Religious Festivals

The Happy Cultural Planner

The Happy Cultural Planner is a free document you can download, print and use. See below for a full list of the 2018 festivals, along with their meanings, to help plan for the year ahead.

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14 Jan Makar Sankranti
This winter festival celebrates the Sun-God’s entry into the Northern Hemisphere.
13 Feb Maha Shivarati
Devotion and thanks are shown to Lord Shiva, who danced his cosmic dance this night. Many Hindus fast.
1-2 Mar Holi
Holi is a festival that welcomes the spring, which also celebrates Krishna, and the legend of Holika and Prahalad. Bonfires are lit to celebrate.
22 Mar Varsha-Pratipada
The Hindu Spring New Year – a good day to start new ventures. It symbolises renewal.
25 Mar Rama Navami
The birthday of Rama, an incarnation of Vishnu and the hero of the Ramayana.
26 Aug Raksha Bandan
“Raksha Bandan” means “a thread for protection”. Sisters tie a thread bracelet around their brothers’ wrists, and receive gifts in return.
2 Sept Janamashtami/Krishna Jayanti
The birthday of Krishna. Many Hindus forego sleep for the 48 hours, and some fast.
9-18 Oct Navaratri/Durga Puja/Dusserah
Navaratri (nine nights) is a festival in which God is adored as Mother.
7 Nov Diwali (Deepvali)
Diwali, the festival of light, extends over five days and celebrates the triumph of light over darkness, good over evil, and knowledge over ignorance.


12-13 Apr Lailat-Al-Miraj
The night journey and ascent of the Prophet Muhammad, celebrated by the telling of the story of how he was visited by two archangels.
30-1 May Lailat-Al-Bara’ah
“The Night of Freedom from Fire”, in which Muslims are graced with divine mercy and blessings.
15 May-14 Jun Ramadan
A month of dusk to dawn fasting, in which the gates of heaven are open and the gates of hell are closed.
9-10 Jun Lailat-Ul-Qadr
The Night of Power, when the Qur’an was first revealed to the Prophet Muhammad. Muslims spend this time in study and prayer.
14-15 Jun Eid-Ul-Fitr
Muslims celebrate the end of fasting for Ramadan, with processions through the street and a celebratory daytime meal – their first for a month.
21-22 Aug Eid-Ul-Adha
A major festival marking the end of Hajj, it remembers the Prophet Ibrahim’s willingness to sacrifice his son to Allah. Most Muslims will abstain from work.
12 Sept Al-Hijra/Islamic New Year
The new year, which marks the Prophet Muhammad’s migration from Mecca to Medina where he set up the first Muslim state.
20-22 Sept Ashura
A day of fasting marking the day Noah left the ark and Moses was saved by the Egyptians. For some, it is also a day of mourning.


5 Jan Birthday of Guru Gobindh Singh
The tenth and last Guru, who created the order of Khalsa and instituted the Five ‘Ks’.
14 Apr Baisakhi
The Sikh New Year festival, which also commemorates Sikhism being born as a collective faith in 1699.
16 Jun Martyrdom of Guru Arjan Dev
Guru Ajan compiled the Sikh scriptures for the first time, and on this day was executed.
7 Nov Diwali
A Sikh festival as well as Hindu. Sikhs celebrate the release from prison of Guru Hargobind Singh during this time.
24 Nov Martyrdom of Guru Tegh Bahadur
A champion of religious freedom, executed for refusing to convert to Islam.


6 Jan Epiphany
Epiphany remembers the wise men visiting Jesus.
1 Mar St. David’s Day
Celebration of the patron saint of Wales.
14 Feb-29 Mar Lent
The season of preparation before Easter, in which Christians often surrender a particular vice – such as chocolate or smoking. The sacrifice represents Jesus’ deprivation in the wilderness.
17 Mar St. Patrick’s Day
Celebration of the patron saint of Ireland.
25 Mar Palm Sunday
The last Sunday of Lent marks Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, where the people waved Palm branches at him.
30 Mar Good Friday
A day to commemorate the execution of Jesus on the cross.
1 Apr Easter Sunday
Celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. The most important Christian festival and the one celebrated with most joy.
23 Apr St. George’s Day
Celebration of the patron saint of England.
20 May Pentecost
The festival where Christians celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit, 50 days after Easter. Regarded as the birthday of the Christian church.
1 Nov All Saints Day
A day to honour all saints and martyrs of the church.
30 Nov St. Andrew’s Day
Celebration of the patron saint of Scotland.
25 Dec Christmas Day
The day celebrating the birth of Jesus.


7 Jan Ethiopian Christmas
A celebration of Jesus, marked by a large feast.
23 Jul Birthday of Emperor Selassie
A celebration of the birth of Emperor Haile Selassie I, who Rastafarians recognise as Messiah and God, with music, song and prayer.
11 Sept Ethiopian New Year
Celebrated as Rastafarians believe Ethiopia to be their spiritual homeland. Its history is remembered through biblical passages.
2 Nov Anniversary of the crowning of Selassie
The high priest reads biblical passages and initiates singing to remember Emperor Selassie.


1 Feb Imbolc
Celebrates the land’s awakening and the growing power of the sun.
20 Mar Spring Equinox
Celebrates the renewed life of the Earth.
1 May Beltane
A fire festival, celebrates the coming of summer with maypole dances.
21 Jun Summer Solstice (longest day)
A time to celebrate growth and life but recognise the oncoming decline of the sun.
1 Aug Lughnasadh-Lammas
The beginning of the harvest season.
23 Sept Autumnal Equinox
A time to reflect on the past season.
31 Oct Samhain/Halloween
The Feast of the Dead. A time to remember and honour the dead.
21 Dec Winter Solstice
Yule, when the sun child is reborn.


15 Feb Parinirvana
The Buddha’s death, celebrated because he attained total Enlightenment, or Nirvana.
29 May Vaishaka Puja/Wesak
A celebration of the Buddha’s birthday, celebrated with much colour. In some countries there are special Wesak lanterns made, and caged birds are released.
27 Jul Asalha/ Dharma Day
The beginning of the Buddha’s teaching, celebrated with readings of scriptures.
24 Jan Bodhi Day
A day when some Buddhists celebrate Gautama reaching enlightenment under the Bodhi tree.

International Days

28 Jan Vietnamese/Chinese New Year
The start of the year on the Chinese calendar, also know as Tết in Vietnam.
26 Mar Bangladesh Independence Day
Commemorates the declaration of independence in 1971.
14 Jul Bastille Day
The French national holiday, celebrating the uprising of the modern French nation, particularly the storming of the Bastille.
14 Aug Pakistan Independence Day
Commemorates the creation of Pakistan when India was partitioned,
15 Aug Indian Independence Day
Commemorates the independence of India, as it left the British Empire.


14 Feb Valentine’s Day
Based on legends of Saint Valentine, who performed secret marriages while they were banned by Emperor Claudius II. Another legend tells of an imprisoned Valentine signing secret letters to the jailer’s daughter as “your Valentine”.
11 Mar Mothering Sunday
A traditional time for children to celebrate and thank their mothers, giving them cards, gifts and flowers.
17 Jun Father’s Day
A more recent parallel to Mother’s Day for fathers, established in the early 20th Century by a daughter who wanted to express her appreciation for her single father.


1 Mar Purim
Commemorates the time when Persian Jews were saved from extermination by a woman called Esther.
31 Mar-7 Apr Passover (Pesach)
A festival celebrating the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt, led by Moses, and a general celebration of freedom.
20-21 May Shavuot
Marks the time when the Jews received the Torah. Prayers are said, especially at dawn, to thank God for the five books of Moses.
22 Jul Tisha B’Av
A fast day commemorating several calamities that have occurred on this same day in the Jewish calendar. Known as “the saddest day in Jewish history”.
10-11 Sept Rosh Hashana
Jewish New Year, commemorating the creation of the world.
19 Sept Yom Kippur
The Day of Atonement, when God decides how the next year will be for each person. Those who have repented for their sins will be granted a happy New Year.
24-30 Sept Sukkot
Sukkot celebrates the Jews’ years in the desert on the way to the Promised Land, and is celebrated by building huts.
1 Oct Shemini Atzeret
Shemini Atzeret is the final day of festivities at the end of Sukkot.
2 Oct Simchat Torah
Meaning “Rejoicing in the Torah”, this day marks the end of the yearly cycle of weekly Torah readings.
3-10 Dec Hanukah
The Jewish Festival of Lights, celebrated for eight days. It commemorates the Jews’ struggle for religious freedom. During Hanukkah, Jews light one more candle each night.