The Holiday Season is a phrase widely used in the USA and often met with derision in the UK. However, in a country without an established church and to which people have immigrated from all over the world, it makes perfect sense to include as many religions and beliefs as possible. So, what festivals can the phrase The Holiday Season incorporate?
The period begins with the American secular family holiday of Thanksgiving. This holiday is the one in the year where families and friends in the USA make a concerted effort to gather together to celebrate with a traditional meal centred around a roast turkey. The celebration is based on the pilgrims' harvest of 1621 which was shared with them by the native Americans of the Wampanoag tribe. However, many of the other holidays at this time of year have a religious background.
Hannukah means dedication in Hebrew. This Jewish festival usually falls in November or December and commemorates a time when the second temple in Jerusalem was recovered and rededicated in the 2nd century BC when the Jews triumphed over the Syrians. It is an eight day celebration where candles are lit to symbolise the eight days that the temple burned. On the first day one candle is lit, the second, two candles and so on while prayers are recited and songs sung.
The festival of Lights is called Diwali and is celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs and Jains. It is the biggest and most important festival in India and lasts five days. During this time the triumph of light over darkness is celebrated along with the triumph of good over evil and the ability of humans to overcome adversity. The five days of the holiday centres around the new moon and usually falls in October or November.
The Christian Festival of Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ as the son of God. The period of Advent occurs during the four weeks up to 25th December but Celebrations begin in earnest on Christmas Eve, December 24, but centres on the following day, Christmas Day when a special meal is prepared and gifts exchanged. Often celebrations and family gatherings often continue until St Stephen's Day on December 26th.
Eid follows Ramadan and is the Islamic festival which celebrates the willingness of Ibrahim to follow Allah's instruction to sacrifice his son, Ismail. Eid lasts four days and involves special prayers, gatherings of family and friends, charity and the exchange of gifts. This festival rarely falls late enough in the year to lie within the traditional holiday period, but it is always special when it does.
So many different festivals and traditions but in each of them the gathering of family and friends is central. Generations gather and friends unite. However you celebrate during the holiday season, stay safe, happy and enjoy time with family and friends.