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2018 religious festivals

Below you will find a list of religious festivals during each month (and a short description).

This information has been compiled by the Shap Working Party on World Religions in Education, and is used with permission. Religious festival calendars are available to purchase in a range of formats from the Shap website. Permission to reproduce the information below should be sought from Shap. The Shap calendar of religious festivals was the first calendar of its kind, and is produced in consultation with religious organisations each year.

IFN has also produced a short guidance note on which of their religious festivals faith communities would appreciate receiving greetings from people of other faiths and beliefs, and suggested forms of greeting. This can be found here.

  • December 2017

    1 December (Friday) THE PROPHET MUHAMMAD'S BIRTHDAY / MILAD UL NABI (12th Rabi'ul-Awwal) Muslim (Sunni)
    6 December (Wednesday) THE PROPHET MUHAMMAD'S BIRTHDAY / MILAD UL NABI (17th Rabi'ul-Awwal) (Shi'a)

    Observed by Sunni Muslims on the 12th of Rabi'ul Awwal and by the majority of Shi'a Muslims five days later (though Nizari Ismali Shi'a Muslims who are followers of the Aga Khan celebrate this on the same day as the Sunnis, whereas Dawoodi Bohra Islamailis celebrate at the same time as other Shi'a).The day is widely celebrated within the Muslim world and is a public holiday in a number of Muslim countries. In the sub-continent of India and certain Arab countries like Egypt, the celebration starts with reading from the Qur’an, followed by poetry and songs in praise of the Prophet. There are also lectures and story telling. In some big cities of the Muslim world the day is marked with processions and flag waving under a huge decoration of lights. In the UK many Muslims celebrate at the mosque, but some refuse to celebrate the Prophet’s birthday, claiming it is a non-Islamic innovation introduced more than 600 years after the life of the Prophet. Tradition is not clear as to the exact date of the Prophet’s birth.

       

    3 December (Sunday) ADVENT SUNDAY Christian (Western Churches)

    The start of the Christian year, four Sundays before Christmas. It is often celebrated by lighting the first candle in the advent crown – a circular wreath of greenery. A further three candles are lit on subsequent Sundays, culminating with the Christmas candle on the 25th December. This signifies the transition from darkness to light.

       

    8 December (Friday) IMMACULATE CONCEPTION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY Christian (Roman Catholic)

    Celebrates the doctrine held mainly Roman Catholics that Mary herself was born free from Original Sin, leaving her sinless for the conception and bearing of Jesus.

       

    8 December (Friday) BODHI DAY Buddhist

    Some Buddhists (eg Pure Land followers) celebrate Gautama’s attainment of Enlightenment on this day under the Bodhi tree in Bodhgaya, North India.

       

    10 December (Sunday) HUMAN RIGHTS DAY (National)

    In 1948 The United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: ‘All human beings are born with equal and inalienable rights and fundamental freedoms.’

       

    13 December (Wednesday) to 20 December (Wednesday) HANUKAH Jewish

    Celebrates the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem after it was recaptured from the Syrian Greeks by the Maccabee brothers in 165 BCE. For the eight evenings of the festival, candles are lit from right to left in a hanukkiah, a nine-branched menorah – one() candle for each evening. The ninth candle is the shamash (the servant candle) from which the other candles are lit. Foods cooked with oil - such as doughnuts and latkes (potato cakes) – are traditional to remember the miracle with oil that happened at this time. A game of dreidel, a special small spinning top, is popular with children to commemorate ‘the great miracle that happened there’.

       

    21 December (Thursday) WINTER SOLSTICE (Alban Arthan or Alban Arthuan) Druid
    22 December (Friday) YULE (archaic form Geola, pronounced Yula) Wiccan / Pagan

    Yule is the time of the winter solstice, when the sun is reborn, an image of the return of all new life. Heathens celebrate Yule for twelve nights and days, starting the evening before the Winter Solstice (called Mother’s night), when they think of their female ancestors and spiritual protectors. The night heralds the beginning of the major holiday in Heathenry.

       

    24 December (Sunday) CHRISTMAS EVE Christian

    Evening carol services, crib services and Midnight Masses inaugurate the festival of Christmas. Santa Claus (from the Dutch Sinter Klaus) is a legendary figure, based on St Nicholas of Myra, and is supposed to bring presents to children on Christmas Eve.

       

    25 December (Monday) CHRISTMAS DAY Christian (see also 6/7 January 2018)

    Christmas Day celebrates the birth of Jesus, whom Christians believe to be the son of God. The words of St John’s Gospel (Chapter 1:1-18) are read in many churches at this time; these speak of ‘the Word made flesh’, pointing to Christian belief in the Incarnation (God ‘made flesh’, or human). Gifts are given as reminders of the offerings brought to the infant Jesus, and Christmas carols, plays and evergreens are associated with this time, while nativity sets are displayed in many churches and in some homes.

       

    26 December (Tuesday) ZARATOSHT NO DISO Zoroastrian (Iranian)
    24 May (Wednesday) Zoroastrian (Parsi)

    Zaratosht no diso is the death anniversary of Prophet Zarathushtra and is a sorrowful occasion. Tradition records that he was assassinated at the age of 77. It is customary to visit the Fire Temple, participate in special remembrance prayers (to him and to the Fravashis, the guardian spirits of departed ancestors), and ponder upon the Gathas or Hymns of Zarathushtra, which embody his eternal message to humanity.

       

    31 December (Sunday) OMISOKA Japanese

    Japanese festival which prepares for the new year by cleansing Shinto home shrines and Buddhist altars. The bells of Buddhist temples are struck 108 times to warn against the 108 evils to be overcome.

       

    31 December (Sunday) HOGMANAY National

    A celebration widely observed throughout the UK, and especially in Scotland where bagpipes, haggis and first footing are widespread. Clearing one’s debts, cleaning the house, welcoming guests and strangers and a host of other traditions feature at this time

  • January 2018

    1 January (Monday) NEW YEAR’S DAY/HOGMANAY National

    A day widely observed, as is New Year’s Eve the preceding night, throughout the UK, and more especially in Scotland, where bagpipes, haggis and first footing are widespread.

       

    1 January (Monday) THE CIRCUMCISION OR NAMING OF JESUS Christian

    Celebrates the circumcision and naming of Jesus in accordance with Jewish custom.

       

    1 January (Monday) GANJITSU Japanese

    Three day New Year’s celebrations during which businesses are closed, families spend time together, decorations are put up and the first visit of the year is paid to Shinto shrines.

       

    5 January (Friday) BIRTHDAY OF GURU GOBIND SINGH (1666 CE) Sikh

    Birth Anniversary of the tenth Guru, who instituted the practice of the Five Ks and established the Order of the Khalsa on Vaisakhi (Baisakhi). An akhand path, an unbroken reading of the whole of the Guru Granth Sahib, spreads over a 48 hour period.

       

    6 January (Saturday) EPIPHANY Christian

    Celebrates the visit of the magi/wise men to the infant Jesus, bearing symbolic gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. This is the twelfth day of Christmas.

       

    6 January (Saturday) THEOPHANY (Orthodox)

    Christians commemorate the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist; they recall how at this event the heavens were opened and a voice was heard proclaiming Jesus, while God’s spirit descended on him in the form of a dove

       

    6/7 January (Saturday/Sunday) CHRISTMAS EVE AND DAY Christian

    (Eastern Orthodox: Julian calendar); Rastafarian. Many Orthodox churches celebrate Christmas (and other fixed festivals) thirteen days after the Western churches.

       

    7 January (Sunday) BAPTISM OF CHRIST (Anglican)

    Christians commemorate the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist; they recall how at this event the heavens were opened and a voice was heard proclaiming Jesus, while God’s spirit descended on him in the form of a dove

       

    7 January (Sunday) ETHIOPIAN CHRISTMAS DAY Christian

       

    8 January (Monday) BAPTISM OF THE LORD (Roman Catholic)

    Christians commemorate the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist; they recall how at this event the heavens were opened and a voice was heard proclaiming Jesus, while God’s spirit descended on him in the form of a dove

       

    12 January (Friday) BIRTHDAY OF SWAMI VIVEKANANDA Hindu

    Born Narendra Nath Datta in 1902 in Calcutta, he was an Indian Hindu monk who became the chief disciple of the 19th century saint Ramakrish

       

    12 January (Friday) BASANT Sikh

    BASANT Namdhari Sikh Widely celebrated in North India, this festival marks the beginning of spring. For Hindus it is usually linked with Saraswati, the goddess of learning and the arts. Yellow is her associated colour.

       

    13 January (Saturday) MAKAR SANKRANTI/LOHRI/PONGAL Hindu

    This is a day for almsgiving and patching up quarrels. It is celebrated with rice sugar, pancakes and halva, eaten around a fire, especially when following the birth of a son. Cornmeal chapatis and mustard leaf constitute the traditional meal.

       

    16 January (Tuesday) SHINRAN MEMORIAL DAY Buddhist

    Shinran was the founder of Jodo Shin-shu, one of the schools of Pure Land Buddhism. 18-25 January (Friday onwards) WEEK OF PRAYER FOR CHRISTIAN UNITY United services are held, and dialogue on unity is encuraged; some worshippers visit others’ churches or invite preachers from denominations different from their own

       

    18-25 January (Thursday to Thursday) WEEK OF PRAYER FOR CHRISTIAN UNITY Christian

    This week was first set aside in 1908. The theme for 2016 is: ‘Called to proclaim the mighty acts of the Lord’. Each year the growing commitment to ecumenism has increased the impact and the impetus of the week: special services are held, and dialogue on unity is encouraged; some worshippers attend united services, while others may visit each other’s churches or invite preachers from denominations different from their own

       

    19 January (Friday) THEOPHANY/BAPTISM OF CHRIST Christian (Julian Calendar)

    (Eastern Orthodox) Orthodox Christians commemorate the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist. ‘Theophany’ means ‘Manifestation of God’. Jesus’ miracle at Cana in Galilee is also remembered.

       

    21 January (Sunday) WORLD RELIGION DAY Baha'i and other groups

    This day promotes interfaith understanding by emphasizing factors common to all faiths. It was first introduced among Baha’i communities in the 1950s, and is now celebrated by a wider spread of communities, including the Baha’i, on the third Sunday of January.

       

    22 January (Monday) SARASWATI PUJA/VASANT PANCHAMI Hindu

    BASANT Namdhari Sikh Widely celebrated in North India, this festival marks the beginning of spring. For Hindus it is usually linked with Saraswati, the goddess of learning and the arts. Yellow is her associated colour.

       

    25 January (Thursday) HONEN MEMORIAL DAY Buddhist

    Honen was the founder of Jodo Shu, one of the schools of Pure Land Buddhis.

       

    27 January (Saturday) HOLOCAUST MEMORIAL DAY National

    A day for remembrance of people who suffered at the hands of the Nazis during the second World War. Its aim is to keep fresh in the mind the memory of those who suffered and died at that time, and to help ensure that no such atrocity happens again.

    31 January (Wednesday) TU B'SHEVAT Jewish

    A popular minor festival which celebrates the New Year for trees. Jewish tradition marks the 15th of Shevat as the day when the sap in the trees begins to rise, heralding the beginning of spring

       
  • February 2018

    1 February (Thursday) IMBOLC/CANDLEMAS Pagan

    Imbolc/Candlemas celebrates the awakening of the land and the growing power of the Sun. Snowdrops, which appear at this time of the year, are seen as the heralds of spring.

       

    2 February (Friday) THE PRESENTATION OF THE LORD/ OF CHRIST IN THE TEMPLE/CANDLEMAS Christian

    Congregations hold lighted candles to recall the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple, and Mary’s following Jewish tradition after the birth of a son. His recognition by the aged Simeon is expressed in the words of the Nunc Dimittis.

       

    3 February (Saturday) SETSUBUN/BEAN SCATTERING Japanese

    The day for the Bean Scattering ceremony, performed both in homes and in temples.

       

    8 February (Thursday) or 15 February (Thursday) PARINIRVANA/NIRVANA DAY Buddhist

    Mahayanists mark the final passing away from this world of Gautama Buddha at Kushinagara, India, at the age of 80. Pure Land Buddhists call this Nirvana Day.

       

    13 February (Tuesday)SHROVE TUESDAY Christian (Western Churches)

    ‘Shrove’ relates to absolution from sin. Nowadays it is a day for eating and enjoyment. In Britain it is called ‘Pancake Day’, as pancakes use up all the rich foods before Lent. Elsewhere it is known as Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday), and is a time for carnivals and fairs.

       

    13 February (Tuesday) MAHASHIVRATRI (Great Shiva Night) Hindu

    This is the night of a new moon when Shiva is said to perform the cosmic dance, leading from creation to destruction. Many Hindus fast. All-night prayers focus on Shiva and his shrines and images. Milk is poured on his symbol, the lingam.

    14 February (Wednesday) ASH WEDNESDAY Christian (Western Churches)

    This first day of Lent recalls the temptations Jesus faced for forty days in the wilderness. In Catholic and some Anglican churches, worshipper’s foreheads are marked with a cross of ash made from burning the palm crosses of the previous year – hence ‘Ash Wednesday’.

       

    14 February (Wednesday) - 31 March (Saturday) LENT Christian (Western Churches)

    A period of forty days fasting and self-discipline (not counting Sundays) that leads up to Easter. Traditionally Christians give up something during this time to mark the forty days Jesus spent in the wilderness. Many Christians feel it is a time for study groups, prayer and Bible reading.

       
       

    15 February (Thursday) or 8 February (Thursday) PARINIRVANA/NIRVANA DAY Buddhist

    Mahayanists mark the final passing away from this world of Gautama Buddha at Kushinagara, India, at the age of 80. Pure Land Buddhists call this Nirvana Day.

       

    16 February (Friday) NEW YEAR FESTIVAL/CHUNJIE/YUAN TAN Chinese

    Celebrations last for three or more days, and involve fireworks, dances (e.g. the famous Lion Dance) and gifts of paper money, flowers and sweets. Business accounts are settled and all debts paid before the New Year begins. 2018 is the year of the dog.

       

    16/ 17 February (Friday/Saturday) LOSAR Buddhist

    Tibetan New Year festival, often observed in Nepal as well. It celebrates the miracles performed by the historical Buddha at Sravasti, the capital city of the kingdom of Kosala.

       

    19 February (Monday) FIRST DAY OF LENT / THE GREAT FAST Christian (Orthodox)

    This is the beginning of the Lenten Fast, which involves abstinence from meat, fish and dairy products until Easter

  • March 2018
       

    1 March (Thursday) ST DAVID’S DAY Christian / National

    Anniversary of the death of St David, the 6th Century CE patron saint of Wales.

       

    1 March (Thursday) PURIM Jewish

    Purim is a carnival festival recalling the saving of the Jewish community of Persia through the actions of a young Jewish woman, which is retold in the Book of Esther (the Megillah). The whole book/scroll is read twice in the synagogue, once on the eve of Purim and also on Purim itself. Colourful costumes and masks are often worn amid lots of noise as the name of Haman (the villain of the story) is drowned out by the congregation with rattles and hooters and boos whenever it is read. Many people come in fancy dress. Hamantashen (cakes filled with poppy seeds, literally ‘Haman’s pockets’) are made and eaten at this time.

       

    1 March (Thursday) MAGHA PUJA Buddhist

    This commemorates the occasion when 1,250 enlightened personal disciples of the Buddha came spontaneously to the Bamboo Grove on the full moon of Magha (usually February). The Buddha predicted his death and recited a summary of his teachings and a code of discipline (which monks are expected to recite every fortnight). The day is observed with meditation, chanting and listening to sermons.

       

    2 March (Friday) HOLI Hindu

    A spring festival lasting one to five days. Bonfires are lit and revellers throw coloured powders and dyes over each other.

    2/3 March (Friday/Saturday) HOLA MAHALLA/HOLA MOHALLA Sikh

    In 1680 Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth Sikh Guru, introduced this festival at Anandpur in Punjab, India, on the day after the Hindu Holi. It includes displays of swordsmanship, horsemanship, archery and wrestling, together with displays of weapons and symposia of poetry, making it a lively and colourful occasion, particularly for young Sikhs.

       

    2 March (Friday) LANTERN FESTIVAL/YUANXIAOJIE/TENG CHIEH Chinese

    The Lantern Festival marks the first full moon of the year and the lengthening of the days. Strings of lanterns in various designs are hung up indoors and outside as decoration.

       

    2 March (Friday) THE WOMEN’S WORLD DAY OF PRAYER Christian

    Since 1887 this international, interdenominational prayer movement has offered service materials produced by a different country each year.

       

    3 March (Saturday) HINAMATSURI / DOLLS’ FESTIVAL / GIRLS’ DAY Japanese

    Clay dolls representing the Emperor and Empress, are displayed in the home, and offerings of peach blossom, rice-wine and rice-cakes are placed before them. The dolls carry away any illness which is afflicting the daughters of the house, for whom prayers are offered.

       

    11 March (Sunday) MOTHERING SUNDAY (Simnel Sunday) Christian

    This is more popularly known as Mother’s Day. Traditionally, Christians visited their ‘mother church’ and took gifts to their mothers, which often included a simnel cake.

       

    11 March (Sunday) – 20 March (Tuesday) FRAVARDIGAN/MUKTAD Zoroastrian (Iranian Calendar)

    The Fravardigan festival (the festival of the fravashis), popularly known as Muktad (All Souls), is the last festival of the year. During sunrise on the first day of the festival the immortal souls, together with their fravashis (the guardian spirits of departed ancestors, artistically depicted as half man/half bird), are welcomed by name by the Zoroastrian Mobeds or Magi (priests). For ten days they reside in the place of worship, and then leave the physical world after the last ceremony, held on the tenth evening, but before the dawn of NoRuz. During these ten days Zoroastrians often take time off from work, pray extensively, recite the five Gathas (hymns composed by Zarathushtra) and ensure their houses are thoroughly cleaned. They prepare daily samples of sacred food enjoyed by their departed ancestors while still alive, and take these to the place of worship, to be tasted by the ancestors during the daily ceremonies. This ritually consecrated food, along with chosen fruits, is then shared by the living after the ceremony is over.

       

    17 March (Saturday) ST PATRICK’S DAY Christian / National

    The patron saint of Ireland, who lived in Britain in the 4th century CE, became a priest and set out to evangelise the Irish. His symbol is the shamrock, sprigs of which are worn on this day. Parades are held in Dublin and elsewhere, often of a secular nature.

       

    18 March (Sunday) PASSION SUNDAY Christian

    This is the 5th Sunday in Lent, when Christians begin to concentrate their thoughts on the Passion or suffering of Jesus.

       

    18-24 March (Sunday-Saturday) HIGAN; 20 March (Tuesday) SHUNBUN NO HI Japanese

    Marks the Spring equinox. As at the Autumn equinox, harmony and balance are the themes. Sutras are recited, and the graves of relatives are visited.

       

    19 March (Monday) ST JOSEPH’S DAY, HUSBAND OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY Christian

    A day to honour Joseph, who, along with Mary, was responsible for Jesus’ upbringing.

       

    20 March (Tuesday) SPRING EQUINOX (OSTARA) Pagan VERNAL EQUINOX (Alban Eiler or Alban Eilir) Druid

    By the Spring Equinox, the powers of the gathering year are equal to the darkness of winter and death. The God (the Green Man) awakens during this season. Some dedicate this time to Eostre, the Anglo-Saxon goddess of fertility.

       

    21 March (Wednesday) NAW-RUZ Baha'i

    Naw-Ruz is the Baha’i New Year’s Day and coincides with the spring equinox. It is an ancient Persian festival celebrating the ‘New Day’ and it marks the end of the annual nineteen day fast that concludes the old year.

       

    21 March (Wednesday) JAMSHEEDI NORUZ Zoroastrian (Iranian Calendar)

    NoRuz (New Year’s Day) occurs on the first day of spring. It represents the resurgence of life and the symbolic victory of the forces of light over darkness. New clothes are worn and gifts and prayers offered at the Fire Temple to seek blessings from Ahura Mazda, and to participate in a jashan or thanksgiving ceremony, followed by dancing and making merry.

       

    24 March (Saturday) AVA MAH PARAB (ABAN JASHAN) Zoroastrian (Shenshai - Parsi)

    Ava is the guardian/protector of the waters, and is associated with fertility. Zoroastrians celebrate the birth of the waters by going to seas, rivers and streams to recite a litany to the waters, to which they offer flowers, sugar, coconuts and flat cakes of sweet lentils.

       

    25 March (Sunday) RAMA NAVAMI Hindu

    The birthday of Rama, the seventh avatar of Vishnu, is celebrated at noon in the aarti ceremony, performed in front of a doll or of a picture depicting Rama swinging in a cradle.

    25 March (Sunday) THE ANNUNCIATION OF THE LORD / Christian (Orthodox - Revised Julian calendar)

    Celebrates the angel Gabriel announcing to Mary that she is to bear a child, and Mary’s response in the Magnificat. The day provides an opportunity to focus on the doctrine of the incarnation. Luke 1:26-38, 46-55

       

    25 March (Sunday) PALM SUNDAY Christian

    Palm Sunday is the first day of Holy Week, when Christians remember Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, where later he would be arrested and crucified. Many churches commemorate the day by processions, with the congregation carrying symbolic palm leaves folded in the form of a cross, or branches of palm trees.

       

    25 March (Sunday) - 31 March (Saturday) HOLY WEEK Christian.

    This is the most solemn week of the Christian year, in which Christians recall the events of the final week of the earthly life of Jesus

       

    25 March (Sunday) LADY DAY Secular

    One of the four Quarter Days in the UK legal calendar

       

    26 March (Monday) KHORDAD SAL Zoroastrian (Iranian Calendar)

    On the birthday of Prophet Zarathushtra there are visits to the Fire Temple to give thanks to Ahura Mazda for his gift of the Prophet; to participate in a jashan or thanksgiving ceremony; to listen to stories of the miraculous birth and life of the Prophet; and to share in a happy community meal, a drink and a dance.

       

    29 March (Thursday) MAUNDY THURSDAY Christian (Western Churches)

    Christians remember the Last Supper when Jesus blessed bread and wine and commanded his disciples to remember him whenever they did this. The name ‘maundy’ comes from a Latin term ‘mandatum’ (‘commandment’), signifying Jesus' new commandment to his disciples, as recorded in John 15:17.

       

    29 March (Thursday) MAHAVIRA JAYANTI (599 BCE) Jain

    The birthday of the last Tirthankara, or great teacher and model of the Jainas. His birth and the events surrounding it are re-enacted. Monks or nuns read from the scriptures and teach about the rest of Mahavira’s life. Lay people then return home to a celebratory feast.

       

    30 March (Friday) GOOD FRIDAY Christian (Western Churches)

    This day commemorates the crucifixion of Jesus. Meditative services are held in church to mark the time that Jesus spent on the cross.

       

    31 March (Saturday) - 7 April (Saturday) PASSOVER / PESACH Jewish

    This major Jewish festival lasts eight days and commemorates the liberation of the Children of Israel and their Exodus from slavery in Egypt. The highlight is the Seder meal, held in each family’s home at the beginning of the festival, when the story of their deliverance is recounted, as narrated in the Haggadah (the Telling, or the Story). Matzah, (unleavened bread) is eaten throughout the festival, as are other foods that contain no leaven (yeast). There is a major spring cleaning in the home shortly before the festival to ensure that no trace of leaven is left in the house during Pesach. Coconut pyramids and matza balls (which are put in soups) are foods that might be eaten at this time.

       

    31 March (Saturday) HOLY SATURDAY (Easter Eve) Christian

    This is the last day of Lent. Special services involving the lighting of the Paschal Candle and the renewal of baptismal vows take place in the evening in preparation for Easter.

       

    31 March (Saturday) HANUMAN JAYANTI Hindu

    This Hindu festival recalls the birth of Lord Rama’s supreme devotee, the monkey-headed Hanuman, whose feats figure in the Ramayana epic. Hanuman’s birth is celebrated at sunrise on the full-moon day of the lunar month of Chaitra.

       
  • April 2018
     

    1 April (Sunday) EASTER DAY Christian (Western Churches)

    Easter Day is the most important festival of the Christian year, as it is when Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. Easter eggs are given, which symbolise new life.

       

    5 April (Thursday) FESTIVAL OF PURE BRIGHTNESS/TOMB SWEEPING DAY / QINGMINGJIE / CH’ING MING/ Chinese

    The first occasion in the year when family graves are visited. Many families cleanse and sweep them, offer food to the spirits, and picnic/feast by the grave with their ancestors.

       

    7 April (Saturday) THE ANNUNCIATION OF THE LORD / Christian (Orthodox - Old Julian Calendar)

    Celebrates the angel Gabriel announcing to Mary that she is to bear a child, and Mary’s response in the Magnificat. The day provides an opportunity to focus on the doctrine of the incarnation. Luke 1:26-38, 46-55

       

    8 April PASCHA/EASTER Christian (Orthodox)

    For Orthodox Christians Easter Day is the most important festival of the Christian year, as it is when they celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. A vigil is kept during the preceding night and the resurrection of Christ greeted with the lighting of candles and the affirmation ‘Christ is risen’

       

    8 April (Sunday) HANAMATSURI Buddhist (Japanese)

    Flower festival to mark the Japanese celebration of the Buddha Shakyamuni’s birthday, which Mahayana Buddhists fix in 565 BCE. Floral shrines are erected and an image of the infant Buddha is bathed. Theravadins celebrate Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and passing away, all on the same day, but a little later in the year, at the full moon in May.

       

    9 April (Monday) THE ANNUNCIATION OF THE LORD / Christian (Anglican)

    Lady Day celebrates the angel Gabriel announcing to Mary that she is to bear a child, and Mary’s response in the Magnificat. The day provides an opportunity to focus on the doctrine of the incarnation. Luke 1:26-38, 46-55

       

    12 April (Thursday) YOM HA-SHOAH (Holocaust Day) Jewish

    A day of remembrance when Jewish people remember the six million Jews, including one and a half million children, who were victims of the Nazi Holocaust. Memorial candles are lit and special services are held. The date is chosen as the closest date (in the Jewish calendar) to the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.

       

    13 April (Friday) SONGKRAN Buddhist

    Traditional New Year’s Day festival in Thailand, where containers of water are thrown as a symbol of washing away all that is evil. Fragrant herbs are often placed in the jug or bucket containing the water.

       

    13 April (Friday) THE PROPHET'S NIGHT JOURNEY and ASCENT / LAILAT UL ISRA WA-L-MIRAJ Muslim

    This festival celebrates the journey of the Prophet Muhammad, in the tenth year of his prophethood, from Makkah to Jerusalem, and through the heavens to the presence of God, all in one night. On this night Muslims believe the Prophet received the command that they should pray five times each day. The rock in Jerusalem from which the Prophet ascended is now contained in the Dome of the Rock. Muslims mark this night by reading the Qur’an and saying additional prayers.

       

    14 April (Saturday) VAISAKHI/BAISAKHI

    In 1699, on Vaisakhi, the tenth Guru, Gobind Singh, founded the Order of the Khalsa. Five men, who later came to be known as the Panj Piare (Five Beloved Ones), offered their lives when the Guru asked for volunteers. The ‘Five Ks’, the outward signs of Sikhism, were made obligatory and Sikh men took the name ‘Singh’ (lion) and women ‘Kaur’ (princess). The Order of the Khalsa was founded and the initiation ceremony, amrit, was introduced.

       

    19 April (Thursday) YOM HA'ATZMA'UT Jewish

    Israeli Independence Day, commemorating the declaration of independence of Israel in 1948

       

    21 April (Saturday) - 2 May (Wednesday) RIDVAN Baha’i

    The most important Baha’i festival. In these 12 days, in the garden outside Baghdad after which the festival is named, Baha’u’llah declared himself the Promised One, prophesied by the Bab. The first, ninth and twelfth days are especially significant and are holy days, when no work is done. It is during this period that Baha’is elect all their governing bodies.

       

    22 April (Sunday) ADAR MAH PARAB Zoroastrian (Shenshai - Parsi)

    On the ninth day of Adar, the 9th month, Zoroastrians celebrate the birthday of fire. They pay visits to the fire temple to make offerings of sandalwood or incense, and to thank the holy fire for the warmth and light it has given throughout the year. Traditionally on this day food is not cooked in the house as the fire is given a rest and the Atash Niyayeesh or litany to the fire is recited in honour of the house fire or the ceremonial oil lamp.

       

    23 April (Monday) ST GEORGE’S DAY National

    St George is the patron saint of England. He lived and died in the Middle East, but his popularity grew after the Crusades, when his red cross on a white background became the symbol of the English Crusaders.

       

    30 April (Monday) BELTAINE/MAY EVE Wiccan / Pagan

    BELTAINE Druid The wheel of the year continues to turn and fertile spring yields to the height of summer. Many pagans celebrate Beltaine by lighting fires and leaping over them, and/or with maypole dances, symbolizing the mystery of the Sacred Marriage of Goddess and God.

       
  • May 2018
     

    1 May (Tuesday) THE NIGHT OF FORGIVENESS / LAILAT-UL-BARA'AH Muslim

    On the fourteenth of Sha’ban, the eighth month of the Muslim calendar and two weeks before Ramadan commences, Muslims seek forgiveness for their sins. Many Muslims believe that it is on this night that a person’s destiny is fixed by Allah for the coming year, and the night is often spent in prayer, asking for forgiveness and God’s guidance. Some Muslims fast during the daytime in preparation for the night. In certain parts of the world Muslims visit the graves of relatives, and the giving of charity is also traditional. In a number of places the night is marked with firework displays.

       

    1 May (Tuesday) BELTAINE/MAY EVE Wiccan / Pagan

    BELTAINE Druid The wheel of the year continues to turn and fertile spring yields to the height of summer. Many pagans celebrate Beltaine by lighting fires and leaping over them, and/or with maypole dances, symbolizing the mystery of the Sacred Marriage of Goddess and God.

       

    3 May (Thursday) LAG B'OMER Jewish

    The Omer is a period of 49 days, lasting from Pesach to Shavuot. It is a time of sadness, relieved on this, the 33rd day, by a break in the days of mourning. Lag b’Omer recalls the end of a plague in Roman times during the lifetime of Rabbi Akiva, and is often celebrated by out of door, fresh air activities. A large number of weddings take place on this day, since they are not usually permitted during most of the rest of the Omer period.

       

    10 May (Thursday) ASCENSION DAY (40th day after Easter) Christian (Western Churches)

    This day commemorates the last earthly appearance of the Risen Christ, who, according to Christian belief, ascended into heaven in the presence of many witnesses.

       

    12 May (Friday) BIRTHDAY OF THE 12th IMAM: MUSHAMMAD IBN HASAN AL-MAHDI Muslim

    On the fourteenth of Sha’ban, the eighth month of the Muslim calendar and two weeks before Ramadan commences, Muslims seek forgiveness for their sins. Many Muslims believe that it is on this night that a person’s destiny is fixed by Allah for the coming year, and the night is often spent in prayer, asking for forgiveness and God’s guidance. Some Muslims fast during the daytime in preparation for the night. In certain parts of the world Muslims visit the graves of relatives, and the giving of charity is also traditional. In a number of places the night is marked with firework displays.

       

    13 May (Sunday) – 19 May (Saturday) CHRISTIAN AID WEEK Christian

    Initiated in 1945, this fund raising week raises money for work with the needy throughout the world; mainly done by house to house collections and sales of goods of various kinds.

       

    16 May (Wednesday) to 14 June (Thursday) RAMADAN Muslim

    The Muslim year is a lunar year which is about 11 days shorter than the solar year on which the Gregorian (British) calendar is based, so Ramadan occurs ten or eleven days earlier each year in the Gregorian calendar. During Ramadan Muslims fast from dawn to sunset. Fasting (sawm) is one of the five pillars of Islam, requiring self-discipline and giving everyone some experience of deprivation. Those who are not able to fast are expected to give charity to compensate for the lost days. While children may be encouraged to fast, the full fast is not compulsory until maturity, but many young people still attempt to keep some, or even all of it.

       

    20 May (Wednesday) - 21 May (Thursday) SHAVUOT / THE FEAST OF WEEKS Jewish

    Shavuot, also known as the Feast of Weeks, is a two day festival which falls seven weeks after Pesach. It celebrates the revelation of the Torah to Moses on Mount Sinai, and also marks the time when the first harvest was taken to the Temple. Synagogues are decorated with flowers and dairy foods are traditionally eaten. For Orthodox Jews work is not permitted throughout the festival.

       

    23 May (Wednesday) ANNIVERSARY OF THE DECLARATION OF THE BAB Baha’i

    The Bab heralded the arrival of Baha’ullah and was co-founder of the Baha’i faith. He first declared his mission in Persia in 1844. He inaugurated the Baha’i calendar which numbers itself from the year of this declaration.

       

    24 May (Thursday) ZARATOSHT NO DISO Zoroastrian (Shenshai; Parsi) [26 December (Wednesday) (Iranian)]

    This is the sorrowful death anniversary of the Prophet Zarathushtra. Tradition records he was assassinated at the age of 77. It is customary to visit the Fire Temple, offer special remembrance prayers (to him and to the Fravashis), and ponder upon the Gathas, the Hymns of Zarathushtra, which embody his eternal message to humanity.

       

    29 May (Tuesday) ANNIVERSARY OF THE ASCENSION OF BAHA’U’LLAH Baha’i

    Commemorates the death of Baha’u’llah at Bahji, near Acre, in 1892. His shrine there has become the place towards which all Baha’is face when praying.

       

    29 May (Tuesday) VESAKHA PUJA / WESAK / BUDDHA DAY Buddhist

    Wesak is the biggest of Buddhist festivals. Theravadins celebrate the birth, enlightenment and final passing away of Gautama Buddha. Mahayanists have separate days for each of them, and on Bodhi Day celebrate the enlightenment of the Buddha. Houses are decorated with lanterns and garlands, and temples are ringed with little oil lamps. People often send ‘Wesak cards’ to their friends, and lay people come together at monasteries at this time.

  • June 2018
     

    3 June (Sunday) CORPUS CHRISTI (The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ) Christian (Roman Catholic)

    The festival of Corpus Christi celebrates the institution of the Mass/Eucharist. It falls 60 days after Easter. In the ancient world it was customary to scatter flowers in the path of important people as a sign of respect and reverence, and this custom was adopted by the Church to honour the Blessed Sacrament as it was carried in procession on this festival day.

       

    7 June (Thursday) LAILAT-UL-QADR / THE NIGHT OF POWER/HONOUR/DIGNITY Muslim (Shi‘a)

    This night commemorates the night in 610 CE when the prophet Muhammad received his first visit from the angel Jibril (Gabriel) and his revelation of the Qur’an. Muslims believe that the date of this night is kept secret by God, but that they may ‘Seek the Night of Dignity in the odd nights of the last ten days of Ramadan’. Many Muslims spend the last ten days and nights of Ramadan secluded in the mosque, praying and studying the Qur’an, to ensure they receive the special benefits promised for suh prayers and devotions on Lailat-ul-Qadr. For the purpose of communal activities, or for those individuals who can only spend one night in devotions at the mosque, Sunnis favour the 27th day (beginning the evening of the 26th) whilst the Shi‘a favour the 23rd day of Ramadan. Of this night, the Qur’an states, “Lailat-ul -Qadr is better than a thousand months.”

       

    11 June (Monday) LAILAT-UL-QADR / THE NIGHT OF POWER/HONOUR/DIGNITY Muslim (Sunni)

    This night commemorates the night in 610 CE when the prophet Muhammad received his first visit from the angel Jibril (Gabriel) and his revelation of the Qur’an. Muslims believe that the date of this night is kept secret by God, but that they may ‘Seek the Night of Dignity in the odd nights of the last ten days of Ramadan’. Many Muslims spend the last ten days and nights of Ramadan secluded in the mosque, praying and studying the Qur’an, to ensure they receive the special benefits promised for suh prayers and devotions on Lailat-ul-Qadr. For the purpose of communal activities, or for those individuals who can only spend one night in devotions at the mosque, Sunnis favour the 27th day (beginning the evening of the 26th) whilst the Shi‘a favour the 23rd day of Ramadan. Of this night, the Qur’an states, “Lailat-ul -Qadr is better than a thousand months.”

       

    15 June (Friday) EID-UL-FITR/FEAST OF FAST BREAKING (1st Shawwal) Muslim

    This is a time - once the fast of Ramadan has been completed - for making gifts to the poor (the charity of the fast, Zakat-ul-Fitr, must be paid before the communal Eid prayer takes place). It is especially a time for new clothes, good food, and presents for children. Families get together and contact friends, especially those who live far away. The community assembles for Eid prayer and a sermon at its mosques. The traditional greeting is ‘Eid Mubarak’ – ‘a happy and blessed Eid’.

       

    16 June (Saturday) MARTYRDOM OF GURU ARJAN (1606) Sikh

    The fifth Guru was executed on the orders of the Moghul Emperor, Jehangir, for refusing to pay a fine arising from a charge of treason. Guru Arjan made the first compilation of the Sikh Scriptures, called the Adi Granth, and supervised the completion of what is now the Golden Temple in Amritsar. A gurpurb is held on this day, including an akhand path.

       

    18 June (Monday) DRAGON BOAT FESTIVAL / DUANWUJIE / TUAN YANG CHIEH Chinese

    Great dragon boat races take place between slim rowing boats (sometimes 100 feet long) shaped like dragons. People also go down to the rivers to picnic and celebrate on boats.

       

    21 June (Thursday) MIDSUMMER SOLSTICE Wiccan / Pagan
    21 June (Thursday) SUMMER SOLSTICE (Alban Heruin or Alban Hefin) Druid

    The summer solstice is the festival of Midsummer, sometimes called Litha. The light of the sun is at the height of its power. It is a time of plenty and celebration. 21 June WORLD HUMANIST DAY This Humanist holiday is celebrated annually around the world on the June solstice. It is seen as a time for Humanists to gather socially to promote the positive values of Humanism. Methods of celebration are left to individuals, but some groups develop intricate social rituals, music, and proceedings which highlight the metaphorical symbolism of the solstice and the light (knowledge) which brings us out of darkness (ignorance).

       

    21 June (Thursday) WORLD HUMANIST DAY National

    This is a Humanist holiday, celebrated annually around the world but especially in America, on the June solstice. It is seen as a day for spreading awareness of Humanism as a philosophical life stance and as a means for effecting change in the world. It is also seen as a time for Humanists to gather socially and promote the positive values of Humanism.

       

    24 June (Saturday) MIDSUMMER DAY National

    One of the four Quarter Days in the UK legal calendar.

  • July 2018
     

    1 July (Sunday) JASHN-E TIRGAN (TIR JASHAN) Zoroastrian (Iranian)

    Jashn-e Tirgan is an ancient summer festival, celebrated around three months after the spring NoRuz. Tirgan is devoted to the divinity Tir and is associated with the dog-star Sirius, the coming of the rains in Iran and the fertility they bring. On this day it is customary to visit the Fire Temple to give thanks to Ahura Mazda, participate in a jashan or thanksgiving ceremony, listen to stories of how the boundaries of Iran were established in antiquity with its Central Asian neighbour Turan (now Turkmenistan) by an archer shooting an arrow, share a community meal, play with ‘rainbow’ bracelets made of seven coloured silks, splash each other with water, dance and make merry.

       

    10 July (Tuesday) ANNIVERSARY OF THE MARTYRDOM OF THE BAB - 1850 - Baha’i

    The Bab was executed by firing squad in Tabriz, Persia, at noon on this day. The Bab’s death is commemorated at noon with readings and prayers from the Baha’i Scriptures.

       

    13 July (Friday) - 15 (Sunday) O-BON Japanese [not Tokyo]

    A Japanese festival when the spirits of the departed are welcomed back home with feasting and dancing. Fires are often lit to illuminate their arrival and departure.

       

    14 July (Saturday) RATHA YATRA  Hindu

    ‘Chariot journey’. This is observed most notably at Puri in the Indian state of Orissa, where processions of thousands of devotees pull huge waggons (rathas) supporting images of Krishna.  He is known under the name of ‘Jagannath’, (Lord of the Universe), from which the English term ‘juggernaut’ comes. Krishna is attended on his journey by his brother and sister.  The festival and others like it are celebrated in Britain with processions through various parts of London on appropriate Sundays.

       

    15/16 July (Sunday/Monday) CHOKOR (also CHO KOR DU CHEN) Buddhist

    This Tibetan/Nepalese festival commemorates the first teaching (the turning of the wheel of law) given by the historical Buddha. It is a colourful and relaxed mid-summer festival in which statues of the Buddha and copies of the scriptures, engraved on narrow, rectangular wooden blocks, are carried round the district with music and jollity, symbolising the promulgation of the Buddha’s teaching. The whole community, clerical and lay, male and female, joins in the processions and the picnics that follow.

       

    22 July (Sunday) TISHA B'AV Jewish

    Full day fast mourning the destruction of the first and second Temples in Jerusalem and other tragedies in Jewish history. The Book of Lamentations is read.

       

    23 July (Monday) BIRTHDAY OF HAILE SELASSIE I Rastafarian

    One of the holiest days of the Rastafarian year. It is celebrated with Nyahbinghi drumming, hymns and prayers.

       

    27 July (Friday) ASALHA PUJA or DHAMMA DAY Buddhist

    Dhammacakka day – ‘The turning of the wheel of teaching’. This is a Theravada celebration of the First Proclamation by Gautama to five ascetics in the Deer Park near Benares. In it he taught the Middle Way, the Noble Eightfold Path and the Four Noble Truths.

  • August 2018
     

    1 August (Wednesday) LAMMAS/LUGHNASADH Wiccan LUGHNASADH Pagan

    Lughnasadh, otherwise called Lammas, is the time of the corn harvest, when Pagans reap those things they have sown and when they celebrate the fruits of the mystery of Nature. At Lughnasadh, Pagans give thanks for the bounty of the Goddess as Queen of the Land.

       

    6 August (Monday) THE TRANSFIGURATION Christian

    This festival commemorates the occasion when Jesus went up a mountain with three of his disciples, Peter, James and John, who saw his face change and his clothes become dazzling white. They witnessed him in conversation with Moses and Elijah, and heard a voice saying, ‘This is my own dear Son with whom I am pleased – listen to him’. For many Christians this confirms the divine nature of Jesus. For Orthodox Christians this is an especially important festival, pointing to Christ as both human and divine. Although Moses and Elijah had died centuries before, they could live again in the presence of the Son of God, implying that a similar return to life can apply to all who face death.

       

    7 August (Tuesday) – 16 August (Thursday) FRAVARDIGAN/MUKTAD Zoroastrian (Iranian)

    In the Fravardigan festival the immortal souls, together with their fravashis (the guardian spirits of departed ancestors, half man/half bird), come to reside in the place of worship. Many Zoroastrians take time off to pray, recite the five Gathas and cleanse their houses. Daily samples of sacred food are tasted by them during the daily ceremonies.

       

    13 August (Monday) - 15 August (Wednesday) O-BON Japanese [in Tokyo - for rest of Japan see 13 July]

    A Japanese festival when the spirits of the departed are welcomed back home with feasting and dancing. Fires are often lit to illuminate their arrival and departure.

       

    13 August (Monday) to 22 August (Wednesday) - 1st to 10th DHUL-HIJJAH Muslim

    For Muslims the first 10 days of the month of Dhul-Hijjah are held to be especially holy when good deeds are particularly rewarded by God. These days encompass the allotted days for the performance of the Hajj (pilgrimage) and the first day of Eid-ul-Adha (the feast of sacrifice).

       

    15 August (Wednesday) ASSUMPTION (DORMITION) OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY Christian (Roman Catholic)
    15 August (Wednesday) ASSUMPTION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY Christian (Anglican)

    This celebrates the ‘taking up’ of Mary, body and soul, to heaven. Many Catholic communities mark the festival of the Assumption with processions and fêtes.

       

    15 August (Wednesday) THE DORMITION OF THE MOTHER OF GOD Christian (Eastern Orthodox, Julian Calendar)

    On this day, Eastern Orthodox Christians commemorate the passing of Mary, Mother of Christ, in the presence of the Apostles. The apostles buried Mary at Gethsemane, where Jesus had also been buried; but on the third day after the burial, when they were eating together, Mary appeared to them, saying "Rejoice". When the apostles went to the grave, her body was gone, leaving a sweet fragrance. This event conveys the idea of death as ‘falling asleep’ (this is what ‘dormition’ means), to be followed by eventual resurrection.

       

    17 August (Friday) HERD BOY AND WEAVING MAID FESTIVAL/QIXIJIE/CH’I HOU CHIEH Chinese

    This Double Seven festival perpetuates an ancient folk tale of two stars, one on either side of the Heavenly River (the Milky Way). They are held to have been a herd boy and a heavenly weaving maid who had married but were separated when she returned to heaven. The lovers are allowed a reunion on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month when a flock of magpies form a bridge across the Heavenly River. But if it rains on that day, the River overflows and sweeps away the bridge, so preventing their meeting for a whole year. Women traditionally pray for clear skies on the night of the seventh day of the month.

       

    17 August (Friday) NAVROZE / NOWRUZ Zoroastrian (Kadmi)

    New Year’s Day on the Shenshai Calendar. In the tenth century a group of Zoroastrians fled from Iran and were given religious sanctuary by the Hindus of Western India, where they became known as Parsis (or Persians). During the twentieth century the Zoroastrians of Iran have revised their calendar to take account of the leap year, while the Parsis of India have continued following the traditional imperial or Shenshai calendar.

       

    19 August (Sunday) THE TRANSFIGURATION Christian (Eastern Orthodox, Julian Calendar)

    This festival commemorates the occasion when Jesus went up a mountain with three of his disciples, Peter, James and John; here, as his death approached, they saw his face change and his clothes become dazzling white. They witnessed him in conversation with Moses and Elijah, and heard a voice saying, ‘This is my own dear Son with whom I am pleased – listen to him’. For many Christians this confirms the divine nature of Jesus.

       

    20 August (Monday) to 24 August (Friday) HAJJ / PILGRIMAGE TO MAKKAH (8th to 12th Dhul-Hijjah) Muslim

    All Muslims who can afford to do so, and are not prevented through ill-health, are required to make this pilgrimage once in their lifetime (although there is no prohibition on making the pilgrimage more than once). A series of ritual acts are performed by the pilgrims during the first two days of Hajj, prior to the three day festival of Eid-ul-Adha which is celebrated in Makkah by the pilgrims.

       

    21 August (Tuesday) THE DAY OF ARAFAT (9th Dhul-Hijjah) Muslim

    Muslims who are on Hajj spend the day in prayer on Mount Arafat to commemorate the end of the revelation of the Qur’an to the Prophet. Those not on Hajj are also expected to pray and to fast.

       

    22 August (Wednesday) EID-AL-ADHA / THE FESTIVAL OF SACRIFICE (10th Dhul-Hijjah) Muslim

    This major festival (al-Eid al-Kabir) commemorates Ibrahim’s (Abraham’s) willingness to sacrifice his son, Ismail. Muslims all over the world sacrifice an animal if they can afford it.  Much of the meat is distributed to the poor, and some is shared with relatives and friends.

       

    22 August (Wednesday) KHORDAD SAL Zoroastrian (Shenshai) [26 March (Monday) Zoroastrian (Iranian)]

    Khordad Sal is the Birthday of Zarathushtra and falls on the sixth day following NoRuz. Khordad means perfection and the festival of Khordad Sal symbolically celebrates the birthday of Prophet Zarathushtra. It is customary on this day to visit the Fire Temple, to give thanks to Ahura Mazda for giving humanity the Prophet Zarathushtra, to participate in a jashan or thanksgiving ceremony, to listen to stories of the miraculous birth and life of Prophet Zarathushtra, and to share in a happy community meal, a drink and a dance.

       

    25 August (Saturday) FESTIVAL OF HUNGRY GHOSTS/ ZHONGYUANJIE / GUI JIE / YULAN FESTIVAL Chinese

    Chinese Buddhist and ancestral festival also called the ‘Festival of Hungry Ghosts’. Paper objects for use in the spirit world are made and offered to aid the spirits who have no resting place or descendants. Large paper boats are made and burnt at temples to help spirits on their journey across the sea of torment to Nirvana.

       

    26 August (Sunday) RAKSHA BANDHAN Hindu

    Raksha means ‘protection’ and bandhan means ‘to tie’. Girls and married women in families of a north Indian background tie a rakhi (amulet) on the right wrists of their brothers, wishing them protection from evil influences of various kinds.

       

    30 August (Thursday) THE FESTIVAL OF THE POOL / EID UL GHADEER Muslim (Shi‘a)

    This is a festival observed by Shi‘a Muslims, for whom it is an extremely important day. It commemorates an event shortly before the death of the Prophet and his announcement concerning Ali, which they understand to be his clear appointment to be successor to the prophet as the spiritual and temporal leader of Islam.

  • September 2018
     

    * Sept/Oct HARVEST FESTIVAL Christian (Western, Anglican and Free Churches)

    Displays of various foods are made in churches and Sunday schools and services are held to give thanks for the goodness of God’s gifts in nature.

       

    1 September (Saturday) INSTALLATION OF THE GURU GRANTH SAHIB IN THE HARMANDIR SAHIB
    The Golden Temple, Amritsar 1604 CE - Sikh

    The Sikhs’ fifth Guru, Arjan Dev, installed the volume of scripture, the Adi Granth, on this date. It consisted of the hymns of the first five Gurus plus those of other ‘saint-poets’. Hymns of Guru Tegh Bahadur were later added to form the present Guru Granth Sahib.

       

    2 September (Sunday) JANMASHTAMI / KRISHNA JAYANTI  Hindu

    Birthday of Krishna: Many Hindus fast till midnight, the time of Krishna’s birth.  Those unable to fast will have some fruit and milk. In the temples Krishna is welcomed with singing, dancing and sweets.  In some homes and temples an image of the new-born Krishna is put in a cradle.  Krishna is a very popular avatar or incarnation of Vishnu and this festival is celebrated widely.

       

    4 September (Tuesday) FRAVARDIN MAH PARAB Zoroastrian (Shenshai; Parsi)

    At Fravardin Zoroastrians visit the Towers of Silence in India (or in the UK the Zoroastrian Cemetery in Brookwood, Surrey) to participate in a jashan ceremony in memory of the departed fravashis (guardian spirits and souls of the community). Sacred food is prepared as an offering to the departed during the jashan and is later shared by the participants.

       

    6 September (Thursday) - 13 September (Thursday) PARYUSHAN  Jain

    These are eight days of purification, devoted to study, prayer, meditation and fasting, and ending with a period of confession and forgiveness.  Often monks will be invited to give teachings from the Jain scriptures. Paryushana means ‘to stay in one place’, which signifies a time of reflection and repentance. Originally the practice was monastic for the most part.

       

    10 September (Monday) - 11 September (Tuesday) ROSH HASHANAH Jewish

    (New Year’s Day, 5778 years from the creation of the world). Rosh Hashanah marks the beginning of ten days of repentance and self examination, during which G-d sits in personal judgment on every individual. The blowing of the ram’s horn (shofar) in the synagogue is a reminder of Abraham’s sacrifice of a ram instead of his son, Isaac. Apples dipped in honey are eaten in the hope of a ‘sweet’ new year. The greeting is ‘Leshanah Tovah Tikatev’ (may you be inscribed for a good year).

       

    11 September (Tuesday) ETHIOPIAN NEW YEAR’S DAY Rastafarian

    Rastafarians have a four year cycle, each year named after an evangelist.

       

    12 September (Wednesday) ISLAMIC NEW YEAR 1440 / AL-HIJRA / RA'S UL 'AM (Muharram 1) Muslim

    This day commemorates the Hijra or migration of the Prophet Muhammad from Makkah to Medina in 622 CE, which led to the establishment of the Muslim community there. The day is not universally celebrated amongst Sunni Muslims but is notable as Muslim years are dated from this time and are marked AH (After the Hijrah). In 2018 CE the Muslim year 1440 AH begins. For some Muslim communities this is a day of celebration at the mosque, where stories are told of the Prophet and his Companions. For the Shi‘a community the more important significance is that this is the first day of the period of fasting, mourning and remembrance leading up to Ashura.

       

    13 September (Thursday) GANESH CHATURTHI  Birthday of Ganesh Hindu

    This is a Hindu festival in honour of Ganesh, the god of good fortune and new beginnings. He was the elephant headed son of Lord Shiva and Parvati, and is often referred to as Ganupati. Celebrations conclude with the immersion in water of the image of Ganesh.

       

    13 September (Thursday)SAMVATSARI  Jain

    (International Forgiveness Day for Jains), is the last day of Paryushana. It is the holiest day of the Jain calendar. Many Jains observe a complete fast on this day. The whole day is spent in prayers and contemplation.

       

    19 September (Wednesday) YOM KIPPUR Jewish

    This is the final day of the ten days of repentance, and is the holiest day of the year in the Jewish calendar. The Bible calls it the ‘Sabbath of Sabbaths’, and it is marked by ‘afflicting the soul’ – expressed through a total fast lasting 25 hours. Jews spend the eve and most of the day in prayer, asking for forgiveness for past wrongs and resolving to improve in the future. The Book of Jonah is read. A common greeting is ‘G’mar Chatimah Tovah’ (‘May you finally be sealed for good’)

       

    20 September (Thursday) – 26 September (Wednesday) HIGAN
    23 September (Sunday) SHUBUN NO HI Japanese

    Marks the autumn equinox. As at the spring equinox, harmony and balance are the themes; sutras are recited and the graves of relatives are visited.

       

    21 September (Friday) ASHURA (10th Muharram) Muslim

    For Sunni Muslims Ashura is a minor fast observed by the Prophet. Shi‘a Muslims recall a great tragedy that took place in AH 61 (680 CE). The Imam Husayn (son of Ali and Fatimah and therefore grandson of the Prophet) was attacked and killed at Karbala (now in Iraq) along with his family and followers by the troops of the Caliph Yazidd.

       

    23 September (Sunday) AUTUMN EQUINOX (MABON) Wiccan Pagan
    22 September (Sunday) AUTURM EQUINOX (ALBAN ELUED or ALBAN ELFED) Druid

    Day and night stand hand in hand as equals. As the shadows lengthen, Pagans see the darker faces of the God and Goddess. For many Pagans, this rite honours old age and the approach of Winter

       

    24 September (Monday) RABBIT IN THE MOON FESTIVAL / ZHONGQIUJIE / CHUNG CH’IU Chinese

    This Mid-Autumn festival celebrates the moon’s birthday. Offerings are made to the rabbit in the moon, who is pounding the elixir of life with a pestle. ‘Spirit money’ is brought along with incense and offered to the moon by women, who also make special ‘moon’ cakes containing ground lotus and sesame seeds or dates.

       

    24 September (Monday) 1 October (Monday) SUKKOTH Jewish

    This harvest festival recalls the 40 years the Jews spent in the wilderness on the way from slavery in Egypt to freedom in the Promised Land. A temporary hut or booth – called a sukkah – is used for eating meals and for visits and socialising.  The roof, which has to be open in part to the elements, is covered with branches and decorated with fruit.

       

    29 September (Saturday) MICHAELMAS National

    One of the four Quarter Days in the UK legal calendar.

  • October 2018
     

    1 October (Monday) JASHN-E MEHERGAN (or MIHR JASHAN) Zoroastrian (Iranian)

    Mehergan is dedicated to the divinity Meher or Mithra, who is associated with the sun and with justice. Thanks are offered at the fire temple and the community shares in a meal that includes dry fruits and nuts, along with a drink, dancing and merrymaking.

       

    2 October (Tuesday) SIMCHAT TORAH Jewish

    This festival, which means ‘Rejoicing in the Torah’, marks the completion of the annual cycle of reading from the Torah. As the reading should be continuous, a second scroll is begun again as soon as the final portion of the Torah has been read from the first scroll; so, as the reading from Deuteronomy ends, with the next breath, Genesis begins without a break - the Torah is a circle that never ends. All the Torah scrolls are paraded around the synagogue, with children dancing and singing, as do many of the adults, giving as many people as possible the honour of carrying a Torah scroll. Most progressive Jews celebrate this one day earlier, combining it with the eighth day of Sukkot, Shemini Atzeret.

       

    2 October (Tuesday) GANDHI JAYANTI Hindu

    Gandhi Jayanti is an Indian nation holiday that celebrates the birthday of Mahatma Gandhi, who is referred to as the ‘Father of the Nation’. He was the driving force behind the foundation of the state of India. His birthday is celebrated with services, prayers and painting and essay contests with topics that glorify peace and non-violence, and the singing of Gandhi’s favourite devotional song entitled ‘Raghupati Raghav Raja Ram’ (Ram Dhun for short). The distribution of alcohol is banned on Gandhi Jayanti, as on other national holidays.

       

    9 October (Tuesday) to 17 October (Wednesday) NAVARATI Hindu
    14 October (Sunday) to 18 October (Thursday) DURGA PUJA Hindu
    19 October (Friday) DUSSEHRA / VIJAYA DASHAMIPUJA Hindu

    Navaratri means ‘nine nights’, which is how long the festival lasts. In Northern India the performance of the Ram Lila during Navaratri commemorates Rama’s victory over Ravana, the demon king of Sri Lanka. The day after the end of Navaratri is celebrated as the 'victorious tenth' (Vijaya Dashami) and huge figures of Ravana are filled with fireworks and burned on Ram Lila grounds (public areas). In the UK some temple congregations carry this out on a smaller scale. Elsewhere the goddess Durga is worshipped on the eighth day.  Panjabis mark the day by giving food and other items to young girls.

       

    16 October (Tuesday) to 23 October (Tuesday) INTER FAITH WEEK OF PRAYER FOR WORLD PEACE

    Prayers from the literature of several different world religions are published each year in a special leaflet. They are composed and used by many different religious communities.

       

    17 October (Wednesday) PICNIC IN A HIGH PLACE / CHONGYANGJIE / CH’UNG YANG Chinese

    This is the day for hill climbing or ‘going up on a high place’, where kites are flown, family graves visited, and a ‘golden pig’ is shared by large families with fruit, wine, tea and rice.

       

    20 October (Saturday) CONFERRING OF GURUSHIP ON THE GURU GRANTH SAHIB Sikh

    In 1708 Guru Gobind Singh declared that, instead of having another human Guru, from now on Sikhs would regard the scripture, the Guru Granth Sahib, as their Guru.

       

    24 October (Wednesday) PAVARANA DAY Buddhist

    The last day of the Rains Retreat (the Vassa) is known as Pavarana Day or ‘Leaving the Vassa’. Pavarana means ‘to invite’ and on this day monks who have completed the Retreat invite their fellows to admonish them for any failings. It is also known as ‘Sangha Day’.

       

    31 October (Wednesday) SAMHAIN (pronounced Sow-in) Wiccan Pagan SAMHUINN Druid

    The Celtic wheel of the year turns and the veil between life and death is drawn aside. Samhain is the festival of death when Pagans remember and honour those who have gone before. Fires are lit and ‘dead wood’ is burned before stepping into the darkness of winter.

       

    31 October (Wednesday) HALLOWE'EN Heathen

    Halloween is a holiday celebrated on the night of October 31. The word Halloween is a shortening of All Hallows Evening, also known as Hallowe’en or All Hallows’ Eve. Traditional activities include trick-or-treating, bonfires, costume parties, visiting ‘haunted houses’, and carving jack-o-lanterns. Irish and Scottish immigrants carried versions of the tradition to North America in the nineteenth century. Other western countries embraced the holiday in the late twentieth century including Ireland, the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico and the United Kingdom as well as of Australia and New Zealand.

  • November 2018
     

    1 November (Thursday) ALL SAINTS’ DAY Christian (Western Churches)

    This day provides a chance to offer thanks for the work and witness of all saints, recognising that not all are known or specially celebrated. Many churches stress this day by holding events especially designed for children.

       

    2 November (Friday) ALL SOULS’ DAY Christian

    The departed are remembered on this day and prayers are offered on their behalf.

       

    2 November (Friday) ANNIVERSARY OF THE CROWNING OF HAILE SELASSIE I Rastafarian

    One of the holiest days of the Rastafarian year; it celebrates Haile Selassie’s accession to the Ethiopian throne.

       

    7 November (Wednesday) to 11 November (Sunday) DIVALI / DEEPAVALI Hindu / Jain

    For Hindus this is a New Year festival lasting from one to five days, during which fireworks are set off and lights are hung out.  It is a festival of light, coinciding with the darkest night of the lunar month. It is generally associated with Lakshmi, goddess of wealth and prosperity, or with the victorious return of Rama and Sita after their exile. Divali marks the beginning of the Indian financial year.

       

    7 November (Wednesday) DIVALI / BANDI CHHOR DIVAS Sikh

    Sikhs also celebrate Divali since Guru Hargobind, the sixth Guru, was released from Gwalior prison on this day. The Golden Temple in Amritsar is illuminated and firework displays take place there.  It is a time for new clothes, presents and sweets.

       

    9 November (Friday) ANNIVERSARY OF THE BIRTH OF THE BAB Baha'i

    The Bab (the title means ‘Gate’) called people to religious renewal and to await the coming of a messenger from God, believed to be Baha’u’llah (a title that means ‘Glory of God’).

       

    10 November (Saturday) ANNIVERSARY OF THE BIRTH OF THE BAHA’U’LLAH Baha'i

    Founder of the Baha’i faith, he was born the eldest son of a Persian nobleman in Tehran, Persia, in 1817.

       

    11 November (Sunday) REMEMBRANCE SUNDAY National

    The Sunday nearest to Armistice Day, devoted to remembering the dead of the two World wars and subsequent wars.

       

    15 November (Thursday) SHICHI-GO-SAN (Seven-Five-Three) Japanese

    Girls of seven, boys of five and girls of three are dressed up in new clothes and taken to a Shinto shrine to pray for their future well-being.

       

    21 November (Wednesday) THE PROPHET MUHAMMAD'S BIRTHDAY / MILAD UL NABI (12th Rabi'ul-Awwal) Muslim (Sunni)
    26 November (Monday) THE PROPHET MUHAMMAD'S BIRTHDAY / MILAD UL NABI (17th Rabi'ul-Awwal) (Shi'a)

    Observed by Sunni Muslims on the 12th of Rabi'ul Awwal and by the majority of Shi'a Muslims five days later (though Nizari Ismali Shi'a Muslims who are followers of the Aga Khan celebrate this on the same day as the Sunnis, whereas Dawoodi Bohra Islamailis celebrate at the same time as other Shi'a).The day is widely celebrated within the Muslim world and is a public holiday in a number of Muslim countries. In the sub-continent of India and certain Arab countries like Egypt, the celebration starts with reading from the Qur’an, followed by poetry and songs in praise of the Prophet. There are also lectures and story telling. In some big cities of the Muslim world the day is marked with processions and flag waving under a huge decoration of lights. In the UK many Muslims celebrate at the mosque, but some refuse to celebrate the Prophet’s birthday, claiming it is a non-Islamic innovation introduced more than 600 years after the life of the Prophet. Tradition is not clear as to the exact date of the Prophet’s birth.

       

    23 November (Friday) LOY KRATHONG Buddhist

    Loy Kratong is celebrated in most of the village and town temples in Thailand and often coincides with a temple's Kathina Day. Degradable baskets are made and filled with carefully folded banana leaves, incense sticks, a candle and sometimes a coin. These are then launched on rivers, canals ponds or the sea, while a wish for good fortune is offered to the spirits of the water. Eels and turtles are sometimes liberated into the water at this time. Thai forest temples in the UK will not observe Loy Kratong.

       

    23 November (Friday) BIRTHDAY OF GURU NANAK (1469 CE) Sikh

    This is the birthday of Nanak, the first Sikh Guru. To celebrate such birthdays, an akhand path, a complete uninterrupted reading of the Guru Granth Sahib, is begun about two days erlier, so that it will be finished on the morning of the festival. Sikhs gather at the gurdwara to hear sermons and sing hymns about the life of the first Guru. The congregation will share a free meal (langar). The gurdwaras are usually illuminated and there are firework displays.

       

    *23 November (Friday) ANAPANASATI DAY Buddhist

    The last day on which the Kathina may be held. On the final day of the three months long Rains Retreat, observed by monks in the Theravada tradition, or at some time during the month that follows it, cloth is presented to the Sangha by members of the lay Buddhist community. This is then transformed into a Kathina robe, made up by sewing patches of cloth together, and is presented by the monks present to one particular monk, often an especially deserving or virtuous one, in a special ceremony conducted by four of his colleagues. The laity are able to gain merit for themselves by watching the ceremony.

       

    24 November (Saturday) MARTYRDOM OF GURU TEGH BAHADUR (1675) Sikh

    Under orders from the Moghul emperor, the ninth Guru was executed in public opposite the Red Fort in Delhi, so sacrificing his head rather than his faith, on behalf of Kashmiri Hindus, who had turned to him for help.

       

    30 November (Friday) ST ANDREW’S DAY National

    The patron saint of Scotland since the 8th century. Andrew was an apostle and brother of St Peter. In the Anglican communion he is associated with missionary activity.

  • December 2018
     

    2 December (Sunday) ADVENT SUNDAY Christian (Western Churches)

    The start of the Christian year, four Sundays before Christmas. It is often celebrated by lighting the first candle in the advent crown – a circular wreath of greenery. A further three candles are lit on subsequent Sundays, culminating with the Christmas candle on the 25th December. This signifies the transition from darkness to light.

       

    3 December (Monday) to 10 December (Monday) HANUKAH Jewish

    Celebrates the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem after it was recaptured from the Syrian Greeks by the Maccabee brothers in 165 BCE. For the eight evenings of the festival, candles are lit from right to left in a hanukkiah, a nine-branched menorah – one() candle for each evening. The ninth candle is the shamash (the servant candle) from which the other candles are lit. Foods cooked with oil - such as doughnuts and latkes (potato cakes) – are traditional to remember the miracle with oil that happened at this time. A game of dreidel, a special small spinning top, is popular with children to commemorate ‘the great miracle that happened there’.

       

    8 December (Saturday) BODHI DAY Buddhist

    Some Buddhists (eg Pure Land followers) celebrate Gautama’s attainment of Enlightenment on this day under the Bodhi tree in Bodhgaya, North India.

       

    8 December (Saturday) IMMACULATE CONCEPTION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY Christian (Roman Catholic)

    Celebrates the doctrine held mainly Roman Catholics that Mary herself was born free from Original Sin, leaving her sinless for the conception and bearing of Jesus.

       

    10 December (Monday) HUMAN RIGHTS DAY (National)

    In 1948 The United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: ‘All human beings are born with equal and inalienable rights and fundamental freedoms.’

       

    21 December (Friday) WINTER SOLSTICE (Alban Arthan or Alban Arthuan) Druid
    21 December (Friday) YULE (archaic form Geola, pronounced Yula) Wiccan / Pagan

    Yule is the time of the winter solstice, when the sun is reborn, an image of the return of all new life. Heathens celebrate Yule for twelve nights and days, starting the evening before the Winter Solstice (called Mother’s night), when they think of their female ancestors and spiritual protectors. The night heralds the beginning of the major holiday in Heathenry.

       

    24 December (Monday) CHRISTMAS EVE Christian

    Evening carol services, crib services and Midnight Masses inaugurate the festival of Christmas. Santa Claus (from the Dutch Sinter Klaus) is a legendary figure, based on St Nicholas of Myra, and is supposed to bring presents to children on Christmas Eve.

       

    25 December (Tuesday) CHRISTMAS DAY Christian (see also 6/7 January 2019)

    Christmas Day celebrates the birth of Jesus, whom Christians believe to be the son of God. The words of St John’s Gospel (Chapter 1:1-18) are read in many churches at this time; these speak of ‘the Word made flesh’, pointing to Christian belief in the Incarnation (God ‘made flesh’, or human). Gifts are given as reminders of the offerings brought to the infant Jesus, and Christmas carols, plays and evergreens are associated with this time, while nativity sets are displayed in many churches and in some homes.

       

    26 December (Wednesday) ZARATOSHT NO DISO Zoroastrian (Iranian)

    Zaratosht no diso is the death anniversary of Prophet Zarathushtra and is a sorrowful occasion. Tradition records that he was assassinated at the age of 77. It is customary to visit the Fire Temple, participate in special remembrance prayers (to him and to the Fravashis, the guardian spirits of departed ancestors), and ponder upon the Gathas or Hymns of Zarathushtra, which embody his eternal message to humanity.

       

    31 December (Monday) OMISOKA Japanese

    Japanese festival which prepares for the new year by cleansing Shinto home shrines and Buddhist altars. The bells of Buddhist temples are struck 108 times to warn against the 108 evils to be overcome.

       

    31 December (Monday) HOGMANAY National

    A celebration widely observed throughout the UK, and especially in Scotland where bagpipes, haggis and first footing are widespread. Clearing one’s debts, cleaning the house, welcoming guests and strangers and a host of other traditions feature at this time