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We are now officially into summer, and July is one of the slowest months of the year for religious holidays. Things will pick up in August, when the early fall holy days start rolling in, but here are a few to tide you over until then.

Dharma Day (July 4): Buddhism has three major schools of thought: Mahayana, Theravada, and Vajrayana. Buddhism also has a concept called “the three jewels,” which refers to the Buddha, the Dharma (teachings), and the Sangha (the community). Dharma Day is a holiday in the Theravada tradition that takes place on the full moon day in July. It commemorates the Buddha’s first teaching, which laid the groundwork for his Four Noble Truths.

Pioneer Day (July 24): Pioneer day commemorates the Salt Lake Valley arrival date of Brigham Young and his Mormon followers in 1847. Celebrations are decidedly Western-American and often include parades, fireworks, dancing, rodeos, potlucks, and re-enactments. The day is an official holiday in the state of Utah. 

Tisha B’Av (sundown, July 29): Tisha B’Av commemorates various tragedies the occurred throughout Jewish history, including the destruction of both Jewish temples. The first, Solomon’s Temple, was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar II in about 586BCE. The Second Temple, built about 70 years later, was destroyed by the Romans in 70CE. Jews fast for 25 hours (which is a very long time if you’ve never done it) and attend synagogues where the readings focus on the Book of Lamentations. There’s an amazing model of the Second Temple in the Israel Museum, and various YouTube videos offer both-real and animated walk-throughs. Here’s one of our favorites.

Eid al-Adha (≈ July 31): Eid al-Adha is a 3-day Islamic holiday that commemorates Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son on the altar. In the Islamic tradition, that son is Ishmael (rather than Isaac). The Eid begins on the 10th day of the last month in the Islamic lunar calendar, but exact start dates depend on local moon sightings. Sacrificing an animal has long been a tradition on this day, but younger, more progressive Muslims have started questioning this practice.

The lotus flower plays a prominent role in all the religions that originated in India (e.g., Hinduism, Sikhism, Jainism). The flower, which floats beautifully and elegantly atop mucky waters, represents the purity of body, speech, and mind that manifests itself when one rises above the attachment and suffering of the everyday world.

The lotus flower metaphor is particularly prominent in Buddhism. According to legend, when the Buddha began walking as an infant, he produced lotus flowers with every step. Important Buddhist figures, including the Buddha, himself, are often shown sitting on lotus flowers. And the most important mantra in the Tibetan tradition is om manipadme hum {ohm mah-nee-pahd-may oom}. Manipadme is usually translated as “the jewel of the lotus.”
And that’s why we’re featuring this lotus flower craft!
One circle, measuring about 3” in diameter, cut out of light-weight cardboard
Eight purple squares measuring 3” x 3”
Eight green squares measuring 2½” x 2½”
Eight pink squares measuring 2” x 2”
Scissors, tape, and one small yellow circle

Constructing the lotus
Hold each square so it looks like a diamond. Fold it over on itself and secure with a small piece of tape.
Tape the narrow ends of the largest squares (purple in this case) to the small cardboard circle.

Add the medium-sized squares (green in this case) on top of those, and the smallest squares (pink in this case) on top of those.

Finish it off with a small yellow circle in the center.

Kids' Books Recommendations

Many religious holy days commemorate sad events in a faith’s history, which can make it challenging to find age-appropriate ways of sharing those holidays with kids. Tisha B’Av is a good example of this conundrum. In addition to remembering the destruction of both Temples, Jews also spend Tisha B’Av reflecting on various massacres that occurred during the Crusades and the Holocaust. And the primary practice, fasting for 25 hours, is not a very kid-friendly ritual.

Tisha B’Av: A Jerusalem Journey by Allison Ofanansky and Eliyaha Alpern (Kar-Ben Publishing, 2017) offers a great way to share this holy day with youngsters. Using real-world photographs, it centers on the archaeology of the Temple Mount. Kids learn about the portions that are still visible – like the Western Wall and Robinson’s Gate – as well as areas that were destroyed. The multi-faith nature of the site is also mentioned.

More Reading

A quintessential ritual in the Vajrayana/Tibetan Buddhist tradition is the making of sand mandalas. This video shows a time-elapsed version of the 2013 Avalokiteśvara mandala constructed at Urban Dharma in Asheville, NC. The monks returned to construct another mandala in 2016. During that visit, the Sunday School kids from Jubilee! Community Church, where I work, had an opportunity to visit Urban Dharma and learn how the monks use chakpurs to apply the colored sand. When construction is complete, the monks offer a dissolution ceremony. During that ritual, the mandala is de-constructed, and all its blessings are offered to the world.


Latest News
Our book, We All Have Sacred Spaces, will be available on Amazon in a few weeks. Please let us know what you think of it! And, if you are so inclined, take a moment to write a review, which is really helpful in spreading the word.

In the meantime, we’re working on our next book – an anthology of peace-related stories from the world’s faith traditions. Here’s a sneak preview of a few pages from one of our Native American stories!

Curriculum Spotlight

Interfaith Made Easy Unit #1 Peace, Preschool - Kindergarten (Hard Copy)
Interfaith Made Easy Unit #1 Peace, Preschool - Kindergarten (Hard Copy)
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