We are indeed at that time of the year when there is only one thing on anyone’s mind…CHRISTMAS! Love it or loathe it (how can you not love Christmas?), there is no other time of the year that brings people together quite like the festive period.
Or is there?
While we have been encapsulated with Christmas and consider this the one time of the year to spend with family and friends, other cultures and religions celebrate their own festivities together. If you aren’t quite as familiar with these celebrations as you are Christmas you certainly aren’t alone.
So, what are they?
In Islam, Eid is the holiest of celebrations in the calendar. For non-Muslims, it can be a little confusing as there are two different Eids in the calendar – the first being Eid-ul-Fitr, which marks the end of Ramadan, and the second being Eid-ul-Adha.
Ramadan is the most well-known Muslim tradition, whereby followers practice the act of fasting during daylight hours, meaning they do not eat or drink during this time. This is seen as a time of great reflection for Muslims while Eid-ul-Adha, which combines with Qurbani, is celebrated to mark the sacrifice that the Prophet Ibrahim willingness to make in devotion to Allah.
The Jewish holiday, Hanukkah, marks the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem at the time of the Maccabean Revolt. The holiday lasts night eight days, beginning on the 25th day of Kislev as per the Hebrew calendar. This can be any time between late November and late December.
Hanukkah is also commonly known as the Festival of Lights, due to the Jewish tradition of lighting candles on a menorah. The menorah features nine different candles, with an additional candle being lit every night in correlation with the nights of Hanukkah. The extra light, called a shamash, is also lit each night and is placed either above or below the other eight lights on the menorah.
Possibly, the most recognised tradition in Hanukkah is the dreidel. The four-sided spinning top is played with by children. Each player begins with a set number of pieces (this can be anything from coins to chocolate) and the object of the game is to win all of your opponents’ pieces.
Celebrated in Mexico and parts of Central America, La Posada is celebrated over the nine days before Christmas and is a re-enactment of the journey undertaken by Mary and Joseph before the birth of Jesus Christ. The literal translation of La Posada in The Inn, which is in homage to where the birth of Jesus occurred.
The outside of homes are decorated in moss, evergreen and paper lanterns as children perform the ‘Posada’. There are nine Posadas and, in each, children are given candles and a board, along with clay figures of Mary and Joseph. Children then knock on the doors of family and friends, the other Posadas, and sing songs about their search for a room. Children are told to go as there is no room until they reach the last home and are welcomed in where they proceed to have a party. Each night, a different home holds the Posada party.
These are just three of the fantastic religious festivals celebrated around the world and there are numerous others to discover. While you tuck into your turkey dinner this Christmas time, take a moment to reflect on just some of the other incredible traditions observed around the world.