Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Ramadan Kareem! (with some tools for keeping track of non-Christian holidays)

At our last Select Board meeting on Monday night, one of the minor tasks that was assigned me was to review calendars of religious holidays, in order that we might do our utmost to avoid scheduling events at times that could disadvantage some community members.  This has been an issue mainly with regard to Jewish holidays for various reasons, e.g. uncertainty as to which holidays or portions of multi-day holidays were really full holy days with prohibitions on work, and the like.
Last spring, for example, the 250th anniversary parade was scheduled to begin on the afternoon before Passover.  The local rabbi had assured organizers that the holiday, like almost all Jewish festivals, began at sundown. What he apparently did not think or bother to explain was that some holidays—especially Passover, which involves the ritual cleaning of the house and a complex and festive meal—require considerable preparation (think of Thanksgiving).  In the end, the town concluded that there was enough time to allow people to participate in most or all of the parade and then return home for the holiday, but it was an unnecessary case of not acquiring the proper information and cutting things too close. Hence the new task.

In a follow-up e-mail to Monday's meeting, I took the opportunity to point out that we are also about to start Ramadan, a movable holiday, whose nature and scheduling may be potentially even more confusing.  There are many reference works and web sites that explain non-Christian religious holidays and practices (see some of the links above and articles below), but one of the simplest starting places is one's own computer, mobile phone, or pda, on which one can install calendar software.

"HebCal" supplies Jewish holidays (and much more: sundown times, Torah reading schedules, etc.) for several platforms, and the "Islamic Holiday Calendar 1.0" works on Macintosh iCal.

In the meantime, a Ramadan Kareem and Ramadan Mubrarak to all.

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