Religious Holy Days

November 2019 

Observing Native American Heritage Month

For Native Americans, November marks Gwilatkw, the blanket season of the first snow, in which the Earth covers herself for her winter sleep.

Friday, November 1
All Saints Day – Christianity [Western churches]
A commemoration of the lives of people, known and unknown, whose holiness and compassion toward others represent the best Christian virtues.  In some Christian traditions, the following day is reserved for intercessions for the dead and is known as All Souls’ Day.  Latino/a/x people in North and Central America mark these days in connection with celebrations of Día de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead.

Saturday, November 2
Coronation of Emperor Haile Selassie I – Rastafari
Because Rastafarians recognize Haile Selassie (born Ras Tafari Makonnen in 1892; died in 1975) as an incarnation of God and a messiah who will lead the peoples of Africa and the African Diaspora to freedom, peace, and prosperity, his coronation day as Emperor of Ethiopia in 1930 is remembered as a major festival.

Monday, November 4
Qudrat – Bahá’í 
The beginning of the thirteenth month of the Bahá’í year, meaning “power.”

Friday, November 8
Mawlid al-Nabi – Islam
The anniversary of the birth of the Prophet Muhammad in Mecca in ca. 570 C.E., observed by Sunni Muslims beginning at sundown.  Shi’a Muslims celebrate five days later, on November 13th.

Tuesday, November 12
Gurū Nanak’s Birthday – Sikhism
Sikhs commonly celebrate the birthday of their founder, Gurū Nanak Dev Ji, on the full moon day of Kartik, even though the guru’s biographers record his birth on April 15, 1469 C.E.  A poet and mystic, Guru Nanak wrote 974 hymns that are included in the Sikh scriptures, known as the Gurū Granth Sahib. 

Thursday, November 14  
The Advent (or Nativity) Fast – Christianity (Eastern churches)
The beginning of a forty-day vegetarian fast in preparation for the Feast of the Nativity (Christmas) commences at sundown.  For Orthodox Christians who follow the old calendar, this fast begins two weeks later.

Sunday, November 17 date has not been finalized at press time
Lokasha Jayanti – Jainism
Celebrating the births of revered and scholarly persons, such as the 15th century reformer Lonka Saha, whose opposition to temple worship and the use of images led to the founding of the Sthanakavasi sect.

Thursday, November 21
Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary – Christianity (Catholic churches)

Entry of the Mother of God (Theotokos) into the Temple – Christianity (Eastern churches)
This day commemorates the entrance of the three-year-old Virgin Mary into the temple at Jerusalem to receive an education and begin her life of absolute dedication to God.  According to some apocryphal writings, Mary also entered the Temple’s Holy of Holies on this occasion, thus becoming the first and only woman ever to enter that sacred space.

Saturday, November 23
Qawl – Bahá’í 
The beginning of the fourteenth month of the Bahá’í year, meaning “speech.”

Sunday, November 24  
Christ the King Sunday – Christianity 
This feast day commemorates Jesus’ teaching that he will return at the end of time to judge humanity.  In the Western Christian liturgical year, this is the last Sunday; the following Sunday (i.e., the first Sunday of Advent) marks the beginning of a new year.

Anniversary of the Martyrdom of Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji – Sikhism
This day commemorates the martyrdom of the ninth of the Ten Sikh Gurus (1621-1675 C.E.).  He is remembered for defending the Sikh faith, as well as the rights of Hindus and the cause of religious liberty.   

Tuesday, November 26
Day of the Covenant – Bahá’í 
A celebration of the appointment of ’Abdu’l-Bahá, the son of Bahá’u’lláh, as the Center of the Covenant in New York City in 1912 C.E.  Devout followers begin their remembrance the preceding evening and do not suspend work on this day.  

Thursday, November 28
Thanksgiving Day
This national holiday was first officially observed after a proclamation by President Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War, in 1863 C.E.  Establishing the fourth Thursday of November for the observance, Lincoln wrote that “[The blessings enjoyed in this country] are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.  It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People.”

Ascension of ’Abdu’l-Bahá – Bahá’í 
The commemoration of the death of the Center of the Covenant in Haifa, Palestine, in 1921 C.E.  Devout followers begin their remembrance the preceding evening and are allowed to work on this day.

December 2019 

For Native Americans of the Zuni tribe in New Mexico, December marks the time of the Shalako Kochina Ceremony.  For other aboriginal tribes, this is the season when the river freezes and the land sleeps, known as Luut’aa.

Sunday, December 2
First Sunday of Advent (hope) – Christianity (Western churches)
Chanukah [Hanukkah] begins (through December 10) – Judaism 
The Jewish Festival of Lights commemorates the Maccabean victory over Syrian-Greek oppressors and the recapture and re-dedication of the Jerusalem Temple in 165 B.C.E.  Special readings and praise songs focus on liberty and freedom.  The eight-candle Menorah is lit at sundown, and gifts are given.

Sunday, December 8
Second Sunday of Advent (peace) – Christianity (Western churches)  
Bodhi Day (Rohatsu) – Buddhism 
Celebration of the time when Prince Gautama (also later known as Shakyamuni Buddha) took his place under the Bodhi tree, vowing to remain there until he attained supreme enlightenment. 

Monday, December 9
Feast of the Immaculate Conception – Catholic Christianity 
A Roman Catholic holiday celebrating the belief that Mary, mother of Jesus, was preserved from original sin for her entire life.   

Tuesday, December 10
Human Rights Day
While not a religious festival, this day marks the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948, including Article 18 which states: “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.”

Thursday, December 12
Masá’il – Bahá’í 
The beginning of the fifteenth month of the Bahá’í year; its name means “questions.”
Feast Day of the Virgin of Guadalupe – Catholic Christianity 
Commemorating the appearance of the Virgin Mary near Mexico City in 1531 C.E.  Juan Diego, a native American living during the Spanish conquest of Mexico, saw a vision of the Virgin Mary. He was told to build a church in her honor exactly where he stood, and in that spot the Basilica of Guadalupe was
 erected. Thousands of pilgrims from all over the world travel to that church every year and venerate the icon of the Virgin that is there, imprinted on Diego's cloak; it is believed that Our Lady of Guadalupe can intercede with God so that faithful believers' prayers can be answered, and miracles can occur.  She is also the patron saint of Mexico. 
Sanghamittā Day – Buddhism 
Celebrating the anniversary of the arrival of King Asoka’s daughter Sanghamittā, who founded an order of nuns in Sri Lanka and carried with her a branch of the original tree under which the historical Buddha found enlightenment (it still survives in the ancient capital of Anuradhapura).  This festival occurs on the full moon day in December.

Sunday, December 15
Third Sunday of Advent (joy) – Christianity (Western churches)
Bill of Rights Day   
While not a religious festival, this day marks the signing into law of the ten original amendments to the United States Constitution in 1791, including the First Amendment that protects citizens’ freedoms of speech and of religious expression.

Monday, December 16
Posadas Navideñas begins (through December 25) – Christianity (Western churches) 
A Latino/Latina Christian feast of the Lodgings, commemorating the journey of Mary and Joseph toward Bethlehem in preparation for the birth of Jesus.
Simbáng Gabi begins (through December 24) – Christianity (Roman Catholic and Philippine Independent churches)
A nine-day series of night Masses observed by Filipino/Filipina Roman Catholics and members of the Philippine Independent Church in anticipation of Christmas and in honor of the Virgin Mary.

Tuesday, December 17
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, December 19
Maunajiyaras – Jainism
A day of fasting, silence, and meditation on the five holy beings: monks, teachers, religious leaders, Arihants or Jinas (enlightened masters), and Siddhas (liberated souls).  This day is also marked as the birth anniversary of many Tirthankaras or Pathfinders.

Saturday, December 21  winter solstice
Winter Feast – Native American spirituality
A time when Native Americans of the Woodland tribes share food with the spirits of winter. 
Yaldā – Zoroastrianism 
The “night of birth” which marks the longest night of the year, after which days begin getting longer—thus symbolizing the victory of light and goodness over dark and evil.  This festival is celebrated with storytelling, poetic readings, family reunions, and feasting.
Yule – Wicca  
A celebration symbolizing the rebirth of the sun by the Goddess.  A present-day Wicca event that ritually marks the shedding of the dross of the past year and contemplating one’s future spiritual development.
Tohji-Taisai [Grand Ceremony of the Winter Solstice] – Shintō 
This day marks the end of the sun’s decline (the yin period) and the beginning of its growth (the yang period).  In Japanese spirituality, the sun is expressive of Amaterasu Omikami, the sun goddess and guiding spirit of the Japanese people. 

Sunday, December 22
Fourth Sunday of Advent (love) – Christianity (Western churches) 
Chanukah [Hanukkah] begins (through December 30) – Judaism 
The Jewish Festival of Lights commemorates the Maccabean victory over Syrian-Greek oppressors and the recapture and re-dedication of the Jerusalem Temple in 165 B.C.E.  Special readings and praise songs focus on liberty and freedom.  The eight-candle Menorah is lit at sundown, and gifts are given.

Monday, December 23
Birthday of the Prophet Joseph Smith – Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints 
Commemorating the birth of Joseph Smith, Jr., in 1805 C.E. in Vermont.  He translated what became known as the Book of Mormon and became the first president of the LDS Church when it was founded in 1830 in Fayette, New York.

Tuesday, December 24
Christmas Eve – Christianity (Western and Eastern churches)
Celebration of the arrival of Mary and Joseph in Bethlehem for the birth of Jesus. It is observed with worship, carols, candle lighting, manger scenes and festive meals. 

Wednesday, December 25 
Christmas Day/Feast of the Nativity – Christianity (Western and Eastern churches)
Celebration of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, observed by prayers, exchanging of gifts, and family parties.

Thursday, December 26 
Kwanzaa begins (through January 1) – African American heritage
A seven-day festival that celebrates values highly regarded by people of African American ancestry.  The values include umoja (unity), kujichagulia (self-determination), ujima (collective work and responsibility), ujamaa (cooperative economics), nia (purpose), kuumba (creativity), and imani (faith).  Each of these principles, collectively known as the Nguzo Saba, is represented by a red or green candle, each of which is lit on successive days using a central black candle.  
Synaxis (Sobor) of the Theotokos – Christianity (Eastern churches)
According to Eastern Orthodox Christians, this feast day is perhaps the most ancient celebration of Mary in the Christian tradition.  It commemorates Mary as the human being through whom Jesus’ incarnation as the human Son of God was made possible.  The terms “synaxis” and “sobor” refer to a liturgical gathering and often indicate special occasions for divine worship.
Zaratosht Diso [Anniversary of the death of the prophet Zarathustra (Zoroaster)] – Zoroastrianism
Estimates of when he lived vary from the sixth to the second millenium B.C.E., but this date memorializes the death of the prophet Zoroaster, whose hymns (gathas) are preserved in the Zoroastrian scriptures.

Thursday, December 27
St. Stephen’s Day – Christianity (Eastern churches)
Remembrance of St. Stephen, the first Christian martyr. 

Saturday, December 28 
Holy Innocents’ Day – Christianity 
A day of solemn memory for the male children of Bethlehem killed by King Herod in an attempt to destroy Jesus.   

Tuesday, December 31  New Year’s Eve
Ghambar Maidyarem (through January 4) – Zoroastrianism
A celebration for the creation of animals, and a time for the equitable sharing of food with others.
Sharaf – Bahá’í 
The beginning of the sixteenth month of the Bahá’í year; its name means “honor.”

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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