Diwali is the Hindu Festival of Lights which is celebrated late October or early November, depending on the Indian calendar. It is one of the most popular festivals in Hinduism, symbolizing the spiritual victory of light over darkness, or good over evil. The festival lasts for five days, with each day having its own significance. Families prepare for Diwali by lighting candles and decorating with Rangoli art all over their homes. Diwali also celebrates the Goddess Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity. During the festival, many traditional sweet and savory dishes are offered to the Gods and then distributed among family and friends. The festival coincides with the Hindu New Year, which is celebrated the day after Diwali.
Nowruz is Iranian New Year, marking the first day of spring and the renewal of nature. Coinciding with the Spring Equinox, its name combines two Persian words: "now," which means new, and "ruz," which means day. Nowruz has roots in Zoroastrianism, and as is fitting for Persian and Zoroastrian culture, the ceremonies surrounding Nowruz center on community, family, and a deep respect for tradition.
Of all the Iranian holidays, Nowruz is the most important and the most colorful one. It embodies a wealth of ancient ceremony and Persian customs, promotes peace and solidarity, contributes to cultural diversity and friendship among peoples and different communities.
In 2018, Nowruz takes place today, on March 20, at 12:15PM EST.
Nowruz Mobarak everyone!
For extra reading, check out the Vox article on what is Nowruz all about? https://www.vox.com/…/171…/persian-new-year-nowruz-explained
Today is Chinese New Year! We have stepped into the Year of the Dog. It is estimated that a quarter of the world will be celebrating this spring festival today. It is such a large holiday that usually employees get a week off work. Traditionally, spring cleaning happens a week before the New Year to welcome in the new things that will be brought in throughout the next year. Today, people celebrate with lots of the colour red, including red envelopes that hold money, lanterns, and fireworks. It is common for people to have a meal with family and stay up late to bring in the new year together. The festival lasts for 15 days, up until the beginning of the Lantern Festival.
Happy Chinese New Year!
Today is the first day of Kwanzaa, which lasts for seven days (ending on January 1st). Kwanzaa is a non-religious celebration of culture and the significance of being African and human. It involves acknowledging the standing of one’s relationship with family and the environment. It was created in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Karenga, a professor at California State University. He wanted to bring together African-Americans after experiencing riots and used existing harvest celebrations to found Kwanzaa. Accordingly, Kwanzaa came from a Swahili phrase that translates into “first fruits” in English. Kwanzaa is often celebrated with a big meal on December 31st, African drums, music, dance, and stories. Each night, one of the Nguzo Saba (seven principles) are discussed while a child lights one candle on the Kinara. The seven principles are unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith. There are also seven symbols associated with Kwanzaa: crops, a place mat, an ear of corn, seven candles, a Kinara, a Unity Cup, and gifts (usually homemade).
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Christmas Day is the day that the son of God, Jesus was born. Mary became pregnant by the Holy Spirit, as was God’s wishes. Mary was engaged to Joseph, and as the baby’s birth date approached, the two travelled from Nazareth to Bethlehem. They could not find anywhere to stay besides a stable, so that is where Mary gave birth to Jesus (the Saviour).
Later an angel appeared before shephards to notify them that a saviour had been born. They travelled to find Jesus in a manger, before spreading the world that God had sent his son and that their Saviour had been born.
At Jesus’ birth, a new star appeared in the sky. Three Wise Men who studied the stars recognized the sign to mean that a new king had been born. They travelled to Bethlehem to bestow gifts upon Jesus. They gave Him gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
The king at the time did not want to be overthrown and had evil plans to ensure this did not happen. An angel came to Joseph in a dream to tell him it was not safe to stay, and to flee with Jesus and Mary. They returned to live in Nazareth.
Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are recognized and celebrated differently depending on the type of Christianity observed. For example, for Orthodox Christians, Christmas falls on January 7th. Many families spend time at multiple services at church, take the time to acknowledge the birth of their Savior Jesus Christ, indulge in food, and exchange gifts.
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Today is Dōngzhì Festival, recognizing the arrival of winter. It is celebrated by Chinese and other East Asians to acknowledge Winter Solstice. Today, the northern hemisphere has the shortest daytime length and the longest night time length. From today on, the days get longer. On this day, ancestors are celebrated while dumplings and tangyuan (a soup with sticky rice) are eaten. This celebration began around 200 B.C. and arose due to the belief in yin and yang. Winter Solstice was regarded as when yin was at it’s peak and yang would take over, bringing more positivity.
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Iranians around the world celebrate Yalda Night (also known as Shab e Chelleh) on the 21st to 22nd of December according to the Gregorian calendar. Iranians celebrate the arrival of winter and the renewal of the sun on the longest night of the year. This celebration dates back to the time when majority of Iranians were followers of Zoroastrianism prior to the advent of Islam. Although the religious significance of this night has been lost, the old traditions of staying up late in the company of friends and family have been retained in Iranian culture to the present day.
Food plays a central role; dried nuts, watermelon and pomegranate are served. The colour of these fruits symbolize the cycle and glow of life, and Iranians believe those who begin winter by eating summer fruits will not fall ill during the cold season. Also, the classic poetry of Hafez, the Iranian poet of 14th century AD is read by the eldest member of the family. What is expressed in that poem is believed to be the interpretation of one’s wish and whether it will come true. This is called Faal-e Hafez.
In addition to Iran, other countries such as Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan and Armenia share the same tradition and celebrate Yalda Night annually at this time of the year.
Today marks the start of Dhanu Sankranti, a Hindu celebration (very importantly recognized in the state of Orissa) commemorating the day the sun enters the Sagittarius sign (dhanu rashi). It is celebrated by worshipping the Sun God (Lord Surya) and by giving offerings to Lord Jagannath. There is an associated festival and street play incorporating elements of Lord Krishna’s life.
Tonight is the first night of Hanukkah, celebrated by those observing Judaism. Hanukkah lasts 8 days, running until December 20th. Every year, the dates of Hanukkah change, as it lands according to the Hebrew calendar, not the Gregorian calendar. Hanukkah commemorates Jewish people overcoming religious persecution during the Maccabean revolt, and in turn, stands for the reclaiming of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and recognizes rededicating to God. When taking back the temple, there was only enough oil to keep the menorah (a 7-arm candelabra) lit for one day, but miraculously it kept burning for eight nights, allowing the time for people to gather more oil. Each night, one of eight candles on the Hanukiah (a special 9-arm candelabra used only during Hanukkah) is lit (see pictured), by the shamash candle. A common game played is with the dreidel, a four sided top which spells out “a great miracle happened there.”