Posts Tagged ‘Holidays’

Holy Daze: Yom Kippur (September 25-26, 2012) – Judaism

September 25th, 2012 No comments

Praying in the Synagogue on Yom Kippur

Yom Kippur, considered the holiest day of the year, is the Day of Atonement.  It occurs on the 10th day of Tishri (the seventh month of Jewish year).  It is a day to atone for the sins of the past year.  A ritual fast is performed for 25 hours beginning before sunset on the evening before Yom Kippur and ending the following night.  Eating, drinking and sexual relations are prohibited, as well as bathing or anointing the body with such things are perfumes or deodorants.

Another rite historically performed and alluded to in the Bible is the casting of sins by driving a goat into the wilderness.  In this rite, a high priest would confess the sins of Israel onto the goat before sending it into the wilderness.  This also may be where the term “scapegoat” originates.

As usual, I’ve found some interesting supplements to my brief introduction of this holiday.  Check out the videos and links below if you’re interested in learning a bit more about this sacred holiday.

M. xo

Yom Kippur: Overboard (Jonah’s song)

Huffington Post: Yom Kippur Explained (including video and photo gallery)

Image source: Wikimedia Commons

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Holy Daze: Paryushana Parva (Throughout Sept 2012) – Jainism

September 19th, 2012 No comments

Paryushana is considered one of the most important and sacred festivals of the Indian religious tradition, Jainism. Now, if you’re not familiar with the Jains, and you happen to be interested in subjects like this, I highly recommend doing some reading on this very interesting sacred path. In all my studies, I’ve found the Jains to be one of the most fascinating of traditions. The core of their beliefs is one of a path of non-violence (ahimsa) toward all living beings (and when they say all living beings, they literally mean it).

Back to the matter at hand – Paryushana, (meaning “coming together”) is a time for heightening awareness of both the physical and spiritual aspects of the self. One of the central ritual observances is fasting, which depending on the Jain’s devotion and strength, can last anywhere from one day to one month, and can include abstaining completely from food or taking only one meal a day. Fasting is believed to help purify the soul by discovering one’s faults and seeking forgiveness for transgressions. It is also a time to take stock of how one’s actions have affected all living beings.

Other rituals can include the reading of scriptures, and observing vows of silence. Periodic meditation may also be carried out (different paths within the Jain tradition, observe different rituals at different times – it’s a bit confusing, so stay with me). It’s also important to point out that the laity and monastics will engage to different degrees in these rituals.

The culmination of this festival is to ask forgiveness for any wrongdoings that one may have intentionally or unintentionally committed upon another living being (and for some Jains this includes the microscopic organisms that are naked to the human eye – I wasn’t kidding when I mentioned all living beings). Jains express to one another, “Micchami Dukkadam” (If I have caused you offence or wrongdoing, intentional or unintentional, by thought word or deed, I ask your forgiveness).

There’s much more to this festival than what I could possibly provide in this post, so check out the short video below showcasing some upbeat celebrations during Paryushana Parva. I’ve also included a short animated informational video about Jainism. The animation leaves much to be desired, but it does an adequate job of providing you with a primer of the Jain tradition.

A final important note: The swastika, while considered a symbol of evil and persecution for many in the West, is a very sacred symbol for the Jains. So, please refrain from sending me comments about the inclusion of this symbol in my post.

I hope to post more about the fascinating sacred path of the Jains in the future!

Cheers! M. xo

Paryushan Parva 2011 – Bhavya Aarti:


Image Source: Wikipedia

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Holy Daze: Rosh Hashanah (September 16- 18, 2012) – Judaism

August 29th, 2012 No comments

I’ve decided to start a regular series of posts showcasing upcoming religious holidays. I’ll be entitling this series, Holy Daze, because clearly these observances are sacred, and I’m hoping to dazzle you with new and enlightening stories, myths and rituals. Of course, I will only be able to give a snapshot into these sacred celebrations, but I’ll provide links and fun resources for you to find out more information. Let’s get started by talking about the upcoming “Jewish New Year”.

Rosh HaShanah (September 16- 18, 2012) – Judaism

Rosh HaShanah is one of the High Holy Days in Judaism. It occurs on the first and second days of Tishri (the seventh month of the Jewish year). In Hebrew, Rosh HaShanah literally means “the first of the year”, and is commonly regarded as the Jewish New Year. It is a time for reflection, resolution and renewal. The main ritual of Rosh HaShanah is the blowing of the shofar (a ram’s horn) which symbolizes both a trumpet call of a coronation of a king and a call to repentance, particularly those of man’s first sin. Other special observances include eating apples dipped in honey to symbolize wishes for a sweet year ahead and casting bits of bread from one’s pocket into a nearby stream to symbolize the casting away of old sins.

Check out these music videos that explain and celebrate Rosh HaShanah in a hip-hoppin’, rockin’ way:

Rosh Hashana Rock Anthem:

Shofar Callin’:

Suggested further reading:


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Happy Ramadan!

July 21st, 2012 No comments

Today is the start of the Islamic holy season known as Ramadan.  It occurs during the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, which follows a lunar cycle.  It is believed that during this period the prophet Muhammad received his first revelation.

Muslims who participate in this holy time abstain from ingesting anything into the body for one month from sunrise to sunset.  This includes food, drink, smoke and sexual relations.  It is a time of deep reflection and spiritual self-purification through prayer and meditation.  Additionally, one is required to refrain from evil thoughts toward others, such as thoughts of harm, lust or jealousy.  Through these ritual practices Muslims seek to gain an appreciation for the material gifts from God, regain self-control from bad habits, and deepen empathy for the hungry and deprived of the world.

Despite this seemingly disciplined and stringent ritual, Ramadan is also filled with much joy.  The nights are a time for the community to come together to share in food, prayer and one another’s company.   The end of Ramadan, or the breaking of the fast, is a celebration of grand proportions.

To all my Muslim friends I extend a Happy Ramadan!

M. xo

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When did Christmas stop being a Holiday?

December 3rd, 2011 No comments

The real war on christmas

It’s that time of year again. No sooner do the first snow flakes fall and the rhetoric around whether it’s appropriate to replace “Happy Holidays” with “Merry Christmas” begins to fly. It’s one of the most divisive issues surrounding this season.

Firstly, there are the annual campaigns via email and social media promoting the “put the Christ back in Christmas” polemic. I’ve always found this particular argument curious. Last time I checked, Christ hadn’t left Christmas. What has changed is that fewer people are celebrating Christmas as a religious holiday — if at all. Christmas is still a Christian derived holy day, and Jesus is still very much a part of that day for those who follow his teachings. For believers, Christ is present and accounted for in the celebration of this holy day.

Following this are the claims that somehow Christmas has been hijacked by other cultures’ religions. The arguments usually follow the reasoning that because we live in a Western society built on the Judeo-Christian tradition that Christmas should take it’s rightful place as the holiday of the land.


It’s true that our heritage is that of a Judeo-Christian tradition, but our heritage also includes unequal rights for women and minority groups, child labour, the assimilation of First Nation’s people… need I go on?

Societies evolve, and for us this has included the separation of church and state.  Citizens are free to practice the religion of their choice.  States, however, are required to keep religion out of its affairs (in principle anyway). It’s a bit ironic that so many Westerners have much to say about Eastern nations living under religious rule, yet so little to say about the idea of forcing Christmas on ever person living in this hemisphere.

So, we’ve reverted to calling Christmas a holiday. What’s so wrong with that? It IS a HOLY day for Christians, but it’s also a HOLY time of year for a number of other religious groups. Using the term “Happy Holidays” is merely an inclusive way to wish everyone a joyous season — and really isn’t that what this time of year is all about?  Shouldn’t we be trying to spread joy and our very best to everyone?


It’s interesting that while so many of us have been debating this tiresome rhetoric, that we’ve failed to notice how the sacredness of this holy season has been hijacked by rampant consumerism.  Maybe those are the real issues we should be examining.  Why has a holy day meant to bring families and people together in joyful spirit become a sacred day for big box stores and credit card companies?  Just something worth thinking about…



Canadian Thanksgiving, eh?

October 8th, 2011 No comments

It’s the start of the Thanksgiving long weekend here in Canada.  What makes Canada’s Thanksgiving holiday differ from the American holiday of the same name?  Aside from falling on different dates, the historical underpinnings of this celebrated occasion is markedly different too. Here’s a primer for you on the origins and rites of a Canadian Thanksgiving.  My fellow Canucks, enjoy your holiday weekend.  May it be filled with laughter, great food and warm company.  Cheers, eh! M. xo


The Origins of Easter

April 17th, 2011 No comments

No doubt this time of year is celebrated by the vast majority of us, Christian or otherwise. While many who follow the teachings of Jesus Christ will be celebrating something sacred during the season, others will be indulging in a more commercial spin to this holy holiday.

I’m referring to the popular Easter egg hunts and giving of chocolate bunnies and spring themed gifts. So, what the heck does a giant bunny have to do with the death of a revered prophet? The below video courtesy of the History Channel does an adequate job of explaining the origins of Easter.

Clearly, whatever you call this week, a common theme is present. This time of year represents new life, rebirth, and fertility. From the resurrection of Jesus to images of bunnies (known for their high fertility) to baby chicks to eggs – it’s clear that we’re all celebrating life. One doesn’t need a book or ancient myths to realize the significance of the season. Merely taking a walk outside and observing the natural world in its splendour is evidence enough of the perfection of this time of year. That is all the reason I need to celebrate the season.

Happy Big-Easter-Bunny-Egg Day to you and yours! M. xo

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