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Festivals

This month, we are celebrating... 

 

 

January

New year's Day - January 1st

A day widely observed throughout the UK, as is New Year’s Eve the preceding night, and  especially in Scotland, where bagpipes, haggis and first footing are widespread. It is customary to make New Year’s Resolutions at this time.

Birthday of Guru Gobind Singh - January 5th

This day is celebrated as the birth anniversary of the tenth Guru, who instituted the Five Ks and established the Order of the Khalsa on Vaisakhi (Baisakhi).

Birthday of Swami Vivekananda - January 12th 

Born Narendra Nath Datta in 1863 in Calcutta, he was an Indian Hindu monk who became the chief disciple of the 19th century saint Ramakrishna. Vivekananda, as he became known, was a key figure in the introduction of the Indian philosophies of Vedanta and Yoga to the Western world and helped to develop Hinduism during the latter part of the 19th century to the stage where it held the status of a major world religion.

World Religion Day - January 16th

This day promotes interfaith understanding by emphasising factors common to all faiths. It was first introduced among Baha’i communities in the 1950s, and is now celebrated by a wider spread of communities, including the Baha’i, on the third Sunday of January.

Holocaust memorial day - January 27th 

This is a remembrance day for all the different categories of people who suffered at the hands of the Nazis during the second World War (1939-45). It aims to keep fresh in the mind the memory of those who suffered and died at that period, and to help ensure that no such atrocity happens again.

December

Bodhi Day - December 8th

Buddhists around the world celebrate Gautama’s attainment of Enlightenment in 596 BCE on this day while sitting under a Bodhi tree in Bodh Gaya, in Northern India. Many consider this to be the most sacred of holy places as it was the birth place of their tradition.

Winter Solstice - December 21st 

Yule is the time of the winter solstice, the longest night of the year, when the sun is reborn, an image of the return of all new life. Heathens celebrate Yule for twelve nights and days, starting the evening before the Winter Solstice (called Mother’s night) when they think of their female ancestors and spiritual protectors. 

Christmas Day - December 25th

Christmas Day Celebrates the birth of Jesus, whom Christians believe to be the son of God. Gifts are given as reminders of the offerings brought to the infant Jesus at Bethlehem, and Christmas carols, plays and evergreens are associated with this time, while nativity sets are displayed in many churches and in some homes.

Omisoka - December 31st 

 

Japanese festival which prepares for the new year by cleansing Shinto home shrines and Buddhist altars. The bells of Buddhist temples are struck 108 times to warn against the 108 evils to be overcome.

Hogmanay- December 31st 

A celebration widely observed throughout the UK, and especially in Scotland, where bagpipes, haggis and first footing are widespread. Clearing one’s debts, cleaning the house, welcoming guests and strangers and a host of other traditions feature at this time.

November

All saint's day - November 1st

This day provides a chance to offer thanks for the work and witness of all Christian saints, recognising that not all are known or specially celebrated.

Diwali/Divali - November 4th 

Diwali is celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs and Jains. The Hindu new year’s day, is the biggest and the brightest of all Hindu festivals. It is the festival of lights: deep means ‘light’ and ‘avali’ a row’, so divali is ‘a row of lights’.

Sikhs celebrate Bandhi Chhor Divas / Divali since Guru Hargobind, the sixth Guru, was released from Gwalior prison in Madhya Pradesh on this day in 1619 CE. Divali has a special significance for Jains, as on this day in 527 BCE Mahavira gave his last teachings and at midnight attained ultimate liberation. Today temples and shrines are decorated, often with toys and images of animals, and Jains meditate on the teaching he gave on this day.

Remembrance day - November 14th

The Sunday nearest to Armistice Day is a national holiday in the UK, devoted to remembering the dead of the two World wars and subsequent wars. 

Inter faith week - Commencing November 14th

Held in the second week of November, Inter Faith Week aims to strengthen good interfaith relations, increase awareness of the different and distinct faith communities, and increase understanding between people of religious and non-religious beliefs.

Birthday of Guru Nanak - November 19th

Sikhs gather at the gurdwara for hymn-singing (kirtan) and to hear kathas (homilies) and share the langar (free meal). The gurdwara may be illuminated and street processions take place too, culminating in some cases, as at Baisakhi, in the washing and redressing of the nishan, the flag and the flagpole erected outside each gurdwara.

 

Advent Sunday - November 28th 

Advent means ‘Coming’. It heralds the start of the Christian year, and commences on the fourth Sunday before Christmas. It is often celebrated by lighting the first candle in the advent crown – a circular wreath of greenery. A further three candles are lit on subsequent Sundays, culminating with the Christmas candle on the 25th of December. Together these signify the transition from darkness to light, the light of Jesus coming into the world.

Hannukah - November 29th

Hannukah is the Jewish Festival of Lights, which celebrates the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem after it was recaptured from the Syrian Greeks by the Maccabee brothers in about 162 BCE. For the eight evenings of the festival, candles are lit from right to left in a hanukkiah, a nine-branched menorah – one candle for each evening.

St Andrew's day - November 30th

Andrew, the apostle, was brother of St Peter, and the first disciple to follow Jesus. He was crucified at Patras in Greece and has been patron saint of Scotland since the 8th century.

October

Navratri - October 6th

All around the world Hindu families gather at this time to participate in circle dances associated with the goddess Durga and with Lord Krishna. Navratri means nine nights, the length of the festival. Navratri in India witnesses myriad forms of devotion across the country, but everywhere the common underlying theme is of the struggle between and the victory of good over evil. It is celebrated all over India and also among the Hindu diaspora with great enthusiasm. A common greeting during this festival is Shubh Navratri (Happy Navratri). Before the festival, skilled artisans prepare clay models of the goddess in her various forms. At the end of the festival these are transported to rivers or the sea where they are immersed.

The Prophet Muhammad's birthday - 19th October/24th October

Observed by Sunni Muslims on 12th Rabi’ Al-Awwal (October 19th), and by the majority of Shi‘a Muslims five days later on 17th Rabi’ Al-Awwal (October 24th). The day is widely celebrated within the Muslim world as in the UK to mark the birth of the Prophet, and is a public holiday in a number of Muslim countries. In the sub-continent of India and certain Arab countries like Egypt, the celebration starts with readings from the Qur’an, followed by discussion of the birth, life and message of the Prophet, and poetry and songs in his praise. There are also lectures and storytelling. The most important part of Eid Milad-un-Nabi is focusing upon the character of the Prophet, his bravery and wisdom, his teachings, sufferings, and how he forgave even his most bitter enemies.

 

 

Conferring of Guruship on the Guru Granth Sahib by Gury Gobind Singh - October 20th 

On October 6th, 1708, the day before his death, Guru Gobind Singh (the Sikhs’ tenth Guru, 1666 -1708) declared that, instead of having another human Guru, from now on Sikhs would regard the scripture, the Guru Granth Sahib, as their Guru.

Samhain/Samhuinn - October 31st 

For all pagan communities the wheel of the year is seen to begin at Samhain. This is the Celtic New Year, when the veil between the world of the dead and the world of the living is said to be at its thinnest. Samhain is the festival of death when pagans remember and honour those who have gone before. Fires are lit and ‘dead wood’ is burned before stepping into the darkness of winter. Pagans celebrate death as part of life. This is not a time of fear, but a time to understand more deeply that life and death are part of a sacred whole.

 

September

Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur

Rosh Hashanah (Monday 6th September): A festival for the Jewish New Year. The main ceremony is the sounding of the shofar, a ram’s horn, blown to ‘wake’ people so that they can prepare to lead better lives.

 

Yom Kippur (Wednesday 15th September): Yom Kippur happens ten days after Rosh Hashanah, it is considered to be the day of atonement. It is a sacred day in the Jewish calendar and is spent in prayer, fasting and asking God’s forgiveness for any wrongdoings.

Samvatsari (International forgiveness day) - 10th September

This is the last day of the eight day festival of Paryushana, which many regard as the most important festival of Jainism. It is the holiest day of the Jain calendar and many Jains observe it as a complete fast. The entire day is spent in prayer and contemplation, and it climaxes in the evening when people ask for forgiveness from others – and from all living creatures – for any hurt they have knowingly or unknowingly caused during the previous year.

Rabbit in the moon festival/Zhongqiujie/Chung Ch’iu - 21st September

 

This Mid-Autumn festival celebrates the moon’s birthday. Traditionally, offerings of moon cakes are made by women to the goddess of the moon. Offerings are also made to the rabbit in the moon, who is pounding the elixir of life with a pestle. ‘Spirit money’ is bought along with incense and offered to the moon by women. They also make special ‘moon’ cakes containing ground lotus and sesame seeds or dates. These contain an image of the crescent moon or of the rabbit in the moon, and children holding brightly coloured lanterns are allowed to stay up late to watch the moon rise from some nearby high place.

Harvest

 

Special services are held around this time of year to give thanks for the goodness of God’s gifts in providing a harvest of crops along with all the other fruits of society. Displays of produce are often made, usually distributed afterwards to those in need. Increasingly the emphasis is on a wider interpretation than just the harvests of the fields and seas. Both Christians and Jewish people celebrate Harvest in September.

 

 

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