Observing Orange County’s religious Diversity

Sarah Becraft

August through mid-October is full of relatively important holidays for different non-Christian faiths that are often little-heard of in Orange County. Ramadan began September first for Muslims in the United States, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and several other holidays grace the Jewish towards the end of September and through some of October.

If a person wants to get very detailed with different religions and the holidays they celebrate this time of year, there are also Wiccan (or other forms of Pagan), Buddhist, Zoroastrianist, Hinduist, and many other holidays that pertain to a certain religious background that have either occurred or are about to occur at this time of year.

The ones that most apply to Orange County, however, are simply Muslim and Jewish holidays.

Ramadan is the ninth month on the Muslim calendar. Its month long holiday consists of fasting during the day and breating fast after sunset. It traditionally refers to Mohammed’s revelation with the Angel Gabriel, as God revealed it to Gabriel to give to Mohammed. It is also a sense of spiritual fasting – time to make right what has been done wrong and to accept other people in need of finding their own inner peace through forgiveness. There are several more festivals within it such as Laylat al-Qadr, believed to be the night the Qur’an was revealed to our world. The period of daily fasting of Ramadan ends with the holiday “Eid ul-Fitr” – a special celebration where food is delivered to the poor, people wear their best clothes, and communal prayer early in the morning followed by feasting.

Some Muslims follow the encouragement to maintain six additional days of fasting in the following month, though not necessarily in consecutive order, because that is to be rewarded as someone who fasts an entire year.

If anyone has seen this holiday land on a different time in the secular calendar, it’s absolutely true. The Islamic calendar is a lunar calendar based on the phases of the moon, which means its dates and holidays do not correlate with the calendar used in day-to-day life. The new moon is what signifies the beginning of a month in the Islamic calendar, not so different from Judaism, which also has a lunar calendar.

Judaism has several holidays coming up itself – Rosh Hashanah (the “New Year”), Yom Kippur (the “Day of Atonement”), Sukkot, Simchat Torah (finishing the Torah and returning to the beginning of the Torah for the next year).

Zoroastrianism is much less known, but is possibly the oldest monotheistic religion in the world (let alone oldest surviving example of such a religion). It has greatly influenced Judaism, Christianity, and Islam and yet is almost never heard of – its own celebration of the birth of the prophet Zarathustra comes up this time of year as well.

Buddhism and Wiccan (or other forms of Pagan) holidays differ based on the precise movement being practiced, which is why writing down the differing holidays – even specific to the few months listed here – would be too long for the sake of giving any detail. There are not many (if any) holidays specific to all modes of practice for these particular venues.

Hinduism, while it has several holidays around this time of year as well, as a larger multitude of holidays – partly as a result of having a polytheistic belief system – there are different gods and goddesses to acknowledge at different times of the year.

With all these holidays, it’s amazing we don’t hear about more of them. They have very interesting origins, rituals and modes of practice, and are a way of learning the traditional stories of what they celebrate. They are excellent reminders diversity worldwide as well as the all the different cultural and religious beliefs occurring within southern Orange County and a classic example of multi-cultural experience and education.

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