The Holidays We Celebrate
Among the most ethnically diverse townships in the state and country, Niles Township further distinguishes itself by celebrating that diversity and creating a respectful and welcoming home to all.
Many Niles Township residents come from places all over the world, bringing with them rich traditions and celebrating holidays of great importance to them. We celebrate along with our neighbors, sharing the meaning of holidays observed in Niles Township.
What Is Purim?
Purim — “the Feast of Lots” — commemorates Jews being saved from persecution in the Persian Empire. The Jewish holiday this year runs from the evening of March 6 to the evening of March 7.
Haman, a prime minister, convinces King Ahasuerus to kill all the Jews because Mordecai refused to bow down to him. In the end, the Jews are saved by the heroic Queen Esther, Mordecai’s niece (and adopted daughter), who married Ahasuerus (after he banished his first, rebellious wife Vashti). When Ahasuerus discovers that his wife Esther is Jewish, he decides to reverse Haman’s decree, and instead of the Jews being killed, Haman, his sons, and other enemies are killed instead.
Celebrating the holiday can include dressing up in costumes of characters from the Purim story as well as in non-Purim-related costumes. It is a mitzvah (commandment) to listen to the story of Purim chanted from Megillat Esther (“The Scroll of Esther”) and to hear every word.
It is customary to make loud noise with a noisemaker called a ra’ashan in Hebrew, or grager in Yiddish, every time Haman’s name is mentioned, in order to fulfill the obligation of blotting out Haman’s name. The holiday also includes giving gifts or charity to the poor, called matanot l’evyonim.
What Is Casmir Pulaski Day?
Casimir Pulaski Day is celebrated the first Monday in March mainly in areas that have large Polish populations. Official commemorations of Casimir Pulaski Day in the Chicago area are usually held at the Polish Museum of America to pay tribute to the area’s Polish community.
Chicago’s first celebration of Pulaski Day was in 1986 when Mayor Harold Washington introduced a resolution passed by the City Council designating an official General Casimir Pulaski Day.
Casimir Pulaski, born March 6, 1745, was a soldier and military commander who fought for the United States during the American Revolution. In Paris, Pulaski agreed to to help Americans fight the British at the request of Benjamin Franklin. Pulaski had volunteered in the Army and fought in the Battle of Brandywine in 1777 in Pennsylvania. Leading an attack against the British, he helped save the retreating American Army.
George Washington promoted him to general and made him the first leader of the U.S. Cavalry. He led the Pulaski Legion, a brigade of German Hessians, French and Poles that prevented Charleston, S.C. from being overtaken by the British in 1779. The battle helped the country take control of the South. General Pulaski died the same year after leading an assault against the British in Savannah, Ga. He was 29.
What is Shab e-Barat?
Shab e-Barat, also known as Bara'at Night, Mid Shaban, The Night of Records, The Night of Fortune and Forgiveness, is a Muslim holiday observed between the 14th and 15th of Sha'aban, the eighth month in the Islamic calendar.
While Sha'aban 2023 began February 21, most of the month-long holiday this year falls in March and will end March 22.
There are differences in how countries celebrate the holiday with many having a different name for it. Nisf Shaban is known as Shab e Barat or Shabe Barat in South Asia, especially in Sub-continent, Lailatul Barat in Arabic, Nisfu Syaban (Malam Nisfu Syaban) in Indonesia and Malaysia and Berat Kandili in Turkey.
Muslims believe that on the night of Shab e-Barat (March 7 this year), God writes the destinies of all men for the coming year by taking into account the deeds committed by them in the past. Observers offer special prayers, recite from the Holy Qur'an and perform other religious rituals throughout the night of Shab e-Barat, hoping to receive divine blessings for the well being of mankind.
On Shab e-Barat night, most Muslims attempt to stay awake in prayer as much as possible. For some Muslims, it is also part of Shab e-Barat traditions to visit the graves of their loved ones and pray for the peace of their souls. In Bangladesh, many people fast on the day following Shab e-Barat night and some people will give out food and sweets to their neighbors and the poor.
Many Muslims revere Shab e-Barat as the night of forgiveness, praying the whole night and asking Allah to bestow them with His blessings.
What Is International Women’s Day?
International Women's Day, a global celebration of the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women, is held every March 8.
More than just a celebration, the day marks a call to action for advancing gender parity throughout the world. Groups often come together to celebrate women's achievements or rally for women's equality.
Organizers say the day is meant to spotlight women's achievements; raise awareness in support of women's equality; lobby for accelerated gender parity; and fundraise for female-focused charities.
Each year, International Women’s Day adopts a specific theme — this year “Embracing Equity.”
“The aim of the #EmbraceEquity campaign theme is to get the world talking about Why equal opportunities aren't enough. People start from different places, so true inclusion and belonging require equitable action.”
International Women's Day has been recognized for well over a century. The first gathering on this special day was in 1911. The colors marking International Women’s Day — purple, green and white — originated from the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU) in the United Kingdom in 1908. Purple signifies justice and dignity, green symbolizes hope, and white represents purity.
What Is Holi?
Holi is an annual Hindu festival celebrated at the end of winter marking the arrival of spring. It falls on the last full moon day of the month of the Hindu lunar-solar calendar and so the date varies.
Holi is all about new beginnings — a celebration of the beginning of spring and the end of winter. It spreads over a night and a day, starting on the evening of the Purnima or the night of the full noon. The first evening is known as Holika Dahan (burning of demon holika) or Chhoti Holi and the following day as Holi, Rangwali Holi, Dhuleti, Dhulandi or Phagwah.
The Holi celebration is bright and colorful — a day to mark the blossoming of love, to play and laugh, forget and forgive and repair fractured relationships. Holi was originally a ceremony for married women to spread prosperity and good will to their new family. It expanded over the years and now highlights good over evil.
The Holi Festival was originally held in India and Nepal, but it is now celebrated in communities across the globe. The festival is most widely and openly celebrated in cities in India like Delhi, Agra, and Jaipur, and while each city may celebrate slightly differently, bright colors, upbeat music, and lively dance always play a part.
What Is Saint Patrick’s Day?
St. Patrick’s Day, marking the anniversary of Saint Patrick’s death in the fifth century, has been observed by the Irish for more than 1,000 years. It falls during the Christian season of Lent.
Traditionally, Irish families attend church in the morning and celebrate in the afternoon. Lenten prohibitions against the consumption of meat are waived and people dance, drink and feast.
The patron saint of Ireland and its national apostle, Saint Patrick, was born in Roman Britain, kidnapped and brought to Ireland as a slave at age 16. He later escaped, but is credited with bringing Christianity to the people of Ireland upon his return.
Following Saint Patrick’s death on March 17, 461, the mythology surrounding his life became more ingrained in the Irish culture. The shamrock is a central part of the holiday because legend has it that Saint Patrick explained the Holy Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) using the three leaves of the native Irish clover.
In 1848, several New York Irish Aid societies united their parades to form one official New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Today, that parade is the world ‘s oldest civilian parade and the largest in the country, with over 150,000 participants. Other major cities, including Chicago, also organize their own huge St. Patrick’s Day parades as an annual tradition.
What Is St. Joseph’s Day?
St. Joseph’s Day is celebrated on March 19 every year. The day commemorates the feast of St. Joseph, the husband of the Virgin Mary and legal father of the Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. St. Joseph’s Day has the rank of solemnity in the Catholic Church.
A carpenter by profession, Joseph was a descendant of the house of King David. He married Mary and found that she was already pregnant. Being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, he decided to divorce her quietly. However, an angel convinced him that she was conceived by the holy spirit and that the child in her womb was the Son of God.
This is where the story of St. Joseph starts. Joseph’s exit from the story of the Gospels remains an unexplainable mystery in the scripture. But various traditions say that Joseph died around Jesus’ 20th birthday.
Since the 10th century, several Western countries celebrated March 19 as the Feast of St. Joseph. He is the patron of a happy death, families, the Universal Church, fathers, expectant mothers, travelers, craftsmen, immigrants, workers, and engineers. He is also the patron of many countries including the Americas, Canada, Croatia, Mexico, Korea, Austria, Belgium, Peru, the Philippines, and Vietnam.
Despite knowing so little about Joseph, he has two feast days in the Western Church. The Solemnity of St. Joseph, or St. Joseph’s Day, falls on March 19. There is also another feast day for St. Joseph — the feast of St. Joseph the Worker on May 1. He is also included in the feast of the Holy Family on Dec. 30.
What is Ramadan?
March 22-April 21
Muslims around the world observe the month of Ramadan to recognize that Allah, or God, gave the first chapters of the Quran to the Prophet Muhammad in the year 610. In 2023, Ramadan begins at sundown on Wednesday, March 22, and ends at sundown on Friday, April 21.
A Holy Holiday, Ramadan encourages healthy adult Muslims to fast from dawn until dusk. Other acts of worship include prayer, reading the Quran and charity. Fasting is intended to bring the faithful closer to God and to remind them of the suffering of those less fortunate. Ramadan is a time to detach from worldly pleasures and focus on the inner self.
Fasting is one of the five fundamental principles of Islam. In addition to not eating or drinking from sunrise to sunset, Muslims are also supposed to avoid impure thoughts and bad behavior during Ramadan.
Ramadan always falls on the ninth month of the 12-month Islamic calendar and is observed all over the world. Countries with the largest Muslim populations include Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nigeria, Egypt, Turkey and Iran, but there are an estimated 7 million Muslims in America, and all 50 states are home to mosques.
What Is Pakistan Day?
Pakistan Day, celebrated annually March 23 in Pakistan, commemorates the Pakistan Resolution that eventually led to the creation of the country. Also known as the Lahore Resolution of 1940, the day is observed as a public holiday in all federal and provincial government offices, banks and private sectors in Pakistan.
Approved March 23, 1940, the Lahore Resolution rejected formation of a united India and called for the creation of an independent state for Muslims. The resolution paved the way for the creation of the country some years later. Pakistan became the world's first Islamic republic on Aug. 14, 1947, which is recognized as the country’s Independence Day.
In Pakistan, the holiday is celebrated with early morning military and civilian parades and with gun salutes in Islamabad and provincial capitals. The national flag is flown from all government buildings and departments. Throughout the day, the President presents national awards and medals.