of the two major Eids that Muslims observe. The contrast with the preceding fast days of Ramadan ensures that it is welcomed with great festivity and exciting foods.

More Information:

 

Eid-al-Fitr – History and Interesting Facts about the Festival

Duas: Eid ul Fitr – 1st Shawwl – Eid salat

Islamic City: Eid ul Fitr

Eid ul Fitr – Everything you need to know

The Huffington Post: Articles on Eid Ul Fitr

 

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16th June
MARTYRDOM OF GURU ARJAN (1606)

Sikh

 

This festival is one of the major Sikh gurpurbs, and as with other gurpurbs, the day is preceded by an akhand path, a continuous reading of the Sikh scriptures. It is observed for several reasons. It marks the day when the fifth Guru was put to death after severe tortures on the orders of the Moghul Emperor, Jehangir. Traditionally, a cooling drink known as a Chabeel is distributed on this day, recalling that the Guru was tortured in the extreme heat of June.

 

Guru Arjan became the first Sikh martyr, having given his life upholding justice. The Guru lived out the divine message (Gurbani) of conquering death and suffering. He remained fearless in defending the truth, and showed how one can remain steadfast. Guru Arjan said, lived and showed that he could accept Shaheedi (martyrdom) but he would not accept restrictions on individuals being able to practise their faith. He claimed that the way a leader or prophet lives determines the character of the followers of that faith; a Sikh should live in dignity and die with honour, and never tolerate insult or oppression.

 

The Guru also laid the foundation of the Harmandir Sahib (the Golden Temple) in the middle of the tank (pool) at Amritsar. Many of his followers wanted it to be the tallest building in the new town. Guru Arjan however felt otherwise and reminded his followers that humility should be a great virtue. The temple was therefore built on as low an elevation as possible. To counter the Muslim belief that God’s House is in the west and the Hindu belief that it is in the east where the sun rises, the Harmandir Sahib had entrances on all four sides. Guru Arjan exclaimed; ‘My faith is for the people of all castes and all creeds, from whichever direction they come and to whichever direction they bow.’ To help raise money for these monumental public works projects, the Guru declared that all Sikhs should donate a tenth of their earnings to charity.

 

Guru Arjan is equally notable for drawing together compositions by the first five Gurus, to which he added hymns by other saints from Hindu and Muslim backgrounds. In this way he compiled the Adi Granth (the Sikh scriptures), and eliminated the inclusion of other false writings put forward by his brother and others, who not only claimed they had material written by the earlier Gurus but also sought to eliminate his favourable references to Hindu and Muslim viewpoints. When complete, the handwritten version of these scriptures was bound and then lodged in the Harmandir Sahib, where the Adi Granth was opened and read every day.

 

More Information:

 

Search Sikhism – Guru Arjan Dev

Sikh 24: Shaheedi of Guru Arjan Dev Jee

Sikhs Org.: The Fifth Master Guru Arjan Dev (1563-1606)

Fifth Sikh Guru – Guru Arjan Dev Ji Sahib

Sikhiwiki: Martyrdom of Guru Arjan

 

 

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18th June
DRAGON BOAT FESTIVAL / DUANWUJIE / TUAN YANG CHIEH

Chinese

 

Most notable now for the great dragon boat races which take place between slim rowing boats (sometimes 100 feet long) shaped like dragons. People also go down to the rivers to picnic and celebrate on boats. Originally the festival commemorated the suicide by drowning of the poet and statesman Ch’u Yuan in about 279 BCE.

 

More Information:

 

Travel China Guide: Dragon Boat Festival

International Dragon Boat Federation: The Dragon Boat – History and Culture

The Chinese Dragon Boat Festival for Chinese Children

Dragon Boat Festival in Pictures

The Chinese Dragon Boat Festival

 

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21st June
MIDSUMMER SOLSTICE

Wiccan/Pagan

 

The summer solstice is the festival of Midsummer, sometimes called Litha. The light of the sun is at the height of its power. It is a time of plenty and celebration.

 

More Information:

 

Witchvox: Midsummer/Summer Solstice

Almanac – Summer Solstice

BBC: Summer Solstice

Summer Solstice at Stonehenge, in pictures

When is the Longest Day? When is the Shortest Day?

 

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21st June
SUMMER SOLSTICE

(Alban Heruin or Alban Hefin) Druid

 

The summer solstice is the festival of Midsummer, sometimes called Litha. The light of the sun is at the height of its power. It is a time of plenty and celebration.

 

More Information:

 

Witchvox: Midsummer/Summer Solstice

Almanac – Summer Solstice

BBC: Summer Solstice

Summer Solstice at Stonehenge, in pictures

When is the Longest Day? When is the Shortest Day?

 

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21st June
WORLD HUMANIST DAY

Humanism

 

This is a Humanist holiday, celebrated annually around the world but especially in America, on the June solstice. It is seen as a day for spreading awareness of Humanism as a philosophical life stance and as a means for effecting change in the world. It is also seen as a time for Humanists to gather socially and promote the positive values of Humanism.

 

Humanists are people who believe in a natural universe as understood through reason, people who wish to live ethical and meaningful lives without faith in the supernatural, and people who care for their fellow human being. Humanists are informed by science, inspired by art, and motivated by compassion.

 

The manner in which World Humanist Day is celebrated varies considerably among local Humanist groups, reflecting the individuality and non-dogmatism of Humanism as a whole. Whilst the event might be a simple gathering, such as a dinner or picnic, with ample time for both socialising and reflection, the method of celebration is left to individual Humanists. Some groups develop intricate social rituals, music, and reflective proceedings which highlight the metaphorical symbolism of the solstice and the light of knowledge that brings us out of the darkness of ignorance.

 

More Information:

 

The Spiritual Naturalist: Happy World Humanist Day!

Secular Seasons – World Humanist Day

Human Rights and Equality in Broadcasting

iHumanism: World Humanism Day

World Humanist Day

 

 

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24th June
MIDSUMMER DAY

National

 

One of the four Quarter Days in the UK legal calendar

 

More Information:

 

Midsummer Madness – Summer Solstice parties around the world

Celebrating the Swedish Way: Midsummer Day

Humour: Midsummer’s Day – June24th

Images for Midsummer’s Day

Britannica summarises Midsummer’s Eve

 

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1st July
JASHN-E TIRGAN (TIR JASHAN)

Zoroastrian (Iranian)

 

Jashn-e Tirgan is an ancient quarter year summer festival, celebrated about three months after the spring NoRuz. Tirgan is devoted to the divinity Tir and is associated with the dog-star Sirius and the coming of the rains in Iran and the fertility they bring.

 

On this day it is customary to visit the Fire Temple to give thanks to Ahura Mazda, to participate in a jashan or thanksgiving ceremony, listen to stories of how the boundaries of Iran were established in antiquity with its Central Asian neighbour Turan (now Turkmenistan) by an archer shooting an arrow, share a community meal, play with ‘rainbow’ bracelets made of seven coloured silks, splash each other with water, and dance and make merry.

 

More Information:

 

Cais SOAS – Celebrations – Jashn-e-Tirgan

Bintudaddy: Tirgan Iranian Summer Festival (Yeki Bood Yeki Nabood)

Zoroastrian Heritage – Tirgan

Zoroastrian Heritage – Tirgan

Iran Review: Arash the Archer and the Festival of Rain (Jashn-e Tirgan)

 

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8th July
FRAVARDIGAN / MUKTAD

Kadmi

 

8th – 17th July (Kadmi)

11th – 20th March (Iranian Zoroastrian)

7th – 16th August (Shahenshai)

 

The Fravardigan festival (the festival of the fravashis), popularly known as Muktad (All Souls), commences ten days before NoRuz and is the last festival of the old year. The Zoroastrian day commences at sunrise and not midnight, and so during sunrise on the first day of the festival the immortal souls, together with their fravashis (the guardian spirits of departed ancestors, artistically depicted as half man/half bird), are welcomed by name by the Zoroastrian Mobeds or Magi (priests).

 

For ten days they reside in the place of worship, hovering around a table full of metal vases, each specifically earmarked for an individual family and containing white flowers. They leave the physical world after the last ceremony, held on the tenth evening, but before the dawn of NoRuz. The designated priest – as a farewell gesture – will then empty the water from one of the metal vases, which he will also turn upside down, signifying that it is time for the immortal souls and the fravashis to return to the spiritual world.

 

Theologically Fravardigan is the most important Zoroastrian festival after NoRuz, and, since it deals with one’s departed ancestors, many Zoroastrians regard it to be their holiest festival. This linking of the past with the present and the future is typical of much of Zoroastrian life.

 

During these ten days Zoroastrians often take time off from work, pray extensively, recite the five Gathas (hymns composed by Zarathushtra) and ensure their houses are thoroughly cleaned. They prepare daily samples of sacred food enjoyed by their departed ancestors while still alive, and take these to the place of worship, to be tasted by them during the daily ceremonies. This ritually consecrated food, along with chosen fruits, is then shared by the living in the special Hamaspathmaidyem Gahambar, a communal feast celebrated after the ceremony is over.

 

More Information:

 

Muktad – When Souls Come-a-Visiting

Muktad

http://www.heritageinstitute.com/zoroastrianism/pateti/index.htm

Images for Fravardigan

What to do and pray during the Muktad
 

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10th July
ANNIVERSARY OF THE MARTYRDOM OF THE BAB

Baha’i

 

This day recalls the death of the Bab, executed by firing squad in Tabriz, Persia, at noon on July 9th in 1850. Baha’is commemorate hisdeath at noon with readings and prayers from the Baha’i Scriptures. It has become a holy day of rest when Baha’is should refrain from work.

 

The Báb (the word means ‘Gate’ – that through which another would come) was the title adopted by ʿAli Muhammad Shirāzi, a 19th century Persian religious leader and founder of the Bábi movement. He and his followers were persecuted by the religious leaders of his country and this culminated in his being publicly shot by a firing squad in 1850. However, Bahá’í’s believe that his martyrdom was the occasion of a miracle witnessed by thousands. They hold that the first attempt to shoot the Báb resulted only in severing the ropes by which he was bound and freeing him so that he could conclude an important conversation with a follower; after the Báb’s death his followers almost unanimously accepted Mírzá Ḥusayn-`Alí Núrí (Bahá’u’lláh – the name means “The Glory of God”) as their new religious leader.

 

The commemoration of the Martyrdom of the Báb is one of nine days in the year when Bahá’ís should take time off work or school to be able to participate in religious gathering. His body is now buried in a magnificent tomb in Haira.

 
 

More Information:

 

Baha’i World News Service: Anniversary of the Martyrdom of the Bab

Baha’i Blog: The Martyrdom of the Bab and Jesus Christ

Baha’i Library – The Martyrdom of the Bab

Susan Gammage: Holy Day Celebration for the Martrydom of the Bab

Huffington Post – Martyrdom of the Bab

 

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13th July
O-BON

Japanese (in Japan – not Tokyo – see 13 August

 

13th – 15th July

 

A Japanese festival when the spirits of the departed are welcomed back home with feasting and dancing. Fires are often lit to illuminate their arrival and departure. Celebrations in rural areas may take place one month earlier.

 

More Information:

 

Go Japan: Japanese Festivals – O-bon

The Japan Guy: What is Obon?

Kids Web Japan; Bon Holidays

O-Bon in Pictures

The Diplomat: Obon – Japan Welcomes the Ancestors (And Other Spirits Too)

 

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14th July
RATHA YATRA

Hindu

 

 

‘Chariot journey’. This is observed most notably at Puri in the Indian state of Orissa, where processions of thousands of devotees pull huge waggons (rathas) supporting images of Krishna. He is known under the name of ‘Jagannath’, (Lord of the Universe), from which the English term ‘juggernaut’ comes. Krishna is attended on his journey by his brother and sister. The festival and others like it are celebrated in Britain with processions through various parts of London on appropriate Sundays.

 

More Information:

 

Rath Yatra – the Chariot Festival of Puri

ISKCON UK: Ratha Yatra – Festival of the Chariots

Harekrsna: The Ratha Yatra

Rath Yatra: The Chariot Festival of Puri, with photos

Swaminarayan: Rath Yatra

 

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15th July
CHOKOR (also CHO KOR DU CHEN)

Buddhist

 

15th – 16th July

 

This is a Tibetan and Nepalese festival that commemorates the first teaching (the turning of the wheel of law) given by the historical Buddha. It is a colourful and relaxed mid-summer festival, when statues of the Buddha and copies of the scriptures, engraved on narrow, rectangular wooden blocks, are carried round the district with music and jollity, symbolising the promulgation of the Buddha’s teaching. The whole community, clerical and lay, male and female, joins in the processions and the picnics that follow.

 

More Information:

 

Diamond Way Buddhism UK Blog: Today is Chokhor Duchen, a ‘Ten Million Multiplier’

Chokor du Chen – Buddha Multiplying Day

Mythic Maps: Chokor Duchen

Tibet Travel: Festivals – Chokor Duchen

Blogspot: Dream of my guru on Chokhor Duchen

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18th July
NAVROZE / NO RUZ

Zoroastrian (Kadmi)

 

New Year’s Day on the Shenshai Calendar. In the tenth century a group of Zoroastrians fled from Iran and were given religious sanctuary by the Hindus of Western India, where they became known as Parsis (or Persians). During the twentieth century the Zoroastrians of Iran have revised their calendar to take account of the leap year, while the Parsis of India have continued following the traditional imperial or Shenshai calendar. By the twentieth century the Parsis of India had become the largest group in the world to practise Zoroastrianism, and in the twenty first century over 95% of Zoroastrians in the UK are Parsis. Like their Indian counterparts, they celebrate two new years – giving more time for making merry!

 

More Information:

 

Zoroastrian Heritage – Papeti – Navroze/No Ruz

Zawa: Joy Grows form the Conquest of Evil – Navroze, No Ruz, Papeti

Navroze Special – A Parsi Feast awaits you

India Opines: A Glimpse into Parsi Cuisine This Navroze

Iran Chamber Society: No-Rooz, The Iranian New Year at Present Times

 

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22nd July
TISHA B’AV

Jewish

 

This is the saddest day of the Jewish calendar. A full day fast is held at the conclusion of three weeks of mourning, while reflecting on the destruction of the first and second Temples in Jerusalem. Other tragedies in Jewish history are also recalled, many of which have coincidentally happened on this day. The Book of Lamentations is read at this time.

 

More Information:

 

The Laws of Tisha B’Av

Jewfaq: Tisha B’Av

Reform Judaism: Tishah B’Av

Tisha B’Av – the Ninth day of Av
My Jewish Learning: Tisha B’Av

 

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23rd July
BIRTHDAY OF HAILE SELASSIE I

Rastafarian

 

This is one of the holiest days of the Rastafarian year. It is celebrated with Nyahbinghi drumming, hymns and prayers. Born in 1892 as Tafari Mahonnen, Ras Tafari ruled Ethiopia as regent and crown prince from 1916 to 1928, and in 1930 was crowned emperor. This was when he became his Imperial Majesty, Emperor Haile Selassi I, a name that means ‘Power of the Trinity’.

 

Haile Selassie was Ethiopia’s 225th and last emperor, serving from 1930 until his overthrow in 1974 by the Marxist dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam. He traced his line back to Menelik I, who was credited with being the child of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. His birth had been foretold by astrologers, who foretold the great drought that started in 1889 and was broken at the moment of the child’s birth, thus confirming his identity and destiny. His teachers were astounded at the depth of his knowledge and his understanding of ancient Indic religious texts. It is claimed that he could also converse with animals, and that savage beasts became docile in his presence. He was a skilled linguist, who learnt to read and write in Amharic and Ge’ez – and also in French.

 

For a country trying to gain its foothold in the world and seeking to curry favour with the West, the progressive Ras Tafari came to symbolize the hopes and dreams of Ethiopia’s younger population. In 1923 he led Ethiopia into the League of Nations. The following year, he travelled to Europe, becoming the first Ethiopian ruler to go abroad.

 

Many of the Jamaican descendants of former slaves regarded Ethiopia as the symbol of all Africa, so the crowning of the new emperor was regarded as a highly propitious event. The Rastafari movement emerged in the 1930s, in large part inspired by the vision of Marcus Garvey and focussed on the belief that Haile Selassie was a divine being and the redeemer of the black people. Although the anticipated mass repatriation to Africa has not occurred, the movement has spread throughout much of the world, largely through immigration and the interest generated by reggae music – most notably, that of Bob Marley. For the more than a million Rastafarians worldwide, the anniversary of the birth of Haile Selassie is considered one of the most significant days of the Rasta year.

 

More Information:

 

The birth and childhood of Haile Selassie I

Biography of Haile Selassie I

Mythic Maps – Birthday of Haile Selassie

Photos of Haile Selassie I

Brainy Quotes: Haile Selassie I

 

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23rd July
KHORDAD SAL

Zoroastrian (Kadmi)

 

23rd July

 

26th March Zoroastrian (Iranian)

 

22th August Zoroastrian (Shenshai)

 

Khordad Sal is the Birthday of Zarathushtra and falls on the sixth day following NoRuz. Khordad means perfection and the festival of Khordad Sal symbolically celebrates the birthday of Prophet Zarathushtra. It is customary on this day to visit the Fire Temple, to give thanks to Ahura Mazda for giving humanity the Prophet Zarathushtra, to participate in a jashan or thanksgiving ceremony, to listen to stories of the miraculous birth and life of Prophet Zarathushtra, and to share in a happy community meal, a drink and a dance.

 

More Information:

 

Observe the Greater Noruz on Khordad Sal

A History of Khordad Sal

Mythic Maps – Khordad Sal

Sakshigopal: Happy Khordad Sal! Birthday Day of Zoroaster!

Festivals advices – Khordad Sal – The Birthday of Zoroaster

 

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27th July
ASALHA PUJA / DHAMMA DAY

Buddhist

 

Dhammacakka day – ‘The turning of the wheel of teaching’. This is aTheravada celebration of the First Proclamation by Gautama to five ascetics in the Deer Park near Benares. Although he was initially reluctant to teach, he finally rejoined his five friends, with whom he had previously spent several years travelling throughout the Ganges plain, and in their presence he gained enlightenment. He then spoke to them at length and taught them the Middle Way, the Noble Eightfold Path and the Four Noble Truths, the essence of all subsequent Buddhist teaching. He also ordained them as his followers, the first step towards the foundation of the Sangha of Buddhist monks.

 

The main activity that takes place on this day is the chanting of the discourse known as the Dhamma Cakka Sutta (the Setting in Motion of the Wheel of Truth). This would usually be in the original Pali language. The month of Asalha marks the beginning of the three months long retreat period for Buddhist monks, a period of meditation and restraint, though it is also a time when lay Buddhists offer a variety of gifts to the monks. It is also the month in which the Buddha’s son, Rahula, was born.

 

More Information:

 

Buddhist Festivals – Asalha Puja

My Triple Blog: Asalha Puja Day

Asalha Puja in Pictures

Battaya Mail: Thai Buddhists nationwide perform religious rites on Asalha Puja Day

 

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1st August
LAMMAS/LUGHNASADH

Lammas/ Lughnasadh – Wiccan

Lughnasadh – Pagan

 

Lughnasadh, otherwise called Lammas, is the time of the corn harvest, when Pagans reap those things they have sown and when they celebrate the fruits of the mystery of Nature. At Lughnasadh, Pagans give thanks for the bounty of the Goddess as Queen of the Land. Lammas is the first harvest, a time for gathering in and giving thanks for abundance; then Mabon or the Autumn Equinox is the Second Harvest of Fruit; and Samhain is the third and Final Harvest of Nuts and Berries.

 

With the coming of Christianity to the Celtic lands, the old festival of Lughnasadh took on Christian symbolism. Loaves of bread were baked from the first of the harvested grain and placed on the church altar on the first Sunday of August. The Christianized name for the feast of Lughnasadh is Lammas which means “loaf mass”.

 

But this is also the major festival of Lugh, or Lug, the great Celtic Sun King and God of Light. August is His sacred month when He initiated great festivities in honour of His mother, Tailtiu. Feasting, market fairs, games and bonfire celebrations are the order of the day. Circle dancing, reflecting the movement of the sun in sympathetic magic, is popular, as are all community gatherings. August is considered an auspicious month for handfastings and weddings.

 

At Lammas the Goddess is in Her aspect as Grain Mother, Harvest Mother, Harvest Queen, Earth Mother, Ceres and Demeter. Demeter, as Corn Mother, represents the ripe corn of this year’s harvest and her daughter Persephone/Kore represents the grain – the seed which drops back deep into the dark earth, hidden throughout the winter, to reappear in the spring as new growth. So as the grain harvest is gathered in, there is food to feed the community through the winter and within that harvest is the seed of next year’s rebirth, regeneration and harvest. The Grain Mother is ripe and full; heavily pregnant she carries the seed of the new year’s Sun God within her. This is the deep core meaning of Lammas and evokes the fullness and fulfilment of the present harvest, holding at its heart the seed of all future harvests.

 

But underlying this is the knowledge that the bounty and energy of Lugh, of the Sun, is now beginning to wane. It is a time when the year changes and shifts. Active growth is slowing down and the darker days of winter and reflection are beckoning. There is tension here. For Lugh, the Sun God, the God of the Harvest, the Green Man, or John Barleycorn, surrenders his life with the cutting of the corn. In the form of John Barleycorn, he is the living Spirit of the corn, or grain. As the corn is cut so John Barleycorn is cut down also. He surrenders his life so that others may be sustained by the grain, and so that the life of the community can continue. He is both eaten as the bread and is then reborn as the seed returns to the earth.

 

More Information:

 

The goddess and the green man – Lammas

Pagan/Wiccan: All About Lammas

The White Goddess: Lammas

Images for the Festival of Lammas

Mything Links: Lammas, Lughnasadh

 

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6th August
THE TRANSFIGURATION

Christian, Julian Calendar

 

6th August Christian

 

This festival commemorates the occasion when Jesus went up a mountain with three of his disciples, Peter, James and John; here, as his death approached, they saw his face change and his clothes become dazzling white. They witnessed him in conversation with Moses and Elijah, and heard a voice saying, ‘This is my own dear Son with whom I am pleased – listen to him’. For many Christians this confirms the divine nature of Jesus.

 

For Orthodox Christians this is an especially important festival, pointing to Christ as both human and divine. Although Moses and Elijah had died centuries before, they could both live again in the presence of the Son of God, implying that a similar return to life can apply to all who face death.

 

Matthew 17:1-17, Mark 9:2-13 and Luke 9:28-36.

 

More Information:

 

The Transfiguration (Metamorphoses) of our Saviour

The Orthodox Church in America – The Transfiguration

Bible.org: The Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-13)

Feast of the Transfiguration of our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ

The Expository Files: The Transgfiguration

 

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7th August
FRAVARDIGAN / MUKTAD

Shahenshai

 

7th – 16th August (Shahenshai)

11th – 20th March (Iranian Zoroastrian)

8th – 17th July (Kadmi)

 

The Fravardigan festival (the festival of the fravashis), popularly known as Muktad (All Souls), commences ten days before NoRuz and is the last festival of the old year. The Zoroastrian day commences at sunrise and not midnight, and so during sunrise on the first day of the festival the immortal souls, together with their fravashis (the guardian spirits of departed ancestors, artistically depicted as half man/half bird), are welcomed by name by the Zoroastrian Mobeds or Magi (priests).

 

For ten days they reside in the place of worship, hovering around a table full of metal vases, each specifically earmarked for an individual family and containing white flowers. They leave the physical world after the last ceremony, held on the tenth evening, but before the dawn of NoRuz. The designated priest – as a farewell gesture – will then empty the water from one of the metal vases, which he will also turn upside down, signifying that it is time for the immortal souls and the fravashis to return to the spiritual world.

 

Theologically Fravardigan is the most important Zoroastrian festival after NoRuz, and, since it deals with one’s departed ancestors, many Zoroastrians regard it to be their holiest festival. This linking of the past with the present and the future is typical of much of Zoroastrian life.

 

During these ten days Zoroastrians often take time off from work, pray extensively, recite the five Gathas (hymns composed by Zarathushtra) and ensure their houses are thoroughly cleaned. They prepare daily samples of sacred food enjoyed by their departed ancestors while still alive, and take these to the place of worship, to be tasted by them during the daily ceremonies. This ritually consecrated food, along with chosen fruits, is then shared by the living in the special Hamaspathmaidyem Gahambar, a communal feast celebrated after the ceremony is over.

 

More Information:

 

Muktad – When Souls Come-a-Visiting

Muktad

http://www.heritageinstitute.com/zoroastrianism/pateti/index.htm

Images for Fravardigan

What to do and pray during the Muktad
 

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13th August
O-BON

Japanese (in Tokyo – for rest of Japan, see 13 July)

 

13th -15th August

 

A Japanese festival when the spirits of the departed are welcomed back home with feasting and dancing. Fires are often lit to illuminate their arrival and departure. Celebrations in rural areas may take place one month earlier.

 

More Information:

 

Go Japan: Japanese Festivals – O-bon

The Japan Guy: What is Obon?

Kids Web Japan; Bon Holidays

O-Bon in Pictures

The Diplomat: Obon – Japan Welcomes the Ancestors (And Other Spirits Too)
 

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13th August
1st to 10th DHUL-HIJJAH

Muslim

 

13th – 22nd August

 

For Muslims the first 10 days of the month of Dhul-Hijjah are held to be especially holy when good deeds are particularly rewarded by God. These days encompass the allotted days for the performance of the Hajj (pilgrimage) and the first day of Eid-ul-Adha (the feast of sacrifice).

 

More information:

 

The Blessed Days of Dhul Hijjah

ICNA: Virtues of the First 10 Days of ‘Dhul-Hijja’

The First Ten Days of Dhul Hijjah: Days of Virtue and Righteous Deeds

Virtues of the First Ten Days of Dhul-Hijjah

Islamic Relief: The Virtues of Dhul Hijjah

 

 

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15th August
ASSUMPTION (DORMITION) OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY

Christian (Roman Catholic, Anglican)

 

28th August Dormition of the Mother of God – Christian (Orthodox) Julian Calendar

 

On this day many Christians celebrate the ‘taking up’ of Mary, body and soul, to heaven. Several Catholic communities mark the festival of the Assumption with processions and fêtes.

 

More Information:

 

Mary Pages: Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Catholic Culture: The Assumption of Our Lady

Feast of the Dormition of our Most Holy Lady, the Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary

About Catholicism: Assumption of Mary

Time and Date: Assumption of Mary

 

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17th August
HERD BOY AND WEAVING MAID FESTIVAL / QIXIJIE / CH’I HOU CHIEH

Chinese

 

This Double Seven festival perpetuates an ancient Chinese (and Japanese) folk tale of two stars, one on either side of the Heavenly River (the Milky Way). They are held to have been a herd boy and a heavenly weaving maid who had married but were then separated by a river (formed by the use of a magic hairpin) when the maid was summoned to return to heaven. The lovers are allowed a reunion once a year on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month, when a flock of magpies forms a bridge across the Heavenly River. But if it rains on that day, the river overflows and sweeps away the bridge, so preventing their meeting for a whole year. Women traditionally pray for clear skies on the night of the seventh day of the month.

 

There are several, varied versions of the story, most of them telling how the poor young farmer who looked after his herd of cows was taken to a lake where several women were bathing. He was told to steal the red clothing of the one who served a royal majesty by skilfully weaving clothes. The others fled but the weaver was promised the return of her clothes if she would marry the herd boy. After several happy years together she was forced to return to her heavenly home to continue her weaving, whereas he was trapped on the wrong side of the waters.

 

These legends portray and seek to explain several of the groupings of stars in the Milky Way, relating them to the various levels humans occupy in the social order and illustrating that the path to love is not always smooth.

 

More Information:

 

Tai Chi Chuan Centre – Weaving Girl

World of Tales: Chinese Folk Tales – The Herd Boy and the Weaving Maiden

The Herd Boy and the Weaving Maid, and other Oriental Folk Tales

You Tube – The Cow Herd and the Weaving Maid and other stories

China Travel: Double Seventh Festival – Herd Boy and Weaving Maid

 

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17th August
NAVROZE / NO RUZ

Zoroastrian (Kadmi)

 

New Year’s Day on the Shenshai Calendar. In the tenth century a group of Zoroastrians fled from Iran and were given religious sanctuary by the Hindus of Western India, where they became known as Parsis (or Persians). During the twentieth century the Zoroastrians of Iran have revised their calendar to take account of the leap year, while the Parsis of India have continued following the traditional imperial or Shenshai calendar. By the twentieth century the Parsis of India had become the largest group in the world to practise Zoroastrianism, and in the twenty first century over 95% of Zoroastrians in the UK are Parsis. Like their Indian counterparts, they celebrate two new years – giving more time for making merry!

 

More Information:

 

Zoroastrian Heritage – Papeti – Navroze/No Ruz

Zawa: Joy Grows form the Conquest of Evil – Navroze, No Ruz, Papeti

Navroze Special – A Parsi Feast awaits you

India Opines: A Glimpse into Parsi Cuisine This Navroze

Iran Chamber Society: No-Rooz, The Iranian New Year at Present Times

 

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19th August
THE TRANSFIGURATION

Christian

 

19th August Julian Calendar

 

This festival commemorates the occasion when Jesus went up a mountain with three of his disciples, Peter, James and John; here, as his death approached, they saw his face change and his clothes become dazzling white. They witnessed him in conversation with Moses and Elijah, and heard a voice saying, ‘This is my own dear Son with whom I am pleased – listen to him’. For many Christians this confirms the divine nature of Jesus.

 

For Orthodox Christians this is an especially important festival, pointing to Christ as both human and divine. Although Moses and Elijah had died centuries before, they could both live again in the presence of the Son of God, implying that a similar return to life can apply to all who face death.

 

Matthew 17:1-17, Mark 9:2-13 and Luke 9:28-36.

 

More Information:

 

The Expository Files: The Transgfiguration

The Orthodox Church in America – The Transfiguration

NC Register: 10 things you need to know about Jesus’ Transfiguration

The Transfiguration, by Duccio

About Catholicism: The Transfiguration of our Lord Jesus Christ

 

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20th August
HAJJ / PILGRIMAGE TO MAKKAH (8th to 12th Dhul-Hijjah)

Muslim

 

20th – 24th August

 

All Muslims who can afford to do so, and are not prevented through ill-health, are required to make this pilgrimage once in their lifetime (although there is no prohibition on making the pilgrimage more than once). A series of ritual acts are performed by the pilgrims during the first two days of Hajj, prior to the three day festival of Eid-al-Adha which is celebrated in Makkah by the pilgrims.

 

More Information:

 

Hajj Fact Sheet

Islamic City: Hajj – The Journey of a Lifetime

Why do Millions Gather in Mecca Every Year?

Hajj in Photos

The Guardian: World News – Hajj

 

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21st August
YAUM-ARAFAH/THE DAY OF ARAFAT (9th Dhul-Hijjah)

Muslim

 

This day marks the culminating event of the annual Islamic pilgrimage to Makkah. Muslims who are on Hajj spend the day in prayer on Mount Arafat to commemorate the end of the revelation of the Qur’an to the Prophet. Those not on Hajj are also expected to pray and to fast.

 

Surah 5: 4

 

More Information:

 

Al Maghrib: The Truth Behind the Day of Arafah and its Name

Arab News: The Day of Arafat

Pilgrims throng Mount Arafat in Makkah

The Day of Arafat in Pictures and Photos

Arafat

 

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22nd August
KHORDAD SAL

Zoroastrian (Shenshai)

 

22nd August

 

26th March Zoroastrian (Iranian)

 

23th July Zoroastrian (Kadmi)

 

The Birthday of Zarathushtra, one of the most important Zoroastrian festivals. Khordad means perfection and although the actual date of his birth cannot be accurately identified, the festival of Khordad Sal symbolically celebrates the birthday of Prophet Zarathushtra and falls on the sixth day following NoRuz.

 

Khordad means perfection, and it is customary on this day to visit the Fire Temple to give thanks to Ahura Mazda, the Persian name for the one God, for giving humanity the ideal gift of the Prophet Zarathushtra. His followers participate in a jashan or thanksgiving ceremony; listen to stories of his miraculous birth and life; and then celebrate with a lavish community meal, a drink and a dance.

 

On Khordad Sal Parsis clean their houses, hang torans of fresh flowers in the doorways, and create designs made of chalk on the floors (called rangoli). They wear new clothes, cook traditional foods, exchange gifts and salute each other with the greeting: Khordad Sal Mubarak!. Prayers are offered and are followed by festive parties to give thanks for and celebrate the soul that evinced a philosophy of life that is both giving and fulfilling.

 

Zarathustra’s ideas (monotheism tempered by belief in the Devil, the struggle between Good and Evil, a final judgement) greatly influenced today’s major world religions, particularly Judaism, Christianity, Islam and the Baha’i tradition. The Zoroastrian faith has endured many hardships, the most significant being the invasion into Iran by Alexander and later, the Arab conquest of Iran. Though greatly diminished in numbers, Zarathustra’s followers have continued to honour his revolutionary teachings for over 3000 years.

 

Parsi families come together during the festivities that are put on during Khordad Sal – if families are unable to be together then prayers are offered for those who are not in attendance. It is an important celebration for the Parsi community, and because family (and community) is central to the themes of Zoroastrianism, guests are invited to participate in the festivities. Parsis also take the time during Khordad Sal to be introspective. They look at ways in which they can improve the lives of others and themselves.

 

 

More Information:

 

Observe the Greater Noruz on Khordad Sal

A History of Khordad Sal

Mythic Maps – Khordad Sal

Sakshigopal: Happy Khordad Sal! Birthday Day of Zoroaster!

Festivals advices – Khordad Sal – The Birthday of Zoroaster

 

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22nd August
EID-UL-ADHA/THE FESTIVAL OF SACRIFICE (10th Dhul-Hijjah)

Muslim

 

22nd – 25th August

 

This major festival (al-Eid al-Kabir) marks the end of the Hajj (Pilgrimage to Makkah) on the tenth day of the twelfth month of Dhul-Hijja. The Hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam. Pilgrims performing Hajj sacrifice animals at the village of Mina on their way back to Makkah from Mount Arafat (where they have spent the first day of the festival). This commemorates Ibrahim’s (Abraham’s) willingness to sacrifice his son, Ismail. All over the world Muslims also sacrifice an animal, if they can afford it. They share out the meat among family, friends and the poor, who normally each get a third share.

 

Eid normally starts with Muslims going to the Mosque for prayers, dressed in their best clothes, and thanking Allah for all the blessings they have received. It is also a time when they visit family and friends as well as offering each other presents. At Eid it is obligatory to give a set amount of money to charity, often to be used to help poor people buy new clothes and food so that they too can celebrate.

 

All physically fit Muslims who can afford it are expected to make the visit to Makkah, in Saudi Arabia, at least once in their lives. Every year around 2 million Muslims from all over the world converge on Makkah. They stand before the Kaaba, a shrine built by Ibrahim, praising Allah together, and walk seven times anticlockwise around the Kaaba. The pilgrims or Hajjis, as they are called, wear simple white, two piece clothes called Ihram which promote the bonds of Islamic brotherhood and sisterhood by showing that everyone is equal in the eyes of Allah.

 

Obedience to the will of Allah, emulation of the Prophet’s example and instruction, sharing equally with brother and sister Muslims, caring for the poor and needy, sharing with delight in this annual family celebration, these are what makes Eid ul Adha such a special time, the most significant celebration in the Islamic calendar.

 

Surah 37:99-111, 22:26-33 and 3:96-97.

 

More Information:

 

Imam Ilyas Sidyot: The spirit behind Eid-ul-Adha

Making Sacrifice on Eid ul Adha

Eid ul Adha for Schools

123 Greetings: Eid ul Adha

Ahadith: Search for Hadith on Eid ul Adha – 30 results

 

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25th August
FESTIVAL OF HUNGRY GHOSTS/ZHOHGYUANJIE/CHUNG YUAN

Buddhist (Chinese)

 

Chinese Buddhist and ancestral festival, often called the ‘Festival of Hungry Ghosts’. Paper objects for use in the spirit world are made and offered to aid those spirits who have no resting place or descendants. Large paper boats are made and burnt at temples to help these spirits on their journey across the sea of torment to Nirvana.

 

Buddhists and Taoists participate in rituals throughout the Hungry Ghost Month but particularly on the Hungry Ghost Festival. It is thought that the gates of hell are open throughout the Hungry Ghost Month, but that they are most open on this night. It is believed hungry and wayward ghosts often come to visit the living.

 

Many believers refrain from going out after the dark for fear they may encounter a ghost. They are also extra cautious near water as the ghosts of people who die by drowning are considered particularly troublesome, especially when they wander around the living world.

 

The Hungry Ghost Festival often begins with a parade where decorated lanterns in various shapes, including boats and houses, are placed on decorated floats. The paper lanterns are then carried to the water, lit, and released. The glowing lanterns and boats are meant to give directions to lost souls and help ghosts and deities find their way to the food offerings. The paper lanterns eventually catch fire and sink.

 

At some Hungry Ghost festivals, as Keelung in Taiwan, a Chinese character of a family’s last name is placed on the lantern that the family has sponsored. It is believed the further the lantern floats on the water, the more good fortune the family will have in the coming year.

 

Offering food and support to ancestors and their spirits brings fulfilment, both to those who perform it and to those whose role is to be recipients of it.

 

More Information:

 

About Chinese Culture: The Hungry Ghost Festival

About Mandarin: Ghost Month and Ghost Festival

Discover Hong Kong. Festivals/Chinese – The Hungry Ghosts festival

Images of Hungry Ghosts

Bukit Brown: ‘Hungry Ghost Month’ – Reflections

 

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26th August
RAKSHA BANDHAN

Hindu

 

This festival takes place on the full moon of Shravana. Raksha means ‘protection’ and bandhan means ‘to tie’. Girls and married women in families of a north Indian background tie a rakhi (amulet) on the right wrists of their brothers, wishing them protection from evil influences of various kinds. Different celebrations take place on this day in different parts of India. So, for example, in western Maharashtra, Gujarat and Goa, Hindus offer coconuts to the sea god, Lord Varuna and so the festival is called Nariyal Purnima, coconut full-moon.

 

More Information:

 

About Hinduism: Raksha Bandhan

Society for the Confluence of Festivals in India: Raksha Bandhan

Indif Devotional: Raksha Bandhan – The Festival of Brotherhod and Love

Maps of India: Raksha Bandhan

Culture: Festivals – Rakhi (Raksha Bandhan)

 

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28th August
THE DORMITION OF THE MOTHER OF GOD

Christian (Eastern Orthodox. Julian Calendar)

 

On this day, Eastern Orthodox Christians commemorate the passing of Mary, Mother of Christ, in the presence of the Apostles. Miraculously brought together at her house, Mary told the Apostles of the reason for their gathering, and comforted them. She raised her hands to pray for peace for the world, and blessed each apostle before giving up her spirit. The apostles buried Mary at Gethsemane, where Jesus had also been buried; but on the third day after the burial, when they were eating together, Mary appeared to them, saying “Rejoice”. In this way, the apostles first learned that Mary’s body had been taken up into Heaven, where Christ had already taken her spirit. When the apostles went to the grave, her body was gone, leaving a sweet fragrance. The symbolism of this event encompasses the idea of death as ‘falling asleep’ (this is what ‘dormition’ means), to be followed by eventual resurrection.

 

More Information:

 

Orthodox Wiki: Dormition of the Mother of God

The Dormition of our Most Holy Lady the Mother of God and Ever-Virgin Mary

The Dormition of the Mother of God

Dormition of the Theotokos

Russian Orthodox Church: Dormition of the Holy Virgin

 

 

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30th August
THE FESTIVAL OF THE POOL/EID UL GHADEER (or GHADIR) (18h Dhul-Hijjah)

Muslim  (Shi‘a)

 

This is a festival observed by Shi‘a Muslims, for whom it is an extremely important day. It commemorates an event shortly before the death of the Prophet. While returning from Makkah to Medina after his final pilgrimage, accompanied by many thousands of his followers, the Prophet stopped at an oasis (the pool of Khumm) to deliver a sermon. While preaching, he is believed (by Shi‘a Muslims) to have raised the hand of Ali, his cousin and son-in-law, and proclaimed, ‘For whoever I am his leader, Ali is his leader. O God, love those who love him, and be hostile to those who are hostile to him’.

 

Immediately after this statement the Prophet revealed an ayah (a verse) of the Qur’an: ‘Today I have perfected your religion and completed my favour upon you, and I was satisfied that Islam be your religion’ (Qur’an 5, 3.) For Shi‘a Muslims the ‘perfecting’ of the religion of Islam was the announcement concerning Ali, which they understand to be his clear appointment to be successor to the prophet as the spiritual and temporal leader of Islam. This sermon was preached by a pool (ghadir) in an area known as Khumm.

 

Since Eid ul Ghadir commemorates the Prophet Muhammad’s last sermon, preached as it was in the desert whilst returning from Hajj (pilgrimage), it is viewed as being authoritative by members of the Shi’a community. The implication of the statement in the Prophet’s sermon (that Ali, his cousin and son-in-law, would be the first Caliph of Islam) is that the leadership of Islam would remain within the Prophet’s bloodline, the foundation for a line of Caliphs who would succeed the Prophet. It has become the source of many current divisions between Sunni and Shi’a communities throughout the Muslim world.

 

The Shi’a Ismaili tradition bears witness to the continuity of the authority vested at Ghadir Khumm. The hereditary Imamat has continued for over 1,400 years, from Hazrat Ali to the present Imam-of-the-Time, Mawlana Shah Karim al-Hussaini Aga Khan, who is the 49th hereditary Imam and direct descendant of Prophet Muhammad through Hazrat Ali and Hazrat Bibi Fatima.

 

In commemorating Eid ul Ghadir, the Jamat celebrates the seminal event of Ghadir Khumm, also reaffirming their allegiance to the Imam-of-the-Time as the direct lineal successor and inheritor of the authority of Hazrat Ali.

 

More Information:

 

Islamic Occasions – Eid ul Ghadeer

The Ismaili: Eid-e Ghadir

Ziaraat: Significance of Eid-e-Ghadeer

Slide Share: Eid Alghadeer

Seratonline: Why do Shias celebrate Eid-e- Ghadeer?

 

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1st September
INSTALLATION OF THE GURU GRANTH SAHIB IN THE HARMANDIR SAHIB

Sikh

 

Amritsar 1604 CE

 

In 1604 CE, in the place of worship where the Golden Temple now stands, Guru Arjan Dev, the Sikhs’ fifth Guru, installed the Adi Granth, a newly compiled volume of scripture. It consisted of the hymns of the first five Gurus plus those of other Indian and Persian ‘saint-poets’ from the Hindu and Muslim traditions. After the selections were made, the Guru dictated the hymns to Bhai Gurdas, who wrote down the words and music of the Adi Granth. Guru Arjan later suffered a martyr’s death, preferring to save his life rather than make alterations to the hymns, as required by Emperor Jahangir.

 

Having compiled the Granth, the Guru placed it in the newly-built Harmandir Sahib (Golden Temple) in Amritsar. He nominated Bhai Buddha as the custodian of the Granth. The Guru bowed before the collection, acknowledging the higher authority of the written words to the personal importance and significance which he possessed as Guru. After this time, he no longer sat at a level above the Granth, but below it. He also instituted daily public worship at the Harmandir Sahib, where the Granth was recited all day long to the accompaniment of stringed musical instruments.

 

The second version of the Granth was prepared by Guru Gobind Singh in 1706 CE. He dictated the entire Guru Granth Sahib from memory to Bhai Mani Singh, re-editing the Adi Granth to the form in which it is found today. He removed several unauthenticated writings and added four hymns for evening prayers and several from his father, Guru Tegh Bahadur. Otherwise, the Granth was left as it was before in the days of Guru Arjan. Sikhs regard the Guru Granth Sahib as their living Guru – hence the importance of this celebration. Since his day the Guru Granth Sahib consists of 1430 pages and 5864 verses. Its spiritual teachings are referred to as bani or gurbani.

 

In all gurdwaras and many Sikh homes, the Guru Granth Sahib is read every day. No Sikh ceremony is regarded as complete unless it is performed in the presence of the Granth. Sikhs frequently receive a hukam or divine order through one of the hymns chosen at random from the left hand pages of the Guru Granth Sahib. Similarly, at the end of a service, after the ardas prayers, the Granth is opened at random and a portion is read. On special occasions, the Guru Granth Sahib is recited non-stop from cover to cover by a string of readers. It requires nearly 48 hours to complete the continuous reading, which is known as an akhand path. This can be performed on any important occasion, and is regarded as the highest and noblest ceremony in the Sikh religion.

 

The Guru Granth Sahib is a remarkable storehouse of spiritual knowledge and teachings which does not prescribe any rites or rituals but stresses meditation on the Name of God. Most of the hymns are addressed to God and often describe the devotee’s condition: his aspirations and yearning, his agony in separation and his longing to be with the Lord. There are no mythological narratives, although God is described in anthropomorphic terms, and the Gurus are not afraid to use the imagery of family relationships to describe the union of God and man. Whether in Temple, Gurdwara or home, the Guru Granth Sahib has become the focal point of all Sikh worship.

 

More Information:

 

All About Sikhs: Harmandir Sahib – Installation of the Holy Granth

SGPC: Guru Granth Sahib

Sikhism Guide: Sri Guru Granth Sahib

Sikh Scriptures, Images, Excerpts and Quotations

Gurbani Files: Sri Guru Granth Sahib – A Brief Introduction

 

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2nd September
JANMASHTAMI / KRISHNA JAYANTI

Hindu

 

The birthday of Krishna is widely celebrated throughout the Hindu world. He is the very popular eighth avatar/incarnation of Lord Vishnu, and many Hindus fast in his honour for 24 hours until midnight, the time of Krishna’s birth. For them, Vishnu and Krishna are essentially one and the same. Those unable to fast will take a little fruit and milk. Krishna is welcomed in temples with singing, dancing and the distribution of sweets. At many homes and temples an image in blue of the new-born Krishna is put in a cradle and again special sweets (e.g. panjiri, the powder given traditionally to women after childbirth) are offered and distributed.

 

The celebration mainly consists of spending the whole night in the worship of Krishna, reciting hymns of praise and stories of his pastimes, repeating prayers from the Bhagavata Purana, offering respect to Krishna, and finally the ceremonial breaking of the fast. Temples are decorated for the occasion, kirtans are sung, bells are rung, the conch is blown, and Sanskrit hymns are recited in praise of Lord Krishna. At Mathura, the birthplace of Krishna, special spiritual gatherings are organised, and pilgrims from all over India attend these festive gatherings. The next day is celebrated as Krishna Jayanti, Krishna’s birthday.

 

Krishna is thought to be ideal in all his human relationships – a darling son to his parents, an endearing and humble friend and comrade, playing the flute and mingling easily with cowherd boys and girls, a loving husband and a trusted brother.

 

At Krishna Jayanti, Hindu women in South India decorate their houses beautifully, ready to welcome their Lord. From the doorway to the inner meditation room of the house the door is marked with a child’s footprints, using rice-flour mixed with water. This creates the feeling in them that their God’s own feet have made these marks. For him they prepare various sweetmeats and offer them to him. These normally include butter, since as a child, Krishna was said to be fond of homemade delicacies and was known to steal fresh butter from neighbourhood homes and distribute it among his friends with great compassion.

 

The Bhagavad Gita, in which Krishna reflects on the nature of Truth and Duty, has formed the basis and inspiration for much of Hindu belief, describing the various paths to God in a profound and yet concise manner. The setting of the Gita in Kurukshetra represents the eternal battlefield in the human soul. Here Krishna himself often affirms his role in life while he explains to Arjuna the intricacies of the highest spiritual philosophy, explaining the meaning and purpose of life. He shows how he was engaged incessantly in ‘worldly’ actions – but only for the welfare and sustenance of other people and the society in which he lived.

 

Krishna had indeed uttered falsehoods many times, had broken his pledges, had several wives and even ‘married’ 16,000 women, but still none of these actions violated the truth of his dedication, claiming that he did all these actions in a spirit of supreme detachment, motivated only with the highest goal of safeguarding Dharma.

 

More Information:

 

Mangalore: Sri Krishna Jayanti

Festivals of India: Sri Krishna Jayanti/Krishnaastami
Mythic Maps: Janmashtami

Janmashtami in Pictures

AstroVed: Fill Your Life with Love and Abundance – Krishna’s Birthday

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4th September
FRAVARDIN MAH PARAB

Zoroastrian (Shenshai;  Parsi)

 

On the day of Fravardin, the 19th day of the month of Fravardin, the first month of the year, Zoroastrians visit the vicinity of the Towers of Silence in India (or in the UK the Zoroastrian Cemetery in Brookwood, Surrey) to participate in a jashan ceremony in memory of the departed fravashis (guardian spirits and souls of the community). Sacred food is prepared as an offering to the departed during the jashan and is later shared by the participants.

 

More Information:

 

Sympatico: Fravashi

Muktad – When Souls Come-a-Visiting

Farvardegan day on Farvardin Roj, Farvardin Mah

Images for Fravardin Mah Parab

Farvardegan

 

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6th September
PARYUSHAN

Jain

 

6th – 13th September

 

These are eight days of purification, devoted to study, prayer, meditation and fasting, and ending with a period of confession and forgiveness. Often monks will be invited to give teachings from the Jain scriptures. Paryushana means ‘to stay in one place’, which signifies a time of reflection and repentance. Originally the practice was monastic for the most part.

 

More Information:

 

Jain World: Paryushan Parva

Colostate Education: Paryushana Parva

What is Paryushana in Jainism?

Images for Paryushan Parva

Jaina: Federation of Jain Associations in North America: Paryushan Parv

 

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10th September
ROSH HASHANAH (HEAD OF THE YEAR)

Jewish

 

10th – 11th September

 

(New Year’s Day, 5779 years from the creation of the world). Rosh Hashanah marks the beginning of ten days of repentance and self examination, during which God sits in personal judgment on every individual. The blowing of the ram’s horn (shofar) in the synagogue is a reminder of Abraham’s sacrifice of a ram instead of his son, Isaac. Apples dipped in honey are eaten in the hope of a ‘sweet’ new year. The greeting is ‘Leshanah Tovah Tikatev’ (may you be inscribed for a good year).

 

The sequence of repentance that Rosh Hashanah starts accentuates the Jewish conviction that God forgives the sincere penitent – that He is a merciful judge. While that does not relieve each person of the responsibility to accept the consequences – including punishment – for their actions, it means that Jews do not see people as essentially ‘sinners’, merely ‘people who inevitably sin and must repent’. The mood is solemn in synagogue, but it is not sad at all. Everyone present knows that this happens every year, but that does not relieve them of the need to try again. At the same time, the haunting notes of the shofar make the festival somehow timeless and simple. Unlike many other Jewish festivals, there are very few practices or customs associated with the day, though it is very widely observed and families frequently travel long distances to gather for the festive meals.

 

Genesis 22, Leviticus 23:24-25.

 

More Information:

 

Jewfaq: Rosh Hashanah

Jewish Virtual Library: Rosh HaShana – History and Overview

Rosh Hashanah for Tiny Tots

Rosh Hashanah – Images and Pictures

About Judaism: Rosh Hashanah

 

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11th September
ETHIOPIAN NEW YEAR’S DAY

Rastafarian

 

Ethiopian families love to celebrate their New Year, which they call Enqutatash, ‘gift of jewels’, with presents and visits. They celebrate a four year cycle, in which each year is named after an evangelist. It is claimed that the Queen of Sheba was in fact an Ethiopian, and that when she returned from her visit to King Solomon, her chiefs welcomed her back by replenishing her treasury with enku, ‘jewels’.

 

Rastafarians throughout the world honour it too. It is a spring festival that has been celebrated since early times, and the cessation of the rains marks a month of transition from the old year to the new. Early in the morning everybody goes to Church wearing traditional Ethiopian clothing. Afterwards there is a family meal of injera (flat bread) and wat (stew). Children dance through the villages dressed in their new clothes at this time, and in the evening households light bonfires as the focus for much singing and dancing. Girls go from house to house handing out bouquets and singing songs, and boys sell pictures that they have painted so that they will have sufficient money to buy presents for members of their families.

 

More Information:

 

The New Year is a happy time in Ethiopia

Ethiopian Calendar: Ethiopian New Year

Rastafarians celebrate Ethiopian New Year’s Day

Jamaican Rasta wishes you a Happy New Year

Rastafarian holy days now honoured in UK prisons

 

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12th September
ISLAMIC NEW YEAR 1438 / AL-HIJRA/RA’S UL ‘AM (Muharram 1)

Muslim

 

This day commemorates the Hijra or migration of the Prophet Muhammad from Makkah to Medina in 622 CE, which led to the establishment of the Muslim community there. The day is not universally celebrated amongst Sunni Muslims but is notable since Muslim years are dated from this time and are marked AH (After the Hijrah). In 2018 CE the Muslim year 1440 AH begins. For some Muslim communities this is a day of celebration at the mosque, where stories are told of the Prophet and his Companions. For the Shi‘a community the more important significance is that this is the first day of the period of fasting, mourning and remembrance leading up to the festival of Ashura.

 

The spiritual meaning of Al Hijra for Sunni Muslims relates to their need to make a commitment to a spiritual migration – away from being mired in the worldly affairs of this life – so that they may give precedence to the next life (akhira). To achieve this Muslims must develop the mindset the Companions of the Prophet possessed when they performed their original migration (the hijra) from Mecca to Medina, undertaken for the sake of Allah.

 

More Information:

 

Islam for the World: Al Hijrah or the Prophet’s Emigration

Al Hijra is the celebration of the Islamic New Year

BBC Religions: Al-Hijra – The Muslim New Year

Al Hijra Celebrations

Hijrah in Islam

 

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13th September
GANESH CHATURTHI (BIRTHDAY OF GANESH)

Hindu

 

Ganesh Chaturthi / Vinayaka Chaturthi is a Hindu festival in honour of Ganesh/Ganesha, (also known as Ganapati and Vinayaka), the god of good fortune and new beginnings. A popular story explains why Ganesha, the son of Parvati and Shiva, has the head of an elephant. This festival is particularly significant for Hindus from Maharashtra and is celebrated in a major way in Mumbai. Celebrations can last one, five or ten days, and will conclude with the immersion in water of the image of Ganesh.

 

More Information:

 

About Hinduism: Ganesh Chaturthi

Taj Online: Ganesh Chaturthi

Go India: Guide to the Ganesh Chaturthi Festival in India

Swaminarayan: Ganesh Chaturthi

Ashtavinayaka: Ganesh Chaturthi

 

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13th September
SAMVATSARI (INTERNATIONAL FORGIVENESS DAY)

Jain

 

This is the last day of Paryushana, which many regard as the most important eight or ten day festival of Jainism. It is the holiest day of the Jain calendar and many Jains observe a complete fast. The whole day is spent in prayers and contemplation, asking for forgiveness from others.

 

Leviticus 16:4-34, 23:27-32.

 

More Information:

 

Samvatsari – When jains purify themselves

Samvatsari, the climax of the festival of Paryushana Parva

Why do Jains say ‘michchhami-dukkadam’ and when do they say it?

Samvatsari Greetings Cards

Samvatsari – The Festival of Forgiveness

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19th September
YOM KIPPUR (DAY OF ATONEMENT)

Jewish

 

This is the final day of the ten days of repentance, and is the holiest day of the year in the Jewish calendar. The Bible calls it the ‘Sabbath of Sabbaths’, and it is marked by ‘afflicting the soul’ – expressed through a total fast lasting 25 hours. Jews spend the eve and most of the day in prayer, asking for forgiveness for past wrongs and resolving to improve in the future. The Book of Jonah is read. A common greeting is ‘G’mar Chatimah Tovah’ (‘May you finally be sealed for good’).

 

Leviticus 16:4-34, 23:27-32.

 

More Information:

 

Jewish Virtual Library: Yom Kippur

USA Today: On Yom Kippur, Jews split on which shoes to choose

Yom Kippur – Day of Atonement

Greetings Cards for Yom Kippur

Jewfaq: Yom Kippur

 

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20th September
HIGAN

Japanese

 

20th – 26th September HIGAN

23th September SHUBUN NO HI

 

Marks the autumn equinox. As at the spring equinox, harmony and balance are the themes; sutras are recited and the graves of relatives are visited.

 

More Information:

 

Shuubun-no-Hi or Autumnal Equinox Day?

Kalamalama – Shubun no hi

Tokyo 5: Shubun no hi

Shubun no hi – cleaning the ancestral tombs

In Culture Parent: Happy O-Higan!

 

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21st September
ASHURA (10th Muharram)

Muslim

 

For Sunni Muslims this is one of the two days of a minor fast that the Prophet kept in his lifetime. The second day of the fast may be observed either on the day preceding or the day following the 10th of Muharram. For Shi‘a Muslims this is a day when they recall a great tragedy that took place on Muharram 10, AH 61 (680 CE). The Imam Husayn (son of Ali and Fatimah and therefore grandson of the Prophet) travelling with his family and many followers, was attacked by the troops of the Caliph Yazid.

 

After eight days without water Husayn was killed and his family and followers massacred at Karbala (now in Iraq). Shi‘a Muslims remember the events in the days leading up to Ashura when they fast and recall these terrible events. The importance of this holy day can be judged from a popular Shi‘a saying which some attribute to a Muslim poet and some to the sixth Imam, Jafar al-Saadiq: “Live as if every day is Ashura, every land Karbala!”

 

More Information:

 

About Islam: The Day of ‘Ashura

World Time: Shi’ite Muslims Around the World Mark Ashura

Ashura of Muharram – a Shia and Sunni Muslim Observance

Huffington Post: Ashura – Dates, Rituals and History Explained with Photos

Religion Facts: What is Ashura?

 

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23rd September
AUTUMN EQUINOX

(MABON) Wiccan Pagan

(Alban Elued or Alban Elfed) Druid

 

Day and night stand hand in hand as equals. As the shadows lengthen, Pagans see the darker faces of the God and Goddess. For many Pagans, this rite honours old age and the approach of Winter.

 

More Information:

 

The White Goddess: The Wheel of the Year – Mabon, the Autumn Equinox

Mabon Rites and Rituals

The Celtic Connection: Mabon – by Akasha

Simple Wiccan Mabon Ritual

The Llewellyn Encyclopedia: Mabon Ritual

 

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23rd September
SHUUBUN NO HI

Japanese

 

This celebration marks the autumn equinox for Japanese people. As at the spring equinox, harmony and balance are the themes; sutras are recited and the graves of relatives are visited. September 23 is the equinox, the 24-hour period when day and night are the same length, the beginning of Autumn. On this day the sun shines at the equator for 12 hours. On the next day, days begin to become shorter than nights in the Northern Hemisphere.

 

In the past, the autumnal equinox in Japan was called shukikoureisai (the autumn festival of the Emperor’s spirits). On this day, the emperor worshipped his ancestors by himself. Nowadays it is called Shuubun-no-hi and is a national holiday. It is the middle day of higan, a seven day period when the people of Japan commemorate their ancestors. Memorial services often take place at Buddhist temples, and many people visit their family’s graves with offerings of rice cakes, flowers, incense sticks, and offer prayers to comfort the spirits of their ancestors. Although Buddhism is common in India and China, these countries have no similar custom.

 

Higan has Buddhist origins. It literally means the “other side of the river of death”. The two sides of the river represent the worlds of life and death. During these days, Japanese families honour and pray for the repose of their deceased ancestors. This is different from Obon where the spirits of the dead are said to visit the houses of their relatives. At this time of year, living relatives are the ones who visit graves. They clean the tombs and offer prayers and flowers. They also burn incense sticks and offer sweet rice balls called Ohagi.

 

 

Higan, for Buddhists, is a good time to focus on the 6 Perfections: Dana (generosity), Sila (virtue), Ksanti (patience), Virya (effort), Dhyana (meditation, also ‘zen’), and Prajna (wisdom). Just as the worlds of death and life are separated by a river, so the Buddhists believe the 6 Perfections will be the bridge to cross from this life to Nirvana.

 

More Information:

 

Shuubun-no-Hi or Autumnal Equinox Day?

Kalamalama – Shubun no hi

Tokyo 5: Shubun no hi

Shubun no hi – cleaning the ancestral tombs

The Solemnity of Japanese Autumnal Equinox Day

 

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24th September
RABBIT IN THE MOON FESTIVAL/ZHONGQIUJIE/CHUNG CH’IU

Chinese

 

This Mid-Autumn festival celebrates the moon’s birthday. Traditionally, offerings of moon cakes are made by women to the goddess of the moon. Offerings are also made to the rabbit in the moon, who is pounding the elixir of life with a pestle. ‘Spirit money’ is bought along with incense and offered to the moon by women. They also make special ‘moon’ cakes containing ground lotus and sesame seeds or dates. These contain an image of the crescent moon or of the rabbit in the moon, and children holding brightly coloured lanterns are allowed to stay up late to watch the moon rise from some nearby high place.

 

More Information:

 

Mystery Authors: Rabbit in the Moon Festival

SACU: Mid Autumn Festival

Wiki How: Enjoy a Chinese Moon Festival

China Highlights: Mid-Autumn Festival Stories

Chinese Child Book: Chinese Moon Festival Background

 

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24th September
SUKKOT

Jewish

 

24th September – 1st October

 

An eight day long harvest festival, also known as the Feast of Tabernacles, which commemorates the 40 years that the Jews spent in the wilderness on the way from slavery in Egypt to freedom in the Promised Land. A temporary hut or booth – called a sukkah – is used during this time for eating meals and for visits and socialising. In hot countries families may live in their sukkah during the festival. The roof, which has to be open in part to the elements, is covered with branches and decorated with fruit. Four species of plant, the lulav (palm branch), the etrog (a yellow citrus fruit), the hadas (myrtle) and the aravah (willow) are used at the festival, and waved in all four directions of the compass to demonstrate the universality of the Almighty.

 

Spending time in the family’s temporary sukkah recalls their newfound liberty in days gone by, an element that underlies so many of the festivals that Jews celebrate. It also reminds Jews of the fragility of life – during the Exodus and in the present day – and of the way in which all are dependent on God’s goodness for their comfort

 

Leviticus 23:33-43.

 

NB The first two days and the last two days are full festival days when, for Orthodox Jews, work is not permitted.

 

More Information:

 

Jewish Virtual Library – Sukkot

Reform Judaism: Sukkot – Feast of Booths

A Succot Story for Children

Sukkot in Pictures and Photos

Jewfaq: Sukkot

 

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29th September
MICHAELMAS

National

 

One of the four Quarter Days in the UK legal calendar.

 

More Information:

 

Culture UK – Michaelmas

Catholic Culture: Michaelmas Day

About Paganism: Michaelmas

Are we ready to embrace the Michaelmas Goose once again?

Waldorf Homes Schools: Michaelmas Circle, Story and Resources

 

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1st October
HARVEST FESTIVAL

Christian (Western, Anglican and Free Churches)

 

Dates vary

 

Special services are held around this time of year to give thanks for the goodness of God’s gifts in providing a harvest of crops along with all the other fruits of society. Displays of produce are often made, usually distributed afterwards to those in need. Increasingly the emphasis is on a wider interpretation than just the harvests of the fields and seas.

More Information:

 

Barnabas: God is a faithful gardener

Ten amazing harvest festivals from around the world

Activity Village – Suggestions for the Harvest Festival

Images of Harvest Festival Celebrations

Send a Cow: Harvest Festival

 

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1st October
JASHN-E MEHERGAN (or MIHR JASHAN)

Zoroastrian (Iranian)

 

An eight day long harvest festival, also known as the Feast of Tabernacles, which commemorates the 40 years that the Jews spent in the wilderness on the way from slavery in Egypt to freedom in the Promised Land. A temporary hut or booth – called a sukkah – is used during this time for eating meals and for visits and socialising. In hot countries families may live in their sukkah during the festival. The roof, which has to be open in part to the elements, is covered with branches and decorated with fruit. Four species of plant, the lulav (palm branch), the etrog (a yellow citrus fruit), the hadas (myrtle) and the aravah (willow) are used at the festival, and waved in all four directions of the compass to demonstrate the universality of the Almighty.

 

Spending time in the family’s temporary sukkah recalls their newfound liberty in days gone by, an element that underlies so many of the festivals that Jews celebrate. It also reminds Jews of the fragility of life – during the Exodus and in the present day – and of the way in which all are dependent on God’s goodness for their comfort

 

More Information:

 

Iran Review – Jashn-e-Mehergan

Fouman: Collective Iranian Culturbase – Mehregan

Cais/SOAS: Celebrations – The Festival of Mehregan

Anobanini: Mehrgan-Mihragan-Jashn-e Mehr

Historical Iran: Iranian Sites and People

 

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2nd October
SIMCHAT TORAH

Jewish

 

This festival, whose name means ‘Rejoicing in the Torah’, marks the completion of the annual cycle of reading from the Torah. As the reading of the Law in the synagogue should be continuous, a second scroll is begun again as soon as the final portion of the Torah has been read from the first scroll; so, as the reading from Deuteronomy ends, with the next breath, Genesis begins without a break – the Torah is a circle that never ends. All the Torah scrolls are paraded around the synagogue, with children dancing and singing, as do many of the adults, giving as many people as possible the honour of carrying a Torah scroll. Progressive Jews frequently celebrate this one day earlier, combining it with the eighth day of Sukkot, Shemini Atzeret.

 

The Torah scrolls are removed from the ark and given to members of the congregation to hold; then they march around the synagogue and everyone kisses the Torah scrolls as they pass. This ceremony is known as hakafot, which means “to march around” in Hebrew. Once the Torah holders return to the ark everyone forms a circle around them and dances with them.

 

There are seven hakafot in total, so as soon as the first dance is completed the scrolls are handed to other members of the congregation and the ritual begins anew. In some synagogues, it is also popular for children to hand out candy to everyone.

 

During Simchat Torah services the next morning, many congregations will divide into smaller prayer groups, each of which will use one of the synagogue’s Torah scrolls. Dividing the service up this way gives every person in attendance the opportunity to bless the Torah. In some traditional communities, only the men or pre-bar mitzvah boys accompanied by adults bless the Torah (post bar mitzvah aged boys are counted among the men). In other communities, women and girls are also allowed to take part.

 

Because Simchat Torah is such a happy day, services are not as formal as at other times. Some congregations will drink liquor during the service; others will make a game out of singing so loud that they drown out the cantor’s voice. Overall the holiday is a unique and joyful experience.

 

The association of joy with the reading and study of Torah recurs in much of Jewish worship, and celebrations such as Shabbat, Shavuot and Pesach all bear witness to the centrality of Torah to Jewish life.

 

More Information:

 

About Judaism: Simchat Torah

Jewfaq: Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah

Simchat Torah – Activities for Kids

Simchat Torah: Arts and Crafts

Huffington Post: Simchat Torah: Dates, Dances, Customs, Shemini Atzeret Explained

 

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2nd October
GANDHI JAYANTI

Hindu

 

Gandhi Jayanti is an Indian nation holiday that celebrates the birthday of Mahatma Gandhi, who is referred to as the ‘Father of the Nation’. He was the driving force behind the foundation of the state of India. His birthday is celebrated with services, prayers and painting and essay contests with topics that glorify peace and non-violence, and the singing of Gandhi’s favourite devotional song entitled ‘Raghupati Raghav Raja Ram’ (Ram Dhun for short). The distribution of alcohol is banned on Gandhi Jayanti, as on other national holidays.

 

More information:

 

Festivals of India: Gandhi Jayanti

Speech of Mahatma Gandhi 16 November 1969

Gandhi – Celebrations and Quotations

Gandhi – pictures and comments

Quotations from Mahatma Gandhi

 

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9th October
NAVARATRI

 

9th – 17th October

 

Navaratri means nine nights, and this is the length of the festival. Hindus from different areas celebrate in different ways. In north India the Ram Lila is performed each night, in celebration of Lord Rama’s victory over Ravana, the demon king of Sri Lanka. Families from Gujarat gather, wherever they are in the world, to participate in circle dances associated with the Goddess and Lord Krishna. Many Punjabis worship the Goddess daily during Navaratri, and observe a strictly vegetarian diet. On the eighth day, Durga Ashtami, Punjabi Hindus fast before conducting worship of the Goddess that involves honouring young girls as the embodiment of her power.

 

More Information:

 

Ahmedabad on Internet: Festivals – Navaratri

Gujarat India: All about Gujarat – Navratri

Rudraksha: Navratri festival/Navratri puja

Photos celebrate the ending of Navratri

Huffington Post: Navratri Photos – Durga Puja: Worshipping the Divine Mother

 

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14th October
DURGA PUJA

Hindu

 

14th – 18th October

Durga Puja is a celebration of the Mother Goddess, and the victory of the revered warrior Goddess Durga over the evil buffalo demon Mahishasura. The festival honours the powerful female force (shakti) in the Universe.

 

In Nepal, Bangladesh and West Bengal and other north eastern areas of India, Durga Puja is the biggest annual festival and lasts for several days.  In Kolkota (Calcutta) hundreds of pandals (decorated temporary shrines) are put up. The Goddess’s slaying of the demon is celebrated, and in Nepal the celebration may involve animal sacrifices. The festival frequently ends with the immersion of figures of Durga in rivers and in the sea.

 

The name ‘Durga’ means ‘inaccessible’, and she is the personification of the active side of the divine ‘shakti’ energy of Lord Shiva. In fact, she represents the furious powers of all the male gods, and is the ferocious protector of the righteous, and destroyer of the evil. Durga is usually portrayed as riding a lion, and carrying weapons in her many arms.

 

The celebration of total victory over this personification of evil, together with the role of the female goddess in achieving an annual victory as great as this, are grounds for widespread rejoicing throughout the Indian subcontinent. The immersion of the goddess in water is, however, an act of purification and adoration. It denotes cleansing and rebirth rather than drowning and destruction

 

More Information:

 

About Hinduism: The History and Origin of Durga Puja

About India: Guide to Durga Puja Festival in India

The Essentials of Durga Puja

Durga Puja in Photographs

Everything you need to know about Durga Puja in Kolkata

 

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16th October
INTER FAITH WEEK OF PRAYER FOR WORLD PEACE

 

16th – 23rd October

 

Although it was a Christian initiative that led to the founding of the Week of Prayer for World Peace in 1974, it soon became an inter-faith activity, and now welcomes everyone, of all faith traditions or none, to take part.

 

Prayers from the literature of several different world religions are published each year in a special leaflet for use in temples, churches, synagogues and mosques in this week. This custom receives the support of members from many different religious communities. They also organise joint services, where all can come together and in their own words pray for peace in this world. ‘The peace of the world must be prayed for by the faiths of the world.’

 

For those who want to persevere with the idea of praying with people of other faiths, three thoughts have been suggested: ‘First, the different prayers that we say are said by our neighbours in the same town and the same street every week. In worshipping together on this day we simply bring under one roof what happens anyway under the same sky. Secondly, we are convinced that there is only one humanity that prays, and only one Divinity that we pray to, whatever different opinions we may have about that one Divinity. Thirdly we recognise that inter faith partnership does not itself imply agreement.’

 

Furthermore: ‘The things we agree on are many, and precious. The things we disagree on are precious too. When we stand with a follower of another faith who is praying, whenever we can agree with the prayer, we give it our interior assent. Where we cannot agree, we withhold our interior assent. It is still good to stand with that person as a friend and as a partner for peace.’

 

More Information:

 

Week of Prayer for World Peace

Banner Cross Methodist Church: What is the Week of Prayer for World Peace?

Barnabas in Schools: Week of Prayer for World Peace

Images for World Peace and Prayer Day

Brahma Kumaris: Building Interfaith Bridges

 

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17th October
PICNIC IN A HIGH PLACE / CLIMB A HIGH MOUNTAIN FESTIVAL / CHONGYANGJIE / CH’UNG YANG

Chinese

 

This Double Ninth festival is the day for hill climbing or ‘going up on a high place’. It reminds of an ancient seer who foretold an imminent natural calamity and escaped by going into the hills. The rest of humanity ignored his warnings and perished. Kites are flown, family graves visited, and a ‘golden pig’ is shared by large families with fruit, wine, tea and rice.

 

More Information:

 

China Vista – Picnic in a High Place

Travel China Guide – Chong Yang

About Taoism: Double Ninth Festival – Ching Yang Jie

Pictures for Kite Flying Day

English People: Chong Yang Jie: The story of how the plague monster was defeated

 

 

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19th October
DUSSEHRA / VIJAYA DASHAMI

Hindu

 

In north India the day after Navaratri is celebrated as the ‘victorious tenth’ (Vijaya Dashami) and huge figures of Ravana are filled with fireworks and burned on Ram Lila grounds (public areas). In the UK some temple congregations carry this out on a smaller scale.

 

More Information:

 

Dussehr Info: Dussehra – Know About the Mega Festival of Happiness

UCLA: Culture/Festivals/Dussehra

I love India – Dussehra

Dussehra in Images

Calendarlabs – Dussehra

 

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20th October
CONFERRING OF GURUSHIP ON THE GURU GRANTH SAHIB BY GURU GOBIND SINGH 1708 CE

Sikh

 

In 1708, shortly before his death, Guru Gobind Singh (the Sikhs’ tenth Guru) declared that, instead of having another human Guru, from now on Sikhs would regard the scripture, the Guru Granth Sahib, as Guru.

 

More Information:

 

Sikh Wiki: Guru Maneo Granth (Consider the Granth to be the Guru)

Sikh Missionary Society: Sikhism-Takhts-Sri Hazoor Sahib

Sri-Guru Granth Sahib – Holy Book

Images of Conferring of Guruship on the Guru Granth Sahib

Structure of the Guru Granth Sahib

 

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24th October
PAVARANA DAY

Buddhist

 

The last day of the Rains Retreat (the Vassa) is known as Pavarana Day or ‘Leaving the Vassa’. It is also known as ‘Sangha Day’.

 

Pavarana means ‘to invite’ and on this day monks who have completed the Retreat invite their fellows to admonish them for any failings. This is usually a positive occasion for the monastic community when they seek to let go of recent shortcomings and start afresh in their practice of the Way.

 

The three month long period (vassa) is often used by lay and monastic folk alike to make a variety of determinations: to take up a particular devotional or meditation practice, to challenge or renounce some old habit – like eating sugar or smoking or drinking coffee (or worse). In Asia this may even consist of lay folk taking temporary ordination for all or part of this time. The full moon of Pavarana marks the end of this period and is a time of celebration. For those who have maintained a strict practice it means they can relax a bit, having learnt something about their particular problem and not falling back into old habits.

 

More Information:

 

Pavarana – Marking the end of the Rains Retreat

Buddha Space: Pavarana Day and ‘Buddha Space’

Buddhamind – Festivals: Pavarana

Pavarana Day in Pictures

Little Bang Word Press: Pavarana Day

 

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31st October
HALLOWEEN

National

WINTER NIGHTSHeathen

 

Halloween is a holiday celebrated on the night of October 31. The word Halloween is a shortening of All Hallows Evening, also known as Hallowe’en or All Hallows’ Eve. Traditional activities include trick-or-treating, bonfires, costume parties, visiting ‘haunted houses’, and carving jack-o-lanterns. Irish and Scottish immigrants carried versions of the tradition to North America in the nineteenth century. Other western countries embraced the holiday in the late twentieth century including Ireland, the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico and the United Kingdom as well as of Australia and New Zealand.

 

More Information:

 

Halloween History

Time and Date: Halloween in the United States

British Council/Learn British Kids: Halloween

Winter Nights Festival: About Vetrnaetr

Wyrdwords/Vispa: Winter Nights

 

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31st October
SAMHAIN/ SAMHUINN

SAMHAIN (pronounced Sow-in) Wiccan Pagan

SAMHUINN Druid

 

For all pagan communities the wheel of the year is seen to begin at Samhain. This is the Celtic New Year, when the veil between the world of the dead and the world of the living is said to be at its thinnest. Samhain is the festival of death when pagans remember and honour those who have gone before. Fires are lit and ‘dead wood’ is burned before stepping into the darkness of winter. Pagans celebrate death as part of life. This is not a time of fear, but a time to understand more deeply that life and death are part of a sacred whole.

 

At Samhain the veil between the spirits and souls of loved ones are said to have more power and the ability to visit us. This is the time of year for remembering and honouring the dead, and many people will leave a plate of food and a glass of wine out for wandering sprits. (This is often called the Feast of Hecate). Samhain is also a time for personal reflection, and for recognizing our faults and flaws and creating a method for rectifying them.

 

It is generally celebrated on October 31st, but some traditions prefer November 1st. It is one of the two “spirit-nights” of the year, the other being Beltaine. It is a magical interval when the mundane laws of time and space are temporarily suspended, and the thin veil between the worlds is lifted. Communicating with ancestors and departed loved ones is easy at this time, for they journey through this world on their way to the ‘Summer Lands’. It is a time to study the Dark Mysteries and to honour the Dark Mother and the Dark Father, symbolized by the aged Crone and her fading Consort.

Originally the ‘Feast of the Dead’ was celebrated in Celtic countries by leaving food offerings on altars and doorsteps for the ‘wandering dead’. Today many pagans still carry out this tradition. Single candles are lit and left in a window to help guide the spirits of ancestors and loved ones home. Extra chairs are set to the table and around the hearth for the unseen guest. Apples are buried along roadsides and paths for spirits who are lost or have no descendants to provide for them. Turnips are hollowed out and carved to look like protective spirits, for this is a night of magic and chaos. The Wee Folk became very active, pulling pranks on unsuspecting humans. Travelling after dark is not advised. People dress in white (like ghosts) and wear disguises made of straw, or sometimes dress as the opposite gender in the hope that they might perhaps be able to fool the Nature spirits.

This is the time when the cattle and other livestock are slaughtered for eating in the ensuing winter months. Any crops still in the field on Samhain are considered taboo, and left as offerings to the spirits. Bonfires are built, (originally called bone-fires, for after feasting, the bones were thrown in the fire as offerings for healthy and plentiful livestock in the New Year) and stones are marked with peoples’ names. Then they are thrown into the fire, to be retrieved the next morning. The condition of the retrieved stone foretells that person’s fortune in the coming year. Hearth fires are also lit in the home from the village bonfire to ensure unity, and the ashes are spread over the harvested fields.
During the eighth century of the Common Era, the Catholic Church decided to use November 1st as All Saints Day. This was a sensible step since the local pagans were already celebrating the day, so it made sense to use it as a church holiday. All Saints’ became the festival to honour any saint who didn’t already have a day of his or her own. The mass which was said on All Saints’ was called All Hallow Mass – the mass of all those who are hallowed. The night before naturally became known as All Hallows Eve, and eventually morphed from Samhain into what is now called Halloween.

 

More Information:

 

The White Goddess: The Wheel of the Year/Samhain

About Pagnism/Wicca: Samhain History

Wicca – The Celtic Connection: Samhain

A Collection of Samhain Poetry

Inventors: The History of Halloween or Samhain

 

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1st November
ALL SAINTS’ DAY

Christian (Western Churches)

(The Catholic Church in England and Wales moves this festival to the nearest Sunday if it falls on a Saturday or a Monday.)

 

All Hallows’, originally All Martyrs’

 

This day provides a chance to offer thanks for the work and witness of all Christian saints, recognising that not all are known or specially celebrated. Many churches stress this day rather than Hallowe’en, which falls the day before, by holding events especially designed for children.

 

More Information:

 

Church Year: The Solemnity of All Saints Day

About Catholicism: All Saints Day

All Saints (or All Hallows) Celebration and Games

Images for All Saints Day

Spanish fiestas – All Saints Day

 

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2nd November
ALL SOULS’ DAY

Christian

 

On this day in particular the departed are remembered and prayers on their behalf are offered. From earliest times Christians have prayed for the souls of the dead. In the year 998, All Souls, ‘the faithful departed’, began to be remembered in the Church calendar on this day.

 

More Information:

 

About Catholicism: All Souls Day
BBC Religions: All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day

All Souls Day

Images for All Souls Day

Fisheaters: All Souls Day

 

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2nd November
ANNIVERSARY OF THE CROWNING OF HAILE SELASSIE I

Rastafarian

 

One of the holiest days of the Rastafarian year, it celebrates Haile Selassie’s accession to the Ethiopian throne. It cements the role Ethiopia plays at the heart of Rastafarian tradition.

Amongst followers of Rastafarianism, a religion which developed in the 1930s in Jamaica under the influence of Marcus Garvey’s “Back to Africa” movement, Haile Selassie I is regarded as a messiah who will lead the peoples of Africa and the African diaspora to freedom. The date of his coronation is celebrated by believers throughout the world as one of the most sacred days of the Rastafarian calendar.

Haile Selassie’s birthname was Tafari Mekonnen. When he was crowned Emperor in 1930, he assumed the name Haile Selassie, “Might of the Trinity”, as well as the title “King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah.”

He reigned until 1974, when he was deposed in a military coup following famines and economic turmoil in the country. Put under house arrest by the military authorities, he died in 1975, reputedly of natural causes, although many believe he was killed on the order of the military. Rastafarians themselves believe that Selassie is still alive, and that his widely reported death is part of a conspiracy to discredit their religion. In the end, the dissent which toppled his government came from the same group of elite intellectuals to which he had afforded support and education, in opposition to the influence of feudal tradition.

 

Custodianship of the popular opinion of Haile Selassie has gradually moved towards the Rasta movement, as the movement itself has gained more freedom, not least through the spread of reggae music. This tradition has proved very efficient in disseminating basic knowledge of Selassie into popular conscience, especially in the Caribbean. Just as old Ethiopians swear on Selassie as Janhoy (meaning the Elephant, as in the Emperor who is greater than the King of the jungle, the Lion), throughout the English-speaking parts of the region it is common to substitute ‘God knows’ with ‘Selassie knows’. Iconic images of His Imperial Majesty can be found virtually anywhere.

 

More Information:

 

The Dread Library: Crowning of Haile Selassie I

The Coronation of Haile Selassie I

BBC: Religions/Rastafari/Beliefs/Haile Selassie

Photos of the Coronation of Haile Selassie I

A Celebration of Women: 84th Anniversary of the Crowning of Haile Selassie

 

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7th November
DIVALI / DEEPAVALI

Hindu

 

7th – 11th November

 

For Hindus this is a New Year festival lasting from one to five days, during which lights are hung out and fireworks are exploded. It is a festival of light, coinciding with the darkest night of the lunar month. Various interpretations are given to the festival in different parts of India, but it is generally associated with Lakshmi, goddess of wealth and prosperity, or with the victorious return of Rama and Sita to the kingdom of Ayodhya after their exile. For many Hindu business people Divali marks the beginning of a new financial year.

 

More Information:

 

About Hinduism: Diwali – Festival of Lights – Light Up Your Life!

Diwali – The festival of lights

Primary Homework Help: Diwali

Divali, the Festival of Lights – in Pictures

Nalis: The Origins of Divali

 

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7th November
DIVALI (Bandi Chhor Divas)

Sikh

 

Sikhs also celebrate Divali since Guru Hargobind, the sixth Guru, was released from Gwalior prison on this day. The Guru refused to accept release when it was offered him by the Emperor Jehangir unless 52 imprisoned Hindu princes were also given their freedom. To meet the Emperor’s condition that only those who could hold on to his cloak could leave the prison, the Guru had a coat with long tassels made. The Golden Temple in Amritsar is illuminated at this time and firework displays take place there. It is a time for new clothes, presents and sweets.

 

More Information:

 

Sikh Net: Bandi Chhor Divas

Sikh Dharma: Bandi Chhor Divas

Sikh Guru: Divali/Bandi Chhor Divas (Prisoner Release Day)

Storyboard of Sikh Divali

The Huffington Post: Bandi Chhor Divas

 

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7th November
DIVALI / DEEPAVALI

Jain

 

Divali has a special significance for Jains, as on this day in 527 BCE Mahavira gave his last teachings and at midnight attained ultimate liberation. Today temples and shrines are decorated, often with toys and images of animals, and Jains meditate on the teaching he gave on this day. Many devout followers fast for the two days of Divali, following the example of Mahavira. Lamps are lit and children are given sweets by their parents, though the songs, dances and noise of Hindu celebrations are not common amongst the Jain communities. Jain business people traditionally start their accounting year from the day after Divali.

 

The examples set by Mahavira and his teachings are central to all Jain belief and practice, so Divali is a time for meditation and penance, and for generously caring for all living beings. The focus of meditation is usually based on his last discourse, which became famous as the Uttaradhyayan Sutra, sometimes known as the Vipak Sutra, which has become seminal for much of Jain teaching and belief.

 

More Information:

 

Jain Samaj: Jainism – Significance of Diwali in Jain Dharma

Huffington Post: A Jain Perspective on Diwali

Jainpedia – Divali

HeenaJain Divali in pictures

Jagran Post: Special way of celebrating Diwali by Jains

 

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9th November
ANNIVERSARY OF THE BIRTH OF THE BAB

Baha’i

The Bab (the title means ‘the Gate’) was born in Shiraz, Persia in 1819. He was the prophet-herald of the Baha’i community and called people to religious renewal and to await the coming of a new messenger from God – ‘the one whom God shall make manifest’. Baha’is believe that this latter figure was Baha’u’llah (the title means ‘Glory of God’). Baha’is observe this holy day by abstaining from work.   Their gatherings normally involve prayers, devotional readings, music and fellowship.

 

Bahá’ís believe that God causes very special people to be born at different times in history and in different places in order to ‘educate the souls of men, and refine the character of every living man…’ (Abdu’l-Bahá, son of Bahá’u’lláh). The Bahá’í Faith refers to such people as ‘Manifestations of God’ and, for Bahá’ís, Abraham, Krishna,

 

Zoroaster, Moses, Buddha, and Muhammad are all held to be Manifestations of God, as were untold others whose names and stories are now lost. But, for the era in which we are now living, Baha’is believe God sent two Manifestations of himself in the persons of the Báb (ʿAli Muhammad Shirāzi – October 20, 1819 – July 9, 1850) and Bahá’u’lláh (Mírzá Ḥusayn-`Alí Núrí – 12 November 1817 – 29 May 1892) both of whom were born in Persia / Iran).

The birthdays of the Báb and and Bahá’u’lláh are now celebrated as the Twin Holy Birthdays on two consecutive days each year and these are two days that Bahá’ís will wish to be absent from work or school. (In the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, the most holy of the Bahá’í scriptures, Bahá’u’lláh wrote that his birthday and that of Báb “are accounted as one in the sight of God”)

 

More Information:

 

Consecutive holy days celebrate the birth of the Bab and the birth of Baha’u’llah

Baha’i Blog: The Life of the Bab

Suggested Devotional Program for the Birth of the Bab

Susan Gammage: The Birth of the Bab – Holy Day Programme

Bella Online – The Voice of Women: Birth of the Bab

 

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10th November
ANNIVERSARY OF THE BIRTH OF BAHA’U’LLAH

Baha’i

Baha’u’llah is held by many of his followers to be the founder of the Baha’i faith. He was born the eldest son of a Persian nobleman in Tehran, Persia, in 1817. For Bahá’ís, the Birth of Bahá’u’lláh is a Holy Day celebrating the rebirth of the world through the love of God.

`Abdu’l-Bahá, the son of Bahá’u’lláh, stated that during this holy day the community should rejoice together to increase the unity of the community. Bahá’ís usually observe the holy day with community gatherings where prayers are shared and the birth of Bahá’u’lláh is celebrated. Bahá’u’lláh stated that in communities where the majority of the population are Shi’a Muslims, such as Iran, his followers should exercise caution in celebrating the twin birthdays so that they do not upset the majority of the population who are mourning during the Islamic month of Muharram.

 

The birthdays of the Báb and Bahá’u’lláh are now celebrated as the Twin Holy Birthdays on two consecutive days each year and these are two days that Bahá’ís will wish to be absent from work or school. (In the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, the most holy of the Bahá’í scriptures, Bahá’u’lláh wrote that his birthday and that of the Báb ‘are accounted as one in the sight of God’)

 

Bahá’ís believe that God causes special people to be born at different times in history and in different places in order to ‘educate the souls of men, and refine the character of every living man…’ (Abdu’l-Bahá, son of Bahá’u’lláh). The Bahá’í Faith refers to such people as ‘Manifestations of God’, for Bahá’ís, Abraham, Krishna, Zoroaster, Moses, Buddha, and Muhammad were all Manifestations of God, as were many others whose names and stories are lost. But God has also sent two Manifestations of God in the persons of the Báb (ʿAli Muhammad Shirāzi – October 20, 1819 – July 9, 1850) and Bahá’u’lláh (Mírzá Ḥusayn-`Alí Núrí -12 November 1817 – 29 May 1892) both born in Persia (now Iran).

 

More Information:

 

Wikipedia – Birth of Baha’u’llah

123 Holiday: Birth of Baha’u’llah

Baha’i Invitation: Birthof Baha’u’llah – The Lord of the Age – Who is Baha’u’llah?

Bahaullah.org: The Life of Baha’u’llah – A photographic narrative

Baha’i Blog: The Birth of Baha’u’llah and the Spirit of the Age

 

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11th November
REMEMBRANCE DAY

National

 

The Sunday nearest to Armistice Day, devoted to remembering the dead of the two World wars and subsequent wars.

 

More Information:

 

History Extra: In focus – Remembrance Day Traditions

The Guardian: Remembrance Sunday – call for Church of England to ditch Cenotaph role

The Story behind the Remembrance Poppy

Poppies at the Tower of London

The War Poetry Web: Poems for Remembrance Day and Peace Events

 

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11th November
INTER FAITH WEEK

11th – 18th November

 

Held in the second week of November, Inter Faith Week aims to strengthen good interfaith relations, increase awareness of the different and distinct faith communities, and increase understanding between people of religious and non-religious beliefs.

 

Central to these aims is celebrating and building on the contribution which members of different faith and non-faith communities make to their neighbourhoods and to wider society.

 

The Week, in England, Northern Ireland and Wales, is led and supported by the Inter Faith Network for the UK but is community-led, with orgnisations of all types holding their own events. Further information is available on the Inter Faith website, including event information and resources for organisers. 2018 will be the 10th Inter Faith Week in England and Wales.

 

The Inter Faith Network’s member bodies include national faith community representative bodies; national, regional and local interfaith organisations; and educational and academic bodies with a focus on interfaith or multi-faith issues.

 

More information:

 

Scottish Interfaith Week I led by Interfaith Scotland, and information can be found on its website.

 

The Inter Faith Network home page

Inter-Faith Week info

Inter Faith Week Toolkit

Inter Faith Week resources for schools

Scottish Interfaith Week

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15th November
SHICHI-GO-SAN (Seven-Five-Three)

Japanese

 

Girls of seven, boys of five and girls of three are dressed up in new clothes and taken to a Shinto shrine to pray for their future well-being. As is the case with Hinamatsuri, the family’s care for children and their upbringing is a central aspect of Japanese family life.

 

As part of the festival, girls are dressed in kimonos while boys wear haori jackets and hakama trousers, for the celebration, and visit the shrine with their families to participate in a Shinto purification ceremony to pray for a long and happy life and to mark their passage into middle childhood. The ages three, five and seven are said to have been chosen as odd numbers are considered auspicious in Japanese numerology.

 

The custom dates back to the Heian period (794-1185) when child and infant mortality was high. It began amongst court nobles and then spread to the samurai class who added several rituals. During the samurai era, it was customary for children to have their heads shaved at birth. It was kept short until the age of three. The Shichi-go-san festival marked the time when children could start growing their hair, referred to as “kamioki” (literally ‘putting on hair’).

 

Although this custom is no longer observed, the celebration of the day that marked it is. At the age of three, boys and girls make their first debut at the local shrine wearing traditional Japanese clothes. Then at the age of five, boys celebrate ‘hakamagi-no-ig’, their first time to officially wear ‘hakama’ or formal Japanese pants. And at the age of seven, girls celebrate ‘obitoki-no-gi’ when they wear the traditional ‘obi’ sash to tie their kimono for the first time instead of simple cords. Children get Chitoseame in a bag with a crane and a turtle on it. In Japan these animals are symbols of long life. Chitoseame is wrapped in an edible rice paper so children do not have to bother with removing the wrapping.

 

More Information:

 

Notes of Nomads: Shichi-go-san Festival, Japan

Go Japan Go: Shichi-Go-San

Kids Web Japan: Schichi-go-san

Zooming Japan: Shichi-go-san – 7-5-3 Day on November 15th

Traditions and customs: Schichi-go-san

 

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21st November
THE PROPHET MUHAMMAD’S BIRTHDAY / MILAD UN NABI (12th Rabi’ul-Awwal)

Muslim (Sunni)

 

Observed by 17th Rabi’ Al-Awwal – (though Nizari Ismaili Shi‘a Muslims who are followers of the Aga Sunni Muslims on 12th Rabi’ Al-Awwal, and by the majority of Shi’a Muslims five days later on Khan celebrate this on the same date as Sunnis, whereas Dawoodi Bohra Ismailis celebrate at the same time as other Shi’a).

The day is widely celebrated within the Muslim world and is a public holiday in a number of Muslim countries. In the sub-continent of India and certain Arab countries like Egypt, the celebration starts with reading from the Qur’an, followed by poetry and songs in praise of the Prophet. There are also lectures and story telling. In some big cities of the Muslim world the day is marked with processions and flag waving under a huge decoration of lights. In the UK many Muslims celebrate at the mosque, but some refuse to observe the Prophet’s birthday, claiming it is a non-Islamic innovation introduced more than 600 years after the life of the Prophet. Tradition is not clear as to the exact date of the Prophet’s birth.

 

More information:

Islamic Supreme Council – Mawlid un Nabi

Celebrating Mawlid un Nabi – any proof?

BBC Milad un Nabi

Mawlid al Nabi – through festival cards

Milad un Nabi – Legal and Religious Status

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23rd November
ANAPASATI DAY

Buddhist

 

This is the last day on which the Kathina may be held. On the final day of the three months long Rains Retreat, or at some time during the month that follows it, it is observed by monks in the Theravada tradition. Cloth is presented to the Sangha by members of the lay Buddhist community, and this is then transformed into a Kathina robe, made up by sewing patches of cloth together. This is then presented by the monks present to one particular monk, often an especially deserving or virtuous one, in a special ceremony conducted by four of his colleagues. The laity are able to gain merit for themselves by watching the ceremony.

 

More Information:

 

Anapanasati Sutta: Mindfulness of Breathing

Kathina Ceremony: Historical and Spiritual Significance

Vipassana Research Institute: Anapana for Children

Anapanasati Day and Anapanasati Meditation

Anapanasati – Mindfulness with Breathing In and Out

 

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23rd November
BIRTHDAY OF GURU NANAK

Sikh

 

Although the first Sikh Guru, Guru Nanak, was born in April 1469, his birth anniversary (one of Sikhs’ most widely celebrated gurpurbs) is still generally celebrated on the full moon day of the lunar month of Kartik.  As is the case with all other gurpurbs, an akhand path (a complete, unbroken reading of the Guru Granth Sahib) commences two days earlier so that it ends on the morning of the festival. Sikhs gather at the gurdwara for hymn-singing (kirtan) and to hear kathas (homilies) and share the langar (free meal). The gurdwara may be illuminated and street processions take place too, culminating in some cases, as at Baisakhi, in the washing and redressing of the nishan, the flag and the flagpole erected outside each gurdwara.

 

The name “Nanak” was used by all subsequent Gurus while penning down their own spiritual revelations, recorded now in the holy scripture called the Guru Granth Sahib. So the second Sikh Guru, Guru Angad Dev Ji is also called the “Second Nanak” or “Nanak II”. It is believed by the Sikhs that all subsequent Gurus carried the same message as that of Guru Nanak and so they have used the name ‘Nanak’ in their holy text instead of their own name and hence are all understood to carry the divine ‘Light of Nanak’.

 

Although each of the ten human Gurus shares a common nature and equal honour, Guru Nanak is fêted as the one who initiated the Sikh tradition and determined its direction for the future. His creativity and humanity became landmarks for those who follow his example.

 

More Information:

 

Guru Nanak

Ten Interesting Facts about Guru Nanak Dev Ji, the Founder of Sikhism

SPCK – Assemblies Org UK: The birthday of Guru Nanak Dev Ji – A Sikh celebration

Guru Nanak Jayanti in Photos

Times of India: Guru Nanak Jayanti

 

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23rd November
LOY KRATONG

Buddhist

 

 

Loy Kratong is celebrated in most of the village and town temples in Thailand and often coincides with a temple’s Kathina Day. Degradable baskets are made and filled with carefully folded banana leaves, incense sticks, a candle and sometimes a coin. These are then launched on rivers, canals ponds or the sea, while a wish for good fortune is offered to the spirits of the water. Eels and turtles are sometimes liberated into the water at this time. Thai forest temples in the UK will not observe Loy Kratong.

 

More information:

 

Loy Kratong – Festival of Light

Loy Krathong in Contemporary Thailand

Thailand for Children – Loy Kratong

Loy Kratong and Yee Peng – baskets and lanterns that float away

Celebrating Loy Kratong in Bangkok

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24th November
MARTYRDOM OF GURU TEGH BAHADUR

Sikh

 

1675

 

As ordered by the Mughal emperor, Aurangzeb, the ninth Guru was beheaded (in Sis Ganj, near Chandi Chowk in Old Delhi) for upholding Kashmiri Brahmins’ refusal to convert to Islam. These Hindus had turned to him for help and he had told them to inform Aurangzeb that they would convert if the Guru converted. Guru Tegh Bahadur is honoured for sacrificing his head (sir) rather than his faith (sis) for the religious freedom of those of a different religious persuasion from himself.

 

More Information:

 

Sikh Missionary Society: The Supreme Sacrifice of Guru Tegh Bahadur

Sikh History: Guru Tegh Bahadur ji (1621 – 1675)

Ten Quotes of Guru Tegh Bahadur

Guru Tegh Bahadur Shabads

Patshahi 10: Who killed Guru Tegh Bahadur?

 

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26th November
THE PROPHET MUHAMMAD’S BIRTHDAY / MILAD UN NABI (17th Rabi’ul-Awwal)

Muslim (Shi‘a)

 

Observed by 17th Rabi’ Al-Awwal – (though Nizari Ismaili Shi‘a Muslims who are followers of the Aga Sunni Muslims on 12th Rabi’ Al-Awwal, and by the majority of Shi’a Muslims five days later on Khan celebrate this on the same date as Sunnis, whereas Dawoodi Bohra Ismailis celebrate at the same time as other Shi’a).

The day is widely celebrated within the Muslim world and is a public holiday in a number of Muslim countries. In the sub-continent of India and certain Arab countries like Egypt, the celebration starts with reading from the Qur’an, followed by poetry and songs in praise of the Prophet. There are also lectures and story telling. In some big cities of the Muslim world the day is marked with processions and flag waving under a huge decoration of lights. In the UK many Muslims celebrate at the mosque, but some refuse to observe the Prophet’s birthday, claiming it is a non-Islamic innovation introduced more than 600 years after the life of the Prophet. Tradition is not clear as to the exact date of the Prophet’s birth.

 

More information:

Islamic Supreme Council – Mawlid un Nabi

Celebrating Mawlid un Nabi – any proof?

BBC Milad un Nabi

Mawlid al Nabi – through festival cards

Milad un Nabi – Legal and Religious Status

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30th November
ST ANDREW’S DAY

Christian

 

Andrew, the apostle, was brother of St Peter, and the first disciple to follow Jesus. He was crucified at Patras in Greece and has been patron saint of Scotland since the 8th century. In the Anglican communion he is associated with missionary activity.

 

More Information:

 

Time and Date: St Andrew’s Day in the UK

Catholic Culture: November 30th – Feast of St. Andrew, apostle

Activity Village – St Andrew’s Day

British Library: Medieval manuscripts blog – Happy St Andrew’s Day

The Scotsman: St Andrew’s Day – History, Date and Traditions

 

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2nd December
ADVENT SUNDAY

Christian (Western Churches)

 

Advent means ‘Coming’. It heralds the start of the Christian year, and commences on the fourth Sunday before Christmas. It is often celebrated by lighting the first candle in the advent crown – a circular wreath of greenery. A further three candles are lit on subsequent Sundays, culminating with the Christmas candle on the 25th of December. Together these signify the transition from darkness to light, the light of Jesus coming into the world.

 

The earliest celebration of Advent dates back to the year 567 CE when monks were ordered to fast during December, in preparation for Christmas. Some Christians fast during Advent to help them concentrate on their preparations for celebrating the coming of Jesus. In many Orthodox and Eastern Catholics Churches, Advent lasts for 40 days, starting on November 15th. It is also called the Nativity Fast. Orthodox Christians no meat or dairy foods during Advent, and they may also avoid olive oil, wine and fish.

 

There are some Christmas Carols that are really Advent Carols. These include ‘People Look East’, ‘Come, thou long expected Jesus’, ‘Lo! He comes, with clouds descending’ and, perhaps the most popular advent song, ‘O Come, O Come Emmanuel!’.

 

There are several ways that Advent is counted down but the most common is by a calendar or candles. There are many types of calendars used in different countries. The most common ones in the UK and USA are made of paper or card with 24 or 25 little windows. One of these is opened each day in December and a Christmas picture is displayed underneath.

 

For Christians Advent is a time of preparation for and reflection on the mystery of the incarnation. It is observed through private prayer and self-discipline and its aim is to ready the believer for celebrating at Christmas the miracle of God’s taking human form.

 

More Information:

 

The Season of Advent – Anticipation and Hope

Living Hope: The meaning of the Advent Wreath

Project Britain – Advent and the Advent Calendar

Eric Huntsman – The Advent theme of joy

Why Christmas: The Tradition of Advent

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3rd December
HANUKAH

Jewish

 

3rd – 10th December

 

Hanukah is the Jewish Festival of Lights, which celebrates the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem after it was recaptured from the Syrian Greeks by the Maccabee brothers in about 162 BCE. For the eight evenings of the festival, candles are lit from right to left in a hanukkiah, a nine-branched menorah – one candle for each evening. The ninth candle is the shamash (the servant candle) from which the other candles are lit.

Foods cooked with oil – such as doughnuts and latkes (potato cakes) – are traditional to remember the miracle with oil that kept the Temple lights burning so many years ago. A game of dreidel, a special, small, spinning top, is popular with children to commemorate ‘the great miracle that happened there/here’.

Like many Jewish festivals this is a time for celebrating freedom and independence. The positioning of the lighted candles in the window is an expression of liberty, and the giving of small presents to children each day underlines the role of the family in planning for the future they might not have had.

 

More Information:

 

About Judaism: What is Hanukkah?

Torahtots – Fun games: Hanukah

History of Hanukah

Images for Hanukah

Jewfaq: Chanukkah

 

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8th December
IMMACULATE CONCEPTION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY

Christian (Roman Catholic)

 

Celebrates the doctrine held mainly by Roman Catholics that Mary herself was born free from Original Sin, leaving her sinless for the conception and bearing of Jesus.

 

More Information:

 

The Immaculate Conception and the Assumption

About Catholicism: What is the Immaculate Conception?

BBC Religions: The Immaculate Conception

Mary’s Immaculate Conception

New Advent: Immaculate Conception

 

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8th December
BODHI DAY

Buddhist

 

Buddhists around the world celebrate Gautama’s attainment of Enlightenment on this day under the Bodhi tree in Bodh Gaya, in Northern India. Many consider this to be the most sacred of holy places as the birth place of their tradition. Bodhi Day is celebrated in many mainstream Mahayana traditions including Zen and in Pureland Buddhist schools in China, Japan and Korea. Buddhists commemorate this day by meditating, studying the Dharma, chanting sutras (Buddhist texts) and performing kind acts toward other beings. Some celebrate by a traditional meal of tea, cakes and readings.

 

More information:

How to Celebrate Bodhi Day

Belief.net: Beginners Heart – Happy Bodhi Day

Family Dharma Connection: Happy Bodhi Day

Images for Bodhi Day

Bodhi Day marks the Buddha’s Enlightenment

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10th December
HUMAN RIGHTS DAY

National

 

In 1948 The United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: ‘All human beings are born with equal and inalienable rights and fundamental freedoms.’

 

More Information:

 

United Nations Human Rights: What are human rights?

OHCHR: United Nations/Human Rights

NRCAT – Torture is a Moral Issue: Sign the Statement

Images for Human Rights Day

Quotes about Human Rights

 

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21st December
WINTER SOLSTICE

(Alban Arthan or Alban Arthuan) Druid

 

YULE Pagan

 

Yule is the time of the winter solstice, the longest night of the year, when the sun is reborn, an image of the return of all new life. Heathens celebrate Yule for twelve nights and days, starting the evening before the Winter Solstice (called Mother’s night) when they think of their female ancestors and spiritual protectors. The night heralds the beginning of the major holiday in Heathenry.

Yule, (pronounced EWE-elle) is when the dark half of the year relinquishes to the light half. Starting the next morning at sunrise, the sun climbs just a little higher and stays a little longer in the sky each day. Known as Solstice Night, or the longest night of the year, the sun’s ‘rebirth’ is celebrated with much joy. On this night, the rebirth of the Oak King is celebrated, the Sun King, the Giver of Life that warmed the frozen Earth. From this day forward, the days become longer.

The summer and the winter solstices are classic examples of the wheel of the year, marking the end of one phase and the beginning of another. The key aspect of Yule is the spirit of hopefulness that the lengthening days bring, with their reminder of how much there is ahead to celebrate and enjoy.

 

More Information:

 

Wicca: The Winter Solstice – Yule Lore

Pagan/Wiccan: All About Yule

Why Christmas: Customs – The History of the Yule Log

Images for Yule Cards

You Call it Christmas, We Call it Yule

 

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24th December
CHRISTMAS EVE

Christian

 

Evening carol services, crib services and Midnight Masses inaugurate the festival of Christmas. Santa Claus (from the Dutch Sinter Klaus) is a legendary figure, based on St Nicholas of Myra, and is supposed to bring presents to children on Christmas Eve to celebrate the birth of Jesus.

 

More Information:

 

Fish Eaters: Christmas Eve and Christmas Day

BBC Religion: The Story of Christmas

Project Britain – Christmas Eve Traditions

Traditional Christmas Songs

Why Christmas: Christmas Eve Traditions and Customs

 

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25th December
CHRISTMAS DAY

Christian (see also 6/7 January 2018)

 

Christmas Day Celebrates the birth of Jesus, whom Christians believe to be the son of God. The words of St John’s Gospel (Chapter 1:1-18) are read in many churches at this time; these speak of ‘the Word made flesh’, pointing to Christian belief in the Incarnation (God ‘made flesh’, or human). Gifts are given as reminders of the offerings brought to the infant Jesus at Bethlehem, and Christmas carols, plays and evergreens are associated with this time, while nativity sets are displayed in many churches and in some homes.

 

Matthew 1:18-25, Luke 2:1-7.

 

More Information:

 

CBN: The Real Meaning of Christmas

Anno Mundi: The True Meaning of Christmas

Office Holidays: Christmas Day

More Images for Christmas Day

The Huffington Post: The True Meaning of Christmas

 

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26th December
ZARATOSHT NO DISO

Zoroastrian (Iranian)

 

Zaratosht no diso is the death anniversary of the Prophet Zarathushtra and is a sorrowful occasion. Tradition records that this is when he was assassinated at the age of 77. It is customary to visit the Fire Temple, participate in special remembrance prayers to him and to the Fravashis (the guardian spirits of departed ancestors), and ponder upon the Gathas or Hymns of Zarathushtra, which embody his eternal message to humanity.

 

No one knows how Zarathushtra died, allegedly at age 77. Many legends, and several Zoroastrian traditions, say that he was killed, while praying in the sanctuary, by a foreign enemy of the king; but many scholars believe that Zarathushtra died peacefully.

 

Although this day is an occasion of sadness, there is an eternal optimism at the heart of Zoroastrian belief which shines through even the darkest of days such as this.

More Information:

 

Zartosht no Diso – a History

I Love India: Festivals/Zartosht-no-diso Celebrations

Crystal Links: Zoroaster and Death

The Parsee Society: Images for Zartosht no diso

Important Zoroastrian Festivals

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31st December
OMISOKA

Japanese

 

Japanese festival which prepares for the new year by cleansing Shinto home shrines and Buddhist altars. The bells of Buddhist temples are struck 108 times to warn against the 108 evils to be overcome.

 

More Information:

 

Kidzworld: Omisoka – Japanese New Year

Two accounts of Omisoka celebrations

Japan – Kidsweb: Omisoka – Ushering in the New Year

Zooming Japan; Omisoka – Japanese New Year’s Eve

Bella Online: Japanese Festivals – Omisoka – New Year’s Eve

 

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31st December
HOGMANAY

National

 

A celebration widely observed throughout the UK, and especially in Scotland, where bagpipes, haggis and first footing are widespread. Clearing one’s debts, cleaning the house, welcoming guests and strangers and a host of other traditions feature at this time.

 

More Information:

 

BBC News: Hogmanay celebrations: Scotland brings in the new year

Rampant Scotland – Hogmanay

Hogmanay-top-facts

British Food and Drink: Hogmanay

History of New-years

 

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