Religious Holy Days

Calendar for 2019

January 1

Feast of Saint Basil

Orthodox Christian holy day.

Gantan Sai

Shinto holyday marking a new year. Traditionally, Shinto practitioners observe this New Year holiday 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 holiday 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 Catholic Church, and is considered a “holy day 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 Christians believe to be divine.

January 6

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 Pascha, or Easter, the Feast of the Nativity is preceded by 40 days of fasting and austerity, similar to Lent.

January 14

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 20

Tu B’Shvat 

Tu B'Shvat, the 15th day of the Jewish month of Shevat, is a holiday known as the New Year for Trees and begins at sundown. 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 2

Imbolc in the 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 holiday by Celtic Neopagans and Wiccans 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 holiday by Celtic neopagans and Wiccans today. 

February 5

Lunar New Year 

Confucian & Taoist holyday. Many East Asian cultures 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 living spaces of the dust and bad feelings from the previous year. 

February 15

Nirvana Day

Nirvana Day, also called Parinirvana Day is a Mahayana Buddhist holiday 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. 

March 3

Meatfare Sunday

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

Transfiguration Sunday

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 next to Jesus and they speak with each other. Jesus is then called by a voice in the sky, assumed to be God. The Feast of the Transfiguration is celebrated by various Christian denominations, and falls at different points in the liturgical calendar depending on the denomination.

March 5

Fat Tuesday

Shrove Tuesday (known in some countries as Pancake Tuesday, Fat Tuesday, or Mardi Gras) is a Christian holiday the day before Ash Wednesday. Shrove Tuesday is observed by many Christians, including Anglicans, Lutherans, 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.

March 6

Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday, a day of fasting, is the first day of Lent in Western Christianity. According to the Gospels, Jesus Christ spent 40 days fasting in the desert, where he endured temptation by Satan. Lent originated as a mirroring of this, fasting 40 days as preparation for Easter. Ash Wednesday derives its name from the practice of blessing ashes made from palm branches blessed on the previous year's Palm Sunday, and placing them on the heads of participants to the accompaniment of the words "Repent, and believe in the Gospel" or "Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return".

March 10

Cheesefare Sunday

Also known as Maslenitsa, or Forgiveness Sunday, Cheesefare is an Orthodox Christian religious holiday 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.

March 11

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 20

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

Purim

Purim, which begins at sunset, is one of the most joyous holidays 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 to excess. Americans sometimes refer to Purim as the Jewish Mardi Gras. 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 king in the story, is mentioned in the service. The purpose of this custom is to "blot out the name of Haman."

Holi

Holi is an important festival to Hindus, as well as many other Indians and other people of south Asian origin. It is celebrated 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.

Mabon (Southern Hemisphere)

Mabon is a Pagan harvest festival, the second of three, 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.

Norouz

Norouz, meaning “New Day,” is the Zoroastrian New Year, and is observed by people of diverse faiths (including Baha'i) in Iran, the Balkans, the Black Sea Basin, Central Asia, and Western Asia. Norouz is typically celebrated with fireworks, flowers, and spring cleaning.

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.

March 25

Annunciation of the Virgin Mary

The Annunciation of the Virgin Mary is the 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 with the Feast of the Annunciation on 25 March, an approximation of the northern vernal equinox nine full months before Christmas, the ceremonial birthday of Jesus.

April 14

Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday is a Christian holy day that falls on the Sunday before Easter. The celebration commemorates Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem, before his 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 as he rode into Jerusalem. April 14 marks the Roman Catholic and Protestant celebration in 2018. 

April 18

Maundy Thursday

Maundy Thursday is the Roman Catholic and Protestant Christian holy day 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 19

Good Friday

Good Friday is a Roman Catholic and Protestant holy day commemorating the crucifixion and death of Jesus Christ. It is observed on the Friday preceding Easter Sunday Specific practices of observance vary greatly between Christian denominations, but are generally somber and ascetic. 

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 river banks. 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 19 - April 27

Passover

Passover, which begins the evening of April 19 and ends the evening of April 27, is an eight day Jewish commemoration of liberation from slavery in Egypt. In the narrative of the Exodus, the Hebrew Bible tells that God 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 death knew to pass over the first-born in these homes, hence the English name of the holiday. 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 holiday. 

April 21

Easter

On Easter Sunday, Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is typically the most well-attended Sunday service of the year. 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 in him. Easter Sunday marks the end of Lent, a period of fasting and spiritual discipline. In 2019 Roman Catholics and Protestants celebrate on April 21.

April 26

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 28

Easter

On Easter Sunday, Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is typically the most well-attended Sunday service of the year. 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 in him. Easter Sunday marks the end of Lent, a period of fasting and spiritual discipline. In 2019 Orthodox Christians celebrate on April 28.

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.

Yom Ha Sho’ah

Yom Ha Sho’ah is a holiday 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 holiday. 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.

May 5

Ramadan

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 29–30 days based on the visual sightings of the crescent moon.

May 8

Yom Ha’Atzmaut

Yom Ha’Atzmaut is celebrated as Israel’s Independence Day, founded on the declaration of the establishment of the State of Israel on 14 May 1948. Many, though not all Jewish people celebrate this day as a religious holiday.

May 18

Buddha Day

Buddha Day, also called Vesak, is a holiday 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 holiday, but some commonalities are public processions, visits to shrines, and offerings of food and flowers.

May 22-23

Lag B’Omer

This Jewish holiday 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 29

Ascension of Baha’u’llah

This Baha’i holy day 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 holiday, 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 30

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 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 worshipping 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, gimmel, 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

Zarathosht 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.