Cultural & Religious Observances

You can reference the interfaith calendar developed by the Interfaith Community Liaison with partnership with Montgomery County library by clicking here.

 

Subject Start Date End Date Description Notes
Ascension Thursday (Western) 05/10/2018 Religious observance by many Christians, affirming the ascension of Jesus, celebrated on the Thursday in the sixth week following Easter Sunday.
Ramadan 05/15/2018 06/14/2018 Ramadan, the month of fasting, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, is holy because it was during this month that the Holy Quran (Koran) was revealed. Adults fast from dawn until sunset to achieve spiritual and physical purification and self-discipline, abstaining from food, drink and intimate relations. It is a time for feeling a common bond with the poor and needy, and is a time of piety and prayer. It begins on the Islamic lunar calendar date Ramadan 1, 1429.
Shavuot 05/19/2018 05/21/2018 Shavuot is the Jewish holiday that celebrates the giving of the Torah (the law) to Moses on Mount Sinai. The holiday is one of the Shalosh Regalim, the three Biblical pilgrimage festivals. Shavuot begins at sundown on May 19, 2018.
Memorial Day 05/28/2018 Memorial Day, also known as Decoration Day, is an official holiday observed in most states of the United States. It is observed on the last Monday in May; historically it was observed on a fixed date, May 30, until 1971 when it was changed for federal employees. All states adopted the change to the last Monday in May except Louisiana. Memorial Day began after the end of World War I when the day was reserved for honoring the dead of all American wars; it eventually included the deceased relatives and friends, military and civilian. Memorial Day is officially marked by the placing of a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington National Cemetery.
Wesak or Buddah Day 05/29/2018 The most important of the Buddhist festivals. It celebrates the Buddha’s birthday, and, for some Buddhists, also marks his enlightenment and death.
Sagadawa Duchen 05/29/2018 Buddha’s enlightenment and parinirvana
Vesak (Theravada) 05/29/2018 Buddha’s birth, enlightenment, and parinirvana
Eid al-Fitr 06/15/2018 Eid ul-Fitr, or abbreviated simply as Eid, is a principal Islamic holiday that marks the end of Ramadan, the month of fasting. In Arabic, Fitr means “to break” and therefore symbolizes the breaking of the fasting period and of all evil habits. The holiday follows the month of Ramadan (usually October in the Gregorian calendar), falling on the first day of Shawwal (the tenth month in the Islamic calendar). As with all months in the Islamic calendar, it begins with the sighting of the new moon. For this reason there may be regional differences in the exact date of Eid, with some Muslims fasting for 29 days and some for 30 days.
Juneteenth 06/19/2018 Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day or Emancipation Day, is a holiday in the United States honoring African American heritage by commemorating the announcement of the abolition of slavery in the State of Texas on June 19, 1865.
Tirgan 07/01/2018 Zoroastrian festival commemorating water
Independence Day 07/04/2018 Independence Day, commonly known as the Fourth of July, is a federal holiday in the United States commemorating the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, declaring independence from Great Britain.
Chokhor Duchen (cont’d below) 07/16/2018 Chokhor Duchen, one of the four great holy days of the Tibetan calendar.  It is also known as the Festival of Turning the Wheel of Dharma, Chokhor Duchen commemorates the anniversary upon which Shakyamuni Buddha first began teaching the Dharma. For seven weeks after his enlightenment, the Buddha did not teach. After this period, Indra and Brahma offered a dharmachakra and a conch shell and requested Shakyamuni to teach. Accepting, Buddha Shakyamuni turned the Wheel of Dharma for the first time at Sarnath by teaching on the Four Noble Truths.
Asala – Dharma Day 07/27/2018 The anniversary of the start of Buddha’s teaching – his first sermon ,”The Wheel of Truth”, after his enlightenment.
Guru Purnima 07/27/2018 Guru purnima is traditionally celebrated by Hindus, Jains and Buddhists, to pay their respects to their teachers and express their gratitude.
Feast of Assumption 08/15/2018 The Feast of the Assumption is celebrated on August 15. The Eastern Orthodox Feast celebrates the Dormition of the Theotokos with a 14-day fast prior to the Feast of the Assumption. The Dormition is the period of Mary’s time among the dead before her Assumption. Eastern Orthodox Christians believe that Mary died and was later resurrected from the dead, before being assumed into Heaven. Many Catholics also believe this, but many others believe she never died and was assumed into Heaven while alive. Eastern (Roman) Catholics also observe the Dormition as well as the Assumption.
Parsi New Year’s Day 08/17/2018 The Shahanshai calendar, failing to intercalate leap years, observes Nowruz later in the year.
Eid ul-Adha: Feast of the Sacrifice (cont’d below) 08/20/2018 08/21/2018 Religious festival celebrated by Muslims, commemorating Abraham’s (Ibrahim’s) willingness to sacrifice his son Ishmael in obedience to God. It marks the end of the Haji (pilgrimage to Mecca.) Observed with prayer, sacrificing a goat or sheep and feasting with family and friends
Raksha Bandhan 08/26/2018 A holiday which celebrates the bond between brothers and sisters.  Sisters tie a decorative sacred thread or amulet on the right wrist of her brothers (often including distant cousins and friends considered honorary brothers) with her prayers for his protection and well-being while sweets are exchanged.  In return, brothers give their sisters small tokens or gifts of appreciation.
Krishna Janmashtami 09/02/2018 Celebrates the birth and life of Lord Krishna, one of the most endeared incarnations of Vishnu and deliverer of the Bhagavad Gita
Labor Day (cont’d below) 09/03/2018 Labor Day is an official holiday observed on the first Monday in September in both the United States and Canada. Other countries also observe this holiday but on different dates. Labor Day is celebrated in order to recognize the contribution of labor to the world and hence is of special importance to organized labor movements. It is a federal holiday and is also recognized by law in all of the states, U.S. territories, and Puerto Rico. The idea for Labor Day is credited to two individuals; Matthew Maguire, a machinist from Paterson, N.J., and Peter McGuire of New York City. McGuire founded the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners and co-founded the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions, which later became the American Federation of Labor.
Rosh Hashanah 09/09/2018 09/11/2018 Rosh Hashanah is a religious holiday celebrating the Jewish New Year. It literally means “Head of the Year”. It ushers in ten days of repentance and spiritual renewal.
Ganesh Chaturthi 09/12/2018 09/23/2018 Pays homage to Lord Ganesha or Lord Vinayaka, the son of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati and divine manifestation of wisdom, prosperity and good fortune
Vishwakarma Puja 09/17/2018 Celebrates Vishwakarma who is considered the divine architect.
Yom Kippur 09/18/2018 09/19/2018 Yom Kippur (Hebrew: יוֹם כִּפּוּר‎‎, IPA: [ˈjom kiˈpuʁ], or יום הכיפורים), also known as Day of Atonement, is the holiest day of the year for the Jewish people. Its central themes are atonement and repentance. Jewish people traditionally observe this holy day with a 25-hour period of fasting and intensive prayer, often spending most of the day in synagogue services. Yom Kippur completes the annual period known in Judaism as the High Holy Days or Yamim Nora’im (“Days of Awe”).
Sukkot (cont’d below) 09/23/2018 09/30/2018 Sukkot begins a seven-day festival in commemoration of the Jewish people’s 40 years of wandering in the desert as well as thanksgiving for the fall harvest. The ancient Hebrews celebrated Sukkot as a festival of thanksgiving and brought sacrifices to the Temple in Jerusalem. Jews still observe the holiday by making joyous parades in synagogues and carrying lulabs (palm branches), etrogs (citrons), and myrtle and willow branches. During Sukkot, traditional Jews live in a hut called a sukkah as a reminder of the temporary dwellings in which their ancestors lived during their wanderings in the wilderness in Biblical times. Ends with Shemini Atzeret, which is observed with memorial services and cycle of Biblical readings and is a supplementary two-day celebration.
Pitru Paksha 09/24/2018 10/08/2018 Period of 16 days dedicated to ancestors. Shraddha is performed on the specific lunar day during the Pitru Paksha, when the ancestor—usually a parent or paternal grandparent—died.
Simchat Torah 10/01/2018 10/02/2018 Simchat Torah, means “Rejoicing in the Torah.” It is a Jewish festival of rejoicing in the Torah, or Law. Simhat Torah marks the end of the annual cycle of readings from the Torah that take place in the synagogue every week. The cycle begins again on the first Saturday after Simhat Torah. The festival falls on the 23rd day of the Hebrew month of Tishri. Tishri usually occurs in September and October. Jews in Israel and Reform Jews observe the festival on the 22nd day of Tishri.
Mehregan 10/02/2018 This is a fall festival to celebrate the divinity that represents the virtues of friendship, affection and love. It also corresponds to the time of harvest. Both personal and public prayers are recited in Avesta (Zoroastrian scripture) followed by a feast.
Navaratri (cont’d below) 10/10/2018 10/19/2018 A nine night celebration of the feminine divine that occurs five times a year (the spring and fall celebrations being amongst the more widely celebrated).  The most popularly worshiped manifestations of the feminine divine include Goddess Durga representing the Mother Goddess and Shakti (Divine Energy), Goddess Saraswati representing knowledge, speech and the arts and Goddess Lakshmi, representing good health, wealth and prosperity.  Many fasts and rituals associated with Navaratri are exclusive to women.
Durga Puja 10/15/2018 10/19/2018 Celebration of the goddess Durga and victory over buffalo demon named Mahishasura
Dussehra 10/19/2018 Celebrates victory of Lord Rama over the ten-headed demon king Ravana
Lhabab Duchen (cont’d below) 10/31/2018 Lhabab Düchen is one of the four Buddhist festivals commemorating four events in the life of the Buddha, according to Tibetan traditions. This is a Buddhist festival celebrated to observe the descent of Buddha from heaven back to earth. Buddha had left for heaven at the age of 41, having ascended to The Heaven of Thirty-Three (Trayastrimsa) in order to give teachings to benefit the gods in the desire realms and to repay the kindness of his mother by liberating her from Samsara. He was exhorted by his follower and representative Maudgalyayana to return, and after a long debate managed to return. This is considered to be one of the eight great deeds of the Buddha.  On Lhabab Duchen, the effects of positive or negative actions are multiplied ten million times.
All Saints Day 11/01/2018 A Christian, primarily Roman Catholic, holiday falls on November 1, followed by All Souls Day on November 2, which commemorates the faithful departed. The Eastern Orthodox Church’s All Saints is the first Sunday after Pentecost and as such marks the close of the Easter season.
Diwali 11/07/2018 Diwali, a holiday observed by Hindus, as well as Sikhs, Jains, and other peoples of India; it occurs in either October or November each year and signifies the beginning of the new year as well as the triumph of good over evil. The name of the festival comes from the Sanskrit word dipavali, meaning row of lights. Diwali is known as the ‘festival of lights’ because houses, shops, and public places are decorated with small clay oil lamps called Diyas. These lamps, which are traditionally lit by mustard oil, are placed in decorative arrangements in windows, doors and outside buildings.
Birth of the Báb 11/08/2018 11/09/2018 Born in Persia in 1819, the Báb was the Herald of the Baha’i Faith who, in 1844, announced the imminent appearance of the Messenger of God awaited by all the peoples of the world.
Birth of Bahá’u’lláh 11/09/2018 11/10/2018 Founder of the Baha’i Faith, Bahá’u’lláh, whose name in Arabic means “The Glory of God,” was born in Persia in 1817 and became an early follower of the Báb. He was imprisoned in Persia and then exiled to Iraq after the Báb’s execution. In 1863 in Baghdad, He declared Himself to be the One promised by the Báb.
Veterans Day 11/11/2018 Veterans Day, formerly known as Armistice Day, is observed annually on November 11. From 1971 until 1977, it was observed on the fourth Monday in October, but in 1978 it was restored to the original date of November 11. The first Armistice Day was proclaimed on November 11, 1919 to mark the signing of the armistice on November 11, 1918 that ended World War I. The name of the holiday was changed officially to Veterans Day when President Dwight Eisenhower signed an act of Congress “to honor veterans on the eleventh day of November of each year a day dedicated to world peace.”
Thanksgiving Day 11/22/2018 Thanksgiving Day is a holiday celebrated in the United States on the fourth Thursday in November. On Thanksgiving Day, people give thanks for what they have and for the good things that happened during the year. The first Thanksgiving in New England took place in Plymouth, Massachusetts, in 1621. In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln declared the last Thursday in November as a national day of thanksgiving. Presidents made a similar declaration each year afterward. Congress established Thanksgiving Day as a legal national holiday beginning in 1941.
Birth of Guru Nanak Dev ji 11/23/2018 The birth of the Founder of Sikhism is celebrated throughout the world by all Sikhs
American Indian Heritage Day (cont’d below) 11/23/2018 On November 13, 2007, the United States House of Representatives unanimously passed legislation introduced by Representative Joe Baca that encourages the designation of the Friday after Thanksgiving Day as Native American Heritage Day to pay tribute to Native Americans for their many contributions to the United States. It is observed as a state holiday in Maryland.
Martyrdom of Guru Tegh Bahadur 11/24/2018 Martyrdom of Guru Tegh Bahadur, Ninth Guru of the Sikhs, was executed in 1675 in India for speaking for religious freedom and human rights.
Hanukkah (Chanukah) 12/02/2018 12/10/2018 Hanukkah (Chanukah) is celebrated by Jewish people around the world to commemorate their victory in the Maccabean War of 162 B.C.E. After the war, the Temple was cleansed and rededicated and the Menorah (perpetual lamp) was relit. Hanukkah means “dedication” in Hebrew. The celebration of Hanukkah is also known as the “Feast of Lights” because one of the stories told is that the oil for the lamps was sufficient only for one day but burned miraculously for eight days. Today, Jewish families celebrate Hanukkah by lighting a special Menorah with eight candles plus a ninth shammash candle (server used to light the others).
Feast of the Immaculate Conception 12/08/2018 The feast of the Immaculate Conception is celebrated in some Christian churches on December 8. A feast called the Conception of Mary arose in the Eastern (Catholic) Church in the seventh century. It spread to the West in the eighth century. In the eleventh century it received its present name, the Immaculate Conception. In the eighteenth century it became a feast of the Roman Catholic Church.
Gita Jayanti 12/18/2018 Celebrates birthday of Bhagvad Gita, the sacred text of the Hindus
Yaldaa 12/21/2018 This ancient Iranian ceremony on the eve of the winter solstice is traced to the myth of the combat between the forces of light against the forces of darkness. From this day onward, the good forces of light triumph as the days grow longer. The celebration includes telling fairy tales and stories and the recitation of poetry,
Christmas 12/25/2018 Christmas is a Christian holiday held on December 25 which celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ. Eastern Orthodox Churches, which use the Julian Calendar to determine feast days, celebrate on January 7 by the Gregorian Calendar. The name originates from the Old English Christes Mæsse, or Christ’s Mass, and the present spelling for Christmas is thought to have come into use around the 16th century. Christmas is celebrated throughout the world and is marked by different festivities including decorating fir trees, singing carols, and attending church services. Some churches practice their most elaborate festivals on January 6 (Epiphany), and in parts of the United States, this date has been observed as “Old Christmas” or “Little Christmas.”
Zarthosht-no-Diso 12/26/2018 Death anniversary of Zoroaster.
Kwanzaa (cont’d below) 12/26/2018 01/01/2019 Kwanzaa (or Kwaanza) meaning “first fruits” in Swahili, is a week-long secular holiday honoring African American heritage, observed from December 26 to January 1 each year, by African Americans in the United States of America. Kwanzaa consists of seven days of celebration, featuring activities such as candle-lighting, singing, and culminating in a thanksgiving feast and gift-giving. It was founded by Ron “Maulana” Karenga, and first celebrated from December 26, 1966, to January 1, 1967. Karenga calls Kwanzaa the African American branch of “first fruits” celebrations of classical African cultures.