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Faith Traditions: Religious Observances and Holidays

Different Faith Traditions

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

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 reformjudaism.org glossary.  (Text from Reformjudaism.org)


September/October

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 celebreate 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.

Current information in this section isprovided as an example only and is taken from https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/4457/jewish/How-To-Celebrate-Sukkot.htm . Crystal will provide information to be pubished.


More information coming soon.


More information coming soon.


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 officeholidays.com).


More information coming soon.


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. The Hebrew word Chanukah means “dedication,” and is thus named because it celebrates the rededication of the Holy Temple. At the heart of the festival is the nightly menorah lighting. On the first night, just one flame is lit; on the second night, an additional flame is lit. By the eighth night of Chanukah, all nine lights are kindled. 


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. 


More information coming soon.

Spring Semester

February

"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 http://afe.easia.columbia.edu/special/china_general_lunar.htm and https://chinesenewyear.net.  Happy New Year!  Xīn nián kuài lè! 


February

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  www.bahai.org.  

For more information on the Holy Days themselves, one can visit the website of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of the United States at https://www.bahai.us/events/holy-days/


Commemorated at UD in February

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. Held in February, on the campus of the University of Dayton, students and community members are invited to journey through the MAAFA by engaging with cultural artifacts and stories of celebration and resilience. The Commemoration will also highlight a ceremony of reflection and healing, including musical performances, spoken word, communion, and a ritual of libations.


March

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.

https://cmes.fas.harvard.edu/files/NowruzCurriculumText.pdf

https://bahaiteachings.org/welcome-to-the-bahai-new-year-naw-ruz/


March

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.


March/April

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.


March/April

More information coming soon.


February/March/April

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 sunrise, 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.


April/May

More information coming soon.


Summer Semester

More information coming soon.

 

May/June/July

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.