Nurturing creativity with art, animals, and science fiction

Tag: holidays of major religions


Happy Diwali!

Today is the first day of Diwali, a five-day celebration of lights and of the triumph of light over darkness, good over evil. Happy Diwali!

Hindus, Jains, and Sikhs all over the world celebrate this holiday, each based on their own traditions. Sometimes likened to a “Hindu Christmas” rolled up with a New Year celebration, most scholars believe it originated as a post-harvest festival.

A beautiful display of rangoli and lights illustrates a wish for a happy Diwali.

In contemporary times, people celebrate Diwali all over the world, wherever Hindus, Jains, or Sikhs have dispersed. It is an important through Southeast Asia, notably Thailand. The “epicenter,” however, remains India.

The wide spread of the festival is notable, however. The Mayor of London last year called for it to be made an official national holiday, along with Eid. Click here for his clarion call to embrace diversity. 

Despite differing traditions and sometimes slightly different dates, there are several important elements in any Diwali celebrationFor me, that’s a happy thought for Diwali!


Diwali is a festival of lights. Here we see everything from a municipal fireworks display by the water, through colorful lanterns, to the small clay diyas of the season.
Clockwise from upper Left: A municipal fireworks display for Diwali; a Rangoli with burning diya lamps; festival lanterns; and more diyas on display.

The name “Diwali” actually means “a row of lights.” This is a celebration of light/goodness in triumph over darkness/evil.

Thus, lights–everything from the traditional little clay oil lamps called diyas to massive municipal fireworks displays–illuminate everything like it was Christmas on the Country Club Plaza.


Create Rangoli by drawing the design first in chalk, then filling in the centers of the shapes with colored rice, sand, or something similarThis is an amazing creative art form that all kinds of people create. Here are some designs, but if you look online there’s no limit.

These are only four of the endless possibilities for rangouli designs.
Here’s a collection of amazing rangoli created for Diwali.


Food is another essential ingredient for the holiday–especially snacks and sweets. Recipes abound, and the variety is endless. But breaking bread together is a universal value, and an essential part of having a happy Diwali.

Food is essential if you want to have a happy Diwali. Here's a sampling.
There’s a whole range of Diwali food. This collection offers a sample.

No matter how or where you celebrate, I hope you have a happy and prosperous Diwali.

IMAGE CREDITS: Many thanks to Amonwipu Injad, via 123RF, for the beautiful “Happy Diwali” greeting graphic. I deeply appreciate the video from National Geographic, via YouTube.  Many thanks to the Express UK, for the images in the “lights” montage: of the fireworks, diyas on the rangoli, and the overview of diyas, via Getty Images, and also for the lanterns in lower right. The rangoli are from (upper left): Deepika Pant, via YouTube, and Express UK (for all the others). The montage of Diwali food is from the Food Network UK. Many thanks to all!

a round palm branch frames "Happy Sukkot!" the citron, myrtle, and willow artistically round out the four species of tradtion.

Happy Sukkot!

If it seems to you that there have been a lot of Jewish holidays recently, that’s because there have been. September through October is a busy time of year for our observant Jewish friends and neighbors. Tonight at sundown begins another holiday, one that’s been in preparation since Yom Kippur ended. Happy Sukkot!

a round palm branch frames "Happy Sukkot!" the citron, myrtle, and willow artistically round out the four species of tradtion.

Also known as the Feast of Booths or the Feast of Tabernacles, Sukkot is, as one commenter put it, kind of a “picnic holiday,” because you eat outside in a little hut, and may even sleep outside in it. The production company BimBam even put together a take-off on The LEGO Movie to explain about the holiday (Don’t worry, it’s only about 4 minutes long).

I could see this having the makings of a fun, family thing to do. Indeed, there are guidelines made especially for parents, to help ensure that children will find the holiday special and enjoyable

But it’s not just a holiday for children. It’s clearly a ritual of faith that all ages can enjoy (and even ignorant Gentiles such as me can appreciate). The traditional greeting is “Chag Sameach” (“Joyous festival”), but “Happy Sukkot!” also works.

In this photo from 2018, members of the Beth Hillel congregation of Kenosha, WI celebrate Sukkot in a  tent-like sukkah with branches and decorations.
In this photo from 2018, members of the Beth Hillel congregation of Kenosha, WI celebrate Sukkot (Kevin Poirier/Kenosha News photo)

I’ve found online instructions for building a sukkah, using everything from concrete blocksto a prefab kit. Clearly, the tradition started in a hot, dry desert. But Jews live everywhere, even in places such as North and South Dakota and Minnesota, where they’re currently having winter-storm conditions

The weather forecast for Aberdeen, SD is a case in point that Sukkot isn't always celebrated in balmy weather. The headline on this 5-day forecast from the National Weather Service says, "Snow continues into Sunday morning, below average temps continue."

There was a blizzard in Denver, Colorado yesterday, for pity’s sake. How do you celebrate Sukkot in a blizzard, I wondered. Since there is nothing new under the sun, I checked, and yes. There are Sukkot guidelines for bad weather. According to Shir Tikvah in St. Paul, MNthe way to celebrate Sukkot in Minnesota during a snowstorm is indoors

I also found an enlightening discussion from 2015 about what to do if a hurricane threatens on Sukkot. You might enjoy the dry humor of the full article from the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. Not much to anyone’s surprise, weathering adversity seems to be something they take in stride.

So, to all Jews everywhere, wherever, and in whatever kind of sukkah you celebrate, however, I wish you a happy Sukkot! (and may you stay warm and dry).

IMAGE CREDITS: Many thanks to bettystrange of 123RF for the “Happy Sukkot!” design, and to BimBam, for The LEGO Sukkot Movie. I also appreciate Kevin Poirier’s photo from the Kenosha News to offer a real-life example of a Sukkot celebration. The graphic from the National Weather Service is the forecast for Aberdeen, SD, as of the time I wrote this post.

Ornate and beautiful idols require weeks of work before the festival. They help make it a happy Durga Puja.

Happy Durga Puja!

I can’t believe I almost missed Durga PujaThis is the very last day of the 10-day festival, also celebrated as Navaratri or Vijayadashami, also known as Dasara. Confused, yet? Never mind. The bottom line is that good has triumphed over evil, and it’s time to celebrateHappy Durga Puja!

Wishing everyone a happy Durga Puja!

What is this festival?

It’s a major holiday celebrated by Hindus, Jains, and SikhsTraditions vary by region, including whether the deity celebrated is the Goddess Durga, or the God Rama.

Since I’ve been studying north-Indian roots for some of my Rana Stationers, I’m slightly more familiar with the kind of Durga Puja celebrations one finds in Kolkata. For that reason, it’s where I’ll focus most of this post.

But the underlying reasons for the season remain the same. Success after an epic battle, a cosmic triumph of good over evil. It’s the end of the monsoon season, and has its origin in ancient harvest festivals. Reasons aplenty to celebrate! Happy Durga Puja!

Ornate and beautiful idols require weeks of work before the festival. They help make it a happy Durga Puja.
The beautifully-created statues in the pandals set up to celebrate Durga Puja glorify the strong and triumphant Mother Durga. (photo by Baishampayan Ghose/Flickr)

Who is Durga?

The best part for me is that Durga Puja celebrates a strong, triumphant goddessDurga. This woman is so awesome she rides a lion or a tiger! Possibly in part because she’s also the mother of the universe, she has lots of arms (anywhere from 8 to 18). Sometimes moms need that many! Mother Durga also wields ten different symbolic weapons in her ongoing efforts to protect the world.

The moment of glory celebrated in the Durga Puja festival is a long, hard-fought battle. She defeated a shape-shifting water-buffalo demon named Mahishashura. The festival lasts ten days (or seven, or nine, or fifteen, depending on where you celebrate) to commemorate how long and hard the battle was.

The ritual dance called dhunuchi is performed in the evening by women in white sarees with red borders. They spread an incense made of coconut husk and camphor, burned in earthen bowls. Happy Durga Puja!
The dhunuchi dance is performed with an earthen bowl containing smoldering coconut husk mixed with camphor. These women also are wearing traditional white sarees with red and embroidered borders. Note this photo comes from Bangalore, not Kolkata. (photo by Amarnath via Flickr)

How is Durga Puja celebrated?

There are lots of Durga Puja celebration traditions in Kolkata (which, as I said, has so far been my primary focus). Several websites offer suggestions for touristsalthough it’s highly likely that local people observe the festival privately in other ways. But here are some of the things always mentioned in the online sources I can access. Three “Happy Durga Puja” approaches are via food, pandals, and rituals.


Although some traditions observe fasts, the rule in Kolkata seems to be feastsBhog is the food most closely associated with the festival, since it is served free at every pandal during Durga Puja. Appropriately for the climactic finish of the festival, the word bhog means “pleasure” or “delight,” but also “to end or conclude.”

You can't have a happy Durga Puja without lots of delicious food. This photo shows free food offered to visitors who come to a pandal.
Bhog is delicious festival food handed out for free to the visitors who come to a pandal. (photo via Holidify)


These are structures–some temporary, some more permanent–in and around which the festival is celebrated. They usually seem to be built by families or groups, who decorate them with stages (the site of amateur theatrical presentations) and the iconic idols, which are sculpted and sumptuously decorated.

This video from the Hindustan Times offers a glimpse of the development of sculptures and the variety of displays in Kolkata during Durga Puja. You also can hear a sample of traditional holiday drumming on dhaaks.


Many aspects of the festival are performed as rituals. There is a particular day (Mahalaya; this year it was Sept. 28) when the eyes may be painted on the idols. There are different offerings at different times of the day. Apparel (such as the white saree with red borders), particular dances, music, and more. All are done in particular ways on particular days.

Elements of a happy Durga Puja: the Kala-bou, or "banana bride" ritual, and the liberal use of the red pigment sindoor on people's faces.
Kala-bou and sindoor! (see below for more details on what those are). Happy Durga Puja! (Photos from “This is Utkarsh Speaking” and Biswarup Ganguly).

An example is the bathing of the Kala-bou or “banana bride” on Mahasaptami, the seventh day of the festivalRead more details here. Another is the use of sindoor (red pigment) on people’s faces during Durga Puja. Traditionally, only married women apply sindoor, but recently the custom has grown to be more inclusive in some places and among some groups, possibly spurred by tourist exuberance.

However you celebrate it, I wish you a very happy Durga Puja!

IMAGE CREDITS: Many thanks to Snapgalleria via 123RF, for the “Subho Bijoya” greetings for Durga Puja. I also want to thank Baishampayan Ghose, Flickr, and Lonely Planet for the delightful photo of the Durga Puja statues, and Amarnath, also via Flickr and Lonely Planet, for the dhunuchi dance photo. 

The photo of many trays of bhog is from Holidify (however, their source link to the photographer’s credits ends in a 404 error). Many thanks to the Hindustan Times for the YouTube video of pandals in Kolkata. 

The “Rituals” montage consists of photos from two different sources. The photo of the kala-bou (banana bride) is from the “This is Utkarsh Speaking” blog, possibly taken by the author?The photo of the women applying sindoor (red pigment) to each other’s faces is by Biswarup Ganguly, CC BY 3.0., via Wikipedia and Wikimedia Commons

Rosh Hashanah greetings of Shana Tovah!

Rosh Hashanah greetings

This post should go live a little before sunset in Kansas City on September 29, 2019, which is the beginning of this year’s Rosh Hashanah celebration, and the start of the year 5780. I’m happy to extend Rosh Hashanah greetings to my Jewish friends!

This image is full of the symbols of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, and wishes everyone "Shana Tovah" and "Rosh Hashana Greetings!"
Shana Tovah! Have a good year!

As I understand it, Rosh Hashanah goes for two days, which means this year it will last until sunset on October 1Shanah Tovah (or Shana Tova, as Tatiana Sidenko’s calligraphic treatment above renders it), means “Have a good year!” This is the first of the High Holy Days, or Days of Awe (what a great name!), in the Jewish liturgical calendar.

I found a YouTube video from Inside Edition, which I thought offered a heartwarming introduction to the holiday. I hope you enjoy it, too (it’s about 3 minutes long).

May you have honey-dipped apples (if you’re not allergic), enjoy the warmth of family and community, and be written into the Book of Life for another year! And I hope you’ve enjoyed my Rosh Hashanah greetings.

IMAGE CREDITS: I owe thanks to Tatiana Sidenko via 123RF for the “Shana Tova” calligraphy, and to “tomertu,” also via 123RF, for the photograph of the assembled Rosh Hashanah symbols of flowers, apples, honey, and shofars. I also appreciate Inside Edition’s “Inside Edition Explains” video on YouTube, about the holiday. This post is part of my Holidays Series. The last series entry was for Paryushan Parva, at the start of the month.

Happy Janmashtami! This image depicts the young Lord Krishna in his traditional role as a young butter-thief.

Happy Janmashtami

Happy Janmashtami to my Hindu friends!

I’ve been enjoying reading and learning about Krishna Janmashtami, a holiday that begins either today or tomorrow, depending on local observances. It is a celebration of the birth of Lord Krishna, and it involves observances that can range from fasting to creating human pyramidsHappy Janmashtami, everyone!

Happy Janmashtami! This image depicts the young Lord Krishna in his traditional role as a young butter-thief.

Hindus celebrate the birth of Krishna on the eighth day of the dark fortnight of either Shravana or Bhadra (depending on whether it’s a leap year). I’m very glad there are smart people who can figure out when that is on the Gregorian Calendar, so I can say Happy Janmastami! at the right time. I’ve been trying to do a better job, recently, of acknowledging major holidays that don’t happen in December.

With a written greeting of "Happy Janmashtami," this design shows a team of young Govindas, creating a human pyramind to reach a ceremonial pot of butter. It's a celebration of the Hindu holiday of Krishna Janmastami, commemorating the birth of Lord Krishna.

One of the most memorable, photographableand dangerous traditions is the Dahi Handi festival, most famously celebrated in Mumbai (but it’s pretty widespread, really). Inspired by stories of Lord Krishna and his friends creating human pyramids to raid household stashes of butter or yogurt, teams form each year, practice, and compete for prizes.

However you celebrate it, please stay safe!

IMAGE CREDITS: Many thanks to “Holidays Today” for the green image of young Lord Krishna as a butter thief, offering greetings of the day, and the blue image of the young Govindas

Eid-al-Adha Mubarak, hope-faith-and-joy.

Hope faith and joy

This evening begins the holy festival of Eid-al-Adha for our Muslim friends. From what I’ve been able to learn, an appropriate greeting is “May the divine blessings of Allah bring you hope, faith, and joy on Eid al-Adha and forever.”

This design image shows a beautiful repeating design in blues and greens, and the words "Eid-al-Adha Mubarak" to wish you greater hope, faith, and joy.

I’m trying to stay current with holiday greetings for major religions throughout this year, instead of only thinking about holidays in December! This festival changes dates, based on a lunar calendar, but if I got this right, it runs from this evening through Wednesday evening. We all could benefit from greater hope, faith, and joy, in the spirit of this festival!

I remain convinced that we must seek stronger bonds of understanding across cultural differences, so that we may build bridges (PLEASE, not walls!) between ourselves and our neighbors. Eid Mubarak, my friends.

IMAGE CREDIT: many thanks to Religion World, for this beautiful design.

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