Washington, DC – Holy Times

Happy Holidays to all. May this indeed be a peaceful, blessed Holy Time, celebrated in your own way, and may this also become the time when all Life is respected and cherished!

Washington, DC welcomes global visitors as the capital of the nation which leads the Free World, so it is important to understand as much as possible about the customs of other peoples and religions at this shared month of holy times.

___ Devali, the Hindu Festival of Light and start of the Hindu New Year, was celebrated the first week of November, this year. Diwali is a 5 day, lunar calendar festival which also honors the victory of good over evil, and brightness over darkness. And, it marks the start of winter.

On the third day of the festival, lots of small clay lamps (diyas) and candles are lit and placed in homes giving Diwali its name of “Festival of Lights”. People also clean and decorate their homes with Rangoli (Hindu folk art) and give each other gifts during the festival.

The rituals vary according to region of India, however, in most areas people send special blessings are given to Laxshmi, the Goddess of wealth and prosperity, and Ganesha, the remover of obstacles.

The Goddess Laxshmi will visit every home during the Diwali period, bringing with her prosperity and good fortune. It’s said that she visits the cleanest houses first, therefore people make sure their houses are spotless before lighting lamps to invite her in.

Holy Days in December, 2010:

___ This year, on a lunar calendar, December 1 -9 was when Jews started to celebrate Hanukkah, a universal holy time for remembrance of the triumph of the 1st battle for religious freedom and the miracle which happened as the war ended. Read more about the 8 day celebration at:
Hanukkah 1
Hanukkah 2

___ The Muslims started to celebrate on December 7, with their Al-Hijira — Islamic New Year. This holiday marks the migration of the Prophet Mohammad and his followers from Mecca to Medina, and it is the first day of the month of Muharram. It marks the Journey, the Hijra (or Hegira) which happened in 622 CE. In Medina, Mohammad set up the first Islamic state.

The Muslim calendar counts dates from the Hijra, which is why Muslim dates have the suffix A.H. (After Hijra), and it is a low-key event, celebrated less than the two recent, major festivals of Eid-ul-Fitr and Eid-ul-Adha.

Muslims regard this as a good time for ‘New Year Resolutions’.
It marks the start of Islam as a community in which spiritual and earthly life were completely integrated. And, showed a group of people could be bound together by faith, rather than just being a tribe. Tribal and family loyalties became less significant compared to the bonds of Islam.

Because of the lunar calendar, Ramadan sometimes falls in December. The actual date for the start of Ramadan depends upon the sighting of the crescent moon, and can be in various months.

This is the holiest period in the Islamic year. Ramadan honors the lunar month in which the Qura’n (Koran) was revealed by God to humanity, so Muslims observe the Fast of Ramadan which lasts for the entire month. Muslims fast during the daylight hours and in the evening eat small meals, visit with friends and family, and use the time for worship and contemplation.

___ On December 8, or on the Sunday immediately preceding, the Buddhists celebrate Bodhi Day (Rohatsu). It recalls the day in 596 BCE, in India, when Prince Siddartha, the Buddha, achieved enlightenment.

In his father’s kingdom in Northern India, Prince Siddartha left his family, sheltered, privileged status and courtly possessions behind at the age of 29, and sought the meaning of life — particularly the reasons for its hardships.

For many years, he studied under various spiritual teachers without success. Finally, he sat under a bo tree and made a vow — that he would stay there until he found what he was seeking.

It was on the morning of the eighth day that he realized that everyone suffers due to ignorance. But ignorance can be overcome through the Eightfold Path which he advocated.

This day is generally regarded as the birth of Buddhism. It does signify the point in time when the Buddha achieved enlightenment, and escaped the endless cycle of birth, death, rebirth through reincarnation — themes that are observed in other religions in December.

I’ll share some more next time, including Xmas, on the day before Christmas. Ask your concierge at the hotel about places for your community’s worship and gathering places.

Washington, DC Travel – Archived Articles

©2010 mystic at Travel Vacation Review

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