The calendar of religious festivals

The Calendar of Religious Festivals
and Supplement

The Catholic Institute of Education’s Religious Education Department makes the Calendar of
Religious Festivals
and the Supplement to the Calendar of Religious Festivals available to
schools as a resource for planning assembly programs and Religious Education in relation to Life
Orientation, other learning areas, the life of faith communities, and issues that face South Africa and
the world. We hope that you can use the Calendar and its Supplement to encourage ecumenical
and interfaith sensitivity, a strong concern for human rights – for children, adults, the disabled, and
the displaced – and a passionate care for the environment.
The Calendar contains the most important celebrations in Christianity and several world religions.
While the Orthodox plan their liturgical year slightly differently to the Catholic and Protestant
Churches, this year sees a common date for Easter.
No entries for African Traditional Religious practices are included in the Calendar. First, rituals are
practiced within the family or local community as needed rather than at an appointed time. Second,
while major festivals are linked to the agricultural cycle of planting and harvesting, the dates of
these are uncertain until such time as they are announced by a monarch or chief. So, you will need
to find out when events of local or regional significance are scheduled if you wish to refer to them.
The Supplement largely lists secular days of observance, declared by the South African State, the
African Union, or the United Nations Organization, that relate to the environmental, health, human
rights, social justice, and peace-keeping challenges that face us all.
In addition, please consider how your school might address the following during the course of the
 Family life will be the focus of the extraordinary general session of the Synod of Bishops that will be held in the Vatican from 5-14 October. The preparatory document and questions, ‘The Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization’, can be found at  The Twentieth Anniversary of the International Year of the Family – the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs has an ongoing focus on the family.  The International Year of Family Farming, and International Year of Small Island
Developing Status – two of three foci offered by the United Nations Organisation for 2014.
 The beginning of the United Nations Decade of Sustainable Energy for All (2014-2024).
Feedback on the calendar is welcome. Comments can be sent to: Calendar of Religious Festivals

Celebrated in the Catholic Church in South Africa on Sunday, 5th January. Mawlid an-Nabi (Birth of the Prophet Mohamed, 12 Rabi-ul-Awwal) The Sunni date; Shia muslims celebrate this 5 days later.
The solemn observance of the death of the Buddha's earthly form and his entrance into nirvana. Some celebrate it on 15 February. Great Shiva Night. a festival honouring the marriage of Lord Shiva to Goddess Parvati. Orthodox Christians begin Lent on the 3 March – Clean Monday. A festival commemorating the events recounted in the Book of Esther - how the Jews of the Persian Empire were saved from the designs of the villainous Haman. A joyous spring festival including pilgrimage to holy places to offer penance for misdeeds, and to make or renew vows. A 9 day period during which the Ramayana, a Hindu epic, is read. It ends with Rama Navami, a festival celebrating the birth of Lord Rama. Holy Week (Inclusive of Palm Sunday and Good Friday) Feast of Unleavened Bread commemorating the deliverance of the people of Israel from slavery in Egypt. Orthodox Christians share this date with other churches this year. The first day of a twelve day period commemorating the last days of Bahá'u'lláh prior to his exile. It was during this time that Bahá'u'lláh made his first public declaration of his mission. The full-moon feast in May, celebrated by Theravada Buddhists to commemorate the birth, the enlightenment, and the death of the Buddha. These three events are celebrated separately by Mahayana Buddhists in April, December and February. 30-7/6 Novena of Prayer for Christian Unity Other churches within the ecumenical movement have a Week of Prayer for Christian Unity between 18-25 January, i.e. between the Feast of the Chair of Peter and Feast of the Conversion of St Paul. The occasion on which Moses received the Torah from God on Mount Sinai. The Night of Power on which the Qur'an descended from heaven. It marks the beginning of the Prophet Muhammad's ministry. The end of Ramadan, and the breaking of the fast. Celebrated in the Catholic Church in South Africa on the following Sunday. The Bhagavad Gita is read over this period leading up to, and including, Krishna Janmashtami. A festival celebrating the birthday of Lord Krishna.
Literally ‘the head of the year’. Commemorates God's creation of the world. The festival of `nine nights' honouring the mother goddess, Durga, wife of Shiva, and seeking her blessings.
The Day of Atonement, considered the holiest day of the year. The Festival of Sacrifice commemorates Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son, Ishmael, at Allah’s command and coincides with the end of the Hajj - the pilgrimage to Mecca. The sacrifice, made with either sheep, cow, or camel depending on the portions required, can be carried out on this or on one of the following two days. The Feast of Tabernacles commemorating the 40 years in the desert when the Israelites lived in shelters. ‘Rejoicing over the Torah’ - the completion (of Deuteronomy) and beginning (of Genesis) of the annual cycle of readings from the Torah. The Festival of Lights: Lakshmi, the Goddess of good fortune visits every house where a lamp is lit. Marks the arrival of the Prophet and followers at Medina (Al Hijra) and the establishment of the 1st Muslim State.
This is the traditional date, but it is celebrated in South Africa on the Sunday following the feast. Founder of the Bahá'í faith in the nineteenth century.

Mahayana Buddhists recall how Siddhartha Gautama was meditating under the peepal or banyan tree at the hour of dawn and experienced
enlightenment (Bodhi) – seeing into the nature of suffering and how to be liberated from it.
The Festival of Lights celebrating the victory of Judas Maccabeus and the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem in 164 BC. Orthodox Christians will celebrate Christmas on 7 January, 2015. Supplement
Calendar of Religious Festivals


National Water Week / World Day for Water (22nd) Human Rights Day (Also marks the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.) First meeting of the International Court of Justice in Hague in 1946 7 World Health Day (Also marks founding of the World Health Organization in 1948.) World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development International Day for Biological Diversity
5 World Environment Day
World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought
16 International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer
International Day for the Eradication of Poverty United Nations Day (Founded 24 June, 1945; UN Charter signed on 26 June.)
20 Universal Children’s Day
International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women (Marks the beginning of a 16 day period of action to address gendered patterns of exploitation and violence.)


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