Ceremonies of Mahashivratri

The Hindu festival Mahashivratri is an extremely paschal and ritualistic event. The day begins with a cleansing bathe in holy water, ideally in the Ganga or some other source of holy water. After bathing, clean clothes are adorned and the prayers begin. Women are to either pray for their husbands and sons or, if unmarried, to pray to find a man as good as Shiva. Lord Shiva is considered the example of an exemplary husband. There are chants hailing Shiva and then the linga are circled between three and seven times. After the ritualistic circling, either water or milk is poured onto the Shivalinga.

The Hindu celebration occurs on the 14th day of the Phalgun Hindu calendar, which would correspond to either February or March in the English calendar. The moon must be a new moon as Mahashivratri stands for “the great night of Shiva” and recognizes the long dark night.

There are six ceremonial items that must be incorporated into any Mahashivratri celebration. They are:

1)   Bathing the Shivalinga with either water, honey or milk that contains either Wood apple or beal leaves = represents purification of the soul

2)   Vermilion paste is then applied to the Shivalinga after the bathing = represents virtue

3)   Fruit offerings = represents gratification of desires and a prayer for longevity

4)   Incense burning = represents wealth

5)   Lighting of the lamp = represents knowledge

6)   Betel leaves = represents being pleased or happy with one’s worldly pleasures

As part of the worship ritual, three lines of ash are applied to one’s forehead; which are believed to represent purity, penance, and spiritual knowledge. These three lines are also representative of the three eyes of Shiva.

It is customary to wear a rudraksha seed rosary during the worship ceremony. The rudraksha tree is said to have been created by Lord Shiva’s tears, and as such is considered a sacred tree.

There are festivals all over India to celebrate Mahashivratri. Many of them incorporate fairs and the worshipping of other religious deities, such as the Mandi festival which celebrates over 200 deities throughout the fair. There is also the Sahasrakalasabishekam which is a 10 day-long festival celebrating Kroshta Muni’s and Lord Parasurama’s ritualistic bathing of the deity, Shiva, with a thousand pots of holy water.

There are many other mantras and festivals of differing focuses throughout India, such as the mantra in the Vedas or the Mahasivarathri Procession; which is a grand procession to the temple that is joined throughout the processional journey by several other mini processions. It is considered by many to be the most dramatic and sensational celebratory display of color, sound, pageantry and fireworks – a celebration befitting the irreverent Lord Shiva for being protector of the world.

History of Mahashivratri

Mahashivratri is a Hindu festival celebration that in essence means “the great night of Shiva”, referring to the all-night fasting, meditation and worship that is customarily observed. There are many tales to describe how Mahashivratri first came to be; however, one of the most popular versions is where a pot of poison capable of destroying the whole world emerged from the ocean and Shiva drank it to protect and save the world. But he did not swallow it; to protect the world, which supposedly exists in Shiva’s stomach, he held it in his throat. Therefore, his neck turned blue due to the poison. Afterwards, he went off to meditate in the Himalayas. But prior to his departure, he was advised to stay awake all night after swallowing the poison, and thus the gods played music and danced for him all night long to help keep him awake.

Another tale tells of a man gathering firewood in the forest who, upon hearing the ferocious roar of a tiger, climbed a tree to flee and then stayed awake all night to avoid falling out of the tree. To keep awake, he threw bael leaves from the tree one by one, all night long. Upon daybreak he saw Lord Shiva at the base of the tree instead of a tiger and was thankful to him for keeping him safe all night. Lord Shiva was pleased to see the pile of bael leaves at the base of the tree and perceived it to be an offering from the man.

Similarly there is a story of a man who was returning home from a day of hunting and climbed a tree to rest. While he slept droplets of dew dripped from his body and down the tree, thus producing an offering to Lord Shiva along with the bael leaves that fell from the tree that night, forming a ritualistic offering on the holiest of nights – the night of Sivaratri. This version potentially explains the all night worship that follows an all-day fasting, as the hunter worried all night about his wife and children who were starving and waited for their return with the game of birds he had with him from his hunting quest.

The Mahashivratri celebration is observed on the 13th night of the Phalgun month of a Hindu calendar, when there is a new moon (i.e., a moonless night). For it is believed that the Lord Shiva told Parvati that this was his favorite day of the year and that she had shared this news with her friends, who in turn shared it with the world.

How is Valentine’s Day Celebrated Today?

Valentine’s Day is celebrated each year by millions of people in the US and across the world. It’s common for people in romantic relationships to arrange meals, give gifts or send flowers on the 14th February.

What Are The Most Common Valentine’s Day Symbols and Gifts?

Today, the most common symbols of Valentine’s Day are hearts, flowers and pictures of Cupid. The colors red and pink are used for almost all Valentine’s day material. Cupid, who in Roman mythology shot people through the heart, is a common symbol. This is because people in love are sometimes said to have been struck by Cupid’s arrow.

Popular gifts for Valentine’s Day include:

  • Teddy bears
  • Chocolates
  • Flowers
  • Jewelry

It’s also common for couples to spend Valentine’s Day evening together. Restaurants, movie theaters and hotels are all popular destinations. Weddings are also often held on the 14th February.

In the past, Valentine’s Day was mainly for couples in love. Today, many people give gifts to friends and family as well as romantic partners.

Why are Valentine’s Day Cards so Popular?

The tradition of sending cards on Valentine’s Day dates back at least four centuries, but it’s only in the last 100 years that it’s become so widespread. Millions of Valentine’s Day cards are produced and sent each year to partners, friends and family.

A legend says that this practice started because St. Valentine wrote a card on the eve of his death, which was signed “From Your Valentine.” Even though this story cannot be confirmed, sending cards is now a major part of Valentine’s Day celebrations.

Is Valentine’s Day an Official Holiday?

Valentine’s Day, despite its popularity, is not a public holiday in the United States. Public workers are required to work on the 14th and it’s uncommon for people to get the day off in private industries too. This is the same in many other countries, including the United Kingdom.

How is Valentine’s Day celebrated Around the World?

People in different countries celebrate Valentine’s Day in a variety of ways. These include:

  • In Brazil, Valentine’s Day is called “the day of the Enamored” and is celebrated on June 12th. Chocolates, flowers and other gifts are exchanged between couples.
  • In Vietnam, couples wear the same color or style of clothes on Valentine’s Day.
  • Japan celebrates Valentine’s Day twice. On February 14th, chocolates are given to boys by girls. Boys then give cookies to girls they like a month later on March 14th.

History of Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is celebrated by millions of people each year. On the 14th of February, many people buy flowers and gifts for loved ones. But when did this tradition start? And why do so many people celebrate Valentine’s Day?

Who is St. Valentine?

Despite St. Valentine being one of the most well-known saints, little is known about his history and how Valentine’s Day began. February has traditionally been a month of romance, which goes some way to explaining the date of Valentine’s Day.

Part of the problem is that there are three official saints with the name of Valentine. All of these saints were martyrs, and the Valentines of Rome and Terni are officially honored on February 14th. A third saint called Valentine, who was martyred in Africa, is also mentioned in records.

One of the most likely legends is that Valentine was a priest who lived sometime between 300 A.D. and 400 A.D. in Rome. When the Emperor forbid single men from getting married because he thought they made better soldiers, the legend says that Valentine continued to marry couples in secret. Eventually he was discovered and put to death.

An additional part of this story is that Valentine, on the eve of his execution, sent a card to himself after falling in love. This is said to have been the first Valentine’s card, and was signed “From your Valentine.” Whether there’s truth to this story, or any of the legends surrounding Valentine’s Day, is difficult to tell.

When Was Valentine’s Day First Celebrated?

Valentine’s Day became associated with romance during the Middle Ages. It’s likely that the day was recognized before this, but probably not in a romantic way. It wasn’t until the 15th century that the day began to be associated with love between couples. During this time the first Valentine’s cards were sent, and lovers expressed their affection with flowers and other gifts.

Mass production of Valentine’s Day cards didn’t begin until the 19th century. Today, the holiday is surrounded by a huge commercial industry. It’s estimated that 25% of all cards sent each year are sent on Valentine’s Day.

It’s not known why the 14th February was chosen to celebrate Valentine’s Day. Some people believe this was the anniversary of the saint’s death. Others believe it was chosen by the church to interfere with a pagan ritual that occurred on the 15th.

How Lent is Recognized Today

Many Christians prepare for Easter throughout the period of Lent, although there is no standardized method of observance. Preparation could involve a minor sacrifice such as giving up a luxury food, or sometimes involves fasting. The period of Lent isn’t mentioned in the bible, but has become an important custom for many Christian churches.

How is Lent Recognized Today?

The purpose of Lent is to reflect on the life of Jesus Christ, including his death and resurrection. Lent is 40 days long to recognize the time Jesus spent in the desert, where he faced constant temptation from the Devil. Lent isn’t a celebration, but instead a time of grief that ends with the celebration of Easter.

The start of Lent is traditionally signaled by the placing of ash on the forehead. This custom probably entered Christianity through a similar tradition in Judaism. The ashes are often from burnt palm fronds during the previous Easter celebrations.

In the past, Lent was observed with strict fasting rules. These involved avoiding all meat based foods for the entire 40 days, aside from Sundays, and eating only one meal a day. Rules such as these have been almost completely eradicated by most churches. Roman Catholics, for example, are only asked to fast on Good Friday and Ash Wednesday. Some churches, such as the Eastern Catholic Church, still abstain from eating animal products including eggs, fish and milk throughout Lent.

Aside from giving up luxuries for 40 days, modern Christians also mark Lent in other ways. These include reading the bible, greater dedication to regular prayer and spiritual self examination. Traditionally, “almsgiving”, which means “justice towards neighbor,” was an important part of observing lent.

As a general rule, Christians try to perform actions that bring them closer to God during Lent. This might mean following traditional customs such as fasting or bible study. Others choose to observe by taking part in charitable activities or giving away money to those in need.

Many churches hold extra Lent services. It’s also common for people of different Christian denominations to meet during the 40 day period, to discuss and share their belief in God.

Do All Christians Observe Lent?

Many Christians observe lent, but not all churches see it as an important period. Different churches have their own customs for the period leading up to Easter. The Methodist, Anglican and Presbyterian churches, for example, consider Lent to be particularly important.

The History of Lent

Lent is a Christian period of recognition and self-examination that lasts 40 days and ends at Easter. It’s observed by Christians in different ways, but often involves some form of fasting or giving up a vice. Lent lasts for 40 days in recognition of Jesus’ time in the desert, where he faced temptation from the Devil.

The word “Lent” comes from the word “lencten,” an Anglo-Saxon word meaning spring. Traditionally, the purpose of Lent is to prepare Christian believers for the commemoration of the death and resurrection of Jesus. The period following Lent is known as Holy Week.

It’s not known exactly when Lent was first observed, but it’s likely that the time before Easter has always been considered important. There are records of people observing a similar period from almost the beginning of the church. In these early days, however, there was no set method of observance, and the duration of Lent hadn’t been set.

In A.D. 313, Christianity was declared legal by the Emperor Constantine. This slowly allowed church celebrations and traditions, such as Lent, to become more standardized. St. Athanasius was one of the first to ask his congregation to fast for 40 days in the lead up to the Holy Week. Other church leaders subsequently requested similar acts from their followers.

It wasn’t long before the period of 40 days had been set, but there was still a lot of variation in how Lent was observed. People in Rome, for example, fasted every day apart from Sunday, so Lent actually lasted for six weeks. Other Christians didn’t fast at all on the weekend, which meant Lent lasted for 8 weeks. Fasting rules usually forbid eating any animal products, although sometimes fish was considered an exception. In most churches, a person was allowed one meal per day.

Over time, the rules for fasting during Lent became less strict. This evolution began as a necessity, as it wasn’t possible for manual laborers to work all day without eating. Eventually, nearly all churches allowed people to eat fish, and before long meat could be eaten on most days during Lent.

Today, Lent starts with Ash Wednesday and lasts for 40 days. Fasting rules are much simpler than in the past, with many Christians only abstaining from eating meat on Good Friday and Ash Wednesday. Some churches also avoid eating meet on Fridays during Lent.

How Mardi Gras is Celebrated Today

Mardi Gras in New Orleans is unlike anything else that you will ever see. Traditionally, this is a Christian celebration. Nevertheless, it is a far cry from a humble event. These fun filled festivities take off every year, and preparation starts on the 6th of January with the Twelfth Night feast rolling consistently through Fat Tuesday. One secret is that Fat Tuesday is the English translation for the French word Mardi Gras.

Traditionally, Mardi Gras has a represents a day of praying and forgiveness.  However, while some may celebrate the religious aspect of the event, many are just attending the celebration to party and have a wild and unforgettable time. One thing is for certain—you should always expect the unexpected in New Orleans during Mardi Gras!

Security is thick during these festivities. You never know what you will see during the Mardi Gras events. Wild costumes combined with hundreds upon hundreds of people fill the streets with their drinks in hand. Police on horseback make their way through the crowd to try to maintain control of the situation. There are women on balconies flashing their breasts. Laughter and dancing will surround you with the sounds of Zydeco and the smells of creole cuisine in the air. It is defiantly an event you will never forget.

 

While there is plenty going on in the streets, the clubs in the area are putting on their own celebrations. New Orleans has some of the most unique and fun parties and clubs in the United States. This is a town that needs no celebration to attract tourists from all across the globe. There is nothing about the city or the celebrations that you will not love. New Orleans never sleeps. The culture is rich. This is a magical place full of nostalgia. Its history runs deep. There are all different types of shops along the streets as well, and some you may even find shocking with voodoo paraphernalia and other cultural tied novelties lining their shelves.

Mardi Gras is filled with non-stop events like balls, masquerades, parades, parties and celebrations around the clock. If you are planning the trip, it is highly advisable to book well in advance. If you want a balcony on Bourbon Street then you may even want to consider booking the year before, and do not forget your camcorder. This is something you are going to want to capture and preserve. While Mardi Gras parades are held in many cities around the nation, you have not actually been to Mardi Gras unless you have been to the New Orleans celebrations.

The History Behind Mardi Gras

What happens in New Orleans stays in New Orleans. Mardi Gras is a widely celebrated occasion that you have to attend to appreciate. Knowing the origins of the celebration just makes it all the better. Mardi Gras struggles through some tough times. It was even stopped on occasion. Like the city it thrives in Mardi Gras is resilient. It seemingly keeps coming back stronger that it was before.

Mardi Gras is a highly anticipated event. It is an amazing party that is very rich in history and culture. As generations pass it becomes viewed as a great event to attend with little to no knowledge of the history behind the celebration. With a story like the one behind Mardi Gras it is important to put the culture and knowledge back in to the celebrations that are taking place today.

Mardi Gras actually originated long before any European settlers ever laid eyes on the New Word. A celebration called Lupercaliawas recognized by Romans before they embraced Christianity. After the embracement of the religion changes were implemented to their carnival like celebration to allow Christians their own interpretation of the events. This birthed Mardi Gras which was introduced into American culture in 1699. It was not always the Mardi Gras we all know and love or long to attend.

Point du Mardi Gras was not located where the celebrations are today in New Orleans. It was very close though. Mardi Gras made its way first to Iberville on the rivers west bank. There is about a 60 mile difference from the location of today’s parades hosted in New Orleans.

Mardi Gras went through quite a few changes in the eighteenth century when the French rule turned to the Spanish. It was even outlawed! The masked balls and elaborate festivals were banned all together until the United States became the rulers of New Orleans in 1827. The creole people partitioned the governor to legalize their beloved events. He was moved by their pleas to make street masking legal again. Despite the issues that restricted the masking in the first place the governor allowed the events to resume legally.

The first parade held in the city streets took place in 1837. People were asking to have the celebrations ended due to violence and mayhem caused by some masked criminals. New Orleans citizens stepped up and saved the celebrations.

Six citizens who were experienced in overseeing large parades and events organized a safer event. It also turned out to be a more festive celebration. This is how the Mardi Gras as we now know it began.

The first queen of the Mardi Gras was recorded in 1871. This was also the introduction of the cake tradition.  She was paraded in the celebration with a cake that hid a treasured golden bean somewhere inside.

The first king of Mardi Gras came later with a visit from Russia’s Grand Duke Alexis Romanoff in 1872. With his introduction to the events the traditional gold, purple and green colors themed the event for the first time. Another tradition was born.

Mardi Gras may have seen its ups and downs through the dark years that consumed its existence and hurricane Katrina still it has always bounced back. It returned in 1919 only to struggle all the way through the 1930’s. It took off in the 40’s, and it had another setback with the hurricane. Its resilience prevailed making Mardi Gras one of the most loved and anticipated celebrations in the United States.

Ash Wednesday, and What it Means Today

Some people jokingly say that the turn out on Ash Wednesday is due to all of the sins that they committed on Fat Tuesday. Christians all over the world will come together to get the marking of the cross in ashes on their foreheads. They will wear it throughout their day as a reminder of repentance and renewal.

These ashes symbolize repentance and sorrow for the sins they have committed. They also prove their undying love and dedication for The Lord. Ultimately, this is a ceremony for believers to repent.  Ash Wednesday marks the end of Mardi Gras and the beginning of Lent. It also represents new beginnings, repentance and new direction or reflection.

Many churches across the word will be hosting these services. This ceremony is most common with the Roman Catholic religion, Lutherans, Anglicans and Episcopalians.  There are a select few Presbyterian and Methodist churches now participating in these ancient and symbolic ceremonies as well.

It seems that Ash Wednesday is as old as religion itself may finally become accepted by a variety dominations around the world.  It is a very beautiful and meaningful ceremony that many Christians consider a must do activity every year regardless of what may be going on in their daily lives.

Ash Wednesday is more than a day to practice religious rituals. It is recognized a national holiday in places including: Jamaica, The Cayman Islands and French Guiana. Both state workers as well as the government workers are off on Ash Wednesday in regions like Panama and Guadeloupe. Then there are the regional holiday recognized places like Brazil and Cape Verde. In the Unites States, The United Kingdom, Canada and Australia it is merely a locally recognized event. This is still an enigma since millions of people in these countries recognize and celebrate Ash Wednesday.

Ash Wednesday will mark the beginning of the Lent season which will mean a time of fasting and a lot of prayer. This is the entire prelude to Easter Sunday where Christians seek to be prepared for the upcoming baptism reaffirmation. This prelude is a time meant to reflect our choices and directions in life, and how those directions can be rerouted back towards our Lord and Savior.

 

The History of Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday is a day kicking off the Christian holiday season; it is the day that recognizes the beginning of Lent. Ashes are applied to believer’s foreheads. The cross is a symbol of repentance.

The day of ashes came about long before there were ever records to mark the events. Some early writings date back to the year 955. These ceremonies are also referred to in The Holy Bible. Old Testament books tell us that these ashes symbolize mortality and humanity. Sin and repentance is also recognized within the symbol. Matthew, Daniel and job hold such scriptures.

The Anglo Saxton churches practiced the Day of Ashes in the 10th century while it was made a custom across the globe by the Western Churches in 1091. In the beginning the receiving of the ashes proved a private devotion as well as penance. This is a very symbolistic and cherished event for Christians. The Holy Bible scriptures are proof that this has been a ceremony recognized by believer’s sense Christianity began.

It is said that the law of ancient days is very similar to today’s beliefs and laws. It is simply uncanny that this devout ceremony though highly cherished and recognized holds so little information on its actual origins. It is known only that it is one of Christianity’s oldest ceremonies still being practiced to date. Though there is biblical reference to the ceremony it is not recognized to actually have been originated until the 8th century.

Both then and now the cross is a symbol representing the seal of baptism that is placed on the forehead by a minister or priest. It also signifies humanity and sacrifice as well as repentance. Believers will wear their ashes throughout the day to enhance a renewal of the spirit. They are seeking forgiveness for the sins of the flesh. It is a very sincere show of their faith.

Ash Wednesday is a very moving event that Christians across the globe will unite to celebrate and attend. The following 40 days leading up to Easter is equally as important to their faith.  It is all working together for a pursuit of peace. It signifies the pursuit to a higher connection with the Lord. The ceremony reminds believers to put at bay sinful human nature and seek forgiveness for the sins that have been committed. This is an occasion that has been, is and always will be the same in essence.