December 27, 2011 – Interfaith Holidays

Note: Holiday dates are based on 2011 calendar. Lunar holidays will vary.

The holiday season of November and December is typically remembered for three occasions: Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year. But other religious groups also celebrate their holidays at this time. For Buddhists, Bodhi Day on December 8th celebrates Siddhartha Gautauma’s achievement of enlightenment. Services and traditions vary amongst Buddhist sects, but all such services commemorate the Buddha’s achievement of Nirvana, and the significance of this event for Buddhists.  Individuals may choose to commemorate the event through additional meditation, study of the Dharma,chanting of Buddhist texts (sutras), or performing kind acts towards other beings. Some Buddhists celebrate with a traditional meal of tea, cake, and readings.

During the week of December 21-28 Jews observe Hanukkah, which commemorates the rededication of the Holy Temple (the Second Temple) in Jerusalem at the time of the Maccabean Revolt of the 2nd century BCE.  Typically fried or oily foods are consumed during Hanukkah, commemorating the miracle of a small flask of oil keeping the flame in the Temple alight for eight days. Each day, a candle is lighted on the ceremonial menorah for the duration of the eight days.

For Muslims, since they follow a purely lunar calendar, their holidays rotate throughout the year. This year Ashura fell on December 5th, which originally commemorated the exodus of Moses from Egypt. Muslims are encouraged to remember this event with fasting and prayer. Additionally, Ashura commemorates the martyrdom of Husayn ibn Ali, the grandson of Muhammad. Some Shi’a Muslims may wear mourning attire or refrain from music on this day and avoid holding joyous events such as weddings or parties. Shi’a Muslims consider the date as a time for self-reflection and contemplation.