British Expat Newsletter:
2 November 2005

Hello, and welcome to those who have joined up since our last newsletter.

In this issue

  • This week: A week of celebration
  • Virtual Snacks
  • Bizarre Searches
  • Joke and quotation

This week

It’s an important week for several of the world’s major religions. First, there was Halloween on 31 October. Halloween is, of course is the Celtic (and Pagan) New Year, also known as Samhain. Similarly, this year’s Diwali, sometimes also known as Deepawali, began on 1 November. For Hindus this festival of lights is the most important time of the year, when the triumph of good over evil is celebrated. And finally, it will be Eid on the 4th, with Muslims celebrating the end of their Ramadan month of fasting during daylight hours.

All this, of course, makes it a little confusing when the fireworks start flying towards the end of October. Go back thirty years and it would have simply been kids letting off a few freelance fireworks they’d got hold of in advance. When we saw a lot of them being let off on Monday night we initially assumed that that was what was happening. Yesterday, though, there was a big display a few roads away which we can only imagine was to celebrate the first day of Diwali.

No doubt on Friday there will be another big display for Eid – always assuming the moon is sighted. I understand that in Saudi Arabia these days, if the sky’s cloudy (which can’t happen that often, let’s face it) they simply send up some mullahs in an aircraft to confirm that there really is a new moon. That certainly wasn’t the case in Bangladesh when we were living there in the mid-nineties. They had a national moon sighting committee sitting ready to receive phone calls from anywhere in the country. This occasionally led to some extra long months during monsoon time…

Most religions have fasts and feast days. The fast is usually intended to focus the mind on devotion and cleansing. The feast often comes in celebration afterwards. This in itself is fine, people can choose to believe what they want and how to celebrate it. What is annoying is how everything has been taken over by such hype and gross-commercialisation. No longer is Christmas about celebrating the birth of Christ, or even the one time a year some families get together for a meal. It is all about buying cards and presents, buying a new settee in time for Christmas… It seems that everything from September onwards revolves around doing things or buying things in time for Christmas. And then when the day itself arrives, what do people do? Open their presents (and chuck half of them into the back of a cupboard, never to be seen again), stuff themselves stupid on turkey for the next two days and drink themselves to sleep in front of the telly. Hardly a meaningful spiritual experience, is it? (Especially as many of the adults will have had plenty of food and drink at the office parties in the run-up to Christmas.)

Halloween is no different from the commercial point view. It’s all about pumpkins and fancy dress costumes these days. But at least it can’t be argued that the fault for this lies with the Pagans with whom the festival originated – they were marginalised centuries ago with the Christianisation of the British Isles. And BE shuns the witches’ hats, pumpkins and trick-or-treating – we’ve added a few intelligent commentaries on the occasion to the website this week. (Please see below for details.)

Just a brief aside. I’m not a Pagan myself, but I do find it quite shocking how deeply the Christian Church’s indoctrination against Paganism all those centuries ago has taken root. The other night they showed The Wicker Man on ITV2. The warning message before the film began was that the film contained “sexual scenes and Pagan rituals”. Substitute the word “Jewish” for “Pagan”, and there’d be an uproar about ITV’s anti-Semitism. And can you imagine them giving a warning about Kali worship before showing Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom? Yet no-one seems to have batted an eyelid. The assumption seems to be that Paganism is somehow irredeemably imbued with human sacrifice and licentiousness. Yeah, and Jews eat Christian babies too.
(How authentic the rituals are, I have no idea. But given that the film was released in 1973, I’d guess they’re fairly sensational.)

Despite my comments about Christmas being over-commercialised, since we can’t beat the system we might as well join it. If you’re going to avoid the overcrowded shops and buy Christmas presents online, please consider doing so using our links. Well, we have bills to pay too and the commission would help us.
How do they celebrate the big religious festivals where you are? Do you have anything about this topic, or do you have some suggestions for other issues we might discuss in our newsletter? Why not comment and tell us?

Virtual Snacks

“Hell Houses are a relatively new evangelistic technique used by many hundreds of conservative Christian churches in North America. One intent is to proselytize the unsaved public. Another is to promote certain conservative Christian beliefs…” You can find out more about this extreme and frightening practice on the Religious Tolerance website: Hell Houses

If you’re interested in reading about the Pagan religion, try this link for an interesting and intelligently written introduction. Introduction to Paganism

Or find out more about Diwali here:
This entry was posted in 2005 and tagged , , by Kay McMahon. Bookmark the permalink.

About Kay McMahon

Kay has been an expat for nearly 30 years. She set up the British Expat website back in early 2000, whilst living in London and missing the expat life. These days she spends much of her time lugging computers and cameras around the world. (Dave gets to deal with all the really heavy stuff.)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *