Indian Festivals and Holidays

Oct
27
Sun
2019
Diwali
Oct 27 all-day
Diwali

Diwali, the Indian festival of lights, is celebrated at the end of Ashwin month with its festivities continuing till the beginning of Kartika month, based on the auspicious Hindu calendar and is one of the most widely celebrated religious occasions across the world. On the day of Diwali, people gets up early in the morning and pay tribute to their ancestors and worship family gods. Being Amavasya day, people also perform Shradh for their ancestors. Traditionally, most Puja are performed after keeping a day long fast. Hence, the devotees of Goddess Lakshmi observe a day long fast on the day of Lakshmi Puja. The fast is broken after Lakshmi Puja in the evening.

Unlike most Indian festivals, the vivacious festival of Diwali is revelry continues for five days while some part of South India celebrates Diwali as a one day festival. The first day of Diwali festivities is known as Dhanteras, on which most of the business communities in India begin their financial year. Naraka Chaturdasi marks the second day of festivities and the third day is celebrated Diwali, also known as Deepawali or Deepavali which involves the worship of Goddess Laksmi and Lord Ganesha. On the fourth day, Govardhan Puja is performed, whereas the final day is known as Bhai Dooj and celebrates the love between a brother and sister.

The most popular tradition behind Diwali dictates that it marks the day on which the Hindu deity Lord Ram returned to his home city of Ayodhya after vanquishing the demon king Ravana. According to mythology, lights were lit all across the country to celebrate his return to rule. It is widely believed that Diwali is the day on which the Hindu goddess of prosperity, Lakshmi supposedly roams the Earth and blesses people with wealth and happiness. Another belief for Jainism, India’s sixth largest religion, is that this is the day on which the last of the 24 Thirthankaras (Great Teachers), Lord Mahavira attained ‘Nirvana’. Sikhs celebrate Diwali as the occasion on which their teacher Guru Hargobind Ji was released from the captivity of Mughal ruler Jahangir in Gwalior along with several Hindu kings.

Many communities especially Gujarati businessmen do Chopda Pujan during Diwali Puja. During Chopda Puja new account books are inaugurated in presence of Goddess Lakshmi to seek Her blessing for the next financial year. Diwali Puja is also known as Deepavali Puja and Lakshmi Ganesh Pujan.

Narak Chaturdashi
Oct 27 all-day
Narak Chaturdashi

The fourteenth (Chaturdashi) day of the dark fortnight of Ashwin, when Shri krishna returned home at dawn, after slaying Narkasur, is known as ‘Narak Chaturdashi‘ or ‘Kali Puja‘. Five days Diwali festivity starts on Dhantrayodashi and lasts on Bhaiya Dooj day. Abhyang Snan has been suggested on three days i.e. on Chaturdashi, Amavasya and Pratipada days during Diwali.

According to Hindu legend, this day commemorates the victory of Goddess Kali, Goddess Satyabhama and Shri Krishna over Narakasura the demon-king. Narakasura ruled the kingdom of Pradyoshapuram. Puranas have it that Naraka, son of Bhudevi, acquired immense power from a blessing given by Lord Brahma after a severe penance. Narakasura was a demon-king who had imprisoned 16,000 women which included the daughters of the Gods. He had also defeated the king of the Gods, Lord Indra and stolen the earrings from Aditi, the mother of the Gods. Goddess Kali, Goddess Satyabhama and Lord Krishna thus fought the battle with the demon and defeated him with Krishna’s Sudarshana Chakra and Lord Krishna smeared his forehead with Naraka’s blood.

Narak Chaturdashi is celebrated in a special way in Goa, where paper-made effigies stuffed with grass and firecrackers are burst at four in the morning. Men take scented oil baths, while the women perform aarti for them. A bitter berry called the Kareeta is crushed under the feet which symbolises the killing of Narakasura, and the removal of evil and ignorance.

A thorough Pre-Diwali cleaning is done throughout the house to welcome Goddess Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth. The literal meaning of ‘Kali Chaudas’ is dark and fourteenth, the day when Kali Puja or Shakti Puja is done. Kali Puja is usually celebrated in the eastern part of the country, where people pray for protection against spiritual, emotional and physical adversities. Gifts are exchanged and the atmosphere is filled with a mood of celebration and festivity. Different kinds of poha and sweets are prepared, offered to the God and enjoyed with family and friends.Diwali is usually celebrated on Narak Chaturdashi in south India, while others celebrate it on new moon night.

Abhyang Snan on Chaturdashi day, which is popularly known as Narak Chaturdashi, is the most significant one. It is believed that people, who do Abhyang Snan on this day, can avoid going to Narak. Narak Chaturdashi day is also known as Choti DiwaliRoop Chaturdashi and Roop Chaudas.

Oct
28
Mon
2019
Govardhan Puja
Oct 28 all-day
Govardhan Puja

Most of the time Govardhan Puja day falls next day after Diwali Puja in the month of Kartik and it is celebrated as the day when Lord Krishna defeated God Indra. Sometimes there might be one day gap between Diwali and Govardhan Puja. Gowardhan Puja is also known as Annakut Puja. On this day food made of cereals like wheat, rice, curry made of gram flour and leafy vegetables is cooked and offered to Lord Krishna.

The most popular legend that allude to the origin of Govardhan Puja, states that Govardhan was a small hillock that was located near Mathura at a place called Braj. According to the Vishnu Puraan, It was a common practice in Gokul to do Indra Puja year on year to please Indra who was believed to be the god of rains but Lord Krishna had to change such type of opinions of the people of Gokul. Lord Krishna told the people that it wasn’t Indra but Govardhan Parvat or Annakut hill that brought the rains and therefore the latter should be worshipped and prayed to. Govardhan Parbat (Govardhan hill) is the real God who is nurturing and saving your lives from drastic conditions by giving you food and shelter. When the people followed this ordinance, Lord Indira’s wrath on the people resulted in heavy rains. Lord Krishna then saved the people of Gokul by first praying to Govardhan Parvat and then lifting it on his little finger under which the people took shelter from the rains.

The main aspect of the puja is to install the Govardhan hill. For this, people make the image of Govardhan hill either in cow dung or mud. People also use some crafty fixtures and art work to simulate the eyes, lips and face of Lord Krishna on the Govardhan image. Fixing a peacock feather on it is the highlight. The other items used for the puja include two sugarcane sticks, fresh milk, yoghurt, batasha, peda and ladoos in addition to roll and chawal. Devotee uses a few earthen lamps, oil, wicks and gives Dakshina.

In Maharashtra the same day is celebrated as Bali Pratipada or Bali Padva. The day commemorates victory of Vamana, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu, over King Bali and subsequent pushing of Bali to Patal Lok (the underworld). It is believed that due to boon given by Lord Vamana, Asura King Bali visits the Prithvi Lok from the Patala Lok on this day. It is also marks the day King Vikramaditya was coroneted and is known as the Vikram Samvat.

Oct
29
Tue
2019
Bhaiya Dooj
Oct 29 all-day
Bhaiya Dooj

The fifth or the last day of Diwali‘s five day long celebration is Bhaiya Dooj, popularly known as Bhai Duj. It falls on the second day after the new moon in the month of Kartik. On Bhaiya Dooj, sisters pray for their brothers to have long and happy lives by performing Tika ceremony and brothers offer gifts to their sisters. Bhaiya Dooj is also known as Bhau Beej and Bhathru Dwithiya. It is also celebrated as “Yama Dwitiya” in the southern parts of India.

There are few Hindu mythological based stories related to the origin of this auspicious day. A legend revolves around the story of Yama, the God of Death and his sister Yamuna. Long long ago, Surya, the sun God, was married to a beautiful princess called Sanjna (also pronounced as Sangya) and they got twins. The twins were christened Yama, and Varni or Yamuna. After some time, Sanjna was unable to bear the brilliance of her husband and decided to go back to earth by leaving her shadow, Chaya (exact replica) behind so that it would appear to Surya that she was still there. Chaya turned out to be a cruel stepmother and was very unkind to the twins. She soon gave birth to her own children and convinced Surya to drive out Yama and Varni from the heavens. Varni fell to earth and became the river Yamuna, and Yama went to the underworld (hell) and became the Lord of Death. When many years passed, Varni married a handsome prince and was happy in her life but she missed her brother. Yama, too, missed his sister and decided one day to visit her. One day when Yama decided to visit her, overjoyed Varni prepared a great feast in his honor. Yama, too, was delighted by his sister’s loving welcome and they spent a pleasant evening in each other’s company, after their long period of separation. When it was time for Yama to leave, he requested his sister to ask for something but she denied. But after Yama’s insist, she asked that all brothers should remember their sisters on this day and should visit them if they could, and all sisters should pray for the happiness of their brothers. Yama proclaimed that it would be and he would grant a long and healthy life to all brothers who wwould give their sisters a loving gift on that day!

According to the another legend, Lord Krishna visited his sister, Subhadra after killing demon Narkasur. Her sister gave a warm welcome to him and made the occasion really special through flowers and sweets. Subhadra also applied the ceremonial “tilak” on the forehead of her brother, Krishna on this auspicious day of “Bhai Dooj”.

Traditionally, Bhai dooj is applicable for brothers of married women. Apart from strengthening the bond, it gives the chance for the brother to visit and check on the conditions of his sister at her husband’s place.

Nov
2
Sat
2019
Chhath Puja
Nov 2 all-day
Chhath Puja

Chhath puja is a festival dedicated to the Sun God, Surya and Chhathi Maiya, Usha (wife of Surya). It is celebrated on the sixth day of the month of Kartik (October-November) after Diwali. Rituals span over four days and devotees go without food and water. Chhath is mainly characterized by riverside rituals in which Sun God or Surya is worshiped, giving it the name of ‘Suryasasthi‘. Chhath Puja is also known as Surya ShashtiChhathi and Dala Chhath. The Sun God, Surya, the god of energy and of the life-force, is worshiped during the Chhath Puja to promote well-being, prosperity and progress. The festival is native to Bihar, Jharkhand and eastern Uttar Pradesh and is also celebrated in Nepal.

The epic Ramayana refers that the festival being celebrated by Sita after Lord Ram’s return to Ayodhya and epic Mahabharta refers for Draupadi also. It has also Vedic roots in which Goddesses Usha is mentioned and hence, several mantras are dedicated to her. It is also folk belief that puja was firstly started by Surya Putra Karn.

The first day is known as ‘Nahay khay’ or ‘Arwa Arwain’ when devotees take a dip in a river or a pond in the morning and purifies the surroundings of house with Ganga Jal or same water. Devotees have only one meal on this day i.e. Kaddu-bhat. Kaddu-bhat is cooked in the bronze or soil utensils by using mango wood fire over soil stove.

Second day is known as ‘Lohanda and Kharna’, when women observe fast for the whole day, breaking it only after worship of the sun God with Rasiao-kheer, puris and fruits at the time of sunset. After breaking fast, there begins a 36-hour long fast again, during which they are not even allowed a sip of water.

Third Day of Chhath Puja is known as ‘Sanjhiya Arghya’. The devotees offer Sanjhiya Arghya at the riverside (bank of river) and after that they wore turmeric colour saree. In the night, the devotee celebrates the vibrant event of filling Kosi, known as Kosia Bharai, by lighting clay diyas under the five sugarcane stick with folk song of Chhathi Maiya. This sugarcane stick represents the Panchatattva i.e. Earth, Air, water, fire and Space.

On the fourth and final day of Chhath Puja, devotees along with family and friends gather around the same river or pond and offer ‘Usha arghya’ (morning offerings), also known as Bihaniya Aragh, to the rising sun God. It is only after this puja that the worshippers break their fast with Chhath Puja Prasad.

Nov
10
Sun
2019
Id-e-Milad, Milad an-Nabi
Nov 10 all-day
Id-e-Milad, Milad an-Nabi

Id-e-Milad is an important Muslim festival celebrated on the birth anniversary of the Islamic prophet known as Muhammad on the twelfth day of Rabi-ul-Awwal. He was born in the city of Mecca in Arabia. It is celebrated in the third month of the Islamic calendar. This day is also his death anniversary. It is also referred as Mawlid an-Nabi and Milad an-Nabi in Arabic. The word “Mawlid” is an Arabic word, which literally means to give birth or bear a child.  The festival of Id-e-Milad popularly known as Barah Wafat, the twelfth day is one of the important festival in the Muslim calendar.

Prophet Mohammad, son of Abdul Muttalib, of the Qureysh tribe, was born at Mecca in 570AD. From about 610 AD, he began to receive revelations sent down from Allah through angel Gabriel. He spread the word among people, and soon had a small community of followers. Later Islam became one of the most popular religions of the world. In 632 AD, Prophet Muhammed went on a pilgrimage to Mecca followed by thousands of his devotees, where he preached his farewell sermon and later left the mortal world forever. The word ‘barah’ refers to the twelve days of the Prophet’s sickness. In 632 Muhammad fell ill and suffered for several days with head pain and weakness. He succumbed on Monday, in the city of Medina. He is buried in his tomb (which previously was in his wife Aisha’s house), which is housed within Mosque of the Prophet in Medina, is the second holiest mosque in Islam.

The celebration of Prophet’s birthday is believed to have its origins on the 8th century when the Prophet Muhammad’s birth house was converted into a house of prayer by Al-Khayzuran. Al-Khayzuran was the mother of a caliph, Harun-al-Rashid. The early celebrations have been influenced by the Sufi saints in Egypt with public orations followed by a feast. In the olden days this festival was first originally celebrated only by a group of people belonging to the ruling class Muslims known as Shia’s. In the following years to come the festival was spread to other Islamic cities and the festival was adopted by the Sunni’s in time. After 1910, it declared a national holiday in many Muslim countries. The day is marked by holding religious discourses, reading the Holy book of Quran and giving alms to the poor.

Nov
12
Tue
2019
Guru Nanak Jayanti
Nov 12 all-day
Guru Nanak Jayanti

Guru Nanak (1469-1539 C.E.) was the founder of the Sikhism and the first of the 10 Sikh Gurus. His birth is celebrated worldwide as Guru Nanak Dev Jayanti or Gurpurab on the day of Kartik Purnima as per Hindu lunar calendar, which falls during the months of October-November in Gregorian calendar.

Sikh traditions teach that his birth and early years were marked with many events that demonstrated that God had marked him out for something special and was keeping an eye on him. Guru Nanak Sahib, the founder of Sikhism, was born on 15th April, 1469 at Rai-Bhoi-di Talwandi in the present district of Shekhupura (Pakistan), now Nanakana Sahib. Nanak Dev travelled extensively to spread the message and teaching of God. He believed that there is an almighty who dwells in every one of his creations and constitutes the eternal truth. As a young boy of five, he voiced interest in divine subjects. Later, on joining school at the age of seven, he is believed to have astonished his teachers by describing the first letter of alphabet, ‘A’ and the mathematical version ‘1’, as denoting the unity and oneness of God. Later, he learnt Hindi, Sanskrit and Persian. He married at the age of 19 and had two sons. Due to his lack of interest in worldly affairs, he soon drifted towards the spiritual world and at the age of 30 he visited various holy places to gain knowledge.

The words and teachings of the saint are registered in the form of 974 hymns in the holy texts of the Guru Granth Sahib and according to the beliefs of the Sikh religion, it is believed that the spirit of Nanak Dev descended upon each of the nine subsequent Gurus. Sikhs from all over the world gather here and celebrate the Gurupurab every year with great devotion and enthusiasm.

Nov
14
Thu
2019
Pundit Jawaharlal Nehru Jayanti
Nov 14 all-day
Pundit Jawaharlal Nehru Jayanti

Jawaharlal Nehru (1889-1964 C.E.) was the first Prime Minister of Independent India. He was born on November 14, 1889 in Allahabad, India. His father, Motilal Nehru, was a well-known eminent lawyer who belonged to Kashmiri Pundit’s community.

Nehru family was elitist in most of their practices and English was spoken and encouraged. His father, Motilal Nehru appointed English and Scottish teachers to supervise his children’s education at home under private tutors. At the age of fifteen, he went to England and after two years at Harrow, joined Cambridge University to obtain a degree in natural sciences. After spending two years at the Inner Temple, London, he qualified as a barrister and studied subjects like literature, politics, economics, and history. He returned to India in 1912 and plunged straight into politics. In 1912, he attended the Bankipore Congress as a delegate, and became Secretary of the Home Rule League, Allahabad in 1919. In 1916 he had his first meeting with Mahatma Gandhi and felt immensely inspired by him. In 1916 Nehru married to Kamala Kaul, known as Kamla Nehru and his only daughter Indira was born a year later in 1917. He was elected as the president of the Allahabad municipal corporation in 1920. He organised the first Kisan March in Pratapgarh District of Uttar Pradesh in 1920. He was twice imprisoned in connection with the Non-Cooperation Movement of 1920-22. During the Non-Cooperation movement of 1921, Kamala played a vital role by organizing groups of women and picketing shops selling foreign cloth and liquor in Allahabad.

Pt. Nehru became the General Secretary of the All India Congress Committee in September 1923. He toured Italy, Switzerland, England, Belgium, Germany and Russia in 1926. In Belgium, he attended the Congress of Oppressed Nationalities in Brussels as an official delegate of the Indian National Congress. He also attended the tenth anniversary celebrations of the October Socialist Revolution in Moscow in 1927. While leading a procession against the Simon commission, he was lathi-charged in Lucknow in 1928. During the Guwahati Session of the Congress in 1928, Mahatma Gandhi announced that the Congress would launch a massive movement if the British did not grant dominion status to India within the next two years. It was believed that under the pressure of Nehru and Subhash Chandra Bose, the deadline was reduced to one year. Jawaharlal Nehru criticized the famous “Nehru Report” prepared by his father Motilal Nehru in 1928 that favored the concept of a “dominion status for India within the British rule”. In 1929, Pt. Nehru was elected President of the Lahore Session of the Indian National Congress, where complete independence for the country was adopted as the goal. He was imprisoned several times during 1930-35 in connection with the Salt Satyagraha and other movements launched by the Congress. He completed his ‘Autobiography’ in Almora Jail on February 14, 1935. After release, he flew to Switzerland to see his ailing wife and visited London in February-March, 1936. He also visited Spain in July 1938, when the country was in the throws of Civil War. Just before the court-break of the Second World War, he visited China too.

On October 31, 1940 Pt. Nehru was arrested for offering individual Satyagraha to protest against India’s forced participation in war. He was released along with the other leaders in December 1941. On August 7, 1942 Pt. Nehru moved the historic ‘Quit India’ resolution at the A.I.C.C. session in Bombay. On August 8,1942 he was arrested along with other leaders and taken to Ahmednagar Fort. This was his longest and also his last detention. In all, he suffered imprisonment nine times. Post his release, he threw himself into a series of rigorous discussions and negotiations with the British Government that ultimately led to attainment of freedom in 1947.

On August 15, 1947, a free India was born. Nehru was elected as the first Prime Minister of independent India. He was the first PM to hoist the national flag and make his iconic speech “Tryst with Destiny” from the ramparts of the Lal Quila (Red Fort). He implemented a number of socio-economic reforms and paved the way for rapid industrialization. In the year 1949, Jawaharlal Nehru made his first visit to the United States, seeking a solution to India’s urgent food shortage. In 1951, Jawaharlal Nehru launched the country’s “First Five-Year Plan” emphasizing on the increase in the agricultural output. On October 20, 1962, the People’s Liberation Army attacked India simultaneously from two disputed fronts. They captured Rezang la in Chushul and Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh. A month into the armed confrontation, the Chinese declared a ceasefire on November 20, 1962 but the deep sense of mistrust strained the political relations between the two country ever since. In 1964, Jawaharlal Nehru suffered a stroke and a heart attack. On 27 May 1964, Nehru passed away. Nehru was cremated at the Shantivana on the banks of the Yamuna River, Delhi.

Pandit Nehru was adored by children who fondly called him Chacha Nehru. He had immense love for children and his birthday, November 14, is celebrated as Children’s day in India. Children’s Day is also known as Bal Divas. He paved way for India’s educational exaltation by envisioning the country’s top tier institutions like Indian Institute of Technology, All India Institute of Medical Sciences and India’s first space program. Pundit Jawaharlal Nehru was a great writer and the poet. The Discovery of India and Glimpses of World History are some of his well-known books. Shyam Benegal made this television series ‘Bharat Ek Khoj’ based on Nehru’s famous book, Discovery of India.

Dec
22
Sun
2019
Shortest Day of Year
Dec 22 all-day
Shortest Day of Year

A Solstice is when the sun either reaches the highest or lowest point in the sky depending on where you are in the world. It is an astronomical event that happens twice, once in summer and once in winter, each year when the Sun reaches its highest position in the sky as seen from the North or South Pole. During Solstices the tilt of the axil of the Earth (with respect to the Sun) is the maximum at 23° 26′.

Solstices occur on 20th or 21st June and 21st or 22nd December each year. During summer the day of the solstice is the longest day of the year and during winter the day of the solstice is the shortest day of the year. When the North Pole is tilted furthest away from the sun this is when the winter solstice exactly occurs.

During June it is Summer Solstice in the Northern hemisphere and Winter Solstice in the Southern hemisphere. In other words on June Solstice it is summer time in the UK, the USA, Canada, Russia, India, and China and it is the longest day of the year while it is winter time in Australia, Argentina, Chile, New Zealand and South Africa and it is the shortest day of the year.

Similarly during December it is Winter Solstice in the Northern hemisphere and Summer Solstice in the Southern hemisphere. In other words during December Solstice it is winter time in the UK, the USA, Canada, Russia, India and China and it is the shortest day of the year while it is summer time in Australia, Argentina, Chile, New Zealand and South Africa and it is the longest day of the year.

To avoid any confusion Solstices are preferably referred as June Solstice (Northern Solstice) and December Solstice (Southern Solstice). Winter Solstice is also known as Hibernal Solstice. Throughout history, the solstice is seen as a marking point and signal for ancient cultures to harvest or start their animals mating.

Dec
25
Wed
2019
Merry Christmas
Dec 25 all-day
Merry Christmas

Christmas is an annual commemoration of the birth of Jesus Christ and a widely observed cultural holiday, celebrated generally on December 25 by billions of people around the world. Christmas is both a sacred religious holiday and a worldwide cultural and commercial phenomenon. For two millennia, people around the world have been observing it with traditions and practices that are both religious and secular in nature. Christians celebrate Christmas Day as the anniversary of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, a spiritual leader whose teachings form the basis of their religion. Popular customs include exchanging gifts, decorating Christmas trees, attending church, sharing meals with family and friends and, of course, waiting for Santa Claus to arrive.

St. Nicholas was a Bishop who lived in the fourth century in a place called Myra in Asia Minor (now called Turkey). He was a very rich man because his parents died when he was young and left him a lot of money. He was also a very kind man and had a reputation for helping the poor and giving secret gifts to people who needed it. Because of his kindness Nicholas was made a Saint. St. Nicholas was exiled from Myra and later put in prison during the persecution by the Emperor Diocletian. No one is really knows when he died, but it was on 6th December in either 345 or 352. In 1087, his bones were stolen from Turkey by some Italian merchant sailors. The bones are now kept in the Church named after him in the Italian port of Bari.

In the 16th Century in northern Europe, after the reformation, the stories and traditions about St. Nicholas became unpopular. But someone had to deliver presents to children at Christmas, so in the UK, particularly in England, he became ‘Father Christmas‘ or ‘Old Man Christmas‘, an old character from stories plays during the middle ages in the UK and parts of northern Europe. In France, he was then known as ‘Père Nöel‘. In some countries including parts of Austria and Germany, present giver became the ‘Christkind‘ a golden-haired baby, with wings, who symbolizes the new born baby Jesus. In the early USA his name was ‘Kris Kringle‘ (from the Christkind). Later, Dutch settlers in the USA took the old stories of St. Nicholas with them and Kris Kringle and St Nicholas became ‘Sinterklaas‘ or as we now say ‘Santa Claus‘!

In the early years of Christianity, Easter was the main holiday; the birth of Jesus was not celebrated. In the fourth century, church officials decided to institute the birth of Jesus as a holiday. Unfortunately, the Bible does not mention date for his birth (a fact Puritans later pointed out in order to deny the legitimacy of the celebration). Although some evidence suggests that his birth may have occurred in the spring (why would shepherds be herding in the middle of winter?), Pope Julius I chose December 25. It is commonly believed that the church chose this date in an effort to adopt and absorb the traditions of the pagan Saturnalia festival. First called the Feast of the Nativity, the custom spread to Egypt by 432 and to England by the end of the sixth century. By the end of the eighth century, the celebration of Christmas had spread all the way to Scandinavia. Today, in the Greek and Russian orthodox churches, Christmas is celebrated 13 days after the 25th, which is also referred to as the Epiphany or Three Kings Day. This is the day it is believed that the three wise men finally found Jesus in the manger. By holding Christmas at the same time as traditional winter solstice festivals, church leaders increased the chances that Christmas would be popularly embraced, but gave up the ability to dictate how it was celebrated.

In the early 17th century, a wave of religious reform changed the way Christmas was celebrated in Europe. When Oliver Cromwell and his Puritan forces took over England in 1645, they vowed to rid England of decadence and, as part of their effort, cancelled Christmas. By popular demand, Charles II was restored to the throne and, with him, came the return of the popular holiday. After the American Revolution, English customs fell out of favor, including Christmas. In fact, Christmas wasn’t declared a federal holiday until June 26, 1870. Today, in the Greek and Russian orthodox churches, Christmas is celebrated 13 days after the 25th, which is also referred to as the Epiphany or Three Kings Day. This is the day it is believed that the three wise men finally found Jesus in the manger.

Jan
1
Wed
2020
English New Year
Jan 1 all-day
English New Year

English New Year starts on 1st of January, the first day of modern Gregorian calendar also called as Western Calendar and Christian Calendar. Gregorian calendar was reformed in year 1582 to the Julian calendar and stored January 1st as a New Year Day. Gregorian calendar is widely adopted by most of the countries and celebrates January 1st as New Year Day as well as December 31st as New Year’s Eve.

The celebration of the new year on January 1st is a relatively new phenomenon. The earliest recording of a new year celebration is believed to have been in Mesopotamia, c. 2000 B.C. and was celebrated around the time of the vernal equinox, in mid-March. A variety of other dates tied to the seasons were also used by various ancient cultures. The Egyptians, Phoenicians, and Persians began their new year with the fall equinox, and the Greeks celebrated it on the winter solstice.

The early Roman calendar designated March 1 as the new year. The calendar had just ten months, beginning with March. The first time the new year was celebrated on January 1st was in Rome in 153 B.C. (In fact, the month of January did not even exist until around 700 B.C., when the second king of Rome, Numa Pontilius, added the months of January and February.) The new year was moved from March to January because that was the beginning of the civil year, the month that the two newly elected Roman consuls (the highest officials in the Roman republic) began their one-year tenure but the new year was still sometimes celebrated on March 1.

In 46 B.C. Julius Caesar introduced a new, solar-based calendar that was a vast improvement on the ancient Roman calendar, which was a lunar system that had become wildly inaccurate over the years. The Julian calendar decreed that the new year would occur with January 1, and within the Roman world, January 1 became the consistently observed start of the new year.

In 1582, the Gregorian calendar reform restored January 1 as new year’s day. Although most Catholic countries adopted the Gregorian calendar almost immediately, it was only gradually adopted among Protestant countries, e.g. The British did not adopt the reformed calendar until 1752. Until then, the British Empire and their American colonies still celebrated the new year in March.

Jan
12
Sun
2020
Swami Vivekananda Jayanti
Jan 12 all-day
Swami Vivekananda Jayanti

For our national welfare, India must gather up of its scattered spiritual forces. India must be a union of those whose hearts beat to the same spiritual tune.

– Swami Vivekananda

Swami Vivekananda (1863-1902 C.E.) was a Hindu monk and a patriotic saint of India. According to English calendar he was born on 12th January 1863 into an aristocratic Bengali family of Calcutta. However his birthday is celebrated according to Hindu calendar and this day is known as Swami Vivekananda Jayanti. Vivekananda was born on Krishna Paksha Saptami after seven days of Paush Purnima. As Jayanti day is decided based on Hindu calendar, it is not fixed on Gregorian calendar.

A spiritual genius of commanding intellect and power, Vivekananda crammed immense labor and achievement into his short life, 1863-1902. Born in the Datta family of Calcutta, the youthful Vivekananda embraced the agnostic philosophies of the Western mind along with the worship of science. He questioned people of holy reputation, asking them if they had seen God and found such a person in Sri Ramakrishna, who became his master, allayed his doubts, gave him God vision, and transformed him into sage and prophet with authority to teach. Accepting an opportunity to represent Hinduism at Chicago’s Parliament of Religions in 1893, Vivekananda won instant celebrity in America and a ready forum for his spiritual teaching. For three years he spread the Vedanta philosophy and religion in America and England and then returned to India to found the Ramakrishna Math and Mission. Exhorting his nation to spiritual greatness, he wakened India to a new national consciousness. He died July 4, 1902, after a second, much shorter sojourn in the West. His lectures and writings have been gathered into nine volumes.

However Indian government has decided to observe Swami Vivekananda’s Gregorian date of birth as National Youth Day. Hence National Youth Day of India is celebrated each year on 12th January since 1985.

Swami Vivekananda was modern Hindu saint and follower of Vedanta philosophy of Hinduism. He was disciple of Ramakrishna. He founded Belur Math, Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission.