Religious Holy Days


February 2019

The Iroquois Midwinter Ceremony, in which old fires are extinguished and new fires are lit, and the Hopi Holy Cycle, in which the changing of the seasons and the nature of the Hopi sacred universe are celebrated, begin in January and February, but the dates of observance vary by tribe.  This month is also known as Buxwlaks or the season of blowing needles in aboriginal spirituality, in which the wind knocks loose the foliage of frozen evergreens.  It marks the approach of the new year.

Saturday, February 2
Presentation of Jesus in the Temple – Christianity
Commemorates Mary and Joseph’s presentation of the child Jesus at the Temple in Jerusalem, as required by Mosaic law.  In the Eastern churches, this day is known as the Feast of the Meeting of the Lord.
Imbolc [also known as the Feast of Torches or Lughnassad] – Wicca 
A celebration of beginning growth and the divine generative powers (i.e., the Goddess nurturing her young Son) from which physical and spiritual harvests will come, Imbolc is often an initiatory period.

Sunday, February 3
Four Chaplains Sunday – Interfaith 
A commemoration of four U.S. Army chaplains—Rabbi Alexander D. Goode, Rev. George L. Fox, Fr. John P. Washington, and Rev. Clark V. Poling—who died while saving soldiers from drowning when their troop transport ship, the U.S.A.T. Dorchester, was torpedoed by a Nazi U-boat in 1943.  The four chaplains are remembered for their courage and their spirit of interfaith collaboration in service to humanity.
Setsunbun-sai – Shintō 
A family celebration of the end of winter; beans are thrown into rooms of a house for good luck, with the shout, “Devils out, Fortune in!”

Tuesday, February 5
Chinese / Vietnamese / Korean New Year – Buddhism / Confucianism / Taoism
The first day after the new moon is a religious and cultural festival for Korean, Vietnamese, and Chinese persons, marking the first day of the year 4717, the Year of the Earth Pig or Boar.
Birthday of Maitreya Bodhisattva – Buddhism [Pure Land schools]
Marking the birth of Maitreya, who will come at the end of time to renew the pristine Buddhist teachings.  

Thursday, February 7
Mulk – Bahá’í
Beginning of the eighteenth month of the Bahá’í year, the name “Mulk” means “dominion.”   

Sunday, February 10
Vasanta Panchami – Hinduism
A North Indian celebration associated with Saraswati, the goddess of learning, and with Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth.

Thursday, February 14
Valentine’s Day – Western Christianity 
A celebration of love originally connected to the Roman Christian martyr who died in 269 C.E.

Friday, February 15
Nirvana Day – Buddhism
In northern Buddhist traditions, this day marks the anniversary of the historical Buddha’s death in ca. 486 B.C.E. and his subsequent entrance into enlightenment or Nirvana.  In southern Buddhist traditions, the Buddha’s death is commemorated during Visakha.

Saturday, February 16
Losar [Tibetan New Year] – Buddhism
Celebrating the beginning of the year 2146 in the Tibetan calendar.

Sunday, February 17
Triodion begins – Christianity (Eastern churches)
This day marks the beginning of the ten weeks preceding Holy Pascha (Easter). The term Triodion refers to the book containing the liturgies for the worship services during this time period.

Tuesday, February 19
Lantern Festival – Taoism
This festival marks the end of the new year’s celebration in China, with the entrance of the first full moon.  Children venture out to temples with paper lanterns, solving riddles written on the lanterns.

Monday, February 25
Ayyám-i-Há – Bahá’í  [through March 1]
Starting at sundown, this festival marks the beginning of the intercalary days for festivities, gift giving, and charitable actions. 

March 2019

March and April mark the season of the Eagle Dances, when people of the Arizona Pueblo tribes dance to dramatize their communities’ relationship with the Sky-World.  This month is also known as Xsaak, the season when candlefish swarm and members of the Nisga’a tribes catch these fish, dry them, and render them into oil for lamps.


Saturday, March 2
‘Alá – Bahá’í
The beginning of the nineteenth and final month, meaning “loftiness,” and also of a 19-day fast in preparation for Naw Rúz [see March 21].  Adult believers in good health abstain from food and drink from dawn to dusk.  

Tuesday, March 5
Maha Shivaratri – Hinduism
A night devoted to the worship of the god Shiva, whose cosmic dance creates, preserves, destroys, and recreates the world.  Believers recite texts, sing, make offerings, and tell stories while holding vigil and fasting.  

Wednesday, March 6
Ash Wednesday – Christianity (Western churches)
The beginning of Lent, a forty-day period (excluding Sundays) in which Christians pray, repent, fast and reflect on Jesus’ final journey to Jerusalem.  It is a preparatory period for Holy Week and Easter; on this day, believers often receive an ashen cross on their foreheads to mark their repentance and mortality.

Friday, March 8
Sri Ramakrishna Jayanti – Hinduism
A celebration of the birth of the teacher of Swami Vivekananda, who introduced Hinduism to the United States at the first Parliament of the World’s Religions in Chicago in 1893.

Sunday, March 10
Cheesefare Sunday [Forgiveness Sunday] – Christianity (Eastern churches)
This feast marks the last day of eating dairy products prior to Holy Pascha (also known as Easter).  The Great Fast or Great Lent begins at sundown and is marked by forty days of vegetarian fasting, intense prayer, and almsgiving in preparation for Holy Week.  The following day is known as Clean Monday.

Thursday, March 14   
Memorial of Shan-tao (Zendō) – Buddhism
Anniversary of the death of a Chinese Pure Land Buddhist priest who died in 681 C.E.  He taught that enlightenment could occur simply through repetition of the name of Amitabha or Amida Buddha (nianfo or nembutsu), and is honored as the Fifth Patriarch of that Buddhist school.

Saturday, March 16
Ghambar Hamaspathmaedem, Fravardegan, or Muktad – Zoroastrianism 
(continues until March 20)
A celebration of the creation of human beings and a commemoration of souls who have died.  Prayers are offered to the fravashis (the divine spark within each human, which lives forever), asking for their blessings and protection.

Sunday, March 17
Saint Patrick’s Day – Christianity (Western churches)
A commemoration of the missionary bishop who evangelized Ireland in the fifth century C.E.
Orthodox Sunday – Christianity (Eastern churches)
A celebration of the restoration of icons, which had been banned from Byzantine churches in the seventh century.  The Christian empress Theodora ordered them restored in 843 C.E.

Wednesday, March 20  spring equinox 
Eve of Purim – Judaism
A celebration of the Jews’ rescue from an evil plot to destroy them while they were living in Persia, the events of which are recorded in the Hebrew biblical book of Esther.  The holiday includes reading the Megillah (the scroll of Esther), exchanging gifts, and special pastries called hamantashen.
Spring Ohigon – Buddhism 
For Buddhists who practice in the Jōdo Shinshū [Japanese Pure Land] tradition, this is a special time to listen to the teaching of the Buddha and meditate on the perfection of enlightenment as lived in the Six Perfections or Paramitas (generosity, morality, wisdom, honesty, endeavor, and patience).

Shunki-sorei-sai – Shintō 
The time of the spring memorial service, when ancestors’ spirits are revered at home altars and gravesites are cleaned and purified.
Ostara – Wicca
A time to mark the divine goddess’s blanketing of the Earth with fertility as the god stretches and grows to maturity, manifested in the reawakening of seeds within the Earth as they are touched by divine love.
Spring Feast – Native American spirituality
A day to mark the coming and going of seasons and to honor planting through songs, stories, and prayer.

Thursday, March 21
Magha Puja Day [Dharma Day] – Buddhism
In the Theravada Buddhist tradition, this full moon day of the third lunar month marks the historical Buddha’s sermon at Veruvana Monastery in the city of Rajagaha, where he spoke to 1250 en-lightened monks who were ordained by him.

Holi – Hinduism
This festival is one of Hinduism’s most popular celebrations.  People throw colored powder or spray colored water to celebrate episodes in the life of the god Krishna, and to symbolize unity and common humanity (since everyone looks the same when coated in colors).

Naw Rúz – Bahá’í
Marking the beginning of the year 176 of the Bahá’í era, and the beginning of the first month of the year, known as Bahá or “splendor.”

Navruz [Now Ruz or Norooz] – Zoroastrianism
The beginning of the Zoroastrian new year, 1389 AY or 3757 AZ in the Fasli seasonal calendar, which also celebrates the renewal of the world and the creation of fire (which symbolizes righteousness).  Zarathustra, the founder of Zoroastrianism, received his revelation on this day.

Friday, March 22
Hola Mohallah – Sikhism
A three-day festival instituted by the tenth Sikh gurū, Gobind Singh, as a time for military pre-paredness exercises, Hola Mohallah now is celebrated with mock battles, music competitions, and festivities. 

Monday, March 25
Feast of the Annunciation – Christianity (Western and Eastern churches)
This festival marks the visit of the Archangel Gabriel to Mary of Nazareth and Mary’s faithful response to God’s plan by consenting to be Jesus’ mother.      

Tuesday, March 26
Ramanavami – Hinduism
A celebration in honor of the birth of Rama, the seventh incarnation of the god Vishnu.  Hindus read the Ramayana, a Hindu epic, and religious dances called Ramalila are performed to depict scenes from his life.  This is the culmination of a week-long observance.   

Khordad Sal – Zoroastrianism
The birth anniversary of the prophet Zarathustra.

Sunday, March 31
Birthday of Avalokiteśvara or Kuan Yin [Kannon] – Buddhism  
Usually celebrated on or near the full moon day in March, this day marks the occasion when the enlightened being known as Avalokiteśvara (in the Mahāyāna traditions of Tibet and China) or as Kuan Yin or Kannon (the feminine embodiment of this bodhisattva in Chinese, Japanese, and Vietnamese Buddhism) vowed to attain final, supreme enlightenment and thereby save all suffering sentient beings.   

Thank you

Thank you to ACPE Certified Educator Rev. Dr. Peter Yuichi Clark at UCSF Medical Center Spiritual Care Services, San Francisco, CA, for compiling this list each month. Email him for more information.  

Also our thanks to the Council of Religious Leaders of Metropolitan Chicago, the Multifaith Action Society of British Columbia (Canada), BBC’s Religion Website, Peel Schools District Board (Mississauga, Ontario, Canada), the Arizona State University Provost’s Office, the NCCJ of the Piedmont Triad, the Anti-Defamation League, Project Interfaith (Omaha, NE), the University of Victoria Faculty of Law (British Columbia, Canada), and www.interfaithcalendar.org

To subscribe to this calendar and sync it with your Google, Outlook, or iCal calendars, visit ucsfspiritcare.org and select the “Resources” menu.