Mark E. Rondeau

One of many things I like about the religion beat is that I learn about things I otherwise would not. Religious holidays of faiths other than my own fall into this category.

A few days ago, the Religion and Ethics Newsweekly Facebook page informed me of Bon or Obon. This is observed in Japan in either mid-July or mid-August, depending on where you live in that nation, and the signficance of this three-day annual holiday is to honor one’s ancestors.

"There are Obon festivals this week at many Buddhist temples across the country and around the world, to commemorate one’s ancestors and the return of their spirits to this world," says the Facebook post. "Some Buddhists observe Obon in mid-July according to a solar calendar, others in mid-August according to the lunar calendar."

A Hindu holiday I learned about on Thursday when I first saw the Associated Press photo on this page is Krishna Janmashthami, the birthday of Lord Krishna. It will be celebrated on Aug. 18 this year.

According to Wikipedia, "Hindus celebrate Janmashtami by fasting and staying up until midnight, the time when Krishna is believed to have been born. Images of Krishna’s infancy are placed in swings and cradles in temples and homes. At midnight, devotees gather around for devotional songs, dance and exchange gifts. Some temples also conduct readings of the Hindu religious scripture Bhagavad Gita.


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OVER THE TRANSOM: I get interesting and sometimes baffling religion-related emails. One emailed press release I recently received is titled "Escapegoat App Returns: Enables Users to Admit Sins, Offload Them onto a Goat.
"In 2013, G-dcast, a San Francisco-based new media studio, launched the eScapegoat app, encouraging users to engage in deeper Jewish learning and to prepare for Yom Kippur by offloading their sins to a virtual goat, in an echo of an ancient repentance ritual. Now, the app is back, and has spawned Mini Goats -- local mini-apps that let smaller communities re-enact this ritual virtually for a new, high-tech learning and community connection," the press release states.

"Despite high synagogue attendance on Yom Kippur, literacy of the scapegoat story in Leviticus is very low," said G-dcast founder and executive director Sarah Lefton. "This program is an easily accessible, fun way to engage people in thinking through the importance of personal and communal atonement rituals."

Communities can purchase the Mini Goat package for $99. To learn more, visit: www.g-dcast.com/minigoat

The date of Yom Kippur this year is Saturday, Oct. 4.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: "It is better to live your own destiny imperfectly than to live an imitation of somebody else’s life with perfection." ~ The Bhagavad Gita

FACTOID: About 10 percent of South Korea’s 50 million people are Roman Catholic, a number that has been increasing significantly in recent decades. (Source: The Los Angeles Times, 8/14/2014)

Mark E. Rondeau is the religion editor of the Banner. Email: markrondeau@earthlink.net. Twitter: @banner_religion