One way to help build interfaith harmony and friendship is to send along your greetings to people of another faith when they are celebrating Holy Days or Festivals.
The following is a non-exhaustive list of some key Holy Days along with an appropriate greeting for the occasion.
Guru Gobind Singh's Birthday
5 January, 2015
Guru Gobind Singh was the tenth of the great masters of Sikhism, succeeding his father, Guru Tegh Bahadur, in 1675 at the age of nine. He was born in Patna Sahib in India in 1666 and died in 1708. Guru Gobind Singh is perhaps most known for two things: introducing the five K's to Sikhism, five physical symbols that indicate the wearer has devoted their life to the Guru; and for being the last human Guru.
The five K's are kesh (uncut hair), kara (steel bracelet), kanga (wooden comb), kaccha (cotton underwear) and kirpan (steel sword). Each of these elements are symbolic of a variety of meanings in the life of a Sikh.
Before Guru Gobind Singh's death, he named the Sikh sacred text, Guru Granth Sahib, his successor. Sikhs treat the Guru Granth Sahib with the same honour and respect they would a human guru.
On the birthday of Guru Gobind Singh, you can wish your Sikh friends and neighbours 'Greetings on this Holy Day' or 'May you be blessed by the Guru'.
6 March, 2015
Holi, named for the destruction of the evil Demoness Holika, is a festival celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs and others. On the day before Holi (known as Holika Dahan), bonfires are lit, symbolic of the one that destroyed Holika and from which Prahlad (a devotee of the Hindu God Vishnu) was miraculously saved.
It is a very joyous festival. People greet each other by applying coloured powder on their faces and embracing them.
The date for Holi is set by the lunar Hindu calendar. It falls on the last full moon day of the month Phalguna, and signifies the end of winter and the coming of the spring.
On the occasion of Holi, you might greet your Hindu and Sikh neighbours with ‘A Happy and Blessed Holi’.
21 March, 2015
For members of the Baha'i faith, one of the most significant festivals is the celebration of Naw-Ruz (pronounced naw-rooz), or New Year. For nineteen days leading up to Naw-Ruz (constituting the Baha'i month of `Ala'), Baha'i adherents observe a sunrise to sunset fast.
The Baha'i calendar features nineteen months, each of nineteen days duration. The months and days are named after nineteen attributes of God. The first of the nineteen is the Arabic word 'Baha', translated as something similar to 'glory'. New Year, being the first day of the first month becomes the 'Baha' day of the 'Baha' month. In this way, the first day of the first month (New Year) symbolises the most glorious name of God.
On this day, your Baha'i friends and neighbours would appreciate the greeting 'Happy Naw-Ruz'.
3-11 April, 2015
Of all the Jewish festivals, Passover (or Pesach) is perhaps the most familiar to Christians, because its origins are told in the book of Exodus, with the name of the festival derived from the moment when God ‘passed over’ the Jewish homes when inflicting the tenth plague on the people of Egypt. Following the ten plagues, the Jews were freed from slavery.
On the first night of the Passover, Jewish families gather to share the Seder meal. The word Seder comes from the Hebrew word meaning ‘order’, and refers to the ordered ritual of the meal.
Passover begins on 15th day of Nisan and ends on the 21st day of Nisan. As with all Jewish holy days, observance begins at sundown on the previous evening.
On this day, you can share the greeting 'Chag Pesach Sameach' or 'Happy Passover' with your Jewish friends
21 April - 2 May, 2015
Ridvan (pronounced REZ-wan) is a 12 day festival observed by adherents of the Baha'i faith. It is known as the "King of Festivals". It commemorates the announcement of his prophethood made by the founder of the faith, Baha'u'llah, in 1863. The festival begins, in fact, at sunset on 20th April.
The word 'Ridvan' means 'good pleasure' in Arabic. It has also come to be accepted as meaning 'paradise'. Ridvan was the name Baha'u'allah gave to the Najibiyyih Garden in Baghdad; the Garden being the place he inhabited for 12 days prior to his imposed exile to Istanbul. The most holy days of the festival are held to be the first, nineth and twelfth days, on which work is prohibited.
During Ridvan you might like to wish your Baha'i friends 'Happy Ridvan'.
The exact date of Vesak varies according to the various lunar calendars used in different traditions. For example, in countries practicing Theravada Buddhism, and following the Buddhist calendar, it falls on the full moon Uposatha day (typically the 5th or 6th lunar month). The date varies from year to year in the Western Gregorian calendar but falls between April and May.
Traditional and cultural practices include gathering at temples, the lighting of lights and candles, early morning chanting of the Buddha's teachings (sutras) led by monastics, listening to talks delivered by monastics, construction of flower shrines and the symbolic bathing of the Buddha image with perfumed water, abstinence from eating meat, sharing food with the poor, visiting and making donations to charitable institutions, and ceremonial release of small animals or caged birds to symbolise humanity and compassion.
On Vesak Day, your Buddhist friends and neighbours would appreciate the greeting 'A Peaceful & Joyful Vesak'.
Eid ul Fitr
17-18 July, 2015
Eid ul Fitr is the Muslim Festival of the Breaking of the Fast. It marks the end of Ramadan; Ramadan being a month of fasting, and one of the five pillars of Islam and is celebrated with prayer and thanksgiving to God, as well as feasting and gift giving.
A common greeting during this holiday is the Arabic greeting 'Eid Mubarak', which means 'Blessed Festival'.
During the month of August, the Brahma Kumaris celebrate the festival of Raksha Bandhan in a unique way. It is a time of deep meditation and reflection. Raksha Bandhan marks a renewal of commitment to a spiritual lifestyle, with a focus on God.
During the festival of Raksha Bandhan, your Brahma Kumaris friends would appreciate a silent greeting of peace, expressed through the eyes.
13-15 September, 2015
The Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah, is celebrated on the first and second days of the Hebrew month of Tishri (the seventh month). In 2015, this equates to 13-15 September.
The two-day festival is a time to reflect on the mistakes of the preceding year, and to make plans of a better life for the coming year. Work is not permitted during Rosh Hashanah, with much of the first day spent at synagogue. The extended service held on that day includes the observance of the sounding of the shofar (ram's horn trumpet).
Greet your Jewish friends and neighbours during Rosh Hashanah with the Hebrew words "L'shana tovah" ("for a good year").
Eid Al Adha
23 September, 2015
Eid al-Adha is the "Festival of Sacrifice" or "Greater Eid". It is celebrated by Muslims worldwide to commemorate the willingness of Prophet Abraham to sacrifice his son Ismael as an act of obedience to God. Eid al-Adha annually falls on the 10th day of the month of Dhul Hijja of the lunar Islamic calendar. The festivities last for 4 days.
Eid al-Adha is celebrated at the end of the Hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, which is observed by Muslims as one of the five pillars of Islam.
A common greeting during this festival is the Arabic greeting "Eid Mubarak", which means "Blessed Eid".
Diwali (or Deepawali, meaning 'row of lamps') is a five day festival, which holds meaning for Hindus, Sikhs and Jains. Its name is derived from the practice of decorating homes using oil lamps to symbolise the triumph of good over evil and the removal of darkness. Diwali is a joyous occasion, holding various meanings for the three faiths.
Diwali falls on new moon day of the month Karthik of the lunar Hindu calendar. It generally falls between mid-October and mid-November.
During Diwali, your Hindu, Sikh and Jain neighbours would appreciate the greeting 'A Happy and Joyful Diwali'. It is also traditional to present sweets as a gift.
Guru Nanak Dev's Birthday
25 November, 2015
Observed by the Sikh community is the holy day of the Guru Nanak Dev's Birthday. Guru Nanak Dev was the first of the ten great masters of Sikhism, born in 1469 and dying in 1507 at the age of 69.
Being the pioneer of the Sikh faith, Guru Nanak Dev brought about many reforms in India during his time. He vehemently denounced the Caste system, pronouncing rather that all humans were created equal. He spoke of gender equality and gave women equal rights. He negated the custom of Satti, which required that a widow burn on her husband's funeral pyre. He also confronted the ruler of India on the topic of forced religious conversions. All Sikh Gurus became Defenders of Faith.
On the birthday of Guru Nanak Dev, you can wish your Sikh friends and neighbours 'Greetings on this Holy Day' or 'May you be blessed by the Guru'.
6-13 December, 2015
The Jewish festival of Chanukah (also known as the Festival of Lights) is celebrated on the 25th day of the Hebrew month of Kislev. As the Hebrew calendar is based on lunar cycles, the date when expressed in the Gregorian calendar changes every year. It is celebrated for eight days. The word Chanukah means 'dedication' in Hebrew.
The festival is named such because it is celebrated in remembrance of the cleansing and re-dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem brought about by the Maccabean revolt in 2nd Century BCE.
On December nights, one can see through the windows of Jewish homes, small flickering candles set in an eight branched candelabra (the chanukiah) proclaiming a miracle of redemption performed long ago.
During Chanukah, you might like to wish your Jewish friends 'Chag Chanukah Sameach' or 'Happy Chanukah (Hanukkah)'.