Festivals in the Autumn
(14 October 2013 - Canada; 28 November 2013, USA)
Thanksgiving or harvest celebrations have been taking place in Europe as far back as the 5th century BC when the Ancient Greeks would fill a goats horn with fruit and grain to give thanks for the harvest. The tradition was then introduced in North America by the european settlers.
A festival of Thanksgiving was celebrated by the Pilgrims in 1621 in Plymouth, Massachusetts, USA. They had arrived in 1620 looking to start a new life, where they could be free to follow their religious beliefs. Their first winter was very hard but they survived with the help of the Native Indians who had shown them how to hunt and what plants they could eat. After the first harvest the Pilgrims held a feast to celebrate their good fortune and to give thanks for the food that they had grown.
At the feast they ate Turkey, pumpkins, corn, cranberries and sweet potatoes.
Thanksgiving is celebrated by Canadians in October and in America on the last Thursday of the month of November.
Today, most peoples' Thanksgiving meal is almost the same as that of the Pilgrims, with a turkey and cranberry sauce and a selection of autumn vegetables, followed by Pumpkin or Apple pie.
Halloween is an ancient festival, it takes place on 31st October, this is the evening before the Christian feast of All Hallows' or All Saints' Day. On that night it was believed that spirits and witches returned to earth to cause mischief.
Traditionally in America and Canada, children dress up in fancy dress usually something scary and visit their neighbours to play trick or treat when they hope to receive sweets as their treats. Games are often played such as 'bobbing the apple', where you have to try to get an apple out of a barrel of water without using your hands.
Pumpkins are hollowed out and carved, usually to show faces that are lit up when a candle is placed inside the pumpkin.
(9 July 2013 - first day)
Ramadan is the most important of the Muslim festivals. It occurs during the ninth lunar month and during this time nothing is eaten or drunk between, dawn and dusk. It was during this month that the prophet Mohamed received his revelation from Allah.
Ramadan ends on the morning after the new moon is seen in the sky. This is the first day of the celebration of Eid al-Fitr, which means the breaking of the fast. During this three day festival Muslims visit both friends and relatives and give gifts and special cards, they also eat special foods in celebration.
5 September 2013 - first day)
Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Year and starts on the first day of the month of Tishr. It marks the beginning of a ten day period of repentance leading up to Yom Kippur.
The month leading up to Tishru is Elul, during which Jews prepare for Rosh Hashanah. On every day in Elul, a ram's horn (the shofar) is blown to call the people to repent and start anew the coming year.
Diwali (Divali, Deepavali, Deepawali)
(3 November 2013)
Diwali (pronounced 'Divali') is the Hindu "Festival of Lights" and is one of India's most important and popular festivals. It falls at the new moon towards the end of October or early November and lasts for two days. In India Diwali is celebrated in many different ways.
Small lamps or candles are placed in doorways and windows of houses in villages, towns and cities these are to welcome the Hindu god Rama. Many of the lights used are traditional pottery oil lamps called diye which give off a warm golden light.
In parts of Northern India, young girls place a diya on small rafts leave it to float down a river. If the lamp stays alight until it has floated out of sight, then the owner of the lamp will have good fortune that year.
In some areas the festival is also dedicated to Lakshmi, the goddess of prosperity, in the hope that she will visit the peoples homes. Diwali is the beginning of the financial year for business people and it is hoped that she will bring good fortune.
Fireworks are part of the celebrations as their loud bangs are thought to send away any evil spirit.
While most of India is celebrating Diwali, in Bengal the people hold a festival in honour of Kali, the Goddess of strength, disease and death.
During the time of the festival homes are strung with lights and the streets have shrines of different sizes on each side. Worshippers walk about the streets both throughout the daytime and the evening, offering gifts at the shrines in honour of Kali. Delicious smelling food is sold by street vendors and as night descends there are very colourful firework displays.
At the end of the festival, the images of Kali are taken down and are paraded through the streets on their way to the river where they are set afloat with a noisy send-off.