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the Big Picture

Category: religion

October 9, 2014 Permalink

We've moved!

Six years and 966 entries after this blog launched, it's time for some updates. We've got a new design. The pictures are bigger and you can enjoy them on your phones and tablets.

Check us out at our new home on BostonGlobe.com But, don't worry! All our old entries will remain archived here on Boston.com. If you have any feedback on the changes, please let us know.

— The Big Picture team:

Bill Greene, Director of Photography
Thea Breite, Senior Multimedia Editor
Leanne Burden Seidel, Picture Editor
Lloyd Young, Photo Editor
Joel Abrams, Product Manager


October 3, 2014 Permalink

Observing rituals of faith

Across the Middle East and the world this week, preparations have been made for major holidays of different faiths. As Hajj culminates, the Muslim holiday Eid al-Adha is celebrated this weekend. Yom Kippur completes the period of High Holy Days for the Jewish community. --Leanne Burden Seidel (20 photos total)

Ultra-Orthodox Jews reflect on a car window as they gather on a hill overlooking the Mediterranean sea as they participate in a Tashlich ceremony in Herzeliya, Israel, Oct. 2. Tashlich, which means "to cast away" in Hebrew, is the practice by which Jews go to a large flowing body of water and symbolically "throw away" their sins by throwing a piece of bread, or similar food, into the water before the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur, which start on Friday. (Oded Balilty/Associated Press)
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September 22, 2014 Permalink

Syrian Kurdish refugees flooding into Turkey

At least 130,000 refugees have poured into Turkey over the past three days, escaping an Islamic State offensive in Syria. On Friday, Turkey reopened its border but forces fired tear gas and water cannon at hundreds of Kurdish protesters who accuse Ankara of favoring Islamic State against the Kurds. --Thea Breite (20 photos total)

Syrian refugees gather at the border in Suruc, Turkey, late Saturday, Sept. 20, 2014. (AP)
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September 8, 2014 Permalink

Romanian Romas celebrate the birth of the Virgin Mary

The Roma community in Romania celebrates the Birth of the Virgin Mary in Costesti, Romania. Thousands of Gypsies or Roma gather on a hillside after attending a religious service in a nearby monastery and celebrate the holiday by sharing food and playing traditional music until the next dawn. The feast day of the Assumption of Mary, or simply Assumption Day or St Mary’s Day, is one of the most important feasts in the Orthodox Christian calendar. --Thea Breite (11 photos total)

A vendor sells balloons as the Roma community celebrates the Birth of the Virgin Mary in Costesti, Romania, Monday, Sept. 8, 2014. (Vadim Ghirda/AP)
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August 18, 2014 Permalink

Pope Francis in South Korea

Pope Francis wrapped up the first papal visit to Asia in 15 years, urging the divided Koreas to reject suspicion and confrontation and unite as "one family, one people." Francis spent five days in South Korea, meeting some of the country's five million Catholics. Note: if you're interested in the Pope, please check out our upcoming sister site, Crux: Covering all things Catholic. --Thea Breite (23 photos total)

Pope Francis and South Korean President Park Geun-hye inspect South Korean honor guards during a welcoming ceremony at the presidential Blue House on August 14, 2014 in Seoul, South Korea. (Kim Hong-Ji-Pool/Getty Images)
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July 25, 2014 Permalink

Conflict continues in Gaza

The conflict in the Mideast has intensified in the last month with turbulent fighting in Gaza strip. Over 800 Palestinians have been killed and over 5,000 injured, according to Palestinan health officials. World leaders have been working on a truce between Hamas and Israel to end the bloodshed. --Leanne Burden Seidel (36 photos total)

Smoke and flames are seen following what police said was an Israeli air strike in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip July 8. Israel bombarded dozens of targets in the Gaza Strip on, stepping up what it said might become a long-term offensive against Islamist Hamas after a surge in Palestinian rocket attacks on Israeli towns. (Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Reuters)
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June 2, 2014 Permalink

Iran: 25 years after the death of Ayatollah Khomeini

This week Shiraz observes the 25th anniversary of the death and continued legacy of the Ayatollah Khomeini, the father of the Islamic revolution. Getty Images photographer John Moore spent time photographing in the heart of central Iran. --Thea Breite (19 photos total)

A scarecrow stands vigil over a backyard garden, as does a photo of Iran's current supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Kamenei on June 1, 2014 in Narin, in central Iran. Narin, known for its mud brick architecture and handicrafts, has been a prominent stop on trade routes since the Sassanid era. (John Moore/Getty Images)
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May 12, 2014 Permalink

India elections: Exit polls predict Modi win

Today was the final day of voting in India’s national elections. With 814 million eligible voters, India has been voting in phases over six weeks. The Hindu nationalist opposition candidate Narendra Modi is seen as the front-runner for prime minister. Opinion polls almost unanimously predict Modi's BJP will emerge as the largest party when votes are tallied on Friday to fill 543 seats in the Lok Sabha, or House of the People. India's rupee and stocks surged as investors bet Modi will usher in a stable government focused on reviving Asia's third-largest economy. Results are expected on Friday. --Thea Breite (16 photos total)

People wait in a queue to cast their votes at a polling station in Jaunpur, in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, India, Monday, May 12, 2014. (Rajesh Kumar Singh/AP)
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April 18, 2014 Permalink

Week of observances

Religious ceremonies, some solemn, some joyous, took place around the world this week. Holy Week is observed by many different Christians before Easter. The Jewish holiday of Passover is celebrated for a week, and the New Year festivals of Vaisakhi and Thinhyan were also observed. --Leanne Burden Seidel (28 photos total)

An Indian Sikh pilgrim parades on April 13 in Bobigny, near Paris, during celebrations for Vaisakhi, the Sikh New Year Festival, which also commemmorates the founding of the Khalsa (Sikh community) by the tenth Guru (Guru Gobind Singh) in 1699. (LIONEL BONAVENTURE/AFP/Getty Images)
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March 31, 2014 Permalink

The upcoming 2014 Afghan election

Afghans will head to the polls on Saturday April 5 to choose a successor to President Hamid Karzai and to decide the make-up of 34 provincial councils in elections seen as a benchmark of progress since the Taliban were ousted from power in 2001. --Thea Breite (14 photos total)

Presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah arrives for an election campaign in Panjshir Province March 31, 2014. (Ahmad Masood/Reuters)
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January 27, 2014 Permalink

Syria: Negotiators talk and people still suffer

While negotiators from all sides hold difficult talks in Geneva, the violence continues for the Syrian people The Syrian government said women and children could leave the besieged city and that rebels should hand over the names of the men who would remain. A U.S. State Department spokesman said an evacuation was not an alternative to immediate aid." --Thea Breite (16 photos total)

A child clears damage and debris in the besieged area of Homs January 26, 2014. (Thaer Al Khalidiya/Reuters)
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January 13, 2014 Permalink

Muslims around the world celebrate the birth of Mohammed

Muslims around the world celebrate the birth of the Islamic Prophet Muhammed, who was born in Mecca, Saudi Arabia in 570 AD. His birthday is marked in many ways in different Muslim nations. --Thea Breite (16 photos total)

An illuminated mosque on the eve of the Eid-Milad-ul-Nabi, the birthday of Prophet Mohammad, in Karachi, Pakistan, January 13, 2014. Eid-Milad-ul-Nabi, is celebrated all over the world every year with traditional festivity and religious fervor. (Shahzaib Akber/EPA)
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November 4, 2013 Permalink

Egypt: Morsi trial adjourned

Deposed Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi was in court in Cairo facing charges of inciting the murder of protesters. It was the first time since his removal from office on July 3rd to be seen in public. Morsi, speaking from a defendant's cage, refused to recognize the legitimacy of the court. Thousands rallied outside the court in Cairo and demonstrations took place in other locations in Egypt. The trial was adjourned until Jan. 8. --Thea Breite ( 27 photos )

A supporter of the Egyptian Army and Army chief General Abel Fattah al-Sissi shows a poster depicting him during a protest outside the high court on the first day of Morsi's trial on November 4, 2013 in Cairo. (Mahmoud Khaled Mahmoud/AFP/Getty Images)
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April 1, 2013 Permalink

Holi celebrations 2013

The Hindu festival of Holi celebrates the beginning of spring. As a festival of colors that marks events in Hindu mythology, it provides photographers with a visual feast. Holi falls on the last full moon day of the lunar month Phalguna, which was on March 27 this year. It is a joyous ritual when intense colors, light, emotion, and energy combine in a surreal vision of spirituality. Enjoy! -Leanne Burden Seidel (36 photos total)

Boys spray colored foam during Holi celebrations at a lane near the Bankey Bihari temple in Vrindavan, in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh March 26, 2013. (Adnan Abidi/Reuters)
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March 20, 2013 Permalink

Pope Francis Inaugural Mass

Pope Francis officially became the 266th leader of the Roman Catholic Church's 1.2 billion worldwide followers yesterday during his formal installation Mass in St. Peter's Square. Formally known as Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the 76-year-old Argentinean is the first non-European pope in more than 1,200 years and the first from South America. During the Mass, which was attended by an estimated 150,000 to 200,000 people, Francis pledged to serve ‘‘the poorest, the weakest, the least important,’’ striking the same tones of humility that have marked the days since his election. -- Lloyd Young ( 24 photos total)

Pope Francis waves to the crowd as he arrives in the popemobile for his inauguration Mass in St. Peter's Square on March 19 in Vatican City, Vatican. The Mass is being held in front of an expected crowd of up to 200,000 pilgrims and faithful who filled the square to see the former Cardinal of Buenos Aires officially take up his role as pontiff. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
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February 27, 2013 Permalink

Pope Benedict XVI's last general audience

Pope Benedict XVI appeared at his final weekly general audience today at St. Peter’s Square in front of an estimated 150,000 people recalling moments of "joy and light’’ as well as difficulty during his eight years as pontiff. Benedict, 85, said he decided to retire after realizing he didn’t have the "strength of mind or body" to carry on. Benedict meets tomorrow with cardinals for a final time before traveling to his retirement residence at Castel Gandolfo south of Rome. -- Lloyd Young ( 25 photos total)

Pope Benedict XVI waves as he passes thousands of pilgrims and well wishers in St. Peter's Square after holding his final weekly general audience of his tenure today. (Michael Kappeler/European Pressphoto Agency)
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February 15, 2013 Permalink

2013 World Press Photo Contest Winners

For over 55 years, the World Press Photo contest has encouraged the highest standards in photojournalism. The contest is judged by leading experts in visual journalism who represent various aspects of the profession and the composition of the jury is changed from year to year. The prize-winning images are assembled into an exhibition that travels to 45 countries over the course of a year and over two million people go to a hundred different venues to see the images. The winners themselves uphold the foundation's simple mission statement: We exist to inspire understanding of the world through quality photojournalism. A sampling of the winning images follows. You can browse more amazing content on World Press Photo. -- Paula Nelson (NOTE: There will be no post on Monday in observance of the holiday.) ( 18 photos total)

World Press Photo of the Year 2012 - Paul Hansen/Sweeden/Dagens Nyheter - Nov. 20, 2012, Gaza City, Palestinian Territories. Two-year-old Suhaib Hijazi and her three-year-old brother Muhammad were killed when their house was destroyed by an Israeli missile strike. Their father, Fouad, was also killed and their mother was put in intensive care. Fouad’s brothers carry his children to the mosque for the burial ceremony as his body is carried behind on a stretcher.
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January 18, 2013 Permalink

Maha Kumbh Mela

Held only once every twelve years, the cleansing ritual of the Maha Kumbh Mela sees up to a hundred million Hindu devotees symbolically bathe away their sins in the holy Ganges River. It is thought to be the largest gathering of humanity on earth. For 55 days devotees wade into the river to bathe, and join other religious observations on the banks of the Triveni Sangam, the confluence of the Ganges, Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati rivers. Various sadhu and sadhvi (holy men and women) abound. The Maha Kumbh Mela began this year on January 14, with preparations starting weeks earlier. [Editors' note: The Big Picture will not publish on Monday, January 21, as we observe the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday. We will return on January 23 with regular posts.] -- Lane Turner (37 photos total)

Hindu devotees bathe in the waters of the holy Ganges river during the auspicious bathing day of Makar Sankranti of the Maha Kumbh Mela on January 14, 2013 in Allahabad, India. The Maha Kumbh Mela, believed to be the largest religious gathering on earth, is held every 12 years on the banks of Sangam, the confluence of the holy rivers Ganga, Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati. The Kumbh Mela alternates between the cities of Nasik, Allahabad, Ujjain and Haridwar every three years. The Maha Kumbh Mela celebrated at the holy site of Sangam in Allahabad, is the largest and holiest. Celebrated over 55 days, it is expected to attract over 100 million people. (Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images)
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December 17, 2012 Permalink

2012 Year in Pictures: Part I

Another year has come and gone and with it hundreds of thousands of images have recorded the world's evolving history; moments in individual lives; the weather and it's affects on the planet; acts of humanity and tragedies brought by man and by nature. The following is a compilation - not meant to be comprehensive in any way - of images from the first 4 months of 2012. Parts II and III to follow this week. -- Paula Nelson ( 64 photos total)

Fireworks light up the skyline and Big Ben just after midnight, January 1, 2012 in London, England. Thousands of people lined the banks of the River Thames in central London to ring in the New Year with a spectacular fireworks display. (Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
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December 3, 2012 Permalink

Christmas approaches

The appearance of multiple simultaneous Santa Clauses is a sure sign that mankind's most widely recognized and commercialized religious holiday is near. It's also a sign that the holiday is celebrated by many more people than just faithful Christians, for better or worse. From the traditional Christmas markets in Germany to elfin divers feeding dolphins in Japan to the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem where it all began, Christmas is observed worldwide for commercial, irreverent, and religious reasons. Gathered here are images of people as they herald the advance of an entire season built, loosely or faithfully, around the birth of Jesus Christ. -- Lane Turner (37 photos total)

German bicycle designer Didi Senft, known during the Tour de France as "El Diabolo", presents his latest Christmas-themed construction in Storkow, Germany on November 29, 2012. (Patrick Pleul/AFP/Getty Images)
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October 26, 2012 Permalink

In preparation for Eid al-Adha

Eid al-Adha also called Feast of the Sacrifice, is an important 3-day religious holiday celebrated by Muslims worldwide to honor the willingness of the prophet Ibrahim (Abraham) to sacrifice his young first-born son Ismail (Ishmael) a as an act of submission to God and his son's acceptance of the sacrifice, before God intervened to provide Abraham with a ram to sacrifice instead. The 3 days and 2 nights of Eid al-Adha are celebrated annually on the 10th, 11th and 12th day of Dhu al-Hijjah, the twelfth and last month of the lunar Islamic calendar. Eid begins today. -- Paula Nelson ( 32 photos total)

A livestock market ahead of the sacrificial Eid al-Adha festival in Karachi, Oct. 24, 2012. Eid al-Adha, or the Feast of Sacrifice, honors Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son Ishmael on the order of God, who according to tradition then provided a lamb in the boy's place. (Asif Hassan/AFP/Getty Images)
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September 17, 2012 Permalink

Anti-Islam video protests

Protests throughout the world continue to rage a week after they began over a crudely-produced video that mocks Islam. The internet video, produced in the United States, led to anti-American demonstrations in dozens of countries. As many as 17 people have died in the violence. American warships stood by off Libya after the US ambassador there was killed in a possibly-related attack. The embassies, consulates, and commercial interests of other western nations have been attacked during the protests. -- Lane Turner (30 photos total)

Afghan protesters set fire to a US flag as they shout slogans during a demonstration in Kabul on September 16, 2012. (Omar Sobhani/Reuters)
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July 25, 2012 Permalink

Ramadan 2012 begins

All over the world Muslims have begun their holiest month of the year by fasting from dawn until dusk each day, broken each evening by large, communal meals. The start of Ramadan is earlier each year because it is calculated based on the sighting of the new moon, which begins the Muslim lunar month. Muslims use the time to reevaluate their lives through the scope of Islamic doctrine. -- Lloyd Young (41 photos total)

A Palestinian reads from the Koran during the dawn prayer on the first day of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan at a mosque in the West Bank city of Jenin on July 20. Muslims from Morocco to Afghanistan are steeling themselves for the toughest Ramadan in more than three decades with no food or drink, not even a sip of water, for 14 hours a day during the hottest time of the year. (Mohammed Ballas/Associated Press)
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July 13, 2012 Permalink

Amarnath: Journey to the shrine of a Hindu god

Each year, Hindu devotees make a pilgrimage to the sacred Amarnath Cave, one of the most revered Hindu shrines, near Baltal, Kashmir, India. The Amarnath Cave has been a place of worship since times immemorial, with references found in many ancient texts. According a Hindu legend, this is the cave where Shiva explained the secret of life and eternity to his divine consort Parvati. The cave itself is covered with snow most times of the year except for a short period in summer when it is open for pilgrims. The cave is situated at an altitude of 3,888 m (12,756 ft). Hindu devotees brave sub-zero temperatures to hike over glaciers and high altitude mountain passes to reach the sacred Amarnath cave, which houses an ice stalagmite, worshiped by Hindus as a symbol of the god Shiva. More than 700,000 Hindu pilgrims are expected to take part in this year's two-month pilgrimage, according to local officials, causing strain on the environment and political stability of the region, which has long fought for independence from India. -- Paula Nelson (46 photos total)

Indian Hindu pilgrims rest at the beginning of the traditional journey to the Amarnath cave, near Chandanwari, 100 kilometers (62 miles) from Srinagar, India. Thousands of pilgrims annually go to the remote Himalayan shrine of Amarnath at 3,888 meters (12,756 feet) above sea level to worship an icy stalagmite representing Shiva, the Hindu god of destruction, June 27, 2012. (Kevin Frayer/Associated Press)
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May 18, 2012 Permalink

Daily Life: May 2012

Thousands of images are supplied by multiple wire services to newspapers across the country each day. Many of those images depict ordinary scenes of life in different countries around the world. There are three picture editors that contribute to the Big Picture blog, each of them seeing the world in a little bit of a different way. Their backgrounds, their experiences, their interests - all very disparate. Each of them given the same resources (the visual wire) to edit from, each choosing very different ways to tell a story. The following photographs are my choices of those images for the month of May (and a few from late April) illustrating daily life around the world. -- Paula Nelson (53 photos total)

Adam Ortiz, a fourth-grader at Fairview Elementary, stops traffic while classmates and parents cross Washington at North 11th Street in Klamath Falls, Ore. as part of Walk to School Days, something the school has participated in every Friday in May for three years, May 11. 2012. (Andrew Mariman/The Herald and News)
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April 30, 2012 Permalink

Young women in Chechnya

Photojournalist Diana Markosian spent the last year and half covering Russia's volatile North Caucasus region. This year she started a personal project entitled "Goodbye My Chechnya" documenting the lives of young Chechen women as they come of age in the aftermath of war.  She writes, "For young women in Chechnya the most innocent acts could mean breaking the law.  A Chechen girl caught smoking is cause for arrest; while rumors of a couple engaging in pre-martial relations can result in her killing.  The few girls who dare to rebel become targets in the eyes of Chechen authorities.  After nearly two decades of vicious war and 70 years of Soviet rule, during which religious participation was banned, modern-day Chechnya is going through Islamic revival. The Chechen government is building mosques in every village, prayer rooms in public schools, and enforcing a stricter Islamic dress code for both men and women. This photo essay chronicles the lives of young Muslim girls who witnessed the horrors of two wars and are now coming of age in a republic that is rapidly redefining itself as a Muslim state."  Markosian, who is based in Grozny, reports that "It has been quite challenging working as a female photojournalist in Chechnya. The region is undergoing significant change as Islam flourishes. The Chechen government is trying to adopt Islamic law and strengthen Chechen traditions. The attitude towards women becomes more conservative and tradition-based. Females are considered submissive and are expected to act demurely in the presence of men.  This naturally makes it difficult to operate as many officials in male-dominated Chechnya don't take women seriously. It's something I try not to take personally and instead find ways to work around. There's also a certain level of fear you have when working and living in a region as unpredictable as the North Caucasus. Something I am still trying to get used to:  my phone conversations are listened to. I am often followed on my shoots by federal security forces; my images have been deleted and I've been detained now more than a dozen times."  Gathered here are images from the last several months of Markosian's reportage on the state of young women in Chechnya, a Russian republic of 1.3 million. -- Lane Turner (33 photos total)

A Chechen teen, who considers herself emo, puts on pink lip gloss. Chechens who dress in emo style are identified by wearing pink and black clothing, Keds, and having punk-style haircuts. They are targets for local authorities. (Copyright Diana Markosian)
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April 13, 2012 Permalink

Afghanistan: March 2012

In early April, in an attempt to accelerate the transition of military responsibility to the Afghan government, the US agreed to hand control of special operations missions to Afghan forces, including night raids, relegating American troops to a supporting role. This deal cleared the way for the two countries to move ahead with an agreement that would establish the shape of American support to Afghanistan after the 2014 troop withdrawal deadline. Domestic support for the war (in the US) has dropped sharply. We look back at March in the troubled country. -- Paula Nelson (37 photos total)

Young Afghan women use an umbrella to shield themselves from the sun in Kabul, April 5, 2012. The position of women in Afghanistan has improved dramatically since the fall of the Taliban, with the number of girls in education soaring. But as the Americans and the Afghan government have pursued peace efforts with the Taliban, women are increasingly concerned that gains in their rights may be compromised in a bid to end the costly and deadly war. (Johannes Eisele/AFP/Getty Images)
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April 9, 2012 Permalink

Easter and Holy Week

Christians commemorated the resurrection of Jesus Christ on Sunday, a holiday that marks the end of Holy Week and the end of Lent. Observances around the world bring a diversity of traditions as varied as the countries celebrating. Eastern Orthodox Christians will observe Easter on April 15. Gathered here are images of Christians during Holy Week and Easter, including reenactments of the Crucifixion, pilgrimages, baptisms, sunrise services, and more. -- Lane Turner (37 photos total)

A girl wears an angel costume during Blood of Christ celebrations at the Metropolitan Cathedral in Managua on March 30, 2012. (Esteban Felix/Associated Press)
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March 30, 2012 Permalink

Pope Benedict XVI visits Cuba

Pope Benedict XVI is back in Rome following his week-long-travels to Mexico and Cuba. In reviewing almost 4,000 images that documented his historic travels to the two countries, I decided to concentrate on Cuba, a country that because of travel restrictions, still remains a bit of a mystery to most of us. The first image, though, shows the Pope traveling to Cristo Rey sanctuary in Mexico to lead the holy mass celebration. The Pope urged the faithful to seek a humble and pure heart and trust in God in the face of evil. While in Cuba, in the heart of Revolution Square, with the towering images of guerrilla heroes staring back at him, the Pope called for "authentic freedom" in one of the world's most authoritarian states. Benedict's visit comes 14 years after the historic first papal trip to Cuba by Pope John Paul II, a visit that yielded an era of greater religious expression. – Paula Nelson (50 photos total)

Pope Benedict XVI looks from the helicopter at the Cristo Rey sanctuary as arrives to lead the holy mass celebration at the Parque del Bicentenario in Silao, March 25, 2012. Pope Benedict XVI sought to boost the Catholic faith in the face of violence and other challenges on his first visit to Mexico, receiving eager support from vast crowds of Mexicans. (Osservatore Romano/AFP/Getty Images)
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March 23, 2012 Permalink

The festival of Purim

Purim, one of the most joyous holidays in the Jewish calendar was held a week ago, March 8 and 9, celebrating the deliverance of the Jewish people in exile in Persia. The story is told in the Book of Esther, which is read as part of the holiday, remembering how a young Jewish girl became queen of Persia and risked the anger of her new husband to get him to prevent an attack on all Jews living in Persia, men, women, and children. The story, also called the Megillah, tells of the fall of the king’s feared adviser, who perishes out of his own malice, the bravery of a young woman, and the perseverance of the Jewish people. The festival is celebrated with gifts of food and drink, feasting, and games, especially dressing in costumes to remember how Esther was chosen as most beautiful in the kingdom. -- Lloyd Young (22 photos total)

An Ultra Orthodox Jewish boy stands dressed in a costume during celebrations for the holiday of Purim at the Belz Hasidic dynasty synagogue in Jerusalem on March 8. Purim is a celebration of the Jews' salvation from genocide in ancient Persia, as recounted in the Book of Esther. (Baz Ratner/Reuters)
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March 14, 2012 Permalink

Afghanistan: February 2012

Angry protests broke out and shock rippled through Afghanistan on February 21 when accounts surfaced that NATO personnel at Bagram Air Base had burned a number of Korans and were preparing to burn more. A NATO spokesman said the books were inadvertently sent for incineration after being gathered at a detention facility for suspected insurgents. The incident brought nearly a week of strong anti-American demonstrations in which 30 people, including American troops were killed and many others wounded. Despite President Obama's letter of apology to President Hamid Karzai, the violence escalated. Two American soldiers were shot dead inside the Interior Ministry building in Kabul on Feb. 25. On Feb. 27, two suicide attackers detonated a car bomb at the entrance to a NATO air base in eastern Afghanistan. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the bombing as revenge for the burning of the Korans. While the violence raged, Afghan civilians faced harsher than usual winter weather and cold temperatures in which more than 40 people, mostly children, have frozen to death. -- Paula Nelson (48 photos total)

Afghan demonstrators show copies of the Koran allegedly set alight by US soldiers, during a protest against Koran desecration at the gate of Bagram airbase, Feb. 21, 2012 at Bagram, north of Kabul. The copies of the burned Korans and Islamic religious texts were obtained by Afghan workers contracted to work inside Bagram air base, and presented to demonstrators gathered outside the military installation.(Shah Marai/AFP/Getty Images)
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March 5, 2012 Permalink

Smithsonian Magazine Photo Contest: 50 Finalists

The Smithsonian magazine's 9th annual photo contest finalists have been chosen. The contest attracted over 14 thousand photographers from all 50 states and over 100 countries. Fifty finalists from 67,059 images were selected by Smithsonian editors. Those editors will also choose the Grand Prize Winner and the winners in each of the five categories which include The Natural World, Americana, People, Travel and Altered Images. Photos were selected based on technical quality, clarity and composition, a flair for the unexpected and the ability to capture a picture-perfect moment. (Smithsonian invites everyone to select an additional "Readers' Choice" winner by voting through March for their favorite image on line.) -- Paula Nelson (25 photos total)

BEHIND THE BLUE Lilongwe, Malawi, May 2011 (Paolo Patruno/Bologna, Italy)
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March 5, 2012 Permalink

Lathmar Holi festival

Traditionally a rite that celebrates the coming of spring, Holi is marked by joyous participants throwing colored water and powder. In northern Uttar Pradesh, "Lathmar Holi" is celebrated before Holi itself, and while it is a rite of spring there as well, the festival also features another layer of fun rooted in Hindu mythology. Lord Krishna is said to have visited the village of Barsana to tease his consort Radha. Women in the town responded by chasing him away. Today women from Barsana "beat" the men from Krishna's village of Nandgaon with sticks for singing provocative songs and throwing colored powder on them. This year Holi itself will be celebrated throughout India and in other places on March 8. -- Lane Turner (22 photos total)

A man daubed in colored powder smiles as he celebrates "Lathmar Holi" in the village of Nandgaon in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh on March 3, 2012. In a Holi tradition unique to Nandgaon and Barsana villages, men sing provocative songs to gain the attention of women, who then "beat" them with bamboo sticks called "lathis". Holi, also known as the Festival of Colours, heralds the beginning of spring and is celebrated all over India. (Adnan Abidi/Reuters)
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February 22, 2012 Permalink

Carnival 2012

A last blast before the observance of Lent, Carnival has evolved in many parts of the world with Christian traditions to be the biggest party of the year. Traditions vary from country to country, and even from region to region, but most places celebrate with a parade filled with masks, music, and ecstatic revelers. The world's biggest party happens in Rio de Janeiro, where millions fill the streets as the parade enters the Sambadrome. Collected here are pictures of Carnival in many forms as celebrated in various parts of Europe, Latin America, and North America. -- Lane Turner (41 photos total)

A performer from the Beija Flor samba school parades during Carnival celebrations at the Sambadrome in Rio de Janeiro on Feb. 20, 2012. Millions watched the sequin-clad samba dancers at Rio de Janeiro's iconic Carnival parade. (Silvia Izquierdo/Associated Press)
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February 10, 2012 Permalink

2012 World Press Photo Contest Winners

By the numbers: 5, 247 Photographers, 124 Nationalities, 101, 254 pictures. Three hundred and fifty images by 57 photographers of 24 nationalities were awarded prizes in nine categories. To view the entire collection of winning images from the 55th World Press Photo Contest: 2012 World Press Photo. -- Paula Nelson (16 photos total)

2012 World Press Photo of the Year: A woman holds a wounded relative during protests against President Saleh in Sanaa, Yemen, Oct. 15, 2011. (Samuel Aranda/The New York Times)
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January 16, 2012 Permalink

Kalachakra: A festival of teachings and meditations

Kalachakra is an ancient ritual that involves a series of prayers, meditations, dances, chants, vows and the construction of a large sand mandala - all with the aim to bring world peace. Kalachakra 2012 began January 1 and lasted for ten days in the northern Indian state of Bihar. The Dalai Lama, the Tibetan Spiritual Leader, gave teachings and participated over the course of the festival. -- Paula Nelson (41 photos total)

A Buddhist devotee holds a lotus flower as she waits to welcome spiritual leader the Dalai Lama in the town of Bodhgaya, believed to be the place where Buddha attained enlightenment, for the upcoming Kalachakra Buddhist festival in the eastern Indian state of Bihar, India. The Kalachakra, the most important ritual of the Mahayana sect of traditional Buddhists, begins Dec. 31. (Altaf Qadri/Associated Press)
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December 23, 2011 Permalink

The Year in Pictures: Part III

In this post, featuring images from the last quarter of 2011, we remember a tumultuous year of change across the globe, the capture of Khadafi, the 10th anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center, the passing of Apple icon Steve Jobs, fire, famine, flood and protests. A memorable year, indeed. -- Paula Nelson -- Please see part 1 and part 2 from earlier. (EDITOR'S NOTE: We will not post a Big Picture on Monday, December 26, due to the Christmas Holiday ) (51 photos total)

A defaced portrait of fugitive Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi in Tripoli on Sept. 1, 2011 as the fallen strongman vowed again not to surrender in a message broadcast on the 42nd anniversary of the coup which brought him to power. (Patrick Baz/AFP/Getty Images)
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November 7, 2011 Permalink

The Hajj and Eid al-Adha

The Hajj pilgrimage draws millions of Muslims from around the world every year to Mecca, the birthplace of the Prophet Muhammad, Islam's holiest place. Saudi Arabia expects to host perhaps three million people in a ritual journey that every able-bodied Muslim who can afford it must make at least once in their lifetime. It is the largest annual gathering of humanity anywhere. Timed to the Muslim lunar calendar, the Hajj is followed by the celebrations of the three-day festival of Eid al-Adha, or the Feast of Sacrifice, which symbolizes Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son. Collected here are photographs of the Hajj in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, as well as images of preparations for the Hajj and Eid al-Adha in many other parts of the Muslim world. -- Lane Turner (42 photos total)

A Muslim pilgrim prays as visits the Hiraa cave at the top of Noor Mountain on the outskirts of Mecca, Saudi Arabia on November 2, 2011. According to tradition, Islam's Prophet Mohammed received his first message to preach Islam while he was praying in the cave. (Hassan Ammar/AP)
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November 4, 2011 Permalink

World Population: Where it's thick and where it's thin

The growing population of the world, now estimated to be over 7 billion, marks a global milestone and presents obvious challenges for the planet.  There are extremely densely populated cities and sparsely populated countries.  China is the most populous country with India following closely behind. This post brings together some disparate illustrations of our world as it grows, including scenes from Mong Kok district in Hong Kong, which has the highest population density in the world, with 130,000 per one square kilometer. In Mongolia, the world's least densely populated country,  2.7 million people are spread across an area three times the size of France.  Then there's Out Skerries, a tiny outcropping of rocks off the east coast of Scotland where the population is just 65.  And doing what he can to contribute to that 7 billion global milestone is Ziona, the head of a religious sect called "Chana."  He has 39 wives, 94 children, and 33 grandchildren. The world is an interesting place. -- Paula Nelson  (41 photos total)

Motorists pack a junction during rush hour in Taipei in 2009. Taiwan's capital is notorious for its traffic jams, even though many motorists choose motorcycles and scooters over cars. United Nations analysts warn that population growth increases pollution, deforestation, and climate change. (Nicky Loh/Reuters)
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October 28, 2011 Permalink

World Population: 7 Billion

On October 31, 2011, the United Nations is expected to announce a projected world population figure of 7 billion. This global milestone presents both an opportunity and a challenge for the planet. While more people are living longer and healthier lives, says the U.N., gaps between rich and poor are widening and more people than ever are vulnerable to food insecurity and water shortages. Because censuses are infrequent and incomplete, no one knows the precise date that we will hit the 7 billion mark - the Census Bureau puts it somewhere next March. In the last 50 years, humanity has more than doubled. What could the next decade mean for our numbers and the planet? In this post, we focus on births, but we'll be back with population-related content including it's affect on the environment and our food supply. -- Paula Nelson (47 photos total)

A baby, minutes after he was born inside the pediatric unit at hospital Escuela in Tegucigalpa, Oct. 21, 2011. According to Honduras' health authorities, about 220,000 babies are born in Honduras each year. The cost of having a baby delivered at the public hospital is $10. (Edgard Garrido/Reuters)
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October 21, 2011 Permalink

Sukkot: A celebration

Sukkot, or Feast of Tabernacles, is a Biblical holiday celebrated in late September to late October. The holiday lasts seven days. The Sukkah is a walled structure covered with plant material - built for the celebration - and is intended to be a reminiscence of the type of dwelling in which the Israelites stayed during their 40 years of travel in the desert after the exodus from slavery in Egypt. Throughout the holiday, meals are eaten inside the Sukkah and many sleep there as well. On each day of the holiday, members of the household recite a blessing over the lulav and etrog (four species). The four species include the lulav (a ripe green, closed frond from a date palm tree), the hadass (boughs with leaves from the myrtle tree), the aravah (branches with leaves from the willow tree) and the etrog (the fruit of a citron tree.) -- Paula Nelson (29 photos total)

An Ultra-Orthodox Jewish child walks over palm fronds to be used to build a Sukkah hut, in Jerusalem's religious Mea Shearim neighborhood, Oct. 6, 2011. The palm branches are used as the roof of a temporary house called a "Sukkah" which is built and lived in during the week-long Jewish holiday of Sukkot. (Bernat Armangue/Associated Press)
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October 14, 2011 Permalink

A simple day in the life...

Often in the Big Picture we feature "slice of life" photography originating from around the world, brought to us by photographers based in those countries who work for the Associated Press, Reuters and Getty Images. The photographs are often simple and show daily life in many places that we might not be able to experience in any other way except through those photographers' documentation. The images themselves are somewhat universal - they show us where people live and how people live, sometimes not so differently than we do ourselves. -- Paula Nelson (35 photos total)

Three-year-old Nadia Nassrallah eats her breakfast in from of her home in a slum on the outskirts of Islamabad, Pakistan, Oct. 4, 2011. (Muhammed Muheisen/Associated Press)
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September 30, 2011 Permalink

Global protests

There are many forms of protest, many ways to express an objection to particular events, situations, policies, and even people.  Protests can also take many forms - from individual statements to mass demonstrations - both peaceful and violent. In the last 30 days, there have been numerous protests across the globe in many countries.  The following post is a collection of only some of those protests, but the images convey a gamut of emotions as citizens stand up for their political, economic, religious and lifestyle rights.  -- Paula Nelson (51 photos total)

As protesters sleep in Zuccotti Park, N.Y. police officers receive instructions. A group of activists calling themselves Occupy Wall Street targeted the Financial District for more than a week of demonstrations in late September. The group said they sought to bring attention to corporate malfeasance, social inequality, and the yawning gap in income between America's rich and poor. (Eduardo Munoz/Reuters)
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September 26, 2011 Permalink

China: Daily Life Sept. 2011

This Big Picture post gives us a glimpse of daily life in parts of China, documented by wire photographers from the Associated Press, Reuters and Getty. The post begins with a short essay by Reuters photographer Jason Lee. Lee photographed six-year-old Wang Gengxiang, known as the "Masked Boy." Gengxiang was severely burned in an accident involving a burning pile of straw last winter. Most of the skin on the little boy's head was burned off, requiring him to wear a full surgical mask. The mask is said to prevent his scars from becoming infected. According to the local media in the village where Gengxiang was photographed, the doctors cannot continue his skin-graft surgery until his damaged trachea (or windpipe) is strong enough. The Lee essay is following by a black slide, and then more "slice of life" photography from a still somewhat mysterious China. -- Paula Nelson (50 photos total)

Wang Gengxiang on Children's Day, June 1, 2010, and after he was severely burned in an accident, at Mijiazhuang village on the outskirts of Fenyang, North China's Shanxi province, September 9, 2011. Gengxiang, age 6, known as "Masked Boy", was severely burned in an accident involving a burning pile of straw last winter. (Jason Lee/Reuters)
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August 24, 2011 Permalink

Krishna Janmashtami

Indian Hindu devotees throughout the world celebrate Janmashtami, which marks the birth of Hindu God Lord Krishna with enormous zeal and enthusiasm. Children and adults dress as the Hindu God Krishna and his consort Radha in bright, elaborate costumes and jewelry. Human pyramids form to break the 'dahi-handi' or curd pot. The large earthenware pot is filled with milk, curds, butter, honey and fruits and is suspended from a height of 20 - 40 feet. Participants come forward to claim this prize by constructing a human pyramid, enabling the uppermost person to reach the pot and claim its contents. -- Paula Nelson (27 photos total)

An Indian schoolboy is dressed as the Hindu God Krishna. (Rajesh Kumar Singh/Associated Press)
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August 3, 2011 Permalink

Ramadan begins

Muslims around the globe have begun their holiest month of the year by giving up food, drink, smoking and other physical needs from dawn till dusk each day. In many communities, large dinner gatherings are held each evening to break the fast. The month also marks a time for Muslims to reexamine their lives through the prism of Islamic teachings. -- Lloyd Young (38 photos total)

A student reads the Koran before morning prayer on the holy month of Ramadan at the Al-Mukmin Islamic boarding school in Solo, Indonesia Central Java province, August 2. (Beawiharta/Reuters)
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April 29, 2011 Permalink

The Royal Wedding

Under cool, gray skies billions watched from outside Westminster Abbey and on television worldwide as 1900 invited guests inside witnessed as Prince William and his longtime girlfriend Kate Middleton were married in one of the largest events in London in decades. A little over an hour after they arrived at the Abbey to be married, the couple emerged on a red carpet and onto the streets to a peal of bells and into a horse-drawn carriage, heading toward Buckingham Palace. The prince had married what the British call a commoner; now the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (titles granted by Queen Elizabeth II). The couple stepped out onto a balcony a short time later to greet the enormous crowd along the Mall - a tradition at royal weddings. They kissed for the first time in public as a married couple as a cheer went up from the crowd. -- Paula Nelson (36 photos total)

Catherine (Kate) Middleton arrives at Westminster Abbey before her marriage to Britain's Prince William in central London. (Toby Melville/Reuters)
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April 1, 2011 Permalink

Afghanistan, March 2011

Every month in the Big Picture, we revisit Afghanistan, to see the people, to see our troops and troops from other nations, to get a sense of the country. President Hamid Karzai said recently his security forces will soon take charge of securing seven areas around Afghanistan, the first step toward his goal of having the Afghan police and soldiers protecting the entire nation by the end of 2014. Our troops are due to begin coming home this July. There is still work to be done. Many of the photos featured in this post show the celebration of the Afghan New Year. The festival to celebrate new year's starts on March 21 and is celebrated in Turkey, Central Asian republics, Iraq, Iran, Azerbaijan, as well as war-torn Afghanistan and it coincides with the astronomical vernal equinox. One of the most popular places to bring in the new year, Mazar-i Sharif, attracts hundreds of thousands of Afghans. -- Paula Nelson (35 photos total)

Afghan children play as they eat ice lollies in Kabul on March 21, the Afghan New Year. (Dar Yasin/Associated Press)
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March 23, 2011 Permalink

Holi: Festival of Colors

Every year, Hindus greet the turn of winter into spring with a splash of color -- in some areas, a geyser of color. They call their celebration the festival of Holi, and Hindus across India and throughout the world share prayer, camaraderie, special food, and a general sense of mischief as they douse each other in dyes and colored water. The large festival has roots to many Hindu legends associated with the triumph of good over evil. One of the best-known stories tells the tale of the demoness Holika, who tried to kill Prahlad, the son of the demon king Hiranyakashyap, for refusing to worship his father. Instead, Holika is consumed in flames, which is replayed each year with bonfires and effigies, before the celebrants break out the hues and cries of the festival. - Lloyd Young (43 photos total)

Indians call it "playing colors" a jubilant scrum of horseplay and body painting. In Mumbai, colored powder is the weapon of choice for a pair of girls March 20. (Rafiq Maqbool/Associated Press)
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March 9, 2011 Permalink

Carnival 2011

The spectacle of gaudy colors, outlandish floats, airborne beads, and extravagant costumes was not limited to the French Quarter of New Orleans Tuesday. Weeks of pre-Lent celebrations culminated into explosions of exhilarating events for "Fat Tuesday" and Carnival around the globe. Historians say the Mardi Gras tradition dates back to Roman times, when the newly converted Christians retained vestiges of their pagan festival "Lupercalia" as a period of celebration before the penance of Lent. That spirit ricochets today from the revelers of Carnival in Brazil to the flour-tossing sprites of Greece to the ebullient trombones of Bourbon Street. -- Lloyd Young (43 photos total)

A Grande Rio samba school dancer performs while parading through the Sambadrome during carnival celebrations in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, March 8. (Rodrigo Abd/Associated Press)
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December 27, 2010 Permalink

Christmas across the globe

Last Saturday was Christmas Day, the day set aside by Christian faithful to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem over 2,000 years ago. Christianity remains the largest religion in the world, with over 2 billion adherents across the globe. Christmas is celebrated in many ways by those followers, and even more ways by those who enjoy the larger, more secular traditions surrounding the modern holiday. Collected here are some glimpses of this year's Christmas observations and celebrations around the world. [Editor's note: Reminder to submit your own Christmas 2010 photos for an upcoming entry in January] (35 photos total)

An Iraqi Christian girl attends a Christmas mass at Chaldean Catholic church in Amman, Jordan on December 22, 2010. Thousands of Iraqi Christians fled to neighbouring Jordan following a spate of bombings that targeted churches in Iraqi cities in the past few years. (REUTERS/Ali Jarekji)
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November 15, 2010 Permalink

Hajj 2010

Yesterday marked the start of the Hajj, the annual Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia. The Saudi Press Agency said that a record number of Muslims were expected to make the Hajj this year - over 3.4 million anticipated over the five days of the pilgrimage. One of the pillars of Islamic faith, the Hajj must be carried out at least once in their lifetime by any Muslim who has the ability to do so. Pilgrims perform a series of rituals including walking around the Kaaba, standing vigil on Mount Arafat and a ritual Stoning of the Devil. At the end of the Hajj, on November 16th, the three day festival of Eid al-Adha begins around the world. (34 photos total)

A Muslim pilgrim prays atop Mount Al-Noor during the annual Hajj pilgrimage in Mecca November 9, 2010. (REUTERS/Mohammed Salem)
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September 10, 2010 Permalink

Ramadan 2010 - your images

Two weeks ago, I invited you, the readers of The Big Picture, to submit your own images of Ramadan 2010. It was an experiment, I was hoping for high quality, personal images and was not disappointed. Over 250 submissions came in from around the world, and I thank every one of you for participating. On the occasion of Eid al-Fitr, marking the end of this year's Ramadan, I present the following collection of reader-submitted photographs - and invite you to see Ramadan through their eyes. Captions written by the photographers. (41 photos total)

An elderly husband and wife read from the Quran together near Orlando, Florida on September 5th, 2010. Along with prayers, reading from the Quran is especially emphasized during the last ten days of Ramadan. (© Sammy Abusrur)
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August 30, 2010 Permalink

Ramadan 2010

Muslim men and women across the world are currently observing Ramadan, a month long celebration of self-purification and restraint. During Ramadan, the Muslim community fast, abstaining from food, drink, smoking and sex between sunrise and sunset. Muslims break their fast after sunset with an evening meal called Iftar, where a date is the first thing eaten followed by a traditional meal. During this time, Muslims are also encouraged to read the entire Quran, to give freely to those in need, and strengthen their ties to God through prayer. The goal of the fast is to teach humility, patience and sacrifice, and to ask forgiveness, practice self-restraint, and pray for guidance in the future. This year, Ramadan will continue until Thursday, September 9th. [Editor's note: This year, I invite you to submit your own Ramadan 2010 photos] (45 photos total)

With the Dome of the Rock Mosque seen in the background, a Palestinian Muslim worshiper prays during the third Friday prayers of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, in the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem's Old City on Friday, Aug. 27, 2010. (AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen)
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April 2, 2010 Permalink

Holy Week, 2010

Today is Good Friday, when Christians commemorate the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Good Friday is part of Holy Week, a series of religious holidays and observations commemorating the last week of the earthly life of Jesus Christ and his resurrection on Easter Sunday. Observances vary widely around the world, often incorporating elements of local pre-Christian traditions, and range from the elaborate and fanciful to simple and reverential. Collected here is a handful of photographs from this year's Holy Week around the world. (39 photos total)

A Christian worshiper holds a candle inside the Church of the Holy Sepulcher during a Good Friday procession in Jerusalem's Old City on April 2, 2010. Christian worshipers retraced the traditional route Jesus Christ took along the Via Dolorosa to his crucifixion in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. (REUTERS/Baz Ratner)
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March 3, 2010 Permalink

Holi 2010

Last Monday (March 1st), people in India and other countries with large Hindu populations celebrated Holi, the Festival of Colors. A welcoming of Spring, Holi is celebrated as the triumph of good over evil. Hindu devotees and others enthusiastically drop their inhibitions, and chase each other in temples and through the streets, playfully splashing colorful paint, powder and water on each other. People also attend bonfires to commemorate the story of Prahlada, a Hindu figure and devout follower of Lord Vishnu who prevailed over his father and the demoness Holika with the power of his devotion. Collected here are a handful of images from this year's Festival of Colors. (37 photos total)

Children, their faces smeared with colored powder, participate in Holi festivities in Mumbai, India, Monday, March 1, 2010. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)
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November 27, 2009 Permalink

Eid al-Adha and the Hajj, 2009

Today, November 27th, marks the beginning of 2009's Eid al-Adha, the Muslim "Festival of Sacrifice", commemorating the willingness of Ibrahim (Abraham) to sacrifice his son to God. Muslims around the world will celebrate by slaughtering animals to commemorate God's gift of a ram to substitute for Abraham's son, distributing the meat amongst family, friends and the poor. Eid al-Adha also takes place immediately after the Hajj, a pilgrimage to Mecca that is a pillar of Islamic Faith. Some 2.5 million Muslim faithful from all over the world descended on Mecca this year, many encountering an unusual occurance: heavy flooding due to recent torrential rains. Collected below are photographs from this year's Hajj and observance of Eid al-Adha. (38 photos total)

A Muslim pilgrim prays near where the Hiraa cave is located, at the top of Noor Mountain on the outskirts of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2009. According to tradition, Islam's Prophet Mohammed received his first message to preach Islam while he was praying in the cave. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)
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October 23, 2009 Permalink

Diwali 2009

October 17th marked the celebration of Diwali among Hindus and other groups around the world. Diwali is also known as the "Festival of Lights" (the name translates as "row of lamps" in Sanskrit). The festival marks the homecoming of Hindu God Rama to Ayodhya after a 14-year exile in the forest following his victory over Ravana, and signifies the victory of good over evil, of light over darkness. Celebrants observe Diwali with fireworks, colorful lanterns, lamps, garlands, sweet treats and worship. Collected here are a handful of photographs of Diwali this year. (33 photos total)

Schoolgirl Bhargavi, 7, arranges garlands made from marigold flowers at a roadside stall on the eve of the Hindu festival of Diwali in the southern Indian city of Hyderabad October 16, 2009. Flowers are offered to Hindu gods and goddesses on the occasion of Diwali, the annual festival of lights that was celebrated across the country on Saturday, October 17th. (REUTERS/Krishnendu Halder)
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September 7, 2009 Permalink

Recent Hindu festivals and rituals

Many Hindus throughout India recently celebrated Ganesha Chaturthi, a 10-day festival celebrating the birth of Ganesh, their supreme god of wisdom, prosperity and good fortune. Hinduism, the predominant religion in India, is rich with traditional festivals and rituals, celebrated in many ways and locations around the world. Collected here are a few photographs from recent Hindu festivals and of Hindu devotees worshipping and practicing ritual ceremonies in India, England, Nepal and Indonesia. (36 photos total)

Hindu devotees carry a statue of the elephant-headed Hindu god Ganesh on a bullock cart during the Ganesh Chaturthi festival in Mumbai, India, Sunday, Aug. 23, 2009. The idols are immersed into oceans or rivers at the end of the ten day long festival that celebrates the birth of Ganesh. (AP Photo/Dhiraj Singh)
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August 26, 2009 Permalink

Ramadan 2009

In Muslim nations and regions around the globe, this is the first week of the holy month of Ramadan, a time for followers to abstain from eating, drinking, smoking and sexual activity during the day, breaking their fast each sunset, with traditional meals and sweets. During this time, Muslims are also encouraged to read the entire Quran, to give freely to those in need, and strengthen their ties to God through prayer. The goal of the fast is to teach humility, patience and sacrifice, and to ask forgiveness, practice self-restraint, and pray for guidance in the future. This year, Ramadan will continue until Saturday, September 19th. (39 photos total)

Officers of Malaysia's Islamic authority use a telescope to perform "rukyah", the sighting of the new moon of Ramadan, in Teluk Kemang, south of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on August 20, 2009. Muslims scan the sky at dusk in the beginning of the lunar calendar's ninth month in search of the new moon to proclaim the start of Ramadan, Islam's holiest month during which observant believers fast from dawn to dusk. (REUTERS/Bazuki Muhammad)
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April 13, 2009 Permalink

Easter, 2009

Yesterday was Easter, the celebration by Western Christians of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 2 days after his crucifixion (Eastern Christian observers will celebrate Easter on April 19th). The religious observation of Easter also shares the day with many traditional secular springtime celebrations, including bonfires, egg hunts, bunnies and gifts of chocolate. As a day for quiet reflection, prayer, charitable acts and festive gatherings, here are some views of Easter across the globe this year. (35 photos total)

Slovenian artist Franc Grom drills a hole in an empty egg shell in Vrhnika, Slovenia on April 9, 2009. Grom drills thousands of holes into egg shells to create unique Easter eggs of fragile beauty. (REUTERS/Srdjan Zivulovic)
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April 10, 2009 Permalink

Holy Week

Christian communities around the world are currently celebrating Holy Week - both the last week of Lent and the week before Easter. Holy Week commemorates the last week of the earthly life of Jesus Christ culminating in his crucifixion on Good Friday and his resurrection on Easter Sunday. Observances range from the elaborate and fanciful to simple and reverential, and vary a great deal between communities, regions, countries, and churches. Collected here are a small sample of photographs from Holy Week observances around the world. (34 photos total)

Women wearing a traditional mantilla dress take part in a procession of the "Gitanos" brotherhood during Holy Week in the Andalusian city of Malaga, southern Spain April 6, 2009. Hundreds of Easter processions take place around the clock in Spain during Holy Week, drawing thousands of visitors. (REUTERS/Jon Nazca)
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March 13, 2009 Permalink

Holi - the Festival of Colors

Last Wednesday (March 11th), people in India and other countries with large Hindu populations celebrated Holi, the Festival of Colors. Holi is celebrated as a welcoming of Spring, and a celebration of the triumph of good over evil. What that translates to in action is an enthusiastic dropping of inhibitions, as people chase each other and playfully splash colorful paint, powder and water on each other. People also attend bonfires to commemorate the story of Prahlada, a Hindu figure and devout follower of Lord Vishnu who prevailed over his father and the demoness Holika with the power of his devotion. Collected here are photos from this year's Festival of Colors. (27 photos total)

Men smear colored powder on each other's faces during celebrations of Holi, the Hindu festival of color, in Jaisalmer, in the western Indian state of Rajasthan, Wednesday March 11, 2009. (AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe)
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December 12, 2008 Permalink

The Hajj and Eid al-Adha

Yesterday marked the end of the Muslim festival Eid al-Adha, or "Feast of Sacrifice" - which also marks the end of the Hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia. One of the pillars of Islamic faith, the Hajj must be carried out at least once in their lifetime by any Muslim who has the ability to do so. This year, nearly 3 million Muslims made the Hajj, without major incident, and are now returning to their homes across the world. Muslims who stayed closer to home celebrated Eid al-Adha, commemorating the the willingness of Ibrahim (Abraham) to sacrifice his son to God. Traditional practices include ritual prayers, the sacrifice of animals (usually sheep), distribution of the meat amongst family, friends and the poor, and visiting with relatives. (41 photos total)

Muslim pilgrims perform the "Tawaf" ritual around the Kaaba at Mecca's Grand Mosque before leaving the holy Saudi city at the end of the annual Hajj pilgrimage on December 10, 2008. The official Saudi News Agency (SPA) reported that the most recent statistics put the total number of pilgrims this year at more than 2.4 million, almost 1.73 million from abroad and 679,000 from within the kingdom, mostly foreign residents. (KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty Images)
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