Religious and Cultural Observances

Holidays hold varying significance in the United States and around the world. The following provides a glimpse into the history of some religious and cultural observances:


Observed by Christians around the world, Easter commemorates the resurrection of Jesus. The date is different each year as Easter falls on the first Sunday following the first full moon that occurs on or after the vernal equinox (March 21).


The Feast of the Passover is a Jewish holiday commemorating the escape of the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt. The seven to eight-day festival usually falls in March or April, but because the date is set according to the Jewish calendar, it varies each year. Observance includes a feast on the first night of Passover known as Seder.


Ramadan is a holy month observed by Muslims around the world with daily fasting from dawn to sunset. The holiday commemorates the first revelation of the Quran. Ramadan falls during the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, but the dates vary on the Western calendar. Eid al-Fitr marks the end of Ramadan with a three-day celebration.

Rosh Hashana

Commonly known as the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashana marks the beginning of a 10-day period of penitence ending with Yom Kippur. Rosh Hashana is based on the Jewish calendar, and usually falls in September or October. Like other Jewish holidays, the observance begins at sundown on the evening before the holiday.

Yom Kippur

This Jewish holiday, also called the Jewish Day of Atonement, concludes the 10 days of penitence that began with Rosh Hashana. As one of the most important holidays of the year, Jewish people observe it with prayer and fasting.


In Judaism, this holiday celebrates the rededication of the Holy Temple of Jerusalem after its desecration in the second century. Hanukkah is often observed in December, but the dates fall on the Jewish calendar and vary each year. In Jewish homes, gifts are exchanged and a candle is lit each evening of the eight-day observance.


For Christians, this day commemorates the birth of Jesus. It is observed on Dec. 25.


This weeklong observance honors African culture and heritage. Kwanzaa means "first fruits" in Swahili and is celebrated from Dec. 26 to Jan. 1. The holiday highlights Kwanzaa's seven principles, which include self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith.



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