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Festivals of Light this Winter – how to celebrate and promote inclusion in units

As the winter nights draw in it is this time of year that the festivals of light happen. Looking at different festival encourages everyone to learn about others’ beliefs and promotes inclusion in our units.

So which light festivals are around at the moment?  (Some change date slightly each year)

November 4th DIVALI / DIWALI / DEEPAVALI Hindu / Jain / BANDI CHHOR DIVAS Sikh                                                                                      

For Hindus this is a New Year festival lasting from one to five days, during which fireworks are set off and lights are hung out.  It is a festival of light, coinciding with the darkest night of the lunar month. It is generally associated with Lakshmi, goddess of wealth and prosperity, or with the victorious return of Rama and Sita after their exile.

Sikhs also celebrate Divali since Guru Hargobind, the sixth Guru, was released from Gwalior prison on this day. The Golden Temple in Amritsar is illuminated and firework displays take place there.  It is a time for new clothes, presents and sweets.

28 November (Sunday) ADVENT SUNDAY Christian (Western Churches)  

The start of the Christian year, four Sundays before Christmas. It is often celebrated by lighting the first candle in the advent crown – a circular wreath of greenery. A further three candles are lit on subsequent Sundays, culminating with the Christmas candle on the 25th December. This signifies the transition from darkness to light.

29 November (Monday) – 6 December (Monday) HANUKAH Jewish    Celebrates the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem after it was recaptured from the Syrian Greeks by the Maccabee brothers in 165 BCE. For the eight evenings of the festival, candles are lit from right to left in a hanukkiah, a nine-branched menorah – one candle for each evening. The ninth candle is the shamash (the servant candle) from which the other candles are lit. Foods cooked with oil – such as doughnuts and latkes (potato cakes) – are traditional to remember the miracle with oil that happened at this time.


21 December WINTER SOLSTICE (Alban Arthan or Alban Arthuan) Druid
21 December  YULE (archaic form Geola, pronounced Yula) Wiccan / Pagan 

Yule is the time of the winter solstice, when the sun is reborn, an image of the return of all new life. Heathens celebrate Yule for twelve nights and days, starting the evening before the Winter Solstice (called Mother’s night), when they think of their female ancestors and spiritual protectors. The night heralds the beginning of the major holiday in Heathenry.

There are other festivals around at this time of year such as

Remembrance on November 11th,

19th November the birth of Guru Nanak

Christmas on 25th December

On 14 November (Sunday) to 21 November (Sunday) it is  INTER FAITH WEEK

Beginning on Remembrance Sunday and running until the following Sunday each year, Inter Faith week seeks to strengthen good inter-faith relations, increase awareness of the different and distinct faith communities in the UK, and increase understanding between people of religious and non-religious beliefs. Visit for more.


You may be able to ask the girls in your groups if they have different beliefs for ideas to do in your units or there are activities on the internet you can download for free. Sites like twinkl, paw print family and Pinterest etc have lots of ideas. You may find challenge badges that have activities linked to them.

Not everything we do in a meeting has to be linked to a skills builder or UMA – but you may be able to build in some links i.e. Brownies has a festival UMA and a strike a light UMA

Have fun enjoying the festivals of the winter season together.

(information from interfaith network)

Ruth Tanner

Girlguiding Birmingham Inclusion Adviser