Summer Holidays

Shavu’ot, is known as the Jewish Feast of the Weeks. This Jewish summer holiday celebrates the harvest season in Israel and is considered to be the second of the three major Jewish festivals (together with Passover and Sukkot). “Shavout” translates as “weeks” and the term is used because the celebration occurs precisely seven weeks after Passover. It has also been called the Hag ha-Bukkurim which means the Festival of the First Fruits. The Feast of Weeks also celebrates the handing down of the Torah at Mt. Sinai and the Hag Matan Torateinu or the Festival of the Giving of Our Torah.

Spiritually, the time between Passover and Shavout is known as a time of great anticipation because as Passover freed the Jewish people, Shavout is considered the redemption as the Torah and Ten Commandments were handed down. Shavu’ot has also been called Pentecost, because it falls on the 50th day; however, Shavu’ot has no particular similarity to the Christian holiday of Pentecost. Shavu’ot is not tied to a particular modern date on the calendar rather it is celebrated precisely 49 days, or 7 weeks after Passover.
Working is not permitted during the Shavu’ot festival and it is customary to stay up on the first night of the Feast of Weeks studying the Torah and receiving it and praying as early as possible on the morning of the second day. A dairy meal is also customary, at least once during Shavu’ot although there are varying opinions as to why this is done. Some say it is a reminder of the promise of “milk and honey” while others relate it to the kosher lifestyle handed down in the Torah and the separation of meats and dairy. Usually, the book of Ruth is read at the Feast of Weeks although its not well known precisely why. Some believe its because the Book of Ruth tells the story of a woman finding Judaism which related to the handing down of the Torah.

The Summer Solstice is also known as:

  • Alban Heflin or Alben Heruin
  • All Couples Day
  • Feast of Epona
  • Feast of St. John the Baptist
  • Feill-Sheathain
  • Gathering Day
  • Johannistag
  • Litha
  • Midsummer
  • Sonnwend
  • Thing-Tide
  • Vestalia

The Summer Solstice is a celebration of the longest day of the year and the true beginning of the summer season. Like the other seasonal turning points on the calendar, its tribal and spiritual significance is rich and enduring. In many rituals, the Goddess is becomes Mother Earth while the God reigns as the Sun King. The colors of the summer solstice are typically yellow, green, and blue and this is celebrated as a festival of community, sharing and serving the earth.

Some wonderful ways of celebrating the solstice include group gatherings. You should keep a Sacred Fire burning throughout the gathering, or throughout the day and night. Many will stay up all night on Solstice Eve and welcome the rising Sun of summer at the dawn. One of the best ways of honoring the solstice is to make a pledge to Mother Earth to improve your land or your local environment and then begin the task to show your dedication. Some also save and burn their Yule wreathes in a Summer Solstice bonfire while they dance, drum, sing and tell stories.

The Rains Retreat begins on the July full moon and actually extends through the fall into October. The Rains Retreat is observed in all Theravadin countries and it is marked by Buddhist monks as a time to seclude themselves within their monestaries for contemplative meditation. Thailand begins the Rains Retreat with a Rocket Festival; the rockets are offered to the spirits to ensure a good rice crop. The Rains Retreat actually harkens back to an old story about the Lord Buddha in his early days. A farmer complained that monks who had to travel by foot had trampled crops during the rainy season so Buddha had his monks begin a tradition of staying within their own wiharn or home during the rainy season, which lasted three months, to avoid any mishap and take a time for contemplation and stillness. Today, newly ordained Buddhist monks must spend his first 3-month Buddhist Retreat in study and meditation.

Lughnasad is marked as the time in early August, just before the harvest of the seed planted in November at Samhain, moved at Imbolc in February and sprouting in May at Beltane. The ancient Celtic harvest season began when the first crops were gathered at Lughnasad and would go on until Samhain when the cycle began anew. Lugh, the God for whom Lughnasad was named is a Solar God of the Celts. In some Celtic lore, Bel (Beltane) was his father and he is worshipped at Lughnasad because the Sun is critical to a good harvest.

The Autumn Festival, or Aki Matsuru or Niiname-sai is a celebration in thankfulness to the gods for a successful harvest.

The Assumption Celebrated on August 15 by the Catholic Church to commemorate the happy departure of Mary from earthly life and the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin, or the acceptance of Mary, body and soul into heaven. It is also known as the Dormition of the Virgin, Pausatio, Nativitas (for heaven), Mors, Depositio, Dormitio S. Mariae.

Janmashtami is celebrated on the night of the new moon in the Hindu month Bhadrapada which is August/September on the modern calendar. This is a happy holiday that honors the birth of Lord Krishna who is the eighth incarnation of Vishnu. This celebration is marked by a required fast until midnight as well as devotional visits to temples in devotion to Krishna.

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