Orthodox Christmas

source: wikimedia commons / CC / GFDL

Merry Christmas to Eastern Orthodox Christians in Canada and around the world who celebrate the birth of Christ on this day. The Orthodox Churches of Russia, the Ukraine and other parts of Eastern Europe continued to follow the Julian Calendar after most of the rest of the Christian world adopted the Gregorian calendar from the 16th century and onward. While most of the countries of Eastern Europe eventually adopted the western calendar for political and economic purposes, some have maintained the Julian Calendar for religious and cultural purposes.

Christmas Day

scroogechristmas
source: public domain

Christians in Canada and around the world celebrate the Nativity, the birth of the Christ. Christians believe that Jesus, who was born in Bethlehem, in Roman occupied Israel roughly 2000 years ago, was the Messiah, the long awaited saviour promised by God.The Hebrew word Messiah translates to Greek as Khristos, from which we get the anglicized form, Christ. Christians believe that God became one of us in the person of Jesus, or Emanuel, literally “God With Us.”Over the course of the last century, Christmas has grown from a strictly Christian festival to become a secular holiday celebrated by people of many different religions, cultures and worldviews from all over the planet. For some, Santa Claus, stockings and gift-giving are central to Christmas. To others, it is a much needed rest at the coldest and darkest time of year. Some may agree with the Grinch, who simply hated Christmas, or with Ebenezer Scrooge when he said it was a “Humbug” — although both of them changed their positions in the end!

Whether you are celebrating the birth of the Christ with your family and friends, or observe Christmas as a strictly secular event, we wish you a very Merry Christmas!

Christmas Eve

134746__nativity_l“In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to his own town to register.So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David.He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.’ Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favour rests.'” from the Book of Luke, Chapter 2

Winter Solstice and Yule

source: Wikimedia Commons / CC

Winter begins in the northern hemisphere on this, the shortest day of the year. In traditional pagan cultures, this time of the year represented darkness giving way to light, and death giving way to life. The dark and cold had reached its nadir. Henceforth the days would grow longer and warmer. Hope was restored. Many of the festivals and celebrations that take place at this time of year, from many different cultures, follow this theme.

For more on this and other winter observances and feasts, check out our display: Holidays and Holy Days.

Kwanzaa Dec 26 to Jan 1

Kwanzaa is an African American and Pan-African holiday which celebrates family, community and culture. Celebrated from 26 December thru 1 January, its origins are in the first harvest celebrations of Africa from which it takes its name. The name Kwanzaa is derived from the phrase “matunda ya kwanza” which means “first fruits” in Swahili, a Pan-African language which is the most widely spoken African language. ”

source: officialkwanzaawebsite.org

(From the Official Kwanzaa Website)

Bodhi Day

BuddhaThe religion known as Buddhism dates back to the 6th or 5th Century BCE, when the Indian Prince Siddhartha Gautama became the “Buddha,” literally, “the Enlightened One.” The followers of the Mahayana branch of Buddhism observes Bodhi Day in celebration of the day that the Buddha sat below the Bodhi Tree and meditated on the meaning of life. Bodhi Day is celebrated mainly by the Buddhists of northern and eastern Asia (in Japan the day is known as Rohatsu) and in countries to which those people have immigrated (such as Canada). For more on Bodhi Day and the life of the Buddha, click here.

St. Nicholas Day

stnickIf people tell you that Santa Claus isn’t real, tell them to think again! Saint Nicholas lived in the 3rd and 4th Centuries AD(CE). He lived in what is now known as Turkey, but what was then a Greek area of the Roman Empire. The legends surrounding his life grew and evolved over the years, eventually leading to our modern picture of Santa.

In much of Europe and in many parts of the world, St. Nicholas Day is celebrated on December 6, or on another date other than Christmas. For more information, check out the St. Nicholas Centre.

Hanukkah

source: Roylindman at en.wikipedia

Jews in Canada and around the world celebrate Hanukkah starting at sundown tonight. The Festival of Lights is a celebration of God’s deliverance and provision. The event began in remembrance of Maccabean revolt in the 2nd Century BCE, when the Hebrews recaptured the Temple in Jerusalem, the spiritual centre of Judaism. Each candle of the Menorah is lit, one per day for the 8 day Festival. Like all Jewish Holy Days, which follow the lunar Hebrew Calendar, Hanukkah can occur anytime from late November to late December according to the Gregorian Calendar. This year Hanukkah will begin at sundown on December 24 and will conclude on the evening of January 1st. For more information on Hanukkah, check out some of the following:

Check out our display: “Holidays & Holy Days”

Diwali

Source: SikhWiki

Diwali is celebrated by millions of people in India, Canada and around the world. Hundreds of millions of Hindus celebrate “the Festival of Lights.” People of other faiths, including Sikhism, also celebrate. For Sikhs the festival has added significance as it generally coincides with a Sikh celebration known as Bandi Chhor Divas. For more on Diwali check out:

source: province.com

Christmas Day

scroogechristmas
source: public domain

Christians in Canada and around the world celebrate the Nativity, the birth of the Christ. Christians believe that Jesus, who was born in Bethlehem, in Roman occupied Israel roughly 2000 years ago, was the Messiah, the long awaited saviour promised by God.The Hebrew word Messiah translates to Greek as Khristos, from which we get the anglicized form, Christ. Christians believe that God became one of us in the person of Jesus, or Emanuel, literally “God With Us.”Over the course of the last century, Christmas has grown from a strictly Christian festival to become a secular holiday celebrated by people of many different religions, cultures and worldviews from all over the planet. For some, Santa Claus, stockings and gift-giving are central to Christmas. To others, it is a much needed rest at the coldest and darkest time of year. Some may agree with the Grinch, who simply hated Christmas, or with Ebenezer Scrooge when he said it was a “Humbug” — although both of them changed their positions in the end!

Whether you are celebrating the birth of the Christ with your family and friends, or observe Christmas as a strictly secular event, we wish you a very Merry Christmas!

It’s A Wonderful Life

On this day in 1946, Director Frank Capra’s beloved holiday film, “It’s a Wonderful Life” opened in New York. It would go on to become standard Christmas viewing for millions of families. (I estimate that I have seen it 30 times.)

itsawonder2014

 

For more information about the film, click here or here.