Religious Holy Days

February 2020

February 2
Saint Brigid of Kildare (Celtic / Christianity)
Saint Brigid of Kildare, who lived from 451 to 525 C.E., is one of Ireland's patron saints. She was an Irish Christian nun, and the founder of several convents including Kildare Abbey, one of the most prestigious abbeys in Ireland.

Candlemas (Christianity)
Under Mosaic law, after giving birth to Jesus, Mary was obligated to go to the temple with an offering and have the priest pray for her, so that she would be ritually cleansed. This event thus marked the first solemn “presentation of Jesus” in the temple. Since the 4th century, when Jesus’ birth was set at December 25, this “presentation day” and “feast of the purification of Mary” was set on February 2.

Imbolc (Neo-Paganism)
Falling halfway between the Winter Solstice and the spring equinox, Imbolc celebrates the increased growing power of the sun, and the anticipation of spring. This celebration is commonly thought to be a precursor to Groundhog Day.

Four Chaplains Sunday (Interfaith)
In February of 1943, the U.S.A.T. ship Dorchester was transporting troops to European battlefields with over 900 soldiers aboard when it was hit by a torpedo off the coast of Greenland. The ship sank in 20 minutes, and only 230 soldiers survived the icy ocean waters. Survivors recounted how the ship’s four chaplains—a Catholic priest, a Methodist minister, a Protestant Reverend, and a Jewish rabbi—helped the men into their life jackets and onto the lifeboats. When life jackets ran out, the four, who had been friends since chaplains’ school, took off their own jackets and gave them to individuals who still needed them. From accounts, they were last seen with their arms linked and praying aloud as the Dorchester sank, killing them and over 600 other soldiers. They are remembered today with interfaith services.

February 3 
Setsubun-sai (Shinto)
This festival marks the end of "Kan," the coldest season. Beans are commonly thrown to keep demons away.

February 9 
Triodion begins (Orthodox Christianity)
Triodion is the three-week preparation period before Lent begins. Followers gradually modify their diets and meditate on themes like humility, repentance and forgiveness, to prepare for the great fast, prayer, and worship that happens over Lent.

Magha Puja (Buddhism)
Magha Puja is the day the Buddha addressed a meeting of 1250 arhats: spiritual practitioners that had reached a certain level of enlightenment. The Buddha introduced to them these principles: cease from evil, do what is good, and cleanse one's mind. On this day, temples in Thailand hold candlelight processions, walking clockwise three times around the Uposath Hall-- once for the Buddha, once for the Dharma, and once for the Sangha.

February 10
Tu B’Shvat (Judaism)
New Year's Day for Trees, and traditionally the first of the year for tithing fruit of trees. Now a day for environmental awareness and action, such as tree planting. This day is known as the new year for trees, as it is the day that the age of trees is calculated for tithing. In tradition, fruit from trees may not be consumed in the first 4 years of life - as the first three years are forbidden, and the fourth year the fruit is for God. One tradition on this day is to eat from the seven species abundant in Israel: wheat, barley, grapes, pomegranates, olives, figs, and dates.

February 11
Our Lady of Lourdes (Christianity)
This marks the day in 1858 when St. Bernadette had her first vision of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the city of Lourdes in southern France. She had 18 apparitions in all, one of which told her to dig for a spring. The water of this spring is said to have great healing powers, and Christians make pilgrimages to visit this spring and the church that was built on the property.

February 14
St. Valentine's Day (Christianity)
Pope Gelasius assigned February 14th as Saint Valentine's Day in 496 CE. This day commemorates the death of Saint Valentine of Rome, who, according to tradition, was martyred on February 14th ca. 270 C.E. Saint Valentine's Day was not associated with romantic love until the High Middle Ages, when legends and stories about Valentine were written and popularized by Geoffrey Chaucer and his circle.

February 15
Nirvana Day (Buddhism)
Celebrates the day when the historical Buddha achieved Parinirvana, or complete Nirvana, upon the death of his physical body. Sometimes celebrated on February 8. This day marks the Buddha’s death and when he reached Nirvana at the age of 80. Nirvana is the end to all wanting, and thus the end to all suffering that craving brings about. Buddhists who observe Nirvana day often do so by examining their lives, in order to make changes needed to help them achieve perfect peace. Observances sometimes take place in monasteries, where people read the Parinibbana Sutta, one of the Buddhist texts that describes the Buddha’s final days.

February 21 
Maha Shivaratri (Hinduism)
Also known as the "Great Night of Shiva," this day celebrates Lord Shiva, one of the great Hindu deities, with a day of fasting, an all-night vigil, and offerings of leaves from the Bilva tree - a tree of great medicinal value that was loved by Lord Shiva.

February 23 
Transfiguration Sunday (Christianity)
Transfiguration Sunday, celebrated on the last Sunday before Lent, marks the day that Jesus was "transfigured" on the mountain. His appearance became radiant, and he was joined by both Moses and Elijah. The disciples who were with him saw him in this dazzling glory.

Meatfare Sunday (Orthodox Christianity)
Traditionally, this is the last day that Orthodox Christians eat meat before commencing their fast, which lasts until Easter.

February 25
Shrove Tuesday (Western Christianity)
A day of penitence as well as the last chance to feast before Lent begins. Also known as Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday and Carnival Day as this day is observed in many ways worldwide. Shrove Tuesday is the last day before the beginning of Lent, during which Christians are supposed to examine their lives, confess their sins, and receive advice on mending their ways - as the time of Lent represents purification. In Old English, the word "shrove" referred to the act of listening intently to someone and giving advice. The French term for this day, Mardi Gras, means Fat Tuesday, which is said to come from the custom the French had of using up all the fats they had in the house for cooking, since the food during Lent's time of "fast and abstinence" would entail leaner cuisine. The fat would be baked into rich meals on Mardi Gras, and often what was cooked ended up being a pancake of sorts; thus the custom still observed in some parts of the western world of eating pancakes on the day before Lent. In many places it is a time for a final "celebration" before the 40 days of purification that precede Easter.

February 26
Ash Wednesday (Western Christianity)
The first day of Lent for Western Christian churches, a 40-day period of spiritual preparation for Easter, not counting Sundays. In the Western Church, Lent - the fasting season marking Jesus' time in the wilderness - commences with Ash Wednesday. Many Christians attend church, where their foreheads are marked with ashes in the form of the cross. The ashes consist of the burnt remains of palms blessed on Palm Sunday the previous year. The cross of ash symbolizes belonging to Jesus Christ and reminds people of their human mortality.

February 26–29
Ayyam-I-Ha or Intercalary Days (Bahá’í)
The Ayyám-i-ha, or “Days of Ha” are devoted to spiritual preparation for the fast, celebrating, hospitality, charity and gift giving. They are celebrated the four days, five in leap year, before the last month of the Bahá’í year by inserting days into the calendar in order to maintain their solar calendar. These are days of preparation for the Fast; days of hospitality, charity, ministering to the poor and sick, and giving of presents.

March 2020

March 1
Cheesefare Sunday (Orthodox Christianity)
Also known as the "Sunday of Forgiveness," this day often reflects on Adam and Eve and their exile from the Garden of Eden, emphasizing the human fall into sin and separation from God. This reminder prepares Orthodox Christians for the intense fasting of Lent.

March 2 
Clean Monday (Eastern Christianity)
The beginning of Great Lent for Eastern Christian churches, which starts 40 days before Orthodox Easter (Pascha), counting Sundays. On this day, referred to as "Clean Monday," Orthodox Christians leave behind sinful attitudes and certain foods as they prepare for the Great Lent. This is a seven-week period of fasting to prepare for Orthodox Easter, the greatest feast of the year.

March 2-20
Fast of Ala (Baha'i)
The Baha'i calendar is comprised of 19 months of 19 days each. The fast of Ala occurs during the last month of the Baha'i year, when Baha'is fast from sun up to sun down. All healthy individuals between the ages of 15 and 70 participate in the fast, which is done in spiritual preparation for the New Year, Naw Ruz.

March 8 
Orthodox Sunday (Orthodox Christianity)
Celebrated on the first Sunday of Lent, Orthodox Sunday recognizes the victory and restoration of icons for use in church services and private devotional life.

March 9
Magha Puja (Buddhism)
Also known as Sangha Day, it commemorates the spontaneous assembly of 1,250 disciples, completely enlightened monks, in the historical Buddha's presence.

March 10 
Purim (Judaism)
Purim is a Jewish festival that recognizes the deliverance of the Persian Jews from destruction during the reign of King Ahasuerus. This story, recorded in the book of Esther, is read aloud in Synagogues on Purim, and adults and children often wear costumes commemorating the characters. 

Holi (Hindu)
A spring festival in India and Nepal dedicated to the god of pleasure, also known as the festival of colors or the festival of sharing love. Holi is a celebration of fertility, brotherhood, and the triumph of good over evil. Festivities surrounding Holi can lasts up to sixteen days. During the main day of celebration, people throw colored water or powder at each other until they are coated and indistinguishable from their neighbors. This symbolizes unity and brotherhood, as everyone looks the same coated in colors, and differences such as race, sex, class, and creed are forgotten. Bonfires are lit to represent the destruction of evil, recalling the legend of Prahlad miraculously escaping from the fire of the demoness Holika. 

Hola Mohalla (Sikh)
An annual event which is a martial arts parade historically coinciding with Holi, the Hindu festival of colors. Celebrations related to Holla Mohalla may be held in various locations over several weekends preceding the actual date of the holiday. A week-long celebration that often coincides with the Sikh New Year, Hola Mohalla was started by Guru Gobind Singh as a day of mock battles and poetry. Today, those who celebrate the festival often camp out, watch demonstrations of fighting and bravery, and listen to music and poetry.

March 13
Birthday of L. Ron Hubbard (Scientology)
Born in 1911, Lafayette Ronald Hubbard was a science fiction writer who founded the Church of Scientology in 1953, in Camden, New Jersey. Hubbard originally developed a self-help system called Dianetics in 1950, and these ideas grew into doctrines and rituals that became Scientology, an applied religious philosophy. Today, followers of the Church of Scientology recognize his birthday.

March 16-20
Ghambar Hamaspathmaeden (Zoroastrianism)
This is the last of the six Ghambar festivals in the Zoroastrian calendar. Ghambars are joyous occasions when communities gather to share a feast. Food is contributed anonymously, and participants give according to their means and ability to contribute. This particular five-day Ghambar celebrates the creation of humans and is a time to remember souls who have passed away.

March 17 
St. Patrick’s Day  (Christianity)
St. Patrick, the Patron Saint of Ireland, was credited for spreading Christianity in Ireland and abolishing pagan practices in the fourth century. The symbol of the shamrock is often associated with St. Patrick’s Day, as St. Patrick used the three leaves to explain the mystery of the Christian doctrine of the Trinity.

March 18
Higan (Buddhism)
Higan, or Ohigan, is celebrated twice a year, during the spring and fall equinoxes. This is an important date for Jodo Shinshu Buddhists in particular. On this date, the day and night are the same length, symbolizing equality and harmony. Buddha appears on earth during this week to save stray souls, thus many Buddhists visit cemeteries and pay respects to their ancestors.

March 19
Saint Joseph's Day (Christianity)
This feast day celebrates Saint Joseph, the earthly father of Jesus. One Italian tradition recalls a draught, where the peasants prayed to St. Joseph for rain. When the rains came, crops were planted and then a large harvest feast was given in St. Joseph's honor. Some cultures celebrate this day by creating St. Joseph Tables: a table full of elaborate foods, though all free of meat, as this day typically falls during the fasting period of Lent.

March 20
Ostara (Neo-Paganism)
Ostara celebrates the coming of spring, the time when the days are getting longer. It is a time to celebrate the abundance of nature and the abundance of life, and to plant crops.

Naw Ruz and feast day Bahá  (Baha’i) 
Similar to Nowruz, Naw Ruz is the celebration of the New Year as adopted by Baha’u’llah, the founder of the Baha’i faith. The equinox is believed to be a symbol of the manifestations of God, and springtime to be the carrier of new life and new beginnings.

Nowruz (Zoroastrian)
Nowruz is the celebration of the Iranian New Year and marks the first day of spring. On this day, Persian families wear new clothing, visit each other’s homes, give gifts, and act kindly, as it is said that when people act well on Nowruz, it will affect them positively for the entire year. Likewise, any fights or ill-temper on Nowruz will result in a poor year.

March 22 (Begins at sundown on the 21st) 
Lailat al-Miraj (Islam)
Lailat al-Miraj, also known as Shab-e-Miraj in Iran, Pakistan, and India, or Miraç Kandili in Turkish, is the Muslim festival celebrating the “night journey” (isra) and “ascension” (mi'raj) of Muhammad, when he went from Mecca to Al-Haram al-Sharif (also known as the Temple Mount) and was then raised to heaven (Jannah), met with the prophets and eventually with God. It is celebrated on the 27th day of the month Rajab in the Islamic calendar. From this journey, Muslims believe, the command for five daily prayers (Salat) was given.

March 25
Feast of the Annunciation of Virgin Mary (Christianity)
This day commemorates when the angel Gabriel announced to the Virgin Mary that she would bear a child, Jesus. The feast of the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary is celebrated with prayers and church services.

Hindu New Year / Ugadi (Hinduism)
Ugadi is the Hindu New Year, often celebrated with a ritual bath, prayers, and the eating of pachhadi: six flavors that represent six different life experiences. There’s bitter, tang, sour, spice, sweet, and salty, to represent sadness, happiness, anger, fear, disgust and surprise.

March 25-April 2 
Ramayana Week (Hinduism)
Commencing with the Hindu New Year, Ramayana Week celebrates the appearance of Sri Ram, a Hindu Lord. Hindus worship Sri Ram by fasting, singing songs and dancing, and reading from the Ramayana text.

March 28
KhordadSal (Zoroastrian)
The Zoroastrian celebration of the birth of Zoroaster, the founder of the Zoroastrianism religion. The holiday is specifically celebrated in India and Iran, immediately following the Persian new year, Nowrúz. Khordad Sal is the birthday celebration of Prophet Zarathustra, the founder of Zoroastrianism. Considered to be one of the most important holidays on the Zoroastrian calendar, the day is spent feasting, wearing new clothes, displaying fresh flowers and gathering in fire temples for prayers.