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Fun Facts - FESTIVALS



Buddhist Festivals

There are a number of Buddhist traditions, and Buddhists in different countries have their own festivals on different dates, these are the most important Buddhist festivals.

  • Buddhist New Year

  • In Theravadin countries, Thailand, Burma, Sri Lanka, Cambodia and Lao, the new year is celebrated for three days from the first full moon day in April. In Mahayana countries the new year starts on the first full moon day in January. However, the Buddhist New Year depends on the country of origin or ethnic background of the people. As for example, Chinese, Koreans and Vietnamese celebrate late January or early February according to the lunar calendar, whilst the Tibetans usually celebrate about one month later.

  • Wesak or Visakah Puja ("Buddha Day")

  • Traditionally, Buddha's Birthday is known as Vesak or Visakah Puja (Buddha's Birthday Celebrations). Vesak is the major Buddhist festival of the year as it celebrates the birth, enlightenment and death of the Buddha on the one day, the first full moon day in May, except in a leap year when the festival is held in June. This celebration is called Vesak being the name of the month in the Indian calendar.

  • Magha Puja Day (Fourfold Assembly or "Sangha Day")

  • Magha Puja Day takes places on the full moon day of the third lunar month (March). This holy day is observed to commemorate an important event in the life of the Buddha. This event occurred early in the Buddha's teaching life.

    After the first Rains Retreat (Vassa) at the Deer Park at Sarnath, the Buddha went to Rajagaha city where 1250 Arahats,(Enlightened saints) who were the Buddha's disciples, without prior appointment, returned from their wanderings to pay respect to the Buddha. They assembled in the Veruvana Monastery with the two chief disciples of the Buddha, Ven. Sariputta and Ven. Moggalana.

    The assembly is called the Fourfold Assembly because it consisted of four factors: (1) All 1250 were Arahats; (2) All of them were ordained by the Buddha himself; (3) They assembled by themselves without any prior call; (4) It was the full moon day of Magha month (March).

  • Asalha Puja Day ("Dhamma Day")

  • Asalha Puja means to pay homage to the Buddha on the full moon day of the 8th lunar month (approximately July). It commemorates the Buddha's first teaching: the turning of the wheel of the Dhamma (Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta) to the five ascetics at the Deer Park (Sarnath) near Benares city, India. Where Kondanna, the senior ascetic attained the first level of enlightenment (the Sotapanna level of mind purity).

  • Uposatha (Observance Day)

  • The four monthly holy days which continue to be observed in Theravada countries - the new moon, full moon, and quarter moon days. Known in Sri Lanka as Poya Day.

  • Pavarana Day

  • This day marks the conclusion of the Rains retreat (vassa). In the following month, the kathina ceremony is held, during which the laity gather to make formal offerings of robe cloth and other requisites to the Sangha.

Christian Festivals

  • Epiphany (also known as Twelfth Night)
  • Epiphany is one of the most important Christian festivals, as it shows how God comes to His people and reveals His salvation to the world. The word Epiphany comes from the Greek word “epiphaneia”, which means "appearance" or "manifestation". Every year this day falls on 6th January or in some countries, on the Sunday that falls between 2nd January and 8th January.

  • Lent and Ash Wednesday
  • Lent is a time when Christians prepare for Easter by focusing more on prayer and spiritual studies, and occasionally by going without food (fasting). Lent lasts 40 days, a significant number in Jewish-Christian scriptures and is the period which the Gospels record that Jesus spent fasting at the start of his ministry.

    For Western Churches, Lent starts on the 7th Wednesday before Easter Day, called Ash Wednesday, as the 40 days before Easter do not include Sundays. Eastern churches include Sundays and start Lent on the Monday of the 7th week before Easter and end it on the Friday 9 days before Easter. On Ash Wednesday some churches hold services where Christians are invited to be marked with a cross of ash to show their desire to lead better lives.

  • Palm Sunday
  • The Sunday before Easter Sunday and the first day of Holy Week.Palm Sunday commemorates jesus's arrival in Jerusalem, When the crowd threw palm leaves in front of his donkey.Later that week, many in the cheering crowd were calling for christ's execution

  • Maundy (or Holy) Thursday
  • Maundy Thursday is a Christian festival celebrated by Christians around the world, especially in countries dominated by Christianity such as large parts of Europe, USA etc. The day is celebrated on a Thursday before Easter and usually falls in the early parts of April. The day is celebrated to commemorate the occasion of Last Supper of Jesus Christ, as described in the Bible, whereby Jesus shared a meal with his disciples a day before his crucification.

  • Good Friday
  • The most important events in Christianity are the death and resurrection of Jesus (see Easter Day) who Christians believe to be the Son of God and whose life and teachings are the foundation of Christianity. Good Friday commemorates the death of Jesus by crucifixion and is called 'Good' because of Jesus' example of sacrificial love by giving his life for the healing of the world. Christians meditate on Jesus' suffering and death and sometimes hold processions and / or re-enactments of the crucifixion.

  • Easter Day
  • Easter Day or Easter Sunday commemorates the resurrection of Jesus as the Christ (God's Anointed) after his death the Friday before (see Good Friday). His disciples began to experience Christ to be with them in a new way. Easter eggs are given which symbolise the new life which Christians experience and see at the heart of God's world.

  • Pentecost or Whit Sunday
  • In the Christian calendar, Pentecost is the festival celebrating the gift of the Holy Spirit, God's presence and inspiration in the lives of people today. It celebrates the anniversary of the coming of the Holy Spirit to Jesus' disciples at the time of the Jewish festival Shavuot and falls on the Sunday 50 days after Easter.

  • Christmas Day - 25 December (Western Christians)
  • The 25th of December is the time when Western Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus who Christians believe to be both the Messiah (or in Greek: the Christ) and son of God (that is, divine). Eastern Orthodox Christians celebrate the birth on the 7th January.

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Jewish Festivals

  • Rosh Hashanah
  • Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Year festival and commemorates the creation of the world. This festival marks the Jewish New Year and begins with ten days of repentance and self examination, during which time God sits in judgement on every person. The festival is also known as the Day of Judgement, the Day of the Sounding of the Shofar, and the Day of Remembrance.

  • Yom Kippur
  • Yom Kippur, the most sacred and solemn day of the Jewish year, brings the Days of Repentance to a close. As well as fasting for 25 hours, Jews spend the day in prayer, asking for forgiveness and resolving to behave better in the future.

  • Sukkot / Sukkoth
  • Sukkot commemorates the years that the Jews spent in the desert on their way to the Promised Land. Some lived in tents whilst others built huts out of leaves and branches. These huts were called sukkah. During the festival, some Jews build their own sukkah in the garden or at the synagogue. Jews eat their meals in the sukkah for the eight or nine days of the festival.

  • Hanukkah
  • Hanukkah or Chanukah is the Jewish Festival of Lights. It dates back to two centuries before the beginning of Christianity. It is an eight day holiday starting on the 25th night of the Jewish month of Kislev

  • Tisha B’av
  • Tisha B'av is a solemn occasion because it commemorates a series of tragedies that have befallen the Jewish people over the years

  • Purim
  • Purim commemorates the events that took place in the Book of Esther. It is celebrated by reading or acting out the story of Esther, and by making disparaging noises at every mention of Haman's name. In Purim it is a tradition to masquerade around in costumes and to give Mishloakh Manot (care packages, i.e. gifts of food and drink) to the poor and the needy. In Israel it is also a tradition to arrange festive parades, known as Ad-D'lo-Yada, in the town's main street. Sometimes the children dress up and act out the story of Esther for their parents

  • Lag Ba'omer
  • Lag Ba'omer (ל"ג בעומר‎) is the 33rd day in the Omer count (ל"ג is the number 33 in Hebrew). The mourning restrictions on joyous activities during the Omer period are lifted on Lag Ba'Omer and there are often celebrations with picnics, bonfires and bow and arrow play by children. In Israel, youth can be seen gathering materials for bonfires.

Hindu Festivals

  • Makar Sankrant / Lohri
  • Makar Sankrant is the first Hindu festival of the solar calendar year, falling on 14 January every year.The festival is called Lohri in Panjab, and Pongal in Tamil Nadu.

  • Maha Shivaratri
  • Maha Shivaratri is the great night of Shiva, during which followers of Shiva observe religious fasting and the offering of Bael (Bilva) leaves to Shiva.

  • Holi
  • Holi or Phagwah is a popular spring festival. Holi commemorates the slaying of the demoness Holika by Lord Vishnu's devotee Prahlad. Thus, the festival's name is derived from the Sanskrit words "Holika Dahanam", which literally mean "Holika's slaying"

  • Rama Navami
  • Ramnavami is a happy festival. It celebrates the birthday of Lord Rama, a form of God. He came down to Earth to stop Evil in the world. Rama is the hero of the famous story, the Ramayana. His faithful servant was Hanuman, the monkey king. Hanuman helped rescue Rama's wife, Sita. At Ramnavami, people read or act out parts of the Ramayana. At the mandir (temple), a murti (statue) of baby Rama is placed in a cradle.

  • Raksha Bandhan
  • At Raksha Bandhan, brothers and sisters show their love for each other. Every sister marks her brother's forehead with a special paste. Then she puts rice grains on the mark. She ties a rakhi around her brother's wrist. A rakhi is a bracelet made from thread. It is to protect him from evil.

  • Krishna Janmashtami
  • This is a happy festival celebrating Krishna's birthday. For some Hindus, this is the most important festival. Hindus believe that Krishna was born at midnight. In the evening, they meet at the mandir (temple). They move lamps in circles in front of the murtis (statues). This is the arti ceremony. People sing religious songs and dance too. Many Hindus fast all day until midnight. At midnight they share fruit and sweets, or a big meal.

  • Ganesh Chaturthi
  • Ganesh Chaturthi also known as Vinayaka Chaturthi, is the Hindu festival of Ganesha also called Vinayagar in Tamil Nadu, the son of Shiva and Parvati, who is believed to bestow his presence on earth for all his devotees in the duration of this festival. It is the day Shiva declared his son Ganesha as superior to all the gods. Ganesha is widely worshipped as the god of wisdom, prosperity and good fortune and traditionally invoked at the beginning of any new venture or at the start of travel.

  • Navaratri & Durga-puja
  • Navaratri means 'nine nights'. At this lively festival, Hindus worship different mother goddesses. The main goddess is Lord Shiva's wife. She is often called Parvati or Durga. Everyone dances around a special shrine. It has pictures of the mother goddesses on it. There are two special dances, a circle dance and a stick dance.

  • Dusshera or Vijaya Dasami
  • Rama destroyed Ravana on this day and hence it is celebrated as the day of victory. Rama invoked the blessings of the divine mother, Goddess Durga, before actually going out to battle. In the Kulu valley in Himachal Pradesh, the hill-folk celebrate Dussehra with a grand mass ceremony wherein village deities are taken out in elaborate processions. The Dussehra of Mysore is also quite famous where caparisoned elephants lead a colourful procession through the gaily-decorated streets of the city.

  • Diwali
  • The Festival of Lights This is one of the oldest Hindu festivals occuring in the month of Kartik, which commemorates the return of Rama to Ayodhya after an exile of 14 years

Islamic Festivals

  • Milad un Nabi
  • The Prophet’s Birthday, or Milad un Nabi as it is commonly known in Muslim culture, is celebrated in most of the Muslim countries and in India as well. The day is celebrated to commemorate the birth of the Prophet Muhammad. It is celebrated in the third month of the Islamic calendar. While the Shias celebrate it on the 17th of the month, the Sunnis celebrate on the 12th of the month, according to the Islamic calendar. The date of this festival varies in the Gregorian calendar.

  • Ramadan
  • Muslims around the world anticipate the arrival of the holiest month of the year. During Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, Muslims from all continents unite in a period of fasting and spiritual reflection.

  • Eid al-Fitr
  • The end of Ramadan when Muslims celebrate the end of fasting and thank Allah for His help with their month-long act of self-control.During the month of Ramadan, Muslims observe a strict fast and participate in pious activities such as charitable giving and peace-making. It is a time of intense spiritual renewal for those who observe it. At the end of Ramadan, Muslims throughout the world observe a joyous three-day celebration called Eid al-Fitr (the Festival of Fast-Breaking).

  • Hajj
  • Every year, millions of Muslims from around the world make the journey to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, for the annual pilgrimage (or Hajj). Dressed in the same simple white clothing to represent human equality, the pilgrims gather to perform rites dating back to the time of Abraham.

  • Eid al-Adha?
  • At the end of the Hajj (annual pilgrimage to Mecca), Muslims throughout the world celebrate the holiday of Eid al-Adha (Festival of Sacrifice). In 2011, Eid al-Adha will begin on or around November 6th, and will last for three days.

  • Al-Hijira:
  • Islamic New Year. Marks the migration of the Prophet Mohammad and his followers from Mecca to Medina For information on what Muslims believe

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