Religious Holidays Information

This list includes major holidays and festivals of those traditions generally found within our university community. It is by no means comprehensive. The dates listed with the information about each holiday are for the current academic year and the next. Holidays for which no year is included in the date are observed on the same date every year.

Students, faculty, or staff who feel we have overlooked a tradition or major holiday or festival are encouraged to contact our office.

Willamette University recognizes the value of religious practice and strives to accommodate students’ commitment to their religious traditions whenever possible. For a listing of holidays that may impact a student's academic schedule, please see Religious Holidays Policy.

Advent - Christianity

Advent is the Christian time of preparation for observing the birth of Jesus Christ. It begins on the Sunday nearest December 3rd 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.

December 3-24, 2017

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.

November 27, 2017

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.

May 28, 2017

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, traditionally made by burning the palm fronds from the previous Palm Sunday, are used to mark worshipers with a sign of penitence.

March 1, 2017

Ashura - Islam

During Ashura, a 10-day period of mourning, Shí'ite Muslims commemorate the martyrdom of the Prophet Mohammad's grandson Hussein in 680 CE.

For Sunni Muslims Ashura is a day of fasting in remembrance of two of Allah's merciful acts, Nuh (Noah) safely leaving the Ark and Musa (Moses) being liberated from the Egyptians.

September 30, 2017

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.

February 25-March 1, 2017

Bandi Chhor Divas - Sikhism

Bandi Chhor Divas means "the day of the prisoners' release" and recalls the negotiation by Guru Hargobind Ji (the sixth Guru) of the release from captivity of himself and 52 princes. Because he was released on the day of Diwali, Sikhs in Amritsar illuminate the city and lamps are lit by Sikhs around the world.

October 19, 2017

Beltane - Wicca

Beltane is one of the four major holidays of Wicca. As the God emerges 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. It marks the return of vitality and passion.

May 1, 2017

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.

October 22, 2017

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 his spiritual successor as the Sikh Guru (teacher).

January 5, 2017

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.

November 4, 2017

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 later 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.

October 21, 2017

Bodhi Day - Buddhism

Bodhi Day is the celebration of Gautama's attainment of enlightenment under the Bodhi tree at Bodhgaya, India.

January 5, 2017

Buddha Day (Vesak) - Buddhism

Vesak is the major festival of the Buddhist year, celebrating the birth, enlightenment, and death of Buddha. It is observed on the first full moon day in May (except in leap years, when the celebration is held in June).

May 10, 2017

Chinese New Year - Buddhism, Confucianism, Daoism

Please see, Lunar New Year.

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.

December 25

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.

November 25, 2017

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.

May 23, 2017

Diwali - Hinduism, 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 n Bengal and Lakshmi 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.

October 19, 2017 

Easter/Pascha - Christianity

Easter, or Pascha as it is known in Orthodox churches, is the most holy of Christian sacred days. It commemorates the resurrection of Jesus Christ 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.

April 16, 2017 (Western and Orthodox)

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.

September 1 (sundown) - September 5 (sundown), 2017

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.

June 25 (sundown) - June 28 (sundown), 2017

Epiphany - Christianity

Epiphany is the Christian commemoration of the manifestations of the divine nature of Jesus Christ. 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 Orthodox 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.

January 6, 2017

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.

April 20 - May 1, 2017

First Parkash - Sikhism

This observance commemorates the installation of the Adi Granth (the first edition of the Sikh Scriptures) at Harmandir Sahib by the fifth Guru, Guru Arjan Dev Ji, in 1604.

September 1, 2017

Good Friday/Holy Friday - Christianity

Good Friday, known as Holy Friday by 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.

April 14, 2017 (Western and Orthodox)

Gurgadi Guru Granth Sahib - Sikhism

This festival is the celebration of the installation of the Guru Granth Sahib (Sikh scriptures) as the Sikh Guru (teacher) for all time. Prior to his death in 1708, Guru Gobind Singh (the tenth Guru) had declared it to be his spiritual successor.

October 20, 2017

Hanukah - 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.

December 12 (sundown) -  20 (sundown), 2017

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.

March 13 & 14, 2017

Holy Friday

Holy Friday (known as Good Friday by Western 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.

April 14, 2017

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 seeds begin to wake from their winter sleep. Traditionally many initiation and self-dedication rituals are held at this time.

February 2, 2017


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 - and are lit successively over the seven days of the festival.

December 26 - January 1, 2017

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.

August 1, 2017

Litha - Wicca

Litha (Midsummer) 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.

June 21, 2017

Lunar New Year - Buddhism, Confucianism, Daoism

New Year festivities begin on the first day of the first Lunar 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 Lunar 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.

4713 on the Chinese calendar, a year of the sheep, will begin on February 19, 2015 and will end on February 7, 2016. Those born in sheep years tend to be artistic, sensitive, charming, and sweet.

January 28, 2017 - a year of the rooster

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.

March 20, 2017

Maghi - Sikhism

Maghi is 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.

January 13, 2017

Martyrdom of Guru Arjan - Sikhism

Guru Arjan Dev Ji (1563-1606) was the first Sikh martyr and the fifth Guru. He built the Harmandir Sahib (The Golden Temple) 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 also honored for contributing to and compiling the Sikh Scriptures.

June 16, 2017

Martyrdom of Guru Tegh Bahadur - Sikhism

This is the Sikhs remember the execution in 1675 of Tegh Bahadur (the ninth Guru) by the Moghul emperor Aurangzeb. Not only is he remembered for his defense of the Sikh faith, but for willingly giving his life for religious liberty for all faiths.

November 24, 2017

Martyrdom of the Báb - Bahá'i Faith

This holy day commemorates the anniversary of the execution by firing squad of the Báb (Siyyid 'Ali-Muhammad), the herald of the Bahá'i Faith, on July 9, 1850 in Tabriz, Persia (now Iran). It is one of the nine days of the year when work is suspended.

July 9, 2017

Martyrdom of the Sahibzadas - Sikhism

On this day Sikhs commemorate the deaths in 1705 of the two youngest of Guru Gobind Singh's sons (ages 9 and 6). Having been captured near the Battle of Chamkaur, they were entombed in a wall after refusing to convert from Sikhism.

December 27, 2017

Maundy Thursday - Christianity

Maundy or Holy Thursday commemorates the Last Supper of Jesus and the Apostles and the establishment of the Lord's Supper (Holy Communion/Eucharist).

April 13, 2017

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).

September 21-29, 2017

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. It is one of the nine holy days of the year when work is suspended.

March 21, 2017

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.

March 1 - 19, 2017

Nirvana Day - Buddhism

Nirvana Day is the festival marking the anniversary of Buddha's death.

February 15, 2017

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.

March 20, 2017

Palm Sunday - Christianity

Palm Sunday marks the beginning of Christian 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 Jerusalem at the beginning of the last week of his mortal life.

April 9, 2017

Pascha - Orthodox Christianity

Pascha is the most holy of Orthodox Christian sacred days, commemorating the resurrection of Jesus Christ following his death by crucifixion.

April 14, 2017

Passover - Judaism

Passover (Pesach) 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. Seders ar usually held on the first or second night of Passover. The first two and last two days of the festival may be observed as holidays from work.

April 10 (sundown) - April 18 (sundown), 2017

Pentecost - Christianity (Orthodox & Western)

Pentecost is the Christian observation of the day fifty days following the resurrection of Jesus Christ 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. In the western church the day may also be called "Whitsunday," a name believed to be derived from "white Sunday," because of the white robes that are sometimes worn by persons being baptized.

June 4, 2017

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.

March 11 (sundown) - March 12 (sundown), 2017

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.

May 26 (sundown) - June 24 (sundown), 2017

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 the previous day and marks the start of a period of introspection, abstinence, prayer, and penitence that ends on Yom Kippur. Some Jews observe one day away from work, others two.

September 21-22, 2017

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.)

October 31, 2017

Shavuot - Judaism

Shavuot is the Hebrew word for “weeks” and refers to the Jewish festival marking the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai, which occurs seven weeks after Passover. A harvest festival in ancient times, the Israelites would make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem at Shavuot to bring offerings from their crops to the Temple. Today, it is a celebration of Torah, education, and the active choice to participate in Jewish life.

May 30 (sundown) - May 31 (sundown), 2017

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.

October 12, 2017

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).

February 28, 2017

Simchat Torah - Judaism

The day of rejoicing in the Law, Simchat Torah (along with Shemini Atzeret the previous day) concludes the feast of Sukkot and marks the ending of the year's cycle of readings from the Torah and the beginning of the new cycle.

October 13, 2017

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 the people of Israel spent 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.

October 5 (sundown) - October 11 (sundown), 2017

Vaisakhi - Sikhism

Vaisakhi commemorates the removal of the clerical system from Sikhism in 1699 by the tenth Guru, Guru Gobind Singh Ji, reaffirming a direct path between Sikhs and the Divine. The Guru also created the Khalsa Panth, the Fellowship of the Pure, on this day. Persons ready to be initiated into the Khalsa are usually baptized on Vaisakhi.

April 14, 2017

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.

April 23, 2017

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 ask 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.

September 30, 2017

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.

December 21, 2017