Religious Holy Days


January

January

January 1

Feast of St. Basil (Orthodox Christianity)
This day celebrates St. Basil, one of the great fathers of the Orthodox Church. An influential Christian theologian and monastic, Basil was also known for his attention to the underprivileged and poor, and his writings on asceticism.

Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus (Orthodox Christianity)
This Feast commemorates the naming and circumcision of the baby Jesus, eight days after he was born.

Gantan-sai (Shinto)
Gantan-sai is the Shinto celebration of the new year (oshogatsu). This day is one of the most popular for shrine visits, as many pray for inner renewal, health and prosperity.

Mary, Mother of God (Catholic Christianity)
This liturgical feast celebrates the Virgin Mary and her motherhood of Jesus. Some countries recognize this day with church services.

January 5

Guru Gobind Singh Ji’s Birthday (Sikhism)
Gobind Singh (1666-1708) was the tenth Sikh Guru, and the last of the human-form Gurus. On his birthday, Sikhs celebrate Gobind Singh as a saint and a soldier: he worked toward reforming his religion and persevered in the face of persecution.

Twelfth Night (Christianity)
The Twelfth Night marks the conclusion of the twelve days of Christmas and the eve of Epiphany. According to tradition, three kings arrived in Bethlehem twelve days after Jesus' birth to bestow gifts. This night is celebrated much like Christmas Eve, with merrymaking, eating traditional foods like King Cake, and parties.

January 6

Christmas (Armenian Orthodox Christianity)
Armenian Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus on Epiphany, except for Armenians living in Israel, who celebrate Christmas on January 19th. This day marks the Armenian Orthodox celebration of Christ's birth and baptism.

Epiphany (Christianity)
Known as Theophany in Eastern Christianity, it celebrates the manifestation of Jesus as Christ. In addition, the Western Church associates Epiphany with the journey of the Magi to the infant Jesus, and the Eastern Church with the baptism of Jesus by John.

Dia de los Reyes / Three Kings Day (Latin American Christianity)
In Latin American countries, this day is referred to as Día de los Reyes, Three Kings Day, and children receive gifts from los reyes magos: the three wise men. Children and adults leave their shoes out for the Kings' presents before they go to bed the night before and leave treats to refresh the traveling Magi.

January 7

Christmas (Orthodox Christianity)
Most Orthodox churches celebrate Christmas 13 days later than Western Christian churches based on their use of the Julian rather than the Gregorian version of the Western calendar. The Feast of the Nativity is the Orthodox Christian celebration of the birth of Jesus. It is also the break of a 40-day fast, in which participants purify both body and soul in preparation for Christ's birth.

January 12

Baptism of Lord Jesus (Christianity)
Although Eastern Christianity celebrates the baptism of Jesus at Epiphany, Catholics and Episcopalians celebrate his baptism by Jean the Baptist on the following Sunday. This day is also the beginning of ordinary time on the liturgical calendar.

January 13

Maghi (Sikhism)
Maghi is the day in which Sikhs commemorate the martyrdom of the Forty Immortals, followers of Guru Gobind Singh, who were all killed while fighting a Mughal army. On this day, many Sikhs gather in Muktsar, India, the original site where Gobind Singh blessed the martyrs and cremated their bodies. Sikhs visit their places of worship (gurdwaras) and listen to hymns (kirtan).

January 14

Makar Sankranti (Hinduism)
Seasonal celebration marking turning of the sun toward the north.

January 18

Feast Day Sultán (Bahá’í)
The Baha’i calendar has nineteen months, all named after attributes of God. Sultán is the Arabic word for Sovereignty. The word "feast" suggests that a large meal will be served, but that is not necessary for a Bahá'í Feast. The use of the term "feast," in this case, means that the community should enjoy a "spiritual feast" of worship, fellowship and unity.

January 19

Feast of Theophany (Orthodox Christianity)
The Orthodox Church marks this day as the anniversary of Jesus' baptism in the Jordan River. For the Feast of Theophany, Orthodox Christians reflect on their own baptism and salvation.

Timkat (Ethiopian Orthodox Christianity)
Timkat is the Ethiopian Orthodox celebration of Epiphany: the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River. During this celebration, there is a ritual reenactment of the baptism and a procession with the Tabot, a model of the Ark of the Covenant. The clergy often dress in bright robes, carrying colorful umbrellas, and sing and dance as they escort the Tabot back to the church.

January 25

Conversion of St. Paul (Christianity)
On this day, Christians commemorate the conversion of Paul the Apostle. Previously known as Saul of Tarsus, a great persecutor of Christians, Paul was converted on the road to Damascus, when he had a vision of Christ.

January 28

Mahayana New Year (Buddhist)
In Mahayana countries the New Year starts on the first full moon day in January and lasts for three days. It is a time to reflect on the past and cleanse oneself from the prior year's sins to make a fresh start.

January 31

Birthday of Guru Har Rai (Sikhism)
Guru Har Rai (1630-1661) was the seventh of the 10 human-form Sikh Gurus. He is celebrated for his compassion for life and living things. Tradition says that at a young age, he was disturbed by the suffering of a flower after he accidentally damaged it in passing. This strong compassion continued throughout his life and his work.

 

February

February 1

Imbolc (Wicca)

A celebration of beginning growth and the divine generative powers from which physical and spiritual harvests will come. Imbolc is often an initiatory period.

Saint Brigid of Kildare (Celtic Christianity)

Saint Brigid of Kildare lived from 451 to 525 C.E. and is one of Ireland's patron saints. She was an Irish Christian nun, and the founder of several convents including Kildare Abbey, one of the most prestigious abbeys in Ireland.

Presentation of Jesus in the Temple (Orthodox Christianity)

Commemorates Mary and Joseph’s presentation of the child Jesus at the Temple in Jerusalem, as required by Mosaic Law. In the Eastern churches, this day is known as the Feast of the Meeting of the Lord.

February 3

Setsubun-sai (Shinto)

A family celebration of the end of winter; beans are thrown into rooms of a house for good luck, with the shout, “Devils out, Fortune in!”

February 6

Mulk (Bahá’í)

Beginning of the eighteenth month of the Bahá’í year, the name “Mulk” means “dominion.”

February 11

Our Lady of Lourdes (Christianity)

This marks the day in 1858 when St. Bernadette had her first vision of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the city of Lourdes in southern France. She had 18 apparitions in all, one of which told her to dig for a spring. The water of this spring is said to have great healing powers, and Christians make pilgrimages to visit this spring and the church that was built on the property.

February 12

Lunar New Year (Confucian, Daoist and Buddhism)

Also known as the Spring Festival, an important festival celebrated at the turn of the traditional lunisolar Chinese calendar. The most important holiday for the Chinese, the New Year is a time to reflect on the past and celebrate the future. This is a 15-day celebration with each day having special significance.

Birthday of Maitreya Bodhisattva (Buddhism)

Marking the birth of Maitreya, who will come at the end of time to renew the pristine Buddhist teachings.

Losar: Tibetan New Year (Buddhism)

Celebrating the beginning of the year 2145 in the Tibetan calendar.

February 14

St. Valentine's Day (Christianity)

Pope Gelasius assigned February 14 as Saint Valentine's Day in 496 CE. This day commemorates the death of Saint Valentine of Rome, who, according to tradition, was martyred on February 14 ca. 270 C.E. Saint Valentine's Day was not associated with romantic love until the High Middle Ages, when legends and stories about Valentine were written and popularized by Geoffrey Chaucer and his circle.

February 15

Nirvana Day (Buddhism)

Celebrates the day when the historical Buddha achieved complete Nirvana, upon the death of his physical body. This day marks the Buddha’s death and when he reached Nirvana at the age of 80. Nirvana is the end to all wanting, and thus the end to all suffering that craving brings about. Buddhists who observe Nirvana day often do so by examining their lives, in order to make changes needed to help them achieve perfect peace.

February 16

Vasant Panchami (Hinduism)

This festival is dedicated to Saraswati, the goddess of learning. On this day, schools and colleges often organize special worship of Saraswati, many participate in special activities at Hindu temples, and young children are taught their first words.

Shrove Tuesday (Christianity)

Also known as Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday and Carnival Day. Shrove Tuesday is the last day before the beginning of Lent, during which Christians are supposed to examine their lives, confess their sins, and receive advice on mending their ways - as the time of Lent represents purification. In Old English, the word "shrove" referred to the act of listening intently to someone and giving advice. The French term for this day, Mardi Gras, means Fat Tuesday, which is said to come from the custom the French had of using up all the fats they had in the house for cooking, since the food during Lent's time of "fast and abstinence" would entail leaner cuisine. The fat would be baked into rich meals on Mardi Gras, and often what was cooked ended up being a pancake of sorts; thus the custom still observed in some parts of the western world of eating pancakes on the day before Lent.

February 17

Ash Wednesday (Christianity)

The first day of Lent for Western Christian churches, a 40-day period of spiritual preparation for Easter, not counting Sundays. In the Western Church, Lent - the fasting season marking Jesus' time in the wilderness - commences with Ash Wednesday. Many Christians attend church, where their foreheads are marked with ashes in the form of the cross. The ashes consist of the burnt remains of palms blessed on Palm Sunday the previous year. The cross of ash symbolizes belonging to Jesus Christ and reminds people of their human mortality.

February 22

Triodion begins (Orthodox Christianity)

Triodion is the three-week preparation period before Lent begins. Followers gradually modify their diets and meditate on themes like humility, repentance and forgiveness, to prepare for the great fast, prayer, and worship that happens over Lent.

February 26

Purim: Feast of Lots (Judaism)

Purim is a joyous Jewish festival commemorating the survival of the Jews who, in the 5th century BCE, were marked for death by their Persian rulers.

Magha Puja (Buddhism)

Magha Puja is the day the Buddha addressed a meeting of 1250 arhats: spiritual practitioners that had reached a certain level of enlightenment. The Buddha introduced to them these principles: cease from evil, do what is good, and cleanse one's mind. On this day, temples in Thailand hold candlelight processions, walking clockwise three times around the Uposath Hall-- once for the Buddha, once for the Dharma, and once for the Sangha.

February 24 - 28

Ayyám -I-Ha (Bahá’í)

The Ayyám-i-ha, or “Days of Ha” are devoted to spiritual preparation for the fast, celebrating, hospitality, charity and gift giving. They are celebrated the four days, five in leap year, before the last month of the Bahá’í year by inserting days into the calendar in order to maintain their solar calendar. These are days of preparation for the Fast; days of hospitality, charity, ministering to the poor and sick, and giving of presents.

February 26

Lantern Festival (Taoism)

The New Year celebration ends with the lantern festival when the first full moon enters the New Year

March

March 2

Clean Monday (Eastern Christianity)
The beginning of Great Lent for Eastern Christian churches, which starts 40 days before Orthodox Easter (Pascha), counting Sundays. On this day, referred to as "Clean Monday," Orthodox Christians leave behind sinful attitudes and certain foods as they prepare for the Great Lent. This is a seven-week period of fasting to prepare for Orthodox Easter, the greatest feast of the year.

March 2 - 20

Fast of Ala (Baha'i)
The Baha'i calendar is comprised of 19 months of 19 days each. The fast of Ala occurs during the last month of the Baha'i year, when Baha'is fast from sun up to sun down. All healthy individuals between the ages of 15 and 70 participate in the fast, which is done in spiritual preparation for the New Year, Naw Ruz.

March 7

Meatfare Sunday (Orthodox Christianity)
Traditionally, this is the last day that Orthodox Christians eat meat before commencing their fast, which lasts until Easter.

March 11

Maha Shivaratri (Hinduism)
Also known as the "Great Night of Shiva," this day celebrates Lord Shiva, one of the great Hindu deities, with a day of fasting, an all-night vigil, and offerings of leaves from the Bilva tree - a tree of great medicinal value that was loved by Lord Shiva.

Lailat al-Miraj: Night of the Journey of Prophet Muhammad to Heavens (Islam)
Commemorates Muhammad’s night journey from Mecca to Jerusalem, his ascent to heaven and return the same night, and his having received God’s commandment of the five daily compulsory prayers. This observance also signifies the importance of Islam as part of the monotheistic tradition.

March 13

Birthday of L. Ron Hubbard (Scientology)
Born in 1911, Lafayette Ronald Hubbard was a science fiction writer who founded the Church of Scientology in 1953, in Camden, New Jersey. Hubbard originally developed a self-help system called Dianetics in 1950, and these ideas grew into doctrines and rituals that became Scientology, an applied religious philosophy. Today, followers of the Church of Scientology recognize his birthday.

March 14

Cheesefare Sunday (Orthodox Christianity)
Also known as the "Sunday of Forgiveness," this day often reflects on Adam and Eve and their exile from the Garden of Eden, emphasizing the human fall into sin and separation from God. This reminder prepares Orthodox Christians for the intense fasting of Lent.

March 15

Sri Ramakrishna Jayanti (Hinduism)
A celebration of the birth of the teacher of Swami Vivekananda, who introduced Hinduism to the United States at the first Parliament of the World’s Religions in Chicago in 1893.

Beginning of Lent/Clean Monday (Orthodox Christianity)
Beginning of Great Lent. Lent is a period of Christian preparation for Holy Week and Easter. Usually 40 days in length, it is marked by vegetarian fasting, intensified prayer and almsgiving.

March 16 - 20

Ghambar Hamaspathmaeden (Zoroastrianism)
This is the last of the six Ghambar festivals in the Zoroastrian calendar. Ghambars are joyous occasions when communities gather to share a feast. Food is contributed anonymously, and participants give according to their means and ability to contribute. This particular five-day Ghambar celebrates the creation of humans and is a time to remember souls who have passed away.

March 17

St. Patrick’s Day (Christianity)
St. Patrick, the Patron Saint of Ireland, was credited for spreading Christianity in Ireland and abolishing pagan practices in the fourth century. The symbol of the shamrock is often associated with St. Patrick’s Day, as St. Patrick used the three leaves to explain the mystery of the Christian doctrine of the Trinity.

Higan (Buddhism) 
Higan, or Ohigan, is celebrated twice a year, during the spring and fall equinoxes. This is an important date for Jodo Shinshu Buddhists in particular. On this date, the day and night are the same length, symbolizing equality and harmony. Buddha appears on earth during this week to save stray souls, thus many Buddhists visit cemeteries and pay respects to their ancestors.

March 19

Saint Joseph's Day (Christianity)
This feast day celebrates Saint Joseph, the earthly father of Jesus. One Italian tradition recalls a draught, where the peasants prayed to St. Joseph for rain. When the rains came, crops were planted and then a large harvest feast was given in St. Joseph's honor. Some cultures celebrate this day by creating St. Joseph Tables: a table full of elaborate foods, though all free of meat, as this day typically falls during the fasting period of Lent.

March 20

Ostara (Neo-Paganism)
Ostara celebrates the coming of spring, the time when the days are getting longer. It is a time to celebrate the abundance of nature and the abundance of life, and to plant crops.

Spring Feast (American Indian)
A day to honor planting and the coming and going of seasons, includes prayer song and storytelling

Spring O-Higan (Buddhism)
Symbolic of crossing from shore of illusion to the other shore of enlightenment to overcome one’s ignorance and honoring the 6 Paramitas of generosity, morality, patience, endeavor, meditation and wisdom

Shunbun no Hi (Shinto)
A day for visiting graves held in timing with the Spring Equinox

Feast of Naw-Ruz (Baha’i)
Naw Ruz is the celebration of the New Year as adopted by Baha’u’llah, the founder of the Baha’i faith. The equinox is believed to be a symbol of the manifestations of God, and springtime to be the carrier of new life and new beginnings.

Nowruz (Zoroastrian)
Nowruz is the Zoroastrian New Year. The arrival of spring on the day of the vernal equinox, heralds a rebirth and renewal, a symbolic victory of light over darkness. Nowruz is the most important festival in the Zoroastrian tradition, a time for thanksgiving and celebration, for family and friends to come together, to thank Ahura Mazda for His bounty, to reflect on their lives, and make new beginnings.

March 21

Orthodox Sunday (Orthodox Christianity)
Celebrated on the first Sunday of Lent, Orthodox Sunday recognizes the victory and restoration of icons for use in church services and private devotional life.

March 25

Feast of the Annunciation of Virgin Mary (Christianity)
This day commemorates when the angel Gabriel announced to the Virgin Mary that she would bear a child, Jesus. The feast of the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary is celebrated with prayers and church services.

March 26

Khordad Sal (Zoroastrian)
The Zoroastrian celebration of the birth of Zoroaster, the founder of the Zoroastrianism religion. Khordad Sal is the birthday celebration of Prophet Zarathustra, the founder of Zoroastrianism. Considered to be one of the most important holidays on the Zoroastrian calendar, the day is spent feasting, wearing new clothes, displaying fresh flowers and gathering in fire temples for prayers.

March 28

Palm Sunday (Christianity)
Palm Sunday opens Holy week. Palms recall the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem

Holi (Hindu)
A spring festival in India and Nepal dedicated to the god of pleasure, also known as the festival of colors or the festival of sharing love. Holi is a celebration of fertility, brotherhood, and the triumph of good over evil. Festivities surrounding Holi can lasts up to sixteen days. During the main day of celebration, people throw colored water or powder at each other until they are coated and indistinguishable from their neighbors. This symbolizes unity and brotherhood, as everyone looks the same coated in colors, and differences such as race, sex, class, and creed are forgotten. Bonfires are lit to represent the destruction of evil, recalling the legend of Prahlad miraculously escaping from the fire of the demoness Holika.

March 29

Hola Mohalla (Sikh)An annual event which is a martial arts parade historically coinciding with Holi, the Hindu festival of colors. Celebrations related to Holla Mohalla may be held in various locations over several weekends preceding the actual date of the holiday. A week-long celebration that often coincides with the Sikh New Year, Hola Mohalla was started by Guru Gobind Singh as a day of mock battles and poetry. Today, those who celebrate the festival often camp out, watch demonstrations of fighting and bravery, and listen to music and poetry.