Multicultural & Religious Holidays
Special Notes for Religious Celebrations
BAHA’I: The dates refer to the Baha’i day which begins at sunset on the preceding day and ends at sunset on the date listed.
BUDDHISM: Holy Days are synchronized with the phases of the moon; thus they vary from year to year according to the Gregorian calendar. ***
CHRISTIANITY: Some Holy Days have the same date each year; others vary from year to year.
HINDUISM: The dates change each year, based on the lunar calendar.
ISLAM: The dates are based on actual sightings of the crescent moon. *
JUDAISM: All Jewish holidays begin and end at sundown on the dates listed. **
SIKHISM: The calendar is based on the length of the tropical solar year, instead of the lunar cycle.
Jan. 1:New Year’s Day (Traditional). Observed in all countries that follow the Gregorian or Western/Christian calendar.
Gantan Sai also known as Shogatu (Shinto). New Year festival popularly celebrated in Japan and observed with prayers for inner renewal of hearts, good health, and prosperity. Celebrants wear their best clothes and visit shrines in large numbers. During the seven days of the holiday, people visit one another’s homes to offer good wishes for the New Year.
St. Basil’s Feast Day (Greek Orthodox Christian). The New Year is celebrated to commemorate the kindness and generosity of St. Basil toward the poor. St. Basil was the forefather of the Greek Orthodox Church.
Jan. 4: Holy Name of Jesus (Catholic Christian). This is celebrated on the first Sunday of the year, but if this Sunday falls on January 1, 6, or 7, it is celebrated on January 2.
Jan. 5:Twelfth Night (Christian). Observance of the close of Christmastide and prelude to the Epiphany which begins the next day.
Guru Gobindh Singh’s Birthday (Sikh). He was the last of the ten Gurus. Each year on this date (according to the Nanakshahi calendar) his birthday is celebrated with a Sikh festival that is a religious celebration in which prayers for prosperity are offered.
Jan. 6:Epiphany (Three Kings Day—Dia de los Reyes). Celebrated twelve days after Christmas, it marks the visit of the three wise men to the baby Jesus.
Feast of the Theophany (Orthodox Christian). Feast to recall the revelation of the Trinity in Christ’s baptism.
Jan. 7: Nativity of Christ (Orthodox Christian). Birth of Jesus celebrated on this date by Orthodox Christians.
Jan. 13: Magahi (Sikh). Observed to honor the heroic battle of the Forty Liberated Ones who laid down their lives to save Guru Gobind Singh.
Jan. 14: Orthodox New Year (Russian). This is celebrated on January 14 in the years through 2100 according to the Gregorian calendar.
Jan. 15: Makar Sankranti (Varhsa-Pratipada)—Hindu. A festival of new beginnings, this is a most auspicious day.
Jan. 17: Blessings of the Animals (Some Hispanic Christians). Observances that show respect for the domestic animals that matter a lot to people. Observed on various dates, especially as related to St. Francis.
World Religion Day. Observed by the Baha’i’ to enhance and commemorate interfaith harmony and understanding.
Jan. 18 – 25: Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. During this week Christians pray for the restoration of unity between churches of the Christian faith.
Jan. 18: Martin Luther King Day. Commemorates the birth of Martin Luther King Jr. who was born on January 15, 1929. One of the world’s best known advocates of nonviolent social change, Dr. King was the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in December of 1964. He was assassinated on April 4, 1968, and remains a symbol of the struggle for civil rights.
Jan.20:Timkat (Orthodox Christian). Meaning “baptism,” this is the Ethiopian Orthodox celebration of Epiphany and celebrates the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River.
Jan. 21:St. Agnes Day (Christian). Commemorates the martyrdom of Agnes at the young age of 13. She gave up her life for her faith and is one of seven women, excluding the Blessed Virgin, mentioned by name in the Canon of the Mass. She is the patron saint of chastity, gardeners, girls, engaged couples, rape victims and virgins.
Jan. 25:Conversion of St. Paul (Some Christians). Observances on this day mark St. Paul’s conversion to Christianity. While on his way to persecute Christians, Paul was faced with a vision of Jesus and as a result, became an avid supporter of Jesus. The day is observed at worship services.
Tu B’shvat (Jewish). “The New Year for the Trees”) is celebrated on the fifteenth day of the Hebrew month of Shevat. (Starts at sundown on the 25th.
Jan. 31:Birthday of Guru Har Rai (Sikh). He was the seventh Sikh guru.
Black History Month, Canadian History Month
Feb. 1: National Freedom Day (USA). Commemorates the date, February 1, 1865, when President Abraham Lincoln signed a joint resolution that proposed the 13th amendment to the nation’s constitution outlawing slavery. It was ratified December 18, 1865.
Feb. 2:Candlemas Day (Christian, Wiccan & Pagan). A Christian holiday celebrating three occasions according to Christian belief: the presentation of the child Jesus, when Mary took Jesus to the temple in Jerusalem 40 days after his birth, and the purification of the Virgin Mary. It has also been a day for weather predictions: “If Candlemas be fair and clear, two winters you will have this year,” leading to the celebration of Groundhog Day which originated in Germany.
Groundhog Day (USA & Canada). Old belief that if the sun shines on Candlemas Day (see above), or if the groundhog sees its shadow when it emerges from its den, we will experience six more weeks of winter.
Imbolc (Wiccan). Celebrated by the Pagans it is also referred to as Candlemas. It is celebrated to commemorate the awakening of the land and the rising power of the Sun.
Feb. 3:Setsebun Sai (Rissun) (Shinto). Spring festival that marks the division between winter and spring.
Feb. 7:Four Chaplains Sunday (Christian and Jewish). Commemorates the event that occurred during the Second World War in which four chaplains of Jewish and Christian tradition gave their life jackets to others as a troopship sank in the Atlantic Ocean.
Transfiguration (Orthodox Christian). Celebration commemorating the metamorphosis of Jesus’ physical appearance to a shining bright light that indicated to three of his disciples his connection with traditional Jewish holy figures.
Feb 8: Chinese New Year (Confucian/Daoism/Buddhist). Based on the lunar calendar, 2016 marks the “Year of the Monkey.”
Feb 9: Shrove Tuesday also known as Mardi Gras (Christian). This is the last day before Lent. Many people celebrate this day or days prior to it by having carnivals. In England, “Shrove Tuesday” became the day when people went to church to “confess” their sins.
Feb. 10: Ash Wednesday. Christians observe this day to mark the beginning of the 40-day season of Lent, the time that Jesus spent in the wilderness. To show atonement and remorse, ashes are marked on worshippers.
Lent (Orthodox Christian). Begins and is observed seven weeks before Orthodox Easter. This is a time for reflection and preparation for Holy Week and Easter by fasting, giving to charity, and worshipping.
Feb. 11: Feast Our Lady of Lourdes (Christian). Commemorates the day in 1858 when St. Bernadette had her first vision of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Feb. 12: Vasant Panchami (Hindu). Celebrates spring, or Basant, and Sarasvati, the Hindu goddess of learning and the arts. This is the time when some children begin learning to read and write.
Feb. 14: St. Valentine’s Day (Traditional). It is now more of a secular than a religious festival and is celebrated almost all over the world. On this day gifts are exchanged that convey affection and love. The history of this holiday cannot be traced to any one origin with authenticity. One version of the story tells of a priest named Valentine who would secretly marry people forbidden to wed by law. The emperor believed that he could form a larger and stronger army if men remained single and had no family ties. Valentine was arrested and beheaded on February 14. Since he was a champion of love, he came to be known as the patron saint of lovers.
Feb. 15: Parinirvana-Nirvana Day (Buddhist). This day, also called Nirvana Day, celebrates and marks the death anniversary of Buddha. Parinirvana is celebrated by some Buddhists on February 8.
President’s Day (USA). Originally honored Presidents Washington and Lincoln and now serves as a reminder of the contribution of all U.S. Presidents.
Feb. 26 – Mar. 1: Intercalary Days (Baha’i). This involves the insertion of days into the Baha’i calendar in order to maintain their solar calendar.
Women’s History Month, Irish-American History Month, Greek-American Heritage Month
Mar. 1: St. David’s Day—St. David of Wales (Christian). St. David was a Celtic Christian saint known for his wisdom and missionary work. He is also known as the Dewi Saint and is the Patron Saint of Wales.
Mar. 2-20: Start of Nineteen-Day Fast (Baha’i). Fasting occurs from sunrise to sunset during this nineteen-day period.
Mar. 2: Read Across America Day (National). Students, parents and teachers, join forces annually on this day in March each year to promote reading especially for children and young adults. This observance coincides with the birthday of Dr. Seuss, a popular children’s book author.
Mar. 4: Women’s World Day of Prayer (Multi-faith). A tradition since 1887, this is a global, ecumenical movement of women joined together to observe a common day of prayer each year on the first Friday of March. The movement aims to bring together women of various races, cultures and traditions in a yearly common day of prayer, as well as in closer fellowship, understanding and action throughout the year.
Mar 5: St. Piran’s Day (Christian). He is the patron saint of Cornwall and tin miners. He was of Irish decent and legend has it that he discovered the process for smelting tin.
Mar. 17: St. Patrick’s Day (Christian). Observance in honor of St Patrick, He is the patron saint of Ireland who brought Christianity to Ireland in the early days of the faith.
Mar. 19: St. Joseph’s Day. Also known as the Feast of St Joseph, and in some churches as the Solemnity of Saint Joseph, this day is celebrated in some Christian Churches to commemorate St. Joseph, the spouse of Mary and the foster father of Jesus.
Mar. 20: Vernal (Spring) Equinox (Eoster). Observance to celebrate the renewed life that comes with the arrival of spring.
Ostara (Southern Hemisphere-Pagan). Celebration of welcoming spring.
Palm Sunday (Christian Palm Sunday). Celebration by Christians to commemorate the entry of Jesus in Jerusalem. It is the sixth and last Sunday of Lent and the beginning of Holy Week.
Shubun Sai (Equinox Day)—(Shinto). National holiday in Japan celebrating the spring (vernal) Equinox. Workers have the day off to celebrate with their families. Although more of a secular rather than religious holiday since the establishment of Japan’s post-war constitution, some still visit their loved ones gravesites to sweep them clear of debris and leave offerings of food or flowers.
Mar. 21: Nau (Naw) Ruz (Baha’i). New Year of the Zoroastrian and Baha’i faiths.
Mar. 22: Hindu New Year. Different communities in the Hindu religion have different dates for a New Year in a calendar year. The numerous communities that are part of Hinduism follow independent calendars and the New Year Day of a particular Hindu community in these calendars is based on seasons and the agrarian economy of the region. The Indian Government uses the Saka calendar and the New Year occurs on March 22.
Mar. 23: Magha Puja Day (Buddhist-Thailand). This day marks an event early in the Buddha’s teaching life when a group of 1250 enlightened saints, ordained by the Buddha, gathered to pay their respects to him. May be celebrated on different dates in other Buddhist countries.
Purim (Jewish). This observance begins at sundown of this day and marks the time when the Jewish community living in Persia was saved from genocide because of the courage of a young Jewish woman named Esther. On Purim the Jews indulge in extreme merry making, give to charity and share food with friends.
Mar. 24: Maundy Thursday (Christian). This day commemorates the Last Supper, when Jesus washed the feet of his disciples and established the ceremony known as Eucharist.
Holi (Hindu). Spring festival celebrated with great fun and fervor involving showering each other with colored powder and water and much merry making.
Mar. 25: Good Friday. Christians commemorate the execution of Jesus by crucifixion and this day is observed on the Friday before Easter.
Annunciation of the Virgin Mary (Christian). Commemorates the angel Gabriel’s message to the Virgin Mary that she would give birth to the incarnation of Christ.
Hola Mohalla (Sikh). A major, three-day Sikh festival of India, occurring after Holi that celebrates martial arts in which mock battles are fought and feats of martial arts are displayed; also includes religious discussions and music.
Mar 26: Holy Saturday. Celebrated by the Christians to mark the seventh and last day of Holy Week; it is the last day before Easter.
March 27: Easter (Orthodox Christian). Celebrates the resurrection of Jesus, his return from death after the crucifixion. It is considered to be the most important Christian festival.
Mar 28: Easter Monday. The day after Easter Sunday is an official holiday in some Christian countries and in the state of North Carolina.
Mar. 28: Khordad Sal (Birth of Prophet Zarathustra). The birthday of Zoroaster is celebrated by the Zoroastrians according to the Fasli calendar. Also known as the Greater Nauroz.
Arab-American Heritage Month, Tartan (Scottish-American) Heritage Month
Apr. 13: Vaisakhi also called Baisakhi (Sikh). Celebrated in Northern India and by Sikhs around the world, this is a major festival which marks the founding of the Khalsa, a distinctive Sikh brotherhood, founded by Guru Gobind Singh in 1699.
Apr. 15: Rama Navami (Hindu). Festival celebrating the birthday of Lord Ram. This day is celebrated by telling stories and going to temple.
Apr. 21-May 2:Festival of Ridvan (Baha’i). April 21, 2016, celebrates the first day of the 12-day Baha’i festival commemorating the prophet Baha’u’llah’s proclamation as God’s messenger. It is the most important event in the Baha’i calendar and is celebrated for twelve days with work being suspended on the first, ninth, and twelfth days of the festival.
Apr. 22: Earth Day. First observed in the U.S. in the 1970s, it is celebrated to remind people of our environment and the impact of our habits.
Apr 22 (sunset–30: Pesach Passover (Jewish). A festival celebrated each spring to recall the Jew’s deliverance out of slavery in Egypt in 1300 BC. It is a celebration of freedom. On the first two nights of Passover a traditional Seder Meal is eaten and the story is retold and passed down from generation to generation. This is an eight-day celebration during which no bread or leavened food is eaten.
Apr. 23: St. George’s Day. He is the Patron Saint of England known for his martial valor and selflessness.
Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month, South Asian Heritage Month, Haitian Heritage Month,Jewish-American Heritage Month
May 1: Beltane (Northern Hemisphere Wiccan). Festival that marked the beginning of summer when cattle were driven out to summer pastures. . This festival is celebrated with maypole dances.
May 2: Ridvan 12th Day (Baha’i). Commemorates the time when Baha’u’llah and his family departed from the Garden of Ridvan. It is usually observed with community gatherings for prayer and celebration on what is considered this holy day.
May 3: Lailat UI Mairaj. Muslims commemorate this day to celebrate Prophet Muhammad’s (pbuh) night journey from Makkah to Jerusalem and his ascension to heaven. In North America it starts a day later, on May 4.
May 4: Yom HaShoah is the Holocaust Remembrance Day. This day begins at sundown and goes until sunset of the following day. A secular rather than a religious holiday, it was established by the government of Israel in remembrance of the millions of Jews and others who perished in the Holocaust. There are a variety of memorable observances both in Israel and the USA. Holocaust Memorial Day begins at sunset and continues to nightfall the next night.
May 5: Ascension Day (Orthodox Christian). Ascension Day is the Christian celebration of Jesus rising into heaven after he had spent 40 days on Earth following the Resurrection. Ascension Day is celebrated forty days after Easter Sunday.
Cinco de Mayo, “The fifth of May” in Spanish. This day commemorates a significant battle that Mexico won on May 5, 1862 during the years that the Mexicans were struggling to drive foreign armies from the country. The win eventually led to Mexico becoming an independent nation and they celebrate their independence on September 16 each year. In the USA Cinco de Mayo is celebrated in a zesty spirit with parades, food, musical events and dances.
May 6: National Nurse Day
May 8: Mother’s Day. In 1872, Julia Ward Howe (author of the Battle Hymn of the Republic) suggested this day be dedicated to peace. Mother’s Day meetings were held yearly in Boston, MA on this day. In 1907 Ana Jarvis began a campaign to establish a National Mother’s Day on the second Sunday of May. It took four years and in 1911 it was proclaimed a national holiday. Countries celebrating Mother’s Day are the USA, Denmark, Finland, Italy, Turkey, Australia and Belgium.
May 12: Yom HaAtzmaut (Israel Independence Day). Celebrates the day on which modern Israel became an independent state. While the proclamation was declared 5/14/48, the celebration date varies from year to year based on the Hebrew calendar.
May 15: Pentecost (Christian). On the seventh Sunday after Easter Christians celebrate the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Disciples and other followers of Jesus Christ in the form of tongues of fire and rushing wind. A traditional day for baptism and confirmation of new Christians.
May 16: Armed Forces Day
May 20: Visakah Puja (Buddha Day). The most important day in the Buddhist calendar, this commemorates Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and death. Depending on the country, this day is celebrated beginning on May 20, 21, or 22 in 2016.
Emergency Medical Services for Children Day
May 23: Declaration of the Bab; Siyid’. Ali-Muhammad declared himself to be the Bab, or the Gate of God, on May 23, 1844. He was the forerunner of the Baha’i faith.
May 26: Corpus Christi (Catholic Christian). Celebrated in honor of the Eucharist.
Lag B’Omer (Jewish). Observance that begins on sundown of the 25th to mark the thirty-third day of the counting of the Omer. In Israel it is celebrated as a symbol of the fighting Jewish spirit.
May 29: Ascension of Baha’u’llah (Baha’i). Begins at 12:00 a.m. on this date and goes until 12:00 p.m. Each year on the anniversary of his death Baha’is around the world commemorate the date with special devotional programs. This is one of nine holy days during the year. Baha’u’llah taught that humanity is one single race and the age has come for its unification in a global society.
May 30: Memorial Day (USA). Originally called Decoration Day it was first observed in 1868 to honor the dead of the Civil War. The name gradually changed to Memorial Day until declared official by Federal law in 1967. In June of 1968 Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act which moved the celebration to the last Monday in May. Memorial Day eventually was extended to honor all Americans who died while in military service.
Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender (GLBT) Pride Month; Caribbean-American Heritage Month
June 6-July 5: Ramadan Begins (Islam). In the Muslim calendar, a holiday begins on the sunset of the previous day, so observing Muslims will celebrate Ramadan on the sunset of Sunday, the 5th of June. Ramadan is observed by Muslims worldwide as a month of fasting to commemorate the first revelation of the Quran to Muhammad according to Islamic belief. Although Ramadan is always on the same day of the Islamic calendar, the date on the Gregorian calendar varies from year to year, since the Gregorian calendar is a solar calendar and the Islamic calendar is a lunar calendar.
June 9: Saint Columba of Iona (Christian). Feast day in honor of Columba, an Irish abbot and missionary credited with spreading Christianity in what is today known as Scotland.
June 11-13: Shavuot (Jewish). Beginning at sunset on the 11th, this observance celebrates the giving of the Torah, God’s gift to the Jewish people, which is a guide for how to live in this world. It occurs seven weeks after Passover.
June 14: Race Unity Day (Baha’i). Inaugurated in 1957 by the annually elected governing council of the American Baha’i community, this day promotes racial harmony and understanding, based on Baha’i principles of interracial harmony and community outreach to foster a warm embrace of ever-increasing diversity.
Flag Day (USA). Observed to celebrate the history and the symbolism of the American Flag.
June 16: Martyrdom of Guru Arjan Dev. The fifth of the Sikh Gurus and the first Sikh martyr, he was responsible for compiling all the writings of all the past gurus and formulating the Sikh Holy Scripture known as the Guru Granth Sahib. He was sentenced to death after he refused to convert to Islam.
June 19: Juneteenth. Also known as Freedom Day or Emancipation Day. Dating back to 1865, it was on June 19th that Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free. This was two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation – which had become official January 1, 1863.
Father’s Day (USA). The idea for creating a day for children to honor their father began in Spokane, Washington. A woman named Sonora Smart Dodd thought of the idea for Father’s Day while listening to a Mother’s Day sermon in 1909. Having been raised by her father after her mother’s death, she wanted her father to know how special he was to her. Sonora’s father was born in June, so she chose to hold the first Father’s Day celebration in Spokane, Washington on June, 19, 1910. In 1972, President Richard Nixon established a permanent national observance of Father’s Day to be held on the third Sunday.
June 20: Summer Solstice. At the summer solstice in the Northern Hemisphere, the days are longest and the nights are shortest, with day-length decreasing as the season progresses after the solstice.
June 21: First Nations Day (Canadian Native People). The First Nations are the various Aboriginal peoples in Canada who are neither Inuit nor Métis. There are currently 634 recognized First Nations governments or bands spread across Canada, roughly half of which are in the provinces of Ontario and British Columbia. Under the Employment Equity Act, First Nations are a “designated group,” along with women, visible minorities, and people with physical or mental disabilities. First Nations are not defined as a visible minority under the Act or by the criteria of Statistics Canada.
June 24: Midsummer Eve Festivals. Celebrated at the height of the brilliant northern summer before the first harvest, this has always been one of the most popular festivals in Northern Europe, especially in Sweden, and is Pagan in origin.
June 28: Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender (GLBT) Pride Day (USA). This emerged from the 1969 Stonewall Rebellion, when patrons of a gay New York nightclub, The Stonewall Inn, resisted a police attempt to raid the club. This day was initially celebrated as Gay Pride Day, but the day was actually flexible. In major US cities, the day eventually evolved into a month-long series of events and became GLBT Pride Month.
June 29: St. Peter’s Day. Observed by the Roman Catholic, Anglican, and Lutheran churches to honor the disciple chosen by Jesus to give leadership to the church.
French-American Heritage Month
July 2: Lailat UI Qadr (Islam). The Night of Power is the holiest night in the Islamic calendar. Celebrated by Muslims in the last ten days of Ramadan to commemorate the first revelation to Muhammad of the Holy Quran, it is also known as the night when destinies are decided and Muslims pray to Allah for a good destiny.
July 4:University Holiday
Independence Day (USA). The Declaration of Independence was signed on this day in 1776. This document proclaimed the independence of the thirteen colonies from allegiance to the British Crown and the dissolution of all political ties with Great Britain.
July 5: Eid al Fitr. This Muslim celebration begins at sunset on July 4 and commemorates the ending of Ramadan. In North America it starts a day later on July 5. It is a festival of thanksgiving to Allah for enjoying the month of Ramadan. It involves wearing the finest clothing, saying prayers, and nurturing understanding with other religions.
July 9: Martyrdom of the Bab (Baha’i). Anniversary of the Bab’s execution in Tabriz, Iran in 1850.
July 13-15: Obon (Shinto). Japanese Buddhist festival to honor deceased ancestors. Traditionally, lanterns are hung in front of houses to guide the return to this world of ancestors’ spirits, and at the festival’s end, floating lanterns are put into rivers, lakes and seas to guide the spirits back into their world. During the festival bonfires are lit, traditional meals are offered, paper lanterns hung, and folk dances performed. Obon is observed from the 13th to the 15th day of the 7th month of the year, which is July according to the solar calendar. However, since the 7th month of the year roughly coincides with August rather than July according to the formerly used lunar calendar, Obon is still observed in mid-August in many regions of Japan, while it is observed in mid-July in other regions. The Obon week in mid-August is one of Japan’s three major holiday seasons.
July 15: Asalha Puja Day (Buddhist). Asalha Puja is a Theravada Buddhist festival which typically takes place in July, on the full moon of the eighth lunar month. Asalha Puja, also known as Dharma Day, is one of Theravada Buddhism’s most important festivals, celebrating as it does the Buddha’s first sermon in which he set out to his five former associates the doctrine that had come to him following his enlightenment.
July 23: Birthday of Haile Selassie I; Haile Selassie (Rastafari). He was the Emperor of Ethiopia who the Rastas considered to be God and their Savior and who would return to Africa the members of the black community who are living in exile. It marks Haile Selassie the Emperor of Ethiopia’s visit to Jamaica in 1966. The Rastafari movement surfaced in Jamaica among the peasant and working-class black people. The Rastafari movement was propagated through the Rastas’ interest in reggae music, most notably that of Bob Marley, the Jamaican-born singer and songwriter.
July 24: Pioneer Day, observed by the Mormons to commemorate the arrival in 1847 of the first Latter Day Saints pioneers in Salt Lake Valley, Utah.
Aug. 1:Lughnasadh (Lammas-Wiccan). This is a Pagan harvest festival of Celtic origin that splits the year into four Gaelic seasonal festivals.
Lammas (Christian). This first wheat harvest celebration is observed by placing bread baked from first harvest on the altar; from the Celtic Christian tradition.
Aug. 4: National Night Out (USA). Begun in 1998, this is a fun and low-key way to fight crime by meeting your neighbors through a barbecue, ice cream social, or other function.
Aug. 13: Tisha B’Av. Day on the Jewish calendar that commemorates the tragedies that have befallen the Jewish people over the years on this day. Regarded as the saddest day on the Jewish calendar, it begins at sunset on Aug. 13 and ends at sundown on Aug. 14.
Aug. 15: Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Roman Catholic observance and commemoration of their belief that the Blessed Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus, was taken body and soul into heaven.
Dormition of the Theotokos (Orthodox Christian). This commemorates and marks the death and burial of the Virgin Mary. Dormition means to “fall asleep.”
Aug. 17: Birthday of Marcus Garvey (Rastafari). Celebrated by Rastas to commemorate the birthday of Marcus Garvey, a Jamaican politician who foretold the crowning of a King in Africa, and instigated the “Black to Africa” movement.
Aug.18: Raksha Bandhan (Hindu). Festival that celebrates and honors the loving bond that exists between a brother and a sister.
August 25: Janmashtami, Krishna Jayanti (Hindu). Celebrates and commemorates the 5243 Birth Anniversary of Lord Krishna, the highest and most revered god in the Hindu religion.
Aug. 29: Beheading of John the Baptist (Christian). This day honors the memory of the death of John the Baptist who is known for preparing people to recognize Jesus as the Messiah.
Sept. 1: Ecclesiastical Church Year Begins (Orthodox Christian).
Sept. 5: Labor Day (USA and Canada). The first Monday in September is celebrated with picnics and parades honoring workers in the two countries.
Sept. 6: Paryushana-Parva (Jain). This most-revered festival is comprised of eight or ten days (depending on the Jain sect) of fasting and repentance. The “Paryushan-Parva,” is celebrated annually for self-purification and uplift and reinforces adherence to the ten universal virtues in practical life. It leads us on the right path, far from the mad strife for material prosperity, and ultimately leads us to our true destination, i.e., salvation.
Sept. 8: Feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary—Heavenly Birthday. Roman Catholic, Orthodox and Anglican churches mark this day to celebrate the heavenly birthday (the day she was received into heaven) of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
September 8-13: Hajj (Islam), the annual Muslim pilgrimage to Makkah (Mecca). Beginning at sunset on the 8th Muslims observe this as the festival of sacrifice marking the day after Arafat. The Day of Arafat is the most important day in the Hajj ritual. This is a four-day holiday in Islamic countries.
Sept. 11: Patriot Day (USA). Patriot Day and National Day of Service and Remembrance, typically referred to as Patriot Day, is dedicated to remembering the 2,977 people killed in the September 11, 2001, terrorists attacks on the World Trade Centers in New York City, New York, United States. Patriot Day is often confused with Patriots’ Day, a holiday commemorating the Battles of Lexington and Concord on April 19, 1775.
Ethiopian New Year (Enkutatash). Ethiopians celebrate their New Year on this date and believe Ethiopia is their spiritual home, a place where they desire to return.
Sept. 11-14: Eid al-Adha. Feast of Sacrifice is the most important feast of the Muslim calendar. It concludes the Pilgrimage to Makkah (Mecca). Beginning at sundown on the day before, Eid al-Adha lasts for three days and commemorates Ibrahim’s (Abraham) willingness to obey God by sacrificing his son. The dates may vary depending on the calendar used.
Sept. 14: Holy Cross Day (Christian). Commemorates and recognizes the Cross on which Jesus was crucified as the main symbol of Christianity.
Sept. 15-Oct. 15: National Hispanic Heritage Month (USA). Each year, Americans observe National Hispanic Heritage Month from September 15 to October 15 by celebrating the histories, cultures and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America.
Sept. 16: Mexican Independence Day. This date marks the start in 1810 of the Mexican War of Independence that ended Spanish dictatorship. The Mexican people began planning an uprising against Spanish colonizers after Napoleon Bonaparte invaded Spain and imprisoned King Ferdinand the Seventh. It was an ideal opportunity to set up local governments in Mexico since Spain was in turmoil without clear leadership. This day is celebrated throughout the nation with feasts, festivals, fireworks, and parades.
Sept. 21: International Day of Peace. This day was first observed by the United Nations General Assembly in1982.
Sept. 22: Mabon (Northern Hemisphere-Pagan). Commemoration of the autumnal equinox when day and night are of equal length; also celebrated as a time for harvest festivals.
Italian-American Heritage Month, Filipino-American Heritage Month, Polish-American Heritage Month
Oct.1-11: Navaratri (Hindu). Festival of nine nights that honors Goddess Durga, the Deity of Power. Each festival day is dedicated to one of the different forms taken by Durga.
October 2-4: Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year). This is a time of introspection, abstinence, prayer and repentance. The story of Abraham is read, the ram’s horn is blown, and special foods are prepared and shared. It begins at sundown on Oct. 2.
Oct. 2-Oct. 30: Muharram (Islam), This month is the start of the Islamic New Year and is the most sacred month except for Ramadan. It is a time of remembrance, peace, and the mourning of the death of Muhammad’s grandson as a result of events at the battle of Karbala.
Oct. 4: Saint Francis Day. Christians celebrate this feast to commemorate the life of Saint Francis, who was born in the 12th century and is the Catholic Church’s patron saint of animals and the environment. It is a popular day for pets to be “blessed.”
October 10: National Native American Day (USA). While not an official government holiday, most American-Indian organizations and tribes do observe this holiday.
Oct. 11: National Coming Out (USA). This is an annual Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender awareness day observed on October 11. Founded in 1988, in the feminist and gay liberation spirit of the personal being political, the emphasis is that the most basic form of activism is coming out to family, friends and colleagues, and living life as an openly lesbian or gay person. The foundational belief is that homophobia thrives in an atmosphere of silence and ignorance, and that once people know that they have loved ones who are lesbian or gay, they are far less likely to maintain homophobic or oppressive views. In the LGBT Community, “coming out” means the voluntary self-disclosure of one’s sexual orientation and/or gender identity.
Dussera (Dasera). Hindu celebration to commemorate Rama’s victory over evil.
Ashura (Islam). The day of Ashura or the tenth day of the first Islamic month (Muharram), is observed by Muslims as a whole. Shia Muslims observe Ashura to mark the martyrdom of Hussain. This day also commemorates the day when Noah left the ark and when Moses was saved from the Egyptians by God. The observance begins at sunset of the day before.
Oct. 11-12 (sunset to nightfall of 2nd day) Yom Kippur. Celebrated by Jews as the holiest day in the Jewish calendar, it is also known as the Day of Atonement and is observed with strict fasting and ceremonial repentance.
Oct. 12: Columbus Day (USA). Day that Christopher Columbus encountered the New World in 1492.
National Indigenous People’s Day. Beginning in 1992, on this day, drums across the USA and in different time zones coordinate ceremonies and observances at 12 p.m. to celebrate and honor 500 years of North American Indigenous people’s resistance and survival. From that day to the present, Native Americans observe Indigenous People’s Day, not Columbus Day.
Oct. 17-23: (sunset of the previous day to nightfall of last day) Sukkot (Jewish) also known as the Feast of Tabernacles. Celebrated by Jews to commemorate the years that they spent in the desert enroute to the Promised Land, and celebrates the way in which God took special care of them under difficult circumstances.
Oct. 17: National Boss’ Day
Oct. 20: Birth of the B’ab. This day is observed by the Baha’i followers to celebrate the birthday of the founder of the Babiism, a precursor to the Baha’i faith.
Oct. 23- Oct. 24 (sunset to nightfall): Shemini Atzeret observed by the Jewish community as the assembly of the eighth day.
Oct. 24-25: (sunset to nightfall) Simchat Torah (Jewish). Observance and commemoration of the completion of the yearly cycle of weekly Torah readings. The literal translation of Simchat Torah is “Rejoicing in the Torah.”
Oct. 30-Nov. 3: Diwali (Hindu, Jains, and Sikh). Celebrates the festival of lights, the most colorful and popular festival celebrated with great fervor by Hindus, Janis, and Sikhs.
Oct. 31: Reformation Day (Protestant Christian). Marks the anniversary of their tradition of religious freedom and its emphasis on the place of the Bible in their religion.
Halloween. Celebrated by Christians as the night before All Saints Day (All Hallows Day), this tradition dates back over 2000 years to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain. Also celebrated by the Pagans as the Feast of the Dead; Pagans also celebrated it to commemorate the Celtic New Year.
October 31-November 1: Somhain (Southern Hemisphere Wiccan). Pagans celebrate the union of the god and goddess which is believed to be the basis of all creation. This festival is celebrated with maypole dances.
National American-Indian and Alaska-Native Heritage Month; Latin-American Month
Nov. 1: All Saints Day. Celebrated by Anglican and Roman Catholic Christians to honor all known and unknown saints.
Nov. 1-2: El Dia de los Muertos (All Saints Day). This is a national holiday in Mexico and is also celebrated in parts of the USA. Mexicans regard this annual holiday as a happy occasion that reunites them with the souls of loved ones. This two-day celebration honors the souls of dead children on 11/1 and honors the souls of older relatives and friends on 11/2. Families decorate tombs in the graveyard and home altars with toys, favorite foods, flowers, bread figures, incense burners, and elaborately fashioned candlesticks. On the morning of the second day people gather in graveyards and serenade the spirits with brass bands and mariachi music. The dead are never forgotten because once a year they are honored during this annual holiday.
Nov. 2: All Souls Day (Catholic and the Anglo Catholic). Honors the faithful departed by praying for the souls of people who are in Purgatory. All Soul’s Day is celebrated on the third of November if the second of November is a Sunday.
Coronation of Emperor Haile Sailasse I (Rastafari). Celebrates the coronation of Haile Sailasse, the Emperor of Ethiopia. Rastas trust Haile Selassie is God, and that he will return to Africa members of the black community who are living in exile.
November 11: Veteran’s Day. This day is an official United States holiday which honors people who have served in the armed services, also known as veterans. It is a federal holiday.
Armistice Day. This day is celebrated on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month to commemorate the ending of the First World War that ended in 1918. Also known as Veterans’ Day.
Nov. 12: Birth of Baha’u’llah (Baha’i). The members of the Baha’i faith celebrate the birthday of the founder of the Baha’i religion.
Nov. 13: Remembrance Sunday (United Kingdom and the Commonwealth). Held on the second Sunday in November (nearest to November 11—Armistice Day) it is a day to commemorate the contribution of British and Commonwealth military and civilian servicemen and women in the two World Wars and later conflicts.
Nov. 22: Christ of the King (Christian). Celebrates the preeminence of Jesus over all earthly authorities.
Nov. 24: Thanksgiving (USA)
Martyrdom of Guru Tegh Bahadur. The Sikhs commemorate the martyrdom of their ninth Guru, Guru Tegh Bahadur for refusing to convert to Islam.
Nov. 25: University Holiday
Nov. 26: Day of Covenant (Baha’i). Celebrates the covenant of Baha’u’llah and the life of ‘Abdu’l-Baha on this day.
November 28: Ascension of Adbu’l-Baha (Baha’i). Marks the death of the son of Baha’u’llah.
Nov. 27-Dec.24: Advent Sunday, Christians prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus. Advent begins on the Sunday nearest November 30 and is the beginning of the Christian worship year. This festival is marked by lighting candles, laying wreaths, and special advent ceremonies. These celebrations continue until Dec. 24.
Nov. 30: Saint Andrew’s Day is celebrated in honor of Saint Andrew, the patron saint of Scotland, Greece and Russia.
Dec. 1: World AIDS Day. This day has become an annual day of recognition of AIDS to: remember those who have died, acknowledge the need for continued commitment to care for those who are HIV/AIDS-positive, and to support the research to find a cure.
Dec. 6: Saint Nicholas Day (Christian). Celebration of the birth of Saint Nicolas, patron saint of children and the role model for gift giving. Many churches are named for this saint who is also the Dutch version of Santa Claus.
Dec. 8: Feast of the Immaculate Conception. Celebrated by Roman Catholics to commemorate the Virgin Mary’s conception as being without sin and therefore immaculate.
Bodhi Day. Buddhists commemorate Siddhartha Gautama’s attainment of enlightenment under the Bodhi tree at Bodhgaya, India. Siddhartha Gautama was a sage on whose teachings Buddhism was founded.
Dec. 10: International Human Rights Day. Established by the United Nations in 1948, it commemorates the anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Dec. 12: Eid Milad UnNabi (Islam). Commemoration of the birthday of the Holy Prophet (pbuh). This is the date most celebrated although it is celebrated on different dates in India and Pakistan.
Feast Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Day observed by catholic Christians commemorating the legendary appearance of the Virgin Mary near Mexico City in 1531 c.e.
Advent. Fast Begins (Orthodox Christian).
Dec. 16-24: Las Posadas. Also known as Navidenas (Mexico-Christians), this festival includes processions and parties reenacting Joseph and Mary’s journey to Bethlehem.
Dec. 21: Winter Solstice. The first day of winter occurs on or around December 22 and is the shortest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. Yule (Christians); Yule (Wicca-Northern Hemisphere); Litha (Wicca-Southern Hemisphere).
Dec. 24-January 1: Chanukah, also known as Hanukkah (Jewish). Also known as the Festival of Lights, this is an eight-day festival recalling the war fought by the Maccabees in the cause of religious freedom and the rededication of the temple after recapturing it from the Syrians. Each evening candles are lit on the “menorah” (candelabra), adding one candle each night. Hanukkah is a time for playing games and singing, for visiting and for giving gifts.
Dec. 24: Christmas Eve
Dec. 25: Christmas (Christian). The day associated with the birth of Jesus. It is celebrated on December 25 by Western churches and on January 7 of the following year by Eastern Orthodox churches.
Dec. 26: University Holiday
Dec. 26-Jan. 1: Kwanzaa. This is an African-American holiday started by Mailana Karenga, an African world scholar, in 1966. It is based on the agricultural celebrations of Africa called “the first fruits” celebrations, which are times of harvest, gathering, reverence, commemoration, and recommitment. Therefore, Kwanzaa is a time for achievements, reverence for the Creator and creation, commemoration of the past, recommitment to cultural ideals, and celebration of the good. Kwanzaa, a Swahili word, means “first.” Kwanzaa is a cultural holiday, not a religious one, thus available to and practiced by Africans of all religious faiths.
Dec. 28: Holy Innocents Day. Christian day of solemn memory of male children killed by King Herod in the attempt to destroy Jesus.
Dec. 31: Watch Night (Christian). Occasion to thank God for bringing people safely through another year.
New Year’s Eve.
Maintained by HR Office of Organizational Development and Staff Diversity. Please send your comments and suggestions to: Stanley Byrd, HR Director, Organizational Development and Staff Diversity.