Every year Buddhists, Hindis and Muslims converge to celebrate their respective holidays, and now your group can get in on the action. Whether your group practices one of the religion or is just looking for a worldly experience, the following ethnic festivals are chances to reinforce the values of inner peace, love and spiritual growth.
Kadampa Buddhist Festival
If your group finds itself in southeastern New York some weekend in April and you would like to attend a Buddhist gathering and learn about the power of wisdom, we suggest checking out the Kadampa festival at the US World Peace Temple in Glen Spey. This peaceful festival provides a break from the whirl of daily life and a chance to slow down and renew. Your group will hear stories of empowerment and spend time with like-minded individuals from across the continent. If your group is looking to try something completely new and challenging, attend one of the meditation sessions. If you have never been able to find that meditation sweet spot like Buddhist monks, now is the time to try. With so many everyday distractions that sap our positive energy, this festival arms your group members with the inspiration needed to better themselves, the world and others. The cost for the entire festival is $250, but single-day rates are available. If you book ahead, you can score accommodations right in the temple. Camping on the site is another possibility. Click here to learn more.
Fireworks, lights and dancing—if this sounds like one incredible party to you, then you are correct. With Diwali Melas cropping up all over the U.S., your group won’t have to look very far to find one. The three million Hindus in the U.S., interested tourists and even President Obama head to these gatherings for a dose of culture and a reason to celebrate. Celebrate what, you may ask? Well, as the translated name “festival of lights” implies, this energetic and heavily illuminated event represents the triumph of light over darkness, hope over despair, good over evil and knowledge over ignorance. In short, Diwali is a light-filled celebration of hope and positivity with deep spiritual roots. Although the holiday lasts five days, your group will have only one chance to join the Diwali Mela, or grand celebration. Over 15 states and even more cities now host Melas, but the Diwali Mela at the Dallas Cowboys Stadium reaches attendance of over 100,000. Trinket shops, light-hearted competitions, dancing lessons, Indian delicacies, games and Bollywood performances keep the crowd busy all night. When it comes to souvenirs, try out a traditional henna tattoo (it’s temporary) as a memento of your Mela immersion. Make sure to stay late into the evening to catch the pinnacle of Diwali, the bright fireworks show. Dallas’s Diwali Mela takes place on Nov.1 from 4 p.m. to midnight. Click here for details.
You wouldn’t expect to see Arabian horses prancing, falcons flying, kids riding atop camels’ backs or a traditional Arabian village all under the California sun, would you? Well, your group can in fact visit that exotic place at the Eid al-Fitr Islam festival in Anaheim, California. This festival marks the end of Ramadan and the holy month of fasting. Muslims use this day to show happiness and give charity, and no matter what your spiritual background, your group can join in. Anaheim hosts one of the largest and most festive Eid parties in the U.S. The festival is completely free, from parking to admission, and open to the public. Eid organizers kept visitors and tourists in mind when designing the event so that it is an immersive and outsider-friendly experience. Spend the day learning about Islam and trying out some traditional delights. The festival takes place in August, but the date for 2015 has not been set. Click here for more information. With religious curiosity on the rise in the United States, now is the time to check out an ethnic festival. Your group will leave with a broader outlook and lasting memories.
By Paige K. Pope