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Celebrations from Around the World

Merell Lystra L. Recta

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As we are down to the last month of the year, lots of celebrations await at our doorsteps. In our country, most of us anticipate the coming of the “ber months” and especially the 25th of December—Christmas! Since more than 86 percent of our population is Roman Catholic, celebrating the birth of Jesus is the practice we hold today. But the last month of any calendar has more celebrations than what we see on the surface. From followers of ancient religions to members of common religions to atheists, they also have their own celebrations for this month.

On the 26th of December, members of the ancient religion Zoroastrianism celebrate the death anniversary of their legendary religious teacher Zarathustra. Large numbers of people would visit fire temples and offer special prayers as part of the celebration. Lectures on the life and works of Zoroaster are also organized.

Members of the modern-day adaptation of an Ancient Egyptian religion known as Kemetism celebrate the Day of the Return of the Wandering Goddess—a celebration which includes lighting of lamps, offering of sweets, and dancing for Het-Hert, the goddess who got angry at her father Ra and was reunited again with his father in this celebration. Followers of Kemetic Orthodoxy hold this feast during the winter solstice, an astronomical phenomenon wherein the day is shortest and the night is longest.

Meanwhile, Buddhists commemorate the day when Gautama Buddha experienced enlightenment when he sat beneath a fig tree called the Bodhi Tree. This enlightenment was believed to be an escape from the repeating cycle of reincarnation. Believers commemorate this event through additional meditation, the study of Dharma (the teaching of the Buddha), chanting of Buddhist texts, or doing kind things to others. This is celebrated on the 8th of December or the Sunday before it.

Aside from that, the Jews celebrate the Festival of Lights known as Hanukkah, which recalls a miraculous event during the war for religious freedom. The fact that the temple candles lasted eight days—when it was believed that they only had enough oil to burn for one—was certainly a miracle. This celebration falls on the sunset of December 20 to December 28.

The lunar based Islamic calendar of the Muslims also highlights the Feast of Sacrifice, commonly known as Id al-Adha, followed immediately by a pilgrimage to Mecca. However, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it will occur on December if we base it on our Gregorian calendar.  This celebration includes a gathering of family and friends, meals, gift-giving, and helping the poor through charity works.

Created by Maulana Karenga, the week-long celebration Kwanza is a developed cultural holiday which means the “first fruits of the harvest.” Each of the seven principles—self-determination, collective work, responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith—serves as the theme for each day as part of the celebration. Kwanza starts on the 26th of December featuring the African-American heritage.

Heading to the eastern part of Asia, Omisoka is the year-end celebration in Japan. A clean-up is performed so that a home starts a year clean and tidy.  People would often gather one last time to have a bowl of toshikoshi-soba or toshikoshi-udon. At the shrines in Japan, people would prepare and pass around sweet sake or amazake to crowds as the midnight approaches. A gong is also struck 108 times—each to symbolize the 108 earthly desires causing human suffering.

It may not be common, but there is a secular holiday which includes most of the practices Christians hold during Christmas celebrations, except for the story of Jesus’ birth. Spelled as Krismas, this observes the myth of Kris Kringle—or what we know as Santa Claus, Rudolph and other reindeers, and the elves. Although it sounds a lot like Christmas, it is closer to the Pagan origins than what the modern-day celebration is. This holiday was created independently in order for agnostics, atheists, deists, free-thinkers, and the rest who are not Christians, to freely wish another person a “Merry Krismas” without changing their beliefs.

We may differ in what we celebrate, but we can tell that the last month of the year is significant for most people. It may be a small celebration, but the fact that families get reunited is such a cute scenario.

To quote Oprah Winfrey, “The more you celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate.”

With notes from http://www.religioustolerance.org/xmas_other.htm

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