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Holidays Around the World

When we’re little we seem to think that everyone celebrates Christmas, but growing up we realize that isn’t necessarily true. But do we ever take the time to dive into how other people celebrate?

Christmas – Christmas started out as a holiday celebrated by Christians who were celebrating the birth of Baby Jesus, but throughout time it has become a holiday celebrated by other religions and even people who aren’t religious. The ever-loving holiday has grown to gift-giving and simply spending time with family. Buddhists also celebrate Christmas, except they use it as a time to see Jesus as a man and a teacher, rather than the Christian viewing of him as a messiah. They believe his teachings complement those of Buddha, who was said to have found enlightenment during what we know as the festive season.

Hanukkah- The wintertime holiday celebrated by the Jewish community is known as Hanukkah. It commemorates the recovery of Jerusalem and the subsequent rededication of the Second Temple at the beginning of the Maccabean revolt against the Seleucid Empire in the 2nd century BCE. It begins on the 25th of the Hebrew month of Kislev, which is around November – December. Hanukkah is an 8-day event, and the name translates to the festival of lights. One candle per night of Hanukkah is lit on the menorah and blessings are read in Hebrew. People might also play dreidel games and eat certain foods.

Diwali- Many Hindu families celebrate Diwali which is in either October or November depending on the Lunar Calendar. Diwali is the festival of lights. Although similarly named to Hanukkah, they are not to be confused. Hindus will light oil lamps called diya and pray to the goddess Lakshmi, or a preferred God or Goddess associated with a particular region or community, to bring blessings of health and wealth to their household. For the prayer, they will make a home altar adorned with grains, flowers, sweets, and spices. Another practice popular at Diwali is when Hindus decorate with a colorfully patterned rangoli, a floor design, made of colored powders, sand, spices, beans, and lentils. Fireworks and candles are a main feature of celebrating Diwali.

Eid al-Fitr, Eid al-Adha- The major religious celebrations in Islam are Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha. Eid al-Fitr indicates the end of Ramadan, the Muslim holy month of fasting, and is celebrated by prayer, charity, social gatherings, meals, gift-giving, and dressing up. Ramadan falls on the 9th month of the Islamic calendar, or the Hijri calendar, which is based on the lunar year. This means it will not always be at the same time of year on the Gregorian calendar. Eid al-Adha is the feast of sacrifice which is celebrated for around three to four days. It celebrates the willingness and devotion of Ibrahim to sacrifice according to Allah’s command. It is celebrated with prayers, charity, a festive meal, and in some countries, wealthy families sacrifice an animal and share the meat with the poor.

If you know someone who celebrates differently than you, take the time to learn a little bit more about them and their religion or ways of celebration!

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