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Faith Traditions: Religious Observances and Holidays

As a Catholic university, the University of Dayton strives to be a place where people of all religious traditions live, learn, and deepen their faith.  Many of the world’s religious traditions are represented in the University of Dayton campus community.  On this page you will find information about many of the religious observances and holidays celebrated by members of our campus community. If you have a suggestion for an observance that is not included on this page, please contact Crystal Sullivan.

For recommendations for the campus community to support observance of diverse faith traditions, please visit our Religious Accommodations page.

Fall Semester 2023

The Feast of the Assumption is a Marian feast day observed in both Catholic and Orthodox Churches on August 15 to commemorate the Blessed Virgin Mary being taken up (assumed) bodily into heaven.  Like all Marian feast days, the Assumption points us to experience more deeply truths about Christ.  On this day, Catholics celebrate Christ’s promise of eternal life and our own bodily resurrection. In normal conditions, this day is considered a Holy Day of Obligation for attending Mass. You can read more about the feast day on the University of Dayton Marian Library's All About Mary website or watch this short video to learn more about the importance of Mary in the Catholic Church.

September/Early October

Rosh HaShanah is the Jewish New Year festival, held on the first (also sometimes the second) day of Tishri (usually in September). It is marked by the blowing of the shofar, and begins the ten days of penitence culminating in Yom Kippur.  

Rosh HaShanah (literally, “Head of the Year”) is a time of prayer, self-reflection, and t'shuvah. The faithful review their actions during the past year, and look for ways to improve self, community, and our world in the year to come. The holiday marks the beginning of a 10-day period, known as the Yamim Nora-im (“Days of Awe” or “High Holidays”), ushered in by Rosh HaShanah and culminating with Yom Kippur (the “Day of Atonement”). Rosh haShanah is widely observed by Jews throughout the world, often with prayer and reflection in a synagogue. There also are several holiday rituals observed at home.

Rosh HaShanah is celebrated on the first day of the Hebrew month of Tishrei, which – because of differences in the solar and lunar calendar – corresponds to September or October on the Gregorian or secular calendar. Customs associated with the holiday include sounding the shofar, eating a round challah, and tasting apples and honey to represent a sweet New Year.  

Yom Kippur is considered the holiest day on the Jewish calendar. This is the moment in Jewish time when Jews dedicate mind, body, and soul to reconciliation with fellow human beings, themselves, and God, committing to self-reflection and inner change in the new year, then turning to God to ask for forgiveness. The Yom Kippur liturgy reads, “And for all these, God of forgiveness, forgive us, pardon us, and grant us atonement.”  Yom Kippur is also observed through fasting, communal worship, familial prayer, and the sounding of the shofar. Work is forbidden on both days.

To share greetings with Jewish friends, students, and colleagues:  On Rosh HaShanah, we can say “Shanah tovah um’tukah,” which means “May you have a good and sweet new year.” The greeting can be shortened to “Shanah tovah” (“A good year”). 

Special greetings on Yom Kippur include “g’mar chatima tovah,” which means, “May you be inscribed (or sealed) for good [in the Book of Life],” and “tzom kal,” which is used to wish others an “easy fast.”  

You can learn more about terms to use during the High Holidays in the glossary.  (Text from


Mid-Autumn Festival, a fall (or autumn) festival celebrated in China and other countries throughout East Asia. It is celebrated on the 15th day of the 8th month of the Chinese lunar calendar.  

Mid-Autumn Festival, also known as the Moon Festival, is the second largest festival in China, taking its name from the fact that it is always celebrated in the middle of the autumn season. The name, Moon Festival, comes from the moon being the roundest and brightest during this time of year. Ancient Chinese observed that the moon had a close relationship with changes in seasons and agricultural production. To give their thanks to the moon, and celebrate the full harvest, they offered sacrifice to the moon during autumn days. Common sacrifice is now demonstrated in late night gatherings to gaze at the beauty of the full moon.  

Some believe the full moon is a symbol of peace, prosperity, and a time for family gatherings. Celebrations for Mid-Autumn festival include outdoor reunions among friends and family to honor cultural and regional customs. Among these customs is eating large meals, burning incense, large performances, carrying or displaying brightly lit lanterns, and eating mooncakes. Mooncakes are the most popular celebration of the day. Mooncakes are traditional Chinese pastries made of flour with sweet or savory fillings. The mooncakes are a symbol of the family reunion, and the cake is traditionally cut into pieces that equal the number of people in a family.  

Sukkot (September/October)

Sukkot is a weeklong Jewish holiday that comes five days after Yom Kippur. Sukkot celebrates the gathering of the harvest and commemorates the miraculous protection provided for the children of Israel when they left Egypt. Sukkot is celebrate by dwelling in a foliage-covered booth (known as a sukkah) and by taking together the “Four Kinds” (arba minim), four special species of vegetation.

The first two days of the holiday are yom tov, when work is forbidden, candles are lit in the evening, and festive meals are preceded by Kiddush and include challah dipped in honey.

The intermediate days are quasi holidays, known as Chol Hamoed. Particpants dwell in the sukkah and take the Four Kinds every day of Sukkot (except for Shabbat, when they do not take the Four Kinds).

The final two days are a separate holiday: Shemini Atzeret / Simchat Torah.

More information

Dia de los Muertos, Day of the Dead, is a traditional celebration that originated within indigenous groups such as the Aztecs and Toltecs thousands of years ago. Life and death are at the center of this celebration as families gather to remember, share stories of, and leave gifts for their deceased loved ones. In this tradition, death is not seen as the end to one’s life, but a beginning to a new chapter of life. Family members gather together over a couple of days to prepare gifts and foods for the altar set in place to honor their loved ones. Altars (ofrendas) provide a physical space for others to express their love and reverence for their ancestors. One can typically find photos of the late family member, flowers, calaveras (sugar skulls), candy, home-cooked meals, small trinkets or toys, rosaries, crosses, and so much more. Often the items or foods placed at the altar are the known favorites of the person they are honoring and awaiting. Every one of these items are intentionally set on the altar and hold different meanings. Altars and decor for this celebration are often brightly colored, eccentric, and hold the essence of a fun party. Many may consider the party-environment to be a bit off putting given the circumstance of the celebration, but this is just another testament to the joy that comes alive as people come together to witness the beauty involved in the continued journey of life into death. 

We now celebrate Dia de los Muertos on November 1st - 2nd, but this has not always been the timeline for the tradition. The festivities initially took place over a period of time or a season as some may call it. It wasn’t until the 16th-century arrival of the Spanish conquistadors who thought the indigenous celebration had some essence of the Catholic faith traditions at the time. The tradition was then consolidated down to Nov. 1st - 2nd which, in the Catholic faith, is All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day. Many scholars say the more modern observances of Dia de los Muertos have indigenous roots with European influences likely as a result of colonization and growing assimilation. Celebrations of Dia de los Muertos have expanded beyond Mexico to other Latin American countries and to many LatinX-populated places in the United States. We are invited to learn more about the traditions and how they are similar and different to our Catholic beliefs. We are also invited to be cautious and reverent in any celebrations we may partake in on behalf of this tradition. Be mindful of cultural appropriation and use this as an opportunity to learn more about your own culture and beliefs around death as well.

For more information, you can visit

On November 1st, the Roman Catholic Church celebrates the Solemnity of All Saints. On this day, all of the Saints, but especially those who do not have their own designated day, are remembered and appreciated for their witness of faith. Whether by humble witness, outlandish example, heroic death, or something entirely different, these are the ancestors in faith that are recalled in our Christian family memory and whose lives are used to inspire our personal paths to holiness.

Diwali is the ancient Hindu "Festival of Lights”.  Diwali is one of the most important Hindu festivals and also holds significance in the traditions of Sikhism and Jainism. Diwali celebrates the triumph of good over evil, purity over impurity, light over darkness. 

Diwali extends over five days, in which Hindu's and others prepare by cleaning, renovating and decorating their homes. Diwali night is spent praying, feasting, wearing fine clothing and exchanging gifts with family and close friends. It is a happy time where celebrants reflect on the spiritual significance of the triumph of good over evil. Representations of light are seen everywhere during Diwali! Fireworks, candles and lanterns are all major components of the celebration. It is believed that deceased relatives come back to visit families during the festival and the lights guide their way home. It is a holiday of giving, with small and large gifts alike bestowed to loved ones.
Diwali has ancient rituals and traditions rooted in Hinduism. It’s most popular in India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, and many other areas around the world. Although the nature of Diwali’s celebration varies from region to region, these unique traditions ensure a happy holiday filled with love, sharing, and self-reflection - a time of rejoicing and renewal.
For more information about Diwali, visit here. (some text adapted from

The Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of Mary is December 8th. This Holy Day commemorates the conception of Mary, conceived without the original sin of Adam and Eve so as to be the perfect “ark of the covenant.” 

More information about the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception can be found here:

Late November/December

Chanukah or Hanukkah is the Jewish eight-day, wintertime “festival of lights,” celebrated with a nightly menorah lighting, special prayers and fried foods. 

In the second century BCE, against all odds, a small band of faithful but poorly armed Jews, led by Judah the Maccabee, defeated one of the mightiest armies on earth, drove the Greeks from the land, reclaimed the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and rededicated it to the service of G‑d. 

When they sought to light the Temple's Menorah (the seven-branched candelabrum), they found only a single cruse of olive oil. Miraculously, they lit the menorah and the one-day supply of oil lasted for eight days, until new oil could be prepared under conditions of ritual purity.

To commemorate and publicize these miracles, the sages instituted the eight day festival of Chanukah, centered around the lighting of a menorah each night.  

The menorah holds nine flames, one of which is the shamash (“attendant”), which is used to kindle the other eight lights. A menorah is lit, one candle each night, in every household (or even by each individual within the household) and placed in a doorway or window. The menorah is also lit in synagogues and other public places. Special blessings are recited, often to a traditional melody, before the menorah is lit, and traditional songs are sung afterward.

The Hallel prayer is recited daily, and V’Al HaNissim is added in daily prayers and in the Grace After Meals, to offer praise and thanksgiving to G‑d for “delivering the strong into the hands of the weak, the many into the hands of the few ... the wicked into the hands of the righteous.”

Since the Chanukah miracle involved oil, it is customary to eat foods fried in oil such as the potato latke (pancake) and the jelly-filled sufganya (doughnut).

Playing a game with a “dreidel” (a four-sided spinning top bearing the Hebrew letters nungimmelhei and shin, an acronym for nes gadol hayah sham, “a great miracle happened there”) is enjoyed during this time as is the tradition to give Chanukah gelt, gifts of money, to children. In addition to rewarding positive behavior and devotion to Torah study, the cash gifts give the children the opportunity to give tzedakah (charity).

For more information visit

Many are familiar with the Christian story of the birth of Jesus. But what does it mean? Christmas, the celebration of the incarnation, marks the revelation of God becoming human. The incarnation reveals a generous, courageous, loving God.  This act of love - becoming one with  us -  affirms the goodness of creation and the potential of humanity to embody love – as Jesus did with his life.   Christmas calls us to fully embrace Jesus’ presence among us, by fully embracing unconditional love. Put in the language of the season - we long to encounter and to embody true joy, peace, hope, and unity - love.

For Catholics, the Christmas season begins on the Eve of Christmas and extends until the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, this year on January 10.  Christmas trees, nativity scenes, gift giving, worship and celebrations with family and friends (often with special foods reflective of family history and culture) are traditions of this season. 

The celebration of Kwanzaa consists of aspects of several different harvest celebrations that span the continent of Africa. Many celebrations include dances, African drums, a traditional meal, storytelling and poetry readings.

The seven-night remembrance centers around the family and includes the lighting of a candle each night and discussion of its corresponding principle. An African feast, called a Karamu, is held on December 31.

The Seven Principles of Kwanzaa

Unity:Umoja (oo–MO–jah)
To strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation, and race.

Self-determination: Kujichagulia (koo–gee–cha–goo–LEE–yah)
To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves, and speak for ourselves.

Collective Work and Responsibility: Ujima (oo–GEE–mah)
To build and maintain our community together and make our brother’s and sister’s problems our problems and to solve them together.

Cooperative Economics: Ujamaa (oo–JAH–mah)
To build and maintain our own stores, shops, and other businesses and to profit from them together.

Purpose: Nia (nee–YAH)
To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.

Creativity: Kuumba (koo–OOM–bah)
To do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it.

Faith: Imani (ee–MAH–nee)
To believe with all our heart in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders, and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.

7 Symbols

Mazao: the crops (fruits, nuts, and vegetables)
Mkeka: Place Mat 
Vibunzi: Ear of Corn
Mishumaa Saba: The Seven Candles
Kinara: The Candleholder
Kikombe Cha Umoja: The Unity Cup
Zawadi: Gifts

For more information visit The Official Kwanzaa website:

Spring Semester 2024

This celebration of the tenth and last living prophet of the Sikhs is marked by busting firecrackers, lighting lamps and diyas and visiting the sacred Gurudwaras (worship assemblies). All who come to the Gurudwara from every caste, religion and creed are invited to join in Langar—a large community meal intended to unite all together.

Learn about Guru Singh.


"Spring Festival", as it’s referred to in China, is a multi-day celebration that emphasizes family, food, and other centuries old customs and traditions. While these customs and traditions vary from region to region, some elements are universal. For example, people will spend lavishly on gift giving, decoration, food, and clothing. It is also common for families to clean their houses in order to sweep away any ill-fortune. Windows and doors are often decorated with intricate hand cut paper designs and calligraphy representing popular new year's themes of "good fortune", "happiness", "wealth", and "longevity." On Lunar New Year's Eve, families gather together for a reunion dinner. Families will often end the night by setting off firecrackers. Early the next morning, children will pay respects to their parents, wishing them a healthy and happy new year, and in turn receive gifts. These gifts often come in the form of money placed in a red envelope, a traditionally fortuitous and beloved color.

To return home to take part in this dinner and other new year's activities is an expectation -- even an obligation -- for many, which results in the world's largest annual human migration. Millions of people will drive, fly, and/or take a train, enduring countless hours and days of difficult travel, to reach their ancestral homes to pay respects to their families.  

For more information about Lunar New Year, including origin, food, customs, and more, see and  Happy New Year!  Xīn nián kuài lè! 

Ash Wednesday

In the Christian tradition, Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent, a period of 40 days of fasting, reflection, and almsgiving leading up to Easter. In ancient times, ashes were a sign of mourning and repentance–they were a sign of humility and true desire to turn away from sinful ways. In the Old Testament, there are accounts of persons wearing ashes on their heads, putting them in their drinks and/or sitting in a pile of ashes to demonstrate their sorrow.

Today, this ancient tradition is observed by both Catholic and Protestant Christians. Using ashes moistened with holy oil, a religious leader (Priest, Pastor, Liturgical Minister) will use their thumb to make the shape of a cross on the foreheads of believers. This outward sign of repentance reminds us of our mortality with the words, ”From dust you were formed, to dust you will return.” or the call to conversion in Christ with “Repent, and believe in the Gospel.” Catholics observe the day as an obligatory day of fasting and abstinence from meat. Similarly, many Protestant Christians also fast on this day from sunrise to sunset. Catholics also participate in the Sacrament of Reconciliation or Penance during the season of Lent, as a sign of repentance and conversion in faith. 


During Lent, Christians often give up certain luxuries or habits as a form of self-discipline and spiritual growth.It is a time for prayer, repentance, and seeking forgiveness, as well as a reminder of Jesus Christ's sacrifice and resurrection. Lent is observed by Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox Christians. While particular observations vary, the meaning and purpose is the same: It is a time for prayer, repentance, and seeking forgiveness, as well as a reminder of Jesus Christ's sacrifice and resurrection.

Lent typically lasts for 40 days, representing the time Jesus spent fasting in the wilderness.  Lent begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Holy Saturday, just before Easter Sunday.

During Lent, Catholics observe a period of fasting, attend special religious services, and devote extra time to prayer, participate in special acts such as almsgiving and works of charity as a means of spiritual preparation for Easter. The Lenten journey is seen as an opportunity for self-examination, repentance, and drawing closer to God, ultimately leading to a deeper appreciation of the Paschal mystery and the resurrection of Jesus Christ on Easter Sunday.

Protestant Christian observance of Lent varies widely across denominations and individual beliefs. While some Protestant churches do not formally recognize Lent, many others incorporate elements of this season into their worship practices. Lent in Protestant traditions often emphasizes spiritual reflection, repentance, and preparation for Easter through prayer, fasting, giving, and serving. Some Protestant denominations may also hold special services or gatherings during Lent to commemorate Jesus Christ's journey to the cross and resurrection. 

Orthodox Christianity uses the Julian Calendar to determine religious observances. The Great Lent season continues through Orthodox Easter


During February, members of the Baha’i tradition celebrate Ayyám-i-Há, or “Days of Ha,” These days are devoted to spiritual preparation for the month long fast, Alá that follows. These days are festive times in the community, characterized by hospitality, charity, service and gift-giving. They are celebrated during the four or five days before the last month of the Baha’i year (which follows a lunar calendar).  During Alá, the period of fasting, Baha’is are obligated to suspend consumption of food and water from sunrise to sunset for 19 days.  The period of fasting ends with the celebration of Naw-Ruz on Mar 20 or 21.  Members of the UD community are invited to be conscious of those fasting during this time and can refer to UD’s practices for religious accommodation for suggestions on how to support one another or ask for support.  To understand more about the Baha’i tradition, please visit  

The Maafa, which means “great tragedy” in Kiswahili, refers to the Transatlantic Slave Trade period, where historians estimate that close to 12 million Africans were captured and brought to the Americas. The first Maafa commemoration was held in 1995 at St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church in Brooklyn, NY. This commemoration was envisioned as a vehicle through which African Americans had the opportunity to “grapple with the ravages and vestiges of slavery”. Over the years communities have adopted the Maafa commemoration as a path of healing and empowerment through storytelling, lectures, dances, dramatic reenactments, spoken word, and a ritual of libations.

Held in February as part of Cultural Heritage Week, the University of Dayton, students and community members are invited to journey through the Maafa by engaging with cultural artifacts, the making of Abayomi dolls, and stories of celebration and resilience.

Maha Shivaratri, a significant Hindu festival, is dedicated to Lord Shiva, one of the principal deities in Hinduism. Lord Shiva is the deity of transformation, meditation, and destruction. With a third eye symbolizing inner knowledge, he is often depicted as a meditating ascetic or as Nataraja, the cosmic dancer. Shiva embodies the duality of creation and destruction, symbolizing the cyclical nature of the universe.

This celebration typically falls in the Hindu month of Phalguna, which corresponds to February or March in the Gregorian calendar and  involves various rituals and traditions: Fasting, Night Vigil, Temple Visits, Worship of Shiva Lingam, Hymns and Mantras, and Bonfires. The lighting of lamps and bonfires signifies the victory of light over darkness, symbolizing the triumph of good over evil.

For Hindus this celebration is a time for Spiritual Renewal, cleansing one's sins, purifying the soul, and facilitating spiritual growth and renewal. Unmarried individuals pray to Lord Shiva for an ideal life partner, while married couples seek his blessings for a harmonious and long-lasting marital life. The festival promotes cultural unity among Hindus, fostering a sense of community and shared heritage.

Click the links embedded and below to learn more about Maha Shivaratri and Hinduism.

The University of Dayton offers Hindu Ministry on campus (see calendar). All prayer services and celebrations are welcoming to those who would like to participate or observe. Stay connected to the Campus Ministry page on 1850 for celebration announcements.

 The Great Night of Shiva

Mahashivaratri - The Inner Significance

 Why Mahashivratri is Celebrated and the Significance of Mahashivratri


Ramadan takes place each ninth month according to the lunar Islamic calendar.  Ramadan is observed by Muslims all around the world as a month of increased devotion and self-discipline and is honored as the most sacred month of the year. During each day of Ramadan, Muslims fast from food and drink from sunrise to sunset.

Ramadan is regarded as one of the Five Pillars of Islam and a time for cleansing the soul and strengthening spiritual bonds.  The Arabic word for “fasting” (sawm) means “to refrain” and refers to refraining not only from food and drink but also negative actions, thoughts and words. A day of fasting consists of the first meal before dawn and is broken after sunset, typically with fruit juice or dates.  Although varied across nations, it is common in some Muslim countries to light the streets with lanterns and other lighting effects. Ramadan is also a time of increased devotion.  During Ramadan, Muslims spend additional time daily performing special prayers and in reading the Qur’an.

Eid al-Fitr, also called the “Feast of Breaking the Fast” marks the end of Ramadan. During Eid al-Fitr, it is common to dress in the finest clothing, offer presents to children, visit open areas and entertainment, perform prayer, spend time with family and friends and give a monetary donation to those in need or to the mosque. Find out more information about Ramadan here.


Celebrated in March, Nowruz is the Iranian New Year which is celebrated worldwide. This ancient holiday coincides with the spring equinox, and is celebrated both as a secular holiday and a religious one by members of several different faiths. It remains a holy day for Zoroastrians. The Baha’i celebrate Naw Ruz as New Year’s Day, marking the end of the annual 19-day fast. For Baha’i it is one of the nine holy days of the year when work is suspended and children are exempted from attending school. 

Nowruz, also known as the Persian New Year, marks the first day of the first month (Farvardin) in the Iranian calendar as well as the beginning of spring in the Northern Hemisphere. Families gather together to observe the rituals once the sun crosses the celestial equator and equalizes night and day. Iranians consider Nowruz as their biggest celebration of the year. Before the new year, some people start cleaning their houses (Khaane Tekaani), and may even buy new clothes.

A major New Year ritual is setting the "Haft Seen" with seven specific items. In ancient times, these seven items symbolized the creations and the holy immortals protecting them. Today they are changed and modified but some have kept their symbolism. These seven items usually are referred to as the seven “S’s”: Seeb (apple), Sabze (green grass), Serke (vinegar), Samanoo (a meal made out of wheat), Senjed (a special kind of berry), Sekke (coin), and Seer (garlic). Sometimes instead of Serke they put Somagh (sumak, an Iranian spice). Zoroastrians today do not have the seven items, but they have the ritual of growing seven seeds as a reminder that this is the seventh feast of creation, while their sprouting into new growth symbolized resurrection and eternal life to come. Baha’i celebrate this day as the Springtime of humanity's rebirth.

Orthodox Lent, also known as Great Lent or the Great Fast, is a significant and solemn season observed by the Eastern Orthodox Christian Church. It is a period of fasting, prayer, reflection, and spiritual preparation leading up to Easter, the most important feast in the Orthodox Christian calendar. The origins of Orthodox Lent can be traced back to the early centuries of Christianity when the early Church fathers and leaders sought to establish a period of penance and spiritual discipline to commemorate the 40 days Jesus spent fasting in the wilderness. This season typically begins on Clean Monday, which varies each year but generally falls in late winter or early spring.

During Orthodox Lent, believers undertake a rigorous fast, abstaining from certain foods, including meat, dairy, and eggs. The fast is a symbol of self-denial and spiritual purification, designed to help Orthodox Christians detach from worldly desires and focus on their relationship with God. Alongside fasting, prayer plays a central role, with increased attendance at church services, including the Presanctified Liturgy and the Canon of St. Andrew of Crete. Orthodox Christians also engage in acts of charity and almsgiving, seeking to strengthen their connection with God through acts of love and compassion. Throughout this period, the faithful strive for repentance, seeking forgiveness for their sins and reconciliation with God and one another.

In addition to these customs, the Orthodox Church follows a liturgical calendar that includes special commemorations and themes for each week of Lent. The faithful are encouraged to intensify their spiritual efforts during Holy Week, the final week of Lent, which culminates in the celebration of Pascha (Easter). The midnight Paschal service is the most significant event, where Orthodox Christians joyfully proclaim the resurrection of Christ with the exclamation "Christ is Risen!" Orthodox Lent is a profound and transformative season that fosters spiritual growth, deepens one's faith, and ultimately leads to the glorious celebration of Easter, affirming the central belief of the Christian faith.

Learn more about Great Lent, Orthodox Holy Week, and Pascha by following this link and the links in the article.


Holi is an annual holiday signifying the arrival of spring on the Hindu calendar. On the full moon, or Phalguna Purnima, people take to the streets to drench each other in colored powder and water. A carnival of laughter, play, music, dance and plenty to eat and drink ensues around the brightly colored hordes of people celebrating Holi. On the night before this joyful holiday, the ritual of preparing a Holika bonfire kicks off the activities with song, dance and preparation for the next morning. The burning fire symbolizes the defeat of Holika. The holiday thus celebrates the triumph of good, and makes way for the day of celebrating love, friendship, family and community. After a wild morning, evenings are spent gathering with loved ones.
Holi has ancient rituals and traditions rooted in Hinduism. It is most popular in India, where it is a public holiday in many states, but is also celebrated in Nepal, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and any other areas around the world influenced by Hindu culture. Although the nature of Holi’s celebration varies from region to region, its rich history means an enduring rejoice of love, color, spring and all things good and happy.  Find out more information about Holi here.


Easter and the Paschal Triduum

For Christians, Easter celebrates the resurrection of Jesus - the triumph of life’s victory over death. Easter is a celebration of hope.  God promises victory over death through faith in Jesus, who is the true light of the world.  Because of Jesus, Christians look forward to their own everlasting life.  The victory of life over death also has significance in daily life, in the ways that Christians grow as disciples of Jesus, who accompanies all through the joys and challenges of living in faith.  The Easter season lasts 50 days, through the celebration of Pentecost.  It is a joyful season, signified also by the onset of spring. 

Easter is always on a Sunday.  For most Christians, it falls on the First Sunday on or after the spring equinox.  Orthodox Christians use a different calendar and method to determine the date.  This is why there are two Easter Sundays on the calendar.

In the Catholic tradition, the celebration of Easter follows the Paschal Triduum, “the three days.” These are the summit of the liturgical year, in which the mysteries of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus are celebrated.  Holy Thursday recalls the institution of the Eucharist and its expression in radical service in the Mass of the Lord’s Supper.  A ritual of foot washing is a part of the liturgy for this day.  Good Friday is a solemn day of fasting for Catholics, who venerate the cross (with a touch or a kiss) as they enter into the Lord’s Passion.  The fast continues through the eve of Holy Saturday.  The Easter Vigil, which occurs after dark, celebrates the light of Christ entering salvation history - God’s work in the world from the time of creation.  New members of the faith community are welcomed through baptism on this night.  The celebration of Easter begins with this vigil. 

There are some common and some unique ways of observing Easter among different Christian traditions.  Families worship together, share lamb cakes, hunt for Easter eggs, and more.  The following resources offer more information about the Paschal Triduum, Easter and its origins, and the various ways it is celebrated among Christians.

Eid al-Fitr (Eid) is celebrated in Islam at the conclusion of Ramadan, the holy month of fasting and spiritual reflection. The history of Eid al-Fitr dates back to the time of the Prophet Muhammad, who established it as a day of communal prayer and thanksgiving to Allah. The word "Eid" itself means "festivity" or "holiday," and "Fitr" means "breaking the fast," signifying the end of Ramadan. Eid al-Fitr is a time of forgiveness and reconciliation, and a reminder of the importance of faith and community. 

The observance of Eid al-Fitr begins with Salat al-Eid, a prayer known to offer gratitude to Allah for the strength and patience shown during Ramadan. This prayer is often followed by a sermon that emphasizes the importance of charity, forgiveness, and unity within the Muslim community. 

Eid is a time of joy and celebration, marked by communal feasts and gatherings with family and friends. Special dishes and sweets are prepared and shared, and it's customary for Muslims to dress in their finest clothes for the occasion. Families often exchange gifts, and children receive "Eidi," which are monetary gifts. One of the central customs of Eid is the giving of "Zakat al-Fitr," a form of obligatory almsgiving, to ensure that even the less fortunate are included in the festivities.

Eid al-Fitr is a sacred and joyous celebration that brings together Muslims of all backgrounds to express their devotion to Allah and their bonds of brotherhood and sisterhood.

Learn more about Eid al-Fitr and the preceding holy time of Ramadan by following the links included in this document. Campus Ministry partners with others across campus to sponsor an annual community Eid at the close of Ramadan. All are welcome to share in this joyous and sacred time. Sign up to receive Campus Ministry’s newsletter on1850. 

The celebration of the birth of Guru Nanak is the celebration of the birth of Sikhism. Festivals that are held all over the world include parades in which persons walk through the streets singing hymns and reciting scriptures. Children and youth demonstrate their skills in martial arts to the accompaniment of musical bands. A Langar is served for all. Yellow (thanking God for the wheat harvest) and orange (color of joy) are worn and used to decorate the temples, streets, homes and throughout towns. Special prayers of thanksgiving for the harvest and for a successful new harvest are made by farmers. This celebration is also a day when many Sikhs choose to be baptized into Khalsa.

The Bahá'í Faith celebrates the Festival of Ridvan which commemorates the twelve days during which Bahá'u'lláh, the founder of the Bahá'í Faith, declared His mission as the Promised One of all religions and revealed His divine station. This declaration took place in the Garden of Ridván (Paradise) in Baghdad, Iraq, in 1863. Ridvan, which means "paradise," is derived from the name of the garden where this proclamation occurred.

The Festival of Ridvan spans twelve days during which Bahá'ís around the world come together for prayers, gatherings, and celebrations. On the first day of Ridvan, Bahá'ís commemorate Declaration of Baha’u’llah as a Manifestation of God. The arrival of Bahá'u'lláh's family in the Garden of Ridván after the flooding of the Tigris River is commemorated  on the ninth day. The twelfth day marks Bahá'u'lláh's departure from the garden to begin His exile to Constantinople, symbolizing His sacrifice for the betterment of humanity. The 1st, 9th, and 12th days are Holy Days of Obligation for Baha'is, on which they are required to suspend work.

During the Festival of Ridvan, Bahá'ís engage in acts of prayer, reflection, and community-building. They attend special gatherings in their local communities, where they read from Bahá'í writings, share their experiences, and reinforce their commitment to the principles of the Bahá'í Faith. It is a time of spiritual renewal, joy, and unity, emphasizing the essential teachings of Bahá'u'lláh, which include the oneness of humanity, the elimination of prejudice, and the establishment of peace and justice. 


Passover, celebrated by Jewish people, celebrates God’s role in bringing about both past and future redemption.  It is one of the most important Jewish festivals of the year.  The high point of this festival is the Sedar Meal, when the story of the Exodus is recounted, the time when Moses led the Ancient Israelites into freedom, following years of slavery in Egypt.  

The Seder Meal is a religious service celebrated by families and communities around a dinner table. Special foods are prepared and shared for the ritual of retelling the Exodus story, which Jews are commanded to teach their children.  The Seder plate contains: bitter herbs (often horseradish) to represent the harshness of slavery; charoset, a sweet brown mixture that represents the mortar and brick used by Hebrew slaves; a shankbone representing the passover lamb; a vegetable such as parsley which is dipped in salt water to represent tears of slavery as well as hope and renewal; a roasted or hardboiled egg representing spring and the circle of life; and three pieces of Matzoh representing the unleveaned bread Ancient Hebrews took with them when fleeing Egypt. The themes of physical and spiritual freedom are emphasized, for it is in this freedom that Jewish ancestors received God’s law, the Torah, on Mount Sinai.  The theme of creation is also emphasized through symbols of spring, rebirth, and renewal. Jews journey towards freedom and redemption in their individual lives as well as their lives as a people.  Along with the telling of the Exodus story, families and friends enjoy song, community and conversation about current events, many emphasizing continued commitment to fight for oppressed people’s freedom around the world.   

Christians who seek to celebrate a Seder are wise to accompany Jewish friends or to seek out and attend an Interfaith Seder held in a Jewish community, rather than to appropriate it themselves as an element of Christian history, which it is not.   

Find out more about the themes and traditions of Passover here or here.


Known as Pascha, the Greek word for “Passover,” Easter in the Eastern Orthodox Church (or Orthodox Christian Church) celebrates “the eternal Passover from death to life from earth to heaven.” It is the feast of the Resurrection of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. This feast of feasts is the most significant day in the life of the Church. Easter follows Great Lent which takes place for 40 days, starting on Clean Monday and ending on Lazarus Saturday—when Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. Palm Sunday and Holy Week follow Lazarus Saturday, for a total of 48 days of preparation for the resurrection.

Orthodox Christianity follows the “Julian Calendar” which was designed by Julius Caesar in 45 B.C. Easter in the Orthodox Church always follows the Jewish holiday of Passover because, according to the New Testament, the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ took place after he entered Jerusalem to celebrate Passover. 

Orthodox Easter is celebrated with great joy. A traditional Easter greeting among Orthodox Christians is the Paschal greeting. It begins with the phrase “"Christ ​is Risen!" The response is "Truly; He is Risen!" 

In the Orthodox tradition, eggs are a symbol of new life. Early Christians used eggs to symbolize the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the regeneration of believers. At Easter, some traditions dye eggs red to represent the blood of Jesus that was shed on the cross for the redemption of all humans.

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Summer Semester 2024

The American Civil War began on April 12, 1861 and lasted until General Robert E Lee surrendered in Virginia on April 9, 1985. The war was fought to protect “State’s rights”--specifically, the right to continue owning humans born into enslavement.

On January 1, 1863 President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation which promised freedom for those enslaved in “rebellious states” dependent upon the victory of the Union Army. Texas, however, continued battling until May 13, 1865.

It was on (or about, hence the “teenth”) June 19, 1865 that the enslaved in Texas were finally free. Slavery was abolished (with exceptions) by the ratification of the 13th Constitutional amendment on December 6, 1865.

The first Juneteenth celebration was June 19, 1866 and was originally called “Jubilee Day”. Jubilees are days of religious/spiritual significance. Leviticus 25:1-13 orders the year of Jubilee to be a time of restoration for the land and for those who had lost their property and freedom for those who had been enslaved. Congress passed a resolution establishing Juneteenth as a national holiday; President Biden signed it into law on June 17, 2021. 

While Juneteenth celebrations vary among communities, there is an abundance of food, song, dance, art and speeches with past and present-day relevance. The Juneteenth flag is often displayed as a sign of victory and unity.

Food traditions often include:

  • Cooking over an open fire remembering how the enslaved were forced to cook their own foods outside.
  • Red foods and drinks in remembrance of the millions who died during the four-hundred-year captivity of Africans and their descendants.
  • Side dishes of green foods and those that are “rich” (such as macaroni and cheese) symbolizing growth and prosperity.

Song, dance and art celebrate diverse culture, spirituality, accomplishment and struggle. Speeches often center around the reminder that the struggles for recognition and inclusion persist for Black/African Americans.

Listed below are a few ways an “other” person can celebrate Juneteenth. The most helpful way to honor this day of Jubilee as an “other” is to do the personal, religious, social and political work of antiracism throughout the year.

  • Financially sponsor an event without expectation of inclusion in planning or recognition of the donation. 
  • Attend a celebration in your community and be prepared to make purchases from the vendors present. Be aware to not appropriate clothing/hairstyles in attendance. African attire, jewelry and hairstyles have spiritual and cultural meaning and as such should not be worn as trends, costumes or accessories. 
  • Support Black owned businesses throughout the year. In addition to restaurants and boutiques, include Black authors in your reading list for students/staff, invite Black authors for book talks and speaking engagements. 
  • Become more aware of the political/social struggles in our community and nation. Pick an issue to champion following the leadership of and in partnership with the Black community. 

Although Juneteenth is a day of Jubilee, it should be noted that neither the enslaved nor their descendants have been made whole as prescribed by the ancient text. Resistance against oppression and the fight for justice persists among the joyous celebration of life, culture and resilience. 

Learn more information about Juneteenth at


Eid al-Adha (meaning the Feast (Festival) of Sacrifice) falls on the 10th day of Dhu al-Hijjah, the twelfth and final month in the Islamic calendar, and lasts for three to four days.  Muslims around the world observe this event as one of the most significant holidays of the year. Eid al-Adha is an Islamic festival to commemorate the willingness of Ibrahim (Abraham) to follow Allah's (God's) command to sacrifice his son Ishmael. 

The festival is a time for prayer, sharing meals, handing out gifts and wishing well to one another. During the first morning of Eid al-Adha, Muslims may attend morning prayers at their local mosques. Prayers are followed by visiting with family and friends, and exchanging greetings and gifts. In order to commemorate and remember Abraham's trials, members of a family may visit a local farm or otherwise make arrangements for the sacrifice of an animal, an action that represents the commemoration and remembrance of Abraham's trials. The meat is distributed during the days of the holiday or shortly thereafter. The symbolism of the sacrifice is in the attitude; a willingness to make sacrifices in life.

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