Islamic New Year is on the first day of the month of Muharram, which is the first month of the Islamic calendar. Muharram is one of four holy months in Islam. During this month all fighting is prohibited, but the celebrations are more cultural than religious. It commemorates Muhammad (pbuh) leaving Mecca and crossing the desert to Medina where he was more free to worship.
Like New Year in other cultures, it is a day for reflecting on the past and resolving to be better in the coming year.
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Laylat al-Qadr, also known as the Night of Destiny or Night of Power, marks the day when the Qu’ran was first revealed to Muhammad (pbuh).
The Qu’ran doesn’t mention the exact day that this happened, just that it was during the last 10 days of Ramadan, but it is usually taken to be the 27th day of Ramadan.
It is considered to be the holiest night of the whole year and the night is often spent praying and reading the Qu’ran. It is believed that if you ask forgiveness on this night, all past sins will be forgiven.
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Vaisakhi, also spelt Baisakhi, celebrates the founding of the Sikh community. It is celebrated on April 14th each year.
On 14th April 1699 group Gobind Singh summoned Sikhs from all around the world. When they were gathered together, he asked who amongst them would be prepared to give his life for his faith.
One man stepped forward and Guru Gobind Singh took him into a tent and then reappeared shortly after with a blood covered sword. The Guru repeated the question and another man stepped forward. Again he was taken into a tent and again the Guru reappeared with a blood covered sword. Three more times the question was asked and three more times a volunteer stepped forward to be taken into the tent.
After the fifth time, all five of the men stepped out of the tent. Guru Gobind Singh called them the five beloved ones and they became the first Sikh community, known as the Khalsa. He presented each of them with the 5Ks as symbols of their purity and courage, and he announced that from then on all men would be given the name Singh (meaning lion) to represent courage, and all women would be given the name Kaur (meaning princess) to represent dignity.
On the Thursday evening before Easter Day, the church bells in France fall silent. Adults tell the children that the bells have flown off to Rome to visit to the Pope and to collect the Easter eggs. The bells remain silent (absent) on Friday and Saturday, and then on Easter Sunday they return to the churches, droppings the eggs off along the way, and ring out over the country. They are known as “Les Cloches Volants” or the flying bells.
One game that is played on this day is to throw and catch a raw egg. If you drop and break your egg you are out, and the winner is the last person left with their egg still intact.
As Poisson d’avril is so close to Easter, chocolate fish as well as chocolate eggs are included in the sweet treats at his time.
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Different regions of Switzerland have different traditions, for example in one region in the south of Switzerland they perform a passion play on the Thursday before Easter Day. In another region, in the west of the country there is a “weeping women parade” where the women carry red cushions with nails and a crown of thorns.
It is the cuckoo who brings the Easter eggs in Switzerland, and so in the run up to the festival, the shops have displays of baskets of eggs and cuckoos.
Easter Day itself begins with an Easter egg hunt for children, with a prize for the person who finds the most eggs.
Easter Monday brings another game: the adults have to try to break the children’s decorated eggs with a 20 cent coin. If they succeed, they get to keep the egg and the money, but if they lose the child gets the 20 cents.
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