Religious Festivals and Special Times update

Religious Festivals and Special Times update

Sikhism: Birth of Guru Gobind Singh - 5 January 2019

Guru Gobind Singh was the last of the 10 human Gurus of the Sikh faith. He was born in 1666.

Guru Gobind Singh is known for creating the Khalsa, historically a community of committed Sikhs who wore visible symbols of their faith and trained as warriors. Today the Khalsa refers to the community of baptised Sikhs who've undergone the Amrit initiation ceremony, said to have been introduced by Guru Gobind Singh. He's also known for naming the Sikh holy book, the Guru Granth Sahib, as his successor Guru for all time.

Chinese New Year - 16 February 2018

The year of the dog

The Chinese New Year festival is a lunar festival and falls in late January or early February in the western calendar.  Although celebrations vary from region to region, it is the most important event in the Chinese year and festivities traditionally last for two weeks. The underlying message is one of peace and happiness.  Towns and villages are decorated with lanterns and floral displays and brightly coloured banners emblazoned with New Year greetings begin to appear. Houses are thoroughly cleaned and decorated with flowers, festive food is prepared and debts are paid.

On New Year’s Eve people light fireworks and on New Year’s Day everyone puts on new clothes to symbolise the discarding of the old year and its misfortunes. It is traditional to take gifts to friends and relatives. These usually include foods such as rice flour cakes and kumquats that signify prosperity. Other gifts believed to bring good fortune are small red packets containing money that married couples give to unmarried relatives, friends and children.  Among the most spectacular communal events are the dragon and lion dances which are performed to the sound of gongs and drums as they parade through the streets. The dragons and lions reach up to take red money packets and fruit and vegetables which are hung from shops. The New Year festivities end traditionally with children parading through the streets carrying lanterns.

Christianity: Lent - 14 February-29 March 2018

Lent is an old English word meaning 'lengthen', as this penitential period is observed in spring, when the days begin to lengthen. Lent is the period of forty days which comes before Easter in the Christian calendar, beginning on Ash Wednesday, the day after Shrove Tuesday.

During Lent Christians remember Jesus’ time fasting in the wilderness where he faced temptation from the devil as he prepared to begin his ministry. Lent was traditionally a time of fasting when no meat or dairy products would be eaten. Today this is usually marked by symbolically giving up a favourite food as a test of self discipline.

Lent is a time of prayer, fasting and penitence during which Christians reflect on, and prepare for, the events of Holy Week and Easter. Many Christians will increase the time that they give to prayer and Bible study.

Christianity: Shrove Tuesday - 13 February 2018

Shrove Tuesday (Pancake Day) is the day before Lent starts. The word shrove derives from ‘shriving’ an ancient term for confession and absolution. Foods which would not be eaten during Lent would be used on Shrove Tuesday, hence the tradition of making pancakes. In other parts of the world Shrove Tuesday is marked with Carnival Carne Vale meaning ‘farewell to meat’.

Christianity: Ash Wednesday - 14 February 2018

Ash Wednesday marks the start of the period of Lent and is a day of repentance. Traditionally Christians performed a penance on this day, such as wearing sackcloth and ashes. Today many Christians go to church and the minister or priest marks a cross on their forehead in ash. The ash is produced by burning palm crosses which were given to believers on the previous year’s Palm Sunday.

Hinduism: Holi - 2 March 2018

Holi falls on the full moon day in the month of Phalgun in the Hindu lunar calendar. This festival celebrates people and nature casting off their winter gloom. Holi heralds the arrival of Spring and marks the end of cold, dark winter nights. People traditionally throw coloured powders and paints at each other in the streets and this is why Holi is often described as the most colourful of Hindu festivals.

The festival is named after Holika, a sister of an Indian king called Hiranyakashyapu. The king ordered his people to worship him as a god. However his son Prahlad refused to do so and continued to worship Lord Vishnu, one of the Hindu Tri-Murti (the Tri -Murti are the three main manifestations of the one God or Supreme Spirit).

As a punishment the king sent his sister Holika to destroy Prahlad. Believing that she was immune from flame, she persuaded Prahlad to sit with her in a blazing fire, yet he escaped unharmed and Holika was devoured by the flames.

On the eve of Holi, victory of good over the power of evil, is celebrated and effigies of Holika are burnt in huge bonfires. 

Sikhism: Hola Mohalla - 2 April 2018

Hola Mohalla is a Sikh Olympics event which begins on the first day of the lunar month of Chet in the Nanakshahi calendar. It most often falls in March, and sometimes coincides with the Sikh New Year. The event lasts for a week and consists of camping out and enjoying various displays of fighting prowess and bravery, followed by kirtan, music, and poetry. The event concludes with a long, military-style procession near Takht Sri Keshgarh Sahib, one of the five seats of temporal authority of the Sikhs. In the UK some Gurdwaras organise sports events which include Gatka, Sikh martial arts, tug of war, wrestling and other fun activities to build team spirit.

Christianity: St Patrick’s Day -17 March 2018

Saint Patrick was a Christian missionary and is the Patron Saint of Ireland. Patrick was born in Roman Britain. Tradition says that when he was about sixteen he was captured by Irish raiders and taken as a slave to Ireland, where he lived for six years before escaping and returning to his family. Patrick became a deacon, as his father and grandfather had before him, and eventually became a bishop.

He later returned to Ireland as a Christian missionary, working in the north and west of the island. There are many stories about his life and work and he is credited with having driven snakes from Ireland.  This is a symbolic way of saying that he banished paganism (often symbolised by a snake or serpent) from Ireland and replaced it with Christianity.

On Saint Patrick’s Day services are held in Catholic churches in Ireland in particular and there are associated Saint Patrick Day Parades. However many Saint Patrick’s Day Celebrations are now secular and cultural, rather than religious. Celebrations are generally themed around the colour green and all things Irish. 

Hinduism: Rama Navami - 25 March 2018

At Rama Navami Hindus celebrate the birth of Lord Rama. It falls on the ninth day of Chaitra in the Hindu calendar (March/April). Rama Navami is one of the most important Hindu festivals. Lord Rama is an incarnation of the god Vishnu and the hero of the epic Ramayana, which is recited in its entirety in the week leading up to Rama Navama, and on the day itself.

Christianity: Easter

Holy Week – 25-31 March 2018

Holy Week is the week before Easter. It begins on Palm Sunday when Christians remember Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem (in some traditions this is known as Willow Day) and finishes at dusk on Holy Saturday, the eve of Easter Sunday.

Maundy Thursday – 29 March 2018

Maundy Thursday is the day when Christians remember the events of the Last Supper that Jesus had with his twelve closest disciples (followers). Before the meal Jesus washed the feet of his disciples, this act of humility is remembered in Britain by the distribution of Maundy Money by the Queen.

The Last Supper was Jesus’ celebration of the Passover during which bread and wine were shared. Jesus referred symbolically to the bread as his body, to be broken on the cross, and the wine as his blood, to be shed for the sake of humanity. His instruction that bread and wine should be shared ‘in remembrance of me’ has been followed by the Christian church as the Eucharist, Mass, Lord’s Supper or Holy Communion.

Maundy Thursday concludes with remembrance of Jesus’ arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Good Friday – 30 March 2018

God’s Friday, the day on which Christians remember the trial, crucifixion and death of Jesus.

This is a very solemn day when Christians will traditionally fast and reflect upon the suffering of Jesus on the cross and his willingness to sacrifice himself for the salvation of humanity. Jesus is often referred to as the sacrificial lamb – reflecting the ancient Jewish practice of animal sacrifice as part of their worship.

On Good Friday Christians will attend church services, often following the Stations of the Cross which remember Jesus' journey through Jerusalem to Golgotha. In many Churches a vigil is held between 12 noon and 3 pm to remember Jesus’ suffering and its conclusion with his death.

Easter Sunday – 1 April 2018

Easter is the most important festival for Christians.

Worship in churches is joyous as the resurrection, coming back to life, of Jesus is celebrated. Some churches make an Easter garden representing the tomb in which Jesus was laid, on Easter Sunday the tomb is empty, the stone closing the tomb is rolled away.

Christians believe that Jesus died to bring about a new creation and that he was a sacrifice, his death atoning (making up) for all sins of people over many generations. These sins had spoiled God’s original creation. Through Jesus’ death and resurrection it became possible for people (if they believed in Jesus) to start again and so gain entry into the Kingdom of God.

The date of Easter is variable and is calculated from the lunar calendar, as Passover. Easter Sunday is the first Sunday after the full moon following the spring equinox on March 20.

Many of the activities and symbols associated with Easter; chocolate or decorated eggs, lambs, chickens, ‘Easter bunnies’ are associated with new life and link pre-Christian celebrations of spring with Christian belief in the new life brought about by the death and resurrection of Jesus.

Hinduism: Hanuman Jayanti -  31 March 2018

At Hanuman Jayanti, Hindus celebrate the birth of the god Hanuman. It falls in the month of Chaitra in the Hindu calendar.

Hanuman is portrayed as half man-half monkey and is a key figure in the Hindu epic the Ramayana. He's an ardent devotee of Lord Rama and revered for his dedication to him. As he’s believed to have been born at sunrise, celebrations in his honour begin early in the morning. Devotees visit the temple and apply sindoor (red powder) to their foreheads, as Hanuman’s image is always coloured red. Hanuman is the symbol of strength and energy and he can assume any form, a power he uses to conquer evil.

Sikhism: Vaisakhi (Baisakhi) - 14 April 2018

In Bradford and around the world, the Sikh community commemorate the birth of Khalsa by an uninterrupted reading of the Guru Granth Sahib (Akhand Path) lasting forty eight hours. This reading is completed on the day of the festival. The Guru Granth Sahib is then carried ceremoniously in a procession across the city from Gurdwara to Gurdwara.  The procession is led by five Khalsa Sikhs, who symbolise the five beloved ones. All are welcome to join the parade at any stage regardless of gender, religion or age. Vegetarian food is provided for all at each Gurdwara and along the route of the procession.

Judaism: Pesach (Passover) - nightfall 30 March–nightfall 7 April 2018

Pesach is a major eight day festival when Jews commemorate the Exodus of the Hebrew people from slavery in Egypt. The Jewish calendar is lunar, so there is no set date for Pesach, but it always falls in the spring.

The first night of Pesach commemorates the leaving preparations made by the Hebrews and the passing over of the Hebrew households of the final plague on the Egyptians, the death of the first born, heralding the start of the Exodus. The seventh day of Pesach is the day that commemorates the parting of the Red Sea by Moses, as the Hebrew people made their way to freedom.

Pesach is known as the `Festival of Freedom’, a celebration of freedom not just in biblical times, but also today and throughout history. Jews believe freedom (especially the right to express one’s own religious beliefs and practice one’s religion) to be one of the basic human rights. A strong theme throughout Pesach is that of remembrance of the past and the suffering of Jews throughout the ages.

Pesach celebrations centre on the home so it is important to prepare the house carefully for the festival. This involves cleaning the house from top to bottom to remove any traces of leaven food.

The highlight of Pesach observance takes place on the first two nights, when friends and family gather together for ritual Seder meals and the story of their deliverance is recounted as narrated in the Haggadah (the `Telling the Story’). Seder means `order’ and the ceremonies are arranged in a specific order. Matzah (unleavened bread) is eaten throughout the festival, so are other foods that contain no leaven. Each of the components of the meal is symbolic and most of the food is usually set out on a special plate called a `Seder plate’. It is usual for families to share a delicious meal together on these evenings, as well as partaking in the religiously significant foods.

Pesach is also a pilgrim festival. It is one of the three occasions in the year when according to the commandments of the Torah (Jewish Law) Jews should go and worship at the temple in Jerusalem. For those Jews for whom this is not possible, they raise a toast at the end of the Seder meal ‘Next year in Jerusalem!’

Buddhism: Wesak - 8 April 2018

The main Buddhist festival of the year is Buddha’s Day, Wesak, or Visekah which falls on the day of full moon in the month of May. On this day, Buddhists celebrate the birth, the enlightenment and the passing away of Gautama Siddhartha, the Buddha.  A particular emphasis is always placed on the enlightenment of Buddha.

In the Theravadan Buddhist tradition these are celebrated all in the same day. Mahayan Buddhists celebrate on separate days the birth, enlightenment and passing of the Buddha. Buddhists around the world commemorate and remember these events in a variety of ways. It is common to decorate homes and to light lanterns. Temples and Buddhist Centres are also decorated and lit with lamps and candles.

In some traditions people may send Wesak cards to their friends.  Buddhists also visit their local Temple or Buddhist Centres for services and teachings and give offerings to monks.

Islam: Lailat al Miraj - 13 April 2018

Lailat al Miraj is when Muslims commemorate the Prophet Muhammad's nighttime journey from Mecca to the 'Farthest Mosque' in Jerusalem.

Muslims believe that during this journey the Prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven, was purified, and instructed by God that Muslims should pray five times daily. These events are described briefly in the Koran. Muslims celebrate by retelling the story to their children and reciting special nighttime prayers.

Judaism: Shavuot - 19-21 May 2015

Shavuot, or the Festival of Weeks, is a harvest festival when Jews give thanks for the first fruits of the year. Shavuot also marks the time when Moses received the Torah on Mount Sinai. It's a time to give thanks for the Holy Book and to study its texts. It marks the start of the wheat harvest and the end of the barley harvest.

Shavuot rituals and celebrations include Prayers being said, especially at dawn to thank God for the five books of Moses (collectively known as the Torah) and for his law. Some people also spend the first night of Shavuot studying the Torah. Synagogues are decorated with flowers and plants on this joyous occasion to remember the flowers of Mount Sinai.

Islam: Lailat al Bara’ah - 1 May 2018

Lailat al Bara'ah, the Night of Forgiveness, takes place two weeks before the beginning of Ramadan.

On this night, Muslims pray and ask God for forgiveness for their sins either at the mosque or at home. They believe that on this night one’s destiny is fixed for the year ahead. Visiting the graves of relatives and giving to charity is traditional at this time.

Islam: Ramadhan -  15 May-14 June (likely date)

In Islam fasting is an activity devoted to Allah which takes place in Ramadhan, the ninth month of the Islamic Calendar.  It was in Ramadan that the Prophet Muhammad first began to receive revelations (Qur'an) from Allah. Muslims are required to fast for 29 or 30 days, from dawn to sunset.  They cannot eat or drink anything, smoke, or have sexual relations during this time.  During this month extra prayers should be said and many Muslims attempt to read the entire Qur’an, divided into equal daily parts.  Ramadhan is a month when Muslims try not to quarrel with friends or neighbours and try to be particularly kind and helpful. The fast takes place to remind Muslims of the good things Allah has provided and to remember the sufferings of the poor and the hungry.  It is held to develop self-discipline and an attitude of generosity towards others. All adult Muslims must keep the fast, but the very old, the sick, pregnant or nursing women are exempt.  The end of the month of fasting is marked by the festival of fast breaking known as Eid-ul-Fitr.

Islam: Eid ul-Fitr - 25 June 2018 (likely date)

This Muslim festival of the breaking of the fast comes at the end of Ramadhan and at the start of Shawwal, the tenth month of the Muslim calendar. Communities may celebrate on different days. It is a time for almsgiving (the charity of the fast) called Zakat-ul-Fitr, which should be paid before the Eid prayers are recited. Muslims (men in particular) will gather for the Eid prayer at the masjid (mosque) on the morning of Eid-Ul-Fitr. It is also a time when Muslims may visit the graves of loved ones.  Eid-Ul-Fitr is a joyous occasion. It is a time for dressing up in new clothes, eating good food, giving presents to children and for family get-togethers, as well as being a traditional time for making contact with friends, especially those that live far away.   The traditional Eid greeting is `Eid Mubarak’ which means a happy and blessed Eid. 

Sikhism: Pehla Parkash of Guru Granth Sahib - 1 September 2018

The Guru Granth Sahib is the name for the Sikh Holy Book. It is an anthology of prayers and hymns which contain the actual words and verses as spoken by the Sikh Gurus. The Guru Granth Sahib, also known as the Adi Granth, consists of 1430 pages and has 5864 verses. Its contents are referred to as bani or gurbani. An individual hymn is a shabad.

The Granth was compiled by the fifth Sikh guru, Guru Arjan Dev Ji. He undertook the enormous task of collecting, compiling, and scrutinizing the hymns and compositions of Guru Nanak and his predecessors. He decided to include not only the hymns of the Gurus but also those of other saints. At the invitation of the Guru followers of different sects, both Hindu and Muslim, came to the Guru and recited the hymns of their teachers. Guru Arjan chose only those hymns which echoed sentiments he wanted to pass on in his own community. After the selections were made, the Guru dictated the hymns to Bhai Gurdas Ji, who wrote the Granth Sahib.

Having compiled the Granth, the Guru placed it in the newly-built Harmandir Sahib (Golden Temple) in Amritsar. The first parkash (opening ceremony) was performed in the Golden Temple by Guru Arjan on August 30 1604.

Hinduism: Ganesh Charuthi - 12 September 2018

Ganesh Chaturthi celebrates the birth of Ganesh, god of wisdom and prosperity. It falls in the Hindu month of Bhadrapada (August/September).

Ganesh Chaturthi lasts for 10-11 days, with the biggest celebrations taking place on the last day, Ananta Chaturdasi. On the first day, statues of Ganesh are installed in homes and temples and ceremonies are performed to invoke his presence. Prayers are offered to Ganesh every day during the festival. At Ananta Chaturdasi the statues are paraded through the streets, accompanied by much singing and dancing, and then immersed in the ocean or other bodies of water.

Judaism: Rosh Hashanah - 9-11 September 2018

Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Year festival and commemorates the creation of the world. It lasts two days. The traditional greeting between Jews is "L'shanah tovah" ... "for a good New Year".

Rosh Hashanah is also a judgement day, when Jews believe that God balances a person's good deeds over the last year against their bad deeds and decides what the next year will be like for them.

A lot of time is spent in the synagogue on Rosh Hashanah, when there are special services that emphasise God's kingship. One of the synagogue rituals for Rosh Hashanah is the blowing of the Shofar, a ram's horn trumpet. A hundred notes are sounded in a special rhythm.

Judaism: Yom Kippur, Day of Atonement - 19 September 2018

Yom Kippur, the most sacred and solemn day of the Jewish year, brings the Days of Repentance to a close. On Yom Kippur, God makes the final decision on what the next year will be like for each person. The Book of Life is closed and sealed, and those who have properly repented for their sins will be granted a happy new year.

The most important part of Yom Kippur is the time spent in the synagogue. Even Jews who are not particularly religious will want to attend synagogue on Yom Kippur, the only day of the year with five services.

Islam: Eid ul-Adha and Hajj - 22 August 2018 (likely date)

Eid ul-Adha known as the Festival of Sacrifice marks the end of the Hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Makkah (Mecca) and takes place on the 10th day of Dhul-Hijjah, the last month of the Islamic calendar. Although only pilgrims to Makkah can celebrate it fully, Muslims elsewhere also mark the occasion of Eid-ul-Adha.

Hajj is the Fifth Pillar of Islam and therefore a very important part of the Islamic faith. All Muslims who are able to should make the pilgrimage to Makkah, in Saudi Arabia, at least once in their life. Every year over 2 million Muslims converge on Makkah to visit the Ka'bah the most sacred site in Islam.

Eid ul-Adha starts with Muslims going to the mosque for prayers, dressed in their best clothes and thanking Allah for all the blessings they have received. Each Muslim, as they celebrate, reminds themselves of their own submission to God and their own willingness to sacrifice anything to God's wishes. During the festival Muslims who can afford to sacrifice domestic animals, usually a sheep, as a symbol of Ibraham's sacrifice. The meat is distributed among family, friends and the poor, who each get a third share.

Islam: Al-Hijra, Islamic New Year - 19 September 2018

Al-Hijra is the first day of Muharram, the first month in the Islamic calendar and the first day of the Islamic New Year.

Al-Hijra marks the day in AD622 when Muhammad and the first Muslim community migrated from Mecca to Medina. There is no specific religious ritual required on this day but Muslims will think about the general meaning of Hijra and regard this as a good time for 'New Year Resolutions'.

Hinduism: Navaratri - 9-18 October 2018

Navaratri is a nine day festival of music and dance when Hindus worship the female expression of the divine. During Navaratri the creative power of the Goddess is celebrated, personified in the forms of Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswati. The festival culminates on the 10th day, known as Dussehra, when Hindus celebrate the god Rama's victory over the demon king Ravana, symbolising the triumph of good over evil. In the state of West Bengal Navaratri culminates in the Durga Puja, when Durga idols are carried in procession and immersed in a river or other water bodies.

Islam: Ashura - 21 September 2018

Ashura has been a day of fasting for Sunni Muslims since the days of the early Muslim community. It marks two historical events: the day Nuh (Noah) left the Ark, and the day that Musa (Moses) was saved from the Egyptians by Allah.

Shi'a Muslims in particular use the day to commemorate the martyrdom of Hussein, a grandson of the Prophet, in 680 CE. In Shi'ite communities this is a solemn day: plays re-enacting the martyrdom are often staged and many take part in mourning rituals.

Every year in Bradford Shi'a Muslims gather for a mourning procession attracting over 1000 men, women and children.

Sikhism: Diwali / Bandhi Chor Divas - 7 November 2018

Sikhs celebrate Diwali / Bandhi Chor Divas to commemorate the day when the sixth Guru, Guru Hargobind was released from imprisonment in Gwalior prison. The Guru refused to accept the release offered by the Moghul Emperor Jehangir unless fifty two Hindu princes, who were imprisoned with him, were also given their freedom.  The Emperor agreed to release as many prisoners as could hold on to a piece of the Guru’s clothing. To meet the Emperor’s condition, the Guru wore an outer garment with fifty two long tassels, so each prince could walk to freedom. Sikhs celebrate with communal worship at the gurdwara (Sikh temple). They may decorate their homes and gurdwaras with lights. 

Sikhism: Guru Nanak's Birthday - 23 November 2018

Guru Nanak Dev, the first Guru of the Sikhs was born in 1469. Sikhs around the world celebrate Guru Nanak’s birthday at the gurdwara by a complete and uninterrupted reading of the Sikh scriptures, the Guru Granth Sahib. This takes forty eight hours and is called an Akhand Path.

Sikhs gather at the gurdwara to hear the reading of the Guru Granth Sahib and to take part in Kirtan, the singing of hymns about the life of the first Guru. It was Guru Nanak who instituted the tradition of Guru Ka Langar (the Guru’s kitchen) in order to take action against the caste system, gender and religious distinctions and inequalities which prevented people from eating together. The Langar provided food for the needy and still has this function today and anyone is welcome to eat at the gurdwara.

Judaism: Hanukkah - 2-10 December 2018

Hanukkah or Chanukah is the Jewish Festival of Lights. It dates back to two centuries before the beginning of Christianity. The festival begins on the 25th day of Kislev and is celebrated for eight days. In the western calendar Hanukkah is celebrated in November or December. The word Hanukkah means rededication and commemorates the Jews' struggle for religious freedom.

The story of Hanukkah is based on the so-called 'miracle of the oil'. According to Jewish tradition, in 164BC a group of Jews, the Maccabees, recaptured Jerusalem from the occupying Greeks. When they came to rededicate the Temple, they had only enough sacred oil to light the menorah (seven-branched candlestick) for one day. Despite this, the candles miraculously stayed alight for eight days. An eight day festival was declared to celebrate this miracle.

Islam: Milad-un-Nabi, The Birthday of Prophet Muhammad - 21 November 2018

Muhammad was born at sunrise on 12 Rabi-ul-Awwal (the third month of the Muslim lunar calendar) in 571 AD. The Prophet Muhammad’s father died before he was born and his mother died when he was still an infant. As an orphan he was brought up by his grandfather and then when he died, by his uncle.  As a child and young person, although un-educated and illiterate he was well known for his intelligence, honesty and kindness.

This continued into adulthood when the Prophethood was conferred upon him by Allah. There are many accounts of his kindness to animals, children, the old and the needy. He used to visit the sick and assist whoever asked him for help. Muhammad (pbuh) was known for his humbleness and lack of pride. He was revered and loved by those who knew him. Many Muslims mark the Prophet’s birthday by reading from the Qu’ran followed by poetry and songs in praise of the Prophet.  In some traditions on Milad-un-Nabi houses and streets are decorated, food is distributed to all and Muslims take part in parades through the streets. The way Muslims celebrate the event will vary according to their country of origin.

Christianity: Christmas Day - 25 December 2018

Christmas Day is when Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus, whom they believe to be the son of God.

Jesus' birth, known as the nativity, is described in the New Testament of the Bible. According to tradition, Joseph and Mary travelled to Bethlehem shortly before Jesus' birth as the Roman Emperor had ordered a census of the Jewish people and all had to return to their place of birth. When they arrived in Bethlehem the inns were already full but an innkeeper allowed them to stay in a cave which he used for his animals. It was here that Mary gave birth to Jesus and laid him in a manger.

The majority of Orthodox Christian churches celebrate Christmas on 7 January. This is because they continue to use the Julian calendar, while Western churches use the Gregorian calendar.


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