For much of the western world Christmas is a big deal. Even for people who aren’t particularly religious, it’s an opportunity to get together with families, share gifts and chill out. The typical British festive greeting at this time of year is Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, but it’s not the only festivity around this time of year.
At the beginning of December the Jewish community celebrated Hannukah – often known as the festival of lights. This lasts over a period of eight days.
You can wish people Happy Hanukkah or in Hebrew “Hanukkah Sameach!” (Happy Hanukkah) or even “Chag Sameach!” (Happy Holiday). If you want to show off your Hebrew skills, say “Chag Urim Sameach!”
Throughout December the Japanese celebrate Oseibo, which is the tradition of giving gifts at the end of the year to thank people who have taken care of you or done good deeds.
Diwali is the Hindu festival of lights celebrated to honour Rama-chandra, the seventh avatar (incarnation of the god Vishnu). This five-day festival celebrates the victory of light over darkness, good over evil and knowledge over ignorance. In 2018 this started on 5th November, with the main day of Diwali on 7th, in 2019 it’s earlier on 27th October.
In preparation, people clean, decorate and refurbish their homes and offer worship to the goddess Lakshmi. Fireworks play a big part as well as prayers and, of course, a great deal of eating!
The Chinese operate a slightly different calendar to the western world and celebrate their New Year later in January, sometimes in February (in 2019 it will be on 5th February), depending on the new moon. This is not only celebrated in China, but in Chinese communities all around the world. During the celebration both gods and ancestors are honoured and lighting firecrackers is part of the celebration. Typically, gifts of money are given in a red paper envelope.
The Muslim celebrations are a movable feast – as the Arab year is approximately 10 days shorter than the western year. This means that the holy month of Ramadan, when Muslims fast during daylight hours, and the festival of Eid Al Fitr, which takes place when this month of fasting is over, move every year. In 2019 Ramadan will start around 6th May, depending on the new moon, which means Eid will take place early in June.
During Eid Muslims generally get dressed up in new clothes and visit each other to celebrate with food and family socialising, often with gifts too. The greeting of ‘Eid Mubarak’, means ‘Blessed Eid’.
Whatever you celebrate we wish you festive greetings!