A Whole Lot'a Holy, Part I
What people of faith are celebrating over the next 30+ days.
Part I: Covering events from February 22 – March 31, 2022
The following eight to twelve weeks are the most religious of the year. Hold on to your yarmulkes, hijabs, ghutras, araqchins, taqiyahs, shtreimels, mitres, kāṣāyas, turbans, veils, and hairstyles…we’re about to head (forgive the pun) into a whole lot of holy observances. Each of the major faiths has something to celebrate!
This will be another two-part newsletter. Part I focuses on religious events between February 22 and March 31, 2022, and part II will cover April 1-May 10, 2022. The following is a primer on the basics of each of the six primary world religions.
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WHY KNOWING FAITH HOLIDAYS IS IMPORTANT
If you own a company, do business internationally or with diverse communities in your country, work in human resources, teach or have anything to do with a wide range of people from different faiths and cultures, this issue will be helpful. The travel and tourism industries specifically benefit. Many of these events are significant celebrations of faith, which means friends, family, and travel. Even if you are not a person of faith, if you enjoy traveling, fares tend to go up around popular holidays.
This issue sticks with the basic principles of each faith. I hope that, regardless of your religion (or absence), this will provide a simple understanding of what a coworker, friend, client, market, nation, associate, or colleague might be celebrating. For more details, ask. Most people love it when people show an interest in their traditions, customs, and beliefs. Consider this an opportunity to explore and learn more, make a new friend, or deepen an existing friendship.
Ready? Let’s celebrate!
CARNAVAL, MARDI GRAS
February 24 – March 1, 2022
CHRISTIAN: A week of gluttony, celebration, and mayhem, basically a lot of fun, is upon us. In Brazil, it is referred to as Carnaval (Portuguese spelling). In New Orleans, Mardi Gras. Head to the British Commonwealth, and you’ll find many pancakes (more on that later). All this celebration in the Christian world is in preparation for Lent, the 40 days of fasting and reflection leading up to Easter. If you’ve never attended Carnaval or Mardi Gras (similar celebrations are in most major cities in the Roman Catholic world), make sure to put it on your bucket list. It’s an experience of sight, sound, food, libation, and color unlike anything else in the world. Prepare to have blisters on your feet at the end. You’ll dance from dawn until dusk.
Carnaval in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, is the ultimate experience. Samba schools parade through the streets in the most elaborate costumes you’ve ever seen, dancing to a soundtrack frenetic and unique to the event. People spend an entire year and a small fortune creating their costumes for Carnaval. Days are spent sleeping. Around 4 PM, the country awakes. By 8 PM, the streets begin filling with revelers who will dance until dawn. In town squares and private clubs throughout the country, Carnaval parties are held over six days and five nights.
What is the purpose of Carnaval and Mardi Gras? Get all your sinful behavior out of your system before the fast.
PANCAKE WEEK, FAT TUESDAY & SHROVE TUESDAY
February 22-March 1, March 1, 2022
CHRISTIAN: This is where pancakes come in. Pancake Week is popular in the British Commonwealth nations. Traditionally, fat, sugar, alcohol, meat, and dairy products were eliminated from your diet during the 40 days of Lent. Sex, too (sorry). Because of that, people ate loads of pancakes slathered in butter and drenched syrup before the fast. Larders were emptied of all forbidden food, culminating with Fat Tuesday (Shrove Tuesday, or Pancake Day), a major feast.
ASH WEDNESDAY AND LENT
March 2, 2022; March 2 – April 14, 2022
March 9, 2022; March 9-April 23, 2022 Orthodox
CHRISTIAN: Of course, all good things must come to an end. Welcome to Ash Wednesday and the first day of Lent. In ancient times, throwing ash over your head indicated to God that you were repenting (changing your ways and asking for forgiveness). Today, Christian clergy draw a cross in ash on your forehead, which is why you’ll see people wandering around with dirty foreheads on Ash Wednesday.
Lent is a religious observance in Christianity that begins 40 days before Easter. Forty days is the number of days Jesus fasted in the desert and was tempted by the devil. The fast begins on Ash Wednesday and concludes on Maundy Thursday (the day before Good Friday when the crucifixion occurred).
The purpose of Lent is to prepare for the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abram (Abraham), a new covenant created with mankind through Jesus Christ. It is a season observed by all Christians, though more stringently in the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches. Traditionally there is prayer, penance, and atonement leading up to the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It’s customary in modern times to give up one pleasure during Lent, to fast from it. Most people choose sugar, alcohol, tobacco, chocolate, or something else they struggle with. In some cases, people abstain from behaviors like lying or cursing.
March 3, 2022
BUDDHIST: Tibetan Buddhist Calendar is the most common calendar used in the Buddhist faith. Losar is the beginning of the new year. This year is 2149 in the calendar.
March 14, 2022
SIKH: Nanakshahi Era is the official New Year's Day of the Sikh calendar. This is year 554 in the faith.
TA’ANIT ESTHER & PURIM
March 16 - March 17, 2022
JEWISH: Purim, also referred to as the Festival of Lots, occurs on the 14th of the Hebrew calendar month of Adar. It is a minor Jewish holiday marking events from the Book of Esther. Esther prevented a genocide against the Hebrew people by Persian King Ahasuerus around 365 BCE. It’s a story about God’s hands being in everything, whether we see it or not. And a little bit about a woman’s ability to outsmart a man.
Purim is often referred to as the “Jewish Halloween.” It is celebrated in costume, with food, lots of drinking, gifts, and merriment. It is the most whimsical of the Jewish holiday celebrations.
The day before, the day the Persians were due to draw lots to massacre the Hebrews, is a fasting day known as Ta’anit Esther, or Esther’s Fast.
HOLIKA DAHAN AND HOLI
March 17-19, 2022
HINDU: One of the major festivals of the Hindu faith, Holi is celebrated with enthusiasm at the full moon in the Hindu month of Phalgun. It marks the end of winter and the beginning of spring.
There is no more colorful holiday than Holi. Like Carnaval in Brazil, Holi is something you must experience in person at least once. Everywhere you go in India, Holi is visible. On the sides of the road, you’ll see piles of gulal/abir (multi-colored powder) during the days leading up to the festival. Pichkaris, which look like a water gun, are essential to Holi. Children play with pichkaris filled with gulal, fine sand, and water, running around and dousing each other, thus covering everyone and everything in color. Essentially, the dull grey colors of winter are erased. The holiday is also a celebration of family, faith, and hope.
Gujia, a sweet dumpling, is central to the Holi celebration. Women prepare Gujia at home and share them with their friends, family, and neighbors.
On the eve of Holi, Holika Dahan, effigies of the devil are roasted on a pyre.
March 18-20, 2022
SIKH: Hola Mohalla is the first day of the lunar month of Chet in the Nanakshahi calendar of the Sikh faith. It coincides with the Hindu festival of colors, Holi.
Guru Gobind Singh started this observance in which Sikhs practice military exercises and hold mock battles.
March 19, 2022
SIKH: Sikhism centers on the birth, teachings, and deaths of the ten founding gurus. Jotijot is the death anniversary of the sixth guru, Guru Hargobind Sahib, on March 19, 1644. Hargobind is best known for organizing the defense of Sikhs, creating an army that defended the people from persecution. He was an exceptional swordsman and expert in martial arts. Jotijot is a day of reflection and prayer in the faith.
March 18/19, 2022
ISLAM: Laylat al Bara’a, Nisfu Syaaban, or the “Night of Forgiveness,” is an Islamic observance. Muslims believe God writes the following year’s destiny for each man, woman, and child on this night. Typically, Muslims will stay awake all night in prayer and the commemoration of the deceased.
For Shia Muslims, this is the birthdate of Imam al-Mahdi, the final imam, in 869 CE.
March 20/21, 2022
ISLAM: Falling on the first day of spring in the northern hemisphere, the International Day of Nowruz (also spelled Noruz) is also noted by the United Nations General Assembly as an official day of cultural heritage. This is the Shi'ia new year. It is celebrated in Afghanistan, Albania, Azerbaijan, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, India, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkey, and Turkmenistan.
International Day of Nowruz promotes values of peace and solidarity between generations and within families, as well as reconciliation and neighborliness, thus contributing to cultural diversity and friendship among peoples and communities. It is also observed in the Baha'i faith.
OSTARA / ALBAN EILER
March 20, 2022
PAGAN: Named after the Germanic goddess Ostara, this pagan holiday occurs yearly on the eve of the vernal equinox. It is the herald of spring.
SANKASHTI CHATURTHI, BHALACHANDRA, DWIJAPRIYA
March 21, 2022
HINDU: In the Hindu faith, Chaturthi is dedicated to Lord Ganesha. If this Chaturthi falls on a Tuesday, it is called Angarki Sankashti Chaturthi. Hindu devotees observe strict fasting from sunrise until darshan (the sight of the moon). Prayers to Lord Ganesha precede the breaking of the fast.
FEAST OF THE ANNUNCIATION
March 25, 2022
CHRISTIAN: A national holiday in Lebanon since 2010, the Feast of the Annunciation celebrates the Christian and Islamic belief that the Archangel Gabriel appeared to the Virgin Mary and told her she was carrying the Christ child. March 25 is exactly nine months from Christmas Day, December 25. The Roman Catholic Church celebrates this feast day yearly, though it may be moved if it falls between Palm Sunday and Easter.
March 25, 2022
JEWISH: Shabbat Parah occurs on the Saturday after Purim. It marks the start of the preparations for Passover and is one of the most critical Shabbats of the Jewish faith. It is an initiation and purification ritual involving a red heifer (Parah Adumah in Hebrew) in antiquity. Today, specific passages from the Torah are read, coupled with prayer and reflection. To participate in Passover, the Torah instructs one to be purified of contamination before making the pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the celebration. Through the sprinkling of water over the heifer, one becomes pure.
Rabbis often refer to this as the greatest of mysteries. Purity is attained by the impure in sprinkling water over the cow. However, the impurity of the pure is re-introduced by touching its ashes. Only the pure may eat the cow during Passover—Yes, I hope one of my Jewish readers explains this better than me!
Shabbat begins at sundown on Friday and ends at sunset on Saturday. This event is based on the book of Numbers, Chapter 19, verses 1-22.
March 27, 2022
CHRISTIAN: Laetare Sunday is the fourth Sunday of Lent. Also referred to as Rejoice Sunday, it occurs twice a year. First, it celebrates the joy of knowing the Messiah is soon to be born (Christmas) during Advent. This is the second time each year leading up to the resurrection (Easter) and what that means for all mankind, believer and non-believer alike.
Part II of A Whole Lot’a Holy includes the major religious holidays of Passover, Easter, Ramadan, Vesak, and Eid-al-Fitr.
Peace, Shalom, Salam, and Namaste.