Religious holidays and festivals

A timeline of the the major religious holidays in the UK.

2 July

Dharma Day

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Buddhist statues in Wat Saket, Vientiane, Laos

Buddha statues in Wat Saket, Vientiane, Laos, which features a cloister wall with more than 2,000 ceramic and silver Buddha images.

Dharma Day, or Asala, is when Buddhists from the Theravada tradition celebrate the teachings of the Buddha.

Dharma refers to the Buddha’s body of teachings, and on Dharma Day Buddhists celebrate the day the Buddha began to teach his Four Noble Truths and Eightfold Path. This event is often referred to as the first turn of the ‘Wheel of Dharma’.

Find out more about the Buddha's Four Noble Truths

10 July

Martyrdom of the Báb

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Bahai Gardens, Haifa

The terraced gardens at the Shrine of the Báb, and the other Bahá’í holy places in Haifa, Israel, were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008.

On this day Bahá'ís mark the anniversary of the execution in 1850 of the Báb, the herald of the Bahá’í faith.

It is one of the nine holy days of the year when work is suspended.

Find out more about the Bahá'í faith

17/18 July

Eid-al-Fitr

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Mehndi hands for Eid-ul-Fitr

Hands decorated with mehndi (henna) for Eid-ul-Fitr.

Eid al-Fitr marks the end of the month-long fast during the Islamic month of Ramadan.

It's one of the two major holidays in the Islamic year and is celebrated with prayer and thanksgiving to God, as well as feasting and gift giving.

Should the UK make Eid a public holiday?

18 July

Ratha Yatra

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Ratha Yatra procession

Since the 1960s, Ratha Yatra has been celebrated by Hindus in the West, mainly due to the influence of the Hare Krishna movement.

Ratha Yatra means 'chariot festival' and is a Hindu holiday traditionally celebrated in Orissa State on the east coast of India.

Statues of the Hindu gods Jagannatha, Baladeva and Subhadra, are taken from the Temples and pulled on chariots through the streets, accompanied by crowds of people and loud music. The English word juggernaut comes from Jagannatha and the huge chariots made in his honour.

BBC Magazine: Does doing yoga make you a Hindu?

20 July

Choekhor Duechen

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Dharma Wheel in Lhasa Tibet

Dharma wheel flanked by two deer on top of Jokhang Temple in Lhasa, Tibet.

Choekhor Duechen, which means ‘First Turning of the Wheel’, is one of the four major holy days of the Tibetan Buddhist calendar.

On this day Tibetan Buddhists honour the day when the Buddha first taught the Four Noble Truths at Sarnath, India, and started the turning of the Wheel of Dharma. It’s observed by fasting, almsgiving, and abstaining from negative activities.

Find out more about the Buddha's teachings

I teach suffering, its origin, cessation and path. That's all I teach.

The Buddha

1 August

Lughnasadh or Lammas

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Pagans celebrating Lammas Day in Eastbourne

English Pagans celebrating Lammas in Eastbourne.

Lughnasadh, also called Lammas, is the time of the corn harvest when Pagans give thanks to the Goddess for her gifts.

Lughnasadh falls at the beginning of August and is one of the Celtic Pagan festivals which split the year into four. Celts celebrated the Irish god Lugh, while Anglo-Saxons marked the festival of hlaefmass - loaf mass or Lammas. For these ancient agricultural communities this was the first day of the harvest when the cornfields were ripe and reaping would begin. Lughnasadh is still celebrated as a harvest festival by modern Pagans.

What do Pagans believe?

15 August

Feast of the Assumption

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The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Artist: Rosso Fiorentino (1495-1540)

The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary by the artist Rosso Fiorentino (1495-1540).

The Feast of the Assumption commemorates the death of Jesus's mother, Mary, and her bodily assumption into Heaven.

The Feast of the Assumption is the most important feast dedicated to the honour of Mary, and is mainly celebrated by Roman Catholics. The doctrine of the Assumption was proclaimed as infallible by Pope Pius XII in 1950. This was only the second time that a Pope had proclaimed a doctrine to be infallible, the first being the Immaculate Conception, another doctrine that concerns Mary.

1 September

Guru Granth Sahib

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Reading from the Guru Granth Sahib inside the Golden Temple at Amritsar

Reading the Guru Granth Sahib inside the Golden Temple at Amritsar.

On 1 September Sikhs celebrate the installation of the Guru Granth Sahib (Sikh Scripture) in the Golden Temple in Amritsar in 1604.

The Guru Granth Sabib is the focus of Sikh worship and devotion at the Golden Temple. In the early morning it's placed on the Singhasan (throne) in the centre of the Temple's sanctum, and at night it's ceremoniously returned to the Akal Takhat (another building in the Amritsar complex). During the day passages are read from the Granth and people pay their respects.

Find out more about Sikh history

5 September

Janmashtami

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Wooden statue of Krishna

Lord Krishna is often depicted with blue or dark skin and playing a flute.

At Janmashtami Hindus celebrate the birth of Lord Krishna. It takes place during the Hindu month of Shravan (August-September).

Krishna is one of the most powerful incarnations of Lord Vishnu and Hindus believe he came to free the Earth from evil.

Find out about the meaning and rituals of Janmashtami

10 - 17 September

Paryushan

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Jain devotees during Paryushan

Indian Jain devotees visiting a shrine decorated with precious stones, sandalwood, flowers and saffron for Paryushan.

Paryushan is the most important Jain festival of the year and is celebrated in the Indian month of Bhadra (August/September).

Paryushan means ‘coming together’ and is said to have been initiated by Lord Mahavira, founder of Jainism. It’s a 10 day festival when religious ascetics settle in communities for the monsoon season. For the first 9 days Jains follow a strict regime of fasting and meditating. An important aspect of Paryushan is asking forgiveness for any breach of the Five Great Vows. Jains are also required to pardon others during this period. The final day of Payushan is celebrated with a community banquet.

How important is forgiveness in the world's religions?

I grant forgiveness to all living beings; may all living beings grant me forgiveness.

The Jain Rite of Universal Friendship which is recited at Paryushan

13 - 15 September

Rosh Hashanah

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Israeli musician, Shlomo Gronich, blowing the shofar

Israeli musician, Shlomo Gronich, blowing the Shofar.

Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Year festival and commemorates the creation of the world.

Rosh Hashanah is also a judgement day, when Jews believe that God balances a person's good deeds over the last year against their bad deeds. God records the judgement in the Book of Life, where he sets out what kind of year each person will have. According to Jewish tradition, the book is finally sealed at Yom Kippur. One of the synagogue rituals for Rosh Hashanah is the blowing of the Shofar, a ram's horn trumpet. A hundred notes are sounded in a special rhythm.

17 September

Ganesh Charurthi

Clicked Imagez by Chetan Rana

Hindu God Ganesh

Ganesh's elephant head symbolises his wisdom.

Ganesh Chaturthi celebrates the birth of Ganesh, god of wisdom and prosperity. It falls in the Hindu month of Bhadrapada (August/September).

Ganesh Chaturthi lasts for 10 - 11 days, with the biggest celebrations taking place on the last day, Ananta Chaturdasi. On the first day, statues of Ganesh are installed in homes and temples and ceremonies are performed to invoke his presence. Prayers are offered to Ganesh every day during the festival. At Ananta Chaturdasi the statues are paraded through the streets, accompanied by much singing and dancing, and then immersed in the ocean or other bodies of water.

23 September

Eid-al-Adha

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Muslim pilgrims circumambulating the Kabbah in Mecca during Hajj

Muslim pilgrims circumambulating the Kabbah in Mecca during Hajj.

Eid-al-Adha is one of the most important Islamic holidays and commemorates Ibrahim’s (Abraham's) willingness to sacrifice his son to God.

According to Islamic tradition, God ordered Ibrahim to sacrifice his son, Ishmael, as a test of his faith. However, just as Ibrahim was about to kill Ishmael, God instructed him to sacrifice a ram in his place. At Eid-al-Adha Muslims celebrate Ibrahim's obedience to God and vow to be like him. Eid-al-Adha also marks the end of Hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca which begins 21 September.

Why do millions gather in Mecca every year?

23 September

Yom Kippur

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Kaparot market in Jerusalem

At Yom Kippur some Jews perform the ritual Kaparot in which they symbolically transfer their sins against God to a chicken which is then slaughtered.

Yom Kippur translates as the Day of Atonement and is the holiest date in the Jewish calendar.

The central themes of Yom Kippur are atonement and repentance. It's observed with a 25-hour period of fasting and intensive prayer. Yom Kippur completes the annual period known in Judaism as the High Holy Days or sometimes 'the Days of Awe', which begin with Rosh Hashanah.

How important is forgiveness to faith?

23 September

Autumn Equinox

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Greeting the Rising Sun on Autumn Equinox

Pagans greeting the rising sun on Autumn Equinox at Glastonbury Tor in Somerset.

Autumn Equinox (Mabon) is celebrated by Pagans when day and night are of equal length, and is the final festival of the harvest season.

The activity of the summer months slows down, the Wheel of the Year has turned, and summer is making way for winter once again.

BBC Two: Autumnwatch

27 September - 4 October

Sukkot

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Display of ethrogs for Sukkot

Etrogs on display in the Mea Shearim district of Jerusalem.

At Sukkot, Jews remember the Israelites' 40 years of exile in the desert, living in makeshift dwellings, before they reached the promised land.

For the duration of the festival Jewish families live in temporary huts called sukkot (singular: sukkah) which they build out of branches and leaves. Each day they hold celebrations with four types of symbolic plants: palm, myrtle, willow and a special citrus fruit called an etrog. Sukkot is intended to be a joyful festival that lets Jews live close to nature and know that God is taking care of them.

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