Samhain occurs towards the end of October. It is a festival whereby Druids, Wiccans, and other pagans across the United States, Europe, Canada, and other areas in the world celebrate. According to Armstrong (2011), it is a “festival of the dead.” It marks the end of summer and the beginning of the coldest half part of the year. The members of the pagan community celebrate it to begin a new year in their calendar. The variance of the celebration occurs as a consequence of geography and spiritual tradition that the members of threat community have. The celebrations last several nights and days and include spiritual ceremonies. In addition to that, there are gatherings and feasts whereby the spiritual community, friends, and family meet and celebrate. It is imperative to note that Samhain is a Celtic pagan ceremony with roots in the ancient times. For example, Irish old literature mentions it. Also, the time of celebration coincides with the halfway between the winter solstice and autumn equinox.
On the other hand, Buddhism refers to a religion that Buddha (Gautama) created over 2500 years ago. Like Samhain, it is an old religion that continues to exist for the past thousands of years. In addition to that, similar to the Celtic Samhain New Year celebrations, the Buddhist new ear celebrations are different from the conventional or Christian calendar that the world uses (Lewis and Travis, 2013). Contrary to the Celtic celebrations that take place at the beginning of November and the end of October, Buddhist New Year celebrations take place at the beginning of April.
However, before the celebrations take place, the full moon must occur for both Samhain and Buddhist celebrations. The absence of which the members of the religious community wait. Nonetheless, it is important to note that unlike the Celtic Samhain celebrations, there are different forms of celebrations around the world for Buddhist believers (Adler, 2014). For instance, Buddhists in Tibet celebrate the New Year at the beginning of February after the occurrence of the full moon. On the other hand, the ones in Korea, Vietnam, and China do it at the end of January and the beginning of February. Thus, it is not as singular as the Samhain celebrations.
Nonetheless, the other name for Eid al-Fitr is “festival of breaking of bread” or “festival of breaking of fast” (Adler, 2014). It is a celebration by Muslims that marks the end of Ramadan. Ramadan is the Islamic fasting month (Adler, 2014). It is the first day that of the holy month, Shawwal, whereby Muslims do not fast. Besides that, is has a specific prayer (Salat) that has two units (Ralkats) and believes offer them in an open large hall or field. The Eid al-Fit celebrations in most cases occur at the end of August and the beginning of September. According to Lewis and Travis (2013), it involves the feeding of the poor, gathering and feasting of the family and friends, and general communal celebrations.
It is important for the Islamic religious community because it marks a new religious year. Similar to the two other celebrations (Samhain and Buddhist New year), Islamic believers can only celebrate it after observing the full moon. In the event of not observing it, there cannot be celebrations. Another similarity between the three celebrations is that all of them began thousands of years ago. Thre is no new celebration among the three. Therefore, for thousands of years, believers practice the traditions, respecting all the rules and guidelines that the beginners laid many eons ago.
The Traditions in the Festivals
As the discussion has established, the festivals belong to three different groups of people or believers. To begin with, the Samhain Festival belongs to the Celtic, mostly in China. However, it is a Pagan celebration that most pagans around the world including the US and Europe observe. On the other hand, Buddhist New Year celebrations belong to Buddhist practice members, mostly in the Eastern Asian region. Finally, the Eid al-Fitr belongs to the Islamic believers. Notably, all the festivals celebrate New Year, albeit in different times. In the same school of thought, before the start of the celebrations, the members must observe a full moon, in the absence of which they cannot hold the celebrations.
The festivals involve gatherings of believers together to celebrate. The people that are mostly present are families, friends, and fellow believers. People eat; spend time together, talk, socialize, and offer prayers at different times. For instance, in Eid al-Fitr, members of the Muslim community offer prayers before they begin to eat in a large field or arena. Contrary to that, the believers of Samhain celebrations have ancestor altars and seasonal imagery that they offer prayers to. They light fires and even take Samhain nature walks together (Armstrong, 2011). Their feasting takes place towards the end of the day after prayers and the other activities such as the telling of ancestor stories. Buddhist prayers take the major part of celebrations. Before they sit to feats, they pray half of the day and celebrate in the remaining half.
In essence, the three festivals are similar yet different. The major activities are prayers and feasting together among believers. However, they differ in ways of prayer, traditions, and the deity to whom they are offering the prayers. In addition, some of the festivals including Eid al-Fitr can be seen to be practiced mostly in some parts of the world, but not in some, bringing a geographical difference.
- Adler, J. A. (2014). World Religious Traditions. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.
- Armstrong, K. (2011). The great transformation: The beginning of our religious traditions. New York: Knopf.
- Lewis, J. F., & Travis, W. G. (2013). Religious traditions of the world. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Pub. House.