So many schools, workplaces, faith-based and community organizations are beginning to acknowledge the many ways we celebrate the December holidays. For example, people now include Kwanzaa and Chanukah along with acknowledging Christmas celebrations.
Other communities have searched for ways to live in the West, taking part in the December holiday celebrations while maintaining their religious and cultural values. An example of this is the Hindu festival of Pancha Ganapati created by Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami, founder of Hinduism Today magazine in 1985.
Pancha Ganapati is a five-day Hindu festival celebrated from December 21 through 25 in honor of Lord Ganesha, Patron of Arts and Guardian of Culture. During this festival, each family creates a shrine in their main living area with a statue or picture of Lord Ganesha. The shrine may be decorated with pine boughs, banana leaves, palm fronds plus tinsel and lights. Like many cultures’ holidays around this time of year, this festival is a time to mend past mistakes and focus on new beginnings.
During each of the five days of Pancha Ganapati, a special spiritual discipline or sadhana is practiced by the entire family. Each morning, the children dress or decorate Ganesha in a different color:
Golden yellow – The color for the first day of Pancha Ganapati creates a vibration of love and harmony among immediate family members.
Royal Blue – Day Two is devoted to creating a vibration of love and harmony among neighbors, relatives and close friends and presenting them with heartfelt gifts. The sadhana of the day is to offer apologies and clear up any misunderstandings that may exist.
Next, Ruby Red creates a vibration of love and harmony among business associates, merchants and the public at large.
On Day Four, Emerald Green draws forth the vibration of joy and harmony that comes from music, art, drama and the dance. Each family shares their artistic talents and makes plans to bring more cultural enhancements into their home.
On the fifth day, a brilliant orange color symbolizes the outpouring of love through charity and spiritual practice and the very tranquility the family receives from Lord Ganesha Himself.
It’s so interesting to see the similarities between cultures and religions. In addition to decorating Lord Ganesha’s shrine with tinsel and lights, on December 25th, the fifth day of Pancha Ganapati, children open gifts and family members exchange greeting cards, which offer Hindu art and wisdom such as verses from the Vedas (ancient texts from India).
Whatever tradition you hail from, the diversity of celebrations reminds us that we can create our own personal rituals that will have meaning for us. What values do you want to emphasize? How can you invite others in your family to make this special time of year even more memorable and a springboard to an even better 2018?
Sue O’Halloran is a diversity consultant working for more inclusive schools, businesses and faith-based organizations. High school teachers, Sue will be offering a free webinar in 2018 – 3 Common Mistakes High School Teachers Make that Have Them Unintentionally Offending Students & Parents of Different Races. Watch for announcements!