Religious Holy Days

January 2018

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.  It is also the season of K’aliyee, the time of the north wind that blows off glaciers and icecaps that linger from the last ice age.

Monday, January 1  New Year’s Day
Temple Day – Buddhism
North American Buddhists attend special services in temples on this day.   

Feast of Mary, Mother of God; and the Naming of Jesus Christ – Christianity
Some Christians celebrate this day in honor of Jesus’ mother; others celebrate this day (eight days after Jesus’ birth) as the day when Jesus was presented at the Temple and officially named by his parents.

Gantan-sai (O-shōgatsu) – Shintō
This Japanese celebration of the New Year includes prayers for the renewal of hearts, good health and prosperity.  The festival lasts for a week, during which time people visit one another’s homes and offer gifts of good wishes for the coming year.

Tuesday, January 2
Mahāyāna New Year – Buddhism
This celebration falls on the first full moon day in January for Buddhists who practice in the Mahāyāna (Great Vehicle) stream.  By contrast, in Theravadin countries (Thailand, Burma, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, and Laos) the new year is celebrated in April, while Tibetan Buddhists generally celebrate it in March.

Birthday of Amitābha Buddha – Buddhism 
Marking the birth of the bodhisattva Dharmakāra who resolved to attain enlightenment as a buddha and vowed to create a Pure Land.  He became the buddha Amitābha (“infinite light”), and any sentient being who desires to be born into that land is guaranteed rebirth there through his vow, and from there she/he/it will unfailingly reach Nirvana.  This belief forms the foundation of Pure Land Buddhism, which is practiced by many Buddhists in Japan, China, and other East Asian countries.

Thursday, January 4
Ghambar Maidyarem ends – Zoroastrianism
A celebration for the creation of animals, and a time for the equitable sharing of food with all.

Friday, January 5
Birthday of Gurū Gobind Singh Ji – Sikhism
A celebration in honor of the tenth and final Sikh master [1666 – 1708 C.E.], who created the Brotherhood of the Pure (Khalsa) and who declared the scriptures (Adi Granth) to be the gurū for all Sikhs from that time onward.  This date is used by adherents of the Nanakshahi tradition.

Saturday, January 6
Epiphany – Christianity (Western and some Eastern churches)
Marking the traditional date of the visitation of the Magi to meet the infant Jesus and the end of the twelve days of Christmas, also known as Día de los Reyes (Day of the Kings).  In Armenian Christian churches, this date is celebrated as the Feast of the Nativity.  Most Western churches celebrate this feast as Epiphany, which comes from the Latin word meaning “manifestation,” and will mark it on Sunday, January 7th; in Ethiopian Orthodox churches it is known as Timkat and is celebrated on January 19th.

Feast of the Theophany – Christianity (some Eastern churches)
In some Eastern churches, this feast is associated with the baptism of Jesus by John and Jesus’ first recorded miracle in the Gospels, where he changed water into wine at the wedding feast in Cana.  This celebration begins at sundown on the previous day.  In Eastern churches using the Julian calendar, this feast occurs on January 19th. 

Sunday, January 7 
Christmas – Christianity (some Eastern churches)
The celebration of Jesus’ birth begins at sundown on this day, according to the Julian calendar used in some Orthodox churches.

Swami Vivekananda Jayanti – Hinduism
A celebration of the birth of Swami Vivekananda, who introduced Hinduism to North America at the World’s Parliament of Religions, held in 1893 in Chicago during the World’s Fair.

Monday, January 8
Seijin-no-hi – Shintō
Coming-of-Age Day, a Japanese national holiday in which families travel to shrines and announce to the gods that their children have reached adulthood.  Prayers are offered for the children’s wellbeing and lifelong health. 

Wednesday, January 10
Memorial of Línjì Yìxuán – Buddhism
Anniversary of the death in 866 C.E. of the Chinese Buddhist teacher who founded what is often known as the Rinzai sect of Zen Buddhism.

Saturday, January 13 
Maghi – Sikhism
Commemorating a battle in which forty Sikhs (the Forty Liberated Ones or Immortal Ones), led by a woman named Maathaa Bhaag Kaur, sacrificed themselves for their gurū.  

Sunday, January 14
Makar Sankranti – Hinduism
A festival marking the change from decrease to increase of the sun.

Monday, January 15
Martin Luther King, Jr., Day – USA national holiday
A day remembering the life and legacy of the American civil rights leader and Nobel Peace Prize laureate. 

Tuesday, January 16
Memorial of Shinran Shonin – Buddhism
Anniversary of the death in 1263 C.E. of the founder of the Jōdo Shinshū (True Pure Land) school of Mahāyāna Buddhism in Japan.

Thursday, January 18
Week of Prayer for Christian Unity begins – Christianity

Friday, January 19
Sultán – Bahá’í
The first day of Sultán (Sovereignty), the seventeenth month of the Bahá’í year.

Sunday, January 21   
World Religion Day – Bahá’í 
A celebration of the teachings of unity found in all religious traditions.  The observance begins at sundown.

Monday, January 22
Vasanta Panchami – Hinduism
A North Indian celebration associated with Saraswati, the goddess of learning, and with Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth.

Wednesday, January 24
Jashne Sadeh – Zoroastrianism
A celebration of the discovery of fire by King Hashang of the Peshdadian dynasty; it is a festival in which a large bonfire is built as an act of defiance to drive back the winter.

Thursday, January 25
Memorial of Hōnen Shonin – Buddhism
Anniversary of the death in 1212 C.E. of the founder of the Jōdo Shū (Pure Land) school of Mahāyāna Buddhism in Japan.

Sunday, January 28
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, January 30
Tu B’Shevat – Judaism
A joyous celebration of the coming spring, including the planting of trees and the conservation of fruits native to Israel, as well as special meals where Jews eat the seven fruits of the land (wheat and barley; grapes; figs; pomegranates; olives; and honey).  The festival begins at sundown.

Wednesday, January 31
Birth of Gurū Har Rai – Sikhism
A celebration of the birth of the seventh of the Sikh gurūs [1630 – 1661 C.E.], according to the Nanakshahi calendar.

February 2018

Celebrating Black History Month

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.

Friday, 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.

Saturday, February 3
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!”

Sunday, February 4
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.

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

Tuesday, February 13
Maha Shivaratri – Hinduism
A night devoted to the worship of the god Shiva, whose dance creates and destroys and recreates the world; it is marked by vigils and fasting.

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

Thursday, 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.

Friday, February 16
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 4716, the Year of the Earth Dog.
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.
Losar [Tibetan New Year] – Buddhism
Celebrating the beginning of the year 2145 in the Tibetan calendar.

Saturday, February 17
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, February 18
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.

Sunday, 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. 

Wednesday, February 28
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.

Thank you

Thank you to ACPE Supervisor 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

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