Pilgrimage more than just a trip for faithful
FOR Christians, it is a time when their most cherished beliefs are honoured. For those of the Jewish faith, it is a period of deep historical significance.
It is the Jewish celebration of Passover, a commemoration of the time when God liberated them from slavery under the leadership of Moses. Hindus celebrate Hanuman Jayanti — a traditional god who worshipping brings strength, energy and devotion — on this day.
Around the world, societies mark their holidays in different ways, but each brings renewed hope for peace and a better world.
May all of you who affix special meaning to these days find joy in their meaning throughout the coming year.
Around this weekend especially, Christians from around the world will have chosen to make the pilgrimage of their lives to Israel, the Holy Land, where Jesus was born, lived and died. Others will have made the journey to Italy to hear the words of Pope Francis from his balcony at the Vatican.
As important as they are in the very personal beliefs and commitments of the individuals that make them, pilgrimages are an important factor in tourism, regardless of religious background.
In no small part because it is the fifth pillar of Islam to make a pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia, this is likely the largest of all annual pilgrimages.
Known as the Hajj, the dedication to seventh-century prophet Muhammad is the driving force today, although many say the pilgrimages may have started much earlier.
It is estimated almost two million people will travel to Saudi Arabia for this year’s pilgrimage, plus an additional 400,000 or more Saudis.
The year 2017 is likely to see a massive convergence of pilgrims to Germany to mark the 500th anniversary of the Reformation and the celebration of the formation of the Lutheran Church by Martin Luther.
Sometimes referred to as the Protestant Reformation, it had a seemingly innocuous start when Martin Luther penned a scholastic objection against the Catholic Church’s practice of indulgences. Indulgences were based on ideas around the absolution and forgiveness of sins, which at some point took on financial overtones.
Lutheranism has spread around the world, and adherents to the church will likely descend upon the places of its early history.
For Germany, 2017 is likely to be a banner year of tourism, and officials have been planning for years how to welcome the visitors with various events that will keep them in the country as long as possible.
India is a large country, and people of Indian heritage have significant populations in other countries around the world.
Pilgrimages are common, as Hindus frequently seek to gather in the sacred places they refer to as tirthas, with the actual action of going on these pilgrimages know as tirtha-yatra. Many of these places of pilgrimage are near lakes, mountains or forests. Devout Hindus believe these destinations are the meeting places between heaven and earth.
Pilgrimages have become big business in the world of travel. While associated primarily with religious points of interest, the concept has expanded well beyond the original meaning of the word.
Many tours have been organized to the cemeteries of the war dead in Europe. My own mother was a part of one many years ago, when families of fallen Canadian soldiers were invited by the people of Holland to visit the rows of crosses at Holte, and other burial grounds.
Last year was the 60th anniversary of D-Day. Many thousands of Canadians, including government officials, travelled to Normandy to mark the occasion. At the Juno Beach Centre, Canada’s own Second World War museum, they paid homage to the 45,000 Canadians who died in that war and the 5,500 killed in the Battle of Normandy.
In the newly refurbished centre, Canadians will be welcomed this year by the thousands, as they will be for decades to come.
In sharp contrast, but nevertheless serious to those who participate, there are still pilgrimages that take place in organized tours and individual visits to the Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris, where rock star Jim Morrison is buried. He was only 27 when he died of a presumed drug overdose in 1971, but his memory lives on in the hundreds who still go to France to say goodbye to their idol.
Graceland in Memphis, Tenn., where Elvis Presley lived and died, still welcomes large and small group tours dedicated to keeping the memories of the King alive.
But it is religious sites that attract the majority of organized travel packages for the modern-day pilgrim.
There are a number of options for believers to follow in the footsteps of Christ. Others will travel to places such as Lourdes in the foothills of the Pyrenees, or Fatima in Portugal, to worship at sites where messages from Christ appeared in one form or another.
Whether your pilgrimage is to a local place of worship or to a distant place, may this weekend bring you peace and harmony.
Forward your travel questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Ron Pradinuk is president of Journeys Travel & Leisure SuperCentre, and can be heard
Sundays at noon on CJOB. Previous columns and tips can be found at www. journeystravelgear.com. Read Ron’s travel blog at www.thattravelguy.ca.