The following calendar gives a selection of festivals from the minority faiths in the UK, but it is not
comprehensive. The internet has much more information about these faiths and other festivals associated
with them. There are many great sites with background information, teaching ideas and pages designed for
A selection of Multi-faith Festival Websites:
There are also many sites with ideas or
lesson plans for assemblies E.g.
www.shap.org (poster calendars to buy)
(choose collective worship/assemblies, covers
Calendar compiled by
Advisory Teacher and Bilingual Support
Suggested companies for resources:
Wiltshire Ethnic Minority Achievement
Birthday of Guru Gobind Singh (Sikh)
Guru Gobind Singh (1666-1708) was the tenth and last of
the Sikh Gurus. He established the 5 Ks and the order of
15 Parinirvana/Nirvana day (Buddhist)
Mahayana Buddhist festival marking the anniversary of
Lantern Festival - Shang Yuan (Chinese)
Marks the end of the Chinese New Year celebrations with
dragon dances and the lighting of 100’s of paper lanterns
13 Makar Sankranti (Hindu)
Makar Sankranti is one of the most important festivals of
the Hindu calendar and celebrates the sun's journey into the
northern hemisphere, a period which is considered to be
25 Tu B'Shevat (Jewish) A popular minor festival which
celebrates the New Year for trees. Jewish tradition marks
the 15th of Shevat as the day when the sap in the trees
begins to rise, heralding the beginning of spring
Hinamatsuri Girls’ Festival (Japanese Shinto)
Families of girls display in their homes dolls representing an
aristocratic wedding, arranged on a series of steps.
Beginning of New Year and end of 19 day fast marking the
end of the old year.
21 Jamshedi Noruz (Zoroastrian)
03 Setsubun (Japanese Shinto) Spring festival
New Year’s Day in the Fasli calendar used in Iran. A family
day in which eggs and evergreen plants symbolize eternal
Celebrates the end of winter and there is a roast soya bean
throwing ceremony to drive out evil spirits. Everyone has to
eat the number of beans equivalent to his or her age to
bring good luck in the year ahead.
08 Yuan Tan (Chinese) New Year
Demons are driven out with firecrackers and cymbals.
Houses are decorated with red and gold paper lanterns.
23 Holi (Hindu) Spring festival
People throw coloured powder over one another. The day
before, bonfires are lit.
Festival celebrating the Jews’ deliverance from the Persian
king’s minister. Presents are exchanged. People wear
fancy dress to the synagogue.
26 Khordad Sal (Zoroastrian)
Khordad Sal is celebrated by Zoroastrians and Parsis as the
birthday of their founder, Zoroaster. The date is symbolic as
the actual date of Zoroaster's birth cannot be accurately
identified. The festival is one of the most important in the
Zoroastrian and Parsi calendar, when they gather in fire
temples for prayer and celebrate with feasting.
29 Anniversary of the Anscenion of Baha’U’ llah
(Baha’i) Commemorates the death of Baha’u’llah at Bahji,
near Acre, in 1892. His shrine there has become the place
towards which all Baha’is face when praying.
01 Wesak (Buddhist)
Guru Gobind Singh established the Sikh brotherhood
(Khalsa) in 1699.
Western Buddhists celebrate the Buddha’s birth,
enlightenment and attainment of Nirvana.
countries houses are decorated with lanterns and garlands,
and birds are released, symbolizing the Buddha’s
06/07 Beginning of Ramadan (Islam)
First day of 12 that celebrate the occasion when Baha’u’llah
said he was the prophet predicted by the Bab.
The beginning of 28 days of fasting (called sawm) for
Muslims when they do not eat or drink during the hours of
daylight. This is one of the five pillars of Islam. Older
children may be encouraged to try at least one day of
23 Passover (Jewish)
09 Dragon Boat Festival (Chinese)
During the family seder meal the story of the Jews’ exodus
from slavery in Egypt is retold.
Commemorates the poet Ch’u Yuan with a story which
includes colourful dragon boat races.
12 Shavuot (Pentecost) (Jewish)
05 Children’s Day (Japanese)
Families display on tall poles in the garden balloons in the
shape of carp, and, inside the house, displays of arrows and
helmets representing Samurai armour.
Jews celebrate receiving the Torah.
The Martyrdom of Guru Arjan Dev (Sikh)
Guru Arjan Dev was the fifth Sikh Guru and the first Sikh
martyr: he gave up his life for the Sikh people. He also was
the first Guru to put all the sacred writing in one book – the
Guru Granth Sahib.
07 Tanabata (Japanese) Star Festival
Children decorate bamboo branches in the garden with little
bells and coloured paper on which they write their wishes
for the future. As the stars come out, fireworks are lit.
07 Eid ul-Fitr (Islam)
End of Ramadan
Children are given money and clothes. There is much
partying and feasting. Families get together.
A Japanese Buddhist event that is a time to remember
ancestors’ spirits. There are special visits to relatives,
dances, food offerings at the temple and lanterns are used
to guide the spirits to visit their descendants. (celebrated
15th July in Tokyo and 15th August elsewhere in Japan).
Birthday of Haile Selassie I (Rastafarian)
One of the holiest days of the Rastafarian year, it is
celebrated with drumming, hymns and prayers.
Hungry Ghost Festival (Chinese)
Festival of the hungry ghosts is a Chinese Buddhist
ancestral festival. Paper objects are made and offered to
aid the spirits who have no resting place. Large paper boats
are made and burnt at temples to help spirits on their
journey to Nirvana.
Raksha Bandhan – Rakhi Purnima (Hindu)
Festival of brothers and sisters. Presents and special
bracelets called Rakshi are exchanged.
5 Ganesh Chaturthi - Birthday of Ganesh (Hindu) This is
a Hindu festival in honour of Ganesh, the god of good
fortune and new beginnings. He was the elephant headed
son of Lord Shiva and Parvati, and is often referred to as
Ganupati. Celebrations conclude with the immersion in
water of the image of Ganesh.
11 Ethiopian New Year (Rastafarian)
This is celebrated the world over by Rastafarians who see
Ethiopia as their spiritual homeland.
12 Eid ul-Adha (Islam)
Festival of sacrifice, 80 days after Eid ul-Fitr. It celebrates
Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice Isaac. Animals are
sacrificed and food shared with friends, family and the poor.
OCTOBER 2016 Black History Month
03 Rosh Hashanah - New Year (Jewish)
Apples dipped in honey are eaten in hope of a sweet new
year. The ram’s horn (shofar) is blown in the Synagogue as
a reminder of Abraham’s sacrifice of a ram in place of his
son, Isaac. The greeting is ‘Leshanah Tovah Tikatev’ (may
you be inscribed for a good year).
07 Navratri/Durga Puja/Dussehra (Hindu)
Ten day celebration of the victory of the goddess Durga
over evil demons. This festival is universally popular
12 Yom Kippur (Jewish)
The holiest day of the Jewish year, it is marked by a total
fast for 25 hours. Jews spend the evening and most of the
day in prayer for forgiveness and resolving to improve the
17 Sukkot - Harvest festival (Jewish)
Jews remember the 40 years in the wilderness escaping
slavery in Egypt and getting to the promised land. A
temporary hut ‘sukkah’ is used for meals and socialising.
The roof is made of palm branch myrtle and willow.
30 Divali (Hindu and Sikh)
Hindus remember Rama’s defeat over Ravana, the demon
king. Homes are lit with tiny lamps and gifts are exchanged.
Sikhs remember Guru Hargobind who refused to accept
freedom unless 52 imprisoned Hindu princes were released
02 Coronation of Emperor Haile Selassie
Emperor Haile Selassie was crowned in 1930 and is viewed
as a god by Rastafarians.
14 Birthday of Guru Nanak (Sikh)
Sikhs celebrate by performing Akhand Path, a complete
reading of their holy book, the Guru Granth Sahib.
15 Shichi-go-san (Japanese)
Festival celebrating children. Girls of 3 and 7, and boys of 3
and 5 are dressed in new clothes and taken to Shinto
shrines to pray for their future.
06 Bodhi Day (Buddhist)
On Bodhi Day some Buddhists celebrate Gautama’s
enlightenment under the Bodhi tree in Bodhgaya, India.
12 Milad al-Nabi
(Islam) Birthday of the prophet.
Food is given to the poor, prayers are said
25 Hanukkah (Jewish)
Jewish families gradually light an 8-branched candlestick
(hanukkiah) to remember the rededication of the Temple in
26 Dec - 01 Jan
A seven day festival celebrating Black cultures. Each day
has a special theme, for example, Unity, Faith, Purpose;
and everyone is encouraged to use these ideas to
strengthen family and community life.
The Bahai religion originally grew out of the Babism faith,
which was founded in 1844 by Mirza Ali Mohammad of
Shiraz (Iran) who proclaimed a spiritual doctrine
emphasising the forthcoming appearance of a new
messenger of God who would overturn old beliefs and
customs. Mirza Husayn Ali claimed to be this new
messenger of the era and was named Baha Ullah.
Before Baha Ullah died in 1892, he appointed his eldest
son, Abdul-Baha (1844-1921), to be his successor, lead the
Bahai community and act as the authorised interpreter of
his teachings. The Bahai community is governed according
to general principles proclaimed by Baha Ullah and through
institutions created by him that were elaborated and
expanded by Abdul-Baha. In building a unified network of
local, national and international governing councils the
Bahai community has, comparative to other religions, social
or political movements, achieved unity and is free of any
However they have no clergy so they administer the affairs
of the faith themselves.
Buddhism is a way of life taught by the Buddha. Buddhists
do not believe in a divine being or creator nor in the promise
of salvation through prayers and belief. Buddhists believe
that all actions have consequences called Karma. This links
to the continuing cycle of life, death and rebirth. The cycle is
only broken when the enlightened state is reached.
Buddhists practice Wisdom, Compassion and Morality to
reach enlightenment, otherwise known as the state of
Nirvana. The type of worship and practice for Buddhists
depends on the school of Buddhism being followed.
Congregational meetings take place in centres or Temples
and sometimes peoples’ homes but there is no set time for
Buddhists to worship.
Chinese traditional religion is the term used to categorise
the common religion of the majority Chinese culture. This
refers to a way of life as much as any spiritual or religious
A combination of Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism as
well as the traditional non-scriptural/local practices and
beliefs make up this way of life.
The traditional practices are found in the context of Chinese
culture and social structures, which like many throughout
East Asia, are not bound up in a single belief system. The
Chinese tradition has a rich cultural meaning and a long
history where Chinese festivals form an important part of
The Jewish religion dates back over 3500 years. Jewish
people believe God made a covenant with the people,
which required the observance of 613 commandments,
including the ten commandments revealed to Moses.
Orthodox and Progressive Jews differ in their interpretations
of these laws, but all Jews believe there to be one God, who
revealed the Torah - the Jewish Holy Book. Jewish
followers worship in Synagogues. The Sabbath begins with
the lighting of candles at sunset on Friday and ends with
sundown on Saturday evening.
Shinto / Japanese
The word Shinto means ‘way of the divine’ and represents
an almost entirely Japanese way of thinking. The essence
of Shinto is the devotion to invisible spiritual beings and
powers called Kami, they are not gods and there are
millions of them. They are spirits concerned with human
beings and earth. There is no defining morality of its own.
Followers of Shinto believe the world is good, the people
are good and there is harmony, however, evil spirits, which
must be kept at bay, threaten these ideals.
Islam is an Arabic word, which means to submit to God to
achieve peace and security. The followers of Islam are
called Muslims and they believe there is one God called
Allah who created the universe and whose power and
majesty are supreme. Muslims believe that God sent
prophets to interpret his will. It is Muhammad (Peace Be
Upon Him), the last prophet, who Muslims believe
completed the expression of Allah’s divine will which was
revealed in the Qur’an. The Qur’an, also known as the Holy
Book, is a source of law and practical guidance. Islamic law
stands on five pillars. These are to: witness that there is no
God but Allah and that Muhammad (PBUH) is the prophet
of Allah; pray 5 times a day; fast during Ramadan; make a
pilgrimage to Makkah; and give alms to the poor (each
Muslim should give a percentage of their yearly savings to
the needs of the poor). The place of worship where Muslims
gather for prayer is called a Mosque or Masjid.
Hinduism has its origins in India. Hindus regard their religion
as Sanatan Dharma, an eternal religion. It is considered to
be a way of life. Although Hinduism has many gods
(deities), Hindus believe in one supreme universal spirit, the
creator and eternal God Brahman.
Hindus recognise the other deities as different aspects of
the Brahman. They believe that all of life is bound by the
cycle of birth, death and rebirth governed by Karma. The
principal Hindu scriptures are the Vedas which are believed
to be direct revelation from God and the two epics, the
Bhagvad Gita and the Ramayana. Hindus worship in
Temples and will often also have a shrine at home where
they will worship and make offerings.
The Rastafarian religion is guided by the concept of peace
and love and has its origins in Jamaica. In the early 1920s
Marcus Garvey, an influential Black spokesman, proclaimed
“Look to Africa for the crowning of a Black King, he shall be
The coronation of Haile Selassie I as King of Ethiopia in
1930 saw the fulfilment of this prophecy and he was
recognised by Rastafarians as Jah (the living manifestation
of God). The Kebra Negast (the Ethiopian Bible) and parts
of the Christian Bible are important sources of reference for
the Rastafarian way of life.
Rastafarians follow strict dietary rules. They do not cut their
hair and are easily identified by their dreadlocks.
Zoroastrianism was founded between 2000 and 1800 BC.
Its founder was Prophet Zoroaster, who is said to have seen
It is believed Zoroaster was conscious of God’s presence
and heard his words which were then used to comprise five
songs/ poems called Gathas and these were used to form
part of the Zoroastrian sacred text, Avesta. Zoroastrians
believe in a single supreme god, Ahura Mazda, and that the
world is based on good verses evil. When mankind chooses
good, evil will be defeated and when this happens all
creations will be pure and the earth will become paradise.
Zoroastrianism is a religion of free choice and personal
responsibility with great emphasis on truthfulness and care
for the natural environment. Ceremonies are performed in
front of a sacred fire and worship is made up of prayers and
Sikhs believe in one immortal being, ten Gurus, the Guru
Granth Sahib and the teachings of the ten Gurus. Sikhism
began with Guru Nanak. He preached the love of God and
the love for each other. Pacifism finally gave way to the
militant Khalsa with the tenth guru, Guru Gobind Singh. He
allowed his followers to fight persecution and in 1699 the
Khalsa brotherhood was formed. Guru Gobind Singh
proclaimed Granth Sahib to be the only Guru of the Sikhs.
Men and women have five distinctive signs of faith seen in
their style of dress and personal appearance. These are the
5Ks Kesh -hair; Kangha -comb; Karra -steel bracelet; Kachha underwear trousers; Kirpan - sword. Sikhs meet and
worship in Gurdwaras.