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April 11, 2024

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Spring Housing Guide

Winter months host a variety of holidays

When Senior Shantha Das was little, she heard all about Santa Claus from her classmates. She celebrated Christmas at school and received gifts from her parents on Dec. 25, but she was not a Christian.

Growing up Indian in Painesville, Ohio, people had little, if any, exposure to Das’ religion of Hinduism. When Das and her twin sister, Sandhya, were in second grade, their mother came to school to teach their classmates about Hinduism. Their mother held up pictures of the gods and spoke about the gods of luck, prosperity and education.

“Hinduism has the same basic principles as everyone else. It’s not evil. Be good to other people, respect the animals and the earth,” Das said.

Das said a lot of people thought their religion was weird because it wasn’t monotheistic. Some thought it to be evil or devil worship.

And while her classmates celebrated the birthday of Jesus Christ, Das’ smother wanted them to learn about her own religious holidays, such as Diwali. Known as the festival of lights, Diwali is a five-day holiday celebrated around Christmas time. This year Diwali began on Nov. 1.

Across India, Hindus light rows of clay jars filled with oil in their homes. People clean and decorate their homes to celebrate good’s triumph over evil.

And in Ohio, Shantha Das and her family remove their shoes as they enter their house and make their way to the “puja room” – a place of worship and prayer. The room is filled with garlands of flowers adorning statues of the gods and pictures of deceased loved ones. Carrying candles, Das and her family circle the idols, chanting and praying as the ‘#160;incense burns.

Later, like many other Hindus, the Das family will share a vegetarian meal and the elders will pass out blessed food called “prasatham.” All the while, their lamps are burning brightly to symbolize the destruction of negative forces.

While Das’ family comes from the south of India, Birender Anand, a University sophomore, comes from the north in Bombay. Unlike 80 percent of Indians, Anand follows Sikhism.

Based on the teachings of 10 men called “gurus” and a sacred text called the Guru Granth Sahib, Sikhs believe in one god.

According to Anand, Sikhism emphasizes equality of all people. Major holidays in Sikhism revolve around the births and deaths of the 10 gurus as well as their new year, called Baisakhi.

Anand said Sikh holidays are celebrated just like any other holidays would be around the world.

“Some people spend time with family, some go to church, and some people drink more than they normally would,” he said.

The biggest Sikh celebration commemorates the birth of the last guru. For this celebration, many Sikhs will wake up around 4 a.m. and join a procession to the temple.

They will sing hymns, pray and visit family members. They will eat sweets and watch fireworks. Afterwards, they will meet at the “langar,” or community kitchen. There they will all sit on the floor and eat. The food is completely vegetarian and none of it is to be wasted.

As his religion teaches, Anand believes that all religions can lead to God. That’s why he says that he participates in several non-Sikh holidays, like Christmas.

“Sikh means to learn and that is what I’ve made the purpose of my life,” Anand said. “I think learning is the way to get closer to God. And whatever religion you may be, it is your duty to learn and get closer to that God or force you believe in.”

The line between celebrating a Christian holiday and believing in another religion is not as clear for Buddhist Seuss Khanthabouth.

Out of respect for his family, he practices Buddhism, yet he still believes in one god and considers himself a Christian.

“I’m mentally pulled by two different types of religion,” Khanthabouth said.

While he believes in Christianity, he adheres to the Buddhist traditions he was raised with in Thailand, such as his celebration of Phi Mae – the New Year.

Every New Year – the most sacred Buddhist holiday – his parents and friends tie blessed white yarn around his wrist. The yarn is meant to protect him from bad energy.

In Thailand and Laos, Buddhist monks would walk around the country side giving blessings and prayers. The people bring them plates of food and money to support the monks’ way of life.

Here in Bowling Green, the Khanthabouth family invites a monk from the Detroit monastery to their home to share in the traditions and pray for the family.

“[Phi Mae] is really sacred because we really want to forget the past, want to forget the sickness, bad health and look to the future,” Khanthabouth said.

During Phi Mae, family and friends will dance to traditional Thai music, a style known as Morlum, which has similarities to country music in the United States. Morlum is now played with more upbeat instruments that appeal to both the younger and older crowds.

However, there are still many young Asians that lose sight of their heritage and get caught up in American pop culture, Khanthabouth said.

“If I lose that side of my tradition and become more American, who am I?” he said.

As a Muslim, Salim Elwazani does keep many of his traditions alive with his children. An associate professor for the VCT-tech department, Elwazani left his homeland of Palestine over 20 years ago.

A follower of Islam, Elwazani grew up just 45 miles north of Jerusalem. On the edge of the city there was a small town, half of whom were Christian.

During major Christian holidays like Christmas and Easter, Elwazani’s father would take him and his siblings to visit with and celebrate those holidays with their Christian friends.

While Christmas and Easter are non-Muslim holidays, Elwazani’s family wanted to recognize them because of the links between Islam and Christianity.

“I do not celebrate Christmas personally, but I recognize it and reciprocate the feeling with others,” he said.

The Palestinian Christians reciprocated the sentiment for important Muslim holidays as well.

One such Muslim holiday is Eid al-Fitr, which follows the month-long fast, Ramadan. Abstaining from food, water and sex during the daytime for Ramadan allows Muslims to reflect on their behavior and work to have a better attitude in life towards people, Elwazani said.

“Ramadan in particular makes you act as model for yourself, be more peaceful,” he added.

After the sun sets on the last day of Ramadan, the Eid al-Fitr celebrations begin. Forgetting each other’s indiscretions, many Muslims go the mosque and embrace. It is a time to congratulate one another on finishing this spiritual journey.

In Palestine, Muslims would usually celebrate for three to four days, visiting family members and friends. Children receive presents and an allowance to visit small amusement parks, which Elwazani compared to county fairs with temporary rides.

Here, Elwazani takes his two small children to the Islamic Center of Greater Toledo in Perrysburg. He said that Muslims in America do not celebrate this holiday with as much intensity as those in Palestine. So on Nov. 4, Elwazani took his children out to dinner and to a movie for Eid al-Fitr.

Another significant Muslim holiday is Eid al-Adha, known as the holy day of sacrifice, and falls on Jan. 10 of next year.

Elwazani wants people of all denominations to take the opportunities to learn about each other and understand each other.

“The world is not Bowling Green, humanity isn’t limited to North America,” Elwazani said.

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