This section is provided to faculty, staff, and student leaders as an educational resource for the myriad of religious holy days celebrated. Not only does this section offer crucial information about dates and practices, we also hope that the information about recommended academic and food accommodations will be valuable to those planning classroom activities and other academic and co-curricular events.
This two-day festival celebrates the birth of Krishna, a widely-worshipped Hindu god. Krishna is considered to be a warrior, hero, teacher, and philosopher.
General Practices: During this festival, Hindus are likely to forgo sleep in order to sing bhajans, traditional Hindu songs. Many Hindus also fast during the first day of the festival. Dances, songs, and plays depicting the life of Krishna are common.
Date Details: The first day is called Krishan ashtami or Gokul ashtami. The second day is known as Kaal ashtami or more popularly Janam ashtami.
Recommended Accommodations: Avoid scheduling major academic deadlines on this day, since it is likely that students will be operating on very little sleep.
*Holiday with significant work restriction
Ramadan is an occasion to focus on faith through fasting and prayer, and is one of the most important Muslim holidays. Ramadan is notable because the Qur’an was first revealed during this month, and Muslims see the Qur’an as the ultimate form of guidance for mankind. The night that the Qur’an was revealed to Muhamad is called Lailat ul Oadr, and standing in prayer this one night is thought to eclipse months of worship.
General Practices: Fasting is required during the entire month of Ramadan. Muslims refrain from food and beverages during the daylight hours, and smoking and sexual relations are forbidden. Worshipers break the fasting each night with prayer, reading of the Qu’ran, and a meal called the iftar. In addition, many Muslims also attend night prayers at Mosques. Muslims also believe that their good actions bring a greater reward during this month than any other time of the year, so almost all Muslims try to give up bad habits during Ramadan.
Date Details: Dates are determined by the lunar calendar. The observed date marks the beginning of a 30 day observation.
Recommended Accommodations: If possible, avoid scheduling major academic deadlines during this time. Be sensitive to the fact that students and employees celebrating Ramadan will be fasting during the day (continuously for 30 days) and will likely have less stamina as a result. If planning an evening event, provide food accommodations if requested (Islamic dietary restrictions apply).
Eid al-Fitr means "break the fast", and is the last day of Ramadan, marking the end of a month of fasting.
General Practices: Muslims often pray, exchange gifts, give money to children, feast, and celebrate with friends and family.
Date Details: Dates are determined by the lunar calendar. Eid al Fitr is a three day celebration.
Recommended Accommodations: Avoid scheduling important academic deadlines, events, or activities on this date. Employees will likely ask to take a vacation day on this day, and that request should be granted if at all possible. If planning an evening event, provide food accommodations if requested (Islamic dietary restrictions apply).
Start of the Jewish New Year, day of judgment and remembrance; the Jewish calendar celebrates the New Year in the seventh month (Tishrei) as a day of rest and celebration ten days before Yom Kippur
General Practices: Prayer in synagogue and festive meals.
Date Details: Begins at sundown of prior day.
Recommended Accommodations: Avoid scheduling important academic deadlines, events, or activities on this date. If planning an event, provide food accommodation as requested (kosher restrictions apply).
Also referred to as Harvest Home, the Feast of the Ingathering, and Meán Fómhair. Mabon is the second celebration of the harvest, a ritual of thanksgiving for the fruits of the earth, and a recognition of the need to share them to secure the blessings of the Goddess and the God during the coming winter months. One of the eight major annual sabbats or festivals.
Yom Kippur is often considered the holiest day of the year for Jews, and the day is dedicated to atonement and abstinence.
General Practices: During Yom Kippur, Jews fast from before sundown until after sunset, and light a Yahrzeit memorial candle at sundown on the night of Yom Kippur.
Recommended Accommodations: Avoid scheduling important academic deadlines, events, or activities on this date and after a day of fasting.
A week-long celebration which begins with the building of Sukkah for sleep and meals; Sukkot is named for the huts Moses and the Israelites lived in as they wandered the desert before reaching the promised land.
General Practices: Families in the United States commonly decorate the sukkah with produce and artwork.
Date Details: Begins at sundown of prior day; work holiday varies by denomination.
Recommended Accommodations: Avoid scheduling important academic deadlines, events, or activities on the first two days. If planning an event, provide food accommodation as requested (kosher restrictions apply—although it is customary to eat dairy for this celebration).
Navratri is one of the greatest Hindu festivals, and celebrates the triumph of good over evil. During this time, Hindus worship Durga, Lakshmi, and Saraswati.
General Practices: Durga is the mother goddess, and so Hindus try to visit their mothers and other relatives during this time. Some Hindus will pray and fast, and there are are often feasts and dances.
Also known as Atzereth, this is a fall festival, which includes a memorial service for the dead and features prayers for rain in Israel.
General Practices: Jews light a Yahrzeit memorial candle at sundown on Shemini Atzereth (theeighthnight of Sukkot).
Date Details: Begins at sundown on the eighth day of Sukkot.
Simchat Torah marks the completion of the annual cycle of the reading of the Torah in the synagogue and the beginning of the new cycle.
General Practices: Practitioners dance in synagogues as all the Torah scrolls are carried around in seven circuits.
Recommended Accommodations: Avoid scheduling important academic deadlines, events, and activities on this date. (kosher restrictions apply)
Diwali—the Hindu “festival of lights”—is an extremely popular holiday for multiple religions throughout Southern Asia. Diwali extends over five days, and celebrates the victory of good over evil. The Times of India described Diwali as “a reaffirmation of hope, a renewed commitment to friendship and goodwill, and a religiously sanctioned celebration of the simple.” Fireworks, oil lamps, and sweets are common, making this a favorite holiday for children. The lamps are lit to help the goddess Lakshmi find her way into people’s homes.
General Practices: Lighting oil lamps and candles, setting off fireworks, and prayer.
Recommended Accommodations: Avoid scheduling important academic deadlines, events, and activities on this date. Hindu employees will likely request a vacation day on this date.
Eid al-Adha is a major festival that celebrates the willingness to make sacrifices in the name of one’s faith. According to legend, the prophet Ibrahim was ordered to sacrifice his son in God’s name. When Ibrahim was prepared to kill his son, God stepped in and gave him a sheep to sacrifice instead. This holiday celebrates Ibrahim’s total faith in God, and Muslims view this holiday as an important annual reminder.
General Practices: Prayers, gift giving, prayers, and sometimes slaughtering of sheep, with a portion of the meat gifted to the poor.
Date Details: All Islamic days begin at sunset of the prior day.
Recommended Accommodations: Avoid scheduling important academic deadlines, events, and activities on the first day. If planning an evening event, provide food accommodations if requested (Islamic dietary restrictions apply).
This holiday celebrates the birthday of Bahá'u'lláh, one of the Baha’I faith’s most important figures. For Bahá'ís, the Birth of Bahá'u'lláh is a Holy Day celebrating the rebirth of the world through the love of God, just as Christmas is for Christians.
Recommended Accommodations: Avoid scheduling important academic deadlines, events, or activities on this date. (Baha’i employees will likely request to have this day off.)
One of the four "greater Sabbats" and considered by some to be the Wiccan New Year. A time to celebrate the lives of those who have passed on, welcome those born during the past year into the community, and reflecting on past relationships, events and other significant changes in life.
General Practices: Paying respect to ancestors, family members, elders of the faith, friends, pets and other loved ones who have died.
Hanukkah is the Jewish festival of lights, and lasts for eight days. Hanukkah commemorates the Jewish struggle for religious freedom. The history of the holiday involves a historic military victory in which a Jewish sect called the Maccabees defeated the Syrian Greeks. The celebration commemorates a miracle in which a sacred temple flame burned for eight days on only one day’s worth of oil.
General Practices: On each of the eight nights of Hanukkah, Jewish families light an additional candle of the menorah candelabrum until all eight candles are lit. Jews celebrate with food and song, as well as exchanging gifts for eight days.
Date Details: Hanukkah begins at sundown of prior day.
Recommended Accommodations: Academics and work permitted, not a work holiday. Provide food accommodation as requested (kosher restrictions apply—potato pancakes, doughnuts or other fried food is customary).
Also known as Alban Arthan; the longest night of the year followed by the sun's "rebirth" and lengthening of days. In most traditions, Yule is celebrated as the rebirth of the Great God, who is viewed as the newborn solstice sun. One of the eight major annual sabbats or festivals.
Christmas is an annual celebration commemorating the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah whose message and self-sacrifice began the Christian religion.
General Practices: Many celebrate this holiday by giving gifts, attending church services, decorating Christmas trees, and visiting family.
Date Details: Begins at sundown on December 24 annually and continues with all day celebration on December 25.
Recommended Accommodations: This is a national holiday in the United States, so special accommodations are likely not required.
Gantan-sai is the annual New Year festival of the Shinto religion.
General Practices: Practitioners pray for inner renewal, prosperity, and health, as well as visiting shrines and visiting friends and family.
Recommended Accommodations: Avoid scheduling important academic deadlines, events and activities on this date (work holiday)
This date is also known as Befana Day; commemorates the revelation of God through Jesus Christ and marks the time the three wise men arrived in Bethlehem and presented gifts to the baby Jesus.
General Practices: Prayer, festive meals, offerings, gifts
This is the most important of traditional Chinese holidays.
General Practices: Families gather together to spend the evening preparing boiled dumplings and festive meals and giving of money to children in red envelopes.
Date Details: Corresponds to the New Moon in Aquarius, which can fall from late January to mid-February
Recommended Accommodations: Avoid scheduling important academic deadlines, events, and activities on this date. Many Chinese employees will probably request this day off.
Also referred to as the Feast of Pan, Feast of Torches, Feast of Waxing Lights, and Oimele. Celebrates the coming of spring and recovery of the Earth Goddess after giving birth to the Sun God at Yule. For many traditions, a time for initiations, redication and pledges for the coming year. One of the four "greater Sabbats."
General Practices: Activities might include making candles, reading poetry and telling stories.
Setsubum-sai marks the beginning of spring, and is known as the “bean-throwing festival. The faithful scatter roasted beans to bring good luck to the new season.
This is the first day of Lent, the period of forty days before Easter in which many Christians sacrifice ordinary pleasures to reflect on Christ’s sacrifice.
General Practices: On this day, there are special church services, and the faithful wear a cross of ashes marked on foreheads. Most Christians abstain from meat on this day.
Recommended Accommodations: Provide food accommodation as requested—prohibitions include animal products.
Purim commemorates the time when the Jews were living in Persia and were saved by the courage of a young Jewish woman called Esther.
General Practices: Many Jews hold carnival-like celebrations on Purim, dressing in costumes, and read the Book of Esther. Triangular, fruit-filled pastries are eaten in opposition to the villain Haman, who wore a three-cornered hat.
Recommended Accommodations: Purim is not subject to the restrictions on work that affect some other holidays; however, some sources indicate that Jews should not go about their ordinary business at Purim out of respect for the festival. If planning an evening event, provide food accommodations if requested (kosher restrictions apply).
Magha Puja Day commemorates an important event in the life of the Buddha, in which the four disciples traveled to join the Buddha.
Also known as the “Festival of Colors,” this holiday can be traced to Hindu scriptures commemorating good over evil. This date is also a celebration of the colorful spring and a farewell to the dull winter.
General Practices: Hindus often sprinkle colored water and powder on others bonfires and lights, signifying victory of good over evil.
Date Details: Celebrated at the end of the winter season on the last full moon day of the lunar moon in late February or early March.
Also known as Eostre or Alban Eilir. Regarded as a time of fertility and conception. In some Wiccan traditions, it is marked as the time when the Goddess conceives the God's child, which will be born at the winter solistice. One of eight major annual sabbats or festivals.
General Practices: Lighting fires to commemorate the return of light in the spring and to honor the God and Goddess.
Pesach is a week-long observance commemorating the freedom and exodus of the Israelites (Jewish slaves) from Egypt during the reign of the Pharaoh Ramses II (one of three pilgrimage festivals).
General Practices: Family gatherings, ritualized meals called Seders, reading of the Haggadah, lighting of Yahrzeit memorial candle at sundown on the last night of Passover.
Recommended Accommodations: Avoid scheduling important academic deadlines, events and activities on the first two and last two days of the holiday, provide food accommodation as requested (kosher restrictions apply—The use of leavening is prohibited so, for example, matzah is eaten in place of bread.)
This is the Baha’i New Year, a traditional celebration in Iran adopted as a holy day associated with Baha’i. It is a celebration of spring and new life.
General Practices: Festive music dancing, prayers, meetings, meals
A commemoration of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem as crowds lined his path with palm fronds
General Practices: Prayer, distribution of palm leaves commemorating Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem prior to his crucifixion.
Thursday before Easter, commemorates the Last Supper of Jesus with the Apostles.
General Practices: Prayer, Communion (Eucharist), meals, and foot-washing ceremonies among some Christian denominations
Date Details: Always falls on the Thursday before Easter Sunday.
Friday before Easter, commemorates the crucifixion of Jesus Christ; among some sects of Christianity and in many countries marks a day of fasting.
General Practices: Prayer, fasting, and noon or afternoon services in some Christian denominations.
Date Details: Always falls on the Friday before Easter Sunday.
Recommended Accommodations: Provide food accommodation as requested—meat (fish is not considered meat) is prohibited during meals for some.
Vaisakhi is the Sikh new year festival and commemorates 1699, the year Sikhism was born. Vaisakhi is also a long-established harvest festival.
General Practices: There are often parades, dancing, and singing throughout the day. These celebrations involve music, singing, and chanting of scriptures and hymns.
Annual commemoration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ
General Practices: Celebratory meals, family gatherings, distribution of colored eggs, baskets and chocolate bunnies. It is a celebration of renewal.
Date Details: Easter Sunday is determined by the Gregorian calendar (Gregorian calendar regulates ceremonial cycle of the Roman Catholic and Protestant churches).
Holocaust Remembrance Day; a day to remember the lives and names of Jewish victims and activists of the Holocaust.
General Practices: Ceremonies or events to remember Holocaust victims who died during World War II; activities may include lighting memorial candles and reciting the Kaddish, which is a prayer for the departed.
Date Details: Begins at sundown. If the date falls on a Friday, Israel observes Yom Hashoah on the preceding Thursday. When the date falls on a Sunday, it is observed on the following Monday.
Recommended Accommodations: This is not a work holiday—academics and work are permitted. Provide food accommodation as requested. (kosher restrictions apply)
The fire festival that celebrates the coming of summer and the fertility of the coming year. One of the eight major annual sabbats or festivals.
Commemorates receipt of the Torah on Mount Sinai (two of three pilgrimage festivals)
General Practices: Evening of devotional programs and studying the Torah, lighting of Yahrzeit memorial candle at sundown on the second night of Shavout.
Recommended Accommodations:Avoid scheduling important academic deadlines, events and activities on the first two and last two days of the holiday. Provide food accommodation as requested. (Kosher restrictions apply—although it is customary to eat dairy).
This holiday is traditionally known as Buddha’s birthday. It is the major Buddhist festival, commemorating the birth, enlightenment, and death of the Buddha.
General Practices: Buddhists often decorate their homes and visit their local temples. Observers are encouraged to refrain from slaughtering and to avoid eating meat on this date.
Recommended Accommodations: Provide food accommodation as requested, and offer vegetarian options when planning menus for events on this date.
Commemorates the death of the founder of the Baha’I faith; Baha’llah died on May 29, 1892.
General Practices: Devotional programs and reading from the scriptures
A celebration of the longest day of the year and the beginning of summer. Celebration of the the Goddess manifesting as Mother Earth and the God as the Sun King. For some Pagans the Summer Solstice marks the marriage of the God and Goddess and see their union as the force that creates the harvest's fruits. One of the eight major annual sabbats or festivals.
General Practices: Lighting to bonfires and watching the sunrise
Commemorates a series of Jewish tragedies including the destruction of the first and second temples in Jerusalem.
General Practices: Fasting and mourning.
Date Details: Begins at sundown, fast deferred because of the Sabbath.
Recommended Accommodations: Plan limited activities after a fast.
A celebration of the beginning of the harvest. One of the eight major annual sabbats or festivals.
The Rakhi festivity falls in the holy month of Shravan; The origin and history of Rakhi can be dated back to the mythological Pouranik times.
General Practices: A day to acknowledge siblings and their relationships.
[This information is posted with permission from The University of Missouri Chancellor’s Diversity Initiative. The MizzouDiversity portal website is a central clearinghouse for diversity-related information and resources at the University of Missouri.]
GUIDE TO RELIGIONS: Major Holidays and Suggested Accommodations. (2012). Retrieved September 13, 2012, from Website