Interfaith Calendar: Religious and Cultural Observances 2021

A festive New Year’s greeting from the streets of Kathmandu in Nepal.

A Global Source for More than a Decade

Holidays & Festivals expert Stephanie Fenton is internationally known for her reporting on major holidays, festivals and milestones that shape community life around the world. There are many other calendars that claim to provide this information at the click of a link or an app, but Stephanie is the leading journalist focused on actively reporting about these milestones. That’s important, because dates and times and even the names of these observances vary—as well as the meaning of these observances in various countries and cultures. In her columns, Stephanie explains the fascinating stories behind these events, advises readers on newsy updates—and always provides an array of links to learn more about everything from the history of the holiday to DIY holiday-related crafts and tasty traditional recipes.

NOTE: It’s simple to find these columns. Just go to the master year-long calendar via InterfaithHolidays.com

In 2021, we are adding even more value to this calendar. Front Edge Publishing’s Susan Stitt, who regularly works with our many authors and contributing writers around the world, always keeps an eye out for connections between Holidays & Festivals—and the books we publish. This year, we have invited Susan to collaborate with Stephanie on this calendar listing by adding some natural pairings with our books. To keep this coverage clear for readers, we are marking Susan’s book suggestions in blue.

Interested in a particular observance? We may have a book for that!

Holidays and Festivals January 2021

JANUARY is named for Janus, the Roman god associated with beginnings and transitions. The many month-long observances in various parts of the world include a special focus on Alzheimer’s disease (Canada) and on combatting human trafficking and slavery (U.S.). Over the past two decades in the U.S., January also has been designated National Mentoring Month. We’ve got related books. This year also is the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on 9/11/2001, so our first new book in January will be Bill Tammeus’s Love, Loss and Endurance

Black-and-white photo of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in suit with microphones, speaking outdoors

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

1—Mary, Mother of God (Catholic Christian)

1—Feast of St. Basil (Orthodox Christian)

5—Twelfth Night (Christian)

6—Epiphany (Christian) (Note: Observed in some denominations on nearest Sunday, January 3, in 2021)

6—Theophany (Feast of the Epiphany) (Orthodox Christian)

6—Dia de los Reyes (Three Kings Day) (Christian)

7—Feast of the Nativity (Orthodox Christian, Julian calendar)

9—Law Enforcement Appreciation Day We’ve got a book for that: 100 Questions and Answers About Police Officers, Sheriff’s Deputies, Public Safety Officers and Tribal Police

10—Baptism of the Lord (Christian)

14—Maghi Lohri (Sikh)

14—Makar Sankranti / Pongal (Hindu)

16—Religious Freedom Day We’ve got a book for that: Check out all the volumes of our Bias Busters series exploring religious and cultural diversity.

17—World Religion Day We’ve got a book for that: The Tree of World Religions

18—Week of Prayer for Christian Unity begins (Christian)

18—Martin Luther King, Jr. Day (U.S.) We’ve got a book for that: Blessed Are the Peacemakers.

19—Timkat (Ethiopian Orthodox Christian)

20—Birthday of Guru Gobindh Singh (Sikh)

25—Conversion of St. Paul (Christian)

27—World Holocaust Victims Remembrance Day

27—Sundown, Tu B’Shvat (Jewish)

28—New Year (Buddhist, Mahayana)

Holidays and Festivals February 2021

FEBRUARY is another echo of ancient Rome, where februum meant “purification.” This year, the moveable season of Lent begins in February for the majority of Christians around the world. Lent begins in March in 2021 for those Orthodox Christians who follow different customs with their calendars. Among February’s month-long observances are Library Lovers Month and Black History Month in Canada and the U.S. (October in the UK). We’ve got many books for that. Look for our coverage in February of books including 100 Questions and Answers About African Americans and The Black Knight and Not Just Black and White. FOR LENT—Our Lent: Things We Carry and The Flavors of Faith and Jesus Christ Movie Star.

Black-and-white stamp of Four Immortal Chaplains

This U.S. postage stamp was issued in honor of the Four Immortal Chaplains in 1948.

1—Feast of St. Brighid of Kildare (Celtic Christian)

2—Candlemas (Presentation of Christ in the Temple) (Christian)

2—Imbolc (Lughnassadh) (Northern/Southern hemisphere) (Wicca, pagan)

2—Groundhog Day

3—Four Chaplains Day (Interfaith)

11—Our Lady of Lourdes (Catholic Christian)

12—Chinese New Year (International holiday)

14—St. Valentine’s Day (Christian, international holiday)

15—Presidents’ Day (U.S.) We’ve got a book for that: 30 Days with Abraham Lincoln

15—Parinirvana Day (Nirvana Day) (Buddhist, Jain)

16—Vasant Panchami (Hindu)

16—Shrove Tuesday (Mardi Gras) (Christian)

17—Ash Wednesday / Lent begins (Christian)

19—National Caregivers Day (A unified national observance honoring caregivers has not yet been established, so there are various observances. The third Friday in February is one date and other groups mark the entire month of November.) We’ve got books for that: A Guide for Caregivers. In early 2021, we also will be publishing Now what? A Guide to the Gifts of Challenges of Aging.

21—Triodion begins (Orthodox Christian)

24—Sundown, Ayyam-i-Ha (Intercalary Days) begins (Baha’i)

25—Fast of Esther (Jewish)

25—Sundown, Purim (Jewish)

26—Magha Puja Day / Sangha Day (Buddhist)

28—Sundown, Nineteen-Day Fast begins (Baha’i)

Holidays and Festivals March 2021

MARCH‘s name recalls Mars, yet another Roman deity. Among March’s month-long observances are National Social Work Month and Women’s History Month, which includes International Women’s Day. We’ve got many books for that. Look for our coverage as we get closer to March.

St. Patrick stained glass

A stained-glass representation of St. Patrick.

1—St. David of Wales (Christian)

2—Read Across America Day

5—Day of Unplugging We’ve got a book for that: Sadie Sees Trouble

7—Meatfare Sunday (Judgment Sunday) (Orthodox Christian)

8—International Women’s Day We’ve got many books for that, especially Friendship and Faith.

10—Sundown, Lailat al Miraj (Isra Mi’raj) (Islam)

11—Maha Shivaratri (Hindu)

12—Girl Scout Day We’ve got a book for that: Reuniting the Children of Abraham

13—Birthday of L. Ron Hubbard (Scientology)

14—Daylight Saving Time begins

14—Cheesefare Sunday (Forgiveness Sunday) (Orthodox Christian)

15—Clean Monday / Great Lent begins (Orthodox Christian)

17—St. Patrick’s Day (Christian, international holiday)

19—St. Joseph’s Day (Christian)

19—Sundown, Naw-Ruz (Baha’i)

20—International Day of Nowruz, Nowruz (Zoroastrian)

20—Vernal (spring) equinox (Northern Hemisphere)

20—Ostara (Mabon) (Wicca, pagan) (Northern/Southern hemisphere)

21—Feast of Orthodoxy / Sunday of Orthodoxy / Orthodox Sunday (Orthodox Christian)

25—Feast of the Annunciation (Christian)

27—Lord’s Evening Meal (Jehovah’s Witness Christian)

27—Fast of the Firstborn (Jewish)

27—Sundown, Pesach (Passover) begins (Jewish) We’ve got many books for that, including: Finding God in Unexpected Places: Wisdom for Everyone from the Jewish Tradition, The Flavors of Faith and This Jewish Life. As with many of these observances, look for our coverage of related books closer to Passover.

28—Palm Sunday (Christian)

28—Sundown, Lailat al Bara’ah (Mid-Sha’ban) (Islam)

28—Holika Dahan (Hindu)

29—Holi (Hindu)

29—Hola Mohalla (Sikh)

29—Vietnam War Veterans Day We’ve got books for that: 100 Questions & Answers about Veterans and The Black Knight.

Holidays and Festivals April 2021

APRIL‘s origin is debated by scholars but its name may reflect aperire, which means “to open.” Among April’s month-long observances are Arab American Heritage Month and Sexual Assault Awareness Month. We’ve got many books for that, but we especially want to highlight Light Shines in the Darkness: My Healing Journey through Sexual Abuse and Depression. We also will highlight 100 Questions and Answers about Arab Americans.

Eggs painted in various colors, detailed, in basket

1—Maundy Thursday (Christian)

2—Good Friday (Christian)

3—Black (Holy) Saturday (Christian)

4—Easter Sunday (Christian)

5—Easter Monday (Christian)

6—National Student Athlete Day We’ll have a book for that. In Spring 2021, we are publishing 30 Days with America’s High School Coaches, inspiring stories of real-life experiences with young athletes.

8—Vesak (Buddha Day) (Buddhist) (Note: Observance dates vary)

8—Sundown, Yom HaShoah (Jewish)

13—Ugadi / Gudi Padwa (Hindu)

Hand holding black strand of prayer beads

12—Sundown, Ramadan begins (Islam) We’ve got books for that, including: The Beauty of Ramadan and Our Muslim Neighbors. Look for more coverage of related books closer to the season of Ramadan.

14—Baisakhi (Vaisakhi) (Sikh)

15—Sundown, Yom HaZikaron (Jewish)

16—Sundown, Yom Ha’Atzmaut (Jewish)

19—Sundown, First Day of Ridvan (Baha’i)

21—Rama Navami (Hindu) (Note: Some Hindus begin reading the Ramayana nine days prior to the start of Rama Navami)

22—Earth Day We’ve got books for that, including God Is Just Love: Building Spiritual Resilience and Sustainable Communities for the Sake of Our Children and Creation.

24—Lazarus Saturday (Orthodox Christian)

25—Palm Sunday (Orthodox Christian)

25—Mahavir Jayanti (Jain)

27—Hanuman Jayanti (Hindu)

27—New Year (Buddhist, Theravada)

27—Sundown, Ninth Day of Ridvan (Baha’i)

29—Sundown, Lag B’Omer (Jewish)

30—Sundown, Twelfth Day of Ridvan (Baha’i)

30—Holy Friday (Orthodox Christian)

Holidays and Festivals May 2021

MAY‘s name also comes from an ancient deity, in this case associated with fertility. Among May’s month-long observances are special devotions to Mary in Catholic communities, Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, Jewish American Heritage Month and Military Appreciation Month. We’ve got many books for that, so please look for coverage of related books closer to May.

Words for Mother's Day on yellow with flowers

1—Beltane (Samhain) (Wicca, pagan) (Northern/Southern hemisphere)

1—Holy Saturday (Orthodox Christian)

1—Free Comic Book Day We’ve got a book for that: Bullying Is No Laughing Matter.

2—Great and Holy Pascha (Easter) (Orthodox Christian)

5—Cinco de Mayo We’ve got a book for that: True Border, 100 Questions and Answers about the U.S.-Mexico Frontera

6—National Day of Prayer (U.S.) We’ve got a book for that: The Tree of World Religions

8—Sundown, Lailat al-Qadr (27th night of Ramadan) (Islam)

9—Mother’s Day (U.S.) We’ve got many great books for mothers. Look for coverage of those gift ideas closer to Mother’s Day.

12—Sundown, Eid al-Fitr (Ramadan ends) (Islam)

13—Ascension of the Lord (Ascension of Jesus) (Christian)

14—Mothering Sunday (UK)

14—Akshaya Tritiya (Hindu, Jain)

15—Peace Officers Memorial Day We’ve got a book for that: 100 Questions and Answers About Police Officers, Sheriff’s Deputies, Public Safety Officers and Tribal Police

16—Sundown, Shavuot (Jewish)

16—Honor Our LGBT Elders Day We’ve got books for that, including: 100 Questions and Answers About Gender Identity and 100 Questions and Answers About Sexual Orientation.

22—Sundown, Declaration of the Bab (Baha’i)

23—Pentecost (Christian)

24—Whit Monday (Christian)

27—Sundown, Ascension of Baha’u’llah (Baha’i)

30—Trinity Sunday (Christian)

31—Memorial Day (U.S.) We’ve got books for that: 100 Questions & Answers about Veterans and The Black Knight and Guide for Grief.

Holidays and Festivals June 2021

JUNE brings a wide range of festivals and summer-themed observances in communities around the Northern Hemisphere. In the U.S., Pride Month commemorates the Stonewall Riots in June 1969 and the birth of the gay-rights movement. We’ve got many books about diversity, including: 100 Questions and Answers About Gender Identity and 100 Questions and Answers About Sexual Orientation and Bullying Is No Laughing Matter and Embracing Love and Changing Our Mind.

Dad tie words

3—Corpus Christi (Catholic Christian) (Observed on nearest Sunday, June 6, in 2021)

6—National Cancer Survivors Day We’ve got books for that, including the upcoming Shining Brightly, plus Struck by HopeGodSigns, and A Cute Leukemia.

9—St. Columba of Iona (Christian)

10—Holy Ascension / Feast of the Ascension (Orthodox Christian)

11—Sacred Heart of Jesus (Catholic Christian)

14—Flag Day (U.S.)

14—Birthday of the U.S. Army We’ve got books for that: 100 Questions & Answers about Veterans and The Black Knight.

16—Martyrdom of Guru Arjan Dev Sahib (Sikh)

19—New Church Day (Swedenborgian Christian)

19—Juneteenth

20—Father’s Day (U.S.) We’ve got lots of books to recommend for Fathers. Look for coverage closer to this date. 

20—Pentecost (Orthodox Christian)

20—Summer solstice (Northern Hemisphere)

20—Litha (Yule) (Wicca, pagan) (Northern/Southern hemisphere); Midsummer

24—St. John the Baptist (Christian)

27—The Sunday of All Saints (Orthodox Christian)

27—Fast of Tammuz 17; The Three Weeks begins (Jewish)

29—Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul (Christian)

Holidays and Festivals July 2021

JULY‘s name honors Julius Caesar, who was born in this month. More summer-time festivals are sprinkled around the Northern Hemisphere, including National Hog Dog Month and National Ice Cream Month in the U.S. That’s appropriate since this is the month of American Independence Day.

4—Independence Day (U.S.) We have a book for that: American History Made Easy.

8—Sundown, Martyrdom of the Bab (Baha’i)

13—Obon (Ullambana) (Buddhist) (Note: This observance is Shichigatsu Bon; Hachigatsu Bon / Kyu Bon, or “Old Bon,” commences in August)

17—Sundown, Tisha B’Av (Jewish)

17—Sundown, Hajj begins (Islam) We’ve got a book for that: Our Muslim Neighbors.

18—Sundown, Waqf al Arafa (Day of Arafat) (Islam)

19—Sundown, Eid al-Adha (Islam)

23—Birthday of Haile Selassie (Rastafari)

24—Pioneer Day (Mormon) We’ve got a book for that: 100 Questions & Answers about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

23—Sundown, Tu B’Av (Jewish)

24—Asalha Puja Day (Dharma Day) (Buddhist)

Holidays and Festivals August 2021

AUGUST was named after another Roman emperor, Augustus. Among the month-long observances are Happiness Happens (no kidding!) and National Immunization Awareness Month, which is promoted by the CDC in the U.S.

1—Lammas (Christian)

1—Lughnassadh (Imbolc) (Wicca, pagan) (Northern/Southern hemisphere)

Grains, breads and rolls on table

Lughnasadh and Lammas have long been a first harvest festival, giving thanks for grains and baking with the freshly-sown crops. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

1—Dormition Fast (Orthodox Christian)

6—Feast of the Transfiguration, Transfiguration of Our Lord (Catholic Christian, Anglican Christian, Orthodox Christian) (Note: In some liturgical calendars (ex: Lutheran and United Methodist), the last Sunday in the Epiphany season—February 14, this year—is also devoted to this event)

9—Sundown, Hijri (New Year) (Islam)

13—Obon (Ullambana) (Buddhist) (See note in July Obon entry)

15—Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Catholic Christian, Oriental Orthodox, Anglican Communion)

15—Dormition of the Theotokos (Orthodox Christian)

18—Sundown, Ashura (Islam)

22—Raksha Bandhan (Hindu)

30—Krishna Janmashtami (Hindu)

Holidays and Festivals September 2021

SEPTEMBER‘s name is a remnant of the fact that Romans once had 10 months and this was the seventh, hence “sept.” A whole series of cancer-awareness observances have been clustered in September, including special efforts to highlight childhood cancers, gynecologic cancers, leukemia, lymphoma, ovarian cancer and thyroid cancer. We have lots of books about coping with cancer and caregiving.

Honey and biscuits

Honey is eaten with various foods on Rosh Hashanah. Photo courtesy of Pixnio

1—Ecclesiastical New Year (Orthodox Christian)

4—Paryushan Parvarambha begins (Jain)

6—Labor Day (U.S.)

6—Sundown, Rosh Hashanah (Jewish) As the Jewish High Holy Days begin in 2021, our readers will hear about our whole array of books with Jewish themes.

8—Nativity of the Virgin Mary/Theotokos (Christian)

10—Ganesh Chaturthi (Hindu)

11—Patriot Day (U.S.) This is the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on 9/11/2001. We have a number of books that include this important historical milestone, which changed interfaith and cross-cultural relationships. In 2021, our newest book on this theme is Bill Tammeus’s Love, Loss and Endurance: A 9/11 Story of Resilience and Hope in an Age of Anxiety.

11—Enkutatasch (Ethiopian New Year) (Rastafari, Ethiopian Orthodox)

11—Paryushan Parva (Jain)

15—Sundown, Yom Kippur (Jewish)

20—Sundown, Sukkot (Jewish)

21—Mabon (Imbolc) (Wicca, pagan) (Northern/Southern hemisphere)

22—Autumnal (fall) equinox (Northern Hemisphere)

27—Meskel (Ethiopian Eritrean Orthodox Christian)

27—Sundown, Shemini Atzeret (Jewish)

28—Sundown, Simchat Torah (Jewish)

29—Michael and All Angels (Christian)

Holidays and Festivals October 2021

OCTOBER retains its old reference to this being the eighth month in the old Roman system, thus “oct.” One of the biggest cancer-awareness campaigns—Breast Cancer Awareness Month—takes place each October. This also is National Bullying Prevention Month. We’ve got books for both of these observances. By October, we will remind readers about helpful books for families coping with cancer and caregiving. Among our resources to combat bullying, we’ve got Bullying Is No Laughing Matter and The New Bullying.

Close-up of pile of candy corn4—St. Francis Day (Blessing of the Animals) (Catholic Christian)

7—Navaratri (Hindu)

11—Indigenous Peoples Day We’ve got a book for that: Dancing My Dream.

11—Columbus Day (U.S.) We have a book for that: American History Made Easy.

11—Thanksgiving (Canada)

15—Daesara, Dussehra (Hindu)

18—St. Luke, Apostle and Evangelist (Christian)

18—Sundown, Mawlid an-Nabi (Islam)

31—Reformation Day (Protestant Christian)

31—All Hallows Eve (Christian)

31—Samhain (Wicca, pagan)

Holidays and Festivals November 2021

NOVEMBER was named for novem or “ninth,” continuing the ancient Roman custom of numbering months. This is Native American History Month, We’ve got books: Dancing My Dream as well as The Flavors of Faith, among others. November also is National Family Caregivers Month and National Hospice Month—so we will highlight various books as we approach this month.

Girl poses with candle-lit bowls of oil

A girl with diya lamps lit for Diwali. Photo by Partha Sarathi Sahana, courtesy of Flickr

1—All Saints (Christian)

2—All Souls’ Day (Catholic Christian)

4—Diwali (Deepavali) (Hindu, Jain, Sikh)

5—Sundown, Birth of the Bab (Baha’i)

6—Sundown, Birth of Baha’u’llah (Baha’i)

7—Daylight Saving Time ends

11—Veterans Day (U.S.) We’ve got books!

15—Nativity Fast begins (Orthodox Christian)

21—Christ the King (Christian)

24—Martyrdom of Guru Tegh Bahadur Sahib (Sikh)

24—Sundown, Day of the Covenant (Baha’i)

25—Thanksgiving (U.S.) We’ve got books!

26—Sundown, Ascension of Abdu’l-Baha (Baha’i)

28—First Sunday of Advent (Advent begins) (Christian) We’ve got books!

28—Sundown, Hanukkah (Chanukah) begins (Jewish) We’ve got books!

30—St. Andrew’s Day (Christian)

Holidays and Festivals December 2021

DECEMBER, with dec for “ten,” wraps up the old Roman system of numbering months.

Man with red bishop's hat and white beard waves with white gloved hand

Sinterklaas arrives in the Netherlands.

6—St. Nicholas Day (Christian)

7—Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day (U.S.) We’ve got books!

8—Bodhi Day (Rohatsu) (Buddhism)

8—Immaculate Conception of Mary (Catholic Christian)

12—Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe (Hispanic Catholic Christian)

16—Posadas Navidenas begins (Hispanic Christian)

21—Yule (Christian, Wicca, pagan)

21—Winter solstice (Northern Hemisphere)

25—Christmas (Christian)

25—Feast of the Nativity (Orthodox Christian)

26—Kwanzaa begins

26—Feast of St. Stephen (Christian)

26—Feast of the Holy Family (Catholic Christian)

28—Holy Innocents (Christian)

31—Watch Night (Christian)

.

NOTE TO READERS

We continue to update this list, month by month. As you read the list, you may discover we have missed a fascinating observance or detail. If so, please email us at [email protected].

Print Friendly, PDF & Email