Holidaying in Hyderabad 

Saturday 

Arrival

We arrived at the bustling and bright Hyderabad airport in the afternoon and were met at the airport with traditional flower garlands by our friends. We hopped into a cab and chatted along the drive into Secunderabad. We checked in to the Justa Hotel on Necklace Road next to Hussain Sagar reservoir in Secunderabad. Hyderabad was so far typically Indian – rough with the smooth and filthy dirty next to pristine places – a city of contrasts like everywhere in India. The hotel was inbetween two building sites. The staff ere friendly and the room basic and clean. We dropped off our bags (and flower garlands) and headed out.

NTR Gardens and Park


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We headed out to a park called NTR Gardens. There was a small fee to get in (I think 20 rupees) and it was busy with families arriving for an evening in the park. There was plenty to do. We took the Toy Train ride around the park and people watched as we went round.  Zahra tried to break the bungi trampoline by jumping so high hopes went slack! Then there was the water slide. Sunny and Finny took Zahra on and they had fun as well as getting wet. I noticed that the were a large constituency of Muslims enjoying the park – not something often seen in Bangalore. It was a refreshing change.

Sunny, Zahra and Finny enjoying the toy train ride

Paradise Restaurant 


Getting hungry we headed over to the Paradise restaurant for the “world’s favourite biryani”. The food was good and plentiful (a take home bag was necessary) but the service was super slow which let it down. 

We went  to a local mall for a (huge) ice cream for dessert. They chop and mix the ingredients together in a display before you get your ice cream. Zahra went for ferrero rocher and there was a lot of chocolate and chocolate sauce involved!

Ice cream mixing

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Sunday 

King’s Temple Church


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Sunday involved and early start for church. We headed over to the Mahbub College Grounds for the 9am service of King’s Temple Church. The 7am service is in English, the 9am in English with immediate Telegu translation and an 11am service in Telegu. As our friends are Telegu speakers we opted for the service which suited us all at 9am.

Church traffic jam
 

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We arrived in a traffic jam. Hundreds of people were leaving the early service and hundreds of people were heading into the 9am service. The college was also a building site. The “hall” had no walls and the ceiling was under construction. Piles of building materials had to be navigated to get into the service. 

Navigating building materials at the entrance

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We were given the “elements”(communion wafer and juice), a church leaflet and a donation envelope as we walked in. We were quickly walked to plastic chairs about a third of the way from the front. The band was in full flow and the singers were giving it their all. It was a party atmosphere. There was a large stage, professional lighting and sound, a band and a blue tarpaulin covering the roof. Incredible India right here and as it is monsoon season I am glad it didn’t rain! 

The band and singers continued joyfully for some time before the pastor came on to deliver his sermon on the importance of prayer, and prayer in way that’s biblical rather than a shopping list. It was strange art first that the preacher would say a sentence or two and wait for the translator to translate his every word. The Translator also followed the preacher around the stage, keeping just a few feet away from him all the time. I quickly got used to it and settled into listening to the sermon. 

We took communion and the (many) collection buckets were circulated for tithes and donations. Then there was another sermon by video by the senior pastor, again with a translation in the recording. It ended up being rather shouty for my liking and the sound was clearly struggling with the noise and the translation became inaudible towards the end. I was quite relieved when it finished. The sermon, on prayer, was good but I had a headache from the loud shouting. The service was 2 hours long and attended by several hundred people – the congregation was huge.. I did think how many people in the U.K. would sit through a service that long. People get itchy feet when a service runs a minute over one hour in the UK!

We headed over to Cafe Coffee Day (India’s answer to Starbucks and Costa, except they don’t do soya milk) for a caffeine shot and rest. 

Salar Jung Museum

Suitably refreshed we headed over to the Salar Jung Museum. This had beautiful collections of art and objects from all over the world. The Salar Jung family were hereditary prime ministers in the Hyderabad court to the Nizams, the rulers of Hyderabad, from the middle of the 19th century. The museum was established in 1951 and moved to its current location on the banks of the river Musi in 1968. It was extended in the year 2000 when two blocks were added. Renovations to three of the galleries were in progress when we visited.


Now like most places of interest in India there is one price for Indians and one price for foreigners. In this case it was 20 rupees (25p) for an Indian and 500 rupees (£6) for a foreigner plus a 50 rupee (60p) phone camera charge. I had my FRO (Foreigner Registration Office) with me and and was going to fight my corner. We live in Bangalore and I’m not paying the extortionate foreigner rate. Purchasing the ticket wasn’t an issue. Getting passed the lady in the women’s security line was. “Madam, not Indian” greeted me when I handed over my ticket. I swiftly announced I lived here and produced copies of our visas, FRO forms, change of address – you name it I had it. The lady security guard looked flummoxed and waved over another (male) security guard who checked our documents and waved us in. Mrs security guard did not look impressed as we walked in through to the next screening (airport security style). Sometimes it is the just little things…


The collections of art and decorative objects is impressive and over the course of several hours we managed to see nearly all of it before tiredness took over. There are collections of paintings, carpets, weapons, textiles, metal work, walking sticks, furniture, jade, ivory, sculptures and much more. The statue of the “Veiled Rebecca” (by Benzoni, a 19th century Italian sculptor) and the jade collection were particular highlights. Collections are generally divided into Far East, Indian, and European spread across two floors and three wings. It’s certainly a walk to take in all the collections. There is a central hall which houses a musical clock and attracts a large crowd to watch it chime every hour. The museum also has a food court and a souvenir shop, neither of which we had time to visit. It was very busy and clearly a popular museum, which sometimes made it difficult to see or get close to some of the exhibits. The first floor exhibits were much less crowded though.

Monday

The ladies and children’s pool with water bucket

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Jalavihar Waterpark

Jalavihar (“exciting water”) waterpark. ₽250 per person admission. Own food and drink is not allowed in the park and is retained at reception until you leave. There were slides (with and without rubber rings), a wavepool (with a ladies only section), ladies and children slide and pool area and a rain disco. Dry games for kids and flocks of birds (chickens, geese, guinea fowl) wandering freely around the park. Views across the lake were stunning from the top of the slides. It was small but with lots of slides to keep a 10 year old happy for several hours until tiredness kicked in. The changing rooms were basic with toilets and showers outnumbering the four changing cubicles considerably. Lockers were available to rent at ₽100 and were small but functional. The was a food area with stalls but we didn’t eat there. It was an enjoyable day out.

Eat Street

We headed over to Eat Street afterwards for food. There are stunning views across Hussain Sagar lake. It was beautiful and peaceful. We drank our coffee and ate pizza and noodles, after all we had worked up an appetite.

Nanking Chinese Restaurant and camel ride

In the evening we headed out to the Nanking Chinese restaurant, stopping en route for a camel ride for Zahra. Two camels in the central reservation car parking with some mini fairground rides. A makeshift tourist spot. The camel ride cost ₽30 if you shared or ₽50 for a sole ride. The camels were walked about 50m away before turning round and coming back. It was short and sweet, but Zahra enjoyed it nonetheless. Camels are huge and have massive feet; just an observation.


The Nanking Chinese restaurant was pretty empty when we arrived. We ordered our food and it came promptly. We ordered small dishes and I’m glad we all didn’t order a dish each because the “small” portions were huge! One plate of “small” noodles provided three large portions. It was ridiculous. We ate as much as we could and asked for the rest of the food to be parcelled up for a takeaway. The restaurant happily obliged. 

Tuesday

Charminar 

The Charminar

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Literally means four minarets and was built by Sultan Mohamed Quli Shah between 1591 and 1612. It is in the middle of a busy market and effective operates as a roundabout, so to get to it you have to dodge traffic coming from all directions as well as market traders. It was a little hair raising! The queue was about 30 people long but we, as foreigners, were ushered to the front of the queue by a guide. Indian entry fee was 15 rupees (17p) and foreigner entry fee was 200 rupees (£2.40), children were free. I couldn’t be bothered arguing and frankly it was worth it to queue jump. We hired the guide to show us rounds (negotiated down from 300 rupees to 200 rupees) and again proved to be worth every rupee as we skipped the normal queues to go up (and down) and entered (and exited) via the restricted entry gate. We climbed the stone spiral castle like staircase to the first floor and took in the marvellous views across the busy marketplaces.

Bustling markets at the Charminar gates
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The markets on each side sell separate things. One side for lacquered bangles (mouled out of pure lac and studded with glittering cut glass), another for pearls, another for fruit and the remaining for clothes and linen. Perfume called Itar or Attar is also sold. This is traditional perfume based in sandlewood oil (rather than alcohol), and fragranced with rose or musk or jasmine.
10km underground tunnel from the Golconda Fort to the fountain under the Charminar. 

The Quabbala Shahi Dynasty was founded by Sultan Quli Qutb ul Mulk in 1518 CE.He was initially in the court of of Bahamani rulers and in due course was made The Governor of Telangana under the Bahmani Kingdom. After the death of the Bahamani Sultan he declared independence in 1518 and established the Qutb Shahi Dynasty (1518-1687 CE), which ruled over the Golkonda Kingdom comprising of Telangana, Andhra, parts of northern Karnataka, Marathwada and Berra regions for about 171 years, and by seven monarchs of the dynasty. The Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb conquered Golconda Fort in 1687 CE and subsequently annexed it to his empire.

Chowmalla Palace

A rather uninspiring entrance hid the opulence of the magnificent Chowmalal Place. It’s a large peaceful retreat in a busy bustling city with four garden courtyards and several palace buildings. It was the main residence of the ruling nizams in the 18th and 19th centuries.  The most opulent of these halls is the Khilwat Mubarak; a Durban hall with magnificent crystal chandeliers and a balcony. It is at the heart of the palace and the coronation of VIII Nizam was held here on 6th April, 1967.

Khilwat Mubarak
The adjoining halls had various antique collections including an armoury of the Asaf Jami Dynasty. 

Amongst the various palace buildings there was an impressive collection of antique cars, including Rolls Royces. It was a pleasant and peaceful walk with plenty to see.


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Wednesday

Today was a rest day at our friend’s home. We had mahendi done. A much needed relaxing day.


Thursday

Nehru Zoological Park was our destination today and it proved to be a good walk too. It’s a sprawling zoo in 300 acres, part of which is a ‘safari’ (aka wild) area. Most of the animals are contained within moated areas but the big cats were rather depressingly in small cages. There were additional fees to look around the very small aquarium, the nocturnal exhibits (literally too dark to see anything in places, including where you are walking) and the ‘safari’ to see the lions and tigers.  Whilst it was cleaner than most zoos we have visited in India it was still a building site in places and some of the animals displayed signs of distress by pacing or swaying on the spot. The lions and tigers in the ‘safari’ were in cages.

Unusually, there was a temple to Hunaman (the monkey god) inside the zoo.

Facilities were few as there was only one food area within the entire zoo and only one set of toilets. Both left much to be desired. 

Sign showing the way to the temple
Building works in front of the elephant enclosure
Spelling is everything
The only map of the zoo we saw, half way round

Friday

We had a trip to the Birla Science Museum and modern art gallery on Friday. Zahra had a great time in the interactive zone.

The interactive zone
Measurements are so important

Then we went to the famous 10 Downing Street (“10D”) pub for lunch. It’s inside a small shopping mall and worth finding as the lunchtime special menu was super cheap for 3 courses including a drink.

10 Downing Street pub

Boat ride to Buddha statue

Buddha
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Hussain Sagar is a large reservoir (from the 17th century!) which separates Secunderabad from Hyderabad built by Husain Shah Wali. The Buddha statue is on the island in the reservoir. Boats ferry across tourists at regular intervals for a small fee. It is the largest monolithic statue of Gautam Buddha in India. It was carved out of a single granite rock by 40 sculptors under the guidance of Ganapati Stapathi. It was transported 60kms from Raigiri on a massive carriage with 192 wheels. It was erected in December 1992 is 17m high and weighs 320 tonnnes. It was consecrated by His Holiness the Dalia Lama on 2nd January 2006.

Holidaying in Hyderabad 

There was certainly a lot to see and do in Hyderabad and we didn’t see it all in this trip. We have previously been to the Golconda Fort so didn’t visit it again this time. There were various palace hotels and mosques and temples we didn’t have time to see either. If you’re in India it’s certainly worth a trip, especially as flights and accommodation are so cheap. 

Holy Week

When is it?

In 2017 it starts on Sunday 9th April and ends on Saturday 15th April. Sunday 16th April is Easter Sunday.

It is a holiday in the U.K. schools will close for (at least) two weeks over the Easter period. Businesses shut on Good Friday to Easter Monday. Retail outlets are closed on Easter Sunday, one of only two days in the year that they are required by law to be closed (the other being Christmas Day, the birth of Christ).

What is it?

Holy Week marks the betrayal, arrest, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. It climaxes on Good Friday with Jesus’ crucifixion and ends with the joyful celebration on Easter Sunday of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Palm Sunday 9th April 2017

The sixth Sunday in Lent is Palm Sunday which marks the beginning of Holy Week; the final week of Lent immediately preceding Easter. On Palm Sunday we celebrate the Lord’s triumphant entrance and arrival into Jerusalem, riding on a donkey, where He was welcomed by crowds worshiping Him and laying down palm leaves before Him. This was a customary sign of great respect and homage at the time. The arrival on a donkey is highly symbolic representing the humble arrival of someone in peace (rather than a horse in war).

Palm branches are widely recognized symbol of peace and victory, hence their preferred use on Palm Sunday.

Wednesday 12th April 2017

Wednesday of Holy Week commemorates Judas Iscariot’s bargain to betray Jesus. On Wednesday Jesus left for the Mount of Olives. Here He foretold the apostles the events of the next several days, including His impending death.

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Maundy Thursday 13th April 2017

Thursday of Holy Week is known as Maundy Thursday and is a day Christians commemorate the Last Supper shared by Christ with his disciples in Jerusalem. It was at the Last Supper, a Passover meal, that Jesus established the Holy Communion of breaking the bread and taking the wine and sharing it in remembrance of Him. During the meal Jesus predicts His betrayal and following the meal the disciples went with Jesus to the Mount of Olives where He was betrayed by Judas Iscariot. The Temple Guards, guided by Jesus’ disciple Judas Iscariot, arrested Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. Judas received money (30 pieces of silver) (Matthew 26:14–16) for betraying Jesus and told the guards that whomever he kisses is the one they are to arrest. Following his arrest, Jesus was taken to the house of Annas, the father-in-law of the high priest, Caiaphas. There he was interrogated with little result and sent bound to Caiaphas the high priest where the Sanhedrin had assembled (John 18:1–24).

Conflicting testimony against Jesus was brought forth by many witnesses, to which Jesus answered nothing. Finally the high priest adjured Jesus to respond under solemn oath, saying “I adjure you, by the Living God, to tell us, are you the Anointed One, the Son of God?” Jesus testified ambiguously, “You have said it, and in time you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Almighty, coming on the clouds of Heaven.” The high priest condemned Jesus for blasphemy, and the Sanhedrin concurred with a sentence of death (Matthew 26:57–66). 

The Last Supper has been the subject of art for centuries, including the great masterpiece by Leonardo Da Vinci. The cup used by Jesus is known as the Holy Grail. It has been rumored to exist throughout history with films made based on the search for the Holy Grail. There is no reason to believe the cup would have been outstanding in any way, and was likely a typical drinking vessel, indistinguishable from many others. As a consequence it is unlikely to still be in existence today.

Good Friday 14th April 2017

The next day is Good Friday on which Christians remember Jesus’ crucifixion, death, and burial. He was crucified at Calvary on Friday, outside the gates of Jerusalem. It is a public holiday in the UK – schools and businesses are closed. People toast and eat hot cross buns on this day. (I really miss having hot cross buns – they’re delicious.)

The Gospels account the final hours of Christ. In the morning following His arrest, the whole assembly brought Jesus to the Roman governor Pontius Pilate under charges of subverting the nation, opposing taxes to Caesar, and making himself a king (Luke 23:1–2). Pilate authorized the Jewish leaders to judge Jesus according to their own law and carry out sentencing. The Jewish leaders replied that they were not allowed, by the Romans, to carry out a sentence of death (John 18:31).

Pilate questioned Jesus and told the assembly that there was no basis for sentencing. On hearing that Jesus was from Galilee Pilate referred the case to King Herod (the ruler of Galilee) who was in Jerusalem for the Passover Feast. Herod questioned Jesus but received no answer so Herod sent Jesus back to Pilate. Pilate told the assembly that neither he nor Herod found Jesus guilty of any charge. Nevertheless, to appease the crowd, Pilate resolved to have Jesus whipped and released (Luke 23:3–16). Under the guidance of the chief priests, the crowd asked for Barabbas, who had been imprisoned for committing murder during an insurrection. Pilate asked what they would have him do with Jesus, and they demanded, “Crucify him” (Mark 15:6–14). Pilate’s wife had seen Jesus in a dream earlier that day, and she forewarned Pilate to “have nothing to do with this righteous man” (Matthew 27:19). Pilate had Jesus flogged and then brought him out to the crowd to release him. The chief priests informed Pilate of a new charge, demanding Jesus be sentenced to death “because he claimed to be God’s son.” This possibility filled Pilate with fear and he brought Jesus back inside the palace and demanded to know where he came from (John 19:1–9).

Coming before the crowd one last time, Pilate declared Jesus innocent and washed his own hands in water to show he had no part in this condemnation. Nevertheless, Pilate handed Jesus over to be crucified in order to forestall a riot (Matthew 27:24–26) (and ultimately to keep his job). 

The sentence written was “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.” And nailed to the cross. Jesus carried His cross to the site of execution (assisted by Simon of Cyrene), called the “place of the Skull”, or “Golgotha” in Hebrew and in Latin “Calvary”. There he was crucified along with two criminals (John 19:17–22). Jesus agonized on the cross for six hours. During his last three hours on the cross, from noon to 3 pm, darkness fell over the whole land. Jesus spoke from the cross, saying “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

With a loud cry, Jesus gave up his spirit. There was an earthquake, tombs broke open, and the curtain in the Temple was torn from top to bottom. This tear signified a removal of restriction from the Temple’s “Holiest of Holies, and that God’s people could now communicate directly with Jesus Christ rather than needing the Temple’s High Priest as an intercessor.The centurion on guard at the site of crucifixion declared, “Truly this was God’s Son!” (Matthew 27:45–54).

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Joseph of Arimathea, a member of the Sanhedrin and secret follower of Jesus and who had not consented to his condemnation, went to Pilate to request the body of Jesus (Luke 23:50–52). Another secret follower of Jesus and member of the Sanhedrin named Nicodemus brought about a hundred-pound weight mixture of spices and helped wrap the body of Jesus (John 19:39–40). Pilate asked confirmation from the centurion of whether Jesus was dead (Mark 15:44). A soldier pierced the side of Jesus with a lance causing blood and water to flow out (John 19:34), and the centurion informed Pilate that Jesus was dead (Mark 15:45).

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Joseph of Arimathea took Jesus’ body, wrapped it in a clean linen shroud, and placed it in his own new tomb that had been carved in the rock (Matthew 27:59–60) in a garden near the site of crucifixion. Nicodemus (John 3:1)  brought myrrh and other spices and placed them in the linen with the body, in keeping with Jewish burial customs (John 19:39–40). They rolled a large rock over the entrance of the tomb (Matthew 27:60). Then they returned home and rested, because The Sabbath was starting (Luke 23:54–56). 

Easter Sunday 16th April 2017

Matthew 28:1 “After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb”. “He is not here; He has risen, just as He said……….”.(Matt. 28:6). On the third day, known as Easter Sunday, Jesus rose from the dead. Jesus arose three days after being crucified on the cross at Calvary defeating death and sin so that all who believe in Him may be forgiven and have everlasting life, a life eternal with Him. God so loved us, that He sent His only begotten Son to die for us, so that our sins maybe forgiven.

The belief in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is the key to Christianity. It is the plan of salvation and redemption, the sacrifice was an atonement for sin. “If we confess our sins He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”(1 John chapter 1 verse 9) “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John chapter 3 verse 16).

How is it celebrated?

In the UK church services are held at sunrise to mark when Jesus was discovered to have risen from the dead. Other church services are held in the morning. There is a celebratory atmosphere with joyful singing that the Son of God has risen from the dead so that we may be with Him in Paradise. 

Families gather and have roast dinner together. Chocolate Easter Eggs are usually exchanged but especially for children. 
Most shops in the UK are closed on Easter Sunday. Shops in the UK are only required to close on 2 days each year – Christmas Day, when Jesus was born, and Easter Sunday, when Jesus rose from the dead.  

Easter Eggs

Easter eggs are specially decorated eggs or chocolate eggs given out to celebrate Easter festival. For Christians the Easter egg is a symbol of the empty tomb. The oldest tradition is to use dyed chicken eggs and paint them. Now the custom is to have chocolate eggs or plastic eggs filled with sweets such as jellybeans (especially if one lives in a hot country). The ‘Easter Bunny’ pays a visit in the early hours of the morning and leaves chocolate eggs lying around in the home or garden. Children excitedly hunt for them as soon as they wake up. Chocolate eggs for breakfast is common place on Easter Sunday!

The House of Fabergé created exquisite jewelled eggs for the Russian Imperial Court.

Want to know more?

This is an incredibly important week for Christians. Our Saviour was crucified but rose from the dead 3 days later. There will be much joy and celebration on Sunday.

If you want to know more or, best of all welcome Jesus into your heart, take a look at http://www.crosscheck.org.uk for more information. 

Lent

What is Lent?

Lent is an observance in Christianity that begins on Ash Wednesday (1st March in 2017) and ends around six weeks later on Easter Sunday. People observe this period by fasting or giving up something for the entire duration of Lent as a penance. Many Christians also add a spiritual discipline, such as reading a daily devotional or praying, to draw themselves near to God. There are three traditional practices which are prayer (justice towards God), fasting (justice towards self), and charity (justice towards neighbours).

How long is Lent?

Lent traditionally lasts for forty days. This is in commemoration of the forty days Jesus spent fasting in the desert before starting ministry during which He was tempted by Satan. Lent is from Ash Wednesday to Holy Saturday. This is 46 days but because there is no obligation to fast on the six Sundays in Lent it is 40 days.

Significant days in Lent

The fourth Sunday in Lent is Mothering Sunday, or Mother’s Day (in the UK). It is a day for honouring mothers by doing their daily tasks, buying them cards, presents and flowers and generally cooking all meals for them.Its origin is in a 16th-century celebration of the Mother Church.

The fifth Sunday in Lent is Passion Sunday and marks the beginning of Passiontide.

The sixth Sunday in Lent is Palm Sunday which marks the beginning of Holy Week; the final week of Lent immediately preceding Easter.

Wednesday of Holy Week commemorates Judas Iscariot’s bargain to betray Jesus.

Thursday of Holy Week is known as Maundy Thursday and is a day Christians commemorate the Last Supper shared by Christ with his disciples.

The next day is Good Friday on which Christians remember Jesus’ crucifixion, death, and burial. (After 3 days He rose again, defeating death and sin for all mankind).

40acts – doing Lent generously 

40acts is the generosity challenge throughout Lent, created by UK Christian charity, Stewardship. Participants receive a daily email (from the 1st March – 15th April in 2017; it does not include Sundays), with a generosity challenge (with three levels of challenge to choose from) and short Bible based blog. 

I’ve done this challenge previously and whilst it can be challenging it is so incredibly rewarding and fulfilling. Anyone, anywhere can take part.  For further information take a look at their website: https://40acts.org.uk/

Shrove Tuesday 

What is it?

Shrove Tuesday (also known as Pancake Tuesday or Pancake day) is the last day before the fasting period of Lent and is celebrated by Christians and others alike by consuming lots of pancakes. Shrove Tuesday comes from the word shrive, meaning absolve and is observed by many Christians who traditionally give something up for Lent and think about their walk with God and what amends need to be made. Chocolate is a usual favourite to give up during Lent, which then leads to a huge chocolate fest at Easter!

When is it?

This moveable event is determined by Easter. It is the seventh week before Easter each year and is the day in February or March immediately preceding Ash Wednesday (the first day of Lent). In 2017 this falls on Tuesday 28th February. 

History

It’s centuries old and used to last a week before Lent but the custom of eating pancakes on Shrove Tuesday dates back to the 16th century. Christians repent of their sins in preparation for Lent. Some parish church ring their bells, known as the shriving bell, to call people to confess their sins.

Pancakes are a way to use up rich foods such as eggs (symbolising creation), milk (symbolising purity), and sugar, before the fasting season of the 40 days of Lent.  Fasting emphasises eating plainer food and refraining from food that would give pleasure (such as chocolate and meat). 

Pancake Races

Pancake races are common and usually organised by community groups or pubs. People race through the streets tossing pancakes into the air and catching them in the frying pan while running. There are usually rules about how many times the pancake has to be flipped or having to stop and pick up a dropped pancake. Fancy dress is also a common feature of these races, particularly men dressing up as women (but maybe that’s just the ones I’ve attended!).

Every year in London the Rehab Parliamentary Pancake Race takes place on Shrove Tuesday.  Teams from the House of Commons race against the House of Lords and the Press. They compete for the title of Parliamentary Pancake Race Champions in a fun relay race. 

Shrovetide Football

Also known as mob football. It’s crazy and it’s pretty difficult to keep up with which team is winning. It’s a community event dating back to the 17th century. The practice mostly died out in the 19th century after the passing of the Highway Act 1835 which banned playing football on public highways. A number of towns have maintained the tradition including Ashbourne in Derbyshire (called the Royal Shrovetide Football), near to where we live in the U.K. Pretty much everyone steers clear of the town unless you are taking part. Traffic is stopped and pubs are full from early morning as participants ready themselves for the brutal battle ahead. Shops board up for the two days to avoid damage.

The game is played over two days on Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday from 2pm to 10pm. The game is started by the ball being thrown in by a local celebrity or visiting dignitary. In 2003, HRH The Prince of Wales started the game. If the ball is gaoled before 5:30pm the game is restarted from the town centre. The ball is usually carried, like in rugby, although kicking and throwing are also permitted. The ball carrier is usually in the centre of a huge scrum of people and manoeuvred to their own goal. The goals are 3 miles apart. The goal scorer has to tapped three times on the goal area and then is is carried on the shoulders of their team to the courtyard of The Green Man Royal Hotel. The two teams are called the Up’Ards and Down’Ards depending on which side of the river you live. The rules are pretty thin on the ground so practically anything goes. You can’t kill someone (that’s an actual rule!), you can’t carry it in a car or similar and sacred grounds (churches, graveyards etc) are strictly out of bounds. Play after 10pm is also forbidden.

It’s a huge local event which is covered in the local TV news and papers. Participants are usually easy to recognise after the event as they are battered, bruised, crushed and generally hungover!

Pancake Day

We’ve had fun frying pancakes, tossing them and eating them. I enjoy mine with the traditional lemon and sugar. Zahra likes Nutella on hers. Rez likes ice cream and jam with his. 

Whatever you do, wherever you are, enjoy your pancakes. 

Advent

What is it?

Advent is the start of the Christmas season in Christian homes and churches. It is the time of expectant excitement and waiting for the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, the Messiah, at Christmas. 

The term advent is derived from the Latin word meaning “coming”.

When is it?

Advent is the beginning of the western liturgical (public worship, church) year and commences on the fourth Sunday before Christmas, the Sunday nearest to St. Andrew’s Day (30 November). In 2016 advent starts on Sunday 27th November (the first Sunday in Advent) and ends on Saturday 24th December. Christmas Day is Sunday 25th December. The first Sunday of Advent is not a bank holiday in the United Kingdom. Churches (and shopping centers) may be busier than usual as people prepare for Christmas.

Advent calendars, in nearly every home in the U.K. At this time of year, start on the 1st December. Children and adults alike enjoy advent calendars.

Traditions
 

Some Christians attend special church services on the first Sunday in Advent. Some churches also hold a Christingle service for children and families. During a Christingle service, each child is presented with or carries a Christingle. The Christingle is an orange with a lighted candle with sweets. 

Christians collect money and donations of food, clothes and other supplies to help support families facing violence, neglect or poverty in their daily lives.

Many people put up Christmas decorations in their homes, schools and offices on or just after the first Sunday in Advent. Christmas cards are written and posted to family members and friends – even in this digital age. Everyone likes to receive the annual Christmas card- many now containing updates on family activities throughout the year. This is also the time to bake a Christmas cake and store it for Christmas Day and some more adventurous prepare the Christmas pudding.

The Christmas lights in town centers, shopping centers and lights on large Christmas trees in public places are also turned on in ceremonies in this week. The enormous Christmas tree in Trafalgar Square in London is an annual present from the Norwegians to express their gratitude for the UK’s support for their country during World War II.

Advent Calendars

LEGO City Advent Calendar

It flumoxed me a bit when I was met with blank faces when I asked where I could buy an Advent Calendar in Bangalore. They simply have never heard of it. Christmas is not a big event in a Hindu nation. I had not understood the full reality of that until I asked this question. 

An Advent calendar is a special calendar used to count and celebrate the days in anticipation of Christmas. Advent calendars are a large rectangular piece of card incorporating 24 small numbered flaps or windows,one for each day of December leading up to and including Christmas Eve (December 24). A window is opened on each day of Advent. When I was a child it was a nativity scene and each window revealed a picture appropriate to the season, a poem, a portion of a Bible story (such as the story of the Nativity of Jesus). Today advent calendars contain a small gift, such as a toy or a chocolate item. They are rarely of the nativity and mainly branded commercial items. There are Advent calendars now specifically marketed for adults containing scented candles, make up, alcohol and many other items. They’re great – but I wish these could all be marketed along with the traditional Advent calendar…after all “Jesus is the reason for the season”!

Shopkins chocolate Advent Calendar

Advent wreaths 



The keeping of an advent wreath is also a common practice in homes or churches. These are groups of four candles with leaves and twigs from evergreen trees and plants. People light one candle on the first Sunday of Advent, two on the second Sunday, three on the third Sunday and all four on the fourth Sunday. Some people then continue to light all four candles during the Christmas period. It is now more popular to hang a Christmas wreath on the front door to a home; these wreaths do not have candles. 

In the Church Of England the readings for the first Sunday in Advent relate to the old testament patriarchs who were Christ’s ancestors, so some call the first advent candle that of hope. 

The readings for the second Sunday concern Christ’s birth in a manger and other prophecies, so the candle may be called of Bethlehem, the way or of the prophets. 

The third Sunday is celebrated with rose-colored vestments. The readings relate to St. John the Baptist and the rose candle may be called of joy or of the shepherds.

The readings for the fourth Sunday relate to the announcement of Christ’s birth, so the candle may be known as the Angel’s candle.

 Where an advent wreath includes a fifth candle, it is known as the Christ candle and lit during the Christmas Eve service.

Enjoy Advent

I wish everyone an enjoyable Advent. Enjoy the anticipation and excitement of the coming celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour for all mankind. 

Easter Sunday – The Resurrection of Jesus, The Son of God

Easter is the day Christians remember the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead after 3 days lying in the tomb. He defeated death and sin. He conquered evil so that all who believe in Him may go to Heaven. It is detailed in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John and Paul the Apostle wrote about the resurrection in 1 Corinthians chapter 15.

When is it?

The week before Easter is called Holy Week which includes Maundy Thursday when the Last Supper (the last meal Jesus had with His disciples) took place and Good Friday, the day Jesus was crucified.

Easter is celebrated on the first Sunday after the full moon in March or April. In 2016 it is on Sunday 27th March, which is also the same day as daylight saving time begins in the UK (British Summer Time) and all the clocks are put forward one hour. 

What is it? 

The resurrection occurred 3 days after Jesus was crucified by the Romans at Calvary and was anointed and laid to rest in a tomb by Joseph of Arimathea and a large rock rolled in front of it. On the third day God raised Him from the dead. The tomb was discovered to be empty when the women visited the tomb just before sunrise on the first day of the week. Angels appeared to them and told them that Christ had risen from the dead, not to be afraid and to tell the disciples. Peter, the most beloved disciple, ran to the tomb to find the folded grave clothes and the stone rolled away.

The belief in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is the key to Christianity. It is the plan of salvation and redemption, the sacrifice was an atonement for sin. “If we confess our sins He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”(1 John chapter 1 verse 9) “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John chapter 3 verse 16).

Jesus appeared to the disciples and many people over a period of 40 days before He ascended to Heaven to sit at the right hand of God. Jesus first appeared to a woman, Mary Magdalene, and commissioned her to tell the disciples that He had risen from the dead. Jesus week later He appeared to doubting Thomas who had to touch Jesus’ wounds before he would believe it was Jesus risen from the dead. Jesus was not instantly recognisable after His resurrection and it took some moments before people recognised Him. Jesus said “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”(John 20:24-29)

My faith

I know that because I believe that Jesus was the Son of God, that He died for me on the cross and that I have asked for forgiveness for all the wrong in my life that I will be with Him in Heaven one day. My life has a purpose. There is a reason I am here on earth and that is fulfilling God’s plan for me whilst I am here.  I have no desire to fawn over so called celebrities; I have no interest in becoming famous; I don’t need the latest fashion or handbag (although I will admit to a weakness for shoes!); I don’t want to go out and get drunk every Friday and Saturday night because it’s the end of the working week. There is more to life than work, shopping and alcohol – and it is found in Jesus. In the West merely using the word Jesus (in a religious rather than cursing context) makes people uncomfortable and shy away from being near you. That one word – Jesus- makes people think that you are some religious fanatic but the reality is that I am just like any other person with my successes, failings, inadequacies, skills, worries and joys and I swear (quite a lot sometimes) and say what I think always (which is not always welcome). I am the same on the outside as anybody else – what makes me different is my belief in the Son of God, that He forgives me and that gives my life a purpose.

How is it celebrated?

In the UK church services are held at sunrise to mark when Jesus was discovered to have risen from the dead. Other church services are held in the morning. There is a celebratory atmosphere with joyful singing that the Son of God has risen from the dead so that we may be with Him in Paradise. 

Families gather and have roast dinner together. Chocolate Easter Eggs are usually exchanged but especially for children. 

Most shops in the UK are closed on Easter Sunday. Shops in the UK are only required to close on 2 days each year – Christmas Day, when Jesus was born, and Easter Sunday, when Jesus rose from the dead. 

The ‘Easter Bunny’ pays a visit in the early hours of the morning and leaves chocolate eggs lying around in the home or garden. Children excitedly hunt for them as soon as they wake up. Chocolate eggs for breakfast is common place on Easter Sunday!

Want to know more?

If you want to know more or, best of all, welcome Jesus into your heart take a look at http://www.crosscheck.org.uk for more information. 

Good Friday – The Crucifixtion of Jesus, Son of God

I write quite a bit about Hindu festivals in India, there are so many of them, but so far not written very much about Christianity. I have been asked lots of questions about Easter as we put up decorations inside the house and on the door. Zahra’s friends and the staff have been intrigued and listened intently to the gospel as I have explained about the meaning of Lent, Good Friday and Easter Sunday. There is genuine interest. It’s strange for me, coming from the west it’s extremely difficult to open a conversation about Christianity – people are just not interested in ‘Bible Bashers’ talking about their faith. Here, people are interested and ask about it and question. It took me by surprise initially and I tried not to look astonished at the open opportunity to tell the gospel. Now I am a little more prepared for the questions and just tell it how it is (yes, I know, nothing new for me there!). So this post is for those readers who don’t know much about Christianity, Jesus and the sacrifice He made for us all.
The Crucifixtion of Jesus, Son of God

Good Friday is the day that Jesus, the Son of God, and Messiah (Christ) was arrested, tried and sentenced by Pontius Pilate to be flogged and finally handed over to the Jews who crucified Him. (It is established as a historical event from non Christian sources although among historians there is no consensus on the precise details of what occurred.) It is chronicled in the Bible in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. 

Jesus was stripped of his clothing and cruelly flogged. He was clothed in a robe of Royal purple and a crown of thorns placed on his head. He was beaten and spat on. He was then forced to carry the cross to Golgotha, the place of the skull, where He was nailed by the hands and feet to the cross and hung to be crucified between two thieves. The soldiers fixed a sign to the cross saying “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews” in three different languages. The soldiers divided Jesus clothes amongst themselves, casting lots for His robe. Jesus offered words of forgiveness to His killers: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”(Luke 23 verse 34). It was Jesus’ prayer for forgiveness for all those who were involved crucifying Him and the Roman soldiers who carried out the actual crucifixtion.

The Thief

When one of the thieves who were being crucified with Him, asked to be remembered when Jesus comes into His Kingdom and asked for forgiveness of his sins from the Son of God, Jesus replied with words of salvation: “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise”. (Luke 23 v43.)

Mary, Mother of Jesus

On seeing His mother, Mary, Jesus said:”Woman, behold your son. Son, behold your mother.” This was an instruction to His beloved disciple John to look after His mother and John took Mary into his family that day. Jesus was caring for His mother even on the cross, when He was in agony, His thoughts were for His mother. It shows the depth of Jesus love for His mother and for the disciple John into whom He entrusted her care.

Jesus’ Death

“Around the ninth hour, Jesus shouted in a loud voice, saying “Eli Eli lama sabachthani?” Which is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27 verse 46 and Mark 15 verse 34). This is the cry of the Son of God who showed His true humanity and felt forsaken by His father in Heaven. He was offered sour wine vinegar to drink when “He said, “I thirst”” (John 19 verse 28) . It was offered to Him on a hyssop branch to His lips. This fulfilled the phrophecy in Psalm 61 verse 21.

Jesus plan was fulfilled when He said “It is finished”( John 19 verse 30) – He had completed what He had come to do. Salvation was made possible. He had taken our place. His love was demonstrated by dying for us so that we may live – a sacrifice for all of humanity’s sins. Jesus last word on the cross were “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit” (Luke 23 verse 48). He was reunited with God the Father. Mission accomplished. Darkness fell across the land and the veil in the Temple was torn from top to bottom.

After Jesus died the soldiers pierced his side with a sword to confirm that He was dead. After His death, Joseph of Arimathea requested the body of Jesus from Pontiius Pilate and placed it in a new garden tomb.

Jesus death on the cross was a knowing and willing sacrifice for the whole of humanity’s sins and make salvation possible. This is what is commemorated on Good Friday every year – the sacrifice that Jesus, the Son of God, made for all humanity.

Find out what happened next and what is celebrated on Easter Sunday in another blog post coming soon!