I haven't written about religious holidays for a while. Since we're in Kyrgyzstan, we've had a whole new set of holidays to observe and I haven't gotten to some of the religious holidays we usually try to celebrate. But others like Nooruz, Eid al-Adha, and Eid al-Fitr have been better. There also is little we can do for some of the Jewish holidays, like Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, so they're usually rather quiet. Here is our list of holidays we try to celebrate:
Eid al-Adha (December 31, 2006- it comes twice this year)
Eid al-Fitr (October 24, 2006)
Pesach (April 13-20, 2006)
Hanukkah (December 16-24, 2006)
Rosh Hashana (September 23, 2006)
Yom Kippur (October 2, 2006)
Sukkot (October 6-13)
Below are holidays that we don't really celebrate, but use as an opportunity to learn about other religions since I haven't experienced these holidays personally (I need to spend a few years in South and SE Asia!):
Vesak- Buddhist (May 13, 2006)
O Bon- Shinto (July 13-15)
Paryushana- Jain (August or September)
Diwali- Hindu (October 21, 2006)
Guru Nanak's birthday- Sikh (November 5, 2006)
Diwali is a fun one to celebrate and it's easy to find resources for it in the internet. The rest are simply to learn more about Jains, Sikhs, Buddhists, and Shintos. Actually, the biggest problem with the several of the holidays listed above is that we have moved 7 out of the last 8 summers, so I'm not thinking about my own holidays, much less any others for a while after the move.
It's also interesting to point out that a lot of religious holidays have significant cultural connections. Nooruz in Kyrgyzstan is considered to be a Muslim holiday, but the Kyrgyz Mormons still celebrate it because that's what the Kyrgyz do. The Russians don't. The Kyrgyz Mormons also don't celebrate Christmas and Easter because those are seen as Russian holidays, not necessarily Christian ones. And Nooruz wasn't Muslim in the first place, it was Zoroastrian. So do we celebrate it as a Zoroastrian religious holiday or a Central Asian cultural one? I'm inclined to think holidays represent what the celebrators choose, so Christmas is about Christ for us, not a pagan holiday, Pesach about the Lord saving my ancestors, and Eid al-Adha for learning about Islam.
I do feel strongly that it is important to make sure my children understand the importance of these holidays to the people who are celebrating them as their own religious holiday. It's too easy to simply have a party with food from a different part of the world. That's great for learning about cultures, not religions. Religious celebrations are more than their food. So we try to do things like I suggested in my post about Eid al-Adha. Of course we don't try to recreate the holidays ourselves- we can't. But we can have a nice meal, talk about what people of that faith do that day, and maybe do a few projects related to that holiday. I can't see how that's any different from what a homeschooling family might do any day of the year.
Of course, I have not done an exhaustive study of all Christians, Muslims, Jews, Mongolians, Hindus, etc. to see if they are offended by our celebrations. I have never had anyone tell me they are, and a number of Muslims know we observe Eid al-Fitr. I don't mind that people of a variety of religions celebrate Christmas even though their celebrations might be quite different. So we'll keep celebrating these holidays and teaching our children about them. It's simply something our family likes to do.
Besides, who wants to sit at home when the rest of the country has a day off for a holiday you refuse to celebrate?