Today, 20 March 2021 is Nowruz, the Iranian New Year. This ancient tradition has been celebrated for over 3000 years.
It is said that Persian king Jamsid saved the world from a winter that threatened to kill everything and everyone. He had a throne made from gems, and had demons raise him into the sky where he shone like the sun.
People from Iran and Central Asia often have a table in their house with various items (similar to the picture) symbolising the new year, growth and prosperity. There are various other new year customs, which you can read about here.
From Thursday evening, we have been in the Jewish festival of Hanukkah, also known as the Festival of Lights. It commemorates the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem in 164 BCE by Judah Maccabee, whose family ruled an autonomous Jewish kingdom for about 100 years, until they were conquered by the Romans. It is said that a lamp was required to burn through the night to help purify the Temple. Only a small amount of olive oil could be found, but miraculously it burned for eight nights.
Each night during the eight-day festival, a candle is lit on on the menorah, with the numbers of candles increasing each night until all eight are lit. The candles are placed where they can be seen from outside. Prayers are said over the candles.
Families give each other gifts, eat special fried foods (remembering the oil), and sing Hanukkah songs. Children also spin the dreidel.
So Hanukkah sameach, or Happy Hanukkah! And be safe!
This weekend marks the Jewish celebration of Rosh Hashanah, the New Year celebration in the Jewish calendar, and the start of a holy period leading up to Yom Kippur.
The Jewish community has long had, and continues to have, a significant presence in the Borough, and they have made many contributions to London. Although activities have been disrupted by COVID, in Camden there are: