Religious Holy Days

March 2018

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.

Friday, March 2
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.
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. 
‘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.  

Wednesday, 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.

Friday, 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.

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

Sunday, March 18
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.

Tuesday, 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.

Wednesday, March 21
Naw Rúz – Bahá’í
Marking the beginning of the year 175 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, 1388 AY or 3756 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 24
Feast of the Annunciation – Christianity (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.   

Sunday, March 25
Palm Sunday – Christianity (Western churches)
The remembrance of Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem, when crowds spread palm fronds on the ground as Jesus rode into the city.  Palm Sunday marks the beginning of Holy Week.  Eastern churches will begin their commemoration of Palm Sunday at sundown on Saturday, March 31.

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.   

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

Thursday, March 29
Maundy Thursday [Holy Thursday] – Christianity (Western churches)
The remembrance of Jesus’ last supper with his disciples and his institution of the “love commandment” (the term “Maundy” comes from the Latin word for “commandment”) while he washed their feet as a servant. 
Mahavira-jayanti  – Jainism
Celebrating the birthday of Lord Mahavir (Great Hero), the 24th Tirthankara (and last of this time cycle).  Jains remember their most important prophet by decorating their temples with flags, with prayers and fasting, and by making offerings of rice, fruit, milk, and other items.

Friday, March 30
Good Friday – Christianity (Western churches)
A commemoration of the passion of Jesus of Nazareth, i.e., his death by crucifixion. At sundown some churches begin the Easter vigil either this evening or on Holy Saturday (March 31).

Eve of Pesach [Passover] – Judaism (ends on April 7)
The beginning of an eight-day festival celebrating God’s deliverance of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt.  The story is told during a Seder meal at sundown, including readings from a book known as the Haggadah.  Some Jews refrain from work on the first two and the last two days of this holiday.

Saturday, March 31
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.

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.   

Hanuman Jayanti – Hinduism
A celebration of the birth of Hanuman, the faithful servant of the god Rama who can assume any form in order to conquer evil.  Believers visit temples and apply sindoor (red powder) to their foreheads, since Hanuman is often portrayed as a red half-monkey, half-human.

Lazarus Saturday – Christianity (Eastern churches)
A commemoration of Jesus’ miracle of raising his friend Lazarus from the dead, celebrated on the eve before Palm Sunday.

Worldwide General Conference begins – Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
This is the largest worship service for Latter-day Saints (also known as Mormons) and lasts for two days.  Conference proceedings are broadcast live over the Internet and through other electronic media.

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

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