Time to celebrate: Different religious traditions this month

The campus of Minnesota State University, Mankato is alive with people from cultures and traditions around the world. To celebrate the diversity of the world and of this campus, here are seven holidays besides Christmas celebrated by people around the world.
1. Ramadan is an Islamic month of prayer and fasting, beginning at the 9th lunar month of every year. This year, the month took place from June to July, but sometimes, the month lands in December. Lanterns are hung from houses and mosques during the celebration.
2. Dashain is a Hindu festival held in Nepal. It lasts for 15 days and falls in September or October. It includes animal sacrifice and religious rituals. Flying kites, playing cards, and buying and wearing new clothes are popular ways to celebrate Dashain.
3. Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, takes place every autumn. Spiritually, it represents the victory of light over darkness, good over evil, knowledge over ignorance, and hope over despair. To celebrate, people decorate their houses, dress in their best clothes, and light up lamps outside their homes.
4. Hanukkah is a Jewish holiday which celebrates the rededication of the Holy Temple. It was the second temple to be built in Jerusalem after the destruction of Solomon’s temple. The nine-branched menorah is used to hold candles. One candle is lit every night of the holiday, which lasts for eight nights. The ninth candle sits in a prominent place and is used to light the eight candles. People play the dreidel and eat food such as pancakes and doughnuts.
5. Vesak, also called “Buddha’s Birthday,” commemorates the birth, enlightenment, and death of Buddha. People assemble in temples to pray, and animals who have been kept in captivity are released. It is also a day of charity, to bring gifts and cash to charitable homes and help the sick, handicapped, and aged.
6. American Indian Heritage Day, or Native American Day, is celebrated on the fourth Friday in September. It is a holiday in California, South Dakota, and Tennessee which celebrates the Native American cultures and their contributions to their states and the United States.
7. Kwanzaa honors the African heritage of African American culture in the United States. It is celebrated from December 26 to January 1. Each of the seven days of Kwanzaa is dedicated to one of the seven principles which African Americans hold in common. The seven principles are: unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith. A candle is lit on a candelabra for each of the seven days.

The prominent holiday celebrated in this part of the world is, of course, Christmas. But how much do you really know about this holiday that comes around every December? Here are some facts about Christmas.

The Christmas season does not actually start until Christmas day, which celebrates the birth of Christ. Four weeks before Christmas, Advent is celebrated in preparation for Jesus’ birth. The feast of St. Stephen, mentioned in the Christmas carol “Good King Wenceslaus” is celebrated on Dec. 26. The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph is celebrated in the week after Christmas, and the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God is celebrated on New Year’s Day. The Christmas season ends with the Epiphany, which is on the first Sunday of January. The epiphany commemorates the three kings coming to visit the baby Jesus.

Have a warmhearted winter break celebrated with family and friends, and happy New Year!

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