The following is a non-exhaustive, chronological list of key Holy Days or Festivals observed by various faiths, along with an appropriate greeting for the occasion. Further dates will be added.
Guru Gobind Singh's Birthday
5th January, 2012
Guru Gobind Singh was the tenth of the great masters of Sikhism, succeeding his father, Guru Tegh Bahadur, in 1675 at the age of nine. He was born in Patna Sahib in India in 1666 and died in 1708. Guru Gobind Singh is perhaps most known for two things: introducing the five K's to Sikhism, five physical symbols that indicate the wearer has devoted their life to the Guru; and for being the last human Guru.
The five K's are kesh (uncut hair), kara (steel bracelet), kanga (wooden comb), kaccha (cotton underwear) and kirpan (steel sword). Each of these elements are symbolic of a variety of meanings in the life of a Sikh.
Before Guru Gobind Singh's death, he named the Sikh sacred text, Guru Granth Sahib, his successor. Sikhs treat the Guru Granth Sahib with the same honour and respect they would a human guru.
On the birthday of Guru Gobind Singh, you can wish your Sikh friends and neighbours 'Greetings on this Holy Day' or 'May you be blessed by the Guru'.
Death of Brahma Baba
18th January, 2012
Brahma Baba, founder of the Brahma Kumaris, was born in 1876, the son of a village schoolmaster. At the age of 60, while in a meditative state, Brahma Baba felt himself surrounded by an energy, which filled him with light. The Brahma Kumaris believe that over several months, Brahma Baba received a series of powerful visions, giving new insights into the innate qualities of the human soul, revealing the Supreme Soul and explaining the process of world transformation. The young women in whom he entrusted leadership of the organisation, now in their eighties, have become beacons of love, peace and happiness in the world.
Brahma Baba passed away on 18 January, 1969, at the age of 93. 18 January is celebrated by BKs worldwide, as a day of silence, meditation and deep appreciation of the Founder. A tribute to an ordinary man with an invicible spirit who achieved greatness, yet remained always humble.
On this day, you may like to greet your Brahma Kumaris friends by saying 'We honour with you, the life of Brahma Baba, your Founder'.
20th February, 2012
Celebrated by Hindus in honour of Lord Shiva, Maha Shivaratri takes place this year on 20 February. The festival falls on the moonles, 14th night of the new moon in the Hindu month of Phalgun. This equates to February / March in the Gregorian calendar.
Shivaratri is a very auspicious day, symbolising the wedding day of Lord Shiva and Parvati. Shiva devotees keep fast on Shivaratri day and go to the Shiva Temple to worship by pouring milk and water on the Shiva Linga.
Worshippers dutifully follow all the traditions and customs related to Shivaratri festival, as they strongly believe that sincere worship of Lord Shiva, on this auspicious day, releases a person of sins and also provides liberation from the cycle of birth and death.
8th March, 2012
Holi, named for the destruction of the evil Demoness Holika, is a festival celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs and others. On the day before Holi (known as Holika Dahan), bonfires are lit, symbolic of the one that destroyed Holika and from which Prahlad (a devotee of the Hindu God Vishnu) was miraculously saved.
It is a very joyous festival. People greet each other by applying coloured powder on their faces and embracing them.
The date for Holi is set by the lunar Hindu calendar. It falls on the last full moon day of the month Phalguna, and signifies the end of winter and the coming of the spring. This year, Holi falls on 8th March, 2012.
On the occasion of Holi, you might greet your Hindu and Sikh neighbours with ‘A Happy and Blessed Holi’.
21st March, 2012
For members of the Baha'i faith, one of the most significant festivals is the celebration of Naw-Ruz (pronounced naw-rooz), or New Year. For nineteen days leading up to Naw-Ruz (constituting the Baha'i month of `Ala'), Baha'i adherents observe a sunrise to sunset fast.
The Baha'i calendar features nineteen months, each of nineteen days duration. The months and days are named after nineteen attributes of God. The first of the nineteen is the Arabic word 'Baha', translated as something similar to 'glory'. New Year, being the first day of the first month becomes the 'Baha' day of the 'Baha' month. In this way, the first day of the first month (New Year) symbolises the most glorious name of God.
On this day, your Baha'i friends and neighbours would appreciate the greeting 'Happy Naw-Ruz'.
7th - 14th April, 2012
Of all the Jewish festivals, Passover (or Pesach) is perhaps the most familiar to Christians, because its origins are told in the book of Exodus, with the name of the festival derived from the moment when God ‘passed over’ the Jewish homes when inflicting the tenth plague on the people of Egypt. Following the ten plagues, the Jews were freed from slavery.
On the first night of the Passover, Jewish families gather to share the Seder meal. The word Seder comes from the Hebrew word meaning ‘order’, and refers to the ordered ritual of the meal.
Passover begins on 15th day of Nisan and ends on the 21st day of Nisan. In 2012, this falls on 7th April. As with all Jewish holy days, observance begins at sundown on the previous evening.
On this day, you can share the greeting 'Chag Pesach Sameach' or 'Happy Passover' with your Jewish friends
8th April, 2012 (Western Christian) / 15th April, 2012 (Orthodox Christian)
For Christians, Easter is an important time of year, central to their faith. The date on which Easter falls differs each year. It is to be noted that the Western and Orthodox churches calculate Easter by different methods, often resulting in the observance taking place on slightly different dates.
On the Friday just prior to Easter Sunday, known as Good Friday, the death of Jesus on the cross is observed. Easter Sunday, three days later, celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ. As the resurrection is the basis of Christian theology and doctrine, there are a number of related key dates in the lead up to it that are observed. Both Western and Orthodox churches observe Lent, 40 days of spiritual preparation, which was traditionally a time of fasting. Again, the times for observing Lent are slightly different for the two traditions.
It is customary to wish Christians Happy Easter on Easter Sunday.
21st April - 2nd May, 2012
Ridvan (pronounced REZ-wan) is a twelve day festival observed by adherents of the Baha'i faith. It is known as the "King of Festivals". It commemorates the announcement of his prophethood made by the founder of the faith, Baha'u'llah, in 1863. The festival begins, in fact, at sunset on 20th April.
The word 'Ridvan' means 'good pleasure' in Arabic. It has also come to be accepted as meaning 'paradise'. Ridvan was the name Baha'u'allah gave to the Najibiyyih Garden in Baghdad; the Garden being the place he inhabited for twelve days prior to his imposed exile to Istanbul. The most holy days of the festival are held to be the first, nineth and twelfth days, on which work is prohibited.
During Ridvan you might like to wish your Baha'i friends 'Happy Ridvan'.
5th May, 2012
Also known as Buddha's Birthday, Vesak Day is celebrated by Buddhists of all traditions across the world. It marks the Birth, Enlightenment and the Great Passing Away of Gautama Buddha representing the Buddha and His universal message of peace, love and compassion. Vesak offers Buddhists an opportunity to reflect on the life and teachings of the Buddha. Vesak signifies:
- The Buddha's birth as Prince Siddhartha took place on this day at Lumbini in Kapilavatthu (modern Nepal).
- Ascetic Siddhartha Gautama attained Supreme Enlightenment on this day at Bodhgaya under the sacred Bodhi Tree.
- The Supreme Buddha's Great Demise (Parinibbana) happened on Vesak Full Moon day at Kusinara.
The exact date of Vesak varies according to the various lunar calendars used in different traditions. For example, in countries practicing Theravada Buddhism, and following the Buddhist calendar, it falls on the full moon Uposatha day (typically the 5th or 6th lunar month). The date varies from year to year in the Western Gregorian calendar but falls between April and May. In 2012, Vesak Day falls on 6th May in Australia.
As Buddhism spread from its place of origin, India, it was assimilated into many foreign cultures, and consequently Vesak is celebrated in many different ways all over the world. Underlying differing traditional and cultural practices, Buddhists gather to venerate the Buddha, the Dharma (His Teaching) and the Sangha (His Noble Followers) and to reaffirm their commitment to living a moral and compassionate lifestyle. Traditional and cultural practices include gathering at temples, the lighting of lights and candles, early morning chanting of the Buddha's teachings (sutras) led by monastics, listening to talks delivered by monastics, construction of flower shrines and the symbolic bathing of the Buddha image with perfumed water, abstinence from eating meat, sharing food with the poor, visiting and making donations to charitable institutions, and ceremonial release of small animals or caged birds to symbolise humanity and compassion.
Vesak is known by different names in different countries. The word Vesak itself is the Sinhalese language word for the Pali variation, Vesakha. Vesak is also known as Buddha Purnima or Buddha Jayanti in India, Bangladesh and Nepal; Hanamatsuri in Japan; Seokka Tanshin-il in Korea; Fódàn in Chinese-speaking communities; Saga Dawa in Tibet, Visak Bochéa in Cambodia, Visakah Puja (or Visakha Bucha) in Thailand, Waisak in Indonesia, Vesak (Wesak) in Sri Lanka and Malaysia. The equivalent festival in Laos is called Vixakha Bouxa and in Myanmar is called Ka-sone-la-pyae meaning "Fullmoon Day of Kasone" which is also the second month of the Myanmar Calendar.
On Vesak Day, your Buddhist friends and neighbours would appreciate the greeting 'A Peaceful & Joyful Vesak'.
During the month of August, the Brahma Kumaris celebrate the festival of Raksha Bandhan in a unique way. It is a time of deep meditation and reflection. Raksha Bandhan marks a renewal of commitment to a spiritual lifestyle, with a focus on God.
During the festival of Raksha Bandhan, your Brahma Kumaris friends would appreciate a silent greeting of peace, expressed through the eyes.
Eid ul Fitr
19th August, 2012
Eid ul Fitr is the Festival of the Breaking of the Fast. It marks the end of Ramadan; Ramadan being a month of fasting, and one of the five pillars of Islam.
A common greeting during this holiday is the Arabic greeting 'Eid Mubarak', which means 'Blessed Festival'.
Sunset 16th September - Nightfall 18th September, 2012
The Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah, is celebrated on the first and second days of the Hebrew month of Tishri (the seventh month). In 2012, this equates to 17th - 18th September.
The two-day festival is a time to reflect on the mistakes of the preceding year, and to make plans of a better life for the coming year. Work is not permitted during Rosh Hashanah, with much of the first day spent at synagogue. The extended service held on that day includes the observance of the sounding of the shofar (ram's horn trumpet).
Greet your Jewish friends and neighbours during Rosh Hashanah with the Hebrew words "L'shana tovah" ("for a good year").
Eid Al Adha
26th October, 2012
Eid al-Adha is the "Festival of Sacrifice" or "Greater Eid". It is celebrated by Muslims worldwide to commemorate the willingness of Prophet Abraham to sacrifice his son Ismael as an act of obedience to God. Eid al-Adha annually falls on the 10th day of the month of Dhul Hijja of the lunar Islamic calendar. The festivities last for 4 days.
Eid al-Adha is celebrated at the end of the Hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, which is observed by Muslims as one of the five pillars of Islam. In 2012, Eid al-Adha will begin on October 26th.
A common greeting during this festival is the Arabic greeting "Eid Mubarak", which means "Blessed Eid".
13th November, 2012
Diwali (or Deepawali, meaning 'row of lamps') is a five day festival, which holds meaning for Hindus, Sikhs and Jains. Its name is derived from the practice of decorating homes using oil lamps to symbolize the triumph of good over evil and the removal of darkness. Diwali is a joyous occasion, holding various meanings for the three faiths.
Diwali falls on New moon day of the month Karthik of the lunar Hindu calendar. It generally falls between mid-October and mid-November. This year, it falls on 13th November.
During Diwali, your Hindu, Sikh and Jain neighbours would appreciate the greeting 'A Happy and Joyful Diwali'. It is also traditional to present sweets as a gift.
Guru Nanak Dev's Birthday
28th November, 2012
Observed by the Sikh community is the holy day of the Guru Nanak Dev's Birthday. Guru Nanak Dev was the first of the ten great masters of Sikhism, born in 1469 and dying in 1507 at the age of 69.
Being the pioneer of the Sikh faith, Guru Nanak Dev brought about many reforms in India during his time. He vehemently denounced the Caste system, pronouncing rather that all humans were created equal. He spoke of gender equality and gave women equal rights. He negated the custom of Satti, which required that a widow burn on her husband's funeral pyre. He also confronted the ruler of India on the topic of forced religious conversions. All Sikh Gurus became Defenders of Faith.
On the birthday of Guru Nanak Dev, you can wish your Sikh friends and neighbours 'Greetings on this Holy Day' or 'May you be blessed by the Guru'.
9th - 15th December, 2012
The Jewish festival of Chanukah (also known as the Festival of Lights) is celebrated on the 25th day of the Hebrew month of Kislev. As the Hebrew calendar is based on lunar cycles, the date when expressed in the Gregorian calendar changes every year. This year, Chanukah begins on the evening of 8th December, 2012 and is celebrated for eight days. The word Chanukah means 'dedication' in Hebrew.
The festival is named such because it is celebrated in remembrance of the cleansing and re-dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem brought about by the Maccabean revolt in 2nd Century BCE.
On December nights, one can see through the windows of Jewish homes, small flickering candles set in an eight branched candelabra (the chanukiah) proclaiming a miracle of redemption performed long ago.
During Chanukah, you might like to wish your Jewish friends 'Chag Chanukah Sameach' or 'Happy Chanukah (Hanukkah)'.
25th December, 2012
Christmas is the day on which Christians celebrate the birth, or nativity, of the Lord, Jesus Christ. The Christmastide period lasts for twelve days following 25th December. While both Western and Orthodox churches observe 25th December as a fixed date for this occasion, some countries where Orthodox Christianity is practiced work on the Julian Calendar. The 25th December in the Julian Calendar corresponds with 7th January in the Gregorian Calendar. Therefore many Orthodox Christians in Australia celebrate Christmas on 7th January.
Accounts of the birth of Christ are found in each of the four Gospels – the first four books of the New Testament. At Christmas, it is customary for nativity scenes to be constructed, depicting the Gospel accounts of the event. Carols, telling of the story are sung, and many Christians attend a church service.
During the lead-up to the Christmas period, it is customary to wish Christians a Merry Christmas, or to wish them Peace.