Maha Shivaratri 2024

There are twelve Shivaratri days that are observed in an entire year, but Maha Shivaratri is the one that is celebrated on the Krishna paksha Chaturdashi, or on the fourteenth day of the dark or the waxing moon phase of the month of Magha or Phalguna as per the Hindu calendar and February, March as per the Gregorian Calendar.

In 2024, it will fall on 4th March.

Maha Shivaratri essentially means the night or ratri of Shiva. This festival is not only celebrated with much devotion in India, but in distant countries like Nepal as well.


Legends associated with Shiva Ratri

There are numerous legends associated with Shiva Ratri or why and how it came to be celebrated. According to a mythological legend, when the great ocean was being churned to take out the Amrita, then a pot full of poison came up from the depths of the sea. Everyone was terrified lest it should destroy the whole world. They appealed to Shiva for help. Shiva in order to save the universe drank the garal or the poison which is called the kalakootam, but instead of swallowing it, held in his throat and thus it became blue from the effects of the poison. From this he came to be known as Neelakantha; or one whose kantha or neck is blue. Shivaratri celebrates this sacrifice of Shiva having drunk poison.

Another legend says that Lord Shiva married Devi Parvati on this auspicious day. Thus the union of the two greatest forces happened on this day – Shakti and Shiva.

It is also believed that the Lord Shiva appeared as a formless God, as a Linga or a phallus at midnight on this auspicious day and is called the Lingodbhav Moorti. Thus the entire night vigil is mandated in the rituals.

It is also believed that throughout this auspicious night, the Lord Shiva engages himself in the divine dance form of Tandava.


Significance of observing Maha Shivaratri

Shivaratri is considered to be extremely auspicious for women folk in general. The unmarried women pray that they get an ideal husband like the Lord Shiva, and the married women pray for the well being of their husbands and their sons.

It is also believed, according to the Garuda Purana, King Chitrabhanu of the Ikshvaku dynasty, who was a reincarnate of hunterer from Varanasi from his previous life, was observing a fast on Shiva Ratri along with his wife, the queen. The sage Ashtavakra who arrived at his court asked the king the reason for his fasting. Chitrabhanu then recounted that in his previous life, he had been about to hunt a deer when he saw the grief in the deer’s family. Saddened and guilty, he let the deer go but as he was empty handed, he climbed a tree for shelter as it was approaching night and he had been fasting the entire day. It was a woodapple or a bael tree. His water container kept leaking, thus he was thirsty and hungry. To while away the time and to relieve himself from wondering his family,he kept plucking the leaves of the tree and dropping them in the ground. Next day he returned home with some food for himself and his family.  Just when he was about to eat, a stranger arrived and asked for some food. He gave away his and ate later. While in his deathbed, the hunter noticed two messengers from Lord Shiva who had come to take him to the abode of Lord Shiva s he had unconsciously offered puja in a state of fasting for the whole day and night, with bael leaves and his leaking water had bathed the Shiva linga that was under the ground.


Rituals to be followed for observing Maha Shivaratri –

According to Shiva Purana, the following rituals are to be observed on the Maha Shivaratri day and the following ingredients are to be used –

  • Bathing the Shiva linga with devotion in water, honey and milk. Bael leaves are added to this which signifies purification of the soul.
  • To represent virtue, vermillion paste is applied all over the Shiva LInga.
  • Fruit is offered as prasads  which is conducive for longevity
  • Burning of the incense or dhoop signifies wealth
  • Lighting of diya or the lamp signifies the attainment of knowledge
  • Betel leaves mark satisfaction of worldly pleasures

On the day of the Maha Shivaratri, a three tiered platform is built surrounding a fire. The topmost layer represents swargalok, the middle one stands for antarikshaloka or space; and the bottom one stands for bhuloka or the earth. Eleven kalash signifying eleven manifestation of Lord Shiva are kept on the topmost plank and are decorated with flowers and bael leaves. All throughout the day the devotees keep chanting On Namah Shivaya or keeps on offering prayers to the God. They make night vigils and only break their fast the next day. People keeping night long vigils chant shiva stotras, sing his hymns and keeps on offering milk, water and the bael leaves to the Lord.


Festivities on Maha Shivaratri

Maha Shivaratri is celebrated with devotion and reverence. In Kashmir, these festivities last for fifteen days.  The most popular Shiva ratri festival takes place probably in Ujjain, in Madhya Pradesh. Large processions are carried out. Throughout the country all Hindu temples are decorated with flowers on this day.


Maha Shivratri Picture

Maha Shivratri Picture

Maha Shivratri Wallpaper

Maha Shivratri Wallpaper


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Akshaya Tritiya

Akshaya Tritiya is an extremely auspicious day for both the Hindus and the Jains. The day has equal importance in both the communities by default of their own reasoning.


The Akshaya Tritiya as the name itself suggests falls on the tritiya or the third day of the shukla paksha of the month of Baisakha according to traditional Hindu calendar or in the month of April May according to Gregorian calendar.

It is supposed to be one of the four most important days according to the Hindu astrological calendar.  Akshaya Tritiya if falling on a Monday under the Rohini star is considered to be tremendously auspicious.


Dates of Akshaya Tritiya in the next five years according to the modern day calendar:

  • In 2015, the Akshaya Tritiya date is on April 21
  • In 2016, the Akshaya Tritiya date is on May 9
  • In 2017, the Akshaya Tritiya date is on April 28
  • In 2018, the Akshaya Tritiya date is on April 18
  • In 2019, the Akshaya Tritiya date is on May 7

Why is Akshaya Tritiya an important day for Hindus and Jains?

Akshaya Tritiya is an important day for Hindus and Jains both as mentioned earlier. In case of the Hindus, on this day, the 6th incarnation of Lord Vishnu, Parashurama was born.

It is this day when, Veda Vyasa started writing the epic saga of Mahabharata along with Lord Ganesha. It is also believed that while the Pandavas were in exile, they were presented with an Akshaya Patra by Lord Krishna. It was a bowl that would never be empty, and would always produce food when asked for.

This is the day when Devi Annapurna is also believed to have been born.

On Akshaya Tritiya, Kubar, the richest God is believed to have received his responsibility of being custodian of wealth and treasury by praying to Lord Shiva.

On this very day, Lord Krishna’s friend Sudama went to visit his friend Krishna, who had then become a king with nothing but puffed rice as he had nothing more to offer. Upon returning he found his humble hut turned in to a new mansion.

As regards to the Jains, Akshaya Tritiya is the day when the first Tirthankara, Rishabhadeva broke his varshi tap by consuming sugar cane juice. This is believed to have established the aharacharya or the methodology by which food is prepared and served to the Jain monks. Rishbha deva had to fast for a year as people could not understand that all he wanted was a morsel of food until Shreyansa Kumar had a purva-bhava-smarana” and understood that he wanted a morsel of food. Finally he offered Rishabhadeva sugarcane juice to put an end to his yearlong fast. Jains on this day end their fasts by consuming a glass of sugarcane juice.

Thus it is said under so much of auspicious guise any initiative started on Akshaya Tritiya, continues to grow and prosper. The auspiciousness of the day is such, that it is never absent from the lunar calendar.


How to celebrate Akshaya Tritiya?

Akshaya Tritiya is what is called a Yugadi tithi, meaning a tithi to transcend all tithis, and thus any dan or charity or punya or pious deeds is bound to prove beneficial. The punya karma or pious deeds may include chanting or japa, meditation or tapa, dana or donations, sacrifices or Havana, ritual bathing or snana, offer oblation to fire of homa etc. but there are a couple of activities which are also prohibited on Akshaya Tritiya. For example one cannot have an Upanayana, or the sacred thread ceremony, one cannot have a house construction start on this day neither do a Griha Prabesh that is enter a new house.

Starting any kind of new activity other than those prohibited or buying valuables on this auspicious day of Akshaya Tritiya is said to bring success and prosperity. The dana or charity set aside, giving gifts is ensured to bring fantastic results and blessings. There are many people who buy gold and other valuables on Akshaya Tritiya, and thus there is a lot of sales on jewelry on this day. The jewelers keep the Lakshmi Mata inscribed gold coins as they are thought to be auspicious and other valuable items.

Fasts are observed on this holy day and Lord Vishnu is worshipped. Rice, ghee or purified butter, sugar, vegetables, fruit, clothes and tamarind are given in charity. An aarti is performed in front of the idol.

On Akshaya Tritiya, In Odisha, the farmers start ploughing their land and the preparations and construction for Ratha Yatra in Puri starts. Lord Ganesha and Lakshmi are worshipped on this day along with numerous other rituals.

In Bengal, traders start their new auditing book for business .on this auspicious day which is called the Hal khata.

Amongst the Jat community this is an important day. On this day an elderly male Jat, belonging to the farming community leaves house in the morning with a shovel. All the birds and animals that he meets en route have their own significance in terms of good crops and rain.

A day long worshipping of Lakshmi and Kuber is performed on this day.

Akshaya Tritiya is considered to be one of the best days for weddings, as the spirit of this auspicious day blesses the life long journey ahead.

Thus, Akshaya Tritiya can be safely called one of the golden days in the entire Hindu calendar.

Holidays Around The World
Bank Holidays 2019 Holi Easter
Maha Shivaratri Good Friday Vasant Panchami
Rama Navami Akshaya Tritiya Shivaji Jayanti
Ratha Yatra Kartik Poornima Anant Chaturdashi
Raksha Bandhan Ramzan Id/Eid-ul-Fitar Onam
Janmashtami Independence Day In India Friendship Day in India
Father’s Day in India Buddha Purnima Nag Panchami
Gandhi Jayanti Ganesh Chaturthi Gudi Padwa
Labor Day


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Vaikasi Visakam 2024

Vaikasi Visakam is one of the most important festivals amongst the Tamil people all over the world.

It is the birth anniversary of Lord Murugan, who took birth only to put an end to adharma and to uphold righteousness and finish off all evil demonic forces.

The Vaikasi Visakam is also an important day for the Vaishnavites and the Buddhists too. For the Vaishnavites it celebrates Periyalvar’s jayanti and to the Buddhists, it is the birth anniversary, the day of enlightenment and the parinirvana, or final end of Gautama Buddha.

The Vaikasi Visakam falls on the 14th Nakshatra out of the 27 Nakshatras, in the second month of the Tamil calendar, the Visakam on a full moon or a pournami day. Thus the day was in the Tamil month of Vaikasi, under the Nakshatra Visakha. According to Gregorian calendar this is mid-May to middle of June.


Description and introduction of Lord Murugan

Lord Muruga is the God who is known as the God of Wealth, Wisdom and Courage.  According to legends, Lord Muruga is believed to be the youngest son born to Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. Lord Ganesha is the brother of Lord Muruga. The other names that Lord Muruga is credited with are -Lord Senthil, Lord Kumaran, Lord Subramanyam and Lord Shanmugam. He has six faces with which he can have a view of all the directions, like – East, West, North, South, Heaven and hell. Thus there is practically nothing that can escape Lord Murugan’s eyes. Therefore Lord Muruga is Omni present.


The Legend behind Lord Muruga’s birth

Once, the world was being tortured by three terrible Asura or demonic brothers called Soorapadman, Singamuhan and Tārakan. These 3 brothers had amassed great power by praying to the Gods and by intense penance. However, they in order to establish their own rule in the 3 worlds started harassing the Gods. The Gods, helpless finally went to Lord Shiva to appeal for help. Hearing the plea of the Gods, Lord Shiva made 6 sparks emit from his forehead, which filled the entire world with a divine luster. These sparks were carried off by Agni and Vayu to the Ganges, which pushed them inside the lake Lake Saravanai. This lake was filled with lotuses and reeds. The six sparks that came out; inside the lake took the form of  six celestial children and were nursed and cared for by  six kartika maidens. These six children then were embraced and welcomed by the Divine Mother, where after they became One with six faces and twelve hands. This is the story behind how Lord Shanmugam was born. The six faces of Muruga is said to represent human body, breath, senses, mind, intelligence and ego.


Various avatars of Lord Murugan

Because he is known by many names, Lord Murugan has many avatars also. As Murugan, he is young and very handsome, as Subramanyan he is the su-Brahmanya or the good, all pervading spirit present in the Brahmans. He is the commander-in-chief and sits on a peacock with a Vel as a weapon in his hand. He is also sometimes represented with his two divine consorts known as Devayani and Valli. As Lord Guhan, he stays in the deep dark recess of one’s heart.  As Saravanabavan, he had come up or emerged from Lake Saravanai.


Is there any Symbolism behind Lord Murugan’s depiction?

Lord Murugan is depicted as being bluish in color with a peacock as his pet. The color blue in itself signifies eternity, as the sky or the seas which have no limit are perceived to be blue. The peacock is a symbol of vanity and also pride. It is seen to be gripping a snake in its claws. The snake represents all human egos and carnal desires of man. The Vel is symbolic because it represents the removal of negative and evil tendencies. It is a representation of true knowledge.


How is the Vaikasi Visakam observed?

Vaikasi Visakam is a great religious observance followed by numerous Tamilians who are spread all over the world. It is solely to be observed for worshipping Lord Murugan with a special puja on the day. Sarkarai Pongal on this auspicious day is also offered as Prasad or Naivedyam. The poems written in ode to the great God like – Kanda Sashti Kavacham, Subrahmanya Bhujangam, Thiruppugazh (Muthai Tharu Bakthi), and Shanmukha Kavacham are recited and chanted by the devotees with great devotion on this auspicious day. These kavasams are believed to protect everyone from the malevolence of the evil spirits. Devotees also carry milk in milk pots to the Lord Murugan temples to observe the puja on this day. Some people also observe kabbadi which is a form of rigorous physical exercise on this day.

Vaikasi Visakam is celebrated with the most pomp and grandeur in the six temples which are the abodes of Lord Murugan,. The temples are as follows – the  Palani Hill Temple, the Thiruchendur Murugan Temple situated at Tuticorin, the Arulmigu Swaminatha Swami Temple located at Swamimalai, the Sri Subramanya Temple situated at Pazhamudircholai, ,  the Thiruthani Murugan Temple, and  the Thiruparamkundram Subramanya Swamy Temple. Thousands of devotees throng these temples on this auspicious day to be graced and be blessed by the Lord for a prosperous life.

This holy festival is observed in Malyasia too with lot of fanfare as there are lot of ex pats Tamilians residing in this country. Devotees visit the famous Batu caves, the Murugan Temple of Kuala Lumpur and  the Arulmigu Balathandayuthapani Murugan Temple at Penang to pay homage to Lord Murugan on this auspicious day.

Sri Thandayuthapani Temple,  the Murugan Hill Temple or the Subramanya Temples are temples in Singapore, where devotees all go to seek divine blessings on this auspicious day.

Vaikasi Visakam as mentioned earlier is an extremely important day for the Buddhists as well. The Vaikasi Purnima, or the Wesak is the day when Gautama Buddha was born in Kapilavastu in the royal family, it is also the same day when he attained enlightenment or Nirvana under the Bodhi tree and it is also the day when at the age of 80, he attained Maha Samadhi or Pari Nirvana. He was the great philosopher who preached the middle path as the way to attain nirvana and to follow the same.

The Vaikasi Pournima, to the vaishnavites is also important as it is the Periyalvar’s jayanti. Periyalvar was a saint who sang about the beautiful childhood of the Lord God Krishna and his mother, Yashoda.

Matsya Jayanti

Matsya Jayanti or Matsya Dwadashi is a Hindu festival dedicated to Lord Vishnu. The observance is dedicated to the first incarnation of Lord Vishnu as Matsya, who came into earth in the Satya Yuga.

The Matsya Dwadashi is celebrated on the Dwadashi of the shukla paksha of the Margashirsha month as per traditional Hindu calendar. According to the Gregorian calendar, this is observed in the waxing phase of the moon in the month of December.


Legend of Matsya Avatar

In the satya yuga or era, a king called Manu or the Vaivasvata Manu ruled. He had performed severe penance and worship to Lord Vishnu.

Manu one day saw a little fish in his folded hands while he was in the Kritamala River. While Manu was about to put the small fish back in the water, it requested not to be thrown back in the water as it was scared of the bigger fishes. The King promised the fish safety and put it in a small jar and carried with him. The fish became too big for a jar .The king let it out in a pond.  Then it turned too big for the pond or the Ganges or the ocean even.  Upon request the fish then revealed that it was Lord Vishnu himself. He appeared in front of Manu and told him that in seven days time a great deluge will flood the whole world. He instructed the King to build a boat and  bring one kind of all living beings together , the seven sages and also gather all kinds of seeds .He also instructed the serpent Vasuki, to be used as a rope to tie to his horn.  He was the one horned fish who will take care of the boat.

The Matsya disappeared. Manu made all necessary arrangements. On the fateful day, turbulent rain lashed on the earth and the one horned fish reappeared. The king tied the serpent to the Matsya’s horn. Matsya then took them all to Mount Himavan and kept them all there till the flood water had come down. iI the new era the king could start procreation. While en route, Matsya as Lord Vishnu revealed to the King the knowledge of the Vedas, Puranas, Samhitas and also the Eternal Truth. Lord Vishnu as Matsya, then vanquished Hayagriva the demon and rescued the Vedas.


Rituals of Matsya Dwadashi

On the day of the Matsya Dwadashi people awake early and take a ritual bath. They then wear clean clothes and visit a nearby Vishnu temple. The devotees worship the deity with sandalwood paste, incense stick, fruits and flowers. The devotees also fast the whole day and read sacred scripts such as Vishnu Sahasranama to seek blessings from the Lord Vishnu. Shoroshapochara puja or puja with 16 steps ritual and charity is offered to the Brahmin on this auspicious day.

Married women observe this day for marital wellbeing and good health of their husband and child. Women who have no children perform this vrat to have virtuous son. Men observe this Matsya Dwadashi vrat for health, wealth and prosperity from Lord Vishnu.


Significance of Matsya Dwadashi

It is believed that worshipping the Matsya avatar of Vishnu on Dwadashi absolves a person of all sins. It is also believed that proper observance of the Matsya Dwadashi will bless a devotee with moksha or salvation.


Celebration of Matsya Dwadashi

Apart from being celebrated by the devotees at home and by attending nearby Vishnu temples; there is only one temple in India which is dedicated to the first Avatar of Lord Vishnu – the Matsya Avatar. This temple is the Nagalapuram Veda Narayana Swamy Temple near Tirupati in the state of Andhra Pradesh. Devotees come from far on this auspicious day to worship Lord Vishnu in his Matsya Avatar on this day.

Yom Kippur

Yom Kippur is considered to be the most holy day of the year by the Jews and in Judaism; it is also the Day of Atonement. The main basic themes of this day are repentance and atonement.

It is a tradition among the Jews to observe this religious day by praying intensively and fasting for a period of 25 hours. They even spend this holy day in doing synagogue service.


Etymology of the name-

In Hebrew, Yom means a day and Kippur comes from a word that means to amend or to recompense. The word Kippur is also associated to the name of covering of Ark, as mentioned in the bible, kapporet. In English, The name of this particular day, Yom Kippur, means or translates to the Day of Atonement.


Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah-

In the Judaic calendar, Tishrei is the seventh month of the year and Yom Kippur is the 10th day of that month, whereas the first day of Tishrei is called the Rosh Hashanah. According to the Jewish belief, people ask God for forgiving all the sins they have done in their life on this holy day.

In Judaism, the annual period of Yamim Nora’im, which is known to be the High holy days, is completed by the day of Yom Kippur and is commenced by the day of Rosh Hashanah. The Jews believe that Lord puts down the fate of each and every person for the years to come in a book called the book of life on the day of Rosh Hashanah. After which he waits till the day of Yom Kippur to make the verdict final.

However the Jews try to alter their behavior and amend their wrong doings against their religion or his fellowmen in order to ask for forgiveness of the Lord during the days of Awe. Throughout the day of Yom Kippur, people make private and public petitions and also make confessions of sins and guilt in order to clear out their minds and hope for forgiveness. After this day comes to an end, the Jews hope that all their wrong doings have been forgiven by the God and hopes their sins would be washed away.


The prayer service on Yom Kippur-

The prayer service of this day has certain unique aspects like the number of prayer services. On the regular days, three prayer services called Ma’ariv, Shacharit and Mincha are held in the evening, morning and afternoon respectively. On Yom Tov or Shabbat, four prayer services are held and the additional one is called Mussaf. However on the day of Yom Kippur, five prayer services are held which includes Ma’ariv, Shacharit, Mincha, Mussaf and the closing and additional prayer, Ne’ilah. Vidui is as part of the prayer services in which a person confesses his sins and wrong doings and also includes a special prayer dedicated to the Yom Kippur service of the high priest, known as Kohen Gadol, in Holy Temple of Jerusalem.


The Observances-

Yom Kippur is culturally the most important holiday in Judaism and thus it is observed even by the secular Jews who might not take part in the other Jewish holidays. The Jews attend synagogue on the day of Yom Kippur. Moreover there are several secular Jews who attend the synagogue only during the period of High Holy Days making the number of people attending synagogue to soar high during this time of the year.

The 9th day of the month of Tishrei or the day before the day of Yom Kippur is called Erev Yom Kippur. On this day an additional morning prayer is held. Other practices and rituals like giving charity, asking other people for forgiveness, two meals, extended prayer service in the afternoon and performing the ritual of Kapparot are also carried out on this day. On the day of Yom Kippur the Jews are supposed to alter and change their nature for the better and it is a day of rest for all of them.

The Jews are however prohibited to do certain things on this day. They include eating and drinking, washing and bathing, wearing leather shoes, application of lotions and perfumes and the Jews also have to restrain from marital relation during this day. They believe that these activities are as offensive and punishable as the ones which restrain a person from entering Eden, the garden of heaven, as mentioned in Bible.

If an individual restrains from all these things of temptation, he can return to the purest state. According to Judaism, on refraining oneself from using the things prohibited, a person’s body is bound to feel uncomfortable but will still survive. Soul is the life force of the body and thus by making one’s body uncomfortable he will in turn make his soul uncomfortable and will feel the pain. This pain will make a person realize how others feel and what they go through when they are in pain. This is the very reason behind all these prohibitions and it makes a person learn how to be empathetic towards others feelings.

Restraining oneself from having food and drinks and carrying out other traditions starts at sundown and comes to an end on the following day after nightfall. All physically healthy men over the age of thirteen and women over the age of twelve are supposed to fast however people with severe heath condition doesn’t have to follow this tradition of fasting. It is customary for all the Jews to wear white on this special day as this is the color of purity. Several orthodox Jewish men might also immerse themselves in Mikveh, which is a bath for ritual immersion used in Judaism, on the day preceding Yom Kippur.  Judaism says that in order to ask God for forgiveness one must repent, pray passionately and provide charity to the less fortunate.


Al – Hijra or the Islamic New Year is celebrated on the first day of Muharram that’s the month during which Prophet Muhammad emigrated in 622 CE from Mecca to Medina.

The Islamic years start their counting from this day in 622 CE. Al – Hijra falls on different dates each year. This day is involved with only a few rituals and religious observances much unlike the Eid al Fitr and Eid al Adha.

This day is taken to be the first day of the Islamic New Year and is generally dated based on the lunar calendar. Some Islamic institutions and countries however take the help of astronomical calculations to fix the date. Any day of the Islamic calendar is considered to start from the hour of sunset of that day to the hour of sunset the next day.

Sighting of a new moon would commence the first day of the Islamic New Year or 1 Muharram. Because of the fact that the solar Gregorian year precedes the lunar Islamic year by at least eleven to twelve days, this is the reason Al – Hijra doesn’t fall on the same day of the Gregorian calendar every year. The Gregorian date of Al – Hijra in the year 2019 is 30th August which corresponds to the Islamic Year 1439 AH.

About The Festival

In the Islamic calendar, a year is made up of 354 days spread along a time span of 12 months. The first month of their year is the month of Muharram that’s the month of remembrance and considered to be the most sacred month of the year. The first day of this month is known as Al – Hijra and during this Muslims abstain from activities like fighting. An important historical Islamic event had taken place on the first day of this month that’s the Al – Hijra day back in 680 CE.

On this day, the Battle of Karbala had taken place in Iraq (current name) which had allowed the grandson of Prophet Muhammad, Husayn ibn Ali and his army to come into the city. This day is a public holiday in countries like Indonesia, Malaysia, India, Jordan, United Arab Emirates, and even more. It’s not a nationwide public holiday in places like Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia and the United States of America.


On this day, the Muslims come together in mosques and confer special prayers to God. They also listen to special percept readings from their holy book the Koran. New Year celebrated by them is nothing of a pomp and splendor sort of an event but rather more of a sober and somber festival.  On this day, people pay homage and respect to Prophet Muhammad and his tale of life including his “hijra” or journey from Mecca to Medina is heard everywhere including its broadcast on the radio.

This festival has been turned into a more commercial type now rather than the religious significance and has started involving modern ways of celebrating like exchanging New Year cards and gifts with loved ones. Muslims are divided into two sects – the Shia Muslims and the Sunni Muslims. The Shia’s don’t take part in the New Year celebrations as they consider this time to be the occasion of mourning.

Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta

The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is an annual festival that takes place in the highly populated city of Albuquerque in New Mexico, United States of America.

This is a festival of hot air balloons and takes place at the beginning of the month of October every year. Each year, in the International Balloon Fiesta more than five hundred hot air balloons are seen in the sky of Albuquerque, giving rise to a mesmerizing scenario.

This event goes on for a span of nine days and is the world’s largest festival of hot air balloons.



The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta was started to highlight the celebration of the 50th birthday of the 770 KKOB Radio in the year of 1972. The Manager of the Radio Station, Dick McKee, had asked the owner of the Cutter Flying Service who was also the very first person to own a hot air balloon in New Mexico, Sid Cutter, whether he could borrow his hot air balloon to mark the anniversary of the 770 KKOB Radio and use it for the celebrations.

Two of these men started discussing about hosting the event when Dick McKee asked about the largest gather of the hot air balloons. Sid Cutter informed him that it was the nineteen hot air balloons of England and he agreed to try and gather them in Albuquerque on the day of the event on being asked by McKee.

Even though he could get the commitments of twenty one pilots, some of them could not arrive from England on time due to the bad weather before the day of the event. Thirteen hot air balloons could be finally gathered on the day of the event thus marking the very first balloon fiesta which took place on 8th April, 1972, and was sponsored by the 770 KKOB Radio Station.

The very first event took place at Coronado Centre Shopping Mall’s parking lot and around twenty thousand people came over to witness so many hot air balloons gathered up together at one place for the first time in history. Balloonists from different cities like California, Arizona, Iowa, Nevada, Michigan, Texas and Minnesota took part in this event. The balloon races were originally initiated by the three men, Dick McKee, Sid Cutter and Oscar Kratz.

A balloon race known as the Roadrunner Coyote balloon race was a part of this event. The rule was that the Coyote which would land nearest to the Roadrunner would be the winner of the race. The winner was Don Piccard from the well known aerostation dynasty and he was flying a balloon designed by his own company. His wife had also ranked in that race that year. This race is still incorporated into the event till date as a part of the tradition. In the following year in February, the world’s first hot air balloon Championship was hosted in Albuquerque and it turned into an international festival.



  • Dawn Patrol: This began in the year 1978 at the International Balloon Fiesta when two balloonists from California invented the position lighting system which allowed them to fly the balloons even at night. The pilots of the Dawn Patrol takes off before the sun rises and flies until there is enough light to see the landing sites from above. Their effort is appreciated by the other balloonists as they help them to get an idea about the direction of winds and its speed at various altitudes.

  • Mass Ascensions: It is one of the biggest events in the Fiesta in which all the balloons participating in the event are launched in two waves making the sky filled up with colorful hot air balloons all at once. The launch directors, who are called zebras due to their striped uniforms, co-ordinates the launch so that all the hot air balloons go up safely. They serve as the traffic cops.

  • For Artistic Vision: The view of the hundreds of balloons flying across the October sky is simply breathtaking and many artists are influenced by the bewitching beauty of this scenario. Most of these balloons land in the neighborhoods of Albuquerque and the people often spend these days in their backyard watching balloons in the sky.

  • Special Shape Rodeo: Many exotic, uniquely shaped and non-traditional balloons are launched together at the same time as a part of the event. Commonly the balloon s are shaped like twin bees, milk cow, wagon coach, animals and soda cans. These unique balloons attract the visitors for their various shapes and sizes.

  • The Glowing Balloons: Another breathtaking part of this event is the balloons which are illuminated by the propane burners at night-time. These balloons are not launched during the event rather they stand static throughout.

Dia de los Muertos

Dia de los Muertos is Mexican for “Day of the Dead” and is a popular holiday observed all over Mexico especially in the central and southern parts.

It’s also celebrated by people of the Mexican origin living in other parts of the world. This festival is a 3-day event that stresses on family get-togethers and pay homage to deceased friends and family members.

The traditions of this day were added to UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in the year 2008. It is an annual festival starting on the 31st of October and continuing up to the 2nd of November which is the dates of Halloween, All Saint’s day and All Soul’s Day respectively.

It’s a public holiday in Mexico and this celebration is similar to other places and culture’s observances of occasions of honoring the dead. There’s a similar tradition in Spain as well which involves parades, family gatherings and cemetery visiting’s on this special day. This is a public holiday in Mexico since the 1960’s when the Mexican government introduced this holiday and made it a national one.



The origin of this modern Mexican holiday can be traced back to indigenous traditions performed hundreds of years ago. An Aztec festival which used to be celebrated in honor of goddess Mictecacuhuatl is also a deriving source of it and it used to fall in the ninth month of the Aztec calendar involving a whole month of celebrations.

It spread over the world through the years modifying the traditions performed to remember the dead. The pre-Columbian cultures gave way to the contemporary celebrations of the Day of the Dead in Mexico. The tradition of honoring the deceased ancestors has been carried out since as long as 2500 – 3000 years.

This festival grew and gained popularity and by the end of the 20th century, practices had developed further in most parts of Mexico. The 1st of November was designated to honor dead children and infants while the next day was devoted to deceased adults. Thus, November 1st is known as Día de los Inocentes (Day of the Innocents) or Día de los Angelitos( Day of the Little Angels) and November 2nd is called by the names Día de los Muertos or Día de los Difuntos.


Customs And Beliefs

On this day, people visit the cemeteries and construct private altars for the dead known as ‘ofrendas’. These altars are filled with gifts and favorite foods and beverages of the deceased along with photos and memorabilia. The main aim is to please the spirits so that they are encouraged to visit them and listen to the prayers and things they wish to talk about.

During this three-day affair, people keep the graves clean and decorated and possessions of the departed are often left there. Treats like Calaveras are kept for the dead which are essentially edible sugar coated representation of human skulls. Mexican Marigolds are offered to the deceased on their graves. They are also called ‘Flor de Muerto’ (Flower of Dead) and are believed to attract the spirits.

For the spirits of dead children, toys and chocolates are brought while tequila, jars of atole are offered to the adult. After the festivities are over, the people eat the food that was offered to the spirits in the ofrendas. Also, pillows and blankets are laid out for the spirits signifying resting facilities for the spirits after their long journey. In places like Mixquic, Janitzio and Patzcuaro in Mexico, relatives actually stay all night beside the graves. Celebrants wear clothing with shells attached onto them in the belief that on dancing wearing such clothes, the shells will create some noise that will wake up the spirits.

The most prevalent symbol of this festival is the ‘skull’ that can be found on everything including masks, decorative items, models as well as food items. People also believe that keeping Day of the Dead souvenirs brings good luck and hence they indulge in buying dolls or sculptures of skeletons and making tattoos. Food items that are particularly consumed on this day are Pan de Muerto which is a sort of sweet roll shaped like a bun and sometimes decorated with skulls and bone like icings, Calaveras and Champurrado served with churros or tamales.

The traditional drink of this festival is the Atole but other beverages like Jamaica iced tea made from Jamaican hibiscus flowers and leaves are also popular. Another dish is the traditional Guatemalan salad called Fiambre that’s made up of more than 50 ingredients. The traditions and the celebrations of Dia de los Muertos  is not the same everywhere and varies from town to town.

Guy Fawkes Day

Also known as Guy Fawkes Night, this is an annual celebration observed on the 5th of November majorly in Great Britain.

This night known as the Bonfire or Firework Night commemorates the prevention of the act of blowing up the Houses of Parliament back in the year 1605. It’s the anniversary of the foiling of a plot that was conspired by a group of English Catholic protesters to blow up the Houses of Parliament in London.

Many people celebrate this day by lighting fireworks and bonfires and thus the names. Even though it has a political and patriotic significance, this day is not a public holiday and business organizations, schools are open and functioning as usual.

Public transportations work according to their general routines and time tables. In the upcoming year, it’s going to be observed on the 5th of November, 2019 and it falls on a Tuesday.


Origin And History

This day has its origins that can be traced back to as early as the year 1605 when the Gunpowder Plot took place. This was a failed attempt by a group of English Catholic conspirators that wanted to murder Protestant King James the first of England and assign a Catholic head of the state in his place.

This plot was headed by Guy Fawkes who was arrested on the night of 5th November while he was guarding a cache of explosives placed under the House of Lords. Guy Fawkes also had the name Guido Fawkes that he had adopted when he was fighting for the Spanish. They had planned to blow up the Parliament along with King James and other parliament members inside.

The conspirators were then arrested, tortured and eventually executed. Just a few days prior to their execution in January, an act known as the “Thanksgiving Act” was passed by the Parliament after being proposed by the Parliament member Edward Montagu. He proposed that the divine intervention that saved their king must be thanked for and made church attendance compulsory on the 5th of November i.e. on the Thanksgiving Day henceforth.

The earliest celebrations started with music and artillery salutes and the celebrations of 1607 involved more than 106 pounds of gunpowder and 14 pounds of matchsticks. In later years, sermons were read, church bells were rung and bonfires and fireworks were lit. The essence of Guy Fawkes Day were carried onto the overseas colonies by immigrates. One such example is that of the Guy Fawkes Day that was carried to North America where it began to be celebrated as Pope Day.



A majorly common activity of this day is the lighting of bonfires and fireworks. There are extravagant firework displays all over Great Britain on the 5th of November every year. Also, as it takes place during the end of autumn season, people take it as an opportunity to burn up all of their garden rubbish.

Some of the people indulge in lighting of their own small bonfires in their gardens while others take part in the large ones in the communal spaces. In some of the towns and cities, this festival holds so much importance that the government engages in hosting of large and grand firework displays and bonfires for all the people residing.

Due to its close observance date to another popular festival “Halloween”, sometimes a combined celebration for Guy Fawkes Night and Halloween take place. These parties include customs of both the festivals like both bonfires are lit and people dress up in scary costumes. Guy Fawkes was a Catholic and hence on this day, many Catholics abstain from such celebrations and enjoyment. Popular foods for this day include bonfire toffee, roasted marshmallows, toffee apples, sticky date pudding and potatoes and other food baked in the ashes of the fire. The fireworks being the star of this festival also have certain drawbacks.

These include many injuries and sometimes can lead to even deaths if the fireworks used are used incorrectly or are of faulty manufacturing. So now, it’s become an essential task to employ safe patrollers and campaigners to keep a lookout on the efficient and restricted sale of fireworks to the common public. Another popular act of this day is burning of effigies of Fawkes. They are burnt on the bonfires and it’s accompanied with the popular rhythm ‘Remember Remember the Fifth of November’ being sung. People also host a bonfire party, invite friends and family, and make all sorts of camping tidbits and barbeques. Non-alcoholic beverages like coffee, hot chocolate, warm fruit drinks and punches are also welcome. Make sure to keep the contact numbers of the local police station, hospitals and fire station handy on this night.


Also known as Yulefest, this festival is celebrated by the various north Europeans and the Germanic Peoples and occurs during the winter solstice.

This festival started as yuletide but later underwent a Christianized reformulation taking the shape and name of Christmastide better known as Christmas. This is a cultural, Germanic pagan turned Christian, winter festival that’s sort of a pre celebration before Christmas that’s eventually absorbed into the main event.

The noun Yuletide was first attested in the year 1475 and the term “Yule” is more so used in the Nordic countries rather than the English-speaking countries where it’s more popular as “Christmas”. The term Yule was attested in a pre-Christian context majorly in Old Norse. According to the Old Norse poetry, this word was usually used as a synonym of “feast”.

Origin And Traditional Celebrations

Yule used to be celebrated as a traditional mid-winter festival by the Germanic Peoples and according to the earliest references found, it used to last over a time span of two months somewhere around mid-November to mid-January.

Scholars have associated this 2 month long event to the legend of Wild Hunt that’s believed to be a ghostly procession in the winter night and also to the leader of this procession attested in the Germanic areas known as God Odin. During this time, there’s said to be an increased activity of the supernatural forces and that of the undead beings that walk on the earth known as draugar.

On what is now known as Christmas Eve, there used to be fertility event hosted during the Yule time. This event was known as Modranicht that involved the gathering together of all females who were then attested by Bede as according to the traditions of Anglo-Saxons. The festivities of Yule were a mid-winter event and included activities like drinking, feasting and sacrifices. There were traditions like the Yule log, Yule goat, Yule boar and Yule singing all of which are reflected in the modern Christmas traditions today.

Contemporary Celebrations

Yuletide has been introduced with quite a few new rituals by the Neopagans. Some of them try to celebrate it keeping the rituals as close to the ones that were used by the Ancient Germanic pagans while others have modified the rituals assembled from different beliefs and sources.

In the German Neopagan sects, this festival is characterized with family reunions or gatherings, sumptuous feasts and exchange of gifts. According to the Wicca or better known as a contemporary Pagan Witchcraft, this festival is observed during the Winter Solstice and is associated to the rebirth of their primary deity The Great Horned Hunter God who is also believed to be the newborn solstice sun.

The way of celebrating this by the Wicca may range from arranging private ceremonies at homes to practicing in groups or covens. Yule or Yuletide is better known as Christmas in recent times whose many traditions have been derived from the traditional Yule ones.

These include traditions like the Yule log that is about choosing special piece of log to be burned on the hearth on Christmas, the Yule goat which is a popular symbol and can be seen on decorations and Christmas ornaments to be hanged on the Christmas tree, the Yule boar that gave way to the Christmas ham and the Yuletide singing that is now known as Christmas carols. It doesn’t matter that it started as Yuletide and has now been incorporated into the celebrations of Christmas as the essence of festivities are the same.