The calendar below, created by Dr. Peter Yuichi Clark, is an excellent way to keep on top of religious high holy days and festivals as they go by. It is especially useful for those in interfaith vocations who need this information on a day-to-day basis.
TIO is cooperating with another “working” religious calendar project being led by Read the Spirit. It extends what we usually mean by religious calendar to include important civic holidays. It identifies major religious holidays more than a year in advance. Most important, it features stories about what these many religious festival events are all about – what they mean, the important stories, the food associated, and how particular events are celebrated. Your own stories of religious holidays, whatever your tradition, are welcomed at the site. Check it out!
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For Native Americans, November marks Gwilatkw, the blanket season of the first snow, in which the Earth covers herself for her winter sleep.
For Native Americans of the Zuni tribe in New Mexico, December marks the time of the Shalako Kochina Ceremony. For other aboriginal tribes, this is the season when the river freezes and the land sleeps, known as Luut’aa.
Tuesday, November 21
Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary – Christianity (Catholic churches)
Entry of the Mother of God into the Temple – Christianity (Eastern churches)
This day commemorates the entrance of the three-year-old Virgin Mary into the temple at Jerusalem to receive an education and begin her life of absolute dedication to God. According to some apocryphal writings, Mary also entered the Temple’s Holy of Holies on this occasion, thus becoming the first and only woman ever to enter that sacred space.
Wednesday, November 22
Qawl – Bahá’í
The beginning of the fourteenth month of the Bahá’í year, meaning “speech.”
Thursday, November 23
This national holiday was first officially observed after a proclamation by President Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War, in 1863 C.E. Establishing the fourth Thursday of November for the observance, Lincoln wrote that “[The blessings enjoyed in this country] are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People.”
Saturday, November 25
Day of the Covenant – Bahá’í
A celebration of the appointment of ’Abdu’l-Bahá, the son of Bahá’u’lláh, as the Center of the Covenant in New York City in 1912 C.E. Devout followers begin their remembrance the preceding evening and do not suspend work on this day.
Sunday, November 26
Christ the King Sunday – Christianity (Western churches)
This feast day commemorates Jesus’ teaching that he will return at the end of time to judge humanity. In the Western Christian liturgical year, this is the last Sunday; the following Sunday (i.e., the first Sunday of Advent) marks the beginning of a new year.
Monday, November 27
Ascension of ’Abdu’l-Bahá – Bahá’í
The commemoration of the death of the Center of the Covenant in Haifa, Palestine, in 1921 C.E. Devout followers begin their remembrance the preceding evening and are allowed to work on this day.
Wednesday, November 29
Mawlid al-Nabi – Islam
The anniversary of the birth of the Prophet Muhammad in Mecca in ca. 570 C.E., observed by Sunni Muslims beginning at sundown. Shi’a Muslims celebrate five days later, on December 4th.
Friday, December 1
Mawlid al-Nabi – Islam
The anniversary of the birth of the Prophet Muhammad in Mecca in ca. 570 C.E., observed by Sunni Muslims beginning at sundown. Shi’a Muslims celebrate five days later, on December 6th.
Sunday, December 3
- First Sunday of Advent (hope) – Christianity (Western churches)
- Sanghamittā Day – Buddhism
Celebrating the anniversary of the arrival of King Asoka’s daughter Sanghamittā, who founded an order of nuns in Sri Lanka and carried with her a branch of the original tree under which the historical Buddha found enlightenment (it still survives in the ancient capital of Anuradhapura). This festival occurs on the full moon day in December.
Friday, December 8
- Bodhi Day (Rohatsu) – Buddhism
Celebration of the time when Prince Gautama (also later known as Shakyamuni Buddha) took his place under the Bodhi tree, vowing to remain there until he attained supreme enlightenment.
- Feast of the Immaculate Conception – Catholic Christianity
A Roman Catholic holiday celebrating the belief that Mary, mother of Jesus, was preserved from original sin for her entire life.
Sunday, December 10
Human Rights Day
While not a religious festival, this day marks the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948, including Article 18 which states: “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.”
Second Sunday of Advent (peace) – Christianity (Western churches)
Monday, December 11
Masá’il – Bahá’í
The beginning of the fifteenth month of the Bahá’í year; its name means “questions.”
Tuesday, December 12
Chanukah [Hanukkah] begins (through December 20) – Judaism
The Jewish Festival of Lights commemorates the Maccabean victory over Syrian-Greek oppressors and the recapture and re-dedication of the Jerusalem Temple in 165 B.C.E. Special readings and praise songs focus on liberty and freedom. The eight-candle Menorah is lit at sundown, and gifts are given.
Feast Day of the Virgin of Guadalupe – Catholic Christianity
Commemorating the appearance of the Virgin Mary near Mexico City in 1531 C.E. Juan Diego, a native American living during the Spanish conquest of Mexico, saw a vision of the Virgin Mary. He was told to build a church in her honor exactly where he stood, and in that spot the Basilica of Guadalupe was erected. Thousands of pilgrims from all over the world travel to that church every year and venerate the icon of the Virgin that is there, imprinted on Diego's cloak; it is believed that Our Lady of Guadalupe can intercede with God so that faithful believers' prayers can be answered, and miracles can occur. She is also the patron saint of Mexico.
Friday, December 15
Bill of Rights Day
While not a religious festival, this day marks the signing into law of the ten original amendments to the United States Constitution in 1791, including the First Amendment that protects citizens’ freedoms of speech and of religious expression.
Saturday, December 16
Posadas Navideñas begins (through December 25) – Christianity (Western churches)
A Latino/Latina Christian feast of the Lodgings, commemorating the journey of Mary and Joseph toward Bethlehem in preparation for the birth of Jesus.
Sunday, December 17
- Third Sunday of Advent (joy) – Christianity (Western churches)
Thursday, December 21 (Winter Solstice)
- Winter Feast – Native American spirituality
A time when Native Americans of the Woodland tribes share food with the spirits of winter.
Yaldā – Zoroastrianism
The “night of birth” which marks the longest night of the year, after which days begin getting longer—thus symbolizing the victory of light and goodness over dark and evil. This festival is celebrated with storytelling, poetic readings, family reunions, and feasting.
Yule – Wicca
A celebration symbolizing the rebirth of the sun by the Goddess. A present-day Wicca event that ritually marks the shedding of the dross of the past year and contemplating one’s future spiritual development.
Tohji-Taisai [Grand Ceremony of the Winter Solstice] – Shintō
This day marks the end of the sun’s decline (the yin period) and the beginning of its growth (the yang period). In Japanese spirituality, the sun is expressive of Amaterasu Omikami, the sun goddess and guiding spirit of the Japanese people.
Saturday, December 23
Birthday of the Prophet Joseph Smith – Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Commemorating the birth of Joseph Smith, Jr., in 1805 C.E. in Vermont. He translated what became known as the Book of Mormon and became the first president of the LDS Church when it was founded in 1830 in Fayette, New York.
Sunday, December 24
Fourth Sunday of Advent (love) – Christianity (Western churches)
Christmas Eve – Christianity (Western and Eastern churches)
Celebration of the arrival of Mary and Joseph in Bethlehem for the birth of Jesus. It is observed with worship, carols, candle lighting, manger scenes and festive meals.
Monday, December 25
Christmas Day/Feast of the Nativity – Christianity (Western and Eastern churches)
Celebration of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, observed by prayers, exchanging of gifts, and family parties.
Tuesday, December 26
St. Stephen’s Day – Christianity
Remembrance of St. Stephen, the first Christian martyr.
Kwanzaa begins (through January 1) – African American heritage
A seven-day festival that celebrates values highly regarded by people of African American ancestry. The values include umoja (unity), kujichagulia (self-determination), ujima (collective work and responsibility), ujamaa (cooperative economics), nia (purpose), kuumba (creativity), and imani (faith). Each of these principles, collectively known as the Nguzo Saba, is represented by a red or green candle, each of which is lit on successive days using a central black candle.
Zaratosht Diso [Anniversary of the death of the prophet Zarathustra (Zoroaster)] – Zoroastrianism
Estimates of when he lived vary from the sixth to the second millenium B.C.E., but this date memorializes the death of the prophet Zoroaster, whose hymns (gathas) are preserved in the Zoroastrian scriptures.
Thursday, December 28
Holy Innocents’ Day – Christianity
A day of solemn memory for the male children of Bethlehem killed by King Herod in an attempt to destroy Jesus.
Saturday, December 30
Sharaf – Bahá’í
The beginning of the sixteenth month of the Bahá’í year; its name means “honor.”
Sunday, December 31 (New Year's Eve)
- Ghambar Maidyarem (through January 4) – Zoroastrianism
A celebration for the creation of animals, and a time for the equitable sharing of food with others.
If you want more information about any of these holy days, please contact
UCSF Medical Center Spiritual Care Services at 415-353-1941 (Rev. Dr. Peter Yuichi Clark)
Our thanks to the Council of Religious Leaders of Metropolitan Chicago, the Multifaith Action Society of British Columbia (Canada), BBC’s Religion Website, Peel Schools District Board (Mississauga, Ontario, Canada), the Arizona State University Provost’s Office, the NCCJ of the Piedmont Triad, the Anti-Defamation League, Project Interfaith (Omaha, NE), the University of Victoria Faculty of Law (British Columbia, Canada), the Center for Spiritual and Ethical Education, and www.interfaithcalendar.org
To subscribe to this calendar and sync it with your Google, Outlook, or iCal calendars, visit ucsfspiritcare.org and select the “Resources” menu.