Chinese New Year: Welcome the Year of the Goat

Oranges with green leaf tops on red black-print patterned paper with wooden reeds in back

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 19: The Chinese Year of the Goat starts today with a 15-day celebration that circles the globe.

The color red, which is considered auspicious and homophonous with the Chinese word for “prosperous,” dominates décor in nearly every event. The Spring Festival, as it is also termed, ushers in warmer weather and marks the time of great gatherings among family and friends. When the New Year approaches, it is customarily ushered in with a Reunion Dinner that is replete with symbolic foods. For two weeks, visits are made and hosted with family and friends, gifts are exchanged and merriment is par for the course.


Legend has it that when the Buddha (or the Jade Emperor) invited animals to a New Year’s celebration, only 12 showed up; these 12 animals were each rewarded with a year. Tradition has it that a person’s birth year indicates that he or she will possess the characteristics of the animal in reign during that year. In 2015, the eighth animal sign in the Chinese Zodiac—the goat—will have supremacy. (Select watch brands have designed goat faces for this event, as Forbes reported.) The goat represents independence and an observant nature.


Vase with branches with red envelopes hanging all over branches

Red envelopes hang from branches at the Pechanga Resort and Casino, in California. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Unrivaled among Chinese holidays, the New Year begins weeks in advance with families cleaning and hanging paper cutouts in their homes, shopping for fish, meats and other specialty foods, and purchasing new clothing. Businesses pay off debts, gifts are distributed to business associates and everything is completed according to symbolism—for good luck, prosperity and health in the coming year. (Wikipedia has details.) In Buddhist and Taoist households, home altars and statues are cleaned.

On the eve of the New Year, a Reunion Dinner is shared with extended family members. Dumplings, meat dishes, fish and an assortment of hot and cold dishes are considered essential for the table. (News alert: This year, Filipino-Chinese and Chinese Catholics in Manila were granted an episcopal jurisdiction exemption for Ash Wednesday fasting, in light of the eve of Chinese New Year.) Traditionally, red envelopes filled with money or chocolate coins are given to children. Following dinner, some families visit a local temple.

For the next two weeks, feasts will be shared with family and friends, fireworks will fill the skies and parades with dragons and costumes will fill the streets. (View colorful photos from CNN.) Friends and relatives frequently bring a Tray of Togetherness to the households they visit, as a token of thanks to the host. Through the New Year festivities, elders are honored and deities are paid homage, with all festivities being wrapped up with the Lantern Festival.


If carryout isn’t your idea of an authentic Chinese experience, check out these sites for delicious New Year recipes:


A new approach to the red envelope tradition was unveiled last month, when the company Tencent announced the capability to send electronic red packets via smartphone. (CNBC has the story.) The service, which saw $2.9 million worth of transfers in its first 24 hours, allows users to send and receive digital envelopes of money.

In Australia, 90 warriors originally created for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games are lighting up Sydney Harbour, as part of the city’s Chinese New Year Festival. The warriors, which are modeled after the terracotta warriors found in the tomb of China’s first Emperor in 1974, are lit in red, green, yellow and blue. (Read more from Australia’s program is the largest Lunar New Year celebration outside of Asia.

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Categories: Faiths of East AsiaInternational Observances

New Year’s Day: Shogatsu, the Solemnity of Mary and Feast of St. Basil

Platters in gold of lobster and other fancy Japanese delicacies

Traditional Japanese New Year’s foods. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

THURSDAY, JANUARY 1: The Gregorian year 2015 rings in at midnight, and around the world, parades, games and greetings fill the streets while traditional dishes fill tables in homes. Cultural customs vary from parades and football in the United States to ancestor tributes in Korea. Polar Bear Club plunges—jumping into icy-cold bodies of water—have been steadily gaining popularity in Canada, the United States, the UK, the Netherlands and the Republic of Ireland, and in many areas, family and friends will gather for a New Year’s Day brunch. (Find interactive information and history at

Bake up some: Blini! Nothing says “New Year” quite like blini—in Russian culture, that is. Ancient Slavs regarded the thin pancakes as symbols of the sun, given their round form, and blini have been reserved for festive occasions for centuries. The Russian form of blini can be stuffed with cheese, and that recipe—along with two others, plus a personal tale of family history—can be found at Wall Street

Grey stone bell with simple Eastern carvings

Buddhist bells are run 108 times on New Year’s Eve. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons


The grand celebrations for Christmas in the West compare to elaborate preparations for New Year’s in the East, and Japan observes Shogatsu with grandeur. Families prepare weeks in advance, with most businesses closed on New Year’s Day. Traditional pressed rice cakes, mochi, are cooked ahead of time and then finally prepared in a variety of flavors. Some mochi are cooked with broth to create a New Year’s soup. (Read more from Food & Nutrition.)

At midnight on Dec. 31, Buddhist temples throughout Japan ring their bells 108 times, which is an auspicious number in Buddhist tradition. The Watch Night Bell is a renowned destination on New Year’s Eve. After midnight, families head to a local temple to pray, and then feast together on soba noodles. The following morning, New Year’s greetings are exchanged and delicacies like sashimi and sushi are consumed, while children are presented with small envelopes containing money. (Wikipedia has details.) Most New Year’s celebrations last several days.

Happy New Year!  Akemashite omedeto gozaimasu!


The octave of Christmas culminates in the feast of the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, on January 1. Feasts for the Mother of God were popular from the earliest centuries of the Church. (Learn more from Catholic Culture.) Millions of Christians, in Eastern and Western branches of the faith, turn to the Virgin Mary who is, by Greek description, the Theotokos “She Who Gave Birth to God.” (Note: in the Anglican and Lutheran denominations, the Feast of the Circumcision of Christ is observed today.)


Saint Basil the Great takes the cake—literally—in Greece and in Orthodox Christian communities today. On New Year’s Eve, both adults and children walk through neighborhoods singing Kalanda—carols—and then gather for enormous bonfires. In hopes of luck in the New Year, tables are graced with plentiful dishes, and the St. Basil’s Cake is the centerpiece. The vasilopita, or St. Basil’s Cake, is cooked with a coin inside, and the recipient of the piece of cake with the coin is said to be lucky for the coming year. (Find a recipe here.)

St. Basil the Great was born in the 4th century CE in Caesarea of Cappadocia, to a family well known for its holiness. At his sister’s urging, Basil followed an ascetic life and visited monks in several regions. (Learn more from the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.) The saint inspired and preached throughout his life until his death, on January 1, 379 CE.

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Categories: BuddhistChristianFaiths of East AsiaInternational Observances

MAY themes: Asian-Pacific, Jewish and Haitian Americans

MAY 2014: Americans will hear a lot this month about everything from Asian Americans and Jewish Americans to motorcycle safety and a host of other spring themes. May is Mental Health Awareness Month, a month-long celebration of bicycles built around Bike-to-Work Day that began way back in the 1950s, the celebrity-supported Get Caught Reading Month and many foods are extensively promoted this month including asparagus and salsa.

Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

Asian-Pacific American Heritage MonthIn 1978, the U.S. Congress passed a bipartisan proposal for a special heritage week in early May, honoring Americans of Asian and Pacific heritage. The week recalls two important anniversaries: the arrival of the first Japanese immigrants in America on April 11, 1843, and the completion of the transcontinental railroad, which involved thousands of Chinese laborers, on May 10, 1869. By 1992, Congress expanded the week into the entire month of May. Now, the Library of Congress hosts a special resource-packed website for the month. The Smithsonian also has a website, which includes this fascinating page for teachers. The Scholastic Inc. publishing house also has an educational page. The Asian/Pacific American Heritage Association also maintains a website, listing a range of events planned for May.

Jewish American Heritage Month logoJEWISH AMERICAN HERITAGE MONTH

In 2006, a bipartisan political team in Washington D.C., encouraged especially by Jewish leaders in Florida, succeeded in having President George W. Bush declare a first Jewish American Heritage Month. Since then, President Obama has issued annual declarations and the federal government encourages visits to historical sites that mark achievements of Jewish Americans. The best overall website for further information is sponsored by the nonprofit formed by the original supporters of this annual theme—and includes a growing online index of events related to this year’s observance. Now, the National Register of Historic Places publishes a special list of sites nationwide with special connections to our Jewish history in the U.S. The Library of Congress also maintains a helpful website dedicated to this special month. That website also has a special section to help teachers find educational resources online. One of the nonprofit groups encouraging tourism and educational programs, each May, is the Jacob Rader Marcus Center of Jewish American Archives.


Haitian-Americans have not achieved the national recognition of the other two ethnic celebrations in May, but a movement that started in Florida has grown nationwide. A Wikipedia overview of this special month reports that a number of states, mainly along the East Coast, now host at least some events marking Haitian Heritage Month. Among the themed websites supporting this effort are “Haitian Heritage Month” and the Haitian Heritage Museum in Florida.

Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month

ShareTheRoad_LogoDuring Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month in May, all road users are reminded to safely “share the road” with motorcyclists. The  and to be extra alert to help keep motorcyclists safe. If you care about this issue, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration offers a website packed with free images, posters and fact sheets you can use to spread the message. The website summarizes the importance of this month: “Motorcyclists will be out in force as the weather gets warmer, which is why May is the perfect time for Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month. Fatal crashes with motorcycles are on the rise, and helmet usage is on the decline. We all need to be more aware of motorcyclists in order to save lives. Statistics show an alarming trend: in 2012, 4,957 motorcyclists were killed in traffic crashes, a continued increase from 2010. Those deaths account for 15 percent of the total highway fatalities that year. Injured motorcyclists also increased from 81,000 in 2011 to 93,000 in 2012.”


You will enjoy our entire Interfaith Calendar of holidays and anniversaries. An easy way to reach that master index: Remember the URL

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Categories: Faiths of East AsiaJewishNational Observances

Qing Ming: Chinese on the move to honor ancestors

QING MING traffic jams are not a modern development! This detail comes from a much larger Chinese mural of a Qing Ming festival as men and women fill the streets and waterways.

QING MING traffic jams are not a modern development! This detail comes from a much larger, thousand-year-old Chinese mural of a Qing Ming festival as men and women fill the streets and waterways.

SATURDAY, APRIL 5: English spellings of the holiday vary, but newspapers in Asia are clear in reporting the most important news at this time of year: Watch out for traffic congestion and travel safely! Huge numbers of Chinese families are heading home to reconnect with their families and honor their ancestors at this time of year.

In the past, other English phrases have been used to describe this holiday: Wikipedia’s entry lists many names, including the Clear Bright Festival and Grave Sweeping or Grave Tending Day. The scale of annual ceremonies honoring ancestors has grown to elaborate heights in some eras—and shrunk in others—over many centuries. Chinese writers claim that the annual observance has continued in various forms for nearly 3,000 years!

Today, popular springtime customs associated with Qing Ming include kite flying, time spent with family, picnics and other outdoor gatherings near sites associated with ancestors. As spring flowers are blooming, many enjoy the sights and smells. Chinese news media already are featuring photos of families enjoying flowering trees in parks.

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Categories: Faiths of East Asia

Hinamatsuri: Japan marks Girls’ Day, doll displays and Baskin Robbins treats

Young girl standing over table of elaborate Japanese dolls and accessories

A girl examines a doll display for Hinamatsuri. Photo by Timothy Takemoto, courtesy of Flickr

MONDAY, MARCH 3: Anticipate the aroma of cherry blossoms and indulge in the elaborate beauty of dolls as Japanese communities across the globe celebrate Hinamatsuri. Alternatively called the Japanese Doll Festival, or Girls’ Day, Hinamatsuri sprung up from the ancient Japanese custom of floating dolls down a river in a tiny boat, in belief that the dolls would take any bad spirits with them. During the Heian period (Heian meaning “peace,” or “tranquility,” in Japanese, and representing the last division of classical Japanese history) it became customary to display dolls, too.

Today, Hinamatsuri serves as an opportunity for young girls, families, shops and museums alike to set out their best display of Hina dolls. The dolls are traditionally arranged on seven platforms, and community members pray for the health and well being of young girls.

The dolls on a Hinamatsuri set of platforms may be simple or elaborate, but placing instructions are, customarily, very specific. The entire stand of dolls must represent the Emperor, Empress, attendants and musicians of the Heian period—all in traditional attire. (Wikipedia has details.) The first platform displays the Emperor and Empress, in front of a golden screen; the second platform holds three court ladies, each of which hold sake equipment. The third platform presents five male musicians; the fourth platform demonstrates two ministers, a mandarin orange tree and a cherry blossom tree. On the fifth platform, three helpers protect the Emperor and Empress; on the sixth and seventh platforms, a variety of doll furniture and tools is displayed.

Most doll displays are constructed in February, although superstition prevents them from being left up after March 3. Outside of Japan, Hinamatsuri is met with revel in Florence, Italy, in Hawai’i and in Japanese communities worldwide.

Chirashizushi (rice topped with raw fish), sugar- or soy-flavored crackers and sake made from fermented rice are all popular fare for the day.


Pink gelatinous balls covered with a cherry blossom leaf, edible

Sakuramochi treats for Hina Matsuri, traditionally made with cherry blossom leaves and pink rice cake. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

These days, Hina doll displays are so popular that they are making headlines far and wide: The Portland Japanese Garden, Japanese American Cultural and Community Center in Little Tokyo, Mitsui Memorial Museum and Meguro Gajoen in Tokyo are just a few of the places advertising their doll platforms and goings-on for Hinamatsuri.

Baskin Robbins is taking a cue from the holiday and has released five new ice cream dolls in a tiered box, each in a different flavor—representing, of course, the Emperor and Empress and their attendants. (Fox News reported.)

Starbucks has also taken a cultural prompt with this season’s springtime sakura beverage lineup, which reflects Hinamatsuri’s sakuramochi (a Japanese confectionery of pink rice cake, red bean paste and a cherry blossom leaf). Drinks boasts white chocolate, sakura flowers and leaves and strawberry infused whipped cream—but, unfortunately for international clients, this lineup is only offered in Japan.

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Categories: Faiths of East Asia

Chinese New Year 2014: Zodiac horse rings in energy, intelligence, ability

Lighted horses line the streets at night for Chinese New Year celebrations

Horse lanterns ‘gallop’ toward prosperity and gold coins along Eu Tong Sen Street in Singapore, for Chinatown’s celebration of the Year of the Horse. Photo by Choo Yut Shing, courtesy of Flickr

FRIDAY, JANUARY 31: Gong Hei Fat Choi! (or: Happy Chinese New Year!)

This week, families around the world string red lanterns, partake in good-luck cuisine and hold massive festivals for the 2014 Chinese New Year. From Sydney to London, from Las Vegas to Toronto, millions gather for events that are now anything but restricted to the Asian continent. Traditionally, 15 days of events commence for Chinese New Year, with everything from a myriad of foods to fireworks, dances, red envelopes, wishes for “good fortune” and so much more. In 2014, the world ushers in the Year of the Horse.

Did you know? During the 40 days surrounding Chinese New Year, workers return home and families gather, creating a period, chunyun, that comprises the world’s largest annual migration.

Chinese New Year is steeped in ancient traditions and stories. It’s said that the event started with a fight against a mythical beast called the Nian. Legend has it that Nian would arrive on the first day of the New Year to eat livestock, crops and villagers, until one day, the beast was frightened by a young child who was wearing red clothing. (Wikipedia has details.) The villagers realized that Nian was afraid of red, so they strung red lanterns and scrolls across doors and windows, wore red clothing and set off fireworks, to scare the monster. To this day, Chinese New Year is known for red lanterns, red clothing and the distribution of red envelopes, in belief that red not only scares away bad fortune but also brings luck, joy and a bright future.

The extensive Chinese New Year’s Eve reunion dinner, often enjoyed with family, is known as Nian Ye Fan and inludes dishes like fish, dumplings, hot pot and cake. Following Nian Ye Fan, some families will visit a nearby temple.

Did you know? The Chinese calendar is lunisolar, meaning that it is dependent up on both the moon phase and the time of the solar year.


Overhead view of Chinese New Year market selling red decorations, food and goods

Markets selling New Year goods are common in regions with large Chinese populations. Photo by Choo Yut Shing, courtesy of Flickr

Customs associated with Chinese New Year begin long before its commencement, with families thoroughly cleaning their homes to make way for good luck. On the eighth day prior to New Year, a traditional porridge is made in remembrance of the ancient La festival (the lunar month of La has been compared to the Christian Advent, during which participants consume little or no meat). People get a fresh haircut, businesses pay debts and small gifts are distributed to business associates and family, so that the New Year may begin clean, fresh and in the best of luck. (Find videos, interactive activities and more at

Each day has its own specific customs: on the first day, deities are welcomed, elders are honored, red envelopes are distributed and a lion dance is often performed or watched; on the seventh day, everyone grows one year older; on the ninth day, prayers are offered to the Jade Emperor of Heaven. The fifteenth day closes the festivities, with a Lantern Festival, rice dumplings and candlelit windows.

Traditionally, both deities and ancestors are honored throughout Chinese New Year. (Check out 20 Chinese New Year facts at Huffington Post.)

In Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism: Buddhist and Taoist households often clean home altars and statues prior to the start of New Year; old altar decorations are taken down and burned, so that fresh décor can be put up. Taoists burn a paper effigy of Zao Jun the Kitchen God, so that he will report good things about the family to the Jade Emperor—and some bribe the deities with candies! Before the New Year’s Eve Reunion Dinner, Confucian families offer prayers of thanksgiving and recall their ancestors.

Recipes, origami and more: Steamed Chinese five-spice chicken buns and Beef with chilli plum sauce can be on your menu, with recipes for New Year at the Herald Sun. Sites like Food Network and Epicurious also offer full Chinese menus. Kids can find activities, origami instructions and 82 ways to celebrate Chinese New Year with help from


As surveys and polls reveal rapidly increasing numbers of wealthy Chinese tourists traveling to the U.S. for New Year celebrations, major cities are competing for profits. In efforts to avoid the overwhelming crowds at Chinese attractions, many of the newly wealthy are opting for an alternative—and spending plenty along the way, with more than $8.8 billion spent in the U.S. during Chinese New Year in 2012. (Fox News reported.) To accommodate their well-to-do Chinese clients, shops are staffing their stores with Mandarin-speaking associates; restaurants are offering traditional New Year dishes; and elite hotels, such as the Waldorf Astoria, are training their employees in Chinese cultural preferences.

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Categories: Faiths of East Asia

Interfaith Calendar: Religious and Cultural Observances

Read The Spirit reports on major holidays, festivals, milestones and other observances that shape community life around the world. As we approach these special dates, our columnist Stephanie Fenton reports fresh stories about the way each milestone is marked. Please remember: DATES and OBSERVANCES VARY. Contact us if you notice an error—or want to suggest a holiday we should include in our coverage.

Here is our 2019 list …

JANUARY   2019

Ring-shaped cake with colorful candied fruits on top

A ring-shaped Epiphany cake, decorated with candied fruits. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

1—Mary, Holy Mother of God (Catholic Christian)

1—Feast of St. Basil (Orthodox Christian)

1—Gantan-sai (New Year) (Shinto)

5—Twelfth Night (Christian)

5, 13—Guru Gobind Singh birthday (Sikh)

6—Epiphany (Christian) / Feast of the Theophany (Orthodox Christian) / Dia de los Reyes (Three Kings Day)

7—Feast of the Nativity (Orthodox Christian, Julian Calendar)

8—Feast of the Holy Family (Catholic Christian)

13—Maghi (Sikh)

13—Baptism of the Lord (Christian)

14—Lohri (Hindu)

14, 15—Makara Sankranti (Hindu)

18-25—Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Christian)

19—Timkat (Ethiopian Orthodox Christian)

Black-and-white photo of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in suit with microphones, speaking outdoors

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

20—World Religion Day (Baha’i)

20—sundown, Tu B’Shvat (Jewish)

21—Mahayana New Year (Buddhist)

21—Martin Luther King, Jr. Day (U.S.)

25—Conversion of St. Paul (Christian)

27—International Holocaust Remembrance Day



1—National Wear Red Day (U.S.)

1—St. Brigid of Kildare (Celtic Christian)

2—Candlemas / Presentation of Christ in the Temple / The Presentation of the Lord (Christian)

2—Imbolc / Lughnassadh (Wicca, Pagan)

Groundhog on ground looking away from camera

Prediction of an early spring—or an extended winter—lies in the presence of the groundhog’s shadow on February 2. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

2—Groundhog Day (U.S.)

3—Sestuban-sai (beginning of spring) (Shinto)

3—Four Chaplains Sunday (Interfaith)

5—Chinese New Year

9/10—Vasant Panchami (Hindu, Jain)

10—Cheesefare Sunday (Orthodox Christian)

11—Our Lady of Lourdes (Catholic Christian)

14—St. Valentine’s Day (Christian)

15—Nirvana Day (Buddhist) (Note: Some Buddhists observe on February 8, but most observe on February 15)

17—Triodion begins (Orthodox Christian)

18—Washington’s Birthday / Presidents Day (U.S.)

25—sundown, Ayyam-i-Ha (Intercalary Days) begins (Baha’i)

MARCH   2019

1—sundown, Nineteen-Day Fast begins (Baha’i)

3—Meatfare Sunday (Orthodox Christian)

3—Transfiguration Sunday (Christian)

Priest places ashes on forehead of woman

Receiving Ashes as Christians prepare for Lent.

3—Hinamatsuri (Girls’ Day) (Japan)

4—Maha Shivaratri (Hindu)

5—Shrove Tuesday / Fat Tuesday (Christian)

6—Ash Wednesday (Christian)

8—Ramakrishna Jayanti (Hindu)

10—Cheesefare Sunday (Orthodox Christian)

10—Daylight Savings Time begins

11—Clean Monday (Great Lent begins) (Orthodox Christian)

13—Birthday of L.Ron Hubbard (Scientology)

17—St. Patrick’s Day (Christian)

17—Feast of Orthodoxy / Orthodox Sunday (Orthodox Christian)

19—St. Joseph’s Day (Christian)

Triangle-shaped pastries, filled with jam, on white plate with red cloth beneath

Haman’s pockets, a traditional treat made for Purium. Photo by ulterior epicure, courtesy of Flickr


20—Ostara / Mabon (Wicca)

20— Holika Dahan (Hindu)

20—Fast of Esther (Jewish)

20—sundown, Purim (Jewish)

20—sundown, Naw-Ruz (New Year) (Baha’i)

20/21—Holi (Hindu, Sikh, Jain)

21—International Day of Nowruz / Norooz (Zoroastrain)

21—Hola Mohalla (Sikh)

21—Magha Puja Day (Buddhist)

25—The Annunciation/ Annunciation to the Blessed Virgin Mary / Annunciation of Our Lady / Annunciation of the Lord (Catholic Christian)

April 2019

Large marble statue of man sitting with legs crossed, hands in lap, eyes closed, meditating

A marble depiction of Lord Mahavir in Delhi, India. Jains count the years of this era as having begun with Lord Mahavir’s attainment of moksha (nirvana). Photo courtesy of Wikimedia commons

2—sundown, Laylat al Miraj (Islam)

6—Ugadi (Hindu)

13/14—Rama Navami (Hindu)

14—Baisakhi/Vaisakhi (Sikh)

14—Palm Sunday (Christian)

17—Mahavir Jayanti (Jain)

18—Maundy Thursday (Christian)

19—Theravadin New Year (Buddhist)

19—Lord’s Evening Meal (Jehovah’s Witness Christian)

19—Good Friday (Christian)

19—Fast of the Firstborn; sundown, Passover begins (Jewish)

19—Hanuman Jayanti (Hindu)

20—Lazarus Saturday (Orthodox Christian)

20—sundown, First Day of Ridvan (Baha’i)

20—sundown, Lailat al Bara’ah (Islam)

21—Easter Sunday (Christian)

Woman with baby, surrounded by other figures, in iconic ilustration

An Eastern Orthodox Christian depiction of the Nativity. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

21—Palm Sunday (Orthodox Christian)

22—Easter Monday (Christian)

22—Earth Day

26—Holy Friday (Orthodox Christian)

28—Pascha (Orthodox Christian)

28—sundown, Ninth Day of Ridvan (Baha’i)

MAY  2019

1—Beltane / Samhain (Wicca, Pagan)

1—sundown, Yom HaShoah (Jewish)

1—sundown, Twelfth Day of Ridvan (Baha’i)

2—National Day of Prayer (U.S.)

5—Cinco de Mayo

Mosque lit at night with people gathered

Muslims gather for a Quran reading during Ramadan in Iran. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

5—sundown, Ramadan begins (Islam)

7—sundown, Yom HaZikaron (Jewish)

7—Akshaya Tritiya (Jain)

8—sundown, Yom Ha’Atzmaut (Jewish)

12—Mother’s Day (U.S.)

19—Vesak (Buddhist)

22—sundown, Lag BaOmer (Jewish)

23—sundown, Declaration of the Bab (Baha’i)

27—Memorial Day (U.S.)

28—sundown, Ascension of Baha’u’llah (Baha’i)

30—Ascension of Jesus/the Lord (Christian) (Note: The ecclesiastical provinces of Boston, Hartford, New York, Newark, Omaha and Philadelphia will observe today; all other ecclesiastical provinces of the U.S. have transferred this Solemnity to Sunday, June 2.)

31—sundown, Laylat al Qadr (Islam)

JUNE   2019

Stalk of wheat in field of wheat

Wheat—one of the ‘First Fruits’ of ancient Israel—has long been offered during Shavuot. Photo courtesy of Pixabay

1—sundown, Yom Yerushalayim (Jewish)

3—sundown, Eid al Fitr (Islam)

6—Ascension of Jesus (Orthodox Christian)

8—sundown, Shavuot (Jewish)

9—Pentecost (Christian)

9—St. Columba of Iona (Celtic Christian)

10—Whit Monday (Christian)

14—Flag Day

16—Guru Arjan martyrdom (Sikh)

16—Trinity Sunday (Christian)

16—Father’s Day (U.S.)

19—New Church Day (Swedenborgian Christian)


Group of people dressed in traditional clothing walking down street

A Corpus Christi procession. Photo courtesy of Max Pixel

20—Feast of Corpus Christi (Catholic Christian)


21—Litha/Yule (Wicca, Pagan)

23—Sunday of All Saints (Orthodox Christian)

24—Nativity of Saint John the Baptist (Christian)


28—Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus (Catholic Christian)

JULY   2019

Time magazine cover with black-and-white photo of young Emperor Haile Selassie

When news of Haile Selassie’s coronation reached Jamaica—the Rastafari religious tradition was born. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

4—Independence Day (U.S.)

9—sundown, Martyrdom of the Bab (Baha’i)

13—Obon (Ullambana) (Buddhist/Shinto)

16—Asalha Puja Day (Buddhist)

20—sundown, 17th of Tammuz (The Three Weeks begins) (Jewish)

23—Birthday of Haile Selassie (Rastafari)

24—Pioneer Day (Mormon Christian)

AUGUST   2019

1—Lammas (Christian)

1—Lughnassadh / Imbolc (Wicca, Pagan)

1—Fast in Honor of Holy Mother of Jesus (Orthodox Christian)

6—Transfiguration of the Lord (Orthodox Christian)

9—World Indigenous Peoples’ Day

Great wall of angular stones, Western Wall, with line of Jews in front, in prayer and conversation

Jews gather at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, a remnant of the wall encircling the Second Temple. Tisha B’Av mourns the loss of the First and Second Temples. Photo courtesy of WIkipedia Commons

10—sundown, Tisha B’Av (9th of Av) (Jewish)

10—sundown, Waqf al Arafa (Islam)

10—sundown, Eid al-Adha (Islam)

15—Raksha Bandhan (Hindu)

15—Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Catholic Christian)

15—Dormition of the Theotokos (Orthodox Christian)

15—sundown, Tu B’Av (Jewish)

17—Birth anniversary of Marcus Garvey (Rastafari)

24—Krishna Janmashtami (Hindu)

27—Paryushan Parva (Jain)

29—Beheading of Saint John the Baptist (Christian)

30—sundown, Hijri (New Year) (Islam)


Pink elephant statue close-up with bangles and jewels and paint

Lord Ganesha. Photo by Kaushal Jangid, courtesy of Flickr

1—Ecclesiastical year begins (Orthodox Christian)

2—Ganesh Chaturthi (Hindu)

2—Labor Day (U.S.)

3—Paryushan Parva (Jain)

8—Nativity of the Virgin Mary (Christian)

8—sundown, Ashura (Islam)

11—Patriot Day (U.S.)

11—Enkutatash (Ethiopian and Eritrean New Year) (Ethiopian and Eritrean Orthodox Christian)

12—Anant Chaturdashi (Hindu)

14—Elevation of the Holy Cross (Orthodox Christian)


23—Mabon / Ostara (Wicca, Pagan)

27—Meskel (Ethiopian Orthodox Christian)

29—Michael and All Angels (Michaelmas) (Christian)

29—Navaratri (Hindu)

29—sundown, Rosh Hashanah (Jewish)

OCTOBER   2019

Old manuscript of Jewish prayer

The Kol Nidrei prayer of Yom Kippur. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

4—Feast of St. Francis of Assisi (Blessing of the Animals) (Christian)

8—Dasara/Dussera (Hindu)

8—sundown, Yom Kippur (Jewish)

13—sundown, Sukkot (Jewish)

14—Thanksgiving (Canada)

20—Installation of the Scriptures as Guru Granth (Sikh)

20—sundown, Shemini Atzeret (Jewish)

21—sundown, Simchat Torah (Jewish)

27—Diwali (Sikh, Hindu, Jain)

28—New Year (Jain)

28—sundown, Birth of the Bab (Baha’i)

29—sundown, Birth of Baha’u’llah (Baha’i)

31—Reformation Day (Protestant Christian)

31—All Hallows Eve


Turkey float going down street in parade

A turkey float in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Photo by martha_chapa95, courtesy of Flickr

1—All Saints Day (Christian)

1—Samhain/Beltane (Wicca, Pagan)

2—All Souls Day (Christian)

3—Daylight Savings Time ends

9—Kristallnacht anniversary

9—sundown, Mawlid an-Nabi (Islam)

11—Veterans Day (U.S.)

15—Nativity Fast begins (Orthodox Christian)

23—Thanksgiving (U.S.)

24—Martyrdom of Guru Tegh Bahadur (Sikh)

24—Feast of Christ the King (Christian)

25—sundown, Day of the Covenant (Baha’i)

27—sundown, Ascension of Abdu’l-Baha (Baha’i)

28—Thanksgiving (U.S.)


Cookie in shape of bishop St. Nicholas

St. Nicholas cookies are popular across Europe. Photo by Turku Gingerbread, courtesy of Flickr

1—Advent begins (Christian)

6—Saint Nicholas Day (Christian)

8—Bodhi Day (Rohatsu) (Buddhist)

8—Immaculate Conception of Mary (Catholic Christian) (Note: In 2019, December 8 is the Second Sunday of Advent; therefore, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary is transferred to Monday, December 9. The obligation to attend Mass, however, does not transfer.)

12—Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe (Catholic Christian)

13—St. Lucy, Virgin and Martyr (Christian)

16—Posadas Navidenas begins (Hispanic Christian)


21—Yule/Litha (Wicca, Pagan)

22—sundown, Hanukkah begins (Jewish)

24—Christmas Eve (Christian)

25—Christmas (Christian)

25—Feast of the Nativity (Orthodox Christian)

Plate of fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, cooked collard and other fried foods in dimly lit room

Soul food is common at the Kwanzaa table. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

26—Feast of Saint Stephen (Christian)

26—Kwanzaa begins

26—Zarathost Diso (Death of Prophet Zarathushtra) (Zoroastrian)

28—Feast of the Holy Innocents (Childermas) (Christian)

29—Feast of the Holy Family (Catholic Christian)

31—Watch Night (Christian)

31—New Year’s Eve




We continue to update this list, month by month. As you read the list, you may discover we have missed a fascinating observance or detail. If so, please email us at

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Categories: AnniversaryBaha'iBuddhistChristianFaiths of East AsiaFaiths of IndiaInterfaithInternational ObservancesJewishMormonMuslimNational ObservancesRastafari