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.