Interfaith Christmas

There are many images of Christmas, and it seems that Christmas means something different to everyone. Life is change, and so mundane perception of Christmas changes, also. Christmas is a a holy time for the devotees of Jesus Christ. At the time of the Christian festival of Christmas, Shepparton Interfaith Network notes festivals in other religions occurring at this time. There are Hindu, Muslim and Parsee observances at this time.

Christmas Celebrations

In modern times Christians all over the world celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ on Christmas Day, which falls on December 25.

However, it's believed that this date was chosen to offset pagan celebrations of Saturnalia and Sol Invictus or Natalis Invicti. (Pope Julian was responsible for this.) Some believe that celebrating the birth of the “true light of the world” was set in synchronisation with the December solstice because from that point onwards, the days began to have more daylight in the Northern Hemisphere.

Christmas is also referred to as Yule, which is derived from the Norse word jól, referring to the pre-Christian winter solstice festival.

Nativity Scene - St Francis stands in the background.

The First Nativity

During the Christmas season in 1223, St. Francis sought permission from Pope Honorius III in order to put on a public display to honour Christ on this holiday. The Pope agreed to Francis’ request. St. Francis convinced his friends and his followers to help him with the show. He wanted to put on a live presentation of the show for all of the people of Assisi. He chose the Greccio Cave as destination for the event. He included live actors to play the role of Mary, Joseph and the Baby Jesus. He also had a donkey and an ox displayed in the show as well. St. Francis hosted the event, narrated the accompanying story and then preached a sermon.

The Nativity was a big time production for its day. People all over the region of western Italy came to the event. They wanted to see this show which was being advertised by everyone. The event was a huge success. When it had ended people everywhere were celebrating and having a good time. Pope Honorius III was so influenced by the Nativity that he made it a point to have the pantomime (live show) of the Nativity to be performed back in Rome. Soon, churches all over the region started to follow suite.

24th December - Mawlid al-Nabi (Islam)

Mawlid means birthday of a holy figure and al-Nabi means prophet. Eid Mawlid al-Nabi marks the birth of the Islamic prophet Muhammed in the year 570 of the Gregorian calendar. Some Muslims mark this occasion by fasting or holding communal meals, special prayers or outdoor celebrations. Islamic educational institutions often hold lectures or classes on Muhammed's life and how Muslims can live an honourable life. They may also invite non-Muslims to communal meals and lectures or discussions on Islam. These events usually aim to increase the understanding of Islam in the non-Muslim community, rather than to convert people to Islam.

The Shepparton Interfaith Network greets the Muslim Community, Mawlid Mubarak!

The Mosque with the Green Dome is located in Medina, in modern Saudi Arabia.
It contains the tomb of the Prophet Muhammed and early Muslim leaders.

Datta Jayanthi - Birth of Dattatreya

Datta Jayanti, also known as Dattatreya Jayanti, is a Hindu holy day, commemorating the birth day celebration of the Hindu god Dattatreya (Datta), a combined form of the Hindu male divine trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. It is celebrated on the full moon day of the Margashirsha month according to the Hindu Calendar (December/January) throughout the country, and in particular in Maharashtra. Dattatreya is called the trimurthi (three forms) avatar (descent of Divinty. In 2015, the birth of Dattatreya is observed on 25 December.

Anasuya, the wife of Sage Atri, was a pious lady and performed intense austerities to beget a son with qualities of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. Above all Anasuya was noted for her Pativrata Dharma – unparalleled devotion to her husband.

To test her Pativrata Dharma, the Trimurtis appeared in the guise of three Sanyasins and asked her to give food in nude. This put Anasuya in a great dilemma. Confident of her Dharma, the pious lady took some water and sprinkled it on the three Sanyasins (renunciates) in order to clean their feet before giving food. Immediately, the three Sanyasins were transformed into three babies.

Anasuya suddenly felt like she is a mother and fed the three babies with milk from her breast. Thus she gave alms to the Trimurtis in the way they wanted it.

Soon Atri Maharshi returned and realised that the three babies were Trimurtis who had come to fulfill the wish of Anasuya. The sage embraced the three children and they suddenly took the single form of Dattatreya.

On Datta Jayanti, people take bath early in the morning in holy rivers or streams, and observe fast. A puja of Dattatreya is performed with flowers, incense, lamps and camphor. Devotees mediate on his image and pray to Dattatreya with a vow to follow in his footsteps. They remember Dattatreya's work and read the sacred books Avadhuta Gita and Jivanmukta Gita, which contain the god's discourse.

Idol of Sri Dattatreya, the three heads indicating the three forms of the divine in the one human form

Zarathosht Diso (Death of Prophet Zarathushtra)

Zoroaster is famous throughout the world as the principal founder of Zoroastrianism. A pious, noble and compassionate person, Zoroaster was a great messenger of Ahura Mazda and eventually became the Prophet of Iran. The message of the Prophet was simple - lead a high moralistic life that would pave way for immortality and eternal bliss. He also asked people to follow the doctrine of the God of Righteousness, Ahura Mazda.

On the top of Mount Sabatam, Zoroaster experienced Samadhi or communion with Ahura Mazda, the Supreme Lord of the Universe. Thereafter, Zoroaster had prophetic divine visions. Upon conversations with Ahura Mazda, Zoroaster received wisdom in the form of the seven revelations, which turned him into the Prophet of God. He, thence, became the renowned messenger of Ahura Mazda. In his spiritual path, Zoroaster had direct conversations with archangels, who helped him immensely.

After being stunned by the visit of archangels, King Vishtaspwas convinced of the supernatural powers of the Prophet. He made Zoroaster, the Prophet of Iran. This marked the beginning of Zoroastrianism. Right from the king to the queen, chieftains, king's brother and the father-in-law of Zoroaster, all became loyal and faithful followers of the new religion. With the royal patron at Zoroaster's aid, Zoroastrianism spread far and wide. Both the masses and classes started believing in the new faith, making it the religion of the Iranian Kingdom.

The success of Zoroastrianism rubbed the King of Turan at the wrong end, resulting in two bitter religious wars between Iran and Turan. In the first war, both the king and his brother, Zarir defeated the enemies. However, in the process, Zarir, a gallant young man, was treacherously killed. In the second war, the King Aryaspof Turandestroyed the temples, killed the priests and burnt the Zend Avesta, but was finally defeated by Ispendiar, the son of King Vishtasp.

While Zoroaster was praying before the altar in the temple of Nush-Adar, with a rosary in his hand, he was attacked by Bratrok-resh, a Turanian. The latter killed the Prophet of Iran with his sword. At the time of his death, Zoroaster tossed his rosary at Bratrok-resh. A fire emerged and engulfed Bratrok-resh, finally destroying him. Zoroaster was seventy-seven at the time of his death.

Prophet Zarathushtra (var. Zoroaster)


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