Source: Hinduism Today
KAUAI, HAWAII, December 17, 2006: (HPI note: In the late 1980s, Hinduism Today's founder, Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami, created the festival of "Pancha Ganapati" in response to requests from his devotees living in the West for an alternative celebration to Christmas. It was especially meant for children. Following is his explanation of the festival.)
Pancha Ganapati is a modern Hindu festival of the Five-Faced (pancha means "five") Maha Ganapati -- Lord of Categories. This festival falls during the thirty days of the Markali Pillaiyar home festival and lasts for five days -- from December 21 through 25.
The winter solstice has always been a festive time of year in all countries and religions, among Hindus especially, for it is a traditional season for the worship of Lord Ganesha. In Hindu Vedic Astrology this time of year marks the end of the sun's southward movement and the beginning of its movement north, the change from dakshinayana to uttarayana. Since Hindus do not celebrate Christmas, they often find it difficult to relate in a meaningful way to those who do. Their children are often embarrassed when asked why they do not receive gifts on December 25. Adults feel the need to give gifts and mail greeting cards as well as receive them from their relatives, neighbors, friends and business associates. Pancha Ganapati is a Hindu expression of this natural season of worship, gift-giving and celebration.
December 25 and the days that precede and follow it have truly become a special time of year for people of many religions, and for the non-religious as well. In fact, this season has become so universally popular that it has virtually become a secular cultural holiday in addition to its special observance by certain religions. Recognizing this fact, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Christmas a secular, social holiday. This is because it has become a time for everyone to rejoice, give and share their abundance, each in his own way.