Religious Holidays Around the World
by Margaret Manalo
Published: December 19, 2014
1. Saint Nicholas Day is celebrated on either December 5th or 6th, mostly in Eastern European and Germanic countries. What item is a strong representation of this festivity?
2. Bodhi Day is also known as the Day of Enlightenment, a religious observance for Buddhists. Buddha was born as Siddharta Gautama, who became Buddha after discovering enlightenment in what situation?
A. beneath a fig tree
B. mediating near water
C. in a dream
D. through a prayer
3. The eve of December 12 marks the pinnacle of the festival for the Mexican Republic’s Our Lady of Guadalupe, in which conchero dancers gather in the atrium of the church. The name of these dancers derives from the word concha, meaning “shell,” that corresponds to what instrument for the festival?
4. The eight-day celebration Hanukkah, alternatively spelled Chanukah, has what meaning in Hebrew?
5. During the five-day celebration of the Hindu festival Pancha Ganapati, what concept is most central to show appreciation for Lord Ganesha?
A. color symbolism
B. cultural chants
C. offering special foods
D. traditional dances
6. Also on December 21, the Germanic people celebrate Yule, a Pagan winter festival. From what concept does the word Yule originate?
7. José Rizal, who initiated the Philippine revolution against the Spanish colonizers. Rizal Day is celebrated on December 30, which represents what significance?
8. José Rizal, who initiated the Philippine revolution against the Spanish colonizers. Rizal Day is celebrated on December 30, which represents what significance?
A. his birth
B. his death
C. publication of his first novel “Noli me Tangere”
D. publication of his second novel “El filibusterismo”
1. [B] shoes
December 6th is the beginning of Advent and honors a feast for the bishop, Saint Nicholas. This celebration is mainly observed in Eastern Europe and Germanic countries such as Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and the Netherlands – as well as Italy. Saint Nicholas arrives on the night of December 5th. In preparation, children leave their shoes (or stockings) upon windowsills or outside their bedroom door. Saint Nicholas fills the shoes of good children with treats like cookies, nuts, fruits, and sweets. One aspect of this tradition is to deter from solely associating the approaching Christmas day with gift giving. Enjoying the presents early in the month enables the proper anticipation and celebration of Christ’s birth.
Miller, J. (2014, January 1). Celebrating for the Feast of St. Nicholas. Retrieved December 2, 2014, from http://www.catholicculture.org/culture/liturgicalyear/activities/view.cfm?id=964
2. [A] beneath a fig tree
Bodhi day celebrates Buddha’s awakening or enlightenment, observed on the 8th day of the 12th lunar month. Rohatsu in Japanese, it’s celebrated on the 8th of December in Japan. 2,500 years ago, young prince Siddharta Gautama sat beneath a fig tree in pursuit of enlightenment. He promised to not budge until achieving enlightenment, which involved facing his demons and taming temptations and distractions of restlessness, anger, doubt, or greed. He first achieved a state of calm awareness, then reflected upon on all life on earth. When dawn approached, as did more epiphanies and once he contemplated Dharma, he became the Buddha, the awakened one. Bodhi Day is celebrated through meditation, displaying statues of the Buddha under a fig tree, and decorating houses with multiple colors to signify that enlightenment is attained in many ways. It is also traditional to have a meal of rice and milk – the same meal eaten by Buddha after his awakening.
Bodhi Day is a religious observance for Buddhists. (2014, January 1). Retrieved December 9, 2014, from http://aglobalworld.com/holidays-around-the-world/bodhi-day-buddhist/
3. [D] mandolin
Our Lady of Guadalupe, also known as the Dark Virgin, has been the patron saint of the Mexican Republic since 1531. The festival in her honor is translated as Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe and actually beings a week before December 12. Thousands of pilgrims from all over the country head to the Basilica of Ville Madero. The most impressive ceremonies take place there, including the opportunity for people to make their offerings in the church. At the peak of the festival on the 12th, mandolin-like instruments made of armadillo shells accompany the groups of dancers (concheros). The particular songs and dances of the concheros are performed all over Mexico and have traditionally been handed down through many generations.
Benet, S. (2014, January 1). Celebrating for the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Retrieved December 2, 2014, from http://www.catholicculture.org/culture/liturgicalyear/activities/view.cfm?id=968
4. [C] dedication
Hanukkah means “dedication” in Hebrew, befitting as it is the Jewish festival of rededication. The eight-day festival of lights begins on the 25th day of the Jewish month Kisley. The celebration serves to commemorate victory of the Maccabees over the armies of Syria in 165 B.C.E. that led to the liberation and “rededication” of the Temple in Jerusalem. The most familiar ritual object associated with Hanukkah is the menorah, which is a Hebrew word that means “candelabrum.” The menorah is the nine-branch ceremonial lamp that holds the Hanukkah candles throughout the eight days for prayers and blessings. Latkes (potato pancakes) and sufganiyot (jelly donuts), two treats cooked in oil, are traditionally eaten in representation of the legend of the jar of oil that lasted for eight days.
Hanukkah. (2014, January 1). Retrieved December 8, 2014, from http://www.history.com/topics/holidays/hanukkah
Hanukkah: Customs and Rituals | Reform Judaism. (2014, January 1). Retrieved December 8, 2014, from http://www.reformjudaism.org/hanukkah-customs-and-rituals
Judaism 101: Chanukkah. (2011, January 1). Retrieved December 8, 2014, from http://www.jewfaq.org/holiday7.htm
5. [A] color symbolism
Symbolism runs deep through the Pancha Ganapati festival: “pancha” means five, with the celebration in honor of the Five-Faced Maha Ganapati, the Lord of Categories. The importance of this festival is the new beginning and mending of all mistakes of the past. Mostly an in-home observance, a festive shrine is created in the living room. A large wooden or bronze five-faced statue of Lord Pancha Ganapati is placed at the center of the shrine. A different color represents various meanings and activities for each of the five days from December 21 – 25. The statue is dressed anew each morning, preferably by the children, in the particular color for the day. In order, these colors and their foci are yellow (immediate family), blue (neighbors, relatives, and close friends), red (business associates and public), green (culture such as art, music, etc.), and orange (receive Lord Pancha Ganapati’s grace for sadhanas well performed). At the end of the final day, around six o’clock, the final puja is performed to restore peace, love, and harmony among everyone. Then a great feast follows and the gifts are distributed with joy.
Pancha Ganapati. (2014, January 1). Retrieved December 10, 2014, from http://www.hinduismtoday.com/modules/smartsection/item.php?itemid=5071
Pancha Ganapati. (2014, January 1). Retrieved December 10, 2014, from http://www.saivite.org/index.php/resources/pancha-ganapati/
6. [A] circle
Some suggested origins for the word Yule come from the Old English word, geola, the Old Norse word jol, and the Anglo-Saxon word Iul which means “wheel.” From the old almanacs, a wheel symbol represents Yule, portraying the idea that the year turns like a wheel. The winter solstice marks the shortest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere and signifies the rebirth of the Sun because the hours of daylight are at their least. It only makes sense to note that Yule is considered and celebrated as a fire festival.
Yule - Winter Solstice - The Wheel Of The Year - The White Goddess. (2014, January 1). Retrieved December 13, 2014, from http://www.thewhitegoddess.co.uk/the_wheel_of_the_year/yule_-_winter_solstice.asp
7. [B] his death
Dr. José Protasio Rizal Mercado y Alonso Realonda was born on June 19, 1861. In his academic career, Rizal earned two doctorates and became fluent in ten languages – regarding him as a prolific poet, essayist, diarist, correspondent, and novelist in the Philippine culture. As a strong political figure, Rizal opted to initiate reforms by peaceful means rather than by violent action. His first novel “Noli me Tangere” (“Touch me not”) and the sequel “El filibusterismo” (The Filibustering” or “Reign of Greed”) boldly exposed the injustices brought on by the Spanish colonizers in the Philippines. Unfortunately, Rizal was sentenced to death on charges of rebellion on the basis of a planned conspiracy in 1896. Those who appreciated his motivating cultural force were saddened by this decision, which made his death the last straw for Filipinos and began the end for the Spanish colonizers. Emilio Aguinaldo, the first president of the Philippines, announced the first Rizal Day in 1898. This day is celebrated with multiple festivals and parades to celebrate Rizal’s life, values, and cultural influence.
Rizal Day Festively Celebrated in the Philippines. (2014, January 1). Retrieved December 4, 2014, from http://aglobalworld.com/holidays-around-the-world/rizal-day-philippines/
Rizal Day 2014 & 2015. (2014, January 1). Retrieved December 4, 2014, from http://publicholidays.ph/rizal-day/