Members of the Smith community observe a variety of religious holidays.
To help you be aware of religious celebrations in traditions that may be different from your own, the following brief descriptions are offered.
- Ascension of Bahá'u'lláh: Commemorates the death of Bahá'u'lláh at Bahji near Akka in Palestine. A major holy day.
- Baha'i 19 Day Fast: Healthy adults abstain from food and drink from sunrise to sunset in preparation for Náw Rúz (Baha'i New Year).
- Birth of the Báb: The anniversary of the birth of the herald of the new ages for Baha'is. As with all of the major Baha'i holy days listed here, work is suspended.
- Birth of Bahá'u'lláh: Anniversary of the birth of the founder of the Baha'i faith. A major holy day.
- Declaration of the Báb: Commemorates the Báb's announcement of His prophetic mission to His first believer, Mullá Husayn-I-Bushrú'i, in 1844. A major holy day.
- Náw Rúz: The New Year falls on the vernal equinox, symbolizing spiritual growth and renewal. A major holy day. Work is suspended on this day.
- Ridvan: The 12-Day Festival of Ridvan commemorates Bahá'u'lláh's public announcement of His mission and His departure from Baghdad in 1863. The name derives from the Najibayyih Garden in Baghdad where Bahá'u'lláh stayed during this period and to which He gave the name Ridvan (Paradise).
- Day of Complete Enlightenment: Commemorates the attainment of the Buddha's liberation and freedom at the age of 35; therefore he becomes a teacher of humankind.
- Hana-matsuri or Flower Festival: Celebrates the birth of the Buddha in the Lumbini Garden in the foothills of the Himalayas.
- Passing into Parinibbana: Observes the passing of the Buddha into parinibbana at the age of 80, surrounded by grieving monks, nuns, lay followers, animals, birds, and nature.
- Vesak: In Southern Asia the Buddhists commemorate jointly the birth, enlightenment, and passing into parinibbana on the full moon day of May.
- Advent: The four weeks preceding Christmas are a time of joyful expectation and waiting for the birth of Christ on Christmas.
- All Saints Day: Commemorates Christian saints known and unknown.
- Ascension Thursday: A commemoration of Jesus' ascension into heaven forty days after Easter. A Holy Day of Obligation for Catholics.
- Ash Wednesday: Marks the beginning of the Lenten season, a seven-week period of repentance preceding Easter Sunday.
- Christmas: The celebration of the birth of Jesus. Christmas is the third most important feast in Christianity, ranking behind Easter and Pentecost. The name is a contraction for Christ's Mass - for the feast is celebrated primarily with a Eucharist. Traditional foods vary with location. Candle-lighting and the decoration of evergreen trees and wreaths are often part of the celebration.
- Easter Sunday: The feast of the resurrection of Jesus is the principal celebration of the Christian year, marked by special services, music and celebration. Easter makes present the triumph of Jesus over death.
- Epiphany: The traditional feast of Twelfth Night - the twelfth day of Christmas. Epiphany, a Greek work, means "manifestation" or "showing forth." The feast commemorates the shining forth of Christ's light to the world.
- Good Friday: A day of fasting to mark the passion and crucifixion of Jesus.
- Holy Thursday: A celebration of Jesus' Last Supper and Jesus' action of washing the feet of the disciples.
- Holy Week: The week preceding Easter.
- Palm Sunday: A commemoration of Jesus' entry into Jerusalem.
- Pentecost: Coming fifty days after Easter, Pentecost celebrates the Holy Spirit's descent upon the disciples of Jesus and marks the birth of the Christian Church.
- Shrove Tuesday: Also called Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday. Traditional day of festivity when all fancy foods are consumed to clear houses for the seven weeks of Lent, which begins the next day. Pancake suppers are customary.
- Vijaydashami: The concluding day of a ten-day festival honouring various goddesses, especially Durga, and Rama, a manifestation of the God Vishnu. The festival is also known as Navaratri ("nine nights") and Durga Puja ("worship of Durga"). Its pervading theme is the victory of good over evil.
- Diwali: The joyous and exciting Festival of Lights. In some parts of India it marks the start of the Hindu New Year.
- Ganesh Chaturthi: Celebrates the birthday of Ganesha, one the major Hindu deities. Ganesha is the God of success, who removes obstacles. He is invoked at the beginning of all new undertakings.
- Mahashivaratri: A celebration in the praise of Lord Shiva. He is the root and support of the universe. He is the creative-regenerative flow of life that rushes through it. Hindus celebrate this holiday with day-long fasting and chanting, followed by a religious service (puja).
- Makar Sankramana/Sankranti: Marks the change from decrease to increase of the sun.
- Kwanzaa: A non-religious holiday that celebrates African-American heritage, pride, community, family, and culture. The seven-day festival commences the day after Christmas and culminates on New Year's Day. The focus of Kwanzaa is centered around the seven principles known by the Swahili phrase "Nguzo Saba." They are: umoja (unity), kujichagulia (self-determination), ujima (collective work and responsibility), ujamaa (cooperative economics), nia (purpose), kuumba (creativity), and imani (faith).
- Yom Hashoa: A new day of fasting and solemn remembrance of the six million Jewish victims of the Holocaust.
- Hanukkah: Commemorates the ancient victory of the Jews over the Greeks and the cleansing of the temple in Jerusalem of idols. A happy holiday characterized by gift-giving and the eating of latkes (potato pancakes) and doughnuts.
- Pesach or Passover: An eight-day commemoration of the exodus of the Hebrew people from Egypt and a celebration of the coming of spring and the liberation from winter. No leaven can be eaten during the entire period; certain vegetables, such as legumes, are also forbidden. Packaged food -- which often includes matzoh, eggs, stuffed fish, chicken, chicken soup, macaroons and matzoh balls -- must be "kosher for Passover." The first two days are marked by special meals called sedorim. The final two days are also observed with religious services in the synagogue.
- Purim: A celebration of the rescue of the Jews from the evil plans of wicked Haman. Marked by a festive reading of the biblical book of Esther, costume parties, noisemaking and general merriment, its special dishes include hamantashen, three-cornered pastries with poppy seeds, dates or fruit. Typical greeting (for this and other holidays): Chag sameach, "a happy holiday."
- Rosh Hashanah: The New Year, which together with Yom Kippur is the most important of Jewish holy days, is marked by two days of prayer, meditation, soul-searching and acts of repentance in synagogue and home. Apples and honey are eaten to encourage a sweet year. Greeting: Shana tova umetooka, "a good and sweet year."
- Shavuot: A two-day "feast of weeks" commemorating the revelation of the law at Sinai. It also marks the festival of first fruits (Chag Habbikurim), when first fruits were brought to the temple in Jerusalem. Synagogue and home celebrations with dairy foods characterize this holiday. It is one of the three equally important pilgrimage festivals, the others being Succoth and Passover.
- Simchat Torah: This joyous family occasion, its name translated as "Rejoicing in the Law," commemorates with songs, dance, study and worship the end of one annual cycle of study of the Torah (the five books of Moses) and the beginning of another.
- Sukkot: A joyous, eight-day harvest festival. The first two and last two days are spent in worship in synagogue. Booths ("sukkot" in Hebrew) are built and decorated with fruit of the harvest. Special dishes largely based on fruits and vegetables are eaten. The final two days are called Hashanah Rabba, "The Great Hosannah."
- Yom Kippur: The Day of Atonement, the single most important Jewish holy day. Twenty-four hours of fasting and prayer, with the synagogue as the center of observance.
- Eidul Adha: A commemoration of the Prophet Abraham's sacrifice in the name of Allah. It marks the end of the period of the traditional Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca.
- Eidul Fitr: A day of celebration immediately following the last day of Ramadan.
- Lailat al Qadr: The night (commonly believed to be that of the 27th of Ramadan) on which the Holy Quran was revealed as a mercy to humankind. Prayer on this night of peace brings the Muslim the same reward as a thousand months of prayer.
- Ramadan: The ninth month of the Muslim lunar calendar in which Muslims fast daily from dawn to sunset to develop piety and self-restraint.
- Elevation of the Cross: Celebrates the finding of the true Cross on which Christ was crucified for the forgiveness of sins.
- Great Lent: Marks the seven-week period of repentance preceding Easter Sunday.
- Orthodox Easter: Festival of the resurrection of Jesus from the tomb, marked by special services, music and celebration.
- Orthodox Holy Week: The week preceding Orthodox Easter.
- Beltaine: Also called May Day. A time for balancing the feminine and the masculine in the sacred marriage of creation and within one's heart and mind for creativity and renewal.
- Imbolc: The Feast of Waxing Light. Many earth-based traditions honor the Goddess as the source of fire, poetry, arts, crafts, agriculture, and smith craft. A time for reflection upon the generative power of the universe.
- Litha: Summer equinox. The longest day of the year, when light and life are abundant. It celebrates the time when the God has reached his greatest strength.
- Lughnassadh: This is a preharvest festival, the turning point in Mother Earth's year. The God enters his old age, symbolically losing some of his strength as nights grow longer.
- Mabon: Autumn equinox; also called Harvest Home. Celebrates life in the seed and in the vine, celebrates the power of the Goddess to transform the sweet nectar of youth into the wisdom of old age and spiritual maturity.
- Ostarra: Spring equinox. The reawakening of new life within the earth and in spiritual power. It is a time for planting crops as well as for 'sowing the seeds' of any new project.
- Samhain: Also known as Hallowmass or the Feast of Hecate; celebrates the Celtic New Year. A time to bid farewell to the souls who have died in the past year.
- Yule: Winter equinox. A celebration of the birth of the God as the Winter-born King, symbolized by the rebirth of the life-generating and life-sustaining sun. It is a time for ritually shedding the dross of the past year, and for contemplating avenues of spiritual development in the year ahead.
- Feast of the Immaculate Conception: This celebration of the Immaculate Conception of Mary celebrates Mary's role in salvation and her having been preserved from all sin from the moment of her conception.
- Mary, Mother of God: Holy Day of Obligation for Catholics.