8 Majour Religions and Their Festivals

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ED3110 Tutorial Review

Religious Festivals

According to Answers.com (n.d):

A religion is …

"A set of beliefs, values, and practices based on the teachings of a spiritual leader."

A festival is …

"An occasion for feasting or celebration, especially a day or time of religious significance that recurs at regular intervals."

Therefore a religious festival is a festival having religious significance.

Festivals are a time of celebration. This could be one or two days or set over a longer period. Common examples can include celebrations of births, birthdays, death, marriage, or an event that is celebrated by a specific religion. Other festivals of celebration can also include events that are significant within peoples lives, such as starting school, graduating levels at school, Father's/Mother's day, world youth day or joining a specific religious group. These events can be celebrated with close family, the wider family, within communities, religions or the whole world, all depending on the occasion.

For the purpose of this paper, a religious festival will include any event that occurs annually, that is followed by a group of religious people. It can be set by date or time of the year.

The five major religions of - Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam - and their religions are discussed in brief below with their dates of occasion of the current year of 2009.

This information is taken from the BBC website (n.d.) and the unit text, Living Religion (2005).


Holi is the festival of colours which is celebrated over several days to commemorate new life and seasons. It is often seen as a time of 'fun' rather than a religious event, as the people celebrate with activities that involve colour with paint and water in large groups. Holi is also an event where there is no discrimination of people by age, caste, gender and class.

The origin of the festival of Holi is based around a story of a playful young boy, Krishna, who threw coloured water over some milkmaids. This developed into the fun and games and celebration of Holi, and bonfires are lit as a symbol of good overcoming evil.

Diwali 17.10.09

Diwali is a five day celebration that is more commonly referred to as the "festival of lights". During this time, homes are thoroughly cleaned out and oil lamps are lit. It can be celebrated differently throughout India, however the main focus is the renewal of life, and therefore new clothes are worn on the first day. It also represents the beginning of winter and the sowing season. For children, Diwali is celebrated with fireworks and the exchanging of sweets.


Nirvana 15.02.09

Wesak May Full Moon 20.05.09

Wesak (also known as Vekak or Budda Day) is the celebration of Buddha's birth, enlightenment and death. The focus is on the teaching of Buddha, and the night of his enlightenment. Wesak is another festival of colours and joy, where followers begin their celebration before dawn at the temples to meditate and take the five precepts. Homes are cleaned and decorated in preparation for the day and offerings are made to the monks and the temples as a sign of respect to Buddha and his teachings.


Passover 09.04.09

Rosh Hashanah 19.09.09 - 20.09.09

Rosh Hashanah marks the first two days in the Jewish calendar. The people think that this is a time to reflect on personal growth and to clarify life priorities and what was achieved in the previous year. It is also a time to forgive any sins in the past year. The central feature of the ceremony conducted at the synagogue is the blowing of a ram's horn as they focus on God's kinship. On the first evening a special meal is eaten by the people.

Yom Kippur is a solemn day, a day of Atonement. The Jewish people fast for a period of 25 days as they reflect on the past year and ask God to forgive their sins. There is a period of 10 days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, referred to as the days of repentance, which allows time for the Jews to set things right in their lives. A large meal is usually shared between people before fasting; however People can fast or be free of something of value to them for 25 days. There are many services that are conducted in the synagogue during this time, that represent the beginning, middle and end of this time.

Hanukkah is an 8 day holiday. It also known as the festivals of lights, and celebrates the greatest miracle in Jewish history. The story goes that on an occasion that there was only enough oil to last for one day, however the lamp was lit for 8 days. Now the tradition is that one candle is on the Hanukkah candle is lit per day. The Hanukkah symbolises how God looked after the Jewish people in a time of difficulty.


Lent Begins 25.02.09

Easter Day 12.04.09 Easter is the celebration of the death and resurrection of Jesus. Jesus was crucified as a consequence of blasphemy, because he claimed to be the Son of God. On Good Friday a 3 hour service is held at churches to listen to the story of the lead up to Jesus' death. Hot cross buns are eaten on this day as the cross represents the cross that Jesus died on, and a reminder that Jesus died to save us all. Easter Sunday marks Jesus' resurrection. Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit so the disciples would know that God would never leave them.

Christmas the day of celebrating the birth of Jesus, who the Christians believe to be the son of God. Years prior to Jesus' birth date are known as BC (before Christ) and years following his birth are known as AD (from the Latin 'Anno Domini' meaning 'in the year of our Lord'). On Christmas Eve, a midnight church service is offered to celebrate the time of Jesus' birth. On Christmas Day families gather together for a meal and exchange presents as a symbol of the disciples bringing gifts to Jesus. The word Christmas comes from the words Christ and mass celebrating Christ.


Ramadan 22.08.09 - 21.09.09

Ramadan is a time where Muslims celebrate the time when the religious book of the Qur'an was presented to the Prophet. It is a time of fasting during the daylight hours, as a time of spiritual reflection, prayer and doing good deeds. Fasting is intended to give Muslims good self discipline, self restraint and generosity. The people generally have a meal before sunrise and after sunset following the example of the Prophet. Muslims try to read the verses of the Qur'an during this time. At the end of the feasting period a big celebration takes place, where Muslims dress in the best clothes, give gifts to children and spend time with family and friends. Donations are made during this time, to ensure others can buy new clothes for this special occasion. Eid-ul-Adha 28.11.09 - 01.12.09

Eid-ul-Adha also known as Eid, is a celebration of sacrifice. It marks the annual pilgrimage to Makkah, however only pilgrims to Makkah celebrate it fully. It is celebrated over 1-3 days. Muslims dress in their best clothes, go to the Mosque for prayer and thank Allah for their blessings they have received. They visit family and offer presents to children. Donations are made during this time, to ensure others can buy new clothes for this special occasion.

Our Presentation

Alara and I chose to present this information to the class of university level students who are studying primary school educators as a way for them to teach their students about religion.

We began with an introduction activity of matching cards which could be used in upper primary to see what students already know about the different religions (prior knowledge), or with younger students as a revision activity to see what they have learnt.

We chose to dress up as the religious leaders and speak about the religious festivals. This creates a more interesting way for students to engage in the learning of different religions that may otherwise seem boring. It is also a good way to encourage students from other religions in the class to discuss what they celebrate, how and why.

References and Bibliography

Author Unknown (n.d). Answers.com. Retrieved March 10. 2009 from


Morrissey, J., Mudge, P., Taylor, A., Bailey, G., & Rule, P. (2005). Living Religion, (3rd ed.).

Melbourne: Pearson Longman.

The BBC (n.d) BBC - Schools - Religion. Retrieved March 10 2009 from


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