Religious Holidays, Festivals and Observances In 2024
Religious holidays have a significant importance in every religion. They are usually based on holy scriptures that describe a particular event in God's time. Every religion has these specific dates that are celebrated every year.
By celebrating these holidays every year, we help preserve our cultural values and pass them on to our new generation. Here are some important religious holidays of different religions around the world listed below.
Christian Religious Holidays
Christianity is the faith tradition of Christian people that focuses on the figure of Jesus Christ. There are different Christian holidays, some of which are better known than others, and all holidays can be celebrated around the world among the Christian community.
1. Ash Wednesday
Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent and is 40 days before Easter. It is celebrated between February 4 and March 11, depending on the date of Easter.
It is the first day of abstinence and fasting, and followers traditionally have the ashes of the previous year’s palms drawn as a cross on their foreheads. Ash Wednesday is a reminder of human mortality and the need for reconciliation with God. This marks the beginning of the penitential Lenten season.
Lent is a six-week tradition of fasting or abstaining from certain foods and luxuries, observed by many Christians around the world. It is observed for 40 days and starts from Ash Wednesday.
It begins between February 4 - March 11 and ends between March 21 - April 24. Lent is observed in the Biblical narrative of 40 days and 40 nights spent by Jesus in the desert. In this story, he fasted and resisted many temptations from the Devil the entire time.
3. Good Friday/Black Friday
Good Friday also known as Black Friday is a Christian Holiday today that is the day believed to commemorate the day of Jesus' crucifixion and death according to the Holy Bible. This religious holiday today is celebrated on Friday just before Easter. Black Friday is traditionally the day after Thanksgiving.
It generally falls around November end. The main ways Good Friday is observed is by fasting, worshipping, and liturgies in churches in remembrance of the somber nature. U.S. states along with many countries have declared Good Friday a public holiday.
Easter is traditionally the main Christian holiday that celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ after his crucifixion. Easter is celebrated on the first Sunday, following the full moon or after the spring equinox. It generally falls between March 22 and April 25.
Easter is the famous Christian holiday in April and has become a large cultural holiday today for many Western countries. One of the major themes for Easter traditions is decorated Easter eggs.
Christmas Day is probably the most recognized religious holiday throughout the world. It is celebrated on December 25 annually. According to the Holy Bible, this is the day when Jesus was born.
People celebrate this day by erecting Christmas trees and decorating them with lights and ornaments in private households or public spaces. There is also a feast and the exchange of gifts is done either on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.
Jewish Religious Holidays
Judaism is a belief in one transcendent God who revealed himself to Abraham, Moses, and the Hebrew prophets and by a religious life by Scriptures and rabbinic traditions. Here are some major Jewish religious holidays observed by Jewish people around the globe.
Shavuot is when the Ten Commandments were given on Mount Sinai. The “ten words” describe the very first moral law in human history, on which our understanding of ethical laws has been based today.
It is celebrated by going to synagogue to hear the 10 Commandments, enjoying festive meals of dairy foods, and staying up all night to learn the Book of Rut. It starts on the evening of Tuesday, January 11 2024 to Thursday, January 13, 2024.
Passover recalls the slavery of the Israelites in Egypt and their ultimate exodus to freedom. It is called Passover because to protect their firstborn children, the Israelites marked their doors with lamb's blood. So the angel of death would pass over them.
This religious holiday today is celebrated by family gathering on the first night of Passover for a special dinner called a seder. It will be celebrated from the Evening of April 22, 2024, till April 30, 2024.
3. Rosh Hashanah
Rosh Hashana is also known as the Day of Remembrance for Jewish people. On this day they celebrate the creation of the world, and the Jewish nation recalls its responsibilities as God's chosen people.
On the first night of Rosh Hashana as a New Year's custom many delicacies are prepared as omens of good luck. In 2024, this religious holiday will be celebrated from the evening of Wednesday, Oct 2, 2024, to Friday, Oct 4, 2024.
Sukkot is a one-week-long Jewish holiday that celebrates the fall harvest. It is one of the most happy festivals in Judaism culture. This religious holiday helps bring families, friends, and communities together. In 2024, Sukkot will be celebrated from the Evening of Oct 16 to Oct 23.
The holiday is also a remembrance of the 40 years that Jews spent in the desert after escaping slavery in Egypt. The Sukkot is also a reminder that faith and trust in God is the greatest weapon to combat fear.
Hanukkah is one of the major Jewish festivals that reaffirms the ideals of Judaism. It is recalled by the rededication of the Second Temple of Jerusalem by lighting candles each day of the festival. It is eight days long each year.
In 2024, Hanukkah begins on Wednesday, Dec. 25, and lasts until sundown on Thursday, Jan. 2. On Hanukkah, pork or shellfish is not allowed, and Jews will also not mix meat and dairy in the same meal.
Buddhist Religious Holidays
Buddhism also known as Buddha Dharma is one of the world's largest religions and originated 2,500 years ago. The principles of this belief system are karma, rebirth, and impermanence. Buddhists observe many special days of celebration that are generally centered around remembering the Buddha and his teachings.
1. Buddhist New Year ( Losar)
Buddhist New Year is the time when Buddhist people focus on purifying their homes in observance of a fresh new start. People will bring offerings to monasteries, light lanterns for good luck, and honor their ancestors. Delicious meals are prepared and gifts are exchanged with family and friends.
In Theravada Buddhism, it is celebrated for three days after the first full moon in April. In the Mahayana tradition, it is celebrated during the first full moon in January. Whereas, Tibetan Buddhists celebrate the New Year in March.
2. Magha Puja
Magha Puja Day is when Buddhist people pay tribute to an important event in the life of the Buddha, in which the four disciples traveled to join the Buddha. Magha Puja marks a crucial three days for Buddhists and is celebrated in many Buddhist countries.
On this day people exchange gifts, light oil lamps, chant, meditate, attend temple for special observances, and participate in Buddhist activities. This religious holiday will be celebrated on February 24, 2024.
Vesak also known as Buddha Jayanti, Buddha Purnima, Buddha's birthday, or Buddha's Day is a religious holiday today. This day is celebrated to remember the birth, enlightenment, and death of Siddhartha Gautama, who is commonly known as Buddha.
Buddhist followers will visit monasteries before dawn, and participate in mantras and ceremonies. On this day, Buddhists aim to practice noble acts that will help them set on the path of enlightenment. It will be celebrated on May 23, 2024.
4. Dharma Day
Dharma Day pays tribute to that important moment in Buddhism i.e. teaching of the Dharma, and the start of the first Buddhist Sangha. In celebration, Buddhists will attend lectures on the Dharma, and visit their monasteries to pray.
Dharma Day in 2024 is on the 21st of July. Many will meditate on Buddha's writings and the principles of Buddhism so that someday they can also travel through the same path as Buddha and achieve enlightenment.
5. Pavarana And The Kachina Ceremony
The Kachina ceremony is held during the Pavarana celebration and honors the relationship between the monastic and the layperson. When the monks return to town after Vassa, Buddhist followers will provide them with bedding, clothing, and other necessities to welcome them back.
On this day Buddhists will also donate generous amounts of money to charity to help the poor and build monasteries. It is celebrated on Aashvin's full moon (around September) of the lunar month.
Hindu Religious Holidays
Hinduism is built on the ideology that festivity, celebration, joy, and happiness are essential for the all-round development of humanity. So, you get to see many festivals celebrated in the Hindu religion. Here are some major religious Hindu holidays that you must know about.
1. Maha Shivaratri
Maha Shivaratri is an extremely important Hindu festival. The festival celebrates the wedding of Lord Shiva and Devi Parvati, and the occasion that Lord Shiva performed his divine dance, called the Tandava.
Normally people observe fast on this day and chant “Aum Nama Shivaya.” Unmarried women observe fast on this day so that they are also able to find a husband like Lord Shiva. Maha Shivaratri religious holiday will be celebrated on 8th March 2024.
2. Krishna Janmashtami
Krishna Janmashtami is another popular Hindu festival which celebrates the birth of Lord Krishna. It is celebrated on the 8th day of Krishna Paksha which mostly falls in August or September. In 2024 it will be celebrated on August 26.
People celebrate this day by decorating the Temples of Lord Krishna and bhajans are done at midnight, as Lord Krishna was born at midnight. They also observe fast on this day to remain pure.
3. Navratri And Dussehra
Navratri is a nine-day festival where Hindus worship all the avatars of Goddess Durga. The tenth day of the festival is known as Dussehra or "Vijayadashami", which celebrates the victory of Lord Rama over the demon king Ravana of Lanka.
Most Hindus during Navratri fast for nine days and pray for the well-being of their family members. It is celebrated in the lunar month of Ashwin which in 2024, will start from Oct 3rd to Oct 12.
Diwali or 'Deepawali' is the most popular Hindu festival known as the festival of lights. Diwali is a five-day festival which begins with the celebration of Dhanteras. It will be celebrated on November 1st, 2024.
Diwali is a symbol of 'victory of good over evil' as Lord Rama won over the demon king of Lanka, Ravana. It marks the return of Lord Rama to Ayodhya after serving 14 years in exile in the forest.
Holi is the most colorful and happening festival which is celebrated with color, water, and joy by almost every Hindu around the world. It is celebrated on the full Moon day in the month of Falgun, which is on March 25, 2024, in India.
People believe that the Holi Festival was originally a ceremony for married women to spread prosperity and goodwill to their new families Another belief is that it celebrates the eternal love of the deities Radha and Krishna.
Islamic Religious Holidays
Islam is another major religion in the world, with over 1.8 billion followers. Islamic festivals or holidays are an essential part of the Islamic culture. They allow Muslims to strengthen their faith in Allah and connect with their community.
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and Muslims worldwide perform fasting, prayer, and reflection. During this time Muslims fast from dawn until sunset, avoiding food, drink, and other physical needs.
The fast is only broken with a meal called Iftar at sunset. It is seen as a time of spiritual reflection, self-improvement, and heightened devotion. In 2024, Ramadan will be celebrated from the evening of Sunday, March 10, 2024, till Tuesday, April 9, 2024.
2. Eid al-Fitr
Eid al-Fitr also known as the festival of breaking the fast, is often celebrated for one day each year at the end of the approximately 30-day month
of Ramadan. In 2024, it starts at sundown on Tuesday, April 9th.
This religious day today is a time of joy and celebration for Muslims. They attend special prayers and spend time with friends and family. Eid al-Fitr is an occasion for giving to charity and to show gratitude for all the blessings.
3. Eid al-Adha
Eid al-Adha is celebrated at the end of the Hajj( Hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam and is an obligatory religious duty for Muslims). It is a tribute to the willingness of the Prophet Ibrahim to sacrifice his son to show his obedience towards God.
Eid al-Adha is celebrated from 4 to 12 days at the end of the Hajj depending on the country. It is expected to fall on June 17, 2024. Although all Eid holidays are important for Muslims, they generally consider Eid al-Adha the holiest festival.
For the Shia Muslims, the Asura festival commemorates the martyrdom of Hussein, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad, at the Battle of Karbala. It is observed on the 10th day of Muharram which is the first month of the Islamic calendar.
For Sunni Muslims, Ashura is the day when Prophet Moses and the Children of Israel were protected from Pharaoh's tyranny by crossing the Red Sea. On this day they fast and thank Allah for always protecting them.
Mawlid al-Nabi is a religious holiday celebration of the birth of the Prophet Muhammad. It is observed by Sunni Muslims on the 12th day of Rabi al-Awwal which is the third month of the Islamic calendar.
Its legitimacy has always been a topic of major debate within Muslim groups, but it is recognized by most of Islam followers and is a national holiday in most Muslim-majority countries.
Pagan Religious Holidays
Paganism is a term first used in the fourth century by early Christians to address people in the Roman Empire. These people practiced polytheism, or ethnic religions other than Judaism. Here are some major Pagan holidays.
1. Imbolc (Spring Begins)
Imbolc is a time of transition as the first signs of spring begin to emerge. It signifies the gradual return of light and life. Because of this, it's a time to contemplate renewal and prepare the land for the upcoming agricultural season. It falls on 1st or 2nd February.
The Imbolc festival is deeply connected to Celtic and Gaelic traditions and honors the Celtic goddess Brigid (or Saint Brigid in Christian lore), who represents the divine feminine and is associated with healing and the hearth.
2. Beltane (May-Day)
Beltane religious holiday is always celebrated on May 1st in the Northern Hemisphere. The name "Beltane" is believed to be of Celtic origins. Beltane festivals are deeply connected to historic traditions that honor the union of the god and goddess, symbolizing the creative forces of life.
Beltane's significance lies in its focus on life's prosperity and the renewal of the land. Pagans celebrate the blooming of flowers, the Earth's fertility, and the ripening of crops embracing the season of growth.
3. Litha (Summer Solstice)
Litha is celebrated on the summer solstice that falls between June 20th and 23rd in the Northern Hemisphere. It is usually the longest day of the year when the sun reaches its peak strength. Litha is a time of light, warmth, and the celebration of life's riches.
Performing Litha rituals often involves fire which symbolizes the sun's strength. It may also include bonfires or the lighting of candles. On this religious day for Pagans, they gather to bask in the sun's rays, paying homage to the life-giving.
4. Samhain (The New Year)
Samhain is a religious holiday today celebrated on October 31st. This festival signifies the end of the harvest season in the pagan Wheel of the Year. It holds profound significance for pagans and it is considered a most spiritually significant time of the year.
Samhain is usually linked to the modern celebration of Halloween. As Christianity spread and merged with pagan traditions, the ancient festival of Samhain became intertwined with Christian rituals, including All Saints' Day on November 1st.
5. Yule (Winter Solstice)
Yule, a significant religious holiday today in the pagan Wheel of the Year, is a celebration of the winter solstice that marks the longest night of the year. It falls between December 20th and 23rd in the Northern Hemisphere.
Yule symbolizes the rebirth of the sun and announces the return of light for longer days. Pagans people view this moment as a time of hope and renewal. They reflect on the cyclical nature of life and the continuous journey of birth, growth, and regeneration.