Monthly Archives: September 2017

JUDAISM | Yom Kippur

30 September

Known as The Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur marks the end of Rosh Hashanah, and is the most sacred and solemn of all Jewish festivals. It is on this day that Jews believe God makes His final decisions about what the coming year will bring for each and every person. The Book of Life is closed and sealed and Jews who have properly repented of their sins will be rewarded accordingly by God. As Yom Kippur is the only day of the year when there are five different services, Jews spend much of the festival in the synagogue. Other Yom Kippur observances include fasting and abstaining from sex, washing and perfuming oneself and wearing leather shoes.

The five services of Yom Kippur:

  1. The Kol Nodrei service (evening) – Includes the reading of the Kol Nidrei prayer and act of vidui (confessing of one’s sins). Prayer shawls are not usually worn for evening services, but Jewish men wear them to the Kol Nodrei service in honour of the special occasion.
  2. The Shacharit service (morning) – Includes morning prayers, the Shema, the Amidah prayer, reading of the Torah, and the Yizkor    
  3. The Musaf service – Takes place immediately after the Shacharit service. It includes Musaf Amidah, the cantor’s repetition of the Amidah, the Avodah and the priestly blessing.
  4. The Afternoon service – Includes Torah readings, the Amidah prayer, the cantor’s repetition of the Amidah, and the recital of Avino Malkenu.
  5. The Neilah service (closing) – Brings Yom Kippur to an end as God’s judgement is finally sealed and the congregation beseech God to hear the prayers of the community. Everyone stands for the duration of the service as the doors of the Ark are open. At the end of this final service, the shofar (ram’s horn trumpet) is sounded one final time.

For more information about Yom Kippur please click here


JUDAISM | Yom Kippur 2017-09-12T10:33:43+00:00

ISLAM | Muharram

21 September

Marking the beginning of Muharram, the first month in the Islamic calendar, this is the Islamic New Year festival. Muharram is a sombre month for Muslims, who derive messages from Hussein ibn Ali’s sacrifice. Muharram celebrations and traditions differ between Sunni and Shi’a Muslims, and also between Muslim communities around the world.

Shi’a Muslims in countries including Afghanistan, Bahrain, india, Iraq, Lebanon and Pakistan organise matam (remembrance parades) with men gathering in the streets to take part in ceremonial chest beating. In Iraq, some Shi’a Muslims make a pilgrimage to the Imam Husayn Shrine on the grave of Husayn ibn Ali. In Iran, parts of south Asia, Jamaica, and Trinidad and Tobago, the battle of karbala is re-enacted in special Condolence Theatre performances.

The word Muharram means ‘forbidden’ in Arabic. For this reason, many Muslims choose to fast on or around the Day of Ashura, the tenth day of Muharram. Mosques often provide nazar (sacred free meals) to Muslims between the ninth and eleventh days of the month. In the vast majority of countries, Muharram 2017 will begin on 21 September, but for a couple of countries it will begin the following day, on the 22 September.

For more information about Muharram please click here

ISLAM | Muharram 2017-09-12T10:33:49+00:00

HINDUISM | Navaratri

20 to 30 September

Falling in the Hindu month of Ashwin and lasting for nine nights, Navaratri is the longest and the largest festival in the Hindu calendar. It ends with Vijayadashami, another big festival. With Nav meaning ‘nine’ and Ratri meaning ‘nights’, the festival takes its primary name from the length of the celebrations. However, the festival is often known as ‘Durga Puja’ because during the festival Hindus worship the Goddess Durga and, through her, the shakti (feminine power). While the festival is joyfully celebrated all over India, it has particularly popularity in the state of West Bengal.

Over nine nights, the Goddess Durga is worshipped in nine different forms: Durga, the invincible; Bhadrakali, the auspicious and fortunate; Amba or Jagdamba, Mother of the universe; Annapoorna, giver of food; Sarvamangala, giver of joy all around; Bhairavi, the terrifying; Chandika, the violent; Lalita, the beautiful; Bhavani, the giver of life; and Mookambika, the one who listens. Hindus eat only vegetarian foods during Navratri, with many choosing to fast during the festival. Clay idols of Goddess Durga are brought into Hindu homes or public venues and people show their respect for shakti through their worship of these. At the end of the nine days, the idols are immersed into water to liquefy and return to the riverbed. Traditional Garaba dances take place at cultural organisations, hotels, clubs and on the streets, often featuring well-known celebrities.

For more information about Navaratri please click here

HINDUISM | Navaratri 2017-09-12T10:33:56+00:00

JUDAISM | Rosh Hashanah

20-21 September

A two-day festival in commemoration of the creation of the world, Rosh Hashanah is the Jews New Year celebration. Known as ‘The Days of Repentence’, it is a time when Jews ask for God’s forgiveness as he weighs up their good and bad deeds across the past year and determines their fate for the year ahead. During Rosh Hashanah, Jews visit synagogues to reflect deeply on their priorities in life, asking themselves who and what mean the most to them, what they have achieved thus far in life and what are their hopes and wishes for the future.

One important ritual that takes place in the synagogues during Rosh Hashanah is the blowing of the shafar (ram’s horn trumpet). This is played in a special rhythm for one hundred notes. After the shafar has been sounded, families return to their homes to enjoy a special meal together. Along with a number of traditional dishes, a pomegranate is often included on the table in respect of the Jewish tradition that the pomegranate has 613 seeds – one for each of the commandments that Jews vow to keep. The sounding of the shafar marks the beginning of ‘The Days of Awe’ – a ten-day period which ends with the festival of Yom Kippur.

For more information about Rosh Hashanah please click here

JUDAISM | Rosh Hashanah 2017-09-12T10:34:01+00:00

SIKHISM | Guru Granth Sahib

01 September

This is a festival in celebration of the installation of the Sikh holy scripture, Guru Granth Sahib, at Sri Harimandur Sahib (The Golden Temple) in Amritsar, India. The treasured scripture is at the heart of Sikh worship and devotion at Sri Harimandir Sahib, which was built in the late 16th century when Guru Granth Sahib was completed. In the early morning of Guru Granth Sahib day, Guru Granth Sahib is ceremoniously set on the Singhasan (throne) in the centre of the Temple’s sanctum. Passages are read from the scripture during the day and Sikh’s visit Sri Harimandur Sahib to pay their respects. In the evening, Guru Granth Sahib is respectfully returned to its usual resting place in the Akal Takhat, another building in the Temple complex.

Guru Granth Sahib was compiled in 1604 by the fifth Sikh Guru, Guru Arjan Dev. He collated and edited the prayers and hymns of the four previous Gurus together with his own and those of Hindu and Muslim saints where he felt the sentiments echoed those of Sikhism. The result was a new Sikh Holy Scripture which was installed in Sri Harimandir Sahib on 01 September 1604, and conferred the title of ‘Guru’ on 20 October that same year. For Sikh’s, Guru Granth Sahib is worshipped as the revealed word of God written by Sikh Gurus and Saints. The Holy Scripture consists of 1,430 pages written in Gurmukhi (the script of Punjabi), containing 5,894 shabods (revealed hymns of six Gurus) arranged into 31 ragas (musical groupings).

Sikhs show the same respect to Guru Granth Sahib as was shown to the human Gurus. In gurdwaras (Sikh temples), the Holy Scripture rests in its own bed each night and is ceremoniously fanned whenever it is recited from. It is not permitted to place Guru Granth Sahib on the ground, nor for any Sikh to turn their back to it. Most Sikhs do not have a copy in their own homes because it is so difficult to show it the respect it commands.

For more information about Guru Granth Sahib please click here

SIKHISM | Guru Granth Sahib 2017-09-12T10:34:07+00:00

ISLAM | Eid-al-Adha

01 to 04 September

Sometimes called ‘Feast of the Sacrifice’, this four-day festival commemorates Ibrahim’s willingness to sacrifice his son, Ishamael, when commanded to do so by God. When Ibrahim (Abraham in Judaism and Christianity) was just about to commit the sacrifice at the top of Mount Moriah, he was stopped by an angel and given a ram to sacrifice in place of his son.

At Eid-al-Adha, Muslims pray at home or visit mosques to listen to commemorative sermons. New clothes are worn as friends and family gather to exchange gifts, share food and worship together. Many families sacrifice an animal in a symbolic act known as qurbani. Meat from the sacrificed animal (typically a sheep, goat, cow or camel) is divided into three parts, with one part charitably donated to the poor, one part given to friends and neighbours, and the final part retained for the family.

The dates for Eid-al-Adha are often changed up to ten days before the start of the festival. This is because the Islamic calendar is based on observations of the Moon. For more information about Eid-al-Adha please click here

ISLAM | Eid-al-Adha 2017-09-12T10:34:21+00:00