Blogmas: Other Holiday Celebrations (15 & 16)

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Hey guys, so sorry about not posting yesterday! This week is going to be a bit hectic, but I'm going to try to finish Blogmas off strong, so today's post will include what yesterday's post would have included. If you want to see a running list of my Blogmas posts, you can check them out here. (:

We all know about Christmas and New Year's, and you have probably heard of Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and Boxing Day, but did you know there are even more celebrations that go on around this time of year? Read on for a short list of holidays/celebrations that you may not have heard of, along with some familiar ones. (;

All information is from Wikipedia, so please let me know if I need to make any corrections!

1) Bodhi Day (December 8)

Bodhi Day is a Buddhist holiday that celebrates the day Buddha, or Siddhartha Gautama, reached enlightenment, also known as bodhi. This celebration is observed in many Mahayana (another branch of Buddhism) traditions and includes the traditional Zen and Pureland Buddhist Schools in China, Korea, Japan and Vietnam.

The traditions vary amongst the different Buddhist sects, however, they all have one thing in common: they commemorate the Buddha reaching Nirvana and what this achievement means for Buddhism today.

Some ways they celebrate include: meditating, study of the Dharma, chanting of Buddhist texts (or sutras), or performing kind acts for others. For more information click here.

2) Hanukkah (Varies; December 16-December 24, 2014)

Hanukkah is an eight-day Jewish celebration that commemorates the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem during the Maccabean Revolt. It begins on the 25th day of Kislev, the 9th month of the Hebrew calendar, which varies on our calendars. This year the celebration will start today, December 16th, and continue until December 24th.

Hanukkah gelt  and dreidel
Traditions include lighting a menorah, which is a 9 branched candelabra, lighting one additional light on each night of the holiday, going up to 8 by the final night. The extra light is called the shamash and tends to stand out, usually placed above or below the rest of the lights. The purpose is to have a light available for practical use because using the Hanukkah lights for purposes other than publicizing and meditating is forbidden. Did you know that when the Temple was purified, according to the Talmud, the menorah stayed lit for 8 days, even though there was only enough oil for one day?

Other traditions include, singing special songs, reciting Hallel prayer, eating oil-based and dairy foods, playing a game with a dreidel (a four-sided top), and giving Hanukkah gelt (or small coins).

3) Yaldā (December 20 or 21)

A depiction of typical foods eaten during Yalda

Šab-e Čella, or Yalda, is an Iranian festival celebrated on the "longest and darkest night of the year," which happens to be the night of the Winter Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere. According to the Iranian calendar, the festival falls between the last day of Azar (9th month) and the first day of Dae (10th month), which would be December 20 or 21 for us.

This celebration was originally intended to keep people awake all night to protect them from evil. So, people would gather in large groups to enjoy the last remaining day of summer and pass the time. The next day, the first day of Dae, would then be a day of celebration and was known as Ḵorram-ruz (joyful day) or Navad-ruz (90 days, left until Nowruz).

Today, on the night of Yalda, friends and family gather to eat, drink and read poetry, mostly the poems of Divan-e-Hafiz. Pomegranates and watermelons in particular are significant because the red color represents the similar hues of dawn and the glow of life. To read more about this festival click here.
The Dongzhi Festival, or Winter Solstice Festival, is a huge celebration for the Chinese and other East Asians during this time of year. The festival originated from the "yin-yang" philosophy and is believed that after this celebration, since the daylight hours will be longer, there will be an increase in positive energy that flows in.

Some traditional activities include: making and eating tangyuan (balls of rice, which symbolize reunion) served with jiuniang (rice wine) in Southern China and eating dumplings in Northern China, which arose when Zhang Zhongijing from the Han Dynasty had his apprentices serve dumplings to the poor to keep them warm and prevent their ears from developing chilblains (inflammation that causes tissue damage.)

Older traditions require everyone who has the same last name, or are from the same clan, to congregate in ancestral temples and worship followed by a grand reunion dinner. The food, while delicious, also serves as a reminder that they are a year older and should behave better in the upcoming year. To learn more click here.

5) Pancha Ganapati (December 21-25)

One example of a Lord Ganesha shrine.
Pancha Ganapati is a modern five-day Hindu festival in honor of Lord Ganesha, the patron of arts and guardian of culture, which you may recognize as the Hindu elephant god. The festival was created in 1985 by Sivaya Subramuniyaswami (born Robert Hansen), as a Hindu version of December holidays, such as Christmas. The importance of the festival is to new beginnings and mending all past mistakes.

Sivaya Subramuniyaswami
During these five days, a shrine is created for Lord Ganesha in the main living room of the home and is decorated however the family wants to. However, on each day their is a specific color that they decorate the shrine with. These colors represent Lord Ganesha's five shaktis, or powers. Also, on each of the five days, the entire family focuses on a spiritual discipline, or sadhana:

December 21(Golden Yellow): Love and harmony among immediate family members
December 22 (Royal Blue): Love and harmony among neighbors, relatives and close friends
December 23 (Ruby Red): Love and harmony among business associates, store owners, and the public in general
December 24 (Emerald Green): Joy and harmony from music, art, drama and dance
December 25 (Brilliant Orange): Love and harmony from all three worlds

Other traditions include offering a tray of sweets, fruits and incense to Lord Ganesha, doing puja (chants/songs sung in His praise), and giving gifts to children every day of the five days, which are then placed before Lord Ganesha and opened on the fifth day. To learn more click here.

6) Newtonmas (December 25)

Possibly arising from a meeting of the Newton Association at Christmas 1890, or because, according to the Old Julian Calendar, Isaac Newton's birthday was on December 25 (January 4 on today's calendar), Newtonmas has become a celebration that some atheists and skeptics celebrate on December 25.

The actual name, "Newtonmas," comes from The Skeptics Society (a nonprofit organization devoted to promoting scientific skepticism and resisting the spread of pseudoscience, superstition and irrational beliefs), who needed a name for their Christmas party. It's also known as Gravmas, which is an abbreviation for gravitational mass that comes from Newton's Theory of Gravitation.

People generally send "Reason's Greetings" cards and give apple or science-related gifts.

7) Kwanzaa (December 26 - January 1)

Habari Gani (What's the news?) is the greeting for each day of Kwanzaa, which is a week long celebration that honors African heritage in African American culture. It was created in 1965 by Maulana Karenga, an African American professor of Africana studies, as the first holiday specifically for African Americans and to help African Americans reconnect with their African culture.

The Nguzo Saba in more detail.
In order to achieve this goal, another part of Kwanzaa besides the great food and gift-giving, are the seven principles, or the Nguzo Saba, which comprise Kawaida, which is Swahili for tradition and reason. Each day is dedicated to one of the seven principles:

1) Umoja (Unity
2) Kujichagulia (Self-Determination)
3) Ujima (Collective Work and Responsiblity)
4) Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics)
5) Nia (Purpose)
6) Kuumba (Creativity)
7) Imani (Faith)

There are also many symbols of Kwanzaa used to convey the seven principles: Mkeka (a decorative mat) on which other symbols are placed, Muhindi (corn), Mishumaa Saba (a candleholder, or kinara, with 7 candles), Kikombe cha Umoja (a communal cup to pour libations), Zawadi (gifts), a poster of the 7 principles, and a black, red and green flag.

A typical Kwanzaa celebration would consist of drumming and music, libations, reading of the African Pledge or Principles of Blackness, a discussion of the principle of the day or African history, a candle-lighting ritual, a performance, and a karamu (feast.) To learn more click here.

8) Boxing Day (December 26)

Boxing Day is a secular holiday that generally takes place the day after Christmas, December 26, where there happen to be lots of deals, similarly to the U.S.'s Black Friday. However, traditionally, it was a day where servants and tradespeople would receive gifts known as a "Christmas Box," from their bosses or employers on the day following Christmas.

Since it is generally celebrated across the globe, Boxing Day is known by different names. For example:

South Africa - Day of Goodwill
Italy, Finland, some parts of France - St. Stephen's Day (religious)
Ireland - St. Stephen's Day or Day of Wren
Germany, Poland, Netherlands - Second Christmas Day

Also, different countries celebrate in different ways. For example, in Australia it is a federal public holiday while New Zealand and Canada have declared it as a federal statutory holiday, which means all banks, government offices, etc. are closed for the day. It's also known to be a huge sports event in the UK. To learn more click here.

Holiday Comment Challenge #15/16: 

Have you ever heard of any of these holidays? Which one did you find the most interesting?

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