Maspeth living room is transformed into a Thanksgiving
dining room that can seat visiting family. Tribune
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Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Sikh Holidays
At the end of the Hajj (annual pilgrimage to Mecca), Muslims throughout the world celebrate the holiday of Eid al-Adha (Festival of Sacrifice). This year, Eid al-Adha will begin Dec. 20 and will last for three days.
During the Hajj, Muslims remember and commemorate the trials and triumphs of the Prophet Abraham. One of Abraham's main trials was to face the command of Allah to kill his only son. Upon hearing this command, he prepared to submit to Allah's will. When he was all prepared to do it, Allah revealed to him that his "sacrifice" had already been fulfilled. He had shown that his love for his Lord superceded all others, which he would lay down his own life or the lives of those dear to him in order to submit to God.
During the celebration of Eid al-Adha, Muslims commemorate and remember Abraham's trials, by themselves slaughtering an animal such as a sheep, camel, or goat. This action is very often misunderstood by those outside the faith.
The meat from the sacrifice of Eid al-Adha is mostly given away to others. One-third is eaten by immediate family and relatives, one-third is given away to friends, and one-third is donated to the poor. The act symbolizes Muslims' willingness to give up things that are of benefit to us or close to their hearts, in order to follow Allah's commands.
On the first morning of Eid al-Adha, Muslims around the world attend morning prayers at their local mosques. Prayers are followed by visits with family and friends, and the exchange of greetings and gifts. At some point, members of the family will visit a local farm or otherwise will make arrangements for the slaughter of an animal. The meat is distributed during the days of the holiday or shortly thereafter.
Buddhists of Sri Lankan origin observe two important holidays during the month of December. According to the Venerable Kurunegoda, head monk at the New York Buddhist Vihara Foundation in Queens Village, the first full moon of the month marks the traditional date when Buddha sat beneath the Bodhi Tree as he achieved enlightenment, though the holiday is typically celebrated Dec. 8.
Though the date is of huge importance to the Buddhist community, it is marked in a manner that would seem quiet and reserved compared to mainstream holiday celebrations in America. "Buddhist celebrations are actually quite different from other celebrations," Kurunegoda said. "Usually people come to the temple and observe precepts, which are very important to Buddhism. We observe these in a ceremonial way and we light lamps."
Diwali or Deepawali means rows of lighted lamps and is a yin-yang holiday that challenges good versus evil, the holiday is widely celebrated in North and South India. With such a high dispersion of Hindu, Jain and Sikh population in Queens its no wonder that Diwali is gaining more world-wide recognition, especially October thru November when it is celebrated.
Divali is referred to as the "Festival of Lights" the significance of the bright lights or dipa and fireworks is used to illuminate evil thus exposing its malicious ways. During this time candles and lamps are lit, homes are thoroughly cleaned and windows are opened to welcome Laksmi, the goddess of wealth and good fortune, who only visits homes that are spotless and brightly lit. Fireworks represent the thunderous, lethal weapons used in ancient mythology to fight the forces of evil.
Like all holidays there is a significant sequence of events that led up to this colorful celebration but unlike most holidays the allusion of this festival depends on who you ask.
The most popular version of Divali is that Hindus celebrate the day to commemorate the homecoming of King Rama of Ayodhya after a 14-year exile in the forest; he was considered "the perfect man". After fighting a fierce and arduous war complete with magical weaponry against Ravana the result was the safe return of Rama's kidnapped wife. Rama was welcomed back with a blinding display of lamps flawlessly lining his path back home and resulting in a tradition.
Some also view it as the day Krishna conquered the demon Narakasura. Another account is that the celebration marks the day Bali went to rule the nether-world. Jains and Sikhs recognize this holiday in honor of the nirvana of Lord Mahavira, which occurred on Oct. 15, 527 B.C., and use the occasion as a reminder to strengthen social and work related relationships.
Guru Nanek Dav's Birthday
For the Sikh community, one of the most important holidays of the year arrives on Nov. 24, which marks the birthday of the religion's founder. Born in 1469 in Punjab, which is now in Pakistan, Guru Nanek Dav created the religious philosophy that guides the lives of Sikhs around the world.
According to Harpreet Singh Toor, former president of the Sikh Cultural Society in Richmond Hill, members of the Sikh community in Queens mark this important day with family and friends at the temple, celebrating and honoring the Sikh philosophy to work hard, pray and also share what you have with less fortunate people."
Sikhs also eschew the gift-giving traditions that figure prominently in other holidays during the winter season. "We feel that you are reducing the significance of the person because it is sort of like commercialization," he explained. "We feel you can share gifts at other times during the year."