Guide to major religious festivals

Although the majority of Ohioans are Christians, there is great religious diversity in Columbus.

You might be wondering how to navigate different religious traditions and want to learn more about the holidays your friends and colleagues celebrate, like Eid al-Adha, an annual Muslim holiday that begins on July 19.

Or maybe you just want to learn more about the different ways the people of central Ohio have commemorated their religious holidays over the past few years. This guide is here to help you with information on many festivals in Judaism, Islam, and Christianity.

Islamic holidays

• Ramadan: Islamic holidays are determined by the moon, so the month of fasting which is Ramadan is changing, although in recent years it has been marked in the spring. Muslims do not eat or drink during the day during Ramadan and they practice self-sacrifice, strive to be morally good, and focus only on God. The month commemorates when the first part of the Quran, the holy book of Islam, was revealed by God.

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• Eid al-Fitr: After Ramadan, Muslims celebrate the end of the fast with three days of special prayers, sweets, gifts for children, and community gatherings and festivals.

• Eid al-Adha: On the third day of Hajj – a pilgrimage to the holy land of Mecca in Saudi Arabia celebrated annually but most Muslims do only once in a lifetime – Muslims mark Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son. Celebrations include the sacrifice of a lamb, goat or cow and the sharing of the meat with friends, family and those in need. The Hajj currently falls during the summer months.

“Aspiration for a community congregation”:The annual Muslim holiday fills the parking lot, not the mosque this year

Jewish holidays

• Purim: Usually falling in February or March, Purim is a lively celebration that commemorates the salvation of the Jewish people in ancient times when the genocidal plans of an official of the Persian Empire were thwarted. The holiday is celebrated by offering monetary gifts to the poor; read the book of Esther, which tells the story of Purim; dress in costume and send food gifts.

Easter: The Passover generally falls in the spring and marks the liberation of Egypt from the Hebrew slaves. It lasts eight days, and Jews celebrate with seder dinners the first two nights, in which they read a special book called the Haggadah and tell the story of the Jewish people leaving Egypt. No bread or sourdough food is eaten during the holidays.

Still together:Message of hope to return to Passover, as some vaccinated plan to gather for Jewish holiday

“2 for the Seder”:To fight anti-Semitism, some families in central Ohio invite non-Jews to the Seder

Coronavirus and Passover:Albany’s new synagogue distributes Seder kits to help families trapped at home

Reinterpretation:Some Christians organize their own “Seder” dinners

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• Shavuot: This marks the day when the Ten Commandments were given, and during its celebration, in summer, Jews eat meals containing dairy products.

• Rosh Hashanah: The Jewish New Year consists of eating apples dipped in honey, blowing a ram’s horn and going to the synagogue. This usually happens in the fall and marks the beginning of the great holy days in Judaism.

COVID Holidays:OU’s Hillel virtually connects students for great Jewish holy days

• Yom Kippur: The holiest and most solemn day of the year for the Jews, known as the Day of Atonement, the Jewish people mark the occasion by blowing the shofar, a ram’s horn; fast for 25 hours; and attend the synagogue. It usually falls in September or October and is one of the great holy days of Judaism.

Blowing from the shofar:End-of-holiday horn blast dubbed ‘catharsis’ for Jewish people

• Sukkot: The seven-day harvest festival that falls a few days after Yom Kippur, Sukkot is also called the feast or feast of tabernacles and is celebrated by building temporary dwellings outside.

Gareth Evans, representative of Jewish and senior students at Capital University, lights the shammash during a menorah lighting ceremony at Bexley University in December.  The shammash is the candle used to light others in a Hanukkah menorah.

• Hanukkah: Watchers celebrate this eight-day festival by lighting a candle each evening on a special candle holder called a menorah. The holiday falls in December and is also marked by a game of spinning tops called dreidels, potato pancakes called latkes, and freebies. It tells the story of the Maccabees’ victory over the Syrian army and celebrates the one-day miracle of oil supply by keeping the menorah lit for eight days.

COVID Celebration:Synagogues in central Ohio celebrate Hanukkah with virtual and socially distant events

“The spark of hope”:Hanukkah celebrations get bigger, more elaborate compared to Christmas

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Christian holidays

• Ash Wednesday: An introspective celebration that marks the start of Lent and falls 40 days before Easter. The period of sacrifice, often seen by giving up something – like candy or alcohol – ends with the celebration of Easter, usually in April.

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“Witness to good news”:Church artists bring Lent sermons to life by drawing while pastors preach

On Ash Wednesday, some Christians go to church for services, and their foreheads are marked with the sign of the cross in the ashes collected after palm trees from the previous year’s Palm Sunday service were burned. Some practicing Christians do not eat meat on Ash Wednesday or Lenten Fridays.

Love, fasting and repentance:When Ash Wednesday falls on Valentine’s Day

• Easter: A Sunday, usually in April, which marks the resurrection of Jesus and is a time of celebration and renewal. Christians go to church and often have family meals to celebrate Jesus’ return and the end of Lent.

Self-care:Catholic Church Encourages Sacrament of Confession to Columbus Before Easter

‘Act of faith’:How churches in the Columbus area are trying to bring hope, normalcy and community to Easter

Captivating:Downtown church uses butterflies to teach children about the resurrection

Figures from a nativity scene being installed at St. Matthew the Apostle Catholic Church in Gahanna are on view in December, with Joseph and Mary in the foreground.  The figures are around 100 years old and have been extensively repaired.

• Christmas: Christmas falls on December 25 and is a celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, whom Christians believe to be the son of God. It is celebrated with church services, family reunions, gifts, and meals.

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• Watch the night: On December 31, African-American Christians gather to pray on the New Year and mark the anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation. Before the proclamation was issued in 1863, slaves gathered in churches to wait for President Abraham Lincoln to sign the document that would end their slavery. Several African-American churches in Columbus welcome worshipers to celebrate each year.

Keeping the tradition alive:Churches hold New Year’s vigils to pray for the New Year

The Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Annunciation had nearly 20 services in the Holy Week leading up to Orthodox Easter this year, including this Good Friday service.

Orthodox Christian Holi

• Christmas: Orthodox Christians use a different calendar than other Christians – Julian instead of Gregorian – due to a split in the 11th century. Christmas generally falls in January for Orthodox Christians. The celebration is that of the birth and baptism of Jesus.

• Easter (Easter): Orthodox Easter usually falls a few weeks after other Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, and although the event celebrated is the same, Easter is a more important holiday for the Orthodox community. Easter events are participatory and believers are included in the account of the events of Jesus’ death, entombment and resurrection.

Participate in ancient events:Orthodox Easter services filled with hope despite COVID precautions still in place

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