High Religious & Cultural Dates | 2020 - 2021
As you begin to plan your events for the summer and the next academic year, please keep in mind the following religious/cultural dates of significance below. Each year, ISE publishes this list of dates that have religious/cultural significance and we ask that you be mindful of these in your planning. Particularly for religious or high holy days, some students may be in observance that prevents them from attending various programs and/or classes.
Additionally, we invite you to take advantage of some of the cultural dates of significance and plan programs that speak to these communities around this time to maximize the effectiveness and participation of your program. We do our best to be respectful of all the “big” holidays, but also highlight those that are particularly significant to our student population at RISD.
This is not meant to be an exhaustive list of meaningful religious and cultural dates that comprehensively represents the diversity of the RISD community. If you would like to see any additional dates added to the ISE website, please contact our office.
Questions? Contact our office and/or review our current academic policy on religious accommodations.
Martin Luther King Jr. Day is a federal holiday in the United States marking the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. It is observed on the third Monday of January each year. King was the chief spokesperson for nonviolent activism in the Civil Rights Movement, which protested racial discrimination in federal and state law. It was officially observed in all 50 states for the first time in 2000.
Lunar New Year, Chinese Chunjie, Vietnamese Tet, Korean Solnal, Tibetan Losar, also called Spring Festival, festival typically celebrated in China and other Asian countries that begins with the first new moon of the lunar calendar and ends on the first full moon of the lunar calendar, 15 days later.
Valentine's Day, also called Saint Valentine's Day or the Feast of Saint Valentine, is celebrated annually on February 14. Originating as a Western Christian feast day honoring one or two early saints named Valentinus, Valentine's Day is recognized as a significant cultural, religious, and commercial celebration of romance and romantic love in many regions around the world.
Ash Wednesday is a Christian holy day of prayer and fasting. It is preceded by Shrove Tuesday and falls on the first day of Lent. As it is the first day of Lent, Christians begin Ash Wednesday by marking a Lenten calendar, praying a Lenten daily devotional, and abstaining from a luxury that they will not partake of until Eastertide arrives. Christians continued the practice of using ashes as an external sign of repentance. Tertullian (c. 160 – c. 225) said that confession of sin should be accompanied by lying in sackcloth and ashes. The historian Eusebius (c. 260/265 – 339/340) recounts how a repentant apostate covered himself with ashes when begging Pope Zephyrinus to readmit him to communion.
Māgha Pūjā is the third most important Buddhist festival, celebrated on the full moon day of the third lunar month in Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Sri Lanka and on the full moon day of Tabaung in Myanmar.
Maha Shivratri, which literally translates to "great night of Shiva" is a Hindu festival largely celebrated in India as well as in Nepal. The festival is celebrated on the new moon day in the month of Maagha according to the Hindu calendar. The day is celebrated to venerate Lord Shiva, an important deity in Hindu culture.
Holi is a festival of colors, celebrated primarily in India. The festival falls on the last full moon day of Falgun according to Hindu calendar. It is celebrated sometime in the month of March, usually in the latter half of the month. According to mythology, the festival is celebrates the killing Holika, the sister of Hrinyakashyapu. The festival also holds significance with respect to end of winter season and the onset of summer season.
Mar 16 - Mar 17
Purim is a Jewish festival which is celebrated to commemorate the protection of Jewish people from Haman, according to Hebrew Bible- the Book of Esther. The day is celebrated on the 14th day of the month of Adar according to Jewish calendar. In Jerusalem, the festival is celebrated on the 15th day of Adar.
Mar 24 - Mar 29
Hola Mohalla, also called Hola, is a one day long Sikh festival which normaly falls in the third month of the year which is called march and takes place on the second day of the lunar month of Chett, a day after the Hindu spring festival Holi but sometimes coincides with Holi.
Saint Patrick is the foremost patron saint of Ireland. The day commemorates Saint Patrick and the arrival of Christianity in Ireland, and celebrates the heritage and culture of the Irish in general. Celebrations generally involve public parades and festivals, Irish traditional music sessions, and the wearing of green attire or shamrocks. St Patrick's Day, while not a legal holiday in the United States, is nonetheless widely recognised and observed throughout the country as a celebration of Irish and Irish-American culture. Celebrations include prominent displays of the colour green, religious observances, numerous parades, and copious consumption of alcohol.
Easter, also called Pascha or Resurrection Sunday, is a festival and holiday commemorating the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. In the United States, because Easter falls on a Sunday, which is already a non-working day for federal and state employees, it has not been designated as a federal or state holiday. Easter parades are held in many American cities, involving festive strolling processions, with the New York City parade being the best known. About Easter egg: The egg is an ancient symbol of new life and rebirth. In Christianity it became associated with Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection. The custom of the Easter egg originated in the early Christian community of Mesopotamia, who stained eggs red in memory of the blood of Christ, shed at his crucifixion. As such, for Christians, the Easter egg is a symbol of the empty tomb.The oldest tradition is to use dyed chicken eggs, but a modern custom is to substitute decorated chocolate, or plastic eggs filled with candy such as jellybeans.
Ramadan, also referred as the Fasting month, is observed by Muslims worldwide in the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar year. The Ramadan meaning in Arabic is ‘Scorching heat’ possibly because the holiday falls in a time when the temperatures are quite high in that part of the world. During this holiday, Muslims are not supposed to eat or drink anything from sunrise to sunset given that fasting is one of the five pillars of Islamic principles. They are also instructed to avoid evil thoughts and sinful behavior such as cursing, lying and fighting except in self-defense.
*If you observe Ramadan, reach out to ISE to request dietary accommodations.
Vaisakhi, also known as Baisakhi, Vaishakhi, or Vasakhi is a historical and religious festival in Hinduism and Sikhism. It is usually celebrated on 13 or 14 April every year, which commemorates the formation of Khalsa panth of warriors under Guru Gobind Singh in 1699.
Apr 15 - Apr 23,
Passover or Pesach is a major Jewish holiday and one of the most widely celebrated Jewish holidays. During the existence of the Temple in Jerusalem, Passover was a spring festival that was connected to the offering of the "first-fruits of the barley", as barley was the first grain to ripen and to be harvested in the Land of Israel. Today, in the absence of the Temple, when no sacrifices are offered or eaten, the mitzvah of the Korban Pesach is memorialized in the Seder Korban Pesach, a set of scriptural and Rabbinic passages dealing with the Passover sacrifice, customarily recited after the Mincha (afternoon prayer) service on the 14th of Nisan, and in the form of the zeroa, a symbolic food placed on the Passover Seder Plate (but not eaten), which is usually a roasted shankbone (or a chicken wing or neck). The eating of the afikoman substitutes for the eating of the Korban Pesach at the end of the Seder meal.
Good Friday is a Christian holiday commemorating the crucifixion of Jesus and his death at Calvary. It is observed during Holy Week as part of the Paschal Triduum on the Friday preceding Easter Sunday, and may coincide with the Jewish observance of Passover. It is also known as Holy Friday, Great Friday, and Black Friday. The date of Good Friday varies from one year to the next on both the Gregorian and Julian calendars. Eastern and Western Christianity disagree over the computation of the date of Easter and therefore of Good Friday. Good Friday is a widely instituted legal holiday around the world, including in most Western countries and 12 U.S. states.
Easter as it's commonly celebrated in the United States falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon of the spring equinox, while Orthodox Easter is celebrated on the Sunday after the first full moon after Passover. Both holidays celebrate the resurrection of Jesus within the Christian tradition
Eid al-Fitr marks the end of Ramadan, the Muslim holy month of fasting, and is celebrated during the first three days of Shawwal, the 10th month of the Islamic calendar (though the Muslim use of a lunar calendar means that it may fall in any season of the year). As in Islam’s other holy festival, Eid al-Adha, it is distinguished by the performance of communal prayer at daybreak on its first day. Eid al-Fitr is a time of official receptions and private visits, when friends greet one another, presents are given, new clothes are worn, and the graves of relatives are visited.
Ascension Day also known as the Feast of Ascension is one of the important Christian festivals celebrated in all over the world. This day marks the last appearance of Lord Jesus Christ to his followers after His resurrection at Easter.
On Vesak Day, Buddhists all over the world commemorate events of significance to Buddhists of all traditions: The birth, enlightenment and the passing away of Gautama Buddha. As Buddhism spread from India it was assimilated into many foreign cultures, and consequently Vesak is celebrated in many different ways all over the world. In India, Vaishakh Purnima day is also known as Buddha Jayanti day and has been traditionally accepted as Buddha's birth day.
Juneteenth is a federal holiday in the United States commemorating the emancipation of African-American slaves. It is also often observed for celebrating African-American culture. Juneteenth's commemoration is on the anniversary date of the June 19, 1865, announcement of General Order No. 3 by Union Army general Gordon Granger, proclaiming freedom for slaves in Texas, which was the last state of the Confederacy with institutional slavery.
Jul 19 - Jul 20
Hari Raya Haji is celebrated on the 10th day of the last month of the Islamic Calendar. The day is celebrated to commemorate the sacrifice of Ishamel by Abraham.
Asalha Puja is a Theravada Buddhist festival which typically takes place in July, on the full moon of the month of Āsādha. It is celebrated in Cambodia, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Laos, Myanmar and in countries with Theravada Buddhist populations.
Aug 18 - Aug 19
Muharram refers to the first month of the Islamic Calendar. The complete month of Muharram is sacred according to the Muslims. However, it is the tenth day which is of most significance. Different factions of the Muslim community observe this day for different reasons. While the Shia Muslims celebrate this day to mourn the death of Husayn Ibn Ali, the Sunni Muslims observe this day to celebrate the victory of Moses over Egyptian Pharaoh.
Festivals are the celebration of togetherness in India. They play an important role to build a better society, where positive values flourish and the spirit of co-operation prevails. There are many auspicious days in India, which are celebrating by Indians with a lot of zest and spirit. Rakhi Purnima or Rakha Bandhan is one of them. It is known by various names; Vish Trak - the destroyer of venom, Punya Pradayak- the best ower of boons and the Pap nashak- the destroyer of sins.
Janmashtami, the birthday of Lord Krishna is celebrated with great devotion and enthusiasm in India in the month of July or August. According to the Hindu calendar this religious festival is celebrated on the Ashtami of Krishna Paksh or the 8th day of the dark fortnight in the month of Bhadon.
Sep 6 - Sep 8
Rosh Hashanah, literally meaning "head [of] the year", is the Jewish New Year. Rosh Hashanah customs include sounding the shofar (a cleaned-out ram's horn), as prescribed in the Torah, following the prescription of the Hebrew Bible to "raise a noise" on Yom Teruah. Its rabbinical customs include attending synagogue services and reciting special liturgy about teshuva, as well as enjoying festive meals. Eating symbolic foods is now a tradition, such as apples dipped in honey, hoping to evoke a sweet new year.
Ganesh Chaturthi also known as Vinayaka Chaturthi is one of the important Hindu festivals celebrated throughout India with a great devotion. This day is celebrated as the birthday of Lord Ganesh, the elephant-headed son of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. Lord Ganesh is the symbol of wisdom, prosperity and good fortune.
Sep 15 - Sep 16
Yom Kippur, also known as the Day of Atonement, is the holiest day of the year in Judaism. Its central themes are atonement and repentance. Jews traditionally observe this holy day with an approximate 25-hour period of fasting and intensive prayer, often spending most of the day in synagogue services. For nearly 26 hours people “afflict our souls”: abstain from food and drink, do not wash or apply lotions or creams, do not wear leather footwear, and abstain from marital relations. Instead, people spend the day in synagogue, praying for forgiveness.
The word "Navaratri" means 'nine nights in Sanskrit, nava meaning nine and ratri meaning night. During these ten days we invoke the energy aspect of goddess Durga in the form of universal mother. Navaratri in India follows the lunar calendar and is celebrated in March/April as Chitra Navaratri and in September/October as Sharad Navratri.
Indigenous Peoples' Day is a holiday that celebrates and honors Native American peoples and commemorates their histories and cultures. It is celebrated across the United States on the second Monday in October, and is an official city and state holiday in various localities.
Dussehra, also known as Vijayadashmi, is a major Indian festival celebrated on the tenth day of Ashvin month according to the Hindu calendar. This day falls in the month of September or October. The day culminates a 9 day fasting period of Navratri in the Hindu culture. The day also coincides with immersion of the idol of Goddess Durga. The day is celebrated to commemorate the killing of Ravana by Lord Rama. The day also celebrates the killing of demon Mahishasur by Goddess Durga. Dussehra celebration spreads the message of the victory of good over sin.
Thanksgiving Day bears its origin from the harvest festival. Generally, Americans give thanks to God for their autumn harvest and every other success they have achieved in the year. Thanksgiving Day in the US is observed on the fourth Thursday in November. The day was declared a federal holiday by Abraham Lincoln in 1863. It is also a day off to American workers.
Nov 28 - Dec 8
Hanukkah is known as the festival of lights and the Feast of Dedication celebrated by the Jewish community all over the world. This festival takes place in December every year right around the same time that Christmas is celebrated for non-Jewish Christians. The festival lasts for eight nights where a candle is lit every night on a menorah hence being given the name the festival of lights. The literal meaning of Hanukkah is to dedicate. The Jews regained control of Jerusalem and rededicated the Temple on that day.
Christmas Eve is the evening or entire day before Christmas Day, the festival commemorating the birth of Jesus. Christmas Day is observed around the world, and Christmas Eve is widely observed as a full or partial holiday in anticipation of Christmas Day.
Christmas is an annual holiday celebrated by the Christians, on 25th December, in the major part of the world, to celebrate the Nativity of Jesus Christ. Christians believe that Jesus is the son of God, the Messiah sent from Heaven to save the world.
Dec 26 - Jan 1
Kwanzaa (/ˈkwɑːn.zə/) is an annual celebration of African-American culture that is held from December 26 to January 1, culminating in a communal feast called Karamu, usually held on the 6th day. It was created by Maulana Karenga, based on African harvest festival traditions from various parts of Africa, including West and Southeast Africa. Kwanzaa was first celebrated in 1966.
Epiphany also called Three Kings’ Day, Theophany, Denha, Little Christmas, and Baptism of Jesus is celebrated on January 6th each year according to the Gregorian calendar and what most Western Christian Churches follow. Many Eastern Christian Churches will celebrate Epiphany on January 19th because they follow the Julian calendar.
Serbia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Ukraine, Georgia, Jerusalem and Russia all use the older Julian calendar to determine when to celebrate the day, which is on January 7th currently 13 days after the Gregorian calendar.