The month of March is pretty packed with religious holidays, festivals, and calls to action for people who share in those particular faith groups. IndianTies sends our best wishes to every person who practices and participates in these Holy Days.


Muslims, Hindus, and Christian each have a major religious event this month, so we thought it might be nice to take a look at what each of the Holy Days is based on and who celebrates what. 


        Ramadan (Muslim): Ramadan is a month long experience. Practicing Muslims, typically only healthy adults and teens, participate in Ramadan by fasting for an entire month from sun up to sun down, only able to eat and drink during the hours between sun up and sun down. Each night there is a meal that allows them to break their fasts, called "iftar" (this usually begins with eating dates. This is in honor of Muhammad's practice of eating 3 dates to berak his own fast) and there is a pre-dawn meal called "suhur", beyond that, practicing Muslims are not even allowed to have a drink during the fasting hours.

Through physical sacrifice, Muslims focus their minds, spirits, and bodies on the signifigance of this month (it falls in the 9th month of the Islamic calendar). It is believed that around 610 BC, the Prophet Muhammad was given his first revelation, which became the beginnings of the Quar'an. Ramadan actually begins with the sighting of the crescent moon, which is why we see crescent moons in so much Muslim imagery. These acts of sacrifice are meant to allow believers to focus on reading the Quar'an and really taking its words to heart, they are meant to focus on acts of charity, daily prayers, and are intended to take this month as a time of self reflection and spiritual growth. Another crescent moon represents the end of Ramadan fasting, and participants gather together for a meal to break their fast. This is called Eid al-Fitr. If no crescent moon appears, followers are to complete 30 days and then can call an end to their fast and partake in Eid al-Fitr.   

 Holi (Hindu): Holi, also called "The Festival of Colors",  is celebrated in India (primarily, although you will find Holi celebrations all over the world). It is a Hindu holiday, said to honor the gods Lord Vishnu, Lord Krishna, and the goddess Radha, and to celebrate the triumph of good over evil and the emergence of Spring, welcoming a new season and new opportunities. In fact, while Holi is on March 25th this year, the celebration actually begins the night before; called Choti Holi (small Holi), people gather around bonfires, celebrate together, and throw things into the fire. This is a time where participants are supposed to release previous negative thoughts and experiences and embrace a fresh start. The fire is also a reference to stories of Holika, an ancient demoness, who was burned in a fire. The message of Holi is that good triumphs over evil, and the bonfires are physical reminders of that message. 

The most well known part of Holi is the throwing of colored powders (gulal) and water on one another. I've got to admit, this looks incredibly fun and invigorating (and so very, very messy). What a way to greet Spring! Like every action in Holi, the throwing of colors has purpose. It ties back to the story of Krishna and his love, Radha. Krishna is a Hindu god who, notoriously, has blue skin. His love, Radha, did not, and the story goes that Krishna's mother told him that if he threw colors on Radha, it would change her skin as well! So this part of Holi (perhaps the biggest part) is done in celebration of love. If there wasn't enough symbolism going on, even the colors that are thrown have meaning: RED symbolizes love and fertility; YELLOW is the color of turmeric, a powder that’s native to India and important in both South Asian cuisine and culture; BLUE represents the Hindu god Krishna, the god of protection, compassion, and love; and GREEN symbolizes new beginnings.   


 Easter (Christian): Easter is another of these sacred holidays that actually begins several days before the day of celebration. Easter is a Christian Holy Day, often called "Resurrection Sunday" as well, where believers remember the death of Jesus Christ in AD33 when he was crucified on a cross (this was the preferred form of capital punishment by the Romans, who were in power at that time). The day of Jesus' crucifixion is known now as "Good Friday". It is the catalyst to Easter Sunday. Christians acknowledge Good Friday as a day of great sadness and suffering, representative of both the historical event of Jesus' betrayal by one of his closest followers (Judas Iscariot - this is where the phrase "being a Judas" stems from, meaning someone is unfaithful to the people in their lives), his arrest, trials, torture, and ultimately his prolonged and cruel murder, and as a day to acknowledge that we all face despair at times and there are experiences in all of our lives where we feel like we've reached the end and hope has vanished. However, the entire purpose of Easter, the day of celebration that happens days later on Sunday, is that the day of despair did not end the story. Christians believe that Jesus died on Good Friday, but on Easter Sunday, he was raised back to life. This belief is the center of the Christian faith, which is why Easter Sunday is (with Christmas a close contendor) perhaps the most important Holy Day within the Christian faith. 

Just like Holi has many people who participate in the celebrations and festivities even though they are not necessarily practitioners of the Hindu faith, Easter is a holiday that is celebrated by many people outside of Christianity. The Easter Bunny and egg hunts and big family meals are now synonymous with Easter, however the origin of it is about the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is meant to be a day of celebration and reflection on the fact that Jesus represents hope and that days of suffering can be renamed "Good" (like Good Friday) becuase they do not have to be the end of the story. 


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