Major Religious Observances

Religious Traditions

Religion has always played an important role in society. Currently, there are 12 major world religions, but there may be as many as 4200! Religious groups originally consisted of Christians, Jews and Pagans until the 1800s when Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism were added. These 5 are still the most common recognized religions today. Given the large number of religions, religious traditions vary greatly according to the country, religion and ethnic background.

Religious Festivals

Religious festivals form an important part of most religions. These events allow individuals to collectively reinforce their beliefs and mark times of special importance. Religious festivals, which are usually celebrated yearly, involve a wide variety of activities. Certain festivals represent joyous times to celebrate, whereas the more somber festivals are considered times of mourning or reflection.

Religious Holidays

Religious holidays are special days that are reserved for observing specific religions. Some holidays are specific to a particular religion, whereas others are more common and shared among different religious groups. Information about the different religious holidays can be found on the internet or in documents such as the International Planner produced by A Global World.

Religious Calendar

A religious calendar includes all the important time periods that each religion observes. The actual dates vary greatly depending on the religion, but most religious holidays or festivals are based on a fixed date, the phases of the moon, the timing of the equinoxes and solstices or a combination of the two. This is why some religious holidays occur at different times each year, whereas others have a set date.

Jewish Holiday Calendar

Jewish holidays and festivals are called either Yom Tov meaning "good day", chag meaning "festival" or ta'anit meaning "fast". Rosh Hashanah is the name of the Jewish New Year, but Jews celebrate many other important holidays. These include Yom Kippur or Day of Atonement which revolves around the idea of repentance, Hanukkah or Festival Of Lights which lasts for 8 days and represents a victory of religious freedom, and Purim or the Festival of Lots where participants traditionally wear disguises.

Jews celebrate the important events of Jewish history throughout the year. The Jewish Sabbath or Shabbat begins at sundown Friday night and ends at nightfall on Saturday. This day of rest is one of the most important holy days in the Jewish calendar and it's considered a holiday.

Muslim Holidays

Muslim holidays celebrate the events in the life of Muhammad, Islam's Prophet. Many focus on the events revolving around the hearing of the Koran which is Islam's most important religious book. Eid Al-Fitr is an important Muslim holidays that marks the end of Ramadan or the month of fasting. Edi Al-Adha is the other main holiday which takes place over 3 days and celebrates the sacrifice of Prophet Abraham's son Ismael.

Christian Holidays

Christian holidays normally celebrate the different events in the life of Jesus Christ. The most important Christian holidays are Christmas and Easter. Epiphany, Ascension Days which represents the day Jesus ascended into Heaven, Pentecost and All Saints which honours all the saints whether known or unknown are also important.

Catholic Holidays

Catholics have many special feast days for various significant events within Catholicism. Christmas is a popular holiday and many of the special days revolve around Easter. Catholics prepare for Easter by celebrating Lent which lasts 40 days. Catholics use this time for reflection and to prepare for the death and resurrection of Jesus. Lent begins with Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday and ends with Good Friday and Easter Sunday.

Hindu Holidays

Hindus celebrate a wide variety of events such as the New Year, full moons, harvests, marriages and the birth and marriage of gods. This is because traditional Hindus consider anything inmate or inanimate to be sacred. One of the most important holidays is Diwali or the Festival of Lights which lasts 5 days and starts the beginning of the Hindu New Year. During this holiday, lamps are lit to celebrate symbolize hope for mankind and the triumph of good over evil.

Islamic Holidays

Ramadan is one of the main Islamic holidays. It occurs in the 9th month of the Islamic calendar and lasts one month. Each year, Muslims make an annual pilgrimage to Mecca which is called Hajj. Eid al-Adha or the Festival of Sacrifice follows this event and celebrates the Prophet Abraham.

2007 Religious Holidays

  • Start Of Lent - Feb 21
  • Purim - March 4-5
  • Hindu New Year - March 19
  • Palm Sunday - April 1
  • Good Friday - April 6
  • Easter - April 8
  • Pentecost - May 27
  • Rosh Hashanah - Sept 12
  • Start Of Ramadan - Sept 13
  • Yom Kippur - Sept 28-Oct 3
  • Eid al Fitr - Oct 13
  • Hanukkah - Dec 5-12
  • Start Of Hajj - Dec 18
  • Eid Al Adha - Dec 20
  • Christmas - Dec 25