Archive for the "Religious" Category
When is Feast of the Immaculate Conception?
The Feast of the Immaculate Conception is a Christian holiday celebrated every December 8th. Observed primarily in Catholic churches, the holiday upholds the belief that Jesus was conceived without sin by the Virgin Mary. The types of celebrations vary by region, as well as various sects within Christianity.
According to Christian scripture, Jesus was conceived by the Virgin Mary. It is often referred to as an “Immaculate Conception.” However, there was much debate about the circumstances surrounding Jesus’ birth throughout the history of Christianity. Some questioned whether the circumstances, as well as whether Mary was born without original sin.
On December 8, 1854, Pope Pius IX cleared up the controversies through his Ineffabilis Deus. Through this written piece of work, Pope Pius IX declared that Mary was not born through original sin, and that God would not have chosen her to be the mother of Jesus of this wasn’t the case. Since then, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception has become an important holiday for many Christians across the globe.
Types of Celebrations
The most common way people celebrate this holiday is by attending special church events and masses. This is particularly the case in Catholic churches. Preachers and priests prepare special sermons about the importance of the Virgin Mary, and to uphold the idea of Immaculate Conception.
Some households may also hold individual celebrations for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. This can be in the form of an extended family get-together, a large family prayer, or a special dinner. Such celebrations are more common in Catholic families. Symbols of the Virgin Mary are prevalent during this holiday, primarily in the form of paintings of her with stars above her head. Another important symbol of the holiday is the Our Lady of Camarin statue, which was found in Guam during the 1700s.
Extent of Celebrations
The extent of the celebrations often varies by region. In the continental United States, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception isn’t considered a public holiday because of secularism in the country. If December 8th falls on a weekday, government employees still go to work, and students to still go public school. Some Catholic schools don’t have classes that day, but may instead require church attendance.
Guam, a territory of the United States, is an exception. Here the Feast of the Immaculate Conception is a public holiday. This is partly due to the finding of the Our Lady of Camarin statue over three centuries ago. While the holiday has been challenged in the past, most citizens of Guam strongly support the extent of celebrations surrounding the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. In Guam, the holiday is more commonly referred to as Our Lady of Camarin Day.
Some countries outside of the United States regard the Feast of the Immaculate Conception as a public holiday. These include heavy Catholic countries, such as Spain, Argentina and Peru. It is also a public holiday in Vatican City, the world’s Catholic center in Rome, Italy.
When is Epiphany?
Epiphany is one of the oldest holidays in Christianity. It is celebrated every year on January 6th, and it commemorates the visit to Jesus by the Three Wise Men shortly after his birth. Epiphany is older than Christmas, but ties into the holiday season in the Christian church. The types of celebrations vary based on faith, family customs and region.
History of Epiphany
Epiphany marks the day when the Three Wise Men made their journey to Bethlehem to see Jesus, the newborn king. According to the Holy Bible, the men followed a star to the stable where Jesus was born. This is often regarded as a sign from God. Each of the men brought a gift for Jesus: frankincense, gold and myrrh. Epiphany is also the day in which Christians believe that Jesus was baptized.
This is considered one of the holiest of holidays, which was identified early on in the history of Christianity – less than two centuries after the crucifixion of Jesus. In fact, Christian scholars believe that Epiphany was celebrated well before Christmas Day, the latter of which celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ. Epiphany is also the old holiday that celebrates the nativity.
Celebrations and Customs
The types of celebrations also vary between Eastern and Western Christians. The Eastern Orthodox Church primarily commemorates Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan River around Epiphany. In Western sects of Christianity, such as Catholicism and Protestantism, the journey of the Three Wise Men is the center of celebrations.
All churches have special services on or around Epiphany. If the holiday doesn’t fall on the traditional day of Mass, then a church may decide to hold its celebrations on the date closest to January 6th. Other churches may have sermons on both days. The focus on the service is on Jesus’ birth, with variations based on Eastern and Western beliefs.
Celebrations of Epiphany also vary by family. Many Christian households conduct special prayers on January 6th, while others cook a feast in celebration of the sacred holiday. To some Christians, Epiphany marks the end of the Christmas holiday season. This is why many families choose to take down their Christmas decorations on or around January 6th. Another traditional custom is the reenactment of baptism ceremonies.
The star that guided the Three Wise Men to Jesus’ place of birth in Bethlehem is the most important symbol of Epiphany. Replicas are placed in churches as well as Christian homes. Some families also commemorate Epiphany by replicating the three types of gifts given to Jesus by the Three Wise Men.
Extent of Celebrations
Epiphany is not considered a government or public holiday in many countries. This is especially the case in western countries like the United States, where secularism is upheld. In such cases, workers typically don’t take the day off. However, the holiday is more commonplace in deeply religious nations such as Peru, Russia and Spain. Some businesses and schools close so that citizens may have the opportunity to participate in Epiphany customs and celebrations.
When is Muharram?
Muharram is a holiday that marks the start of the Islamic New Year. Not only is it the first month on the Islamic calendar, but it is also one out of the four sacred months, as outlined in the Quran. Muslims around the world celebrate the first days of Muharram every year through related customs and traditions. The exact date of Muharram varies every year because of variations in the lunar calendar it is based on.
History of Muharram
This sacred month on the Islamic calendar stems from events that have occurred throughout the history of the Muslim religion on the same month of the lunar calendar. Most of these events are centered on Husayn ibn Ali, who was the grandson of Muhammad. Among these events include the beginning of the Battle of Karbala, which Ali’s army ultimately lost in 680 CE. The tenth day of Muharram is particularly important within Islam because it marks the anniversary of Ali’s death.
Muharram is first, and foremost, a time of prayer. Prayers are conducted throughout the first day of Muharram, and may be done so in groups on the tenth day. Evening prayers are commonplace throughout the months of Muharram. This sacred tradition may be conducted individually or by group. Prayers are focused on mourning of Muharram, as well as on peace.
Fasting is another major tradition of Muharram, but the act varies between dominations of the Islamic religion. Sunni Muslims often fast more frequently over the course of Muharram than Shi’a Muslims. In some Sunni Muslim groups, followers will fast the first ten days of Muharram. The fasting consists of restricted food and drink during daylight hours, but eating and drinking is permitted during the evening.
The tenth day of Muharram is typically the primary day for fasting. Not only does it commemorate the martyrdom of Mohammad’s grandson, but it is also a special day when Muslims commemorate the escape of Moses and the Israelites from the Pharaoh. However, fasting traditions may start as early as the first day of Muharram. Fasting is also of particular significance on the seventh day because Ali and his army were denied access to water.
Other Muharram celebrations may consist of charitable deeds. This is accomplished in an effort to promote a sense of peace and goodwill. Fighting and violence are prohibited during Muharram. Muslims in Indonesia host a special day of meditation on this holiday.
Muharram is celebrated around the world. Some of the ways the holiday is celebrated varies by region. For example, while fasting is commonplace at the beginning of Muharram globally among Muslims, month-long fasting isn’t as common in some countries. While the U.S. doesn’t regard Muharram as a public holiday, it is considered as such in other countries. In areas where Islam is the predominant religion, businesses and government offices are often closed.
In 2013, Muharram will occur on November 5th. Because of variations in the lunar calendar, Muharram will occur on October 25th in 2014, and on October 15th in 2015.
By: Kristeen Cherney
When is First Sunday Advent?
First Sunday Advent marks the start the western Christian year. The exact date varies each year, but it is always on the Sunday near St. Andrew’s Day. First Sunday Advent is also as the kick-off holiday to the Advent season, which ends on Christmas Day. The whole Advent season lasts between 22 and 28 days, and always encompasses three Sundays including First Sunday Advent.
History of the Advent
The date of the First Sunday Advent is unknown. Given the fact that the holiday is celebrated within western Christian churches, it was likely founded after the Great Schism that divided the Roman Catholic Church from the Eastern Orthodox Church. Eastern churches celebrate the days leading up to Christmas, which consists of a timeframe of 40 days called the Nativity Fast. First Sunday Advent should not be confused with the Nativity Fast.
Traditional Religious Customs
Given the significance of Christmas in the Christian church, it’s no surprise that First Sunday Advent is an extremely important way to mark the season. Churches mark the holiday with services dedicated to reminders about the significance of the birth of Jesus. Some churches may choose to light extra candles during the services. Candle lighting ceremonies are also commonplace within the homes of families that celebrate First Sunday Advent.
Fasting is considered an ancient way of observing First Sunday Advent; however, some observers still choose to celebrate the holiday in such a way. The fast may be for a full 24-hour period, or it could be for a significant portion of the day. Young children, the elderly and the ill are typically not expected to participate.
Other traditional religious customs aren’t as serious as fasting. In many regions, First Sunday Advent marks the day in which families can start preparing for the Christmas holiday. This includes everything from sending out cards, shopping for presents, decorating the tree and decking the halls. Waiting until First Sunday Advent is not as commonplace in many western nations, where the Christmas shopping season is seen as early as before Halloween.
Popular Modern Celebrations
While First Sunday Advent remains a deeply religious holiday, many of its traditions have made their way into the modern secular market. The Advent calendar is just one example of this. These calendars are sold in stores in the form of cardboard boxes marked with the correct number of days in the Advent for that year. In some cases, manufacturers simply start the Advent calendars on December 1st and end them on December 25th, Christmas Day. Most modern day Advent calendars contain chocolates and other small treats enclosed in doors on each day of the calendar. In other countries, Advent calendars contain other gifts representative of those given by the Three Wise Men to Jesus Christ after his birth.
Wreaths are another popular way to celebrate First Sunday Advent. Some families choose to decorate their front doors with traditional Christmas wreaths starting on the holiday. Others mark the occasion by displaying purple wreaths—the color represents royalty to commemorate the Jesus, the king in Christianity.
The extent of First Sunday Advent varies by region. In secular nations like the United States, the holiday isn’t public. Citizens who choose to celebrate the holiday may do so, most often by attending special church services. Celebrations are more public and widespread in other countries, such as Germany.
By: Kristeen Cherney