The date for Easter changes every year. In Western Christianity, using the Gregorian calendar, Easter always falls on a Sunday between 22 March and 25 April, within about seven days after the astronomical full moon. As well as major Christian observances, at the time of Easter, there are religious festivals in Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Orthodox Christianity, Jainism and the Baha’i faith. Jains observe the birthday of Mahavir. Buddhists observe Therevadan New Year. There is the Passover of the Jewish Faith and the Sikhs celebrate Vaisakhi, the foundation of the Khalsa. These are among the religious festivals celebrated at this time.
08 April – Passover (Pesach) (Judaism)
Passover 2020 begins at sundown on Friday, April 8, and ends on the evening of Thursday, April 16. 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 nights (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). This frequently done in company of family and friends.
Some Orthodox rabbis in Israel have approved the use of a video conference program such as Zoom to bring families together for a Passover Seder.
The letter in Hebrew issued on Wednesday was signed by 14 rabbis, all Sephardic. According to the rabbis, the video conference must be operating before the start of the holiday, and left running after the Seder until the next night when the first day of Passover concludes. The rabbis also said that the permission is granted “for emergency times only.”
Orthodox Judaism prohibits the use of electricity and electronic devices on Shabbat and holidays.
The rabbis compared the use of the technology for the seder to the permission to provide life-saving treatment on Shabbat.
According to the Jerusalem Post, the rabbis said in the letter that it is important to lift the spirits of the elderly, who have been separated from their families and others to avoid contracting the deadly virus, and to “give them motivation to keep fighting for their lives, and to prevent depression and mental weakness which could lead them to despair of life.”
Lailat al Bara’ah (Islam)
Lailat al Bara’ah – Mid-Sha’ban (Arabic: نصف شعبان, romanized: Niṣf Sha‘bān) or Bara’a Night (Arabic: ليلة البراءة, romanized: Laylat al-Bara’at) is a holiday observed by Muslim communities on the night between 14 and 15 Sha’ban. It is regarded as a night when the fortunes of individuals for the coming year are decided and when Allah may forgive sinners.
On the fourteenth of Sha’ban, the eighth month of the Muslim calendar and two weeks before Ramadan commences, Muslims seek forgiveness for their sins. Many Muslims believe that it is on this night that a person’s destiny is fixed by Allah for the coming year, and the night is often spent in prayer, asking for forgiveness and God’s guidance. Some Muslims fast during the daytime in preparation for the night. In certain parts of the world Muslims visit the graves of relatives, and the giving of charity is also traditional. In a number of places the night is marked with firework displays.
Hanuman Jayanti (Hinduism)
April 8, 2020 is Hanuman Jayanti, the birth of Hanuman – observed in the Hindu religion. Jayanti means birth anniversary.
Hanuman Jayanti or Hanuman Janam-Utsav is a Hindu religious festival that celebrates the birth of Lord Sri Hanuman, who is immensely venerated throughout India and Nepal. This festival is celebrated on different days in different parts of India. In most states of India, the festival is observed in the month of Chaitra – usually Chaitra Purnima, the 15th day of the bright half of the month.
In Hinduism, it is taught that through the act of aspiring to divinity, one reaches divinity. Here, with Hanuman, we learn of one who aspired to be the selfless servant of the Divine, Lord Rama. The fruit of his devotion and service unto the Divine, Hanuman was gifted with immortality: wherever the Story of Lord Rama (the Ramayana) was told, there Hanuman is present.
Hanuman – sometimes called the “monkey god” was a vanara – a member of a now extinct race of intelligent monkeys. In the Ramayana they are represented as humans (va nara) with their speech, clothing, habitations, funerals, consecrations, etc., and as monkeys with reference to their leaping, their hair and fur. This race of intelligent simians is thought to have become extinct with the Fall of Atlantis.
Hanuman is known as Maruti, Pavanakumara, Vayusuta, Anjaneya, Kesarinandana, Mahavira, Bajarangi, Sankatmocana. He is presented as a simian – monkey figure kneeling with joined palms beside Rama, Sita and Laksmana, or tearing his chest open to reveal Rama’s image in his heart.
Lord Rama granted Hanuman immortality: where-ever the Ramayana is recited, there Hanuman may be present.
9 April 2020 – Theravada New Year (Buddhism)
Theravada New Year in 2020 is on the Thursday, 9th of April. Theravada New Year is on the 100th day of 2020. There are 266 days left in the year. 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.
Monks are given Buddha statues. Some people pour water on each other. In the past, instead of throwing water on each other, people threw pastes, flour, dye, and tapioca on each other. But this practice is not encouraged now. Some colourful processions are also held during this day. On river banks, people usually construct sand sculpture. Theravada Buddhists see each grain of sand as a wrongdoing, which is considered gone when the water washes them away.
In some South East Asian countries, people celebrate the Theravada New Year by buying birds and fish. They then release these animals into the wild to show their compassion for living things as well as to build good karma. Dedicated devotees celebrate this day by spending some quiet time concentrating on their thoughts about Buddha, his birth, enlightenment, and death.
10 April – Good Friday (Christianity)
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”).
It is known that circa 50AD, believers in the Early Church were visiting the places associated with the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus and retelling their stories of these events.
Until the 4th century, Jesus’ Last Supper, his death, and his Resurrection were observed in one single commemoration on the evening before Easter. Since then, those three events have been observed separately—Easter, as the commemoration of Jesus’ Resurrection, being considered the pivotal event.
In this day and age, Good Friday is observed in Churches with the Stations of the Cross, and with service at 3pm – sometimes called Observance of the Passion”; 3pm is thought to be the time Jesus passed. The normal service of Eucharist is not celebrated on this day.
12 April – Easter Day (Christianity)
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.
Meanwhile, many of the cultural historians find, in the celebration of Easter, a convergence of the three traditions – Pagan, Jewish and Christian.
According to St. Bede, an English historian of the early 8th century, Easter owes its origin to the old Teutonic mythology. It was derived from the name Eostre, the Anglo-Saxon goddess of spring, to whom the month of April was dedicated. The festival of Eostre was celebrated at the vernal equinox, when the day and night gets an equal share of the day.
The English name “Easter” is much newer. When the early English Christians wanted others to accept Christianity, they decided to use the name Easter for this holiday so that it would match the name of the old spring celebration. This made it more comfortable for other people to accept Christianity.
Easter and Passover
Different calendars are followed. One is the Gregorian Calendar, the other is the Jewish Calendar. In each case, the calendar is adjusted to ensure that the holiday is celebrated early in the spring. For the church, which believed that the resurrection took place on a Sunday, the First Council of Nicaea in 325 determined that Easter should always fall on the first Sunday after the first full moon following the vernal equinox. In consequence, Easter remained without a fixed date but proximate to the full moon, which coincided with the start of Passover on the 15th of the Hebrew month Nissan.
12 April – Orthodox Palm Sunday
Palm Sunday, or the “Entry of the Lord into Jerusalem” as it may be called in Orthodox Churches, is one of the Twelve Great Feasts of the liturgical year. The day before Palm Sunday, Lazarus Saturday, believers often prepare palm fronds by knotting them into crosses in preparation for the procession on Sunday.
Orthodox Easter is determined by following the Julian Calendar. The Julian calendar – which often differs from the Gregorian calendar that is used by many western countries. Therefore the Orthodox Easter period often occurs later than the Easter period that falls around the time of the March equinox.
13 April – Vaishakhi (Sikhism)
Vaisakhi also known as Baisakhi, Vaishakhi, or Vasakhi is a historical and religious festival in Sikhism. It is usually celebrated on April 13 or 14 every year. Vaisakhi marks the Sikh new year and commemorates the formation of Khalsa panth of warriors under Guru Gobind Singh in 1699.
Vaisakhi is celebrated with parades, dancing and singing throughout the day. Many Sikhs choose to be baptised into the Khalsa brotherhood on this day. This festival is marked with nagar kirtan processions: processions through the streets (nagar means “town”) which form an important part of Sikh culture and religious celebrations.
Kirtan is a term meaning the singing of hymns from the Guru Grath Sahib, the Sikh holy book. Celebrations always include music, singing and chanting scriptures and hymns. The processions are led by traditionally dressed Panj Piaras. The Guru Granth Sahib will be carried in the procession in a place of honour.
Baisakhi was one of the three festivals that the third Sikh Guru, Guru Amar Das, chose to be celebrated by the Sikhs. In 1699, the ninth Sikh Guru, Guru Teg Bahadur, was publicly beheaded by the Mughals. This occurred due to his willingness to oppose the Mughal invaders and protect the cultural identity of Hindus and Sikhs whom the Mughal ruler Aurangzeb wanted to convert to Islam. On Baisakhi day of 1699, his son, Guru Gobind Rai, rallied the Sikhs and inspired them through his words and actions, bestowing upon them and himself the title of Singh or lion, thus becoming Guru Gobind Singh. The five Ks of Sikhism were adopted, and the Guru system was dispelled, with Sikhs being urged to accept the Granth Sahib as the eternal guide. Thus, the festival of Baisakhi is observed as the coronation of the last Sikh Guru, Guru Gobind Singh, as well as the foundation of the Khalsa Panth of Sikhism, granting it a position of immense importance to Sikhism, and is one of the biggest Sikh festivals.
17 April – Birth of Mahavir (Jainism)
17 April is Mahavir Jayanti, a festival of the Jain Religion.
Jainism is an Indian religion and philosophy which offers an austere path to enlightenment. Much of its mythology was inherited from Hinduism, including huge numbers of gods, and ideas on the structure of the Universe, but Jains differ from Hindus in that they do not believe in the idea of creation, considering that time is cyclic. Jain ascetics attempt to conduct their lives following these five vows:
- to injure no living thing (because everything has a soul);
- to speak the truth;
- to take only what is given;
- to be chaste;
- to achieve detachment from people, places and things.
Their exemplars in following this discipline are 24 tirthankaras or ‘spiritual teachers’ who have appeared in the present cycle of time. A tirtha is a ford or crossing place or a sacred place, person or path which enables believers to cross over into liberation from an endless round of rebirth; for Jains, the tirthankaras were the builders of the ford.
Mahavira (above) the twenty-fourth tirthankara, was a contemporary of Gautama Buddha. At the age of 30, he renounced family life and embarked on life as a wondering ascetic. He endured 12 years of fasting, silence and meditation to achieve enlightenment, then spent the next 30 years preaching throughout northern India.
Mahavira and his followers went about naked to indicate their conquest of passion, and he and his followers are traditionally portrayed with downcast eyes – dead to the world. In this day and age, Jains are divided into Digambar – clad with the sky, and Shwetambar – clad in white clothing (to indicate purity).
17 April – Orthodox Good Friday
Many Orthodox Christian churches in Australia often observe Good Friday at a later date than the Good Friday date observed by many western churches. Good Friday focuses on Jesus Christ’s death, which is described in the Christian bible. The day is also known as Great Friday, Holy Friday, and Holy and Great Friday.
Holy Friday is traditionally a mourning and fasting day among Orthodox Christians in Australia, particularly in the Greek Orthodox churches. The day commemorates Jesus’ death by crucifixion. Spring flowers are often collected for the epitaph (bier) at church. Evening or late afternoon liturgies are held, followed by the procession of the epitaph in some churches where the evening ends with a candlelit procession of the epitaph through the streets.
In every Greek city, village or island, the Passion of Christ is revived through different traditions. From the early morning hours in all the Greek churches, the Epitaph, decorated with flowers, is ready to receive the body of Jesus. In most areas, the epitaph procession begins around 9pm, but in some parts of the country procession takes place at noon or even on the morning of Holy Saturday.
19 April – Pascha – Orthodox Easter
Pascha (Greek: Πάσχα), also called Easter, is the feast of the Resurrection of the Lord. Pascha is a transliteration of the Greek word, which is itself a transliteration of the Aramaic pascha, from the Hebrew pesach meaning Passover. A minority of English-speaking Orthodox prefer the English word “Pasch.”
Holy Week comes to an end at sunset of Great and Holy Saturday, as the Church prepares to celebrate her most ancient and preeminent festival, Pascha, the feast of feasts. The time of preparation will give way to a time of fulfillment. The glorious and resplendent light emanating from the empty Tomb will dispel the darkness. Christ, risen from the dead, cracks the fortress of death and takes “captivity captive” (Psalm 67:19). All the limitations of our createdness are torn asunder. Death is swallowed up in victory and life is liberated.
- Eggs represent new life as well as Jesus’ tomb. In some Orthodox churches eggs are dyed red to symbolize either the blood of Christ or the red cloak Roman soldiers put on Jesus as they tortured him.
- In the Orthodox tradition, the Easter season lasts for 100 days. It begins as a time of preparation, 49 days before the holiday. The proceeding 50 days after Easter is dedicated for strengthening faith in Jesus Christ.
- The final worship service of Pascha is usually held at noon on Sunday. Called the Agape Vespers, the service highlights St. Thomas’ encounter with the risen Jesus. Thomas doubted that the resurrection was real until Jesus told him to touch his wounds. Thomas’ story is usually read in a number of languages to emphasize the universal nature of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection.
19 April – Ridvan (Baha’i Faith)
Ridvan 2020 will begin in the evening of Sunday, 19 April and ends in the evening of Friday, 1 May 2020.
“Ridván” means paradise, and is named for the Garden of Ridván outside Baghdad, where Baháʼu’lláh stayed for twelve days after the Ottoman Empire exiled him from the city and before commencing his journey to Constantinople.
The time that Baháʼu’lláh spent at the Garden of Ridván in April 1863, and the associated festival and celebration, has a very large significance for Baháʼís. Baháʼu’lláh calls it one of two “Most Great Festivals” and describes the first day as “the Day of supreme felicity” and he then describes the “Garden of Ridvan as “the Spot from which He shed upon the whole of creation the splendours of his Name, the All-Merciful”.
It was during the Festival of Ridvan that Baha’u’llah, for the first time, publicly declared His station as a Manifestation of God, as the Promised One foretold in all the world’s religions. He brought with Him a Revelation that heralded a new era – the beginning of the Baha’i Faith.
19 April Yom Ha Shoah (Judaism)
Holocaust Remembrance Day (Yom HaShoah) 2020 in Israel will begin in the evening of Monday, 20 April and ends in the evening of Tuesday, 21 April 2020.
Yom Hashoah is a day set aside for Jews to remember the Holocaust. The name comes from the Hebrew word ‘shoah’, which means ‘whirlwind’.
Yom Hashoah was established in Israel in 1959 by law. It falls on the 27th of the Jewish month of Nissan, a date chosen because it is the anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising.
Yom Hashoah ceremonies include the lighting of candles for Holocaust victims, and listening to the stories of survivors. Religious ceremonies include prayers such as Kaddish for the dead and the El Maleh Rahamim, a memorial prayer.
In Israel Yom Hashoah is one of the most solemn days of the year. It begins at sunset on 26th Nissan and ends, like all traditional Jewish special days, the following evening. During Yom Hashoah memorial events are held throughout the country, with national ceremonies being held at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem. (Yad Vashem is the Jewish people’s memorial to the murdered Six Million.)
On the morning of Yom Hashoah a siren is sounded for 2 minutes throughout Israel and all work and other activity stops while people remember those killed in the Holocaust.
23 April – Ramadan (Islam)
Ramadan 2020 in Australia will begin in the evening of Thursday, 23 April and ends in the evening of Saturday, 23 May 2020
Ramadan is the Arabic word for the ninth month in the Islamic calendar, sometimes rendered as Ramazan in other languages. As the Islamic calendar is lunar (organised by the cycles of the moon) and the Gregorian calendar used by most Western countries is solar, Ramadan’s timing in the Gregorian year shifts by roughly 11 days each year.
Fasting during Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam, along with the testament of faith (a verbal declaration of adherence to Islam), regular prayer, charitable giving and the Haj pilgrimage to Mecca.
This year, Muslims would be prevented from praying at mosques. Congregation prayers are even banned in the Gulf countries as people gatherings are strictly not recommended these days.
As mosques would be kept closed, people won’t be able to follow i’tikaf at their local mosques. But women would be still able to perform i’tikaf prayers as they follow most of the religious prayers within their houses.
Also, people won’t be able to have gatherings and eat with their friends and acquaintances. Eid shopping will also be impacted. We won’t be able to meet our relatives after watching the sight of the moon in order to felicitate them about Ramadan.
27th Ramadan, which is the night of blessings, won’t also be as regular as it was. Amid the lockdown to stay socially distant, lightening or the sermons at homes or at the mosques won’t be possible.
With regards to the ban on congregational prayers, the Taraweeh prayers also wouldn’t stay intact. Sadly, “Taraweeh” in Ramadan 2020, which are the special evening prayers, won’t be followed within the mosques.
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