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Celebrate in March! Holidays
 
The Folklore of World Holidays
by Margaret Read McDonald, Editor. Gale Research Inc., 1992

Moveable:   Circa February – March
Ramadan:   The Month of Fasting

In this holy month of fasting, no food or water may be taken from sunrise to sunset. Only children, nursing or pregnant women, the sick and elderly are excused. The family arises for an early meal before dawn. Time is spent in prayer, reading of the Koran, and worship in the mosque.

This holiday is celebrated in Egypt, Bahrain, Bedouin, Indonesia, Morocco, Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines to name a few.

Source:   The Folklore of World Holidays by Margaret Read McDonald, Editor. Gale Research Inc., 1992, pp. 162-177.

Thailand
Ramadan in a Malay village in southern Thailand

Two days before the beginning of the month of Ramadan, most families prepare ketupat, a triangular packet of cooked glutinous rice with coconut wrapped in banana leaf. They distribute ketupat to all their friends, relatives, and neighbors. Fasting does not start in the Pattania area until the day after the first night that the new moon is actually seen, and if the weather is cloudy, this may not be until several days after the official start of the month.

At Rusembilan during Ramadan, many sleep in the day and stay awake at night, when they can eat and smoke.

Source:   Rusembilian: A Malay Fishing Village in Southern Thailand by Thomas M. Fraser, Jr. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell, 1960, pp. 157-158.

Philippines
Hari-Raya Poasa

On this day, a Muslim wears his best clothes and calls on his elders and relatives, kissing their hands and begging for forgiveness for past offenses. The elders in turn give the children gifts or money, and greeting cards are exchanged all around. Houses are cleaned with Muslim delicacies prepared and special prayers recited. Gongs are beat in the street to herald the beginning of this festival. The wealthy shower coins on the children in the town plaza. This day is also devoted to sports such as horse racing, carabao fighting, boat racing and games of strength and skill, called pagsilat. In the evening, a madrasa, or musical and literary program, is held with chantings and readings from the Koran.

Source:   The Galleon Guide to Philippine Festivals by Alfonso J. Aluit. Manila: Galleon, 1969, pp. 106-107.

Thailand
Hari Raya Puasa

All villagers dress in their best and newest clothes and greet each other with a salam. Large quantities of food are prepared to prepare for the many visitors of the day. A complete service is held at the mosque in the morning. In Pattani, a carnival is held including exhibitions of Malay dancing, Thai boxing and bullfighting. In the evening, all light giant candles of coconut shells, placed one on top of the other on sticks and then set off with firecrackers.

Source:   Rusembilian: A Malay Fishing Village in Southern Thailand by Thomas M. Fraser, Jr. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell, 1960, pp. 157-158.

 
Circa March 21
Vernal Equinox

An equinox is one of two days each year on which the sun shines directly onto the equator. The length of the day is the same as the length of the night on this day.

Japan
Higan/Shumbum-No-Hi
A day to honor ancestors

One of two Higan, celebrated at the spring and fall equinoxes, ancestors are honored, graves are visited and cleaned, food offerings are made. O-hagi, rice balls covered with sweet bean paste, and such are offered. Higan means "other shore," and the entire week during the vernal equinox is called higan.

Okinawa
Offerings at the spring equinox

Festival of thanksgiving and the Buddhist celebration for the spring equinox. Barley or barley cakes with brown sugar are offered with prayers for continued good fortune.

Source:   Studies of Okinawan Village Life by Clarence J. Clacken. Scientific Investigations in the Ryukyu Islands. Report no. 4. Washington, D.C.: Pacific Science Board Council, 1953, p. 323.

 
Full Moon, Panguni (March - April)
Panguni Uttiram

Panguni Uttiram is a Hindu festival celebrating celestial marriages. Lord Shiva wed the goddess Meenakshi (a Parvati incarnation) on this date at Madura. Also celebrated is the marriage of Lord Subramanya to Theivanai, the adopted daughter of Indra. This festival lasts ten days.

In Malaya, elaborate celebrations include noisy fairs within temple premises and processions of deities on decorated chariots. Meals are free all day in the temple precincts and special poojas are offered. In Singapore, the Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple is the most noted venue for these celebrations which last two days. In Bukit Mertajam, festivities include fire-walking and a Katagam dancing ceremony where a devotee balances a pot of yellow-colored water and flowers on his head while accompanied by a band of musicians and followers.

Source:   Indian Festivals in Malaya by S. Arasaratnam. Kuala Lumpar: Dept. of Indian Studies, University of Malaya, 1966, pp. 23-24.

Moon 3, Day 5
Thanh-Minh (Pure and Bright)
Vietnamese day for visiting graves with food, flowers and incense.

Likened to the American Memorial Day, families of deceased persons prepare offerings and visit the gravesite. A few days before the visit, families clean the area around the grave and paint the tombs in preparation for their official visit on Thanh-Minh.

Source:   Customs and Culture of Vietnam by Ann Cadell Crawford. Rutland, VT.: Charels E. Tuttle, 1966, p. 194.

Moon 3, Day 23
Birthday of Matsu

Matsu was a pious young girl who studied Buddhist and Taoist scriptures and performed miracles during her life. She died (or was taken up to heaven) sometime between the ages of 18 and 28 years. She is a patron of fishermen because she appeared to her brother in a dream and saved him from a storm at sea.

Taiwan
Matsu's festival

Soon after the Festival of Graves, during the third month, comes the village's most important festival, that of the goddess Matsu. Preparations begin way in advance with council meetings. A parade is held as an inspection tour of her domain. Altars of food and incense are set up at the front of gates. Watermelon stalls, sling-shot ranges and cotton candy stalls line the roadside as the procession passes. A Puppet show is given to mark the occasion. The next morning an elaborate sacrificial rite is performed in the temple, followed by feasting at noon.

Source:   Kinship & Community in Two Chinese Villages by Burton Pasternak. Stanford, CA.: Stanford University Press, 1972, pp. 111-112.

 
Thirteenth Day of the Bright Half of Chaitra (March - April)
Mahavira Jayanti

Celebration of the birthday of Lord Vardhamana Mahavira, founder of Jainism.

India

The Jainas, followers of Jaina, observe this day as the anniversary of Lord Vardhamana Mahavira, the 24th Tirathankara, who flourished in the sixth century B.C., when Lord Buddha was also propagating his new religion, Buddhism. On this day, pilgrims journey to the ancient Jaina shrines at Girnar and Palitana in Gujarat to observe the religious festival. In every town where there is a Jaina temple, the idol of the divinity is taken out in a procession of charming wooden cars in the streets. Local fairs and fasting take place and a continuous recitation of the Smayak Sutra, a Jaina scripture, is made by all.

Source:   The Festivals of India by Brijendra Nath Sharma. New Delhi: Abhinav, 1978, p. 37.

 
Day 9, Bright Fortnight, Chaitra (March - April)
Ramanavamai
Commemorates the birth of Shri Rama.

India

Celebrated throughout India, this festival commemorates the birth of Shri Rama, born to King Dasharatha of Ayodhya of the ninth lunar day in the bright fortnight of Chaitra. Observed with sanctity and fasting. Temples are decorated, religous discourses held and the Ramayana, the life story of Rama, is recited in every Hindu home. Worshippers rotate the rosary repeating his name to free themselves from the cycle of births.

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