Religious Tradition Descriptions

Asian Traditions

Lunar New Year – One of the most important festivals celebrated in Asian cultures. In the West, Lunar New Year is often referred to as Chinese New Year. Activities include making offerings to household deities, hosting banquets for family and friends, and festive parades.

Water Festival – The New Year’s celebration in several Southeast Asian countries. In some regions, dragon boat races are held and lanterns floated on rivers to bring blessings. People splash water at one another in a boisterous cleansing ritual of good will.

Christian Traditions

Christmas – A holy day celebrating of the birth of Jesus. Orthodox Christians often refer to it as the Feast of the Nativity and the Incarnation of Christ. Absence from work or school is common.

Ash Wednesday – Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent, the 40-day liturgical season in which many Catholic and Protestant Christians prepare through fasting, prayer, and penance for renewing baptismal promises at Easter.

Good/Holy Friday – A solemn holy day commemorating the crucifixion and death of Jesus Christ. Many Roman Catholics and Orthodox Christians observe it as a fast day. Christians of many denominations attend worship services. Absence from work or school is common.

Easter/Pascha – A day celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Absence from work or school is common.

Hindu Traditions

Diwali – A fall festival of lights signifying the victory of light over darkness, knowledge over ignorance, and hope over despair. Rituals of lighting candles and other forms of light extend over a five day period, with the primary celebrations on the first night.

Holi – A spring festival of colors celebrating life and signifying the victory of good over evil. Participants frolic in parks or other open areas, chasing and covering each other with dry colored powder and water.

Jewish Traditions

Rosh HaShanah – The Jewish New Year, which marks the beginning of a 10-day period of prayer, self-examination, and repentance known as the High Holy Days. Many Jews observe it with prayer and reflection in a synagogue. Absence from work or school is common on the first day of Rosh HaShanah.

Yom Kippur – The holiest day on the Jewish calendar, Yom Kippur means "Day of Atonement" and refers to the annual observance of fasting, prayer, and repentance. Absence from work or school is common.

Sukkot – Sukkot, meaning "booths" or "huts," is the seven-day festival of giving thanks for the fall harvest.

Hanukkah – Hanukkah (alternately spelled Chanukah) is the eight-day celebration commemorating the victory of the Maccabees over the Syrian army in 165 B.C.E. Hanukkah is a minor holiday in terms of religious practice, but it is a special and joyous time of year.

Pesach/Passover – A major Jewish festival lasting seven days, Pesach (Passover in English) commemorates the Exodus of Jews from slavery in Egypt. The ritual observance of this holiday centers upon a home service called the seder (meaning "order") and a festive meal. Jews often attend ritual observances on the first, second, and final evenings.

Yom HaShoah – This solemn day serves as a memorial to those who died in the Holocaust. Shoah, which means catastrophe or utter destruction in Hebrew, refers to the atrocities committed against the Jewish people during World War II. It is also known as Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Shavuot – This festival marks the receiving of the Torah at Mount Sinai. It is a celebration of Torah, education, and actively choosing to participate in Jewish life.

Muslim Traditions

Ramadan – The ninth lunar month of the Islamic calendar, which adult Muslims observe by fasting every day, abstaining from all food, drink, and sex from before dawn to sunset.

Eid al-Fitr – This day marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan and the first day of the month of Shawwal. The day begins with a special Eid prayer and involves day-long festivities. Celebrations may last up to three days. Absence from work or school is common.

Eid al-Adha – This day commemorates Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son to God. Muslims celebrate with the customary sacrifice of animals, sharing of the sacrificed animals’ meat with family and the poor, a special Eid prayer, and social gatherings. Celebrations may last up to three days. Absence from work or school is common.

Ashura – Shi’a Muslims commemorate the martyrdom of Husayn ibn ‘Ali, the third Shi’ite Imam and grandson of Muhammad, observing the day by mourning his death. Sunni Muslims commemorate God’s freeing of the Israelites from slavery to the Pharaoh of Egypt by observing a fast. Absence from work or school is common.