Bahai News -- A season of celebration

A season of celebration

published: Sunday | December 8, 2002

- Junior Dowie/Staff Photographer
Muslims celebrating the end of the month of Ramadan last Friday at the mosque on Leicester Avenue off Red Hills Road.

Andre Wright, Staff Reporter

ANOTHER YEAR of triumphs and trials is almost over and the mood of cheer can be seen on many faces. Schools will soon close, examinations will end and a few days off from work could not have been better timed. Whether Christian, Muslim, Jew or Baha'i, folks are celebrating their holy days (holidays), either in the spirit of reflective meditation or with hedonistic abandon.

Even though the familiar Christmas breeze has not yet begun to blow, it is clear that Christmas has already started. Some residents draped their houses in pepper lights from the first week of November; stores were offering 'unbelievable' and 'mind-boggling' discounts and the plazas have been extensively decorated to make us feel all 'Christmassy' inside... to get our money.

However, the spiritual significance of Christmas is fast fading in Jamaica, and indeed, the world. For a large sector of society the season is about beach trips, going to 'farin', attending 'bashy' stage shows like 'Sting' and gormandising as much sorrel and cake as one's stomach can possibly hold. Tradition is tradition and churches will be full and overflowing on Christmas Sunday with one-day repentances.

But not everyone is caught up with the tinsel and wrapping paper. In an interview last Wednesday, one senior in his 80s said he was disappointed with the growing trend of taking Christ out of Christmas.

"In everything, how we are celebrating Christ is outlandish. In the past we were more sincere and spiritual. We took Christmas as the birth of Christ but how we are celebrating now is completely different," he said. "On Christmas Eve in our days, early in the morning, the Salvation Army would march and take drums, sing sacred hymns and pray. It's no more. Now we go to rum bars and pleasure places. Then, I would come to your house and you come to mine."

Still, for many Christians this is a time for reflection and rededication, as they focus on the real reason for the season ­ Christ's birth and Jehovah's love and commitment to mankind in sending His "only begotten Son".

According to Hopeton Fitzhenley, member of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahài's in Jamaica, "Officially, Bahài's are free to celebrate Christmas and other holy days because we believe in other religions and share with others. They are free to give gifts and greetings on those holy days." The Bahà'i official also said that parents who are Bahà'i's would be obligated to celebrate the season with their Christian children, and so too, Bahà'i children are encouraged to celebrate with their Christian parents in order to solidify the unity of family. "We believe in respecting holy days of other religions," Mr. Fitzhenley said.

Bahài's most recent holy day was on November 12, when they celebrated the birthday of Baha'U'llah, the final messenger from God. Their next holy day will be on March 21, 2003, with the celebration of the Bahà'i New Year.

Jews in Jamaica last week commemorated the Festival of Lights, also known as Hanukkah. Hanukkah celebrates the Maccabees' triumph over the Syrian Greeks who had captured the Temple of Jerusalem. The lighting of eight candles relates to the miracle of a day's supply of oil sustaining the lamp for eight days until fresh oil was provided.

According to Ainsley Henriques, a director of the Jews in Jamaica, "Hanukkah focuses on victory, militant resistance against the Romans, and bravery." He said that the celebration of Hanukkah "is not declining in Jamaica any more significantly than anywhere else. Of course, we don't have a large number of Jews in Jamaica, but we had a fairly good turnout on Friday night (November 29)."

The Muslims have also just finished commemorating one of their holiest periods in the year in the month of Ramadan. Ramadan is the ninth month on the Muslim calendar and adherents are obligated to fast from dawn till dusk for the entire period. Ramadan ended last Thursday. During the holy period, Muslims are encouraged to read the Koran from cover to cover and forge a closer relationship with Allah.

Mustafa Muhamad, president of the Islamic Council of Jamaica, in an interview with The Sunday Gleaner last Wednesday, said, "We are commanded by the Creator to fast. People are hoping to achieve closeness with the Creator, become more God-conscious, and hopefully by the end of the month, keep in that frame of mind throughout the year till the next Ramadan. From a health perspective also, fasting helps the body to recuperate, like a machine, and helps the body to purge itself."

Two sets of persons are exempted from the fasting ritual - those who are travelling long distances and those who are ill.

According to Mr. Muhamad, attempts are made to get everyone involved. "Even the young ones, if parents are devoted Muslims, are allowed to fast for half-day, that when they are of age they will be able to participate," he said. "Everyone is enthused. Some Muslims would be lax throughout the year, but become focused at the time of Ramadan. What it does is give an opportunity to focus more on the Creator as you take yourself away from the things you usually do."

At the end of Ramadan, the leader gives a charge, similar to a sermon, prayer is done, and gifts are exchanged between members. The Council president said, "Children look forward to the giving of gifts. It is a day of freedom for them; they meet other children and play. We reflect on what we did during Ramadan and determine who was stronger without feeling hungry, all in a jovial manner."


©Copyright 2002, The Jamaica Gleaner (Jamaica)

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