Holidays, in general, reflect the cultural aspects of different groups of people. Religious holidays, in particular, provide an insight into the archetypal collective consciousness of a group of people. The archetypal collective consciousness is defined by psychologists, such as Carl Jung, as specific innate drives that affect peoples’ ideas and concepts on ethical, moral, religious and cultural levels, which in turn mold and determine their behaviors.
Thus, one can understand the behaviors of a certain group of people by studying their religious holidays.
This week Christians celebrate Christmas religious holiday. Christmas is a celebration of Jesus’ birthday. Jesus, who attained Christhood, is the main character in Christianity. All Christian holidays revolve around Jesus’ life, his teachings, his mission on earth, and his crucifixion. During Christmas Christians celebrate the miraculous virgin birth of Jesus by praying in churches, where the story of his birth is told again; his birth in a shepherd cave in the city of Bethlehem, the visitation of the three magi from the East, Herod’s slaughter of new-born babies, and the flight of Jesus’ family to Egypt. Christmas is a time for thankful prayers, celebration, family gatherings and gift exchange.
Lent commemorates Jesus’ 40 days and 40 nights fasting and meditation after which he was tempted by Satan. It is a 40-day period of preparation for Easter Sunday and one of the major liturgical seasons of the Catholic Church. Lent is a season marked by prayer, repentance, fasting, abstinence, and charity giving. The first day of Lent is called Ash Wednesday, during which many Christians use ash to mark a cross on their foreheads symbolizing the physical burdens a person has to suffer before a new birth (born again Christian). This is a period when many Christians, especially the young, repent and fast before they go through the ritual of baptism on Easter representing salvation and resurrection from the underworld to the spiritual world.
Palm Sunday, also known as Passion Sunday, is the sixth Sunday of Lent and the last Sunday before Easter. It commemorates Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem, where he would be crucified five days later. Jesus entered Jerusalem riding a donkey, an animal of peace, patience and labor, rather than riding a horse, an animal of war and aggression. Christians celebrate this Sunday with prayers and with processions carrying palm branches.
Good Friday, also known as Holy Friday, is the Friday immediately proceeding Easter Sunday. This is the Friday commemorating the crucifixion of Jesus. After his last supper with his twelve apostles Jesus was arrested by Jewish mob and was tried by the Sanhedrin; the Jewish judicial court. The Sanhedrin turned him to the Roman governor Pontius Pilate demanding his crucifixion for claiming to be the king of the Jews. Jesus was flogged, and forced to carry his cross to Golgotha, where he was crucified with two thieves.
The crucifixion is a major theme in Christianity due to the belief that Jesus had died for the salvation of the people. Traditionally in this day, praying Christians follow the path Jesus took to his crucifixion, called Via Dolorosa, and end up into the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, where Jesus was buried. Many Christians spend this day in fasting, prayer, repentance, and meditation on the agony and suffering of Jesus on the cross.
Easter Sunday is another major Christian religious holiday that celebrates and commemorates the central event in the Christian faith; namely the resurrection of Jesus three days after his death by crucifixion. The resurrection is a major tenet in the Christian faith because it represents salvation by being born again and the afterlife in heaven. Resurrection is a physical confirmation of Jesus’ teachings. Christians celebrate this miracle with prayers, family gathering, and congratulations that “Jesus has risen”.
A lesser Christian holiday is the Assumption Day, which celebrates the Roman Catholic belief of Jesus’ mother’s: Mary’s transfer into heaven. The Catholic Church teaches as dogma that the Virgin Mary, after completing her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory. The Assumption is important to many Catholic and Orthodox Christians as the Virgin Mary’s heavenly birthday. Her acceptance into heaven is seen by them as the symbol of the promise made by Jesus to all enduring Christians that they too will be received into paradise.
Islamic holidays are mainly purifying religious rituals and commemoration of some religious historical events rather than revolving around the life of one person; prophet Mohamad.
The Hajj is a central religious tradition and one of the five pillars in Islam. It is the annual pilgrimage to the city of Mecca, in Saudi Arabia, to visit the Ka’aba; a cuboid structure located in Al-Masjid al-Haram al-Sharif; the Islamic most sacred mosque. The Hajj is a mandatory religious duty, at least once in a life time, for all physically and financially capable Muslims. It is the largest people annual gathering in the whole world.
The Hajj commemorate major events in the life of Islamic founding father; Ibrahim (Abraham) the father of all prophets. The story is told that Ibrahim’s step-sister/wife; Sarah, who was barren and old, became jealous of Ibrahim’s second wife; Hagar, who bore him a son; Isma’el (Ishmael). Sarah ordered Ibrahim to banish Hagar and her son. The obedient Ibrahim banished Hagar and his son Isma’el into the Arabian Desert. Running out of water Hagar ran up and down seven times between two hills; Al-Safa and Al-Marwah, looking for water but none was found. After praying for God’s mercy the angel Jibra’il (Gabriel) struck the earth and caused a spring to flow in abundance. This spring, called Zamzam Well, is still flowing with water until today. During Hajj Muslims walk around the Ka’aba seven times and drink water from Zamzam Well commemorating Hagar’s suffering.
Hajj also commemorates Ibrahim’s great trial when God ordered him to sacrifice his first born son Isma’el as an offering to God. During preparation Satan tempted Ibrahim not to carry the sacrifice, but Ibrahim drove him away by throwing pebbles at him. This has become a ritual for Muslims during the Hajj. While attempting to sacrifice his son the angel Jibra’il stopped Ibrahim and pointed to a ram to be sacrificed instead. Muslims around the world commemorate this act of sacrifice with Eid Al-Adha (festival of sacrifice) at the end of their Hajj. The sacrificed animal is often shared with extended family members, and many are given away as charity to the needy.
The Hajj followed by Eid al-Adha are times for purification, prayer, contemplation, Islamic brotherhood and cohabitation, and compassion and giving to the less fortunate and the needy.
Eid al-Fitr is a religious holiday at the end of month of Ramadan; a month of fasting. During Ramadan Muslims refrain from food and drink during the day and eat a simple dietary meals during the night. Ramadan is a celebration of the revealing of the Qur’an. This is a month to renew oneself spiritually, self-re-evaluation, self-control, forgiveness, purification and devotion. It is a time for purifying oneself physically, mentally, and spiritually. At the end of Ramadan Muslims celebrate three-day Eid al-fitr (fast-breaking). This is a celebration for family members to get together and to give thanks for all their blessings. It is also time for “sadaqa” (charity) to the needy.
Isra’ and Mi’raj (the Night Visit and Heavenly Ascension) is another important Islamic holiday. It is believed that accompanied with angel Jibra’il Prophet Muhammad was flown, on the back of al-Buraq; a winged animal between a horse and donkey, from al-Haram al-Sharif Mosque in Mecca to al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. Then he was elevated through the seven heavens where he met many prophets including Moses, Jesus, Ibrahim, and Adam. In the seventh heaven he met God, who imposed the five daily prayers on Muslims. This visit and ascension happened in one night. This holiday is the time for religious confirmation, devotion, and praying.
The Day of Ashura holiday is a day of mourning for Shi’a Muslims to commemorate the martyrdom of Hussein ibn Ali; the grandson of Prophet Muhammad at the battle of Karbala. In 680 CE Yazid ibn Muawiyah declared himself the new caliph and leader of Muslim nation, and demanded allegiance from all the tribes. This was contrary to the tradition where the caliph was usually within the family of Prophet Muhammad. Hussein ibn Ali refrained from pledging allegiance believing that Yazid was openly going against the teachings of Islam. Yazid’s army besieged Hussein and his followers in Karbala subjecting them to thirst, and eventually killing the majority of them especially Hussain and all his family members. Hussein’s martyrdom represent steadfastness, sacrifice and struggle against injustice and oppression. Shia Muslims in countries such as Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Turkey and Pakistan commemorate Hussein’s martyrdom in ten days of mourning and fasting. Shia Muslims in Iran and Iraq take a long walking trek to Karbala in Iraq to visit Hussein’s shrine.
During the last week, starting December 17th, the Jews had celebrated Hanukkah or Chanukah (Festival of Lights); a joyous eight-day celebration commemorating the victory of Maccabees over the armies of Syrian-Greek Empire in 165 BC. Though outnumbered, Judah Maccabee, the son of a Jewish Hasmonean Rabi; Mattityahu, and his fighters miraculously won two major battles against the Syrian-Grecian forces and regained control of the temple. When lighting the Menorah in the temple there was only one single jar of oil sufficient to keep the light on for only one day. Yet miraculously the light stayed on for eight days the time it was needed to replenish the oil. According to Chabad.org Jews celebrate this holiday thanking God for “delivering the strong into the hands of the weak, the many into the hands of the few, the wicked into the hands of the righteous”.
Some historians, including Jewish (Hellenistic Civilization and the Jews by Jewish historian Victor Tcherikover, and The God of the Maccabees by Jewish historian Elias Bickermann), indicate that this actually was an intra-Jewish war between Maccabean zealots and Hellenized Jews, who wanted to assimilate into Greek culture. This is a celebration of war and victory painted with a religious color of the long burning Menorah. Hanukkah celebration is said to start late in history to rival Christian Christmas.
Purim is a Jewish celebration characterized by the public reading in synagogues of the Book of Esther, who with the help of her cousin Mordechai saved the Jews of Persia from destruction. The story tells us that the Persian king; Ahashverosh, killed his queen wife for refusing to dance for his guests. Later during a pageant he held to choose a new queen the king chose Jewish Esther, who hid her Jewish origin. Esther gained the king’s trust by revealing a plot against him. Haman, the king’s adviser, who is described as a villain and the embodiment of every anti-Semite, convinced the king to kill all the Jews allegedly because Mordechai refused to bow to Haman. Esther foiled Haman’s plot and saved the Jews by revealing her Jewishness to the king and convincing him to save the Jews. Haman was hanged, the Jews were mobilized and killed many of their enemies, and Mordechai took Haman’s estates and became the royal vizier. The Jews celebrate this occasion by beating Haman’s effigies and eating sweats symbolizing Haman’s ears.
Tishah B’Av ( 9th of Jewish month of AV) is a day of mourning the destruction of both ancient temples in Jerusalem. Although historians dispute the fact that both temples were destroyed on this day, it has become the symbol of Jewish suffering and loss. With time this day has become a commemoration of other tragic events in Jewish history including the massacres of the Crusades, the Jewish expulsion from Spain and the Holocaust. This is the darkest day for Jews; a day for fasting, mourning, and chanting the Book of Lamentations. One should note here that for the last 57 years the Israeli archeologists have been digging around and in what they call the Temple Mount looking for their temple, but not one artifact has been found confirming the existence of the temple on the Mount.
Passover or Pesach holiday commemorates Jewish exodus from Egypt 3000 years ago. Pesach is a Jewish word that means passed over. It recalls the tenth plague the angry Jewish god inflicted on Egyptians by murdering their every firstborn including their animals for refusing to release the Jews from bondage. The Jews marked their door steps with blood so that god’s angels would recognize that this is a Jewish home and they would pass over it not murdering its firstborn. The Pharaoh, then, relented and released the Jews, but later chased them to the Red Sea, where the Jewish god drowned all his army.
Again this is a celebration of war and killing on a holocaustic level, where the Jewish god saves his alleged chosen people by annihilating their enemies including their innocent children.
Shavuot is the Hebrew word for weeks, and marks the seven weeks it took the Jews to travel from ancient Egypt to the foot of Mount Sinai. This is a celebration for Moses receiving the Torah, which the Jews of that time rejected initially and Moses destroyed the first tablets. Then Moses went back to the top of the mountain to receive the Torah once again. This Torah is known as the Ten Commandments when in reality there were 613 commandments (Tractate Makkot 23b).
The first ten commandments that are well known are actually taken from the ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead. The rest of the commandments; listed in Maimonides’ The Mishneh Torah, were hidden from public because they are intended only to the chosen people. They encourage Jews to destroy and kill non-Jews, steal their properties, cheat them in measures, abuse and manipulate them, and take them as inherited slaves for the rest of their lives. According to Chabad.org Shavuot is compared to “… a wedding between G-d and the Jewish people. Shavuot also means “oaths,” for on this day G-d swore eternal devotion to us, and we in turn pledged everlasting loyalty to Him”
Sukkot is the seven-day Jewish commemoration of their forty years wandering in Sinai Desert after their exodus from Egypt. According to Chabad.org a miraculous “cloud of glory” surrounded and hovered over them, shielding them from the dangers and discomfort of the desert. This allegedly shows god’s kindness and care for his chosen people. The Jews celebrate this holiday by building a hut with a roof of branches, where they eat and dwell for seven days and nights to remember the desert journey.
Yom Kippur is considered the holiest day of the year; the day on which Jews are closest to god. It is a day of atonement as mentioned in Leviticus 16:30 “for on this day He (God) will forgive you, purify you, that you be cleansed from all your sins before G-d.” In this day the Jews recite Psalms and read the Book of Jonah and hold five prayers services most importantly the Maariv with its solemn Kol Nidrei service. Kol Nidrei is the most important ritual in this day where the Jews annul all their vows and contracts they had made during the past year and will make during the coming year. This allows them to break all promises and all contracts they may make in the coming year particularly with non-Jews.
Rosh Hashanah is the head of the year and is the anniversary of the creation of humanity; Adam and Eve. According to Chabad.org Rosh Hashanah “emphasizes the special relationship between G-d and humanity: our dependence upon G-d as our creator and sustainer, and G-d’s dependence upon us (the chosen people?) as the ones who make His presence known and felt in His world.” During this time all inhabitants of the world pass before god to be judged; who will live and who will die, who will become poor and who will become rich, who shall fall and who shall rise. The central ritual during this time is the sounding of the shofar; the ram’s horn signifying Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son Isaac to god, also on Rosh Hashanah, but was saved by offering a ram instead.
Other secondary Jewish (Israeli) holidays include Yom HaShoah (the Holocaust Day) were allegedly 6 million Jews were killed by Nazi Germany. The 6 million number is a mystical number in Jewish collective consciousness that was alluded to many times where 6 million Jewish victims were killed throughout history starting from the ancient Roman times until WWII. Yom HaZikaron (memorial day) and Yom HaAtzmaut (independence day) are two days celebrating the establishment of the Israeli state and honoring all the soldiers, who died in battle. In reality those days commemorate the Palestinian al-Nakba, when terrorist Zionist Jews perpetrated many massacres against Palestinian civilians, demolished about 450 Palestinian towns and evicted almost 800 thousand Palestinians from their homeland to establish Israel.
Some holidays; such as Christian and Muslim religious holidays, signify religious events and rituals such as prayers, fasting, forgiveness, repentance, self-purification, humility, compassion and humanity, others such as the Jewish holidays signify war, aggression, destruction, vengeance, god’s wrath, racism, supremacism, trickery, cheating, and abuse of the others; the non-chosen.
Looking at their religious holidays one, now, can understand the motives in the Jewish archetypal collective consciousness that drive them to behave in an aggressively supremacist manner wherever they exist in this world.
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|Allen L. Jasson|