An Interfaith Holy Week

symbols of religions

Holy week is the name given to the week before Easter, wherein Christians mark the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus with many ceremonies. During this week, several other religions celebrate festivals, commemorations and sacred times.

13 – 16 April – Theravada New Year (Buddhist)

buddhist lamps - new year
Songkran is the Thai New Year’s festival. The Thai New Year’s Day is 13 April every year, but the holiday period includes 14–16 April as well. On New Year’s day, Buddhists from the Theravada tradition (largely Thai, Cambodian, Burmese, Lao and Sri Lankan), visit temples and monasteries, offer prayers, prostrations and other devotional practices to honour the Buddha. On this specific occasion, performing water pouring on Buddha statues and the young and elderly is considered an iconic ritual for this holiday. It represents purification and the washing away of one’s sins and bad luck. People take a look at their karma (actions), past lives, and try to rectify their mistakes. They wear new clothes, clean and decorate their households, visit friends and families, share gifts and prepare special sweet dishes. 

14 April – Palm Sunday (Christian)

Palms used in Christian Palm Sunday observance
Palm Sunday is the final Sunday of Lent, the beginning of Holy Week, and commemorates the triumphant arrival of Christ in Jerusalem, days before he was crucified. Christian churches distribute palm crosses and services will often include a procession of the faithful carrying palm branches representing the palm branches the crowd scattered in front of Jesus as he rode into Jerusalem on a donkey. Palm branches at the time were considered symbols of victory and triumph and the symbolism of the donkey may refer to the Eastern tradition that it is an animal of peace, versus the horse, which is the animal of war.

14 April – Vaisakhi Festival and Khalsa Foundation Day (Sikh)

Vaisakhi is Khalsa Foundation Day for the Sikhs
Vaisakhi, also spelled Baisakhi, is one of the most important dates in the Sikh calendar and celebrates the founding of the Sikh community known as the Khalsa Panth (Brotherhood of the Pure). It dates back to 1699 in Punjab, India when this community of the Pure was initiated by the Tenth Sikh Guru, Guru Gobind Singh to fight against tyranny and oppression. Guru Gobind Singh gave the Khalsa a unique identity with five distinctive symbols of purity and courage, known today as the Five K’s. The Guru gave all Khalsa men the surname of Singh (lion) as a reminder to be courageous. Women took on the surname Kaur (princess) to emphasise dignity. With the distinct Khalsa identity Guru Gobind Singh gave all Sikhs the opportunity to live lives of courage, sacrifice, and equality. In Sikh tradition, it’s a time of renewal and rekindling of spirit. Sikhs are guided by the principles of faith in one God (known to Sikhs as “Waheguru”), working hard and sharing with others.

14 April – Rama Navami  (Hindu)

Rama Navami
Rama Navami celebrates the birth of Lord Rama, son of King Dasharatha of Ayodhya. Rama was an avatar (i.e. descent or incarnation of the divine) of Vishnu, one of the principal dieties of Hinduism. Rama is the hero of the Ramayana, the Sanskrit epic of 24,000 stanzas. A continuous recital of the book takes place for about a week prior to the celebration and on the day itself, the highlights of the story are read in the temple. The festival is a focal point for moral reflection and being especially charitable to others.

17 April – Mahavir Jayanti (Jain)

Mahavir jayanti - Birth of Jain Founder Mahavir
Jain Festival honouring the birthday of Lord Mahavira, the founder of Jain religion. He preached the philosophy to encourage nonviolence (Ahimsa), truthfulness (Satya), chastity/fidelity (Brahmacarya), non-stealing (Asatya), and simple living (Aparigraha). During the day, many Jains engage in some sort of charitable act in the name of Mahavira while others travel to temples to meditate and offer prayers.

17 April – Narasimha Jayanti (Hindu)

Narasimha - half lion-half man avatar
Narashima Jayanti – Avatar This day celebrates the appearance of Lord Vishnu in the form of his fourth avatar (incarnation), Narasimha, a half-lion and half-man in order to vanquish the demon Hiranyakashipu. He is known primarily as the ‘Great Protector’ who specifically defends and protects his devotees in times of need. 

18 April – Birthday of Guru Angad Dev and Guru Tegh Bahadur (Sikh)

Birthday of Guru Angad Dev Guru Tegh Bahadur
Celebrates the birthdays of the second and ninth Guru of Sikhs. Guru Nanak Dev Ji took an unusual step and selected ‘Bhai Lehna’ as the second Guru and called him ‘Angad’ his limb. He then bowed to him. Angad Dev established Gurmukhi, the unique Sikh script. Guru Tegh Bahadur, the ninth guru of the Sikhs, was martyred by Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb for resisting the Mughal Emperor’s attempt to convert the whole country to Islam.

19 April – Good Friday (Christianity)

Good Friday recalls the crucifixion of Christ
Good Friday, the Friday before Easter, the day on which Christians annually observe the commemoration of the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ. From the early days of Christianity, Good Friday was observed as a day of sorrow, penance, and fasting, a characteristic that finds expression in the German word Karfreitag (“Sorrowful Friday”).

19 April – Passover (Pesach) (Judaism)

plate recalls th epreparations of Jews to leave Egypt
Passover 2019 begins at sundown on Friday, April 19, and ends Saturday evening, April 27. The first Passover seder is on the evening of April 19, and the second Passover seder takes place on the evening of April 20. Passover is a festival of freedom. It commemorates the Israelites’ Exodus from Egypt, and their transition from slavery to freedom. The main ritual of Passover is the seder, which occurs on the first two night (in Israel just the first night) of the holiday — a festive meal that involves the re-telling of the Exodus through stories and song and the consumption of ritual foods, including matzah and maror (bitter herbs).

21 April –  Easter Sunday (Christianity)

Easter day celebrates the risen Jesus
Easter is the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus from the tomb on the third day after his crucifixion. Easter is the fulfilled prophecy of the Messiah who would be persecuted, die for our sins, and rise on the third day. (Isaiah 53). Remembering the resurrection of Jesus is a way to renew daily hope that we have victory over sin. According to the New Testament, Easter is three days after the death of Jesus on the cross.

21 April – Ridvan (Baha’i)

Bahá'u'lláh's time in the garden of Ridván
Ridvan, – The Ridván Festival is celebrated from sunset 21 April to sunset 2 May. The festival marks Bahá’u’lláh’s time in the garden of Ridván in 1863 and his announcement that he was the prophet promised by the Báb. Bahá’u’lláh ordained this festival ‘Most Great Festival’

21 April – Lailat al Bara’ah (Islam)

the 15th night of Shabaan
Lailat ul Bara’h (Night of Forgiveness) is the 15th night of Shabaan and takes place two weeks before Ramadan. It is the time when Muslims seek forgiveness for their sins and believe that on this night one’s destiny is fixed for the year ahead. On this night, Muslims pray and ask God for forgiveness either at the mosque or at home. Muslims may visit the graves of relatives and the giving to charity is also traditional. Although not a religious requirement, in some parts of the world there are firework displays that mark this night.

Other Days in this Sacred Time:
28 April –  Orthodox Christianity – Easter/Pascha
2 May – Judaism – Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day
6 May – Islam – Ramadan Begins






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