As many as 2 million Muslims from around the world annually come together in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, in a journey called the Hajj. This pilgrimage is undertaken by Muslims at least once during their lifetime, if they are physically able to make the trip and can afford to do so.
“Holiday”: What does the word mean? (And what does it mean to you?) “Holiday” derives from Old English, originally meaning “holy day.” The word has long since evolved to include not just days that might be holy to some who are observing an event or celebration, but more broadly a day of special importance. Thus, holidays celebrate people (like George Washington or Martin Luther King Jr.), gratitude (Thanksgiving), cultural pride (Kwanzaa), meaningful things to recall (Fourth of July), service to a country (Veterans Day), transitions (New Year’s), and major events (inaugurations), in addition to more religiously based observances (Ramadan, Christmas, Hanukkah).
Is there anything common to all holidays—in North America, Europe, Africa, Asia, South America, Australia? It’s probably fair to say that holidays are rarely celebrated alone. People generally come together to observe an event—family (Thanksgiving), friends (Independence Day), or huge masses of fellow observers (the Hajj to Mecca, Saudi Arabia). Some observances are somber, some joyous, and some are celebrated mostly for fun (Halloween).
At this time of holidays coming up in the United States, let’s ponder holidays not only here, but elsewhere around the world. This month’s focus includes accounts from Peace Corps Volunteers serving far from home, providing stories about holidays, celebrations, and sharing in the lands they have chosen to visit.
And, by the way: Happy holidays from World Wise Schools!