The Muslim month of Ramadan starts on 12 April 2021.
During this holy month, Muslims are not allowed to eat food or drink anything, even water, during daylight hours. Many people will devote more time to prayer and charity during this month, as it is believed that good works done during Ramadan have greater benefit. It is one of the five pillars of Islam.
The first meal of the day is called suhur, and is taken before sunrise. People try and eat foods that will stop them being hungry as long as possible. So it might be eggs, beans, porridge, bran muffins, fruit and yoghurt.
At sunset the fast is broken with a meal called iftar, usually some dates to start, along with a drink of water. Then after the sunset prayers, the main meal is eaten. This can be a large banquet of a meal with a variety of dishes, salads, juices and sweets.
At the end of the month of Ramadan is the festival of Eid-al-Fitr, and celebrates the return to a more normal routine.
This weekend is Easter (for Catholics and Protestants), the holiest part of the Christian year, commemorating the crucifixion (on Friday) and resurrection (on Sunday) of Jesus. Orthodox (Eastern) Christians celebrate Easter in a few weeks (Why? It’s a long story …).
But for many people Easter is also a spring festival, celebrating new life and growth as the world wakes up after winter. That is why there are Easter eggs (symbolising new life and rebirth), and the Easter Bunny (representing growth and fertility – “breeding like rabbits”!)
So Happy Easter, and don’t eat too much chocolate!
We are currently in the time of the Jewish festival of Passover (Pesach in Hebrew), celebrating the release of the Hebrews from slavery in ancient Egypt. The festival lasts for eight days and started last Saturday evening. The name comes from Biblical story where the Hebrews were “passed over” by God and not afflicted with the tenth plague of Egypt.
The festival starts with the Passover Seder, a ritual feast that also involves retelling the story of the Exodus from Egypt. The story is discussed, kosher wine is drunk, bread without yeast is eaten, and there is the Seder plate, with symbolic foods.
During the remaining days, people are required to avoid all leaven or yeast. People also try to only do necessary work, and prefer to spend time with family.
The seventh day of Passover is another festival, celebrating the parting of the Red Sea that enabled them to leave Egypt.
So have a happy and kosher Passover, or Chag Pesach kasher V’Sameach.
Sunday 28 March is the Hindu festival of Holi, the “Festival of Colours”, celebrating the coming of spring, and the love of the god Krishna and the goddess Radha. Its most distinctive feature is the great fun that people have throwing coloured powder over each other. Any one is fair game, no matter who it is!
It is the second biggest Hindu festival after Diwali.
Traditionally, people visit friends and family, and share sweets including sweet filled flatbread, deep-fried flour balls soaked in yoghurt, and sweet deep-fried dumplings.
Cecil Rhodes is a controversial figure, to say the least, these days. He believed in expanding the British Empire, and that white Europeans were the “supreme race”. He was Prime Minster of the Cape Colony (now South Africa), and the country of Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) was named after him. He founded the De Beers diamond company to exploit Africa’s mineral wealth, and he established the Rhodes Scholarship. A statue of him in Oxford is to be taken down this year after Black Lives Matter protests last year.