Dance of the Moon and the Sun

As Ramadan makes a rare appearance during December holiday season, let's share the light of this special time of year.

There are more precise and fussy calculations, but the broad truth of things is this: In a rare treat, the Jewish month of Kislev is kissing Ramadan, the holy month of the Islamic calendar, this year--both have joined hands with the sighting of the new moon, around which both the Jewish and Muslim calendars revolve. December, and therefore Christmas, is also falling under the twin moons of Ramadan and Kislev. Kwanzaa is, too; and the first night of Hanukkah will begin the same day (December 21) as the Winter Solstice, a modern pagan holiday.

So there are wonderful coincidences. When Muslims complete their fast of Ramadan with the feast of Eid ul-Fitr, African-Americans who celebrate Kwanzaa will be observing their first day, and Jews will be lighting candles for the sixth night of Hanukkah. And it will be the day after Christmas. Christmas, Ramadan, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa all overlap in a complicated dance of light and darkness, sun and moon. To add to the spectacle, on December 25, a rare partial solar eclipse will be visible, if the skies are clear, from nearly all regions of North America. A solar eclipse won't happen again on Christmas Day for more than three centuries.


The calendars of the three major Western religions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, have their amazing synchronicities and strange calculations (strange each to each). They differ on how they calculate time: The Christian and secular calendar is purely solar; the Islamic calendar is purely lunar; the Jewish calendar splits the difference--it is lunar and solar, or lunisolar.

The traditions differ on when a day begins (sunset to Jews and Muslims, midnight to Christians and seculars). They differ when the month begins--the new moon for Jews and Muslims, and no moon or no care for the phases of the moon in the Christian and secular calendars.

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