From Hanukkah Lights to Nativity Scenes: 5 Faiths' Unique Takes on the Christmas Spirit
The Holidays are a time for being with friends and family and celebrating the birth of Christ, but sometimes we forget to acknowledge the other religions and what they celebrate. Some religions like the Islam do not even celebrate Christmas and then you have others, the Buddhists, who use the holiday to practice their religion of spreading peace and goodwill. In no particular order, I would like to demonstrate a little culture about the ways Christmas is celebrated or is not celebrated throughout five different religions.
During the Christmas season, Christians celebrate Christmas in numerous ways. Families and churches from all around will set up a Nativity Scene or a mini replica of the birthplace of Jesus Christ. The scene is composed of the baby Jesus, the virgin mother Mary, the father Joseph, three wise men, and sometimes some animals that would belong in a stable. Churches that practice Christianity will perform Christmas plays that describe the night of the birth of baby Jesus in a manger. Catholic churches will have a midnight mass on the night of Christmas Day to celebrate Jesus’ birth. In the month of December, aside from just the church festivities, people will sing traditional Christmas carols, buy Christmas trees, and place wrapped presents under the tree to exchange at a Christmas party or on Christmas morning.
The Muslim community has two celebrations that they conduct within a year and Christmas is not one of the holidays. Along with Christmas being the celebration to memorialize the birth of Jesus, Muslims do believe in Jesus but do not believe he is God or the son of God. According to the Islamic religion, Jesus’ birth was either in March or September based on the season indications in the Bible. Another viewpoint of the Christmas holiday is that Christmas is really just a new purposed pagan celebration which is not supported by the Islamic religion (Paganism).
Hindus in America, for a while until the population of Hindus increased, celebrated Christmas to adjust into American culture. Even with population growth, some Hindus still participate in the festivities of gift giving and parties. Aside from how Hindus celebrate in America, the Hindus in India do celebrate in December with a five-day holiday called Pancha Ganapati. The celebration begins on December 21 to celebrate the elephant-headed lord of culture and new beginnings. Some festivities the Hindus partake in are outings, picnics, gift giving, feasts, decorating their homes with pine boughs or durva grass, and putting up lights and ornaments. The major portion of the celebration is putting up a statue of Ganesha in the home and dressing the statue for each day of the celebration in colors of yellow, blue, red, green, and orange.
Christmas is a time of gift giving and practicing peace and goodwill toward mankind. Buddhists can practice their religion and see the similarities between Buddhism and Christianity. Buddhists celebrate the holidays by hanging up Christmas decorations in their temples, sending cards to loved ones, holding late night vigils, and occasionally listen to Christmas music.
The Jewish do not celebrate Christmas, but instead, celebrate a holiday know as Chanukah (Hanukkah). Chanukah is an eight-day festival of lights that is celebrated by a nightly menorah lighting, special prayers, and foods (fried). Chanukah memorializes the small army of Jews that defeated the mighty Greek Army in the second century BCE. The Jewish reclaimed the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and as a symbol of reclaiming the temple, the menorah was to be lit; however, only a single cruse of olive oil was left. Even with a little bit of olive oil, the menorah was still lit and stayed lit for eight days. To remember this wonder, Chanukah was created.Christmas is not all that different across the religions who do celebrate the holiday. As Christmas comes around next year and the following years, I will be more understanding and more thoughtful to how other people celebrate and do not celebrate around Christmas time. I hope everyone enjoyed their Christmas, Chanukah, December, etc. and a Happy New Year as well!