A World of Diversity: Mason Publishes Guide to Holidays

Posted: December 12, 2008 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Robin Herron

The average person can probably count on one hand the number of winter holidays they know about. But Mason’s Office of Diversity Programs and Services (ODPS) has done some research and published a guide that reveals no less than 16 holidays are celebrated around the world in December and January.

“The purpose of the brochure was to challenge the Mason community to think critically and globally about seasonal traditions,” explains Joya Crear, director of ODPS.

The brochure, “Winter Holiday Celebrations Around the World,” has been distributed throughout the division of University Life and was available at the Student Senate’s Holiday Fest. It is also available online.

“Many times we want to expand our knowledge about different cultures but are uncertain where to start,” says Crear. “This brochure is a starting point for learning new information, stimulating conversations about seasonal traditions and holiday observances and fueling our cultural curiosity.

“ODPS hopes that faculty and students will learn some new information and will take the initiative to deepen their knowledge about holiday traditions different from their own.”

Following is a list of the major holidays in December and January and a brief description of what they observe, excerpted from the guide.

St. Nicholas Day (Dec. 6)

Celebrated in Northern Europe to honor St. Nicholas, who was renowned for his great kindness and his generous aid to those in distress.

Bodhi Day (Dec. 8)

A Buddhist holiday that commemorates the day that the historical Buddha, Shakyamuni or Siddhartha Gautauma, experienced enlightenment.

Eid al-Adha (Dec. 8)

A religious festival celebrated by Muslims and Druze worldwide in commemoration of the willingness of Ibrahim (Abraham) to sacrifice his son as an act of obedience to Allah.

St. Lucia Day (Dec. 13)

A feast day dedicated to St. Lucy celebrated mainly in Scandinavia, parts of the United States and southern Europe.

Mexican Posadas (Dec. 16-24)

A nine-day celebration for many Catholic Mexicans and some other Latin Americans marking the trials that Mary and Joseph endured before finding a place where Jesus could be born.

Hanukkah, Chanukah (Dec. 21-29)

Also known as the Festival of Lights; an eight-day Jewish holiday commemorating the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem at the time of the Maccabean Revolt of the second century BCE.

Christmas (Dec. 25)

Marks and honors the birth of Jesus of Nazareth.

Kwanzaa (Dec. 26-Jan. 1)

A weeklong holiday celebrated throughout the world to honor African heritage; created by Maulana Karenga in 1966.

Islamic New Year (Dec. 29)

A cultural event observed by Muslims on the first day of Muharram, the first month in the Islamic calendar.

Gantan-sai, Shinto New Year (Jan. 1)

Japanese Shinto festival observed with prayers for inner renewal.

New Year’s Day (Jan. 1)

The first day of the year on the modern Gregorian calendar (in all countries using the Gregorian calendar, except for Israel).

Solnal (Korean New Year, Jan. 1)

Epiphany, Three Kings Day (Jan. 6)

A Christian feast day.

Mahayana Buddhist New Year (Jan. 11)

Chinese New Year (Jan. 26)

Sometimes called the Lunar New Year by people outside China.

Vasant Panchami (Jan. 31)

A Hindu festival celebrating Saraswati, the goddess of knowledge, music and art, every year on the fifth day of the Indian month.

For more information, contact Joya Crear, ODPS director, at 703-993-2700 or jcrear@gmu.edu.

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