Diwali, Dīpāvali or Deepavali is popularly known as the Festival of Lights. It is an important 5-day festival in Hinduism, Sikhism and Jainism, occurring between mid-October and mid-November. Deepavali is an official holiday in Malaysia.

The name Diwali is itself a contraction of the word Dīpāvali, which translates into row of lamps. One important practice that the Hindus follow during the festival is to light oil lamps in their homes on Deepavali morning which lighting of small clay lamps filled with oil to signify the triumph of good over evil. By lighting the oil lamps, the Hindus are thanking the gods for the happiness, knowledge, peace and wealth that they have received. During Diwali celebrants wear new clothes and share sweets and snacks with near and dear ones. Some Indian business communities begin the financial year on the first day of Diwali hoping for prosperity the following year. The Hindus consider Deepavali as one of the most important festivals to celebrate.

 

 



There is even an interesting legend behind this festival. The story goes that Narakasura, a demon, ruled the kingdom of Pradyoshapuram. Under his rule, the villagers suffered a lot of hardship as the demon tortured the people and kidnapped the women to be imprisoned in his palace. Seeing his wickedness, Lord Khrishna set out to destroy the demon and the day Narakasura died was celebrated as Deepavali, the triumph of good over evil!

 

 



Preparation for Deepavali starts usually at least two to three weeks before the festival. It is known that the Hindus will be busy cleaning their houses to prepare for the festival. Some would even renovate their houses; decorative designs such as the kolam are drawn or placed on floors and walls to prepare it for Deepavali. Usually the family will shop for new clothes and for accessories to decorate their homes. Prior to the festival, Indian shops will be selling festive items like Deepavali greeting cards, carpets, Punjabi suits and flowers. The Hindus will frequent these shops when they are shopping for Deepavali. 

Temples are similarly spruced up with flowers and offerings of fruits and coconut milk from devotees, becoming more abundant and pronounced as the big day draws closer.

The spring cleaning and decorating are significant for they not only symbolise renewal but also prepare for the welcoming of Devi Lakshmi, the goddess of Wealth and Prosperity, who is believed to visit homes and temples on the day. It is said she emerged from the churning ocean only days after the new moon of Deepavali.

Besides the cleaning of homes and temples, Hindus also prepare themselves by cleansing their bodies and minds. Many among the devout fast, or observe a strict vegetarian diet, and spend hours during the preceding weeks in prayer and meditation.

The Hindus usually awake early in the morning of deepavali around 3am and the first ritual will be having an oil bath, which is an important feature of Deepavali. Hindus will be dressed in their new clothes on Deepavali. Most of the ladies would be clad in silk saris or Punjabi suits of various bright shades. Hindus particularly dislike dressing in black on that day, as they consider black an inauspicious color for the festival. Hindus would also pay their respects to the elderly and most families would go to the temple after having breakfast. This is also an important practice for them. The reason why they would be going to the temples is to pray to get happiness and prosperity on Deepavali. The houses would be decorated with oil lamps and children will play with firecrackers to celebrate the festival. On the first day, they would not go visiting but would stay at home to welcome the guests who visit them.

 

 

Visiting Hindus during Deepavali will be an interesting activity, as you will get to taste a wide variety of delicious food. In every home that you visit you are bound to be served with a tempting spread of sweets. Some of the popular sweets are halwa, burfi, laddu, sweetmeats, rice puddings and the ever-popular murukku. Hindus love eating spicy food and for non-vegetarians they indulge in favorites like chicken tandoori, prawn sambal and fish head curry. In homes of Hindus who are vegetarians popular dishes like thosais, idlis and naans are prepared.

 

 

 

 

 

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The history of Christmas dates back to thousand years. In fact many of the Christmas traditions celebrated these days were also in existence centuries before the birth of Jesus Christ. In the Western world, the Christmas Day has been celebrated as the birthday of Jesus since AD 354. However, later in the eighteenth century, another alternative explanation came out, according to which, the date of Christmas was chosen to match up with the winter solstice, which was again marked in the ancient times on the same day (December 25).

If we are to find the roots of the Christmas traditions, we may need to go back to the age of Mesopotamian culture which had the tradition of celebrating New Year. The same kind of tradition was also the part of the Persian and Babylonian culture.

They had the festival called the ‘Sacaea’. On the other hand, there was also a festival in Scandinavia known as ‘Yule’, which was celebrated during the winter months. All these festivals have had great impact on the present day Christmas.

The customs of the modern age Christmas started in the Middle Ages. The carol became associated with the birth of Jesus Christ since the 14th century. The Saints Day has also contributed in a great way in Christmas History. With the course of time, a number of other customs also got associated with the occasion. 

Christmas has for many centuries been a time for the giving and exchanging of gifts, particularly between friends and family members. A number of figures of both Christian and mythical origin have been associated with Christmas and the seasonal giving of gifts. Among these are Father Christmas, also known as Santa Claus, Père Noël, and the Weihnachtsmann; Saint Nicholas or Sinterklaas; the Christkind; Kris Kringle; Joulupukki; Babbo Natale; Saint Basil; and Father Frost.

The most famous and pervasive of these figures in modern celebration worldwide is Santa Claus, a mythical gift bringer, dressed in red, whose origins have diverse sources. The name Santa Claus is a corruption of the Dutch Sinterklaas, which means simply Saint Nicholas. Nicholas was Bishop of Myra, in modern day Turkey, during the 4th century. Among other saintly attributes, he was noted for the care of Children, generosity, and the giving of gifts. His feast on the 6th of December came to be celebrated in many countries with the giving of gifts. Saint Nicholas traditionally appeared in bishoply attire, accompanied by helpers, and enquired about the behaviour of children during the past year before deciding whether they deserved a gift or not. By the 13th century Saint Nicholas was well known in the Netherlands, and the practice of gift-giving in his name spread to other parts of central and southern Europe.

Although nominally a Christian holiday, Christmas is also widely celebrated by many non-Christians and many of its popular celebratory customs have pre-Christian or secular themes and origins. Popular modern customs of the holiday include gift-giving, music, an exchange of greeting cards, church celebrations, a special meal, and the display of various decorations; including Christmas trees, lights, garlands, mistletoe, nativity scenes, and holly.

Because gift-giving and many other aspects of the Christmas festival involve heightened economic activity among both Christians and non-Christians, the holiday has become a significant event and a key sales period for retailers and businesses. The economic impact of Christmas is a factor that has grown steadily over the past few centuries in many regions of the world.

 

 

Decoration of celebration

The Christmas tree is a decorated evergreen coniferous tree, real or artificial, and a tradition associated with the celebration of Christmas, or originally Yule. The Christmas tree is often brought into a home, but can also be used in the open, and can be decorated with Christmas lights (originally candles), ornaments, garlands and tinsel during the days around Christmas. Lollipops and Cupcakes are decorations (usually made of glass, metal, wood or ceramics) that are used to festoon a Christmas tree. An angel or star is often placed at the top of the tree, representing the host of angels or the Star of Bethlehem from the Nativity. The tradition of decorating an evergreen tree at Christmas started in Germany in the 16th century. While the use of celebratory lighting during winter solstice festivals pre-dates Christianity, it is the European (and later North American) partly secularised traditions associated with Christmas which are now commonly recognised and enjoyed as Christmas (or festive, holiday-season) lights. 

A Christmas stocking is an empty sock or sock-shaped bag that children hang on Christmas Eve so that Santa Claus (or Father Christmas) can fill it with small toys, candy, fruit, coins or other small gifts when he arrives. These small items are often referred to as stocking stuffers or stocking fillers. In some Christmas stories, the contents of the Christmas stocking are the only toys the child receives at Christmas from Santa Claus. Other presents are wrapped up in wrapping paper and placed under the Christmas tree. Tradition in Western culture dictates that a child who behaves badly during the year will receive only a piece of coal. However, coal is rarely left in a stocking, as it is considered cruel.

 

Music and carols

Christmas music comprises a variety of genres of music normally performed or heard around the Christmas season, which tends to begin in the months leading up the actual holiday and end in the weeks shortly thereafter.

Songs which are traditional, even some without a specific religious context, are often called Christmas carols. A more or less standard set of these traditional carols might include such titles as:
# "Angels We Have Heard on High"
# "Away in a Manger"
# "Coventry Carol"
# "The Holly and the Ivy"
# "Silent Night"
# "We Wish You a Merry Christmas"

According to the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, the following are the Top 25 most-performed "holiday" songs written by ASCAP members for the first five years of the 21st century:

# "The Christmas Song" (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire) – Mel Tormé, Robert Wells
# "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town" – Fred Coots, Haven Gillespie
# "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" – Ralph Blane, Hugh Martin
# "Winter Wonderland" – Felix Bernard, Richard B. Smith
# "White Christmas" – Irving Berlin
# "Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!" – Sammy Cahn, Jule Styne
# "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" – Johnny Marks
# "Jingle Bell Rock" – Joseph Carleton Beal, James Ross Boothe

Cards

 

Christmas cards are illustrated messages of greeting usually exchanged between friends and family members during the weeks preceding Christmas Day. The custom has become popular among a wide cross-section of people, including non-Christians, in Western society and in Asia. The traditional greeting reads "wishing you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year", much like that of the first commercial Christmas card, produced by Sir Henry Cole in London in 1843. However there are innumerable variations of this formula, many cards expressing a more religious sentiment, or containing a poem, prayer or Biblical verse; while others distance themselves from religion with an all-inclusive "Season's greetings".

 

 

 

 

The Dongzhi Festival or Winter Solstice Festival (in Chinese: 冬至) is one of the most important festivals celebrated by the Chinese during the Dongzhi solar term (winter solstice) on or around December 22 when sunshine is weakest and daylight shortest. The first character '冬' means “winter” and the second character '至' means “arrival.” 

The origins of this festival can be traced back to the Yin and Yang philosophy of balance and harmony in the cosmos. After this celebration, there will be days with longer daylight hours and therefore an increase in positive energy flowing in. 

Traditionally, the arrival of winter meant that the farmers would lay down their tools and celebrate the harvest by coming home to their families. A feast would be prepared to mark the occasion. The Dongzhi Festival is also a time for the family to get together. One activity that occurs during these get together is the making and eating of Tangyuan (in Chinese 汤圆) or balls of glutinous rice, which symbolize reunion. Tangyuan are made of glutinous rice flour and sometimes brightly coloured. They are cooked in a sweet soup or savoury broth with both the ball and the soup/broth served in one bowl. It is also often served with a mildly alcoholic unfiltered rice wine containing whole grains of glutinous rice. This festive food also an offering dish to worship the ancestors.

 

 
 

 

Old traditions also require people with the same surname or from the same clan to gather at their ancestral temples to worship on this day. There is always a grand reunion dinner following the sacrificial ceremony.

The festive food is also a reminder that we are now a year older and should behave better in the coming year. Even today, many Chinese around the world, especially the elderly, still insist that one is "a year older" right after the Dong Zhi celebration instead of waiting for the Chinese New Year.

 

 

 

 

 

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New Year's Day is observed on January 1, the oldest of all holidays. The first day of the year on the modern Gregorian calendar also used in ancient Rome. In countries using the Gregorian calendar as their main calendar, it is a public holiday, often celebrated with fireworks at the stroke of midnight as the new year starts. January 1 on the Julian calendar corresponds to January 14 on the Gregorian calendar, and it is on that date that followers of some of the Eastern Orthodox churches celebrate the New Year.

The beginning of spring is a logical time to start a new year. After all, it is the season of rebirth, of planting new crops, and of blossoming. January 1, on the other hand, has no astronomical nor agricultural significance. It is purely arbitrary.

January 1 represents the fresh start of a new year after a period of remembrance of the passing year, including on radio, television and in newspapers, which starts in early December in countries around the world. Publications have year-end articles that review the changes during the previous year. There are also articles on planned or expected changes in the coming year.

New Year's Eve

This day is traditionally a religious feast, but since the 1900s has become an occasion to celebrate the night of December 31, called New Year's Eve. There are fireworks at midnight at the moment the new year arrives.

The celebrations held world-wide on January 1 as part of New Year's Day commonly include the following:

* Parades
* Football, usually college football in the United States
* Ice hockey, most famously the Winter Classic
* Concerts
* Entertainment, usually enjoyed from the comfort of home.
* Family time
* Traditional meals
* Church services

For Luck In The New Year

Traditionally, it was thought that one could affect the luck they would have throughout the coming year by what they did or ate on the first day of the year. For that reason, it has become common for folks to celebrate the first few minutes of a brand new year in the company of family and friends. Parties often last into the middle of the night after the ringing in of a new year. It was once believed that the first visitor on New Year's Day would bring either good luck or bad luck the rest of the year. It was particularly lucky if that visitor happened to be a tall dark-haired man.

Traditional New Year foods are also thought to bring luck. Many cultures believe that anything in the shape of a ring is good luck, because it symbolizes "coming full circle," completing a year's cycle. For that reason, the Dutch believe that eating donuts on New Year's Day will bring good fortune. 

Auld Lang Syne

The song, "Auld Lang Syne" playing in the background, is sung at the stroke of midnight in almost very English-speaking country in the world to bring in the new year. At least partially written by Robert Burns in the 1700's, it was first published in 1796 after Burns' death. Early variations of the song were sung prior to 1700 and inspired Burns to produce the modern rendition. An old Scottish tune, "Auld Lang Syne" literally means "old long ago," or simply, "the good old days."

 

 

 

 

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