Calendar of Religious Holidays

April 2014


Quingming (Chinese Traditional)

Quingming is a celebration to remember ancestors and to tend to their gravesites. Some leave offerings at graves, such as food, tea and other libations. Willow branches are often carried or hung outside doors to ward off evil spirits.


Rama Navami (Hindusim)

This day marks the birth of Rama, a divine figure in Hinduism who is referred to as Maryada Purushottama, or "the perfect man." Rama's birthday is celebrated with evening processions of murtis, Hindu symbolic figures, and drinking Panakam, a sweet drink made of jaggery and pepper. Ceremonial weddings are also often staged in houses and temples, using murtis of Rama and his wife Sita.


Lazarus Saturday (Orthodox Christianity)

Celebrated the day before Palm Sunday, this holiday celebrates the resurrection of Lazarus, as told in The New Testament Gospel of John. Though this day is still a fast day, some cultures celebrate with special permitted foods, like caviar in Russia, and a special spice bread called Lazarakia in Greece.


Palm Sunday (Christianity / Orthodox Christianity)

Falling on the Sunday before Easter, Palm Sunday commemorates the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. It is said that a crowd greeted Jesus by carpeting his path with palms, as the palm is a symbol of triumph and victory. In many churches, palm leaves are distributed to all worshipers. In regions where palms are not available (Russia, Ukraine, and Austria to name a few) pussy willow branches are often used.


Mahavir Jayanti (Jainism)

Mahavir Jayanti, the most important holiday in Jainism, celebrates the birth of Mahavira, the last Tirthankara. A Tirthankara is a human being who achieves enlightenment and becomes a role-model and teacher. On this day, Jain temples are decorated with flags, and lectures are often held to discuss the path to virtue. Special ceremonies and processions are also performed, and devotees will make offerings of rice, fruit, milk, and other items to those participating in the procession.


Vaisakhi / Baisakhi / New Year (Hindusim / Sikhism)

Vaisakhi is an ancient harvest festival, celebrated by both Sikhs and Hindus as the beginning of the solar new year. Sikhs also spend this day commemorating the establishment of the Khalsa - or military order of "saint soldiers" - by Guru Gobind Singh in 1699. Through the Khalsa, Sikhs were given a clearer identity and code to live by. Today, the term Khalsa is used to refer to all baptized Sikhs. This holiday is celebrated around the world with parades, Seva (community service), and giving offerings at gurdwaras.


Lord's Evening Meal (Jehovah's Witness Christianity)

The Lord's Evening Meal, a memorial to commemorate Christ's death, is the only holiday in which the Jehovah's Witnesses participate. They believe it is the only holiday that the Bible commands Christians to observe. On this day, a service is held and unleavened bread and wine is offered, though a very small minority partake in this offering; only those who believe they have a heavenly hope will partake.


Hanuman Jayanti (Hinduism)

Hanuman Jayanti is the birthday of Hanuman, a monkey god and devotee of Rama. Seen as a symbol of physical strength and perseverance, Hindus often perform special chants to Hanuman when they are faced with obstacles. On this day, worshippers fast and visit temples, where they apply a tilak of sindhoor (vermillion) from Hanuman's body to their forehead for good luck.


Pesach / Passover (Judaism)

Pesach, or Passover, commemorates God "passing over" the houses of the Jews—sparing them—during the tenth plague of Egypt. In some traditions, Passover lasts for seven days, with major feasts on the first and last days. The first night of Passover is celebrated with a seder, a special dinner where the story of the Exodus from Egypt is retold. The last day, celebrated with prayer services and special meals, commemorates the day the Children of Israel reached the Red Sea and found safety. Different traditions call for varying levels of diet restriction at this time, but generally all Jews abstain from eating chametz (leavening and fermenting agents) as it is commanded in the Torah.


Maundy Thursday (Christianity)

Also known as "Holy Thursday," this Thursday before Easter commemorates the "last supper" that Jesus shared with his Apostles. It was on this night that the Christian sacrament known as Holy Eucharist was introduced. Maundy Thursday observances include reading the account of the Last Supper from the Gospel.


Good Friday (Christianity)

The Friday preceding Easter Sunday, known as "Good" or "Holy" Friday, commemorates the crucifixion of Jesus and his death. Some Christian denominations fast on this day, and many hold special church services.


Holy Friday (Orthodox Christianity)

Holy Friday commemorates Jesus’ crucifixion. In the Orthodox tradition, special services are held that revisit removing the Body of Christ from the Cross and entombing him. Occasionally, pilgrimages are made to Jerusalem, and processions are held that follow the route that Jesus took to his crucifixion.


Black Saturday / Holy Saturday (Christianity)

Holy Saturday, the final day of Holy Week and the last day of Lent, commemorates the day that Jesus's body lay entombed in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, before his resurrection on Easter Sunday. In the Western Church, this is a time to quietly reflect on Christ's death and burial, and no Masses are held.


Easter (Christianity)

Christians believe that Jesus was resurrected from the dead on Easter Sunday, on the third day after his crucifixion. This day is celebrated in different ways among the many Western and Eastern Christian traditions, including Vigils, readings, reenactments, and the eating of special foods. The egg is a significant symbol of Easter, as it represents the resurrection: it is dormant, but contains a new life. Easter traditions involving eggs include egg hunts, egg games, and the gifting of candy eggs.

21 - May 2

Ridvan (Baha'ism)

On April 21, 1863, Baha'u'llah, founder of the Baha'i faith, declared his mission. To celebrate the commencement of his prophethood, Baha'is hold a twelve-day festival called Ridvan, named after the Garden of Ridvan where Baha'u'llah stayed for twelve days in exile. The first, ninth, and twelfth days of Ridvan are special holy days, marking Baha'u'llah's arrival to the garden, his family's arrival, and his departure respectively. On these days, work is prohibited and time is spent in prayer and celebration.


Saint George's Day (Christianity)

This day commemorates Saint George, one of the most prominent military saints. As patron saint of England, Greece, Russia, Ethiopia, Palestine and Portugal (among others), Saint George's Day is observed throughout the world and in different fashions, including flying Saint George's Cross Flag and participating in parades.

27 (begins at sundown)

Yom HaSho'ah, Holocaust Remembrance Day (Judaism)

Commencing in 1953, Yom HaSho'ah is a remembrance day for the six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust. Many Jewish communities hold solemn ceremonies on this day. In Israel, Yom HaSho'ah is a national memorial day, where a state ceremony is held, flags are flown at half staff, and those who have perished are recognized with a moment of silence.


Ninth day of Rivdan (Baha'ism)

As noted above for the first day of Ridvan, this day, the ninth of the days Baha'u'llah spent in the Ridvan garden, marks the day his family arrived.


Ghambar Maidyozarem (Zoroastrianism)

This is the first of six annual Ghambar festivals celebrated by Zoroastrians. The word Ghambar is derived from "gahanbar" meaning time-storage in Persian, and alludes to the division and storage of food. As the name indicates, these five-day festivals are observations of the different seasons and harvests. They are celebrated through joyous feasts and the recognition of the seven acts of goodness: generosity of the spirit, sharing, selfless help toward those in need, community participation and inclusion, honesty, pity, and remembrance of one's ancestors. Today's Ghambar - Ghambar Maidyozarem - celebrates the sky and the winter crop harvest.