Religious Holy Days


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.   

April 2019

April marks the season of Mmaal, which is when the rivers open, and of the Eagle Dances, when people of the Arizona Pueblo tribes dance to dramatize their communities’ relationship with the Sky-World.

Monday, April 1
Laylat al-Isra’ wa al-Mi’rāj – Islam  
The commemoration of the Prophet Muhammad’s night journey from Mecca to Jerusalem, his ascent into heaven and return on the same night, and his receipt of Allah’s commandment of the five compulsory daily prayers.  This celebration begins at dusk.

Friday, April 5
Qingming – Chinese traditional
Often called Tomb Sweeping Day, it is a day to honor one’s ancestors and visit their grave sites, as well as to welcome the coming of the spring season.

Saturday, April 6 
Anniversary of the Church’s Founding – Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
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.
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.

Monday, April 8
Hanamatsuri or Wesak – Buddhism
In the northern tradition, this is the anniversary of the birth of Śakyamuni Buddha, the historical founder of Buddhism.   In the southern tradition, this is celebrated during Visakha.

Tuesday, April 9
Jalál – Bahá’í
The beginning of the second month in the Bahá’í calendar, “Jalál” means “glory.”

Shrimad Rajchandra Dehvilay – Jainism
This festival marks the day of the emancipation (death) of Shrimad Rajchandra, a prominent Jain philosopher, in 1901 C.E.  He was an influential spiritual guide for Mohandas Karamchand (Mahatma) Gandhi.

Sunday, April 14
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.

Vaisakhi – Hinduism
The first day of the solar year and an important harvest festival in northern India.

Vaisakhi [or Baisakhi] – Sikhism
On this date in 1699 C.E., Gurū Gobind Singh, the tenth Guru, created the Khalsa Panth, the Brotherhood of the Pure.  Khalsa brothers are given the name Singh (lion), and sisters are named Kaur (princess).

Tuesday, April 16
Yaqui Deer Dance – Native American spirituality
A ceremony that integrates ancient rites of the Yaqui people of Arizona with the Christian Easter rituals.

Wednesday, April 17
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.

Thursday, April 18
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.   

Birthdays of Gurū Angad Dev and of Gurū Tegh Bahadur – Sikhism
Gurū Angad Dev (1504 – 1552 C.E.) was the second and Gurū Tegh Bahadur (1621 – 1675 C.E.) was the ninth of the Sikh Gurūs.

Friday, April 19
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 (April 20).

Eve of Pesach [Passover] – Judaism (ends on April 27)
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.

Laylat al-Bara’at or Nisf Sha‘bān – Islam
According to Muslim tradition, Allah approaches the earth on this night (the middle day of the eighth month in the Islamic calendar) to call humanity to repentance and grant forgiveness of sins.
 
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.

Saturday, April 20
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.

Eve of Ridván – Bahá’í  (continues through Thursday, May 2)
Commemorating the twelve days that Bahá’u’lláh spent in the garden of Ridván during his exile in Baghdad and when he proclaimed himself as the one announced by the Báb, which occurred in 1863 C.E.  On the first (4/21), ninth (4/29), and twelfth days (5/2) of this festival, work is suspended.  The festival begins at sundown.

Sunday, April 21
Easter Sunday – Christianity (Western churches)
Celebrating God’s raising of Jesus of Nazareth from the dead, this day is the oldest and most central festival in the Christian year and initiates the fifty-day period culminating in Pentecost.   

Palm Sunday – Christianity (Eastern 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.

Theravadin New Year – Buddhism
The New Year festival for Theravadin Buddhists, celebrated for three days beginning on the first full moon day in April.

Thursday, April 25
Eve of Great and Holy Friday – Christianity (Eastern churches)
At sundown Eastern churches commemorate Jesus’ death by crucifixion, followed by an observance of the Great Sabbath, in which believers remember Christ’s burial and await his resurrection on Holy Pascha, or Easter morning.

Sunday, April 28
Holy Pascha – Christianity (Eastern churches)
Celebrating God’s raising of Jesus of Nazareth from the dead, this day is the oldest and most central festival in the Christian year and initiates the fifty-day period culminating in Pentecost.   

Jamál – Bahá’í
The beginning of the third month in the Bahá’í calendar, “Jamál” means “beauty.”

Tuesday, April 30
Ghambar Maidyozarem begins – Zoroastrianism (continues through Saturday, May 4)
Celebrating the creation of sky and the harvesting of the winter crops.

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.