Learning more about religious festivals in April


Photo by Eric Heininger on Unsplash

April is full of various religious festivals, including Easter, Passover, Vaisakhi and Ramadan.

Aziz Radwan, Staff Writer

Religious festivals are not only a great time for people to embrace the beliefs in their religion, but are also a great opportunity to bring communities of different faiths together to observe shared beliefs and values. Festivals of this nature give communities the opportunity to come together in harmony, to preserve their culture and heritage and provides opportunities for outsiders to learn about different religions and their customs. Perhaps the best thing to take away from religious festivals is that they can teach us the importance of togetherness and moral values. The month of April on the interfaith calendar this year is packed with religious festivals, so here is a list that briefly describes the origin and the meaning of each festival.

Easter (April 17)

Easter is one of the most important celebrations in the Christian calendar. Easter is a holiday that observes the resurrection of Jesus Christ. For Christians, the meaning of this holiday is Jesus Christ’s triumph over death. To Christians, it proves that the God they believe in walked on Earth, and it symbolizes leaving their past, sinful lives for one that glorifies Jesus. Christians celebrate Easter because it recognizes that Christian people can leave behind their old way of living and move forward into a new life. It implies that people have something amazing to look forward to in the future and something worthwhile to live for at present.

Passover (April 15-23)

Passover is a major Jewish holiday that commemorates the exodus of the Jewish people from slavery in ancient Egypt. Passover is normally celebrated with a traditional meal called seder, meaning “order” in Hebrew. Seder retells the story of the Jewish people leaving Egypt. Traditionally, Jewish people eat matzah; a special unleavened bread. The biblical narrative for matzah is that the Israelites left Egypt hastily because they could not wait for their bread dough to rise. Although matzah might sound like “poor man’s bread,” it actually symbolizes redemption and freedom for the Jewish people. This unleavened bread serves as a reminder to be humble, and to never forget what life was like in servitude.

 Vaisakhi (April 14)

Vaisakhi is celebrated every year in mid-April. It marks the spring harvest, where Punjabi farmers celebrate with festivals and gatherings. Vaisakhi marks the beginning of the Sikh solar new year and is also a day to celebrate 1469, the new year in which Sikhism was born as a collective faith. The Sikh community does not strictly regard Vaisakhi day as “holy”, but rather an occasion for celebrating the growth of the Sikh community and recalling collective memories and shared values. In other words, Vaisakhi is about celebration, community and progress. This celebration is a great opportunity for the Sikh community to come together and raise their collective consciousness. In India, Vaisakhi is celebrated by singing, dancing, dressing in finery, observing wrestling bouts and enjoying parades.

Ramadan (April 2-May 2)

Ramadan marks the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, and is observed by Muslims as a month of fasting, spiritual purification and community reflection. Ordained in the Quran, the fast is an act of worship in which Muslims seek a richer perception of God. Muslims fast during the month of Ramadan from dawn to sunset, with nothing to eat or drink. Instead of the traditional three meals a day, two meals a day are eaten during Ramadan: iftar (a meal consumed after dusk) and suhur (a meal consumed before dawn). Suhur is regarded as a blessing as it helps a person to fast during the day, to avoid weakness. Fasting is not only about refraining from food and drink during the day, but also sinful behaviors, sexual relations and smoking. Muslims are encouraged to pray in congregation and recite the Quran more often than they do outside of Ramadan. Ramadan is regarded as a great opportunity to practice self-control, self-discipline and empathy to those who are less fortunate. Fasting instills compassion for the people who are food insecure, hence inspiring a person to donate to those living in poverty.

At Case Western Reserve University, we have students from many different cultures, backgrounds and religions. Therefore, we would all benefit from learning about religious festivals, including their origins and meanings. Although religious festivals have differences, we can notice that there are some shared values among them. If you have a friend who practices a different religion, take the initiative and ask them a few questions about their holidays in April. This shall help us to better understand and respect one another.