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Holidays and Calendars – Discerning the Times and Seasons
Since the creation of the world, God gave to humanity the use of the stars and celestial bodies to discern the times and seasons. We find this account first in Genesis 1.14, when God created the stars, he said let them serve as times and seasons in the bible, signs for seasons and for days and years. As time progressed and special events occurred in the various areas of the world that were meant to be remembered for future generations, holidays where created.
Notable Calendar Systems
Calendars and Holidays have a rich history and diverse origin. Calendars are systems that organize time into units, typically based on astronomical observations or cultural practices. Different civilizations and cultures have developed their own calendars throughout history.
- Gregorian Calendar: The Gregorian calendar is the most widely used civil calendar today. It was introduced by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582 as a reform of the Julian calendar. It is a solar calendar with 365 days in a common year and 366 days in a leap year.
- Islamic Calendar (Hijri Calendar): The Islamic calendar is a lunar calendar based on the cycles of the moon. It consists of 12 lunar months and has approximately 354 or 355 days in a year. The Islamic year is shorter than the solar year used in the Gregorian calendar.
- Chinese Calendar: The Chinese calendar is a lunisolar calendar that incorporates both lunar and solar elements. It has a 12-year cycle with each year associated with an animal from the Chinese zodiac and a 60-year cycle formed by the combination of 12 zodiac animals and five elements.
Holidays Around the World
Every culture around the world has their own set of Holidays with their own specific origin. There are numerous other holidays celebrated worldwide, each with its own unique history, cultural significance, and religious or secular roots. Many Holidays have their roots in older traditional religions that have evolved an changed over time with various revisions.
A few notable Holidays are as follows:
- Christmas: Celebrated on December 25th, Christmas is a Christian holiday commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ. While the exact date of Jesus’ birth is unknown, December 25th was chosen in the 4th century to coincide with existing pagan celebrations of the winter solstice, providing a Christian alternative.
- Thanksgiving: Primarily celebrated in the United States and Canada, Thanksgiving is a holiday of gratitude and appreciation. It originated as a harvest festival in North America and has historical roots in English traditions and the Pilgrims’ arrival in Plymouth in 1620.
- Eid al-Fitr: This is an important Islamic holiday marking the end of Ramadan, the holy month of fasting. It is a time of celebration, gratitude, and giving. The date of Eid al-Fitr is determined by the sighting of the new moon, following the Islamic lunar calendar.
- Diwali: Also known as Deepavali, Diwali is a significant Hindu festival celebrated in autumn. It signifies the victory of light over darkness and good over evil. The festival lasts five days, and the exact date is based on the Hindu lunar calendar.
- Hanukkah: Hanukkah, also known as the Festival of Lights, is an eight-day celebration that usually falls in December. It commemorates the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem during the Maccabean revolt against the Seleucid Empire in the 2nd century BCE. The story of Hanukkah is documented in the books of the Maccabees and Talmud. The lighting of the menorah, playing with dreidels (spinning tops), and eating fried foods are traditional customs during this holiday.
- Chinese New Year: Also known as the Spring Festival, Chinese New Year is a major holiday in many East Asian countries. It marks the beginning of the lunar new year and is associated with various customs and traditions to bring good luck and fortune in the coming year.
Christian & Jewish Holidays
The Catholic Church Christianized many pagan holidays once the Roman Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity. From that time forward, there was a great effort to convert the world into a monotheistic religion, either for social purposes or genuine desire for the salvation of the nation.
The Bible clear teaches that Holidays and Sabbaths where a shadow of things to come. That all Jewish celebrations where to point to facts and prophecies about the coming Messiah and His kingdom.
“Therefore let no one judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a feast, a New Moon, or a Sabbath. 17. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the body that casts it belongs to Christ. 18. Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you with speculation about what he has seen.”– Colossians 2.16 – 18 a
This verse shows us that as believers, we are not bound to any celebration, holiday or feast. The festivals and celebrations where a shadow of things to come in the Old Testament. However, This does not mean that we have to or should stop celebrating them. On the contrary, they still have value in their context and original meaning. God gave holidays for the remembrance of the miracles He did in the world which point to the coming Messiah.
This is why the early church celebrated the Jewish Holidays, not only because most of the members of the first church where Jewish, but because these celebrations still had significant meaning. Jesus and His disciples celebrated the Jewish feasts, i.e. the Passover, Feast of Unleavened Bread (Luke 22.7-8).
To this day, we still find value in Christians knowing about and celebrating Jewish Holidays, to learn about their traditional historic meaning and how the Jewish people in the Old Testament celebrated Gods miracles, and how the celebrations point to the Messiah!