Exploring holiday observances

Branch out of your traditional religious activities and see what other cultures and religions have to offer

By Justin Chapman, Pasadena Weekly, 11/24/2011

Everyone knows when Christmas happens and what it’s about: celebrating Jesus’ birthday and giving gifts to the ones you love. It is a very festive time of year, and one need only visit the Balian Mansion or Christmas Tree Lane in Altadena to confirm that assertion.

But what about all the other holidays celebrated and observed by Christians and non-Christians alike? How much do people generally know about other cultures’ holidays?

Take, Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of Lights. Setting aside Jewish people for a moment, how many of you know when Hanukkah takes place or what it’s really all about, besides the comical songs by Adam Sandler and the fact that a menorah with eight candles is used to celebrate the holiday?

HANUKKAH. This year Hanukkah, which is celebrated for eight days around late November to late December, is from Dec. 20 to Dec. 28. Hanukkah, the name derived from a Hebrew word meaning “to dedicate,” is always the 25th of Kislev on the Hebrew calendar, and lasts for eight days.

There are many fun activities taking place that that you could be a part of. The Pasadena Jewish Temple, in conjunction with Union Station Homeless Services, kicks off its event in Central Park with a massive food and toy drive on Thanksgiving.

To learn more about Judaism, all are welcome to attend Rabbi Kollin’s seminar called “Introduction to Judaism,” which takes place from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Nov. 29 at 1434 N. Altadena Drive, Pasadena.

The temple also has many events planned before, during and after Hanukkah. Visit pjtc.net for more information.
KWANZAA. Although Kwanzaa was first celebrated in December 1966, making it one of the world’s youngest recognized holidays, the event is meant to honor African culture and traditions on continents around the world. The holiday is a week-long celebration that ends with a feast and an exchange of gifts. According to www.decemberholidays.org, approximately 13 percent, of African-Americans, about 5 million people, commemorate the occasion.

The founder of Kwanzaa was Maulana Karenga, whose goal was to create an occasion where African descendents could celebrate their culture and values. In earlier years, Kwanzaa was viewed as anti-Christian. During the early years, the Africans who were observing these December holidays did not borrow or combine any aspects of other festivals into their celebrations. Lately, though, the mixing of other festivals with the Kwanzaa holiday is becoming very common.

This year Kwanzaa will be Dec. 26 to Jan. 1. Visit apples4theteacher.com/holidays/kwanzaa for Kwanzaa and other holiday traditions this winter.

ISLAMIC NEW YEAR and ASHURA. The Islamic year is about 11 or 12 days shorter than the Gregorian calendar year, which is used by most Americans. This year, the Islamic New Year’s Day begins at sunset Nov. 25 and ends at sunset Nov. 26.

Ashura, on the other hand, is commemorated by Shia Muslims as a day of mourning for the Battle of Karbala, when the Umayyad army killed a small group of resistance soldiers on the 10th day of Muharram. It is a day of remembrance and mourning for these soldiers. It is also commemorated as a day of mourning for the martyrdom of Husayn ibn Ali, the grandson of the Islamic Prophet Muhammad, who died in the same battle on the same day.
This year, services will be held Dec. 5.