Blog | Faith-based activities for this term
Your young people can work towards their World Challenge Award and World Faiths Activity Badge with our guide to a few religious celebrations happening over the next few months that you might not have explored with them yet. We have compiled this list to support you with programme ideas so your young people can learn about a variety of faiths and religions.
One of the biggest dates in the Jewish calendar is Passover, the festival of freedom, held on 10–18 April. This eight-day festival commemorates the liberation of the children of Israel who were led out of Egypt by Moses, as stated in the bible. The first two and the last two days of Passover are full days of rest and the highlight of the festival sees family and friends gather together for meals. Chametz, or leavened foods – foods that contain one of five types of grain, have been mixed with water and left to rise – are forbidden during Passover. Their inflated nature is symbolic of arrogance and during Passover Jews aspire to rid themselves of Chametz so that they can become humble vessels.
Activity: Talk to your young people about chametz and make unleavened bread together by mixing a third of a cup of vegetable oil with three tablespoons of honey. Add half a cup of hot water, stirring well, and then half a cup of milk before stirring again. Gradually add two cups of flour and mix until it becomes dough. Knead the dough – sprinkling flour over it to prevent sticking – and then divide into smaller round loaves. Bake at 200°c for 14 minutes, turning the loaves halfway through.
Also this month…
As part of the Hindu festival of Rama Navami on 4 April, organise a group archery session at your nearest outdoor centre to represent Lord Rama’s divine bows. This celebration honours the birth of Lord Rama, the seventh avatar of Vishnu who is one of the main deities of the Hindu faith.
On 27 May, a month-long fast begins for Muslims, known as Ramadan, which is broken by Eid-Ul-Fitr, the festival of the breaking of the fast. This month is significant because it’s when the Qur’an was first revealed to the prophet Muhammad. Many Muslims try to read the whole of the Qur’an at least once during this time. During Ramadan, Muslims fast during daylight, eating a meal just before sunrise and another after sunset. It’s a time to be with family and friends, who gather together to eat evening meals. Fasting helps Muslims practise self-discipline and it reminds them of the poor, who may not get to enjoy the same benefits. Ramadan is also a time when Muslims try to dedicate more time to charitable deeds.
Activity: Every year, hundreds of mosques across the UK sign up to 'Visit My Mosque' – a scheme that invites people of all faiths into their local mosque to share tea and biscuits and to meet some of the people who worship there. This year’s scheme was held on 5 February, but keep an eye on visitmymosque.org in early 2018 to arrange a visit. Can’t wait that long? Why not contact your local mosque independently to see if you can schedule in a special group visit?
Also this month…
Vesak, also known as Buddha Day, takes place on 10 May. This is a major festival for Buddhists from the Theravada tradition, when Buddhists will visit their local temple for at least part of the day or night. It occurs during the full moon.
Between 30 May–1 June, talk to your group about Shavuot. This day not only marks the all-important wheat harvest in Israel, but also commemorates the day god gave the Torah to the Jewish people. The Torah is the teaching at the core of the Jewish faith, usually written on a scroll in Hebrew.
When the official news arrives of the first sight of the new moon, the festival of Eid begins. Muslims sit down for their first daytime meal in a month, and give thanks to Allah for helping them to practise their self-control and keep strong during Ramadan. During Eid, there are special services in mosques, Muslims dress in finery, spend time with friends and family and give gifts to children. Women and children adorn their hands and feet with henna. Homes are decorated with lights and, in some countries, celebrations can last up to three days. During this time, Muslims give money to charity to help the poor celebrate too by being able to buy clothes and food.
Activity: Show your young people some examples of henna designs before asking them to draw around their hands onto a sheet of paper and begin designing their own. You can discuss some of the meanings behind the symbols and patterns, for instance acacia leaves represent persistence and long life, or the mandala, which symbolises the universe. You can also look at the meanings associated with where the henna is applied as they all have significance, for instance henna on the palm of your hands signifies an offering from you to the world.
Also this month…
On the Sunday 50 days after Easter (4 June this year), Pentecost is celebrated in the Christian church as the day the holy spirt descended upon the apostles. During the celebrations, the holy spirit is depicted as a white dove, so why not make paper-plate doves with your young people?
This year, 9 July is Dharma Day – a celebration of Buddha’s first sermon, or the ‘turning of the wheel of dharma’, or the wheel of truth. This festival is all about celebrating the teachings of Buddha, namely his four noble truths and eight-fold path, known collectively as the wheel of dharma. The most important day in the Buddhist calendar, the festival gives Buddhists the opportunity to meet to reflect on their gratitude for Buddha’s teachings. On dharma day, Buddhists read accounts of the lives of the enlightened ones and think about what it might mean for them. Buddhism is different to other religions in that they don’t worship or believe in a personal creator, and they do not consider Buddha to be a god; they are very much about the path taken in life and about the cycle of life.
Activity: Show your young people pictures of the Buddhist wheel of life and talk them through what the various sections symbolise and then work as a team to create your own version on a large sheet of paper, either by using coloured pens or by collaging using magazine pages.
Also this month…
On 10 July, the Baha’i commemorate the martyrdom of The Bab, the first prophet. Talk to your young people about tolerance and acceptance – two of the principles of the Baha’i faith – and how they might be able to work these principles into their everyday decisions and actions.
*This is not a comprehensive list, but rather highlights some of the lesser-known festivals and religious events that you might like to explore further with your young people.