17 August 2010

The Gates of Hell

The other day I wrote a piece called Ramadan Kareem about the Islamic Holy Month of Ramadan which began on August 11th, just a few days ago. Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar and it moves around the solar based Gregorian calendar a little bit each year until it begins a new cycle again every thirty-three years. It just so happens that this year the seventh month of the Chinese lunar calendar began at almost the same time as the start of Ramadan. This Chinese month is called the "Ghost Month" and the highlight is on the 15th day of the lunar month which this year is Tuesday, August 24 on the Gregorian calendar. On that day the Chinese will celebrate a special festival called the "Hungry Ghost Festival" during which which all spirits and ghosts from the nether world are allowed to roam the land once again in search for food to appease their hunger. In a similar manner to Mexicans on the Day of the Dead here in in Mexico, the living Chinese relatives leave offerings of food and other items for the spirits their dearly departed.

So, what's the problem? Well, I'll tell you. During the month of Ramadan the Muslims believe that the gates of Hell are slammed shut and the Chinese Taoists and Buddhists believe that during Ghost Month the gates of Hell are flung wide open. Just imagine the frustration that this must cause the Devil when the two different ethnic lunar months coincide like this. Should he plan to close Hell for remodeling or should he beef up security for the extra traffic? It makes me realize that every day some religious entity somewhere is celebrating something. How can anyone be expected or even willing to keep track of it all? Don't worry...there is an answer to that too. Like just about everything else these days the market will track it. One only need follow the money. The people who raise and sell goats seem to have a handle on it better than anyone else. The fact is that goat meat is eaten by more people on earth than any other meat and much of it is used for religious feasts. Approximately sixty-three percent of the world’s total meat consumption can be credited to goat meat and it is estimated that eighty percent of the world’s population eats goat as a staple in their diet. Your neighborhood goat seller has to know when the religious feasts are held so that he or she can meet the market demand. We eat a lot of goat meat in Mexico. I wrote about it in a piece called "Got Goat?" and another piece called "Birria de Cabrito" and one called "The Road Trip".

There seem to be quite a few religious celebrations this year in August and September. In the Catholic culture we celebrate the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven on August 15th and her birth on September 8th. Our Jewish brethren celebrate Rosh Hashanah on Thursday, September 9, through Friday, September 10th and then Yom Kippur on Saturday, September 18, Sukkot on September 23rd, and Shemini Atzeret on September 30th. The Muslims celebrate Lailat Ul Qadr (Night of Power) on September 5th and Eid-Al-Fitr (End of Ramadan) on September 10th . There are no doubt many more diverse religious holidays that I failed to mention out of ignorance and for that I apologize but it is worth noting that each of these feasts is dear to some culture's heart and we should be aware of that and respectful. So, if you want to know who is celebrating what in your neck of the woods just ask your friendly neighborhood goat guy. In the meantime, the more you know about what other people believe the more you will be contributing to world peace. Everyone should have the right to worship freely. In the famous words of Mexican President Benito Juárez:

"Entre los individuos, como entre las Naciones, el respeto al derecho ajeno es la paz".
Among individuals as among nations, peace is the respect for the rights of others.

7 comments:

Dan in NC said...

Bob,
Excellent as always! But there is one point I have to disagree with you on - I do not believe that Hell has gates! Too much wear and tear with all the thrusting open, and slamming closed! We all know that Nick is a tight bugger based upon the deals he made through history, and I can't see him forking out(pun TOTALLY intended) for the repair costs! Nah, the portal to Hell is more than likely a revolving door - that lets in the damned, but also let's out the evil twits we seem to have to deal with on a regular basis!
Keep up the Great posts!
Dan in NC

Leslie Limon said...

Catholics also believe that there is a specific day the Devil is on the loose. If I'm not mistaken, it's usually on August 23rd or 24th. Have you heard of this? My suegro always warns us and the kiddies to be extra-careful.

Calypso said...

Good one Bob! The celebrations are pretty much non-stop here. Haven't heard of the one Leslie mentions. But, if it does happen my bet is you know something.

Bob Mrotek said...

Dan in NC,
Now that you got me thinking about it the gates of Hell are probably more like a one way slippery slide :)

Leslie,
I have no idea what you are talking about. I have been asking people all day and they look at me like I'm nuts. The Devil around her usually comes out of a bottle called a "caguama" on Friday nights after the workers get paid. Perhaps your Devil is a local variety :)

Hi Calypso :)

Dan in NC said...

Bob,
Leslie is right, but slightly off on the date..
It is Sept 11th!
That's when the Blue Devils meet the Demon Deacons in what is predicted to be one Hell of a game!
Cheers!
Dan in NC (LOL!!!)

Amanda said...

I love the part about the devil being confused... so funny. I wish he was only let out one day that would make a lot of our lives a lot smoother. ;)

Alice said...

Thanks for the history lesson. Maybe tomorrow I'll put out a little something for grandma. Not sure if they exist anymore, but she really liked those candy orange slices.

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I was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A. I have been living in Mexico since January 6th, 1999. I am continually studying to improve my knowledge of the Spanish language and Mexican history and culture. I am also a student of Mandarin Chinese.