The Holidays Aren’t Just Christmas and Hanukkah

Ellie Gallo, Staff Writer

Believe it or not, there are various religious holidays during the “holiday season” that aren’t Christian or Jewish! Here are some religious holidays that fall around Christmas time, which are usually overlooked, because they are not as well known as Christmas or Hanukkah.


Maulidar Rasul (Islam): Maulidur Rasul, or The Birthday of the Prophet, is a holiday that celebrates the birthday of the Islamic prophet Muhammad. It is observed on the twelfth day of the third month of the Islamic calendar. This year, it fell on December 1. In some Islamic countries, Maulidur Rasul is a public holiday in which many governmental agencies, businesses and other agencies are closed. However, some Muslims believe that the observance of birthdays, even of the Prophet’s birthday, is a violation of Islamic law. It is still heavily debated. When this day is celebrated, it is celebrated with large street parades. It is often customary for devotees to decorate their homes, businesses, and mosques.

Bodhi Day (Buddhism): Bodhi Day celebrates the day when Siddhartha Gautama sat underneath the Bodhi tree and attained enlightenment. This created the foundation for Buddhism in its entirety. 2500 years ago, a young Indian prince named Siddharta Gautama abandoned his ascetic lifestyle – which he had previously adopted when he abandoned his life of luxury – sat underneath a Bodhi tree with the one goal of seeking true enlightenment. Following intense meditation, he was able to see how everyone and everything was connected and therefore, reached a state of enlightenment. This Enlightenment would lead him to create the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path. It is this enlightenment that Bodhi Day celebrates. It is celebrated on December 8 every year. Bodhi Day can be celebrated in various ways. Buddhist homes will often have a ficus religious tree that they decorate with beads and multi-colored lights – much in the same way that Christians decorate their Christmas trees. They will also put on reflective ornaments that represent the Three Jewels: Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. Some will spend the day to meditate on the life of Buddha. Other people will visit stupas (shrines).

Dhanu Sankranti (Hinduism): Dhanu Sankranti occurs when the sun enters the Sagittarius sign or dhanu rashi. This day is celebrated with great joy, especially in the state of Orissa. This day is spent worshiping the Sun God and Lord Jagannath. The “Bow Ceremony” is presented in a street play. Early in the morning, water and flowers are offered to the Sun God after sunrise to receive blessings. Devotees, especially women, fast for happiness and fortune.