Interfaith Glossary

Terms from the Campus Interfaith Calendar

  • All Saints Day: A day to honour Christian saints throughout the ages. (Christianity)
  • Ananta-chaturdasi: Also known as Festival of Ten Virtues, the holiest day of Dashalakshani-parva for the Digambara sect. (Jainism)
  • Asalha: Commemorates the Buddha's first discourse, given to the five monks at the Deer Park at Sarnath, near Varanasi. (Theravada Buddhism)
  • Ascension of Baha'u'llah: The Baha'i community remembers the day of Baha'u'llah's death; believers refrain from work. (Baha'i)
  • Ash Wednesday: A Christian observance to begin the 40 day season of Lent. Ashes are marked on worshippers as a sign of penitence. (Christianity)
  • 'Ashura': For Shi'ite Muslims, 'Ashura', or Muharram, has special importance. It commemorates the martyrdom of Husain, Prophet Muhammad's grandson, in 680 C.E. Observed for ten days  from the first of the month of 'Ashura', the event is a time of great mourning. For Sunni Muslims, 'Ashura' is a time to remember two of Allah's merciful acts: Noah's safe landing after the Flood and the Israelites' liberation from Egypt under Moses. (Islam)
  • Asma': The 9th month of the Baha'i year. (Baha'i)
  • Auditor's Day: A day to recognize "Auditors," Scientology ministers who help others discover their spiritual nature and heritage. (Scientology)
  • Baisakhi: The start of the Hindu new year, upon which greetings that wish good life in coming days are exchanged. For the Sikh tradition, the day commemorates the founding of the Khalsa, a distinctive Sikh brotherhood. (Hinduism)
  • Bandi Chhor Divas: This means "the day of the prisoners' release." It commemorates the return of the sixth Guru, Guru Hargobind Ji, to the holy city of Amritsar after he negotiated the release of himself and 52 princes held for political reasons. Since he was released on the day of Diwali (the Festival of Lights), Sikhs in Amritsar illuminate the city. (Sikhism)
  • Birth of the Bab: The Baha'i celebrartion of the birth of the Bab, the 19th century prophet who announced the coming of Baha'u'llah; work is suspended for the day. (Baha'i)
  • Birth of Baha'u'llah: The Baha'i celebration of the birth of their founder and teacher, Baha'u'llah, on which believers abstain from work. (Baha'i)
  • Birth of Guru Nanek Dev Sahib: The Sikh tradition observes the anniversary of the birth of the founder of their tradition. (Sikhism)
  • Beltane: The Wiccan celebration of the conjoining of the goddess with the energy of the god in the sacred marriage which is the basis of all creation. (Wicca)
  • Bodhi Day: Also known as Buddha Day, celebrates the time when Siddhartha Gautama took his place under the Bodhi tree, vowing to remain there until he attained supreme enlightenment, or nirvana. (Buddhism)
  • Chinese New Year: This day begins a fifteen day Festival for Chinese people of all religions. Family reunions offering thanksgiving and remembrance of departed relatives take place. Traditionally a religious ceremony honors Heaven and Earth.
  • Christmas Day: A Christian celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. Observed by prayers, exchanging of gifts, and family parties.  Note that the Roman Catholic and Protestant observance date varies from the Orthodox observance date. (Christianity)
  • Dussehra: Also known as Dassehra, Vijaya Dashami, Dasara, or Dashain; celebrates the victory of good over evil: of Lord Rama over the demon Ravan, and the Goddess Durga over a demon. It follows the nine-day celebration of Navaratri and Durga Puja (worship), when other goddesses are worshiped. (Hinduism)
  • Dashalakshani-parva: The Digambara sect celebrates for ten days by fasting, worship, meditation, confession, and by dedicating each day to a virtue: forgiveness, humility, honesty, purity, truthfulness, self-restraint, asceticism, study, detachment, and celibacy. (Jainism)
  • Day of the Covenant: A Baha'i celebration of the covenant given in the last will and testament of Baha'u'llah. 'Abdul-Baha, the son of Baha'u'llah, is appointed as the Centre of the Covenant. Baha'is do not suspend work on this day. (Baha'i)
  • Death of Guru Nanak Dev: A Sikh observance of the passing of the first great Guru. (Sikhism)
  • Death of Prophet Zarathustra: The anniversary of the death of Zarathustra (Zoroaster), the founder of the Zarathushti (Zoroastrian) faith. His dates are uncertain: the ancient Greeks dated him at 6000 B.C.E. Modern scholarship suggests he lived in the second millenium B.C.E. Some of his hymns, known as Gathas, are preserved in the Zarathushti scriptures. (Zoroastrianism/Zarathushti)
  • Declaration of the Bab: Baha'i recognition of the declaration in 1844 by Ali Muhammed that he is the anticipated "Coming One" of all religions. Work is suspended. (Baha'i)
  • Diwali: A very popular Hindu festival that is celebrated for five continuous days and is known as the Festival of Lights. It is dedicated to the Goddesses Kali in Bengal and Lakshmi (the Goddess of Wealth) in the rest of India. Diwali is associated with a story about the destruction of evil by Lord Vishnu in one of his many manifestations. Diwali is also celebrated by Sikhs and Jains. (Hinduism, Sikhism, Jainism)
  • Easter: The most holy of Christian sacred days. The day commemorates the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.   Note that the Roman Catholic and Protestant observance date varies from the Orthodox observance date. (Christianity)
  • Eid al Fitr: An Islamic feast marking the close of Ramadan. It is a festival of thanksgiving to Allah for enjoying the month of Ramadan. It involves wearing finest clothing, saying prayers, and fostering understanding with other religions. (Islam)
  • First Parkash: Commemorates the installation of the Adi Granth (the first edition of the Sikh scriptures) at Harimandir Sahib by the fifth Guru, Guru Arjan Dev Ji, in 1604 C.E. (Sikhism)
  • Fravardeghan Days: Also known as Muktad (memorializing ancestors), ten days in preparation for Nowruz (the start of the New Year), observed by Narathushtis who follow the Shenshai calendar. (Zoroastrianism/Zarathushti)
  • Ghambar Ayathrem: Celebrates the creation of plants, the sowing of the winter crop, and the return of herds from the pasture. (Zoroastrianism/Zarathushti)
  • Ghambar Hamaspathmaedem: Celebrates the creation of human beings and commemorates passed souls. (Zoroastrianism/Zarathushti)
  • Ghambar Maidyarem: Celebrates the creation of animals. It is the time for equitable sharing of food. (Zoroastrianism/Zarathushti)
  • Ghambar Maidyoshem: Celebrates of the creation of water, the sowing of the summer crop, and the harvesting of grain. (Zoroastrianism/Zarathushti)
  • Ghambar Maidyozarem: Celebrates the creation of sky and the harvesting of the winter crop. (Zoroastrianism/Zarathushti)
  • Ghambar Paitishem: Celebrates the creation of the earth and the harvesting of the summer crop. (Zoroastrianism/Zarathushti)
  • Gantan-sai: The Shinto New Year festival, observed with prayers for inner renewal, prosperity, and health. (Shinto)
  • Good Friday: The Christian remembrance of Jesus' death. The Jewish Festival of Lights. It commemorates the Maccabean recapture and rededication of the Jerusalem Temple in 165-164 b.c.e. (Christianity)
  • Guru Purnima: A day celebrated by Jain disciples around the world to revere and honour their Gurus, or spiritual masters. (Jainism)
  • Hajj: Also known as Day at 'Arafat, commemorates the last revelation to the Prophet at Mount 'Arafat shortly before his death. Muslims on Hajj attend a service on the plains in front of Mount 'Arafat. (Islam)
  • Hannukah: Also known as Channukah, the Festival of Lights, and the Feast of Dedication, commemorates the victory of Judah the Maccabee and religious freedom, and the rededication of the Temple in 165 B.C.E. It also celebrates the power of God and the faithfulness of Israel. Suspension of work is not required. (Judaism)
  • 'Id al-Adha: Also known as Eid al-Adha and the Festival of Sacrifice. This is the most important feast of Islam. It concludes the Hajj and is a three-day festival recalling Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son in obedience to Allah. Muslims offer sheep, goats, and camels, and distribute the meat to the poor. (Islam)
  • Imbolc: A Wiccan reflection on the power of the gods from which physical and spiritual harvest will come. (Wicca)
  • 'Ilm: The 12th month of the Baha'i year.
  • International Association of Scientologists Day: This day celebrates the founding of the IAS, the membership organization responsible for safeguarding and ensuring the continuity and expansion of the religion. (Scientology)
  • 'Izzat: The 10th month of the Baha'i year. (Baha'i)
  • Jum' at al-Wada: Also known as Farewell Friday, the last Friday of the month of Ramadan and the Friday immediately preceding Id al-Fitr. (Islam)
  • Kalimat: The 7th month of the Baha'i year. (Baha'i)
  • Kamal: The 8th month of the Baha'i year. (Baha'i)
  • Ksamavani: Jains ask forgiveness of others for wrongs committed during the previous year, and likewise forgive those who caused them suffering. (Jainism)
  • Ksitigarbha: In Buddhism, s/he is the bodhisattva who is the saviour of beings who suffer in hellish realms, as well as the guardian of children and patron of deceased children in Japanese culture. (Mahayana Buddhism)
  • Kwanzaa: An African American and Pan-African holiday celebrating family, community and culture, Kwanzaa is a secular observance with some religious participation. The candles of a seven-branched candelabrum represent seven principles: unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith. The candles are successively lit over the seven days of the festival.
  • Lammas: Also known as Lughnasad, the celebration of the grain harvest, the Harvest of First Fruits. Many traditions celebrate Lammas as the funeral of Lugh, the sun God whose strength is visibly waning by late summer. (Wicca)
  • Laylat al-Qadr: Also known as Night of Power, commemorates the first revelation of the Qur'an to Prophet Muhammad in 610 C.E. The festival begins in the evening. (Islam)
  • Mabon: Also known as Harvest Home, celebrates life's encapsulation as a seed to survive the cold, barren winter and the Harvest of the Vine, which as wine symbolizes the Goddess' power to transform youth's sweet nectar into old age, wisdom, and spiritual maturity. (Wicca)
  • Magha Puja Day: A Buddhist celebration of the presentation of teachings by Lord Buddha to an assembly of religious leaders. (Buddhism)
  • The Martyrdom of the Bab: The Baha'i memorialization of his death. Baha'is suspend work on this day. (Baha'i)
  • The Martyrdom of Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji (1621-1675): Commemorates the martyrdom of Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji, the ninth of the Ten Sikh Gurus. He is remembered not only for his defense of the Sikh faith, but also for willingly giving up his life for religious liberty for all faiths. (Sikhism)
  • Masa'il: The 15th month of the Baha'i year.
  • Mashi'yyat: The 11th month of the Baha'i year. (Baha'i)
  • Maunajiyaras: A day of fasting, silence, and meditation on the five holy beings: monks, teachers, religious leaders, Arihants (Jinas, enlightened masters), and Siddhas (liberated souls). The day is also regarded as the anniversary of the birth of many Tirthankaras or Pathfinders. (Jainism)
  • Navatatri: Also known as Durga Puja, symbolizes the triumph of good over evil and marks the start of autumn. Navaratri is divided into sets of three days to adore three different aspects of the supreme goddess or goddesses. The festival culminates with Dussehra, the victory of good over evil. (Hinduism)
  • Naw Ruz: The Baha'i observance of the vernal equinox, symbolizing spiritual growth and renewal. (Baha'i)
  • Oh-harai-taisai: The Grand Purification Ceremony in Shinto, which has been held since ancient times to obtain purification from sins and offenses committed during the first half of the lunar year. In earlier times, the Imperial Japanese Court led the ceremonies. A large ring of woven grasses and reeds is placed at the entrance of the shrine. Walking through the ring symbolizes inner purification. (Shinto)
  • Ostara: Celebrates the return of the Goddess-as-Maiden, the courting of the Goddess by the God, and the reawakening of the seeds within the earth. (Wicca)
  • Paryushana-parva: The holiest period of the year for the ascetic Shvetambara sect. Celebrated for eight days concluding on Samvatsari, it is a time of dedication to Jain ideals through fasting, worship of the Jina, and reading the life-story of Lord Mahavira from the Kalpasutra. See Samvatsari. (Jainism)
  • Pesach: The Jewish celebration of liberation from slavery and oppression in Egypt. (Judaism)
  • Qudrat: The 13th month of the Baha'i year.
  • Rains Retreat: See Vassa.
  • Raksha Bandhan: A festival in which married and unmarried girls and women tie amulets on the wrists of their brothers for protection against evil. (Hinduism)
  • Ramadan: 9th month on Islamic calendar, devoted to the commemoration of Muhammad's reception of the divine revelation recorded in the Qur'an. It is the holiest period of the Islamic Year. There is strict fasting from sunrise to sunset. (Islam)
  • Ridvan Festival: This important, twelve-day Baha'i festival celebrates the anniversary of the declaration of Baha'u'llah's mission as the prophet predicted by the Bab, as he prepared to leave Baghdad for Constantinople. (Baha'i)
  • Rosh Hashanah: The Jewish New Year. Anniversary of the creation of the world. A time of introspection, abstinence, prayer and penitence. The story of Abraham is read, the ram's horn (shofar) is sounded, and special foods are prepared and shared. (Judaism)
  • Rohatsu: Buddhist celebration of the enlightenment of Siddhartha Gautama, the historical Buddha. (Buddhism)
  • Samhain: A celebration of the Celtic New Year. The dying God returns to the womb of the Goddess in preparation for the rebirth at Yule. The souls of those who have died during the turning of the past year's wheel are bid farewell. It also marks the third and final harvest. Vegan Wiccans harvest nuts, the kernels of which are symbols of wisdom. As the veil between the physical and spiritual worlds is thinnest at this time, ancestors can join the celebrations. (Wicca)
  • Samvatsari: Day of Forgiveness. The last day of Paryushana. The Shvetambara sect observes by introspection, confession, and penance. (Jainism)
  • Sanghamitta Day: Celebrates the anniversary of the arrival of Sanghamitta, daughter of King Asoka, who started the Order of Nuns in Sri Lanka and brought a branch of the Bodhi tree. It occurs on the Full Moon day of December. (Theravada Buddhism)
  • Sharaf: The 16th month of the Baha'i year.
  • Simhat Torah: Also known as Rejoicing of the Law, the beginning of the synagogue's annual Torah reading cycle. Reform Jews celebrate it along with Shmini Atzeret. (Judaism)
  • Sri Krishna Jayanti: Also known as Janmashtami, celebrates the birth of Krishna, the eighth incarnation of the God Vishnu. (Hinduism)
  • Sukkot: A pilgrimage feast and a time of thanksgiving. The Feast of Tabernacles celebrates the harvest; temporary shelters are erected in remembrance of God's and the protection of the people of Israel as they wandered in the wilderness dwelling in tents. Celebrates God's presence in creation and among the Jewish people. (Judaism)
  • Tish'a B'Av: A major Jewish fast day commemorating the destruction of the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem in ancient times. Also known as the Ninth of the month of Av. (Judaism)
  • Tohji-taisai: The Grand Ceremony of the December Solstice, celebrates the joy of the ending of the yin period of the sun, when it declines in strength, and the beginning of the yang period, when it grows in strength. The sun is of central importance in Japan, expressing the presence of Amaterasu Omikami, the Kami of the Sun. (Shinto)
  • Transfiguration: Celebrates the appearance of Jesus in a transfigured state during his earthly life to three of his disciples. (Christianity)
  • Vassa: Monks and nuns begin the three-month trainy season retreat. Vassa is the period of September and October when heavy rain stops the monks from wandering from place to place and causes them to settle down in a temple to apply themselves more strictly than usual to their religious way of life. (Theravada Buddhism) 
  • Yom Kippur: The Jewish Day of Atonement. This holiest day of the Jewish year is observed with strict fasting and ceremonial repentance. To re-establish one-ness with God, Jews ask forgiveness and forgive others. Then can they confess their sins and ask God's forgiveness. (Judaism)
  • Yule: Marks the New Year in the Anglo-Saxon and northern traditions of Wicca, and is the 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 impurities of the past year, and for contemplating avenues of spiritual development in the year ahead. (Wicca)
  • World Communion Sunday: Congregations can experience Holy Communion as a global faith community. (Christianity)

Resources and explanations gathered from a variety of sources, including www.interfaithcalendar.org, websites managed by individual religious traditions, and the 2007 Interfaith Calendar published by The National Conference for Community and Justice of Chicago and Greater Illinois