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 current 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 Elizabeth Eckman at eeckman@gettysburg.edu.

Religious Holidays

2020-2021 Academic Year

2020

  • Eid al-Adha
    July 31-August 3*
    Islam [dates dependent on the sighting of the new moon crescent]
  • Krishna Janmashtami
    August 12
    Hinduism
  • First of Muharram
    August 21
    Islam
  • Ganesh Chaturthi
    August 22
    Hinduism
  • Ashura
    August 29*
    Islam
  • Rosh Hashanah (New Year)
    September 19-20*
    Judaism
  • Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement)
    September 28*
    Judaism
  • Sukkot
    October 3-9*
    Judaism
  • Shemini Atzeret/Simchat Torah
    October 10-11*
    Judaism
  • Navratri
    October 17-24
    Hinduism
  • Day of the Dead
    October 31
    Mexico/Catholicism
  • All Saints Day
    November 1
    Christianity
  • Diwali
    November 14
    Hinduism
  • Advent
    November 29-December 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 27
    Christianity

2021:

  • Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary
    January 1
    Christianity
  • Christmas
    January 7
    Eastern Orthodox Christianity
  • Asian Lunar New Year
    February 12
    Confucianism/Taoism/Buddhism
  • Ash Wednesday
    February 17
    Christianity
  • Purim
    February 26*
    Judaism
  • Maha Shivaratri
    March 12
    Hinduism
  • Orthodox Great Lent begins
    March 15
    Eastern Orthodox Christianity
  • Palm Sunday
    March 28
    Christianity
  • Passover
    March 28-April 8*
    Judaism
  • Holi
    March 29
    Hinduism
  • Maundy Thursday
    April 1
    Christianity
  • Good Friday
    April 2
    Christianity
  • Vesak
    April 3
    Buddhism
  • Easter
    April 4
    Christianity
  • Ramadan begins (30 days)
    April 13*
    Islam [dates dependent on the sighting of the new moon crescent]
  • Pascha
    May 2
    Eastern Orthodox Christianity
  • Eid al Fitr
    May 14-16*
    Islam [dates dependent on the sighting of the new moon crescent]
  • Pentecost
    May 23
    Christianity
  • Shavuot
    August 17-18*
    Judaism
  • Ashura
    August 18
    Islam

*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.