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

2019-2020 Academic Year

2019

  • Eid al-Adha
    August 12-15*
    Islam [dates dependent on the sighting of the new moon crescent]
  • Krishna Janmashtami
    August 23
    Hinduism
  • First of Muharram
    September 1*
    Islam
  • Ganesh Chaturthi
    September 2
    Hinduism
  • Ashura
    September 10*
    Islam
  • Rosh Hashanah (New Year)
    September 30-October 1*
    Judaism
  • Navratri
    September 29-October 8
    Hinduism
  • Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement)
    October 9*
    Judaism
  • Sukkot
    October 14-20*
    Judaism
  • Shemini Atzeret/Simchat Torah
    October 21-22*
    Judaism
  • Diwali
    October 27
    Hinduism
  • Day of the Dead
    October 31
    Mexico/Catholicism
  • All Saints Day
    November 1
    Christianity
  • Advent
    December 1-24
    Christianity
  • Feast of the Immaculate Conception
    December 8
    Christianity
  • Rohatsu (Japan)
    December 8
    Buddhism
  • Our Lady of Guadalupe
    December 12
    Christianity
  • Hanukkah
    December 23-30*
    Judaism
  • Christmas
    December 25
    Christianity
  • Kwanzaa
    December 26-January 1, 2020
    African-American
  • Feast of the Holy Family
    December 29
    Christianity

2020:

  • Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary
    January 1
    Christianity
  • Christmas
    January 7
    Eastern Orthodox Christianity
  • Asian Lunar New Year
    February 5
    Confucianism/Taoism/Buddhism
  • Maha Shivaratri
    February 22
    Hinduism
  • Ash Wednesday
    February 26
    Christianity
  • Orthodox Great Lent begins
    March 2
    Eastern Orthodox Christianity
  • Holi
    March 10
    Hinduism
  • Purim
    March 10*
    Judaism
  • Palm Sunday
    April 5
    Christianity
  • Passover
    April 9-15*
    Judaism
  • Maundy Thursday
    April 9
    Christianity
  • Good Friday
    April 10
    Christianity
  • Easter
    April 12
    Christianity
  • Pascha
    April 19
    Eastern Orthodox Christianity
  • Ramadan begins (30 days)
    April 24*
    Islam [dates dependent on the sighting of the new moon crescent]
  • Vesak
    May 7
    Buddhism
  • Shavuot
    May 29-30*
    Judaism 
  • Pentecost
    May 31
    Christianity
  • Eid al Fitr
    June 5-7*
    Islam [dates dependent on the sighting of the new moon crescent]

*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.