The ebbs and flows of any year shape our lives – and more important than that are the holidays and festivals we celebrate throughout that year, giving consistency and continuity that spans an individual life and across generations, too.
Every religion has its celebrations. The circular nature of these festivities reminds us of the circle of life and why we need to keep reminding ourselves of the importance of various markets throughout the year.
Spring – An Awakening to the Miracle of Life
For example, spring is a time of the year which represents new life and rebirth. In Islam, Rabi al Awwal is translated as ‘first spring’ when the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was born and died. Spring is also when, in Christianity, Jesus Christ was crucified, buried, and then rose again, the story told through Easter.
It is not an accident that the world is waking up after long, cold, dark winter days at this time of year. For this reason, Easter is represented by symbols such as eggs, rabbits, and one of the most prevalent flowers during this time, daffodils.
Ramadan – A Month of Fasting and Purification
While Rabi al Awwal is the third month in the Islamic calendar, one of the most famous months acknowledged by Muslims and non-Muslims worldwide is Ramadan – the ninth month.
Fasting is one of the five pillars of Islam, and during Ramadan – the month in which the Quran was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).
Thirty days of fasting is a powerful act of worship. There are strict guidelines for Muslims, and if they do not follow them, they are expected to pay fines to make up for it. The day starts at sunrise when you wake up and have breakfast – or Suhoor. After this, nothing must pass the lips until sunset, at which point the fast is broken with a meal known as iftar.
Iftar is often communally eaten. In many villages, towns, and cities across the Muslim world, the local councils will set up tables and chairs in town squares, where anyone is welcome to come and eat a meal.
A Month of Fasting, Followed by Three Days of Festivities
Ramadan is followed by Eid al-Fitr, three days of eating and festivities with family, friends, and neighbors. For Muslims, these three days are akin to the Christian festival of Christmas, celebrated in style with new clothes, an abundance of food and sweet treats, and a coming together specifically to say the Eid prayer together as a community.
Hanukkah, also known as the Festival of Lights, is a Jewish holiday celebrated for eight nights and days, typically falling in December. It commemorates the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem during the Maccabean Revolt against Greek oppression in the 2nd century BCE. The central ritual of Hanukkah involves lighting the menorah, a nine-branched candelabrum, one candle for each night, with an additional “shamash” or helper candle. Traditional foods like latkes (potato pancakes) and sufganiyot (jelly-filled doughnuts) are enjoyed, symbolizing the miracle of the oil that burned for eight days. Hanukkah represents resilience, faith, and the triumph of light over darkness.
Bringing Communities Together
Whatever religion you belong to, each festivity is a perfect excuse to get together with loved ones, take time out of work, and re-evaluate essential values.