Religious Holy Days

Calendar of Holy Days

June 6

Ascension of Jesus Christ

The Christian holyday, known as the Ascension of Jesus, remembers Jesus' departure from Earth into heaven 40 days after the Resurrection. The Feast of the Ascension is celebrated on the 40th day of Easter, always a Thursday. The Orthodox tradition celebrates on June 6 in 2019.

June 8

Shavuot

Shavuot is a Jewish holy day with a double significance. It marks the all-important wheat harvest in the Land of Israel, and it commemorates the anniversary of the day God gave the Torah to the entire nation of Israel assembled at Mount Sinai. Shavuot is unlike other Jewish holidays in that it has no prescribed ritual observance, other than traditional festival meals and merriment; and the required abstention from work. However, it is characterized by many customs, including dairy-heavy dishes and all-night Torah study.

June 9

Pentecost

The Christian holiday of Pentecost is celebrated 50 days from Easter Sunday, to commemorate events described in the New Testament, in which the Holy Spirit descends upon the Apostles and other followers of Jesus Christ. "Pentecost" may refer to the Pentecost of the New Testament and Shavuot of the Old Testament. Shavuot is a significant event shared by Jews and Christians but Christians do not commonly celebrate it as a separate holiday.

June 20

Litha

Pagan/Wiccan holyday: The Summer Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere. Many agricultural societies have observed the longest day of the year in some way: Stone Henge was created to glorify the rising of the sun on the Summer Solstice, the Saxons and Celts built bonfires to celebrate the power of the sun over darkness, and the Romans had a festival for Juno, wife of Jupiter, the Goddess of marriage, women, menstruation, and children during Midsummer. A time of fertility, growth, warmth, and light, Litha is one of the 8 Sabbats of the Wheel of the Year for modern Pagans and Wiccans.

Yule

Pagan/Wiccan holy day in the southern hemisphere. The Winter Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere occurs in December. In the darkest of winter, Yule celebrates the return of the sun, when the days begin to get longer again and bring more light into the world, with feasting and merrymaking. Decorating a tree, wreathes, the Yule log, and caroling come from ancient Norse traditions. Yule is also associated with Odin and the Wild Hunt, a ghostly procession of horsemen through the sky—which became Santa Claus and his flying reindeer. Romans held feasts, decorated trees with tin ornaments, practiced fertility rites under mistletoe, and exchanged gifts during the week-long festival of Saturnalia. The Celts believed the Oak King and the Holly King fought at this time of year to see if light or darkness would win out, which some Wiccans re-enact as part of their celebrations today. Yule is one of the 8 Sabbats of the Wheel of the Year for modern Pagans and Wiccans.

August 1, 2019

Imbolc

Wiccan/Pagan holyday in the Southern Hemisphere that begins at sundown the evening before. Imbolc is a Gaelic traditional festival marking the beginning of spring, held about halfway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. It was originally a pagan festival associated with the goddess Brigid, during which feasts were held, holy wells were visited, and Brigid was invoked to protect homes and livestock. Although many of its customs died out in the 20th century, it is still observed as a religious holyday by Celtic Neopagans and Wiccans today.

Lughnassad

Wiccan/Pagan holyday in the Northern Hemisphere that begins sundown evening before. Lughnasadh is a Gaelic traditional festival marking the beginning of harvest season, held about halfway between the summer solstice and the fall equinox. The festival itself is named after the god Lugh, and involved great gatherings that included religious ceremonies, ritual athletic, feasting, matchmaking, and trade. Although many of its customs died out in the 20th century, it is still observed as a religious holyday by Celtic Neopagans and Wiccans today.

August 1-14, 2019

Fast in Honor of Holy Mother of Jesus

Orthodox Christians follow a two-week fast from meat products, dairy products, fish, oil, and wine in preparation for the Feast of the Dormition of the Mother of God.

August 6, 2019

Transfiguration of Christ (Roman Catholic)

The Transfiguration of Jesus is an event reported in the New Testament when Jesus is transfigured and becomes radiant in glory upon a mountain. On the mountain, Jesus begins to shine with bright rays of light. Then the prophets Moses and Elijah appear with Jesus and Jesus speaks with them. The Feast of the Transfiguration is celebrated by various Christian denominations, and falls at different points in the liturgical calendar depending on the denomination.

August 12-15, 2019

Eid al Adha 

Islamic holyday, Eid al-Adha (Festival of the Sacrifice), also known as The Greater Eid, commemorates when Abraham fully submitted himself to Allah on Mount Arafat but was spared from sacrificing his son. Pilgrims celebrate Eid al-Adha after descending from Mount Arafat, near Mecca, as part of the Hajj. The festival lasts 4 days and is celebrated worldwide.

August 15, 2019

Dormition of the Theotokos/Mother of God

The Feast of Dormition of the Mother of God is celebrated in Orthodox Christian Churches, and it commemorates the ‘falling asleep’ or ‘death’ of the Mother of God, her resurrection and ascension.

August 15, 2019

Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Roman Catholic Church celebrates the ascension of the Virgin Mary to heaven.

August 24, 2019

Krishna Janmashtami

Hindu celebration of the birth of the god Krishna.

Paryushan Parva August 27-September 3, 2019 Jain holyday begins at sunset the evening before, and is an eight day festival.

August 31, 2019

Al-Hijra

Islamic New Year, Al-Hijra, is celebrated on the first day of the month of Muharram, the first month of the Islamic calendar. It marks the first Hijra in 622 CE, when the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) moved from Mecca to Medina and set up the first Islamic state.

September 8, 2019

Nativity of the Virgin Mary 

Roman Catholic Christian holyday: This Marian Feast Day commemorates the birthday of the Blessed Virgin Mary, nine months after her Immaculate Conception (when she was conceived in her mother’s womb, free of original sin). In some countries, the Nativity of Mary is a Holy Day of Obligation and public holyday.

Nativity of Theotokos 

Orthodox Christian holyday: This Feast Day commemorates the birthday of the Blessed Virgin Mary, known as the Theotokos (One Who Gave Birth to God). Like Roman Catholics, Orthodox Christians celebrate the Nativity of Mary on September 8, but because they keep to the ancient Julian calendar (established by Caesar in 45 BCE) it falls on September 21 of the Gregorian calendar most of the world uses today (established by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582).

September 10, 2019

Ashura 

On the tenth day of the month of Muharram, Shia Muslims observe Ashura or Yom Ashura. This holyday commemorates the martyrdom of Husayn Ibn Ali at Karbala.

September 21, 2019

Ostara 

Wiccan/Pagan holyday. Spring Equinox in the Southern Hemisphere, which begins at sundown the evening before.

Mabon 

Wiccan/Pagan holyday. Fall Equinox in the Northern Hemisphere, which begins at sundown the evening before.

September 27, 2019

Meskel 

Ethiopian Christian holyday.

Elevation of the Holy Cross 

Christian holyday that commemorates the finding of Christ’s Cross in the fourth century CE by Saint Helen, the mother of the Emperor Constantine.

September 29-October 1, 2019

Rosh Hashana Eve 

Jewish High Holy Day: Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) begins at sundown on the 1st day of the month of Tishrei, when the world was created and ends on the 3rd of Tishrei at sundown. At synagogue, the shofar (ram’s horn) is blown 100 times both days, beginning the 10 day period from Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur, known as the Yamim Nora’im (Days of Awe). During this time, G-d decides who will live and die in the coming year, Jews reaffirm G-d as their creator and sustainer, repent for their sins of the previous year, make amends with those they have wronged, resolve to improve themselves, bless one another, pray for prosperity, and eat apples dipped in honey for a sweet year.

October 4, 2019

Saint Francis Day 

On Saint Francis Day, Roman Catholics commemorate the life of Saint Francis of Assisi, patron saint of animals and the environment.

October 8, 2019

Eve of Yom Kippur 

Jewish High Holy Day: Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) begins at sunset and continues through the next day, 10 days after Rosh Hashanah (the Head of the Year). A day of reconciliation, Yom Kippur is the longest synagogue service of the year, where Jews seek forgiveness for their sins through teshuvah (repentance), prayer, and fasting, striving to improve themselves and make amends with those they have wronged to make peace with G-d and their fellow human beings.

Vijayadashami or Dasara 

Hindu festival celebrated in different regions throughout South Asia.

October 13-20, 2019

Sukkot 

Jewish holyday: Sukkot (the Festival of the Huts) takes place 5 days after Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) and commemorates the 40 year period that the Jewish people wandered in the desert after their enslavement in Egypt, during which Moses was given the Torah on Mt. Sinai and they lived in temporary shelters. The Season of Our Rejoicing, as it is also known, is celebrated by building asukkah (hut) that Jews make their “home,” where they eat, entertain, and sometimes even sleep for the 7 day festival, in thanksgiving for G-d’s protection and the harvest. Begins at sundown.

October 20, 2019

Installation of Scriptures as Guru Granth 

Sikh holyday: On this day in 1708 CE, the 10th Sikh guru announced that following his death; Sikhs should look to the sacred text known as Granth Sahib for guidance.

Shemini Atzeret 

Jewish holyday begins at sundown. Shemini Atzeret (the Eighth Day of Assembly) immediately follows the harvest festival of Sukkot, and marks the beginning of the rainy season. Numbers 29:35 instructs: "On the eighth day you should hold a solemn gathering; you shall not work at your occupation." In Israel, Shemini Atzeret is one day, but in the Diaspora it is often two days; Simchat Torah is either celebrated on the same day, or on the second day.

October 21, 2019

Simchat Torah 

Jewish holyday begins at sundown. After the festival of Sukkot, which commemorates when the Israelites wandered in the desert for 40 years and G-d gave Moses the Torah, Simchat Torah (Rejoicing in the Law) marks the end of the annual cycle of Torah readings. The Torah scrolls are taken from the Ark and carried in a procession, with singing and dancing, around the synagogue seven times to celebrate the way Jews incorporate the Torah into their lives. The last book of D’varim (Deuteronomy) is read followed by the first book of B'reishit (Genesis), starting the cycle of Torah reading again.

October 27, 2019

Diwali 

Hindu, Jain, Sikh, & Buddhist holyday: Diwali (the Festival of Lights) is the biggest festival in India. An ancient harvest festival, Diwali is a 4-day celebration for Hindus of the triumph of good over evil, grounded in tales of the Gods & Goddesses, including Rama, Kali, Ganesha, Krishna, Lakshmi, Parvati, and Shiva, associated with wealth, prosperity, and goodness, and celebrated by lighting lamps and exchanging gifts. Some Buddhists celebrate this as the day Emperor Ashoka converted from Hinduism to Buddhism in 262 BCE. For Jains, it marks Lord Mahavir’s attainment of Nirvana in 527 BCE and the beginning of the New Year. Sikhs remember Diwali as Bandi Chhor Diwas (Day of Liberation) when the 6th Guru and 52 princes were freed from prison by the Muslim Mughal emperor in 1619 C.E. Diwali is a significant occasion for South Asians from many religious traditions.

October 28-29, 2019

Birth of Bab 

Baha'i holyday begins at sunset.

October 29-30, 2019

Birth of Baha’u’llah 

Baha'i holyday begins at sunset. On this day in 1817, Mirza Husayn ‘Ali, who came to be known as Baha’u’llah (the Blessed Perfection), was born in Persia. The last Manifestation of God in the world’s great succession of prophets including Moses, Buddha, Jesus, and Muhammad, the founder of the Baha’i faith proclaimed the beginning of the age of universal love and the equality of humanity.

October 31, 2019

Reformation Day 

Protestant Christian holyday: Martin Luther, a Roman Catholic priest, nailed his 95 Theses to the doors of Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany on October 31st in 1517, protesting many Roman Catholic practices and seeking to reform the Roman Catholic Church, sparking the Protestant Reformation which led to bloody clashes and the many Protestant denominations today. Protestants commemorate this event, which led to profound religious and social changes for Christianity worldwide, on Reformation Sunday.

November 1, 2019

Beltane 

Pagan/Wiccan holyday in the Southern Hemisphere begins at sunset. As Pagans in the Northern Hemisphere celebrate Samhain and the coming of winter, Pagans in the Southern Hemisphere celebrate Beltane and the fertility and new life of the spring, often with a Maypole dance and Goddess ritual celebrating the sacred feminine and fertility.

Samhain

Pagan/Wiccan holyday in the Northern Hemisphere begins at sunset. Samhain, one of the 8 Sabbaths of the Wheel of the Year, is a Celtic Festival of the Dead that honors the ancestors, when the veil between this world and the next is the thinnest. This ancient tradition survives in secular culture as Halloween. Neo-pagans reclaiming this harvest festival consider it the Witches New Year and the most important holyday of the year.

All Saints Day

Roman Catholic and Protestant Christian holyday: For Roman Catholics, All Saints’ Day is a solemnity for all the saints, especially those who do not have their own feast day. Services on the night before gave it the name All Hallows’ Eve (Halloween) and appear to have been purposely planned on top of the Celtic Pagan Festival of the Dead, Samain. Similarly, Dia De Los Meurtos is a mixture of the Roman Catholic Church’s All Saints’ Day and Aztec traditions from 3,000 years ago. For Protestants, All Saints’ Day is a time to remember all those who have died in one’s family and congregation (like All Souls’ Day for Roman Catholics).

November 2, 2019

All Souls Day 

Roman Catholic Christian holyday: Immediately after All Saints’ Day, which commemorates all the saints of the Roman Catholic Church, All Souls’ Day is when Roman Catholics honor all the souls of the deceased, praying for all who have died, especially in one’s family and congregation.

November 12, 2019

Birth of Guru Nanak 

Sikh holyday: Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism, was born in the Punjab in 1469. Sikhs honor the birthdays of all 10 Gurus, with Guru Nanak’s birthday being one of the most sacred, celebrated with a 48-hour reading of the Adi Granth (the sacred text), hymns, poetry, and praise.

November 24, 2019

Martyrdom of Guru Tegh Bahadur 

Sikh holyday.

November 25-26, 2019

Day of the Covenant 

Baha’i holyday. Begins at sunset.

November 28, 2019

Ascension of ‘Abdu'l-Baha 

Baha’i holyday that commemorates the death of Abdu’l-Baha, the eldest son of Baha’u’llah.

December 1, 2019

First Sunday in Advent 

Roman Catholic and Protestant Christian holyday: Advent is a month of reflection that precedes Christmas, which commemorates the arrival of Jesus Christ 2,000 years ago and anticipates the Second Coming. One candle is lit each Sunday during Advent, reminding Christians of hope, peace, love and joy. Purple, the color of penitence, fasting, and royalty, is associated with Advent. Some Christians adorn their doors with Advent wreaths and give their children Advent calendars with chocolate that count down to Christmas.

December 6, 2019

Saint Nicholas Day 

Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholic Christian holyday: The Feast Day of St. Nicholas, Archbishop of Myra, who was influential in present-day Turkey in the 4th century, during the reign of Constantine the Great. On St. Nicholas Eve in parts of Europe, St. Nicholas is said to visit, in his red bishop’s robe and hat, to reward good children with gifts and punish bad children. The British “Father Christmas” and American “Santa Claus” were derived from the St. Nicholas tradition and conflated with the celebration of Christmas.

December 8, 2019

Bodhi Day 

Buddhist holyday. Bodhi Day (Day of Enlightenment) celebrates Siddhartha Gautama’s attainment of Enlightenment while meditating under a fig tree 2,600 years ago, when he perceived the nature of the world and the cause of suffering, becoming the Buddha (Awakened One). On this day of remembrance and meditation, Pure Land Buddhists reflect on the cycle of life, the Eightfold Path, and the Four Noble Truths throughout the night and eat a meal of rice and milk, which the young girl Sujata offered the Buddha after his Awakening. Homes may be decorated with fig trees and images of the Buddha, and candles may be lit or lights may be turned on in the evening for the next 30 days to symbolize Enlightenment.

Immaculate Conception of Mary 

Roman Catholic Christian holyday: The Immaculate Conception of Mary celebrates that Mary was conceived in the womb of her mother, Saint Anne, free from the stain of original sin, by a singular grace granted by God. The Immaculate Conception of Mary on December 8th is exactly 9 months before the Nativity of Mary on September 8th.

Second Sunday in Advent

Roman Catholic and Protestant Christian holyday: Advent is a month of reflection that precedes Christmas, which commemorates the arrival of Jesus Christ 2,000 years ago and anticipates the Second Coming. One candle is lit each Sunday during Advent, reminding Christians of hope, peace, love and joy. Purple, the color of penitence, fasting, and royalty, is associated with Advent. Some Christians adorn their doors with Advent wreaths and give their children Advent calendars with chocolate that count down to Christmas.

December 15, 2019

Third Sunday in Advent 

Roman Catholic and Protestant Christian holyday: Advent is a month of reflection that precedes Christmas, which commemorates the arrival of Jesus Christ 2,000 years ago and anticipates the Second Coming. One candle is lit each Sunday during Advent, reminding Christians of hope, peace, love and joy. Purple, the color of penitence, fasting, and royalty, is associated with Advent. Some Christians adorn their doors with Advent wreaths and give their children Advent calendars with chocolate that count down to Christmas.

December 21, 2019

Litha 

Pagan/Wiccan holyday: The Summer Solstice in the Southern Hemisphere. Many agricultural societies have observed the longest day of the year in some way: Stone Henge was created to glorify the rising of the sun on the Summer Solstice, the Saxons and Celts built bonfires to celebrate the power of the sun over darkness, and the Romans had a festival for Juno, wife of Jupiter, the Goddess of marriage, women, menstruation, and children during Midsummer. A time of fertility, growth, warmth, and light, Litha is one of the 8 Sabbaths of the Wheel of the Year for modern Pagans and Wiccans.

Yule

Pagan/Wiccan holyday: The Winter Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere. In the darkest of winter, Yule celebrates the return of the sun, when the days begin to get longer again and bring more light into the world, with feasting and merrymaking. Decorating a tree, wreathes, the Yule log, and caroling come from ancient Norse traditions. Yule is also associated with Odin and the Wild Hunt, a ghostly procession of horsemen through the sky—which became Santa Claus and his flying reindeer. Romans held feasts, decorated trees with tin ornaments, practiced fertility rites under mistletoe, and exchanged gifts during the week-long festival of Saturnalia. The Celts believed the Oak King and the Holly King fought at this time of year to see if light or darkness would win out, which some Wiccans re-enact as part of their celebrations today. Yule is one of the 8 Sabbaths of the Wheel of the Year for modern Pagans and Wiccans.

December 22-30, 2019

Chanukah (Multi-day event) 

Jewish holyday: Chanukah (Dedication) begins at sunset on the 25th day of the month of Kislev, in remembrance of how the vastly outnumbered Jews, led by the Maccabees, miraculously won a major victory in 168 BCE against the occupying Syrians, who had outlawed Judaism and defiled the Temple of Jerusalem by worshiping idols of Greek Gods. After their victory, the Jews rededicated the Holy Temple to G-D by relighting the Ner Tamid (Eternal Light), but there was only enough oil for one day. Miraculously, the oil lasted 8 days, until more could be secured, so the light of the Temple could burn constantly. A celebration of Jewish identity, religious freedom, and the triumph of light over darkness, the Festival of Lights is characterized by lighting an additional candle in the menorah each night. Other customs include making latkes, giving children Chanukah gelt (money or chocolate coins), and playing dreidel (a spinning top with the Hebrew letters Nun, Gimel, Hei and Shin which stands for Nes Gadol Hayah Sham, meaning "a Great Miracle Happened There”).

December 22, 2019

Fourth Sunday in Advent 

Roman Catholic and Protestant Christian holyday: Advent is a month of reflection that precedes Christmas, which commemorates the arrival of Jesus Christ 2,000 years ago and anticipates the Second Coming. One candle is lit each Sunday during Advent, reminding Christians of hope, peace, love and joy. Purple, the color of penitence, fasting, and royalty, is associated with Advent. Some Christians adorn their doors with Advent wreaths and give their children Advent calendars with chocolate that count down to Christmas.

December 25, 2019

Christmas Day 

Roman Catholic and Protestant Christian holyday: Christmas (Christ’s Mass) is the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus, the Child of God, born to the Virgin Mary. Christians typically go to Christmas Eve service and decorate their homes with nativity scenes. Many Christmas traditions such as Christmas trees, wreaths, Yule logs, mistletoe, feasting, gift-giving, and caroling have roots in Pagan celebrations of Yule, the Winter Solstice. Other deities including Horus, Attis, Mithra, Dionysus, Krishna, and some historical figures such as Zoroaster, Romulus, and Alexander the Great were also believed to have been born of a virgin, a number of them on December 25th. Various cases have been made in the history of the church for celebrating Christ's birth in May, April, March, January, and December.

December 26, 2019

Zartosht Diso / (Death of Prophet Zarathushtra) 

Zoroastrian holyday: On this solemn occasion, Zoroastrians pray at home or at fire temples and hear discourses on the life and teachings of Zarathustra to commemorate his death. Zarathustra, the world’s first Prophet, lived in Iran three or more millennia ago. Zoroastrianism, an ancient monotheistic religion concerned with the battle between good and evil, harmony between nature and humanity, purity, honesty, final judgment, and the reordering of the world, has ties to Hinduism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Male priests in a hereditary line offer prayers to God, known as Ahura Mazda (the Wise “Lord”), on behalf of individuals in the sacred Avestan language. Today, Zoroastrians number only 100,000 worldwide and are a tolerated minority in Muslim Iran.

January 1

Gantan Sai

Shinto holyday marking a new year. Traditionally, Shinto practitioners observe this New Year holyday by visiting the shrines, mostly at midnight and praying for the renewal of their heart, prosperity and health in the year to come. It is also common to visit close friends and family to express good wishes. Much like Christmas for Christians, Gantan Sai has become a national holyday in Japan and expanded out past the Shinto religious practices

Mary Mother of God

The Solemnity of Mary the Holy Mother of God is a feast day within the Roman Catholic Church, and is considered a “holyday of obligation,” meaning that Catholics are expected to attend Mass on this day. It is meant to commemorate the part played by Mary in the incarnation of Jesus, who some Christians believe to be divine.

January 2

Feast Day of St. Basil

Religious observance in honor of Saint Basil of Caesarea. Observed by the Roman Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran churches on this day.

January 6

Day of the Holy Kings - Dia de los Reyes

Roman Catholic holyday is celebrated in multiple Spanish speaking countries and it commemorates the Three Holy Kings. Roman Catholic children in the Spanish-speaking world receive presents on this day.

Epiphany

Protestant and Roman Catholic Christian holyday.

January 7

Nativity of Christ

Orthodox Christian churches that follow the Julian calendar (the calendar created under the reign of Julius Caesar in 45 BCE) celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ on what most of the world views as January 7. Recent studies in Russia have shown that 72 percent of the general population mark Christmas on January 7 as opposed to December 25.  As with Pesach, or Easter, the Feast of the Nativity is preceded by 40 days of fasting and austerity, similar to Lent.

January 10-12

Mahayana New Year

Mahayana Buddhist New Year. Many Mahayana Buddhists celebrate the New Year on December 31st or January 1 together with the rest of the world, but some wait for the first full moon in January. New Year’s is celebrated by visiting a nearby temple to light candles to bring happiness and good luck for the coming year. Righting the mistakes of the previous year is often a New Year’s resolution.

January 13

Maghi

Sikh holyday. Maghi is the Punjabi name for the festival of Makar Sankranti which is celebrated all over India as a winter harvest festival. Maghi is celebrated on the first day of Magh as per the Punjabi calendar and is celebrated in Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, and

Haryana. It is a cultural, seasonal and a religious festival marking the agricultural New Year and the increase in daylight. For Sikhs, The day of Maghi is observed to honor the heroic fight of the Chali Mukte, or the Forty Liberated Ones, who sacrificed their own lives defending an attack by the imperial army on 29 December 1705.  Pilgrims take a holy dip in sacred waters and also visit several shrines.

January 25

Lunar New Year

Many Asian religions celebrate a New Year that follows a calendar coordinated to the cycles of the moon as well as the sun. The first day of the New Year falls on the new moon between 21 January and 20 February, and is celebrated with food, fireworks, and a thorough cleaning of living spaces of the dust and bad feelings from the previous year.

January 29

Vasant Panchami

Hindu holyday in honor of the Goddess Saraswati. This holyday is also known as Shri Panchami.

February 2

Imbolc (Northern Hemisphere)

Wiccan/Pagan holyday in the Northern Hemisphere begins at sundown the evening before. Imbolc is a Gaelic traditional festival marking the beginning of spring, held about halfway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox.  It was originally a pagan festival associated with the goddess Brigid, during which feasts were held, holy wells were visited, and Brigid was invoked to protect homes and livestock.  Although many of its customs died out in the 20th century, it is still observed as a religious holyday by Celtic Neopagans, Wiccans, and others today.

Lughnasadh (Southern Hemisphere)

Wiccan/Pagan holyday in the Southern Hemisphere begins sundown evening before. Lughnasadh is a Gaelic traditional festival marking the beginning of harvest season, held about halfway between the summer solstice and the fall equinox (making its placement dependent on whether you live in the northern or southern hemisphere).  The festival itself is named after the god Lugh, and involved great gatherings that included religious ceremonies, ritual athletic, feasting, matchmaking, and trade. Although many of its customs died out in the 20th century, it is still observed as a religious holyday by Celtic Neopagans and Wiccans today.

Presentation of Christ in the Temple

Also called “Candlemas,” this Christian holyday celebrates the baby Jesus being presented at the Temple in Jerusalem. Traditionally, this is when the last Christmas decorations are taken down, and candles are blessed for use for the rest of the liturgical year.

February 3

Setsubun

“Setsubun” literally means “seasonal division” and it is celebrated in Japan the day before the beginning of the Spring. Buddhist and Shinto temples all across the country celebrate Setsubun, as part of the Spring Festival.

February 9

Tu B'Shvat

Tu B'Shvat, the 15th day of the Jewish month of Shevat, begins at sunset and is a holyday known as the New Year for Trees. Judaism has several different new years - Tu B’Shvat is the New Year for the purpose of calculating the age of trees for tithing. The Torah states that fruit from trees may not be eaten during the first three years; the fourth year's fruit is for G-d, and after that, you can eat the fruit. Each tree is considered to have aged one year as of Tu B’Shvat. One custom is to eat a new fruit on this day, or to plant a new tree.

February 15

Nirvana Day

Nirvana Day, also called Parinirvana Day is a Mahayana Buddhist holyday celebrated in East Asia. It celebrates the day when the Buddha is said to have achieved complete Nirvana, upon the death of his physical body. Passages from the Nirvana Sutra describing the Buddha's last days of life are often read on Parinirvana Day. Other observances include meditation and visits to Buddhist temples and monasteries. Also, the day is a time to think about one's own future death and on the deaths of loved ones. This thought process reflects the Buddhist teachings on impermanence.

February 21

Maha Shivaratri

Beginning at sunset, Maha Shivaratri is a Hindu festival celebrated annually in honor of the god Shiva. It is a major festival in Hinduism, but one that is solemn and marks a remembrance of "overcoming darkness and ignorance" in life and the world. It is observed by remembering Shiva and chanting prayers, fasting, doing yoga, and meditating on ethics and virtues such as self-restraint, honesty, non-injury to others, forgiveness, and the discovery of Shiva. Ardent devotees keep awake all night. Others visit one of Shiva’s temples.

February 23

Meatfare Sunday

This is traditionally the last day before Easter for eating meat in the Orthodox Christian tradition.

February 25

Shrove Tuesday

Shrove Tuesday (known in some countries as Pancake Tuesday, Fat Tuesday, or Mardi Gras) is a Roman Catholic and Protestant Christian holyday the day before Ash Wednesday. Shrove Tuesday is observed by many Christians, including Anglicans, Lutherans, United Methodists, and Roman Catholics, who make a special point of considering amendments of life or areas of spiritual growth they especially need to ask God's help in dealing with. In many communities, this is a carnival day, and the last day of indulging in foods and luxuries before the fasting period of Lent.

February 26

Ash Wednesday

Roman Catholic and Protestant holyday. The beginning of Lent.

March 1

Cheesefare Sunday

Also known as Maslenitsa, or Forgiveness Sunday, Cheesefare is an Orthodox Christian religious holyday and Slavic folk festival, celebrated during the last week before Great Lent. Friends and relatives offer each other small gifts and ask each other’s forgiveness. Since Lent excludes parties, secular music, dancing and other distractions from spiritual life, Cheesefare represents the last chance to take part in social activities that are not appropriate during the more prayerful, sober and introspective Lenten season. This includes eating foods that are forbidden during Lent, such as cheese and wine.

March 2

Clean Monday

Clean Monday is the first day of Great Lent, as Eastern Catholics and Eastern Orthodox refer to the Lenten season. Clean Monday is a reminder that we should begin Lent with good intentions and a desire to clean our spiritual house. It is a day of strict fasting for Eastern Catholics, including abstinence not only from meat but from eggs and dairy products as well. It is customary to go to confession during this week, and to clean the house thoroughly.

March 9

Fast of Esther

The Fast of Esther is Jewish holyday, a fast from dawn until dusk on Purim eve, commemorating the three-day fast observed by the Jewish people in the story of Purim. As the Fast of Esther is not one of the four public fasts ordained by the Prophets, the laws concerning its observance are more lenient; pregnant women, nursing mothers, and those who are weak are not required to observe it.

Holi

Begins at sundown. Holi is celebrated by Hindus at the end of winter, on the last full moon day of the lunar month Phalgun, which usually falls in March, sometimes in late February. The festival has many purposes; most prominently, it celebrates the beginning of Spring. The night before Holi, bonfires are lit in a ceremony known as Holika Dahan or Little Holi. People gather near fires, sing and dance. The next day, people pour into the streets and temples to spray colored powder solutions at each other, laugh and celebrate.  After playing with colors, people bathe, put on clean clothes, and visit friends and family. In recent years, some Western communities have taken Holi-style celebrations out of their religious context in the form of popular “color-runs.”

March 9-10

Purim

Begins at sundown on March 9 and ends at Sundown on March 10. Purim is one of the most joyous holydays on the Jewish calendar. It commemorates a time when the Jewish people living in Persia were saved from extermination. It is customary to hold carnival-like celebrations on Purim, to perform plays and parodies, to give to charity, and to eat and drink. The primary commandment related to Purim is to hear the reading of the book of Esther. It is customary to boo, hiss, stamp feet and rattle noisemakers whenever Haman, the genocidal character in the story, is mentioned in the service. The purpose of this custom is to "blot out the name of Haman."

March 10-12

Hola Mohalla

Sikh holyday celebrated on the second day of the Month of Chet in the Nanakshahi calendar. Celebrations include performance of martial arts, reading of poetry and listening to Kirtan music.

March 17

St. Patrick's Day

Roman Catholic holyday. The Feast of St. Patrick commemorates the death of Saint Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland.

March 19

Mabon (Southern Hemisphere)

Mabon is a Pagan harvest festival, the second of three, that encourages pagans to “reap what they sow,” both literally and figuratively. It is the time to reflect on the previous year to celebrate successes (likened to bringing in the harvest) and assess which crops, projects, or dreams didn’t come to fruition.

Ostara (Northern Hemisphere)

Ostara is a Pagan celebration of the Spring equinox, named for a Germanic goddess of Spring and fertility. Similar to those observed at Easter, symbols for Ostara include eggs, rabbits, flowers and seeds. These symbols to represent the fecundity of spring and are incorporated into rituals, altars and celebratory feasts.

St. Joseph's Day

The Feast of St. Joseph is a Roman Catholic holyday that commemorates Joseph, the husband of the Virgin Mary.

March 20

Nowruz

Nowruz, meaning “New Day,” is the Zoroastrian and Baha’i New Year. Nowruz is typically celebrated with fireworks, flowers, and spring cleaning.

March 25

Annunciation of the Virgin Mary

The Annunciation of the Virgin Mary is a Christian celebration of the announcement by the angel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary that she would conceive and become the mother of Jesus, the Child of God. Many Christians observe this event, an approximation of the northern vernal equinox nine full months before Christmas, the ceremonial birthday of Jesus.

April 2

Ram Navami

Hindu holyday that commemorates the birth of Rama.

April 5

Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday is a Roman Catholic and Protestant Christian holyday that falls on the Sunday before Easter. The celebration commemorates Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem, before the crucifixion. In many Christian denominations, worship services on Palm Sunday include a procession carrying palms, representing the palm branches the crowd scattered in front of Jesus riding into Jerusalem.

April 6

Mahavir Jayanti

Jain holyday that commemorates the birth of Mahavir, the twenty-fourth and last Tirthankara of present Avasarpiṇ.

April 8

Lailat al Bara'ah

Begins at sunset. This Muslim holyday marks Allah’s writing of everyone’s destiny for the coming year. Many Muslims try to stay awake the entire night in prayer and worship, hoping for good fortune and forgiveness. For the majority of Muslims worldwide, Lailat al Bara’ah is a cause for celebration, fireworks, and food. Families that have lost a member in the past year are showered with sweet treats by friends, and acts of charity are performed.

April 8-16

Passover

Passover begins on the evening of April 8 and ends on April 16 at sunset. Passover is a Jewish holyday to commemorate Jewish liberation from slavery in Egypt.  In the narrative of the Exodus, G-d helped the Children of Israel escape from their slavery in Egypt by the death of all Egyptian first-borns. The Israelites were instructed to mark the doorposts of their homes with the blood of a slaughtered spring lamb and, upon seeing this, the spirit of the G-d knew to pass over the first-born in these homes, hence the English name of the holyday. When Pharaoh freed the Israelites, it is said that they left in such a hurry that they could not wait for bread dough to rise. In commemoration, matzo (flat unleavened bread) is eaten during this holyday.

April 9

Maundy Thursday

Maundy Thursday is the Roman Catholic and Protestant Christian holyday falling on the Thursday before Easter. It commemorates the Last Supper and foot washing of followers by Jesus Christ. It is the fifth day of Holy Week, and is preceded by Holy Wednesday and followed by Good Friday. The worship service is normally celebrated in the evening, and includes worshipers washing each other’s feet.

April 9-11

Theravadin New Year

In Theravadin Buddhist communities – primarily in Thailand, Burma, Sri Lanka, Cambodia and Lao – the New Year is celebrated for three days from the first full moon day in April. Practitioners may bathe Buddha images and sprinkle water on monks and elders, or build sand mounds at monasteries or on riverbanks. In Buddhist tradition, each grain of sand is representative of a wrongdoing, and when the sand is washed away by the river or by other means, that bad deed is washed away, for a clean slate at the start of the year.

April 10

Good Friday

Good Friday is a Roman Catholic and Protestant Christian holyday commemorating the crucifixion and death of Jesus Christ. It is observed on the Friday preceding Easter Sunday, and may coincide with the Jewish observance of Passover. It is a widely instituted legal holyday in many national governments around the world, as well as in 12 U.S. states. Specific practices of observance vary greatly among Christian denominations, but are generally somber and ascetic.

April 12

Easter

Roman Catholic and Protestant Christian holyday. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is celebrated. It is typically the most well-attended Sunday service of the year. Many Christians believe that Jesus was raised from the dead three days after his death on the cross, and that through his death, burial, and resurrection, Jesus paid the penalty for sin and purchased salvation for all who believe. Easter Sunday marks the end of Lent, a period of fasting and spiritual discipline.

April 17

Holy Friday

Holy Friday is an Orthodox Christian holyday commemorating the crucifixion and death of Jesus Christ. It is observed on the Friday preceding Easter Sunday.

April 19

Orthodox Easter

Orthodox Christian holyday. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is celebrated. It is typically the most well-attended Sunday service of the year. Many Christians believe that Jesus was raised from the dead three days after his death on the cross, and that through his death, burial, and resurrection, Jesus paid the penalty for sin and purchased salvation for all who believe. Easter Sunday marks the end of Lent, a period of fasting and spiritual discipline.

First Day of Ridvan

Begins at sunset. Ridvan is a 12-day Baha’i festival, one of the holiest celebrations in the Baha’i calendar.  "Ridván" means paradise, and is named for the Garden of Ridván outside Baghdad, where Bahá'u'lláh stayed for twelve days after the Ottoman Empire exiled him from the city and before commencing his journey to Constantinople. The festival starts at two hours before sunset on the first day, and major celebrations also occur on the ninth and twelfth days. On those days, work is prohibited and usually observed with a community gathering where prayers are shared.

April 20

Yom Ha Sho'ah (Holocaust Remembrance Day)

Begins at sunset. Yom Ha Sho’ah is a holyday of remembrance for the events of the Holocaust. Most Jewish communities hold a solemn ceremony on this day, but there is no institutionalized ritual accepted by all Jews. Lighting memorial candles and reciting the Kaddish—the prayer for the departed—are common. In Israel, Yom HaShoah is a state holyday. Flags on public buildings are flown at half-mast. At 10:00 a.m., an air raid siren sounds throughout the country and almost everyone stops what they are doing, including motorists who stop their cars in the middle of the road, for two minutes of silent reflection as the siren is sounded.

April 23

Ramadan Begins

Ramadan runs from April 23 to May 23 in 2020. Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, and is observed by Muslims worldwide as a month of fasting to commemorate the first revelation of the Qur’an to Muhammad. Observant Muslims fast from dawn to sundown, and refrain from other indulgences as well (smoking, arguing, sexual relations, etc). This annual observance is obligatory for all healthy adults, and is regarded as one of the Five Pillars of Islam. The month lasts 28–30 days based on the visual sightings of the crescent moon.

April 29

Buddha Day

Buddha Day, also called Vesak, is a holyday traditionally celebrated in Mahayana Buddhism to commemorate the birth of the Prince Siddhartha Gautama, later the Gautama Buddha and founder of Buddhism. Celebrations vary between the many East Asian countries that observe this holyday, but some commonalities are public processions, visits to shrines, and offerings of food and flowers. 

May 1

Beltane (Northern Hemisphere)

Pagan/Wiccan holyday in the Northern Hemisphere begins at sunset on the evening before. Beltane celebrates the fertility and new life of the spring, often with a Maypole dance and Goddess ritual celebrating the sacred feminine and fertility.

Samhain (Southern Hemisphere)

Pagan/Wiccan holyday begins in the Southern Hemisphere at sunset the evening before. Samhain, one of the 8 Sabbats of the Wheel of the Year, is a Celtic Festival of the Dead that honors the ancestors, when the veil between this world and the next is the thinnest. As Pagans in the Northern Hemisphere celebrate Beltane and the coming of Spring, Pagans in the Southern Hemisphere celebrate Samhain. This ancient tradition survives in secular culture as Halloween. Neo-pagans reclaiming this harvest festival consider it the Witches New Year and the most important holyday of the year.

May 11-12

Lag B'Omar

Lag B’Omar begins on May 11 at sundown and ends on May 12 at sundown. This Jewish holyday commemorates Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, a sage in the 2nd century, and the day on which he revealed the deepest secrets of kabbalah in the form of the Zohar (Book of Splendor), a landmark text of Jewish mysticism. This association has spawned several well-known customs and practices on Lag B’Omer, including the lighting of bonfires and pilgrimages to the tomb of Bar Yochai in the northern Israeli town of Meron.

May 21

Ascension of Jesus Christ (Roman Catholic & Protestant)

Roman Catholic and Protestant Christian holyday. The Ascension of Jesus is the departure of Christ from Earth into the presence of God. And it takes place 40 days after the Resurrection. The Feast of the Ascension is celebrated on the 40th day of Easter, always a Thursday. The Orthodox tradition has a different calendar up to a month later than in the Western tradition, and while the Anglican community continues to observe the feast, most Protestant churches have abandoned it.

May 22-23

Declaration of the Bab

Baha’is around the world celebrate the day on which The Bab (the Gate) declared his mission as a messenger of God. Baha’is view the Bab as a Messenger who had a role that can be likened to John The Baptist (who told of the coming of Christ) in heralding the coming of the latest Manifestation of God: Baha’u’llah, founder of the Baha’i faith.

May 23

Eid al-Fitr

Eid al Fitr commemorates the end of Ramadan. It may begin at sundown on May 23.

May 27-28

Ascension of Baha'u'llah

This Baha’i holyday commemorates the anniversary of the day that Baha’u’llah, the founder of the Baha’i Faith passed away from this life in 1892. During this holyday, celebrants abstain from attending work and school, and reflect on their founder’s suffering and resilience during the whole day. This day is seen as a time to read through Baha’u’llah’s writings, to better understand his vision for the world

May 28

Ascension of Jesus Christ (Orthodox)

Orthodox Christian holyday. The Ascension of Jesus is the departure of Christ from Earth into the presence of God. And it takes place 40 days after the Resurrection. The Feast of the Ascension is celebrated on the 40th day of Easter, always a Thursday. The Orthodox tradition has a different calendar up to a month later than in the Western tradition, and while the Anglican community continues to observe the feast, most Protestant churches have abandoned it.

Shavuot

Begins at sunset. Shavuot is a Jewish holyday with a double significance. It marks the all-important wheat harvest in the Land of Israel, and it commemorates the anniversary of the day G-d gave the Torah to the entire nation of Israel assembled at Mount Sinai. Shavuot is unlike other Jewish holydays in that it has no prescribed ritual observance, other than traditional festival meals and merriment and the required abstention from work. However, it is characterized by many customs, including dairy-heavy dishes and all-night Torah study.

May 31

Pentecost

The Roman Catholic and Protestant Christian holyday of Pentecost is celebrated 50 days from Easter Sunday, to commemorate events described in the New Testament, in which the Holy Spirit descends upon the Apostles and other followers of Jesus Christ. "Pentecost" may refer to Shavuot. Shavuot is a significant event shared by Jews and Christians but Christians do not commonly celebrate it as a separate holyday.

June 20

Litha (Northern Hemisphere)

Pagan/Wiccan holyday. The Summer Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere. Many agricultural societies have observed the longest day of the year in some way: Stone Henge was created to glorify the rising of the sun on the Summer Solstice, the Saxons and Celts built bonfires to celebrate the power of the sun over darkness, and the Romans had a festival for Juno, wife of Jupiter, the Goddess of marriage, women, menstruation, and children during Midsummer. A time of fertility, growth, warmth, and light, Litha is one of the 8 Sabbats of the Wheel of the Year for modern Pagans and Wiccans.

Yule (Southern Hemisphere)

Pagan/Wiccan holyday in the southern hemisphere. In the darkest of winter, Yule celebrates the return of the sun, when the days begin to get longer again and bring more light into the world, with feasting and merrymaking. Decorating a tree, wreathes, the Yule log, and caroling come from ancient Norse traditions. Yule is also associated with Odin and the Wild Hunt, a ghostly procession of horsemen through the sky—which became Santa Claus and his flying reindeer. Romans held feasts, decorated trees with tin ornaments, practiced fertility rites under mistletoe, and exchanged gifts during the week-long festival of Saturnalia. The Celts believed the Oak King and the Holly King fought at this time of year to see if light or darkness would win out, which some Wiccans re-enact as part of their celebrations today. Yule is one of the 8 Sabbats of the Wheel of the Year for modern Pagans and Wiccans.