Religious Holy Days



February 2017 

 

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 24
Ayyám-i-Há – Bahá’í  [through February 28]
Starting at sundown, this festival marks the beginning of the intercalary days for festivities, gift giving, and charitable actions.

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.

Sunday, February 26
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.

Monday, February 27
Losar [Tibetan New Year] – Buddhism
Celebrating the beginning of the year 2144 in the Tibetan calendar.

Tuesday, February 28
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.

 


March 2017 

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.


Wednesday, March 1
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.

‘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 20].  Adult believers in good health abstain from food and drink from dawn to dusk.  

Sunday, March 5
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.

Thursday, March 9
Losar [Tibetan New Year] –Buddhism
Celebrating the beginning of a three-day festival for the year 2144 in the Tibetan calendar.

Saturday, March 11
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.

Sunday, March 12
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.

Monday, March 13
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.

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. 

Tuesday, March 14   
New Year’s Day – Sikhism 
In the Nanakshahi calendar, this day is the beginning of the year 549.

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.

Thursday, March 16

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.   

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.

Friday, March 17
Saint Patrick’s Day – Western Christianity
A commemoration of the missionary bishop who evangelized Ireland in the fifth century C.E.

Monday, March 20  spring equinox 
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.

Naw Rúz – Bahá’í
Marking the beginning of the year 174 of the Bahá’í era, and the beginning of the first month of the year, known as Bahá or “splendor.”

Tuesday, March 21
Navruz [Now Ruz or Norooz] – Zoroastrianism
The beginning of the Zoroastrian new year, 1387 AY or 3755 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.

Saturday, March 25
Feast of the Annunciation – Christianity  
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.   

Sunday, March 26
Khordad Sal – Zoroastrianism
The birth anniversary of the prophet Zarathustra.

Tuesday, March 28
Ugadi or Yugādi – Hinduism
The New Year’s Day celebration for Hindus of the Deccan Plateau in central and southern India, which traditionally includes a ritual bath, prayers, and the eating of pachhadi: six flavors that represent six different life experiences.  The flavors are bitter, tang, sour, spicy, salty, and sweet, which symbolize sadness, surprise, disgust, anger, fear, and happiness.



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 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.