Note from faithful commentor Amir Khalid, early Wednesday morning:
… As of sunset today, it is the first of Muharram, 1434; New Year’s Day in the Muslim calendar. Not a religious holiday (after all, we’ve just had Eid al-Adha), but the turn of the year offers the usual opportunity to make new beginnings and resolutions and all that.
Diwali, of course, was earlier this week. As was St. Martin’s Day, when in European tradition the livestock that couldn’t be fed through the winter was slaughtered and the first of the season’s wine tasted, and children still carry lanterns through the streets to celebrate. November 11 was also the pre-Christian Scandinavian New Year, and tied to the Celtic Samhain festival at the end of October, when the veil between the world of the living and the world(s) of the dead was said to be thinnest. The folk-lore in the temperate Northern hemisphere always comes back to wrapping up the busy outdoor agricultural half of the year, digging out the artificial lights again, taking stock and wrapping up a year’s worth of change, loss, regret, and interpersonal conflicts as everyone prepares to spend the next six months huddled together in the dark and cold. Of course, it’s not entirely coincidental that our American founders chose to stage the annual elections after the harvest had wrapped up and before the weather made it too difficult to travel on foot or by horse, either…
So I did wonder if Muharram might represent another facet of this ‘wrap up Persephone’s half of the year’ tradition, but of course the Muslim calendar is lunar-based and so the New Year isn’t seasonally fixed… but still: “new beginnings and resolutions and all that”, and many happy returns to our Muslim commentors!