Calendar of Religious Holidays
Saint David of Wales (Christianity)
Saint David, the patron saint of Wales, was a church official who lived during the sixth century. It is said that he lived for 100 years, in which he founded many churches and monasteries, and was celebrated for his teaching, preaching, and for living a simple life. His saying, “Do the little things in life,” is a well-known Welsh phrase.
Fast of Ala (Baha'ism)
The Baha'i calendar is comprised of 19 months of 19 days each. The fast of Ala occurs during the last month of the Baha'i year, when Baha'is fast from sun up to sun down. All healthy individuals between the ages of 15 and 70 participate in the fast, which is done in spiritual preparation for the New Year, Naw Ruz.
Transfiguration Sunday (Christianity)
Transfiguration Sunday, celebrated on the last Sunday before Lent, marks the day that Jesus was "transfigured" on the mountain. His appearance became radiant, and he was joined by both Moses and Elijah. The disciples who were with him saw him in this dazzling glory, and they heard a voice from heaven that said "This is my beloved Son... Listen to him."
Cheesefare Sunday (Orthodox Christianity)
Also known as the "Sunday of Forgiveness," this day often reflects on Adam and Eve and their exile from the Garden of Eden, emphasizing the human fall into sin and separation from God. This reminder prepares Orthodox Christians for the intense fasting of Lent - a time to focus and seek forgiveness from God. This is the last day that dairy products can be consumed before the Lenten fast.
Great Lent (Orthodox Christianity)
On this day, referred to as "Clean Monday," Orthodox Christians leave behind sinful attitudes and certain foods as they prepare for the Great Lent. This is a seven-week period of fasting to prepare for Orthodox Easter, the greatest feast of the year.
Shrove Tuesday (Christianity)
Shrove Tuesday is the last day before the beginning of Lent, during which Christians are supposed to examine their lives, confess their sins, and receive advice on mending their ways - as the time of Lent represents purification. In Old English, the word "shrove" referred to the act of listening intently to someone and giving advice. The French term for this day, Mardi Gras, means Fat Tuesday, which is said to come from the custom the French had of using up all the fats they had in the house for cooking, since the food during Lent's time of "fast and abstinence" would entail leaner cuisine. The fat would be baked into rich meals on Mardi Gras, and often what was cooked ended up being a pancake of sorts; thus the custom still observed in some parts of the western world of eating pancakes on the day before Lent. In many places it is a time for a final "celebration" before the 40 days of purification that precede Easter.
Ash Wednesday (Christianity)
In the Western Church, Lent - the fasting season marking Jesus' time in the wilderness - commences with Ash Wednesday. Many Christians attend church, where their foreheads are marked with ashes in the form of the cross. The ashes consist of the burnt remains of palms blessed on Palm Sunday the previous year. The cross of ash symbolizes belonging to Jesus Christ, and reminds people of their human mortality.
Orthodox Sunday (Orthodox Christianity)
Celebrated on the first Sunday of Lent, Orthodox Sunday recognizes the victory and restoration of icons for use in church services and private devotional life.
Birthday of L. Ron Hubbard (Scientology)
Born in 1911, Lafayette Ronald Hubbard was a science fiction writer who founded the Church of Scientology in 1953, in Camden, New Jersey. Hubbard originally developed a self-help system called Dianetics in 1950, and these ideas grew into doctrines and rituals that became Scientology, an applied religious philosophy. Today, followers of the Church of Scientology recognize his birthday.
Magha Puja (Buddhism)
Magha Puja is the day Buddha addressed a meeting of 1250 Arhants: spiritual practitioners that had reached a certain level of enlightenment. Buddha introduced to them these principles: cease from evil, do what is good, and cleanse one's mind. On this day, temples in Thailand hold candlelight processions, walking clockwise three times around the Uposath Hall-- once for the Buddha, once for the Dharma, and once for the Sangha.
Purim is a Jewish festival that recognizes the deliverance of the Persian Jews from destruction during the reign of King Ahasuerus. This story, recorded in the book of Esther, is read aloud in Synagogues on Purim, and adults and children often wear costumes commemorating the characters. In some traditions, a Purim gragger, or noisemaker, is used whenever Haman's name is mentioned in reading the Megillah, to cover up the name of evil. Families also exchange gifts and eat special foods.
Ghambar Hamaspathmaeden (Zoroastrianism)
This is the last of the six Ghambar festivals in the Zoroastrian calendar. Ghambars are joyous occasions when communities gather to share a feast. Food is contributed anonymously, and participants give according to their means and ability to contribute. This particular five-day Ghambar celebrates the creation of humans, and is a time to remember souls who have passed away.
St. Patrick’s Day (Christianity)
St. Patrick, the Patron Saint of Ireland, was credited for spreading Christianity in Ireland and abolishing pagan practices in the fourth century. Today, St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated world-wide with large parades, Irish-themed food and drink, and wearing of the color green. The symbol of the shamrock is often associated with St. Patrick’s Day, as St. Patrick used the three leaves to explain the mystery of the Christian doctrine of the Trinity.
Holi, the Hindu spring festival also known as "the festival of colors," is a celebration of fertility, brotherhood, and the triumph of good over evil. Festivities surrounding Holi can lasts up to sixteen days. During the main day of celebration, people throw colored water or powder at each other until they are coated and indistinguishable from their neighbors. This symbolizes unity and brotherhood, as everyone looks the same coated in colors, and differences such as race, sex, class and creed are forgotten. Bonfires are lit to represent the destruction of evil, recalling the legend of Prahlad miraculously escaping from the fire of the Demoness Holika. His escape was said to be due to his staunch devotion to the god Vishnu.
Hola Mohalla (Sikhism)
A week-long celebration that often coincides with the Sikh New Year, Hola Mohalla was started by Guru Gobind Singh as a day of mock battles and poetry. Today, those who celebrate the festival often camp out, watch demonstrations of fighting and bravery, and listen to music and poetry. The day is concluded with a military-style procession.
Saint Joseph's Day (Christianity)
This feast day celebrates Saint Joseph, the earthly father of Jesus. One Italian tradition recalls a draught, where the peasants prayed to St. Joseph for rain. When the rains came, crops were planted and then a large harvest feast was given in St. Joseph's honor. Some cultures celebrate this day by creating St. Joseph Tables: a table full of elaborate foods, though all free of meat, as this day typically falls during the fasting period of Lent.
Ostara celebrates the coming of spring, the time when the days are getting longer. It is a time to celebrate the abundance of nature and the abundance of life, and to plant crops.
Higan, or Ohigan, is celebrated twice a year, during the spring and fall equinoxes. This is an important date for Jodo Shinshu Buddhists in particular. On this date, the day and night are the same length, symbolizing equality and harmony. It is believed that Buddha appears on earth during this week to save stray souls, thus many Buddhists visit cemeteries and pay respects to their passed ancestors.
Nowruz (Persian / Zoroastrian)
Nowruz is the celebration of the Iranian New Year, and marks the first day of spring. On this day, Persian families wear new clothing, visit each other’s homes, give gifts, and act kindly, as it is said that when someone acts well on Nowruz, it will affect them positively for the entire year. Likewise, any fights or ill-temper on Nowruz will result in a poor year.
Naw Ruz (Baha’ism)
Similar to Nowruz, Naw Ruz is the celebration of the New Year as adopted by Baha’u’llah, the founder of the Baha’i faith. The equinox is believed to be a symbol of the manifestations of God, and spring-time to be the carrier of new life and new beginnings.
Annunciation of Virgin Mary (Christianity)
This day commemorates when the angel Gabriel announced to the Virgin Mary that she would bear a child, Jesus. The feast of the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary is celebrated with prayers and church services.
Khordad Sal (Zoroastrianism)
Khordad Sal is the birthday celebration of Prophet Zarathustra, the founder of Zoroastrianism. Considered to be one of the most important holidays on the Zoroastrian calendar, the day is spent feasting, wearing new clothes, displaying fresh flowers and gathering in fire temples for prayers.
Hindu New Year / Ugadi (Hinduism)
Ugadi is the Hindu New Year, often celebrated with a ritual bath, prayers, and the eating of Pachhadi: six flavors that represent six different life experiences. There’s bitter, tang, sour, spice, sweet, and salty, to represent sadness, happiness, anger, fear, disgust and surprise.
31 - April 8
Commencing with the Hindu New Year, Ramayana Week celebrates the appearance of Sri Ram, a Hindu Lord. Hindus worship Sri Ram by fasting, singing songs and dancing, and reading from the Ramayana text.