Diwali (Sikh festival)

The Sikh festival of Diwali is celebrated at the same time of year of the Hindu one, but they celebrate very different events.. For Sikhs, Diwali is a celebration of the release from prison of Guru Hargobind, the 6th Guru.

The story says that the Emperor, who was holding Guru Hargobind prisoner, finally agreed to release him. However the Guru asked for 52 Princes to be released at the same time. To limit the number of prisoners who would be released, the emperor said that only those who could hold on to the tails of Guru Hargobind’s cloak would be allowed to leave.

Guru Hargobind very cleverly had a special cloak made with 52 tails, and so the emperor had no choice but to release all of the princes.

The Golden Temple was lit up to celebrate his return, and this is why the Sikh celebration of Diwali is also a festival of light.

Related post: Diwali (Hindu festival)

Mexican Independence Day

16th September is Independence Day in Mexico. It commemorates Miguel Hidalgo’s cry for freedom of 16th September 1810, which began the uprising, although Mexico didn’t actually gain independence until 28th September 1821.

Miguel Hidalgo, a priest, along with Ignacio Allende, Miguel Dominguez and Juan Aldama and a few others, inspired by their neighbour USA’s successful fight for independence only a few decades previously, had been conspiring for some time to overthrow the Spanish ruling elite so that the country’s wealth could be shared more equally amongst the country’s poor folk. They were going to take their plan to the people in October, but when word of their conspiracy got out, and people from their group began to be arrested and tried for treason they knew they had to act more quickly.

On 16th September 1810, Hidalgo made his famous speech from a church pulpit in the town of Dolores in the north-east of Mexico, motivating people to rise up against their oppressors. Within just a few minutes he had raised a band of 600 men, who despite being poorly armed, with only rocks and stones as weapons, began their march to Mexico City.

Twelve days later, they had an army of about 30,000 men. Despite his charisma, Hidalgo was inexperienced as a military leader and the first uprising did not go well. He was captured and tried for treason, and was executed on 30th July 1811. His head was hung up as a deterrent to others. The fight could have ended there if some of his officers had not picked up the baton and continued.

From 1815 to 1821 fighting was mostly by guerrilla groups rather than battles. Eventually, Mexico was granted independence in 1821.

Nowadays in Mexico, the Independence Day celebrations begin at 11pm on 15th September, with the town officials re-enacting the cry for freedom, or el Grito de Dolores (the cry of Dolores) as it is known. The 16th is a public holiday, and is celebrated with street parties, with food, with music and dancing, with fires and fireworks, and with people flying the Mexican flag.

Roald Dahl Day

September 13th is the birthday of Roald Dahl – the genius who dreamt up Willy Wonka, the Big Friendly Giant, an oversized talking centipede and Miss Trunchbull. And since 2006 it has been the date for celebrating his life and works.

His books have made the leap from paper to film and to the West End, and almost everyone has a favourite. I remember asking one of my 11 year old pupils once what his favourite Roald Dahl book was and to my surprise he said, “His autobiography.” Having read it on his recommendation, I have to say that I admire his taste and fully agree with him. Dahl writes about his own life with the same quirkiness as he writes about Oompa-Loompas and magic fingers.

Roald Dahl day can be celebrated by reading, dressing up, writing revolting recipes – the sky’s the limit. And if you can find the right button in the Great Glass Elevator, why even stop at the sky?

How do Jews celebrate Passover

According to the stories, the Jewish people left Egypt in such a hurry that they didn’t have time to wait for the bread they had been baking to rise. To mark this, during Passover they now eat only unleavened bread. The night before Passover they cleanse the house of all leavened bread, including crumbs.

A special meal called a Seder is eaten, and they lean on cushions as a symbol that they are no longer slaves. The meal also represents the escape from slavery. The first item on the plate is the lamb bone. This is not eaten, but symbolises the lambs that were sacrificed for the original Passover. The roasted egg is also a symbol of sacrifice, as well as of springtime (when Passover takes place) and new beginnings. The green vegetables are for the humble origins of Jews and these vegetables are dipped in saltwater for the tears they have shed. Bitter herbs (usually horseradish) are for the bitterness of slavery, and a dish called Charoset (a mixture of apple, walnut and wine) symbolises the mortar used for building in Egypt during the time of slavery.

The youngest child asks four questions, beginning “Why is this night different from all other nights?” to prompt the retelling of the story of the story of the escape from Egyptian slavery.

During the evening, four toasts are made – one for each of the four expressions God used to describe the escape from slavery, and a glass of wine is also poured for the prophet Elijah. The doors are left unlocked and sometimes open so that Elijah can enter in case this is the day he chooses to return.

Related post: Why do Jews celebrate Passover

Eid al-Adha

Eid al-Adha, or greater Eid, is celebrated on the 10th day of Dhu al-Hijah, the 12 month of the Islamic calendar. This year this will be around 10th-11th September, depending on the sighting of the new moon.

Also known as the feast of the sacrifice, it should not be confused with Eid al-Fitr, the feast of the breaking of the fast. Eid al-Adha celebrates the prophet Ibrahim’s willingness to sacrifice his son.

The story tells how Allah appeared to Ibrahim in a dream and asked him to sacrifice his son, Ishmael, as a sign of his obedience. Just as Ibrahim was about to perform the sacrifice, Allah stopped him and gave him a lamb to slaughter instead. The same story is recounted by Jews and Christians who tell of Abraham being asked to sacrifice his son, Isaac.

Many Muslims sacrifice a sheep or goat for this festival and the meat is shared equally between family, friends and the poor. Anyone in the UK who chooses to do this makes an arrangement for the sacrifice to be carried out in a slaughterhouse.

As with many Muslim festivals, the day starts with prayers at the mosque before the rest of the celebrations – getting together with family and friends and exchanging gifts – begin

Eid Mubarak