Religious Calendar

September-October 2016

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, September marks the season of Genuuqwiikw, the season of mountain trails and the beginning of the fall hunt for game; the Iroquois Green Corn Ceremony, a time of renewal involving dances, fasting, offerings, and readings from the code of Handsome Lake; and the Jicarilla Apache Ghost Dance in New Mexico.

For Native Americans, October marks the season of the Cherokee Green Corn Ceremony and the season of Xlaaw, the season to put up food for the coming winter.

Thursday, September 15

  • Ksamavani – Jainism

A day of universal forgiveness, in which Jains ask forgiveness of others for wrongs committed during the previous year, and they also forgive those who have caused them suffering.

Saturday, September 17

  • Pitr-paksha or Mahalay Paksha – Hinduism 

The beginning of a two-week period during which Hindu adherents perform shraddha rites to gratify the spirits of their deceased ancestors, including giving food or other donations as a form of charitable service.

Thursday, September 22 autumn equinox

  • Shuki-sorei-sai – Shinto

A memorial service similar to the March equinox service (Shunki-sorei-sai), this day is marked by the cleaning and purification of gravesites and the reverence of ancestors as kami, or divine spirits.

  • Ohigon – Buddhism

A celebration of the equinox that is of particular importance to Japanese, Korean, and Tibetan Buddhists.  During this festival, the six Paramitas [virtues] are emphasized: generosity, morality, wisdom, honesty, endeavor, and patience.

  • Autumn Feast – Native American spirituality

A day to honor the harvest end and the coming and going of the seasons, including prayers, songs, and the telling of tribal stories.

  • Mabon [Harvest Home] – Wicca

Marking the second or continuing harvest, this festival celebrates life’s encapsulation as a seed to survive the cold winter, as well as the Harvest of the Vine, which symbolizes the divine power to transform the nectar of youth into the wine of elders’ wisdom and spiritual maturity.

Monday, September 26

  • Mashí’yyat – Bahá’í

The beginning of the eleventh month of the Bahá’í year, meaning “perfection.”

Wednesday, September 28

  • Birth of Confucius – Confucianism

The birthday of the philosopher Confucius [K’ung-tzu] in 551 B.C.E. in the Chinese state of Lu, known today as Shandong Province.

Thursday, September 29

  • St. Michael and All Angels – Christianity

A celebration of the archangel Michael and all angels (from the Greek angelos, “divine messenger”) mentioned in the Bible.

Saturday, October 1

  • Navaratra or Navaratri Dusserha – Hinduism

The beginning of a nine-day festival of the divine mother, honoring Shiva’s wife Durga and seeking her blessings.  It is also observed as a celebration recalling the days of Lord Krishna.  Fasting and prayer are practiced.

  • Ra’s al-Sanat al-Hijriyah: Islamic New Year [First of Muharram] – Islam

Commemorating the migration of the prophet Muhammad and his small band of followers from Mecca to Medina in 622 C.E., in order to escape persecution and to establish the first Muslim community.  The Islamic year 1438 begins at sundown.

  • Worldwide General Conference begins – Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

This is the largest worship service for Latter-day Saints (also known as Mormons) and lasts for two days.  Conference proceedings are broadcast live over the Internet and through other electronic media.

Sunday, October 2

  • World Communion Sunday – Christianity

  • Rosh Hashanah begins – Judaism

Beginning at sundown is New Year’s Day for the year 5777 and the anniversary of the creation of the world.  Jews celebrate Rosh Hashanah with the blowing of the shofar (ram’s horn) and apples and honey, marking it as the first of the Ten Days of Awe [or Repentance]. 

  •  Jashan-e Mehregan – Zoroastrianism

A celebratory festival of friendship, righteousness and justice.

Tuesday, October 4

  • Feast Day of Saint Francis of Assisi – Christianity

A celebration of the patron saint of animals and ecology and the founder of the Franciscan Roman Catholic religious order, known for its ethic of simplicity and service.  Many Christians mark this festival by bringing their animal companions to churches for a blessing.

Wednesday, October 5

  • Bodhidharma Memorial – Buddhism

This day celebrates the monk (5th – 6th centuries C.E.) who emigrated from India and is credited with transmitting Ch’an [Zen] Buddhism to China. 

  • Fast of Gedaliah – Judaism

A fast in memory of Gedaliah Ben Ahikam, the governor of Israel during the reign of King Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylonia, who was assassinated in 581 B.C.E.  Following his death, the Jews who had returned to Judah fled to Egypt, thus vacating the land of a Jewish presence and completing the destruction of the First Temple in Jerusalem.

Sunday, October 9

  • Birth of Gurū Ram Das – Sikhism

This date in the Nanakshahi tradition celebrates the birth of the 4th Sikh gurū (1534 – 1581 C.E.), who is remembered for organizing the structure of Sikh society and for composing a four-stanza hymn that is the basis of many Sikh wedding ceremonies.

Monday, October 10

  • Dashara, Vijaya Dashami, or Dussehra – Hinduism

Celebrates the triumph of Durga, the Divine Mother who manifests fierce compassion, over the forces of evil, as well as commemorating Rama’s victory over the demon Ravana.

Tuesday, October 11

  • Yom Kippur [Day of Atonement] – Judaism

The holiest day of the Jewish year.  To reestablish their relationship with God, Jews ask for forgiveness and forgive others [Kol Nidre], and then they can confess their sins and ask for divine forgiveness.  Prayer and fasting begin at sundown on this day and continue through the following day.

  •  ‘Āshūrā’ – Islam

Sunni Muslims celebrate this day as the anniversary of Noah’s departure from the Ark on Mount Ararat and the freedom of the children of Israel from Egyptian bondage.  Shi’i Muslims mark this date as the anniversary of the martyrdom of Husayn, the Prophet Muhammad’s grandson, in 680 C.E.

Wednesday, October 12

  • Ghambar Ayathrem – Zoroastrianism [through Sunday, October 16]

This festival celebrates the creation of plants, the sowing of winter crops, and herds’ return from pasture. 

Thursday, October 13

  • Nichiren Shonin Memorial – Buddhism

This day celebrates the monk (1222 – 1282 C.E.) who encouraged his followers to devote themselves to the Lotus Sūtra as the exclusive means to enlightenment.

Saturday, October 15

  • ‘Ilm – Bahá’í

The beginning of the twelfth month of the Bahá’í year, meaning “knowledge.”

Sunday, October 16

  • Sukkot [Festival of Tabernacles] begins – Judaism

Also known as the Festival of Booths and the Harvest Festival, Jews celebrate this time as a pilgrimage feast and time of thanksgiving.  The booths or huts remind Jews of the tents used by the Israelites during their years wandering in the wilderness, as well as the dwellings used by Jewish farmers at harvest time.   

  • Pavarana – Buddhism

This day is the end of the three-month Vassa or rains retreat observed by Theravadin Buddhist monks.

Wednesday, October 19

  • Karwa Chauth – Hinduism

A day of fasting for married women, in which they dress like new brides and offer prayers for the long lives and safety of their husbands.  Husbands offer sweets to their spouses at the end of the fast, once the moon is sighted.

Thursday, October 20

  • Installation of the Gurū Granth Sahib – Sikhism

This date in the Nanakshahi tradition celebrates the transmission of the gurūship to the Holy Scriptures (the Gurū Granth Sahib Ji) by the tenth gurū, Gobind Singh Ji.  

Sunday, October 23

  • Shemini Atzeret [Eighth Day of Assembly] – Judaism

This eighth day of Sukkot [Festival of Tabernacles] features prayers for rain and a good harvest in the coming year.  It begins at sundown.

Monday, October 24

  • United Nations Day

  • Simchat Torah – Judaism

This festival, also known as “Rejoicing with the Law,” marks the end of Sukkot and the completion of the Torah reading cycle with the beginning of reading the first book again.  Jews celebrate this day by singing, dancing, and marching around the synagogue or temple with Torah scrolls.  This festival begins at sundown.

  • Anniversary of the Martyrdom of Gurū Tegh Bahadur Ji – Sikhism

This day commemorates the martyrdom of the ninth of the Ten Sikh Gurūs (1621-1675 C.E.).  He is remembered for defending the Sikh faith, as well as the rights of Hindus and the cause of religious liberty.   

Friday, October 28

  • Atmasiddhi Rachna Divas (Creation Day) – Jainism

On this day in 1896, the poet Shrimad Rajchandra-ji (who was a spiritual guide for Mohandas Gandhi) wrote the legendary treatise Shri Atmasiddhi Shastra, which explains the quintessence of Jainism.

Sunday, October 30

  • Diwali (Deepavali) – Hinduism, Jainism, and Sikhism

The festival of lights and Hinduism’s most popular festival.  It is dedicated to the Goddess Kali in Bengal and to Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, in the rest of India.  Diwali is also associated with stories of the destruction of evil by the god Vishnu in one of his many forms, as well as with the coronation of Sri Rama.  Sweets and gifts are exchanged, and it is a time for cleaning and preparing for the future.  This festival is also celebrated by Sikhs and Jains, with this day bearing additional names and significance as shown immediately below.

  • Bandi Chhor Divas – Sikhism

Called “the day of the prisoner’s release,” this festival marks the return of the sixth gurū, Sri Hargobind Ji, and 52 other princes with him to the holy city of Amritsar after being released from detention in 1619 C.E.

  • Mahavira Nirvana – Jainism

On this day Jains celebrate that the soul of Lord Mahavir (6th century B.C.E.), the 24th Tirthankara, attained nirvana and release from the cycle of rebirth [moksha].

Monday, October 31Halloween

  • Reformation Day – Christianity [Protestant churches]

This day commemorates October 31, 1517 C.E., when Martin Luther nailed his Ninety-Five Theses to the door of the church in Wittenberg, Germany, eventually leading to the Protestant Reformation in Europe.  Most Protestant Christian churches will mark this on Sunday, October 30th.

  • Samhain – Wicca

Celebration of the Celtic New Year.  The dying God returns to the womb of the Goddess in preparation for rebirth at Yule.  The souls of ancestors and those who have died during the turning of the past year’s wheel are remembered.  Vegan Wiccans harvest nuts, the kernels of which symbolize wisdom.

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

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