One of the famous Christmas Carols sings of the Tweleve Days of Christmas and the many matching gifts of the true love. Here, we look to celebrations and observances in different religions and illustrate their significance.
Birth of Jesus
25 December 2018
The Birth of Jesus, sometimes called the Nativity of Jesus – and more often Christmas, is observed by western Christianity on 25 December. Orthodox Christianity celebrates the birth of Jesus on the feast of Epiphany, the 6th of January.
Jesus was born to a woman called Mary who was engaged to Joseph, a carpenter, in the town of Bethlehem. Before Jesus was born, Mary was visited by an angel who told her that she would give birth to a baby and that the baby would be called Jesus, also sometimes known as Emmanuel, which means ‘God with us‘.
In the 13th Century, Saint Francis of Assisi began showing the birth of Jesus surrounded by cattle and shepherds and the star of Bethlehem and this was important in portraying a human image of Jesus that all families could relate to. This was an important development in Christian spirituality.
Akhuratha Sankashti Chaturthi Vrat
25 December 2018 – Hinduism
In Hinduism, Vrat means fasting; the Chaturthi is the 4th of every month, and these days are dedicated to Lord Ganesha – who is also called Vighneshwara – the Elephant-headed God who is the leader of the celestial army (the ganas) and to whom is given the first place in worship in order that the prayers be received and the activity undertaken will succeed. Lord Ganesha is known as the “master of all knowledge, remover of fear, remover of all obstacles, and the bestower of salvation”. (Ganapathi Prarthana).
Zarathosht Diso (Death of Prophet Zarathushtra)
26 December 2018 – Zoroastrianism
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.
Kwanzaa starts on Wednesday, 26 December and ends on Tuesday, 1 January 2019
Kwanzaa is a holiday tradition that is based on the “first harvest” celebrations in Africa. In recorded history, these first harvest celebrations can be traced all the way back to Nubia and Egypt and can be found in cultures all over Africa. While many of these first-fruit celebrations may differ from one society to another, they all had a few principles in common. These principles include people gathering together to celebrate, acknowledging the creator and thanking him for his blessings. a commemoration of the past, a re-commitment to African cultural thought and a time to celebrate community.
The seven days and candles in Kwanzaa represent the seven principles of Kwanzaa (Nguzo Saba):
- Umoja: Unity – Unity of the family, community, nation and race
- Kujichagulia: Self-Determination – Being responsible for your own conduct and behaviour
- Ujima: Collective work and responsibility – Working to Help each other and in the community
- Ujamaa: Cooperative economics – Working to build shops and businesses
- Nia: Purpose – Remembering and restoring African and African American cultures, customs and history
- Kuumba: Creativity – Using creating and your imagination to make communities better
- Imani: Faith – Believing in people, families, leaders, teachers and the righteousness of the African American struggle
Mary, Mother of God,
1 January 2019 – Christianity
The Christian Church commences the New Year with a solemn celebration of the Motherhood of Mary. Devotion to Mary is popular among Christians and there are many festivals, feast days, many titles and many rosaries and novenas to the Mother of Jesus. There are sanctaries and Shrines for the Vigin Mary at Lourdes, Guadalepe, Fatima, Knock, La Salette and Manaoag. Mary object of many devotions and receives the highest honours the Church can bestow.
In the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, “Lumen Gentium“, the title, “Mother of God” appears 13 times in Chapter 8, which explains that, “The Virgin Mary, who at the message of the angel received the Word of God in her heart and in her body and gave life to the world, is acknowledged and honored as being truly the Mother of God and Mother of the Redeemer. Redeemed by reason of the merits of her Son and united to him by a close and indissoluble tie, she is endowed with the high office and dignity of being the Mother of the Son of God, by which account she is also the beloved daughter of the Father and the temple of the Holy Spirit. … At the same time, however, because she belongs to the offspring of Adam she is one with all those who are to be saved. … Wherefore she is hailed as a pre-eminent and singular member of the Church, and as its type and excellent exemplar in faith and charity. The Catholic Church, taught by the Holy Spirit, honors her with filial affection and piety as a most beloved mother.” (Second Vatican Council, 1964)
1 January 2019 – Shinto religion
Shinto today is the religion of public shrines devoted to the worship of a multitude of “spirits”, “essences” (kami), suited to various purposes such as war memorials and harvest festivals, and applies as well to various sectarian organizations. Practitioners express their diverse beliefs through a standard language and practice, adopting a similar style in dress and ritual, dating from around the time of the Nara and Heian periods (8th–12th century).
The word Shinto (Way of the Gods) was adopted, originally as Jindō or Shindō, from the written Chinese Shendao meaning “spirit” or kami and michi, “path”.
A Shinto shrine shinsha, meaning: “place of the god(s)” is a structure whose main purpose is to house (“enshrine”) one or more kami.
Gantan-sai (New Year) is observed at large, public Shinto shrines. Different shrines have varying celebrations and names for this festival. Shōgatsu is a term meaning New Year. The image above shows the New Year Festival at Tokorozawa-Shinmei-Shrine, a Shinto Shrine of Japan.
New Year observances are the most elaborate of Japan’s annual events. Before the New Year, homes are cleaned, debts are paid off, and osechi (food in lacquered trays for the New Year) is prepared or bought. Osechi foods are traditional foods which are chosen for their lucky colors, shapes, or lucky-sounding names in hopes of obtaining good luck in various areas of life during the new year. Homes are decorated and the holidays are celebrated by family gatherings, visits to temples or shrines, and formal calls on relatives and friends. The first day of the year (ganjitsu) is usually spent with members of the family.
Guru Gobind Singh Jayanti
5 January 2019 – Sikhism
Guru Gobind Singh Ji was the 10th Sikh Guru of Nanak. He was born at Patna, Bihar, India, on December 22, 1666. His birthday sometimes falls either in December or January or even both months in the Gregorian calendar. The annual celebration of the Guru’s birthday is based on the Nanakshahi calendar.
Guru Gobind Singh was the son of Guru Tegh Bahadur, who gave his life to protect religious freedom. He succeeded his father when he became a Guru at nine years of age. Guru Gobind Singh Ji’s teachings have a big impact on Sikhs. In his lifetime, he stood against the Mughal Rulers and fought against injustice. In 1699, Guru Gobind Singh Ji took five men from the lower caste of society and baptized them as His Five Beloveds, endowing them with great courage and a devotion to God. It was his dedication to God, his fearlessness and his desire to protect the people from being oppressed that led Guru Gobind Singh Ji to establish the Khalsa, a military force of saint-soldiers which he baptized.
Under Guru Gobind Singh Ji’s guidance and inspiration, the Khalsa followed a strict moral code and spiritual discipline. It was through his courage that the people rose against the oppression of the Mughal ruler in India at the time. Aside from being a spiritual and a military leader Guru Gobind Singh Ji was also a gifted writer who penned a large body of literary work. Before his death in 1708, he declared the Guru Granth Sahib, which is Sikhism’s Holy Scripture to be the permanent Sikh Guru.
Buddhism: The Season of Compassion
If we desire to be more compassionate and kind to others, we must be that for ourselves first. As the holidays progress, don’t let your desire to please, an inclination toward perfection, or those nasty “shoulds” get in the way of your own self-care. Don’t let “keeping up with the Joneses” prevent you from keeping up with yourself. You can demonstrate self-kindness in many ways, including: Saying ‘No’ when you feel so inclined. Delegating. Minimizing. Not rushing. Resting. Treat yourself as kindly as you would your own best friend. The Buddha himself espoused, “You can search throughout the entire universe for someone who is more deserving of your love and affection than you are yourself, and that person is not to be found anywhere. You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe deserve your love and affection.”
The more kindly you treat yourself, the better you’ll feel—and the more beneficent of heart you’ll be to others. When we take good care of ourselves, we are able to more fully care for those we love.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama may have articulated best how we arrive at a place of compassion. “If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.” No matter which holidays we celebrate, no matter what traditions we hold dear, the thread of compassion runs through them all. The brightest and most beautiful gift of the season is loving-kindness—yours, mine, and ours.
The Christmas Balls
It is said – from the Angelic Realms, a place of no limit – that the Soul looks something like a Christmas ball, with light visible, in tiny holes, radiating outwards…)
(Hence, our Christmas Balls divider … )