The holidays are not just for Christmas

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Bodhi Day — Dec. 8

Buddhists celebrate the enlightenment of Buddha on this day.  The day is in recognition of when Buddha achieved Nirvana, the highest state of enlightenment every Buddhist aims to achieve.


Yule — Dec. 21

For Wiccans, the Winter solstice is Yule and is one of eight Sabbats they celebrate.  Yule celebrates the rebirth of the Sun, the Sun God and honours the Horned God.  Yule is the longest night of the year.  Wiccans celebrate the coming light and thank the Gods for seeing them through the longest night.  It is a time to look on the past year’s achievements and to celebrate with family and friends.


Kwanzaa — Dec. 26 to Jan. 1

Some Black people celebrate this African American celebration which focuses on African values of family.  Kwanzaa is neither political nor religious and is not a substitute for Christmas.  Kwanzaa, which means “first fruits of the harvest” in the African language Kiswahili, is based on Nguzo Saba (seven guiding principles), one for each day of the observance.  They are Umoja (OO-MO-JAH) meaning unity, Kujichagulia (KOO-GEE-CHA-GOO-LEE-YAH) meaning self-determination, Ujima (OO-GEE-MAH) meaning collective work and responsibility Ujamaa (OO-JAH-MAH) meaning cooperation economics, Nia (NEE-YAH) meaning purpose, Kuumba (KOO-OOM-BAH) meaning creativity and Imani (EE-MAH-NEE) meaning faith.  These are represented by seven symbols: Mazao (crops), Mkeka (mat), Kinara (candle holder), Mishumaa Saba (seven candles), Muhindi (ears of corn), Zawadi (gifts), and Kikombe Cha Umoja (unity cup).  The candle holder has seven candles, one black, three red and three green.  The colours are black for Black people, red for their struggle and green for the hope and future that come from the struggle.


Maidyarem Gahambar— Dec. 31 to Jan. 4

Zoroastrians celebrate this winter feast with rituals, prayers, and sharing of food.  There are about 140,00 Zoroastrians worldwide.  Most are in India (where they are called Parsis) and Iran but there are about 5,000 devotees in North America.


Orthodox Christmas — Jan. 7

Orthodox Christians use a different calendar in which the birth of Christ this year falls fourteen days after commonly observed date.


Birthday of Guru Gobind Singh Ji — Dec. 25 or Jan. 5

Sikhs celebrate the birthday of Guru Gobind Singh Ji, the tenth and final human guru.  He was the leader of the faith who created the Khalsa (the army of the Pure Ones) and passed on the guruship to the Siri Guru Granth Sahib (the Skih scripture).  The celebrations begins with Akand Path — a continuous reading the scriptures to conclude on the birthday.  There is also kirtan (musical recitation of hymns from scriptures) as well as katha (lectures on Sikhism).  Some places also have nagar kirtan, where there is a procession with scriptures led by five Sikhs carrying Nishan Sahibs (the Sikh flag).  Five sweets and langar are also offered to the general public outside some gurdwaras (places of worship).


Ramadan — Dec. 19

During Ramadan, Muslims fast from dawn to sunset every day for 30 days straight.  This means not consuming food and drink, including water, during the daylight hours.  For married adults, it also includes refraining from marital relation during the hours of fasting.  In the Arabic language, fasting is known as sawn.  Muslims arise early in the morning during Ramadan to have a pre-dawn breakfast meal, known as suhoor.  At the end of the day, the fast is completed by taking the iftar meal, which usually includes dates, fresh fruits, appetizers, beverages and dinner.  Later in the evening, Muslims attend special nightly tarawih prayers at their local masjid (place of worship).  This month, the holiest period in the Islamic year, was designated because it was the month during which Mohammed received the first of the Koran’s revelations.  Each night during the Ramadan, approximately one thirtieth of the Koran is recited in the tarawih prayers, so that ten entire scripture is recited in the course of the month.  Jan. 5, 1999 is Nuzulul Koran, the night of power during the final days of Ramadan, which is spent in worship to mark the first revelation of the Koran.  Ramanda ends with a huge feast.


Chanukah — Dec. 14 to Dec. 21

Jew celebrate Chanukah, the Festival of Lights, for eight days, commencing on the 25th day of the Hebrew month of Kislev.  The holiday celebrates the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem after it was defiled by Syrian invaders.  A miracle occurred following the rededication when one day’s worth of oil burned in the temple for eight days straight.  To celebrate this miracle, Jews observing Chanukah today light one candle on the Menorah for each of the eight days of the celebration.  On each successive night an additional candle is added, from right to left until on the eighth night, all eight candles are lit.

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