Religious Holidays

Religious Holidays

What, exactly, is a religious holiday? How are they defined? When you look at your own religious tradition, you may think the answer is straightforward, but when you start to dig into the question more deeply—and begin to look at traditions other than your own—things become much more complex very quickly.

The fact is, even within the same religion, religious holidays are both defined and experienced quite differently by individuals, especially when those individuals come from distinct family backgrounds—to say nothing of distinct cultural contexts. How much more so, then, when we look at different religions, do we find even greater variance: Western societies heavily influenced by monotheistic Judeo-Christian-Islamic traditions think about religious holidays much differently than Eastern societies heavily influenced by Hinduism, Buddhism, and Confucianism, for example.

Yet this multivalent understanding and experience of religion is not reason to avoid the category of “religious holiday” altogether. For most religions, specific “holy” days are a key aspect of religious practice, belief, and belonging, and an important means by which individuals and their communities reinforce their identities and their relationships—with each other, with family and friends across time and space (including the deceased), and with the Divine.

Therefore, for many adherents of a religious tradition, the freedom and support to observe these holidays are of central importance to one’s self-understanding; and particularly for college students, this becomes a means of reinforcing one’s relational identity even when far from home, family, and culture.

To this end, we have established this calendar of important religious holidays from a wide variety of traditions. It is not meant to be comprehensive—for that, please see the following website: http://www.interfaith-calendar.org/, which includes both 2018 dates and definitions of a vast number of different religious celebrations. Instead, here, we have sought to reflect our own particular student population, and the specific needs of our community.

We encourage you to peruse this list and learn more! Another excellent website in this regard is the following: http://pluralism.org/. Here, you will find not only information about various religious traditions, but also locations of places of worship all across the United States.

We hope you appreciate and enjoy these resources; if you have any questions, or would like to talk further, please email Chaplain Kristin Largen at klargen@gettysburg.edu.

Religious Holidays

2018-2019 Academic Year

2018

  • Eid al Adha
    August 22–25*
    Islamic [dates dependent on the sighting of the new moon crescent]
  • Krishna Janmashtami
    September 3
    Hindu
  • Rosh Hashanah (New Year)
    September 10–11*
    Jewish
  • First of Muharram
    September 12*
    Islamic
  • Ganesh Chaturthi
    September 13
    Hindu
  • Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement)
    September 19*
    Jewish
  • Ashura
    September 21*
    Islamic
  • Sukkot
    September 24–31*
    Jewish
  • Shemini Atzeret/Simchat Torah
    October 1–2*
    Jewish
  • Navratri
    October 9–16
    Hindu
  • Day of the Dead
    October 31–November 2
    Mexico/Catholic
  • All Saints Day
    November 1
    Christian
  • Diwali
    November 7
    Hindu
  • Advent
    December 2–24
    Christian
  • Hanukkah
    December 3–10*
    Jewish
  • Feast of the Immaculate Conception
    December 8
    Christian
  • Rohatsu (Japan)
    December 8
    Buddhist
  • Our Lady of Guadalupe
    December 12
    Christian
  • Christmas
    December 25
    Christian
  • Kwanzaa
    December 26–January 1
    African-American
  • Feast of the Holy Family
    December 30
    Christian

2019

  • Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary
    January 1
    Christian
  • Christmas
    January 7
    Eastern Orthodox
  •  Asian Lunar New Year
    February 5
    Confucian/Taoist/Buddhist
  • Maha Shivaratri
    March 4
    Hinduism
  • Ash Wednesday
    March 6
    Christian
  • Orthodox Great Lent
    March 11–April 27
    Eastern Orthodox
  • Holi
    March 20–21
    Hindu
  • Purim
    March 21*
    Jewish
  • Vesak (Japan)
    April 8
    Buddhist
  • Palm Sunday
    April 14
    Christian
  • Maundy Thursday
    April 18
    Christian
  • Good Friday
    April 19
    Christian
  • Passover
    April 20–27*
    Jewish
  • Easter
    April 21
    Christian
  • Pascha
    April 28
    Orthodox Easter
  • Ramadan (30 days)
    May 6–June 4*
    Islamic [dates dependent on the sighting of the new moon crescent]
  • Vesak
    May 19
    Buddhist
  • Eid al Fitr
    June 5–7*
    Islamic [dates dependent on the sighting of the new moon crescent]
  • Pentecost
    June 9
    Christian
  • Shavuot
    June 9–10*
    Jewish 
  • Obon (Japan)
    July 13–15
    Buddhist

*Some holy days start at sundown of the evening before the listed start date and end at sundown or nightfall of the concluding date listed.