REEP Events

CHRISTIANITY | Lent

14 February – 29 March

Taking place before Easter in the Christian calendar, Lent lasts for a period of forty days and forty nights in respect of the time Jesus is said to have spent fasting in the desert. Christians traditionally fast from certain foods, such as meat, butter, dairy and milk.

In anticipation of Christ’s crucifixion, Christian crosses are often wrapped in purple cloth, as purple is associated with mourning.

For more information about Lent please click here

CHRISTIANITY | Lent 2018-01-05T17:30:06+00:00

HINDUISM | Maha Shivaratri

14 February

Falling in February or March, on the 14th night of the new moon in the Hindu month of Phalgun, Maha Shivaratri is the time at which Hindus honour Lord Shiva, one part of the Hindu Trinity of deities. In addition to honouring the God Shiva, Maha Shivaratri is also a celebration of the divine marriage between Shiva and the goddess Parvati. In respect to Lord Shiva, Hindus observe a day and night fast, as well as enacting sacred rituals.

For more information please click here

HINDUISM | Maha Shivaratri 2018-01-05T17:27:31+00:00

CHRISTIANITY | Shrove Tuesday

13 February

Shrove Tuesday is the last day before the beginning of Lent, which takes place over a period of forty days and forty nights in respect of the time Jesus is said to have spent fasting in the desert. ‘Shrove’ comes from the Old English scrīfan, which the Catholic Church adopted to refer to the act of assigning penance to sinners and, later, to hearing confession and administering absolution. For more on the etymology of shrive please click here

In Great Britain, Shrove Tuesday is also known as Pancake Day because people traditionally make pancakes to use up the eggs, fats and milk that are forbidden during Lent. For more information about shrove Tuesday please click here

CHRISTIANITY | Shrove Tuesday 2018-01-05T17:29:01+00:00

CHRISTIANITY [EASTERN ORTHODOX] | Clean Monday

12 February

Clean Monday is a feast day taking place on the first day of the seventh week before the Orthodox Easter Sunday. As it marks the beginning of ‘Great Lent’, when Orthodox Christians observe a period of strict prayer and fasting, Clean Monday is often celebrated with picnic feasts and outdoor activities. From the Greek Kathari Deftera, the name ‘Clean Monday’ refers to the leaving behind of sinful attitudes and non-fasting foods.

Great Lent corresponds with the Lent of Western Christianity; both take place over a period of forty days and forty nights in direct respect of the time Jesus is said to have spent fasting in the desert.

For more information please click here

CHRISTIANITY [EASTERN ORTHODOX] | Clean Monday 2018-01-05T17:28:14+00:00

BUDDHISM [Mahayana Countries] | Parinirvana

08 February

Parinirvana or ‘Nirvana Day’, is the day when the death and enlightenment of the Buddha is remembered by Buddhists in the majority of Mahayana countries. Siddhartha Gautama was a wealthy prince who became disillusioned and renounced his wealth and family when he discovered the harsh realities of the world beyond the palace walls. Determined to understand the truth of life, he decided one day to sit beneath the Bodhi Tree* (the tree of awakening). After meditating deeply on the subject, he achieved Enlightenment and became Buddha.

The Buddha taught that the idea that we exist as isolated entities is an illusion. All living things are interrelated; and we are part of that interconnectedness and do not have autonomous existence. Buddha taught a path from selfishness to generosity, from ignorance to wisdom, from hatred to loving-kindness. A few countries celebrate Parinirvana on 8 February.

* Bodhi is the name for the tree under which Buddha is believed to have attained enlightenment; it is a type of fig tree, scientifically known as Ficus religiosa.

For more information about Parinirvana please click here

BUDDHISM [Mahayana Countries] | Parinirvana 2018-01-05T17:26:37+00:00

SHINTOISM | Setsubun

02 to 03 February

Setsubun is a two-day festival which marks the first day of spring in the ancient Japanese lunar calendar. It is a time when people celebrate the arrival of this clement, blossom-filled season with great passion and joy. A popular Setsubun traditional is mamemaki (bean-throwing), where the head of the household throws roasted soya beans out of the house in order to spring clean it. Often, another member of the family dons a daemon mask, so that the beans may be thrown at them accompanied by shouts of “Fuku wa uchi, oni wa so to!” (“Fortune in, daemons out!”). Some of the roasted soya beans are retained and, to complete the ritual, the family sit down to enjoy a meal prepared with these. Setsubun celebrations also take place at many Shinto shrines, where crowds gather to watch mamemaki, kyōgen (plays), daemon-chases and Setsubun dances.

For more information about Setsubun please click here

SHINTOISM | Setsubun 2018-01-05T17:25:30+00:00

JUDAISM | Tu B’Shevat

31 January

Known as the Jewish New Year for Trees, Tu B’Shevat is one of a number of Jewish new year festivals. As tu is a Hebrew word meaning ‘15’ and Shevat is the name for the fifth month in the Jewish calendar, Tu B’Shevat literally means ‘fifteenth day of Shevat’. The festival begins at sunset on the 14th day of Shevat and continues until nightfall on the fifteenth

On Tu B’Shevat Jews pay homage to trees, especially those which bear fruit and provide them with food. Regardless of the time of year a tree is planted or sown, it is considered to have aged exactly one year on Tu B’Shevat and its birthday is celebrated on this day every year.

The Jews’ respect for trees can be best understood through the following passage in Leviticus.

When you come to the land and you plant any tree, you shall treat its fruit as forbidden; for three years it will be forbidden and not eaten. In the fourth year, all of its fruit shall be sanctified to praise the L-RD. In the fifth year, you may eat its fruit.

Leviticus 19:23-25

Unsurprisingly, one of the most common Jewish Tu B’Shevat customs is the planting of new trees in gardens and public spaces. Many Jews also celebrate the day by eating a new type of fruit for the first time that year. Others observe Tu B’Shevat by eating one of the Shivat Haminim (Seven Species) of fruit and grains, proclaimed by the Hebrew Bible as being resplendent in the holy land of Israel. The seven species included in the Shivat Haminim are barley, dates, figs, grapes, olives, pomegranate and wheat.

 

For more information about Tu B’Shevat visit www.jewfaq.org/m/holiday8.htm

JUDAISM | Tu B’Shevat 2018-01-05T17:24:41+00:00

HINDUISM | Vasant Panchami

22 January

Falling in January or February, during the Hindu lunar month of Magh, Vasant Panchami is a festival which celebrates the beginning of Spring. It is sometimes known as Saraswati Puja.

As today is also the day when Hindus pay their respects to Saraswati, the Goddess of Wisdom, the day is often called Saraswati Puja. Saraswati is usually depicted with four hands, clothed in white and seated on a lotus. The lotus symbolises the Goddess’ wisdom, the white cloth, her purity, and the four hands, the four aspects of the human intellect.

For more information about Vasant Panchami please click here

HINDUISM | Vasant Panchami 2018-01-05T17:23:33+00:00

SHINTOISM | Dōsojin Matsuri

15 January

Alternatively known as ‘Tondo Matsuri’, ‘Sai No Kami’, ‘Sagicho’’ and Dondo Yaki’, Dōsojin Matsuri are special New Year Fire Festivals. They are held in shrines and public spaces to bless and then burn the previous year’s New Year’s decorations on a huge bonfire constructed of a wigwam of bamboo. Shimekazari (sacred New Year decoration made from braided rice straw and good luck charms) and other New Year ornaments are taken down from homes and ceremoniously burned on the fire to secure good health and a fruitful harvest the following year. The calligraphic wishes or prayers of young children (called kakizome) are also placed onto the bonfire. As the children’s’ prayers are burnt, they are lifted up into the air towards the gods, bringing success to the children in the new year. The loud crackling and popping sounds made by the burning bamboo is believed to tell listeners whether or not they will receive good fortune in the year to come.

Dōsojin is also the name for the Shinto guardian deities, which are closely associated with fertility in crops and people. At Dōsojin Matsuri, prayers are made to Dōsojin statues for successful births and bountiful harvests. One of the largest celebrations of Dōsojin Matsuri takes place at Nozowa Onsen in Nagana Prefecture.

For more information about Dōsojin Matsuri please click here

SHINTOISM | Dōsojin Matsuri 2018-01-05T16:31:13+00:00

SHINTOISM | Seijin No Hi

08 January

Taking place on the second Monday in January, Seijin No Hi is the Japanese ‘Coming of Age Day’. Twenty years is the age of adulthood in Japan, when young people are first legally permitted to drive, drink, smoke and gamble and Seijin No Hi is a day in celebration of those who turned twenty in the previous year. Special Seijin Shiki (Coming of Age Day Ceremonies) are held for twenty-year-olds in city offices around Japan. Those who have come of age visit a Shinto shrine with family and friends to seek blessings from Kami (spirits). Girls wear traditional Japanese dress in the form of kimono (a long, loose traditional Japanese robe with wide sleeves), obi (a broad sash worn round the waist of kimono), zori (a traditional flip-flop-style shoe) and a number of accessories. They get up early in the morning to have their hair and makeup done and their kimonos fitted. The outfits are often hired, as it can cost in excess of 1,000,000 Yen (around £6,800 in 2017) for the full ensemble!

For more information about Seijin Shiki and Seijin No Hi please click here

SHINTOISM | Seijin No Hi 2018-01-05T16:27:37+00:00

CHRISTIANITY [ORTHODOX] | Christmas Day

07 January 2018

While Western Christian churches use the Gregorian calendar, Orthodox Christian churches continue to use the Julian calendar, which preceded it. According to the Julian calendar Christmas Day should be celebrated on 7 January each year. Celebrations are fairly similar to the Christmas of Western Christianity. The period is preceded with a forty-day period when people abstain from foods such as meat. Fasting culminates on Christmas Eve when a special dinner takes place, often comprised of twelve dishes to represent the twelve apostles. Feasting continues on Christmas Day.

The houses and churches of Orthodox Christians are often decorated with a Nativity scene. Many Orthodox countries have their own particular Christmas customs and traditions. In Ethiopia, Orthodox Christians wear white clothing to attend special church services, whilst in Serbia families set out into the forest to find a suitable oak branch to decorate their homes. For more information about the Orthodox Christmas Day please click here

CHRISTIANITY [ORTHODOX] | Christmas Day 2018-01-05T16:23:00+00:00

SHINTOISM | Koshōgatsu

07 January

Literally meaning ‘small new year’, Koshōgatsu begins with the first full moon day of the year. It is an auspicious day for the Japanese. Prayers are made to Goddess Izanami who, along with God Izanagi, is believed to have given rise to Kami (spirits) and thus the whole of nature. Izanami and Izanagi are understood as the creators of Japan. Other Koshōgatsu rites and practices are focused predominately on the next year’s harvest. Prayers are made for a good harvest, and many rice-planting and other paddy-field festivals take place.

Shishimai (a Lion Dance) is also performed in Japan around the time of Koshōgatsu as a form of prayer for household safety and a good harvest. Adapted from a similar Chinese custom, shishimai features performers clad in ornate Lion costumes dancing to the accompanying sounds of bamboo flutes and drums. At the end of the dance the lions ‘bite’ the heads off a few members of the audience to bring good fortune.

For more information about Koshōgatsu please click here

SHINTOISM | Koshōgatsu 2018-01-05T16:24:37+00:00

CHRISTIANITY | Epiphany

06 January 2017

Falling on the twelfth day after Christmas Day, Epiphany marks the end of the Christmas festivities for Christians in the Western world. The word itself means ‘revelation’, thus Epiphany is a celebration of the coming of God to humankind through His son, Jesus Christ. In the Nativity story, Epiphany is the day when the three Magi (Three Wise Men) brought the baby Jesus gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. To commemorate Epiphany, some Christians attend a special service at a church, which may be decorated with a model scene depicting the Magi’s visit to the baby Jesus.

It is also traditional for Christians to remove their Christmas decorations on or before this day, because it is considered unlucky to display them beyond the 06 January, when the twelve days of Christmas officially ends. Some people in the UK hold Twelfth Night parties on this day, with family and friends gathering together to share Wassail (warm punch) and a special Twelfth Night cake. The person who finds the dried pea or bean in their slice of cake becomes king or queen for the evening and can tell everyone else what to do!

For more information about Epiphany please click here

CHRISTIANITY | Epiphany 2018-01-05T16:21:56+00:00

SIKHISM | Guru Gobind Singh Jayanti

05 January 2017

Born in 1666, Guru Gobind Singh was the last of the ten human Gurus of the Sikh faith. He is renowned for the creation of the Khalsa Sikh community and for declaring the Sikh holy book, Guru Granth Sahib, his eternal successor. In India, where Guru Gobind Singh Jayanti is widely celebrated, festivities include large processions through the streets, accompanied by devotional hymns. Special services are held in gurdwaras (Sikh temple), and historical lectures and poems are delivered in praise of Guru Gobind Singh. It is traditional for Sikhs to enjoy a drink of sharvat (sherbert) during the festivities.

For more information about Guru Gobind Singh Jayanti please click here

 

 

SIKHISM | Guru Gobind Singh Jayanti 2018-01-05T16:20:54+00:00

SHINTOISM | Kakizome

02 January

Meaning literally ‘first writing’, kakizome are the first calligraphic writings of the new year. Calligraphy is a widely practised and distinguished art in Japan, where kakizome began centuries ago with the writing of Chinese poetry in kanji (Chinese characters) as a way for the Japanese to sharpen their minds and improve their concentration. The tradition has evolved and today, instead of writing out long passages of Chinese poetry, people use kanji to write their own auspicious words and phrases to help strengthen their resolve and reinforce their resolutions for the new year.

While kakizome is largely completed in the Japanese home, many public kakizome events are held in buildings such as schools and sports halls during the first few days in January. Children and young adults compete to write specified words or poetry; they are then judged on the beauty of their strokes and the character of their writing.

For more information about Kakizome please click here

SHINTOISM | Kakizome 2018-01-05T16:15:17+00:00

SHINTOISM | Ōmisoka, Shōgatsu and Hatsumōde

31 December to 01 January

Shōgatsu is the Japanese New Year’s Day. Although it was not established as a Public Holiday until 1948, the day had long been celebrated as a day of imperial worship known as Shihō Hai. On Ōmisoka (New Year’s Eve) preparations for the new year begin. Homes, schools and businesses are cleaned, debts are paid, and osechi-ryōri (special New Year food presented in decorative, lacquered, multi-layered, bento boxes) is prepared for the traditional Shōgatsu meal. Special foods eaten during Shōgatsu are o-toso (sweet sake flavoured with cassia bark, herbs and spices) and mochi (sticky rice cakes).

In the evening of Ōmisoka, families come together to watch a special New Year variety show on television, staying up until midnight to enjoy a traditional meal of toshikoshi soba (a special New Year dish of soba (buckwheat) noodles). At Yasaka Jinja (Yasaka shrine) in Kyoto, a sacred fire is kindled and visitors are encouraged to take home some of the embers as it is believed that good fortune will be granted to those who use them to cook their first meal of the new year. Shimekazari (sacred ropes braided of race straw and adorned with good luck charms) are hung above the doors of many Japanese homes and businesses to ward off evil spirits and to invite the kami to enter.

Early on the morning of Shōgatsu, it is traditional for people to make their first prayer visit of the year to a Shinto shrine. This practice is known as Hatsumōde. It is very important in Japanese culture and many women dress up in their finest kimonos. During Hatsumōde, Japanese people express gratitude to Kami (spirits) for the divine protection they received in the past year and ask for their continual protection in the coming year.

For more information about Ōmisoka, Shōgatsu and Hatsumōde please click here

SHINTOISM | Ōmisoka, Shōgatsu and Hatsumōde 2017-09-12T10:30:48+00:00

SHINTOISM | Ōmisoka, Shōgatsu and Hatsumōde

31 December to 01 January

Shōgatsu is the Japanese New Year’s Day. Although it was not established as a Public Holiday until 1948, the day had long been celebrated as a day of imperial worship known as Shihō Hai. On Ōmisoka (New Year’s Eve) preparations for the new year begin. Homes, schools and businesses are cleaned, debts are paid, and osechi-ryōri (special New Year food presented in decorative, lacquered, multi-layered, bento boxes) is prepared for the traditional Shōgatsu meal. Special foods eaten during Shōgatsu are o-toso (sweet sake flavoured with cassia bark, herbs and spices) and mochi (sticky rice cakes).

In the evening of Ōmisoka, families come together to watch a special New Year variety show on television, staying up until midnight to enjoy a traditional meal of toshikoshi soba (a special New Year dish of soba (buckwheat) noodles). At Yasaka Jinja (Yasaka shrine) in Kyoto, a sacred fire is kindled and visitors are encouraged to take home some of the embers as it is believed that good fortune will be granted to those who use them to cook their first meal of the new year. Shimekazari (sacred ropes braided of race straw and adorned with good luck charms) are hung above the doors of many Japanese homes and businesses to ward off evil spirits and to invite the kami to enter.

Early on the morning of Shōgatsu, it is traditional for people to make their first prayer visit of the year to a Shinto shrine. This practice is known as Hatsumōde. It is very important in Japanese culture and many women dress up in their finest kimonos. During Hatsumōde, Japanese people express gratitude to Kami (spirits) for the divine protection they received in the past year and ask for their continual protection in the coming year.

For more information about Ōmisoka, Shōgatsu and Hatsumōde please click here

SHINTOISM | Ōmisoka, Shōgatsu and Hatsumōde 2018-01-05T16:14:10+00:00

ZOROASTRIANISM | Zarthost No Deeso

26 December

At Zarthost No Deeso, Zoroastrians commemorate the death anniversary of the prophet Zoroaster (628 to 551 BCE), the founder of Zoroastrianism as a collective faith. The day is one of mourning, with special services taking place in agiaries (fire temples). These services include prayers, lectures and discussions about the life and works of the prophet.

A cobbler from the Bactria rivers in Central Asia, Zoroaster became a preacher of monotheism when he was thirty. A highly-regarded philosopher, mathematician, astrologer and magician and an expert composer of Yasna Haptanghaiti (Zoroastrian hymns) and Gathas (Zoroastrian poems), Zoroaster philosophised on the triumph of good over evil and the judgment of humans at the end of their life.

There is much debate over the cause of Zoroaster’s death. Some believe he was killed by the Turanian army at the altar of an agiary (fire temple), others that he was killed by a thunderbolt. Many believe that Zoroaster was not killed at all but instead ascended the skies by himself. Others think he simply died in his sleep.

For more information about Farthest No Deeso please click here

ZOROASTRIANISM | Zarthost No Deeso 2017-09-12T10:30:54+00:00

CHRISTIANITY | Christmas Day

25 December

The word “Christmas” comes from the old English Cristes maesse (the mass of Christ). At Christmas, Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, who is worshipped as the son of God. Until the 4th century AD, the dates for Christmas were not fixed. As the Bible gave no indication of Christ’s official birthday, Christians were free to celebrate Christmas anytime from the beginning of January until the end of September. The first recorded date of the Christmas celebrations beginning on 25 December is 336 AD, during the rule of the first Christian Roman Emperor, Constantine. A few years later, Pope Julius I decreed that the birth of Jesus should henceforth be celebrated on 25 December each year.

Although Christmas Day is the focus of modern-day Christmas celebrations, it is actually the first of twelve days of Christmas. Each of the twelve days of Christmas is dedicated to a different Saint’s day. Traditionally, each and every one of the twelve days was celebrated. Save for the care of animals, all work was forbidden during the Christmas period, recommencing on Plough Monday – the first Monday after Twelfth Night. While all twelve days of Christmas had their own peculiar celebrations, not all of the days were celebrated equally. The three most important celebrations took place on the Saints’ Days of 25 December, and the 01 and 06 January. It was on these days that the most lavish feasts took place, with up to twenty-four courses being served in aristocratic households. Leftover food, of which there was lots, was used to feed the poor.

Today, the Christmas feast is still at the heart of Christmas Day celebrations, where roast turkey is considered the ‘traditional’ choice of meat. Surprisingly, turkey is not very traditional at all. In the Tudor and Elizabethan period, the roast of choice for wealthy families was generally swan, goose, peacock or wild boar. In fact, turkeys were not introduced into Britain until around 1523. Naturally, it soon featured on the table at one of Henry VIII’s Christmas banquets, sparking a new trend for Christmas turkey. So popular was this new Christmas bird, that soon large flocks of turkeys could be seen walking on foot to London from parts of Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire. The journey was such an epic undertaking that the turkeys would begin their march to the Christmas table as early as August!

For more information about Christmas Day please click here

CHRISTIANITY | Christmas Day 2017-09-12T10:30:59+00:00

CHRISTIANITY | Christmas Eve

24 December

Denoting the end of the Advent Season, Christmas Eve is a time for getting together with families in preparation and anticipation of Christmas, which begins the next day. On Christmas Eve, families traditionally set up and decorate a Christmas Tree (usually a pine tree or a spruce tree, depending on the country and individual taste) in their homes and put up other festive decorations such as wreaths, garlands of evergreen foliage and berries, kissing boughs, mistletoe sprigs and pomanders. However, today many Christians choose to put up their Christmas decorations much earlier in December.

Churches often hold candlelight or Christingle services on Christmas Eve, many involving Christmas carols and a children’s performance of the nativity. Catholic churches hold Midnight Mass for worshippers to welcome in Christmas Day, while in Catholic homes the Christ Candle is lit to replace the Advent Wreath. The Christ Candle is then re-lit every night of the twelve days of Christmas.

Christmas Eve is also a time for families to rejoice, feast, play games and sing songs together. The modern-day Christmas is a particularly exciting time for children, who eagerly anticipate the arrival of Father Christmas and his reindeer-drawn sleigh full of gifts. Well, that’s if they’ve been good of course…

For more information about Christmas Eve please click here

CHRISTIANITY | Christmas Eve 2017-09-12T10:31:07+00:00