Religious Holidays Information
University Policy on Religious Holidays
Willamette University recognizes the value of religious practice and strives to accommodate students’ commitment to their religious traditions whenever possible. When conflicts between holy days or other religious practice and academic scheduling arise, every effort should be made to allow students to adhere to their tradition, including, when possible, excusing class absences and allowing make-up work. A student anticipating the need to miss a class for religious reasons should alert the faculty member within the first two weeks of the semester, and the two of them should determine the next course of action. Any unresolved difficulty should be referred to the Office of the Chaplains.
Advent - Christianity
Advent is the Christian time of preparation for observing the birth of Jesus Christ. It begins on the Sunday nearest November 30 and is the beginning of the Christian worship year. Advent is observed with the lighting of advent candles, the display of wreaths and special ceremonies. In many Christian traditions each of the four Sundays of the season represents a particular theme. Advent continues through December 24.
Ascension of 'Abdu'I-Baha - Bahá'i Faith
Bahá'is observe the anniversary of the death of 'Abdu'l-Baha, son of Baha'u'llah and his appointed successor, on November 28, 1921, in Haifa, in what is now northern Israel.
Ascension of Baha'u'llah - Bahá’i Faith
Bahá'is observe the anniversary of the death in exile of Baha'u'llah, the founder of the Bahá'i Faith, on May 29, 1892, outside Akko (also known as Akka or Acre), in what is now northern Israel. It is one of the nine holy days of the year where work is suspended.
Ash Wednesday - Christianity
Ash Wednesday is the beginning of the forty-day period (excluding Sundays) of prayer, repentance and self-denial that precedes Easter. Ashes are marked on worshippers as a sign of penitence.
Ayyam-i-ha (Intercalary Days) - Bahá'i Faith
Ayyam-i-ha, or "Days of Ha," are devoted to spiritual preparation for the Fast, celebrating, hospitality, charity and gift-giving. They are celebrated the four days (five in leap year) before the last month of the Bahá'i year
Beltane - Wicca
Beltane is one of the four major holidays of Wicca. Beltane is the emergence of the God into manhood. He falls in love with the Goddess, and their union results in the Goddess being with child. Beltane is a celebration of their union and the fertility of the Earth Goddess and all living things. Beltane marks the return of vitality and passion.
Birth of Baha'u'llah - Bahá'i Faith
Bahá'is observe the anniversary of the birth of Baha'u'llah (born Mirza Husayn-'Ali) on November 12, 1817, in Tehran, Persia (now Iran). Baha'u'llah, which means the "Glory of God," is the founder of the Bahá'i Faith. The anniversary is one of the nine holy days of the year when work is suspended.
Birth of Guru Gobind Singh - Sikhism
Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth Sikh Guru, created the Khalsa (the Fellowship of the Pure) and declared the Sri Granth Sahib Ji to be the Sikh Guru (scriptures) from that time on.
Birth of Guru Nanak Dev Ji - Sikhism
Celebrates the birth in 1469 of the founder of the Sikh faith and the first of the ten Gurus. An accomplished poet, 974 of his hymns are contained n the Sikh Scriptures, the Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji.
Birth of the Báb - Bahá'i Faith
This day is an observance of the anniversary of the birth on October 20, 1819, in Shiraz Persia (now Iran), of Siyyid 'Ali-Muhammad, who took the title of "the Báb" (meaning "the Gate"). The Báb was the herald of the Bahá'i Faith. The day is one of the nine holy days of the year when work is suspended.
Bodhi Day - Buddhism
Bodhi Day is the celebration of Gautama's attainment of enlightenment under the Bodhi tree at Bodhgaya, India.
Buddha Day (Vesak) - Buddhism
Vesak is the major Buddhist festival of the year, celebrating the birth, enlightenment and death of Buddha and is observed on the first full moon day in May (except in leap years, when the celebration is held in June).
Celebration of the Guru Granth Sahib - Sikhism
This festival commemorates the completion of the Sikh holy text in 1606.
Chinese New Year - Buddhism, Confucianism, Daoism
New Year festivities begin on the first day of the first Chinese month, when the moon is darkest, and continue through the fifteenth day of that month, when the moon is the brightest. Legend says that in ancient times, Buddha asked all the animals to meet him on Chinese New Year. Twelve came, and Buddha named a year after each of them, announcing that people born in each animal's year would have some of the animal's personality.
4711 on the Chinese calendar, a year of the snake, began on February 12, 2013 and will end on January 30, 2014. Those born in snake years tend to be charming, gregarious, introverted, generous and smart.
Christmas - Christianity
Christmas celebrates the anniversary of the birth of Jesus. Christmas is given more importance in Western Christianity than in Orthodox. The day is observed with prayer, the giving of gifts and family gatherings.
Day of the Covenant - Bahá'i Faith
The festival commemorates Baha’u’llah’s appointment of His eldest son, ‘Abdul’l-Baha, as the Center of His Covenant.
Declaration of the Báb - Bahá'i Faith
On this day Bahá'is commemorate May 23, 1844, when the Báb, the herald of the Bahá'i Faith, announced in Shiraz, Persia (now Iran), that he was the herald of a new messenger of God. It is one of the nine holy days of the year when work is suspended.
Diwali - Hinduism, Sikhism, Jainism
Diwali (pronounced, Dee-va-lee) is a very popular five-day Hindu festival known as the Festival of Lights. Dedicated to the Goddesses Kali in Bengal and Lakshmi (the Goddess of Wealth) in the rest of India, it is associated with a story about the destruction of evil by Lord Vishnu in one of his many manifestations. Diwali symbolizes the human urge to move toward the light. It is observed with gift exchanges, fireworks and festive meals.
The Sikh celebration of Diwali commemorates the release of Guru Hargobind (the sixth Guru) from prison in 1619. The Golden Temple was illuminated with lights to welcome the Guru home. Sikhs continue this tradition by lighting lamps each year on Diwali.
Easter/Pascha - Christianity
Easter, or Pascha as it is known in Eastern Orthodox churches, is the most holy of Christian sacred days, commemorating the resurrection of Jesus following his death by crucifixion. The day is observed with worship services beginning at sunrise, special music, feasting and family gatherings. Easter marks the end of the forty-day period of Lent and begins a fifty-day period leading to Pentecost.
Eid al Adha - Islam
Eid al Adha (the Feast of Sacrifice) is the most important festival of Islam and concludes the Hajj (the pilgrimage to Mecca). It is a three-day festival (that begins and ends at sundown) commemorating Ibrahim's willingness to sacrifice his son, Ishmael, in obedience to Allah. Muslims worldwide sacrifice a lamb or other animal and distribute the meat to relatives or the needy.
Eid al Fitr - Islam
Eid al Fitr (the Breaking of the Fast) marks the end of Ramadan and begins at sundown. It is a festival of thanksgiving to Allah for enjoying the month of Ramadan (the month of fasting) and involves wearing finest clothing, saying prayers and fostering understanding with other religions. The festival begins at sundown.
Epiphany - Christianity
Epiphany is the Christian commemoration of the manifestations of the divine nature of Jesus Christ. The evening preceding is known as Twelfth Night. The Western Church associates the day with the journey of the Magi to Bethlehem (as celebrated by Dia de los Reyes - Day of the Kings). In the Eastern Church, where it is called Theophany, the day is connected to the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist and to the miracle of Jesus turning water into wine at the wedding feast at Cana.
Festival of Ridvan - Bahá'i Faith
This annual Bahá'i festival commemorates the twelve days (April 21-May 2, 1863) when Baha'u'llah, the founder of the Bahá'i Faith, resided in a garden called Ridvan (Paradise) in Baghdad, Iraq. At this time He publicly proclaimed His mission as God's messenger for the age. The first (April 21), ninth (April 29) and twelfth (May 2) days are celebrated as holy days when work is suspended.
Good Friday/Holy Friday - Christianity
Good Friday, known as Holy Friday by Eastern Orthodox Christians, is a day of remembrance of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and the events immediately preceding it. The story is retold during special worship services.
Hannukah - Judaism
Hanukah is the Jewish Festival of Lights commemorating religious freedom and the Maccabean recapture and rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem in 165 BCE. The festival is observed with special readings, praise songs, games and gifts. Candles are lit on the menorah each night of the festival as a reminder that when the Jewish army returned to the Temple there was only oil enough to burn in the Eternal Light for one night, but it burned for eight. The festival begins and ends at sundown.
Holi - Hinduism
Holi is a colorful and joyous two-day festival celebrating the arrival of Spring and dedicated to Krishna. Often referred to as the Festival of Colors, celebrations include people throwing colored powder and colored water.
Imbolc - Wicca
Imbolc is one of the four major holidays of Wicca. Imbolc marks the growth of the God into a strong boy as the days grow longer and the sun gets stronger. It also marks the recovery of the Goddess from giving birth to the God. It is a time of initiation, a beginning, as the seeds begin to wake from their winter sleep. Traditionally many initiation rituals and self-dedication rituals are done at this time.
Kol Nidre - Judaism
Kol Nidre is both the opening prayer and the name for the evening service that begins Yom Kippur. It marks the beginning of the holiest day of the year for Jews.
Kwanzaa, a seven-day holiday, was created by Dr. Maulana Karenga in 1966. This African-American and Pan-African festival celebrating family, community and culture, was modeled after African first-fruits celebrations. The candles of a seven-branched candelabrum representing the seven principles (the Nguzo Saba) of Kwanzaa - unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith - are lit successively over the seven days of the festival.
Lammas - Wicca
Lammas is one of the four major holidays of Wicca. Lammas is the celebration of the successful growing season. The grain is ripe, but is just beginning to be harvested. The God loses strength as the days grow shorter. It is a time to address and overcome fears and anxiety.
Mabon - Wicca
Mabon is the Wiccan celebration of a successful harvest. Celebrated on the Autumnal Equinox, night and day are equal, so it is a time of balance when lives can be brought into harmony. It is a time to address the balance in our lives and to be thankful for our success.
Maghi - Sikhism
The commemoration of a battle in which 40 Sikhs (the Forty Liberated Ones), led by a woman named Maathaa Bhaag Kaur, laid down their lives for Guru Gobind Singh.
Martyrdom of Guru Arjan - Sikhism
Guru Arjan Dev Ji (1563-1606) was the first Sikh martyr and the fifth Guru. He built the Harimandir Sahib (Home of the Divine) in the town of Amritsar. To emphasize that the Sikh way was open to all, regardless of caste, he built the Gurdwara with doors facing all four directions. He is honored for contributing to and compiling the Sikh Scriptures.
Martyrdom of Guru Tegh Bahadur - Sikhism
The Sikh time remembering the execution in 1675 of Tegh Bahadur (the ninth Guru) by the Moghul emperor Aurangzeb. 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.
Martyrdom of the Báb - Bahá'i Faith
This holy day commemorates the anniversary of the execution of the Báb (Siyyid 'Ali-Muhammad), the herald of the Bahá'i Faith, by a firing squad on July 9, 1850, in Tabriz, Persia (now Iran). It is one of the nine days of the year when work is suspended.
Maundy Thursday - Christianity
Maundy or Holy Thursday commemorates the Last Supper of Jesus and the Apostles and the beginning of the Lord's Supper (Holy Communion/Eucharist).
Mid-Summer's Eve - Wicca
Midsummer (Litha) falls on the longest day of the year. On this day Wiccans believe the God begins his journey towards death as the days begin to get shorter.
Navaratri - Hinduism
Navaratri is a nine-day celebration of the triumph of good over evil. It is divided into three sets of thee days of adoration of three different aspects of the supreme goddesses. The first three days to Durga (destroyer of all of our vices, impurities and defects), the second to Lakshmi (giver of spiritual and material wealth) and the third to Saraswati (goddess of wisdom).
Naw-Rúz - Bahá'i Faith
The Bahá'i New Year coincides with the spring equinox. Naw Rúz is an ancient Persian festival celebrating the "new day" and for Bahá'is it marks the end of the annual 19-Day Fast and is one of the nine holy days of the year when work is suspended.
Nineteen-Day Fast - Bahá'i Faith
During 'Ala', the last 19-day month of the Bahá'i year, Bahá'is between the ages of 15 and 70 years old do not eat or drink from sunrise to sunset and set aside time for prayer and meditation.
Nirvana Day - Buddhism
Nirvana Day is the festival marking the anniversary of Buddha's death.
Ostara - Wicca
Ostara, the Spring Equinox, marks the first day of spring. It is the time when the God grows to maturity. The night and day are equal, therefore it is a time of balance when our lives can be brought into harmony. For Wiccans it is a time of beginnings of action.
Palm Sunday - Christianity
Palm Sunday celebrates the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem and the beginning of Holy Week. The name is taken from the Gospel stories telling of people waving palm branches and spreading them in front of Jesus as he entered the city.
Passover - Judaism
Passover is the eight-day celebration in remembrance of the deliverance of the Jews from slavery in Egypt. An important part of Passover is a ceremonial meal, a Seder, in which specific foods representing elements of the Exodus story are eaten. Passover begins and ends at sundown. The first two and last two days of the festival may be observed as holidays from work.
Pentecost - Christianity
Pentecost is the Christian observation of the day fifty days following the resurrection of Jesus when the Holy Spirit came to the Disciples in the forms of tongues of fire and rushing wind, an event considered to be the birth of the Church. It is a traditional day for baptism and confirmation of new Christians. The day is also called "Whitsunday," a name believed to be derived from "white Sunday," because of the white robes that are sometimes worn by persons being baptized.
Purim - Judaism
Purim is the Jewish celebration of the deliverance of the Jews from planned genocide as told in the book of Esther. The holiday is observed by reading the Book of Esther, eating Hamantashen, the exchange of gifts and donations to the poor. The festival begins at sundown of the previous day.
Ramadan - Islam
Ramadan is the 9th month of the Islamic calendar and is devoted to the commemoration of Muhammad's reception of the divine revelation recorded in the Qur'an. In 2013 the observance begins at sundown on July 8. Ramadan is the holiest period of the Islamic year and includes strict fasting from sunrise to sundown. Each day ends at sunset with a celebratory Iftar, or breaking-of-the-fast.
Rosh Hashanah - Judaism
Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Year. In observance, the story of Abraham is read, a ram's horn is sounded and special foods are prepared and shared. Observance begins at sundown and marks the start of a period of introspection, abstinence, prayer and penitence that ends on Yom Kippur. Some Jews observe on day away from work, others two.
Samhain - Wicca
Samhain (pronounced "Sow-hen or Sow-in") is Celtic New Year and is one of the four major holidays of Wicca. At this time, the God passes into the otherworld to be reborn to the Goddess at Yule. The division between the worlds is thin, and it is a time to remember one's ancestors and to reflect on the past year. (Samhain is generally celebrated on Oct. 31, although some traditions prefer Nov. 1.)
Shemini Atzeret - Judaism
"The Eighth Day of Assembly" is the holiday concluding Sukkot and the fall holiday season. In Israel it is also considered the beginning of winter. Reform Judaism celebrates Shemini Atzeret in conjunction with Simchat Torah.
Shrove Tuesday - Christianity
Shrove Tuesday is a Christian carnival day on the eve Lent, a time of fasting and devotions. Because fats were not allowed in foods during Lent and had to be consumed before it began, the day is also known as Fat Tuesday (Mardi Gras).
Simchat Torah - Judaism
The day of rejoicing in the Law. Along with Shemini Atzeret, these two observances conclude the feast of Sukkot, and mark the ending of the year's cycle of readings from the Torah, and the beginning of the new cycle.
Sukkot - Judaism
Sukkot is the week-long Jewish Feast of Booths or Tabernacles, during which meals are eaten out of doors in a sukkah (tent), in remembrance of the years spent by the people of Israel in the wilderness. The festival celebrates God's presence in creation and among the Jewish people. The first two and last two days are times to refrain from work.
Vaisakhi - Sikhism
Originally a Hindu thanksgiving festival, Vaisakhi commemorates the founding the Khalsa in 1699. Persons ready to be initiated into the Khalsa (the Fellowship of the Pure) are usually baptized on this day and the Sikh flag is replaced.
Yom HaSho'ah - Judaism
Yom HaSho'ah is the day established to remember the six million Jews killed by the Nazis from 1933 to 1945.
Yom Kippur - Judaism
Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, is the holiest day of the Jewish year. It is observed with strict fasting. To re-establish oneness with God, Jews as forgiveness and forgive others and confess their sins and ask for God's forgiveness. Yom Kippur ends the period of penitence begun on Rosh Hashanah. Observance begins at sundown on the previous day.
Yule - Wicca
Yule is the Wiccan celebration of rebirth and renewal. At Yule, the Goddess gives birth to her son, the God, who is symbolized by the sun. His birth brings hope and the promise of the coming summer. Yule is a remnant of older rituals which hurried the end of winter and the coming of spring.