Posted on 20 December 2016
The salutation ‘Happy Holidays’ has become embroiled in the conversation around being politically correct. The term does, however, lend itself well as an effort to capture a period that contains several holidays, Holy Days or other observances.
Muslims across Canada and around the world celebrate the birth and life of Muhammad, or mourn his death on the 12th day of the Islamic month of Rabi’ al-awwal. The occasion is marked by fasting, parades or studies of Muhammad’s works. This year, Mawlid fell on December 1.
Mawlid was first declared an official holiday in 1588. The term comes from the Arabic language and means ‘to give birth.’ Some Muslim communities observe Mawlid five days later, on the 17th day of Rabi’ al-awwal. In Iran, the days from the 12th to the 17th of this Islamic month are called ‘unity week.’
Not all Muslims recognize Mawlid . For example, Saudi Arabia and Qatar consider it an unnecessary religious innovation which should not be encouraged.
Hanukkah (Chanukah) is the eight-day Jewish Festival of Lights, this year, starting Saturday December 24th (the 25th day of the month of Kislev in the Jewish calendar). It is a time of gift giving and meals of special foods. Hanukkah is a celebration of the Jewish victory of a war in the year 162 BCE and the cleansing of the temple at that time. Although there was only enough consecrated oil to keep the temple lamp burning for one day, the lamp miraculously lasted for eight days. The hanukkiah (chanukkiyah) is a candelabrum that holds eight candles, plus a ninth. The ninth candle is used to light the other eight candles, progressively through the eight days of Hanukkah. The hanukkiah is different than the Menorah, which is a seven-branched candelabrum. The Menorah’s origins go back to the days of Moses and is symbolic of the Jewish faith.
Christmas is the religious and cultural celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. The term Christmas comes from Old English meaning Christ’s Mass (mass meaning a Holy celebration). Most typically celebrated on December 25, Christmas is the culmination of Advent, a season of anticipation beginning on the sixth Sunday before Christmas. Christmas is also viewed as a 12-day period of celebrations known as Christmastide, beginning Dec 24 and ending January 5, otherwise known as, ‘Twelfth Night’.
The exact date of Christ’s birthday is not known, and it has been celebrated at different times of the year over the ages. It is our current Gregorian calendar that is used to mark the occasion on December 25. For the Eastern Churches using the older Julien calendar, Christmas falls on our January 7, the day that the Western Churches celebrate Epiphany, otherwise known as, ‘Three Kings Day’.
The UK, Canada and other Commonwealth Nations, celebrate Boxing Day on December 26. This is also St. Stephan’s Day, recognized as such by many non-Commonwealth countries. Boxing Day is traced back to an old tradition in the UK. Servants of the wealthy had to work on Christmas Day, supporting the festivities of the nobility and other well-to-do. The next day, the servants could go home to their families. Their employers would box up left over food for the servants to share with their families.
Happy New Year!
One of the earliest recorded New Year celebrations took place about 4,000 years ago in Mesopotamia where the beginning of the new year was the Spring Equinox in mid March. At that time, the year was divided into 10 months (The original meaning of September, October, November and December is 7th, 8th, 9th and 10th month). In 700 BC, two additional months were added to the calendar: January and February. For a time, New Year celebrations alternated between January and March, until 46 BC when the Julian Calendar was created, and January 1 was decreed to be the first day of the year.
During the middle ages, the Church declared that celebrating New Year’s on January 1 was unchristian. Various New Year celebrations happened either on Christmas or at Easter. In 1582 our current Gregorian calendar was established thus restoring New Year’s on January 1. The British Empire, and its American colonies, were slow to take this up and continued celebrating the New Year in March. They finally joined the rest of the western world in 1752, and we’ve partied late on December 31, ever since.
In addition to our Gregorian New Year, the Chinese New Year is marked by the first new moon of the first lunar month. This year it is January 28 and will bring in the Year of the Rooster. Where our Gregorian calendar is linear (will continue to progress in ever increasing numbers), the Chinese calendar is cyclical and repeats itself every 60 years.
No matter what you're celebrating, the Solaris team wishes everyone a very safe and Happy Holiday season!