The Eagle Blog

Diversity Celebrations!

I have posted a few entries talking about various cultural and religious celebrations that Canadians in our multi-cultural society celebrate, but that are not always understood by everyone.

I find it fascinating to learn about these traditions, and it helps me to better understand the “differences” that make us all a little unique, but can also highlight how alike we are.

Today I will highlight a couple of very religious events … Eid and Rosh Hashana. In addition to these important religious celebrations there is the famous, but certainly less serious event of Octoberfest.

Keep reading to learn a little more about these celebrations …

Eid ulFitr

Eid ulFitr, often abbreviated to Eid, is a Muslim holiday celebrated after the end of the Islamic month of Ramadan, on the first day of Shawwal. Eid is an Arabic word meaning “festivity”, while Fi?r means “charity”; and so the holiday is a time to give to those in need, and celebrate with family and friends the completion of a month of blessings and joy. For 2009, Eid ulFitr will fall sometime between September 20th and 21st depending on the time of the moon.

Before the day of Eid, each Muslim family gives a donation, known as ZakatulFitr, to the poor. This donation is of actual food — rice, barley, dates, rice, etc. — to ensure that the needy can have a holiday meal and participate in the celebration.

On the day of Eid, Muslims gather early in the morning in outdoor locations or mosques to perform the Eid prayer. After the Eid prayer, Muslims usually visit various family and friends, give gifts (especially to children), and make phone calls to distant relatives to give well-wishes for the holiday. These activities traditionally continue for three days. In most Muslim countries, the entire 3-day period is an official government/school holiday.

Rosh Hashanah

Rosh Hashanah is a holiday celebrating the Jewish New Year and this year falls on September 19th. It is celebrated on the first day of Tishrei, the seventh month of the Hebrew calendar and starts 163 days after the first day of Passover. It is a time of rest and prayer as well as judgment and remembrance, where God reviews and judges a person’s deeds in the past year. The shofar, an instrument made from a ram’s horn, is blown to awaken people of the Jewish faith and alert them to God’s judgment for the coming year.

During Rosh Hashanah the Jewish communities eat a range of symbolic foods at a special meal for family and friends. Some of these foods include, apples dipped in honey for a sweet year, challah (a round loaf of bread), and fish. Rosh Hashanah is the first of a period of 10 days known as the Yamin Noraim. In this period, people of the Jewish faith are required to carry out a process of self-examination and repentance. Yom Kippur is the last of the Yamin Noraim.

Oktoberfest – September 19-October 4

Oktoberfest is a sixteen-day festival held each year in Munich, Germany during late September (and running to early October). It is one of the most famous events in Germany and the world’s largest fair, with some six million people attending every year. Visitors to Oktoberfest eat huge amounts of food, most of it traditional hearty fare and drink lots of beer.

The Oktoberfest tradition started in 1810 to celebrate the October 12th marriage of Bavarian Crown Prince Ludwig to the Saxon-Hildburghausen Princess Therese. The main event of the original Oktoberfest was a horse race.

Other cities across the world also hold Oktoberfest celebrations, modeled after the Munich event. In Canada there is an annual nine day celebration held in Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario, which attracts over 700,000 visitors annually. While its best-known draws are the beer-based celebrations, other cultural and entertainment attractions also fill the week.

Kitchener-Waterloo and surrounding area have a long history of German roots; Kitchener was formerly named Berlin. A large portion of the population identifies themselves as being of German heritage, and many still speak German well.

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