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The last couple of months of the year are filled with celebrations and it will help world Peace if we try to understand one another better, so here you can learn more about others, what they celebrate and why. I hope that it will encourage you to learn more and integrate with the people of our planet. The diabetes articles will continue in the new year. Make good food choices for your celebrations!
This is a shared month of holy times:
___ Devali, the Hindus Festival of Light and celebration of the Hindu New Year. was celebrated the first week of November in 2010. Diwali is a five day festival which also honors the victory of good over evil, and brightness over darkness. Also, the festival marks the start of winter.
On the third day of the festival, lots of small clay lamps (diyas) and candles are lit and placed in homes giving Diwali hence its name of “Festival of Lights”.
People also clean and decorate their homes with Rangoli – Hindu folk art. They give each other gifts during the festival, and other rituals vary according to region of India. However, in most areas, people send special blessings to Laxshmi, the Goddess of wealth and prosperity, and to Ganesha, the remover of obstacles.
The Goddess Laxshmi will visit every home during the Diwali period, bringing prosperity and good fortune. It’s said she visits the cleanest places first, therefore people make sure their homes are spotless, before lighting lamps to invite her in.
___ On December 1 -9 in 2010, the Jews started to celebrate Hanukkah, the Hebrew Festival of Light, a universal holy time for celebration of the triumph for the battle of religious freedom. More about the 8 day celebration can be read at in the Titles Archive above.
The 2,200 year old festival is based on a mixture of historical actions and a religious miracle, during the time when the Jews fought the first battles for religious freedom and tolerance, which have managed to endure, for all of us. It is also known as the Festival of Light and candles are lit on the menorah (hannukiah) for all 8 days.
___ The Muslims started to celebrate on December 7, with Al-Hijira — Islamic New Year. This holy day marks the migration of the Prophet Mohammad and his followers from Mecca to Medina, and it is the first day of the month of Muharram. The Journey, the Hijra (or Hegira), happened in 622 CE, and it was in Medina that Mohammad set up the first Islamic state.
Logically, as the new year, the Muslim calendar counts dates from the Hijra, which is why Muslim dates have the suffix A.H. (After Hijra). It is a low-key event, celebrated less than the two major, recent festivals of Eid-ul-Fitr and Eid-ul-Adha.
Muslims regard this as a good time for ‘New Year Resolutions’, reflecting that the Hajira marks the start of Islam as a community in which spiritual and earthly life were completely integrated. A people could be bound together by faith, rather than just by tribal bonds, and as a consequence, tribal and family loyalties became less significant compared to the bonds of Islam.
Because of the lunar calendar, Ramadan sometimes falls in December (the actual date for the start of Ramadan depends upon the sighting of the crescent moon).
This is the holiest period in the Islamic year, for Ramadan honors the lunar month in which the Qura’n was revealed by God to humanity. So Muslims observe the Fast of Ramadan, which lasts for the entire month. Fasting during the daylight hours and eating small meals in the evening, allows for visits with friends and family and using the time for worship and contemplation
___ On December 8 (or on the Sunday immediately preceding), the Buddhists celebrate Bodhi Day (also called Rohatsu). This recalls the day in 596 BCE, in India, when Prince Siddartha, the Buddha, achieved enlightenment.
The Prince had left his family and courtly possessions behind, at the age of 29, and went to seek the meaning of life — particularly the reasons for its hardships.
For many years, he studied and learned from many spiritual teachers without success. Finally, he sat under a bo tree and made a vow, saying that he would stay there until he found the answers he was seeking.
The morning of the 8th day dawned, and he realized that everyone suffers due to ignorance — but ignorance can be overcome through the Eightfold Path which he advocated.
So, celebrate the birthing day of Buddhism. The Buddha achieved enlightenment, and escaped the endless Karmic cycle of birth, death, rebirth through reincarnation — themes that are observed in other religions in December, as you will see below.
___ December 21 — The Solstice — is the first, official day of winter because it is The Winter Solstice (Northern Hemisphere, longest night) and Summer Solstice (Southern Hemisphere, longest day).
This is a very important time for Druids, Wiccans and other nature-based religions, like Shinto, as well as many major religions also reflecting this longer tradition, too — emphasizing this same time-frame for celebrations of “Light” and the “Light of the World” in the longest time of darkness.
All of this is evidence of an underlying human commonality below what seems to be a diversity of belief.
This year, there was an important lunar eclipse on the Solstice, the first time this has happened since 1638. So it is a very eventful time.
In Celtic culture, which spanned from India to Ireland, Druids and Druidesses formed the professional class in ancient Celtic society. They functioned as: priests, teachers, ambassadors, astronomers, genealogists, philosophers, musicians, theologians, scientists, poets and even judges.
Druids led all their people’s public rituals, which were normally held within fenced groves of sacred trees or at a powerful natural energy source, like the ring of stones at Stonehenge or Avesbury or the Neolithic cave at New Grange in Ireland.
For Druids, the Solstice is the time of the death of the old sun and the birth of the dark-half of the year. Calling it “Alban Arthuan, it is the end of month of the Elder Tree and the start of the month of the Birch tree.
The 3 days before Yule is magical time, when the Serpent Days or transformation occur. In their cosmological view, the Elder and Birch trees stand as guardians at the entrance to Annwn (the Celtic underworld — where all life was formed). Now, it is time for the Sun God journey’s through the underworld, to learn the secrets of death and of life, and bring out those souls to be reincarnated.
In prehistoric times, and also in times of modern turmoil, winter was a very difficult time for peoples. The growing season was over; everyone had to live off of stored food and whatever animals they could catch. See how hard this is to do just by watching “Survivor”!
In earlier times, the people would become troubled as the life-giving sun sank lower in the sky each day. We can understand their fear that it would eventually disappear and leave them in permanent darkness and extreme cold.
Only after the Winter Solstice, could they have a reason to celebrate. They saw the sun rising and strengthening once more. They were encouraged that the return of the warm season was inevitable.
Even the equitorial based Inca Empire realized the special time, as it moved southward. The ancient Incas celebrated a festival of Inti Raymi at the time of the Winter Solstice. Since the Inca Empire was mainly south of the equator, the festival was held in June, their winter, and it celebrates “the Festival of the Sun; the god of the Sun, Wiracocha, is honored. The ceremonies were banned by the Roman Catholic conquistadores in 1572, and the Conquistadors forced conversions of the Inca people to Christianity. But, about 65 years ago, a local group of Quecia Indians in Cusco, Peru revived the festival and now it is celebrated in an ancient amphitheater a few miles away.
In North America, the Pueblo tribe observe both the Summer and Winter Solstices. Specific details of the rituals differ from pueblo to pueblo, but the rites are built around the sun, the coming new year and the rebirth of vegetation in the spring. Winter Solstice rites involve: prayerstick making, retreats, purification and prayers for plenty.
The Hopi tribe dedicates itself to give aid and direction to the sun, which is ready to ‘return’ to give strength to budding life. Their ceremony is called Soyal and it lasts for 20 days. Activities include: prayerstick making, purification rituals and a celebratory rabbit hunt, feast and blessing.
In Iran, Shabe-Yalda (Shab-e Yaldaa) is celebrated by followers of many religions. It originated in Zoroastrianism, the state religion which preceded Islam (and still practiced by the Parsi of India). The holy day’s name refers to the birthday or rebirth of the sun, and Iranians gather at home, all night, around a korsee (a low square table). There, they tell stories, read poems, eat watermelons, pomegranates and a special dried fruit/nut mix. Bonfires are lit outside which help to illuminate the darkened world.
So, it’s logical that all around the world, the concept of birth and or death/rebirth became associated with the Winter Solstice. Ancient powerhouse civilizations: India, Egypt, Iran (Persia), Brazil, Peru, Greece and Rome, all had these festivals at this time.
And the sophisticated civilizations developed astronomy, to determine accurate time for The Solstice. So we have Egyptian, Celtic, Irish, American, Mayan, Incan and Brazilian tribal architecture to determine when the Solstice would happen.
There are countless stone structures created by early peoples in the past to detect the Solstices and Equinoxes — e.g. Calendar One, from an unknown American tribe. This is in a natural amphitheater of about 20 acres in Vermont. From a stone enclosure in the center of the bowl, you see a number of vertical rock structures and natural features on the horizon (which formed the edge of the bowl). At the Solstices and Equinoxes, the sun rises and sets at either a notch or a peak in the ridge, which makes it a calendar.
But most Prehistoric Aboriginal peoples had no instruments for detecting The Solstice. Astronomically astute, they noticed a slight elevation of the sun’s path within a few days after The Solstice — perhaps by December 25th and this is why celebrations were often timed around the 25th — which is significant to the “chosen” day for Xmas.
___ For Christians, December 25 is an officially agreed-upon time for the Christmas — set aside to celebrate the birth of the Jewish rabbi, Jesus (Yeshua) of Nazareth, known to Christians as “the light of the world”. There is sufficient evidence in the Gospels to indicate Yeshua was actually born in the autumn, but this seems to have been unknown to early Christians.
By the third century CE, many religions and spiritual mysteries were being followed within the “known-world’s” Roman Empire. Most, celebrated the birth of their god-man near the time of The Solstice; it was a common, ancient religious theme.
The Roman Emperor Aurelian (270 to 275 CE) blended a number of The Solstice celebrations of the nativity of such god-men/saviors as: Apollo, Attis, Baal, Dionysus, Helios, Hercules, Horus, Mithra, Osiris, Perseus and Theseus into a single festival. It was called the “Birthday of the Unconquered Sun” and was held on December 25.
At the time, Persian Mithraism and Christianity were fierce competitors for the hearts, minds, souls of the Empire’s peoples. Aurelian declared Mithraism to be the official religion of the Roman Empire in 274 CE. But, Christianity finally won, by becoming the new official religion in the 4th century CE, from a different Emperor’s edict, just before his death, too.
So, with new stature, Christianity at the beginning of the 4th century CE, found intense interest in actually choosing a day to celebrate Yeshua’s birthday.
The western church leaders of the time selected December 25th because this was already the date recognized throughout the Roman Empire as the birthday of various gods; it was a way to be able to celebrate unfettered. That is why many symbols and practices associated with Christmas are really of non-Christian origin: holly, ivy, mistletoe, yule log, the giving of gifts, decorated evergreen tree, magical reindeer and more.
With no central Christian authority at the time, it took centuries before the tradition of December 25th was universally accepted:
___ Eastern Christian churches began to celebrate Christmas on December 25th after 375 CE.
___ The church in Ireland only in the 5th century CE and churches in Jerusalem started in the 7th century CE.
___ Austria, England and Switzerland started celebrating it then the 8th century CE and in Slavic lands in the 9th and 10th centuries CE.
Even now, not all Christians acknowledge December 25 or celebrate it e.g. Jehovah’s Witnesses do not. And, the English Parliament even abolished Christmas in 1647.
___ Kwanzaa – honors universal African-American heritage and culture. It is observed from December 26 – January 1 each year, and features activities such as: the lighting of a kinara, libations and a feast, and gift giving. It was created by Maulana Karenga and was first celebrated on December 26, 1966.
The entry in Wikipedia says the goal was to “give Blacks an alternative to the existing holiday and give Blacks an opportunity to celebrate themselves and their history”. The name Kwanzaa is a Swahili phrase matunda ya kwanza, meaning first fruits of the harvest.
Kwanzaa celebrates 7 principles of Nguzo Saba, which Karenga said “is a communitarian African philosophy”. These consist of “the best of African thought and practice in constant exchange with the world.”
The 7 principles comprise Kawaida, Swahili for “tradition and reason”, and each of the 7 days of Kwanzaa is dedicated to one individual principle:
* Umoja (Unity): Strive for and maintain unity in: family, community, nation and race.
* Kujichagulia (Self-Determination): define oneself, name ourselves, create and speak for ourselves.
* Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility): Build and maintain community. Make our brothers’ and sisters’ problems our problems and to solve them together.
* Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics): Build and maintain our own businesses and shops, and to profit from them together.
* Nia (Purpose): Make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community. Restore our people to their traditional greatness.
* Kuumba (Creativity): Always do as much as we can, in any way we can, to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it.
* Imani (Faith): Believe with all our heart in our people, our parents, our teachers and our Journey.
And, I hope this long article will foster good will and more awareness.
My hope: May all of us be Blessed with Peace and Health and Understanding and Compassion as we follow and work in the light of the Sun, each new day. Make it count!
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