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A Spiritual New Year's Eve


Jun 1, 2004
A Spiritual New Year's Eve

The mark of a new year is a time for celebration. However, amongst the revelry and the parties, many opt to welcome the New Year in a more spiritual way.

Every year, many Sikhs all over the world celebrate the coming New Year by attending New Years' Eve service held at the various local Gurdwaras.
For those unfamiliar with Sikhism, it was founded in fifteenth century Punjab on the teachings of Guru Nanak and nine successive Sikh Gurus that followed Him. Currently, it is the fifth-largest organized religion in the world and the principal belief of Sikhism is in "Ik Oankar", meaning there is One, Universal God of all creation..

This is a story of how the New Years' Eve service is conducted every year at the Gurdwara - the Sikh place of worship.

In the prayer hall of any gurdwara, The Guru Granth Sahib, the Holy Scripture, is the focal point. Sikhs consider the Guru Granth Sahib a living, spiritual guide and hence, it is central in guiding the Sikh's way of life.
The Guru Granth Sahib is always raised while the congregation sits on the floor. However, before seating on the prayer hall floor, all Sikhs remove their shoes, cover their heads and bow before the Guru Granth Sahib as a sign of respect.

During the duration of the New Years' Eve service, Kirtan, a call-and-response singing of hymns, is performed. It consists of singing to the accompaniment of traditional instruments such as the harmonium, tabla, etc. As it gets closer to midnight, the singing gets louder and more vibrant as the excitement of a new year dawning takes over all.

Immediately following midnight, the ardaas, a congregational prayer, is conducted. The ardaas is recited by one member of the assemblage, while the rest of the congregation stands with hands together, facing the Guru Granth Sahib. At the completion of ardaas, the congregation bows down. The content of the prayer is to unite the congregation in expressing thanks for blessings past, invoking God's blessings for the New Year, and praying for peace and goodwill for all humanity.

At the end of the service in the gurdwara, including the New Years' Eve Ardaas, Langar, a free, vegetarian-only meal is served in the communal dining hall. Langar - like the entire service - is open to all, Sikhs and non-Sikhs alike. This reflects the free kitchen established by the first Sikh Guru, Guru Nanak, in the attempt to create equality between all, regardless of religion, caste, color, creed, age, gender or social status.

All the preparation, cooking and the clean up is carried out by volunteers (sevadars).

As with the Langar, the Gurdwara is open for all, regardless of one's background. I encourage all who are interested to visit your local gurdwara and enjoy the spiritual experience that I have been so privileged to experience.

[Courtesy: Vancouver Observer]
January 2, 2010


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