Calendar of Religious Holidays

2013: January | February | March | April | May | June | July | August | September | October | November | December

September 2013


Church year begins
(Orthodox Christianity)

This day marks the beginning of the Orthodox Christian liturgical calendar.


Rosh Hashanah (Judaism)

Rosh Hashanah, marks the seventh month in the Jewish calendar and the beginning of the Jewish civil new year. It is also referred to as "the day of the sounding of the shofar," as a shofar, or ram's horn, is blown in the synagogue on this day (however, this is not practiced if Rosh Hashana falls on the Sabbath). This day is reserved for prayer and penitence, commemorating the Creation of the world as written in the Bible. It marks the beginning of the ten Days of Awe, a time for introspection and repentance, which culminate in Yom Kippur. 


Nativity of Mary (Christianity)

This feast originates in fifth century Jerusalem and celebrates the birth of the Virgin Mary, mother of Jesus. This is recognized in the Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Anglican Churches. 


Ganesha Chaturthi (Hinduism)

This day is celebrated as the birthday of Ganesha, the elephant-headed son of Shiva and Parvati. Known as the supreme god of wisdom, prosperity and success, it is believed that Ganesha bestows his presence on earth during this time. In some traditions, clay figures of Ganesha are made and worshiped for a period of two to ten days, then are thrown into the river as ritual departure back to Kailash, the sacred mountain on which he lives.


Paryushana (Jainism)

Paryushana is a word that means "to stay in one place." Originally, this was a monastic practice, drawing from the tradition of monks staying in one place during the rainy season. Now, all use this time to slow down, fast, reflect and repent.


Ghambar Paitishem (Zoroastrianism)

This is the third of the six Ghambar festivals in the Zoroastrian year. This five-day seasonal festival celebrates the creation of the earth, and the summer crop harvest. 


Yom Kippur (Judaism)

Occurring on the tenth day of Tishri, the seventh month of the Jewish calendar, Yom Kippur is also known as the Day of Atonement. Yom Kippur is considered the holiest day of the Jewish year, in which people atone for the sins of the past year. It is solemnly observed with ceremonial repentance and strict fasting for a twenty-four hour period.


Holy Cross Day (Christianity)

This day recognizes the Cross as a symbol of triumph in the Christian religion. The date traces back to the dedication of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre on September 14, 335. By order of Saint Helena and her son, the first Christian Roman Emperor Constantine, the church was built over the ruins of the Crucifixion and Burial sites in Israel. According to some traditions, it was also at this site that Helena found the True Cross. 


Samvatsari / Ksamavani (Jainism)

This is the last day of Paryushana, often dedicated to prayer and contemplation, confession and penance. No dispute may be carried out beyond this day, and phone calls are often made to ask distant friends and relatives for forgiveness. Many Jains also fast during this holiday.


Sukkot (Judaism)

The Festival of Sukkot, also known as Feast of the Tabernacles, begins on Tishri, the 15th day after Yom Kippur. The word Sukkot refers to temporary dwelling places, or huts, and the holiday commemorates the 40 year period in which the children of Israel wandered the wilderness, living in temporary huts for protection. In some practices, temporary huts are constructed - which must have ceilings made of organic material - and all eating, praying and sleeping must take place here for the duration of the holiday. As a Jewish Biblical pilgrimage festival, Sukkot is one of three holidays during which Jews historically traveled to the Temple in Jerusalem.


Mabon (Neo-Paganism--Northern Hemisphere)

Mabon is the Autumn Equinox in the Northern Hemisphere. It is a time when the day is as long as the night, and people prepare for the coming winter days by storing their harvest.


Higan / Fall Equinox (Buddhism, Japan)

This holiday is celebrated twice a year, during the spring and fall equinoxes. This is an important date for Jodo Shinshu Buddhists in particular. Many Japanese visit their ancestors' graves to pay respects, often leaving flowers and treats like ohagi: rice balls that are coated in soybean paste.


Semini Atzeret (Judaism)

Semini Atzeret, meaning the "eighth day of assembly," is celebrated after the seventh day of Sukkot, but is in fact a holiday separate from Sukkot. It is often explained that Sukkot is like a seven day party, where the Creator is the host who has invited his visitors for a limited time. On the eighth day, he has had such a pleasurable time that he asks for guests to stay an extra day. Semini Atzeret marks the beginning of the rainy season. On this day, no work is permitted and a prayer for rain, called tefilat geshem, is recited, so that it will be plentiful and bring healthy crops.


Simchat Torah (Judaism)

In the Jewish tradition, the Torah - the first five books of the Hebrew Bible - is divided and read over the course of a year. Simchat Torah, which means "rejoicing in the Torah," is the day when the reading of the Torah is completed and the next year's reading commences. The end of the text and the beginning of the text are read back-to-back to remind all that the story is a circle that never ends. Synagogue services involve selected readings, processions of the Torah scrolls, and blessing of the children. 


Meskel (Ethiopian/Eritrean Orthodox Christianity)

This day commemorates the finding of the True Cross - the physical remnants of the cross on which Jesus was crucified - by Queen Eleni (St. Helena) in the fourth century. The celebration includes burning a large fire, to symbolize the bonfire that Queen Eleni was told to make in a dream. As told in her prophesizing dream, the smoke from the fire leads to the burial site of the True Cross. When the fire is extinguished, followers use the charcoal to make the sign of the cross on their forheads. In the Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant traditions, the finding of the True Cross is celebrated on September 14th.


Michael and All Angels

Also known as Michaelmas, this day recognizes the Archangel Michael, one of the principal angelic warriors, and other angels. Christians give thanks for the different ways that God watches over them. 

Download a printer-friendly PDF version of this month's holidays here.