The Chaplaincy Services Department hosts celebrations from a variety of the world’s religions throughout the year. In this season, several world religions celebrate holy days that share the symbolism of light in the darkness while highlighting the uniqueness of practice and belief within these religions. These celebrations are a part of the interfaith religious services offered by the department to meet religious needs of patients, families and staff.

Diwali or Divali is an ancient Hindu celebration of the “festival of lights.” The spirituality of this Hindu celebration signifies the victory of light over darkness, knowledge over ignorance, good over evil and hope over despair. The feast occurs on the darkest new moon night of the Hindu month of Kartika, which in the Gregorian calendar falls between October and November. This five-day feast begins with cleaning and decorating of homes and offices; the lighting of lamps and candles both inside and outside the home; and family prayers to Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity. Those celebrating the feast will dress up in new clothes or their best clothes and join in a feast that includes sweets and an exchange of gifts. Specific practices will vary according to geographic area.

Chaplaincy Services celebrated this feast on October 15 by offering traditional Indian foods, information on the holiday and a special chapel service dedicated to Diwali. The traditional foods offered were vegetable samosas and pakuras.

Hanukkah means “dedication” and is known as the “festival of lights” in the Jewish tradition. This festival celebrates the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem during the Maccabean revolt in the 2nd Century BCE and the miracle of a tiny vial of oil that kept burning for eight days. Hanukkah is celebrated for eight days and nights beginning on the 25th day of Kislev in the Hebrew Calendar, which can occur from late November to late December in the Gregorian calendar. This year, Hanukkah is observed from December 16 to 24. The festival is observed by kindling lights on a nine-branched candelabrum called a Hanukkah menorah or hanukkiah. One additional light is kindled each night of the festival with the ninth light, called shamash, kindled first to light the other candles and to provide light for practical use as the other eight lights are intended for publicizing the miracle of Hanukkah. The festival is celebrated with singing of songs, offering prayers and blessings each day and with special foods.

Within the Christian tradition, Christmas begins on December 25, concluding a four-week time of preparation known as Advent and beginning a 12-day feast. The holiday is celebrated with special worship services, the decorating of homes and public places with lights and ornaments, and with a special meal. In the days before Christmas, Chaplaincy will bring cookies to various departments and units throughout BWH.

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Chaplaincy Holiday Celebrations at BWH:
December 18: Hanukkah worship service at noon in the Chapel, followed by a celebration at 4:30 p.m. by the Shop on the Pike
December 25: Roman Catholic Mass at 10 a.m. and a worship service at noon, both in the Chapel