Religious and Cultural Observances

Our students, faculty and staff come from multi-faceted gender, cultural, ethnic, philosophical and religious identities that make this a pluralistic community of learning. We have an ongoing opportunity to enter into the cultural and religious realm of our neighbors and friends, learning from them about their deeply held values and practices.

We commit ourselves to continuing to evolve into a more inclusive campus. This goal builds on the ELCA statement on A Declaration of Our Inter-Religious Commitment. We encourage you to refer to the DEIJ Programming Initiatives for upcoming programs at Cal Lutheran, or scroll down for a list of several dates of observances that may be celebrated by members of the Cal Lutheran community during the academic year.

Holiday/Observance Description
International Day of World's Indigenous Peoples The International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples is celebrated around the world and marks the date of the inaugural session of the Working Group on Indigenous Populations at the United Nations in 1982. The Chumash, Fernandiño Tatavian, Muwekma Ohlone a Native American tribe who historically inhabit  the coastal regions of California, in the vicinity of what is now Santa Barbara and Ventura, extending as far south as Malibu.
Al-Hijra In the Islamic religion, Al-Hijra - the New Year - is celebrated on the first day of Muharram, the month in which Muhammad emigrated from Mecca to Medina in 622 CE (the Hijra). The holiday is also known simply as Muharram. Islamic years are calculated from 1 Muharram, 622 CE. They are followed by the suffix AH, which stands for "After Hijira" or Anno Higirae (Latin). 
International Day for Rememberance of Slave Trade & its Abolition International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition was first celebrated in a number of countries, in particular in Haiti (August 23, 1998) and Goree in Senegal (August 23, 1999). This International Day is intended to inscribe the tragedy of the slave trade in the memory of all peoples.
Women's Equality Day Women's Equality Day is celebrated in the United States on August 26 to commemorate the 1920 adoption of the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which prohibits the states and the federal government from denying the right to vote by citizens of the United States on the basis of sex.
Holiday/Observance Description
International Day of Charity The International Day of Charity was established by the United Nations with the objective of sensitizing and mobilizing people, NGOs, and stakeholders all around the world to to help others through volunteer and philanthropic activities. The date of September 5th was chosen to comemorate the anniversary of the passing away of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, who dedicated her life to helping those in need. This day promotes the rights of historically marginalized persons to spread the message of a common humanity.
Labor Day A federal holiday since 1894, Labor Day was first organized by the Central Labor Union in New York City when 10,000 workers marched and gathered in a local park for a picnic, music, and speeches. As more states adopted the holiday, President Grover Cleveland passed a law marking the first Monday in September as a national holiday in recognition of the achievements of everyday workers in the United States.
Hispanic Heritage Month The observance of National Hispanic Heritage Month started in 1968  as a week long celebration, but now it is celebrated on September 15th - October 15th. During this time the U.S. celebrates the histories, cultures and contributions of Hispanic Americans whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America, and South America.
Mexican Independence Day Independence Day (Día de la Independencia) is a Mexican holiday to celebrate the “cry of independence” on September 16, 1810, which started a revolt against the Spaniards. It follows from the day of the Cry of Dolores (El Grito de Dolores), on September 15. It is celebrated with fireworks, parties (fiestas), food, dance and music on September 16. Flags, flowers and decorations in the colors of the Mexican flag – red, white and green – are seen in cities and towns in Mexico.
Constitution & Citizenship Day On September 17, 1787, the Founding Fathers signed the U.S. Constitution. The Constitution, along with the Bill of Rights and other amendments, define the U.S. government and the rights of it's citizens. Each year, on September 17, Americans celebrate Constitution Day and Citizenship Day. During this time, Americans are encouraged to reflect on the rights and responsibilities of citizenship.
International Day of Peace Established in 1981 by an unanimous United Nations resolution, Peace Day provides a globally shared date for all humanity to commit to peace above all differences and to contribute to building a culture of peace. 
Bisexuality Day/Bi Visibility Day This day is observed to recognize and celebrate bisexual history, the community, and to continue to affirm the visibility of bisexual individuals in the U.S..
Rosh Hashanah

Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, is one of Judaism’s holiest days. Meaning “head of the year” or “first of the year,” the festival begins on the first day of Tishrei, the seventh month of the Hebrew calendar, which falls during September or October. Rosh Hashanah commemorates the creation of the world and marks the beginning of the Days of Awe, a 10-day period of introspection and repentance that culminates in the Yom Kippur holiday, also known as the Day of Atonement. Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are the two “High Holy Days” in the Jewish religion.

Holiday/Observance Description
National Disability Employment Awareness Month Each October, NDEAM celebrates America’s workers with disabilities and reminds employers of the importance of inclusive hiring practices. In 1945, Congress declared the first week of October “National Employ the Physically Handicapped Week.” In 1962, the word “physically” was dropped to include individuals with all types of disabilities. Congress expanded the week to a month in 1988, and changed the commemoration to National Disability Employment Awareness Month.
Filipino American Heritage Month Filipino American History Month is celebrated in the United States during the month of October. The Filipino American National Historical Society established Filipino American History Month in the year 1988. In California (and in Hawaii), where a large number of Filipino Americans reside, Filipino American History Month is widely celebrated.
International Day of Non-Violence

The International Day of Non-Violence is honored on October 2, the birthday of Mahatma Gandhi, leader of the Indian independence movement and pioneer of the philosophy and strategy of non-violence. The International Day is an occasion to "disseminate the message of non-violence, including through education and public awareness". 

Prophet Muhammad's Birthday

This day marks the celebration of the Islamic prophet Muhammad's birthday. It is observed on the 12th or 17th day of Rabi' al-awwal Islamic month. It is a day of fasting and community meals, outdoor celebrations, and special prayers from the Muslim population in the United States. It is not a U.S. government holiday, although some Muslim businesses may be closed for all or part of the day.


Sukkot commemorates the years that the Jews spent in the desert on their way to the Promised Land, and celebrates the way in which God protected them under difficult desert conditions. Sukkot is also known as the Feast of Tabernacles, or the Feast of Booths.

Indigenous Peoples' Day

Indigenous Peoples' Day honors the past, present, and futures of Native peoples throughout the U.S. The holiday recognizes the legacy and impact of colonialism on Native communities, and it also celebrates the cultures, contributions, and resilience of contemporary Native peoples.

National Coming Out Day

National Coming Out Day is an annual LGBTQ awareness day that is observed on October 11th in support and celebration of LGBTQ folk who have come out. However, we recognize that those who haven't come out are just as brave as individuals who have.


Diwali is one of the major religious festivals in Hinduism, lasting for five days from the 13th day of the dark half of the lunar month Ashvina to the second day of the light half of Karttika. The name is derived from the Sanskrit term dipavali, meaning “row of lights,” which are lit to invite the presence of Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth.

Holiday/Observance Description
National American Indian Heritage Month National American Indian Heritage Month celebrates and recognizes the accomplishments of the peoples who were the original inhabitants, explorers and settlers of the United States. "National American Indian Heritage Month" had its origins in 1986.
Día de los Muertos Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) is a two-day festival that takes place every November 1 and 2. Although most strongly identified with Mexico, Dia de los Muertos is celebrated throughout Latin America and everywhere within the Latinox population.
Guru Nanak Jayanti Guru Nanak Gurpurab, also known as Guru Nanak Jayanti and Guru Nanak ji’s Prakash Utsav, commemorates the anniversary of the birth of the first Sikh Guru, Guru Nanak Dev Ji. This festival falls on the full moon day of the Kartik month and is celebrated by the Sikh community across the globe.
Veterans Day In November 1919, President Wilson proclaimed November 11 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day with the following words: "To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations".
International Education Week International Education Week is an opportunity to celebrate the benefits of international education and exchange worldwide. This joint initiative of the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Education is part of an effort to promote programs that prepare Americans for a global environment and attract future leaders from abroad to study, learn, and exchange experiences.
World Fair (Cal Lutheran) The World Fair is an annual event hosted by the United Students of the World and the Center for Global Engagement. The community is invited to visit the fair, which features food, activities, dialogue and cultural performances from around the world led by Cal Lutheran students.
Holiday/Observance Description
World Aids Day

World AIDS Day takes place on December 1st each year. It’s an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, to show support for people living with HIV, and to commemorate those who have died from an AIDS-related illness. Founded in 1988, World AIDS Day was the first ever global health day.

International Day of Persons with Disabilities The annual observance of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities has taken place since a United Nations proclamation in 1992. It aims to promote the rights and well-being of persons with disabilities in all spheres of society and development, and to increase awareness of the situation of persons with disabilities in every aspect of political, social, economic and cultural life.
Las Posadas Las Posadas is  (“The Inns”) a religious festival celebrated in Mexico and some parts of the United States between December 16 and 24. Las Posadas commemorates the journey that Joseph and Mary made from Nazareth to Bethlehem in search of a safe refuge where Mary could give birth to the baby Jesus. When they were unable to find lodging in Bethlehem, Joseph and Mary were forced to seek shelter in a stable, where the Christ Child was born.
Hanukkah The eight-day Jewish celebration known as Hanukkah or Chanukah commemorates the rededication during the second century B.C. of the Second Temple in Jerusalem, where according to legend Jews had risen up against their Greek-Syrian oppressors in the Maccabean Revolt. Hanukkah, which means “dedication” in Hebrew, begins on the 25th of Kislev on the Hebrew calendar and usually falls in November or December. Often called the Festival of Lights, the holiday is celebrated with the lighting of the menorah, traditional foods, games and gifts.
For many Christians, Christmas Eve is one of the most important days of the Christian year because it marks the entry of God into human flesh in the form of a baby–“Emanuel,” which means, “God with us.” The setting for this story in Christian scripture is a powerful empire that marginalizes the poor. Jesus is born to a poor family and grows up to share a vision of God that revises social relationships, bringing good news to the poor and release to captives.

Christmas Day is a cultural holiday celebrated by people all over the world. With roots deep in the Roman Empire, the festival was originally dedicated to Saturn and Mithra, gods of agriculture and the sun. Celebrated near the shortest day of the year, the festival focuses on the return of light and the renewal of life. Christians chose this festival for the commemoration of the anniversary of the birth of Jesus Christ. As a religious and cultural celebration, billions of Christians around the world celebrate this holiday. Christmas Day has been recognized as a federal holiday in the United States since 1870.
Kwanzaa is a celebration held in the United States and in other nations of the African diaspora in the Americas. The celebration, created in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Karenga, honors pan-african heritage in African-American culture and is observed from December 26 to January 1, culminating in a feast and gift-giving. The Seven Principles (Nguzo saba) of Kwanzaa are: Umoja (unity), Kujichagulia (self-determination), Ujima (collective work and responsibility), Ujamaa (cooperative economics), Nia (purpose), Kuumba (creativity) and Imani (faith).
Holiday/Observance Description
World Religion Day The aim of World Religion Day, held on the third Sunday in January every year, is to promote inter-faith understanding and harmony. Through a variety of events held around the globe, followers of every religion are encouraged to acknowledge the similarities and unique aspects of different faith traditions.
Martin Luther King, Jr. Day The Martin Luther King Jr. holiday on Jan 20, 2022, marked the 25th anniversary of the day of service that celebrates the civil rights leader's life and legacy. Observed each year on the third Monday in January as "a day on, not a day off", MLK Day is the only federal holiday designated as a national day of service to encourage all Americans to volunteer to improve their communities.
Lunar New Year In China and in ethnic communities around the world, the lunar new year is the most important and festive holiday of the year. Through thousands of years of tradition, this was the one period when farmers could rest from their work in the fields. Family members would travel to be with loved ones in time to usher out the old year and welcome in the new with great celebratory flourish. Today, the country is packed with holiday travelers, festive foods, and streets are filled with the sounds of firecrackers and seasonal greetings.
Holocaust Memorial Day

The United Nations General Assembly designated January 27—the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau—as International Holocaust Remembrance Day. On this annual day of commemoration, the U.N. urges every member state to honor the six million Jewish victims of the Holocaust and millions of other victims of Nazism and to develop educational programs to help prevent future genocides.

Holiday/Observance Description
National Freedom Day National Freedom Day is an observance in the United States that honors the signing of a resolution that proposed the 13th amendment of the nation's constitution on February 1, 1865. Abraham Lincoln, who was the president at the time, signed the resolution to outlaw slavery. This anniversary is annually observed on February 1.
Black History Month Black History Month is an annual celebration of achievements by African Americans and a time for recognizing their central role in U.S. history. Also known as African American History Month, it was the brainchild of noted historian Carter G. Woodson and other prominent African Americans. Since 1976, every U.S. president has officially designated the month of February as Black History Month.
Tu BiShvat Tu BiShvat or the "New Year of the Trees" is Jewish Arbor Day. The holiday is observed on the 15th (tu) of the Hebrew month of Shvat. Scholars believe that originally Tu BiShvat was an agricultural festival, marking the emergence of spring. In the 17th century, Kabbalists created a ritual for Tu BiShvat that is similar to a Passover seder. Today, many Jews hold a modern version of the Tu BiShvat seder each year. The holiday also has become a tree-planting festival in Israel, in which Israelis and Jews around the world plant trees in honor or in memory of loved ones and friends.
World Day of Social Justice Since 2007, the World Day of Social Justice has been celebrated by the United Nations. Social justice is an underlying principle for peaceful and prosperous coexistence within and among nations. We uphold the principles of social justice when we promote gender equality or the rights of indigenous peoples and migrants. We advance social justice when we remove barriers that people face because of pursuit of social justice for all is at the core of our global mission to promote development and human dignity.
Ash Wednesday Each year, Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent, a 40-day season of repentance and renewal within Christianity. The practice of marking one's forehead with ashes calls to mind one's whole life is lived marked with the cross of Christ.
Holiday/Observance Description
Women's History Month Since 1995, Presidents have issued a series of annual proclamations designating the month of March as "Women's History Month." These proclamations celebrate the contributions women have made to the United States and recognize the specific achievements women have made over the course of American history in a variety of fields. The month is designated for commemorating and encouraging the study, observance, and celebration of the vital role of women in American history.
International Women's Day International Women's Day is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating women's equality. It has occurred for well over a century, with the first IWD gathering in 1911 supported by over a million people. Today, IWD belongs to all groups collectively everywhere. 
Holi Holi is considered as one of the most revered and celebrated festivals of India and it is celebrated in almost every part of the country. It is also sometimes called as the “festival of love” as on this day people unite together forgetting resentments and of bad feeling towards each other. The festival lasts for a day and a night, which starts in the evening of Purnima or the Full Moon Day in the month of Falgun. It is celebrated with the name Holika Dahan or Choti Holi on first evening of the festival and the following day is called Holi. In different parts of the country it is known with different names.
International Deaf History Month National Deaf History is a celebration of the various contributions of the hard-of-hearing and the deaf community to American society. 
International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination Since 1979, the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has been observed annually on the day the police in Sharpeville, South Africa, opened fire and killed 69 people at a peaceful demonstration against apartheid "pass laws" in 1960. Since then, the apartheid system in South Africa has been dismantled. Racist laws and practices have been abolished in many countries, and the U.N. has built a framework for fighting racism around the world.
Ramadan Ramadan is a holy month of fasting, introspection and prayer for Muslims, the followers of Islam. It is celebrated as the month during which Muhammad received the initial revelations of the Quran, the holy book for Muslims. Fasting is one of the five fundamental principles of Islam. Each day during Ramadan, Muslims do not eat or drink from dawn to sunset. They avoid impure thoughts and bad behavior.
Cesar Chávez Day Chávez was born on March 31 in 1927. He was a migrant farm worker from the age of 10. He became active with the Community Service Organization, which helped fight racial and economic discrimination against Chicano residents.
Transgender Day of Visibility International Transgender Day of Visibility is an annual event dedicated to celebrating transgender people and raising awareness of discrimination faced by transgender people worldwide, as well as a celebration of their contributions to society.
Holiday/Observance Description
Genocide Awareness Month This month is designated to raise awareness about past and current genocides, remember those who have been affected, and engage in advocacy to prevent further genocides. Genocide continues today in many parts of the world as millions of people are exterminated based on their identities.

Passover, or Pesach in Hebrew, is one of the Jewish religion’s most sacred and widely observed holidays. In Judaism, Passover commemorates the story of the Israelites’ departure from ancient Egypt, which appears in the Hebrew Bible’s books of Exodus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, among other texts. Jews observe the weeklong festival with a number of important rituals, including a traditional Passover meal known as a seder, removal of leavened products from their home, substitution of matzo for bread, and retelling of the exodus tale.


Vaisakhi, also known as Baisakhi, Vaishakhi, or Vaisakhi, is a historical and religious festival in Sikhism and Hinduism. Vaisakhi, celebrates the Sikh New Year and commemorates the formation of Khalsa Panth, under Guru Gobind Singh in 1699. The Khalsa Panth served as a collective of fully initiated Sikh men and women who were leaders and defenders of the Sikh faith.

Laila Al-Qadr

Laila Al-Qadr, or the Night of Power, is celebrated by the Muslim community as the night in which the Qur'an was first revealed to the Prophet Muhammad by Allah. This important event takes place during Ramadan and focuses on prayer.

Eid ul-Fitr

Eid ul-Fitr, the "Festival of Breaking Fast", comemorates the end of the month of Ramadan. This three-day celebration brings together Muslim families to share meals, pray, and be in community with one another.

Earth Day

Earth Day marks the anniversary of the birth of the modern environmental movement in 1970. Earth Day is widely recognized as one of the largest secular observances in the world, celebrated by more than a billion people every year as a day of action to fight the climate crisis, change human behavior, and create global, national and local policy changes.

Holiday/Observance Description
International Worker's Day Each year on May 1, people across the globe take to the streets to commemorate International Workers' Day, or May Day. In dozens of countries, May Day is an official holiday. The day commemorates past labor struggles against a host of workers' rights violations, including lengthy workdays and weeks, poor conditions, and child labor.
Asian Pacific Heritage Month May is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month (APAHM), celebrating the achievements and contributions of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the United States. The month of May was chosen to commemorate the arrival of the first Japanese immigrants to the United States on May 7, 1843, and to mark the anniversary of the completion of the transcontinental railroad on May 10, 1869. The majority of the workers who laid the tracks were Chinese immigrants.
Jewish American Heritage Month Jewish American Heritage Month is a month to celebrate the contributions Jewish Americans have made to America since they first arrived in New Amsterdam in 1654.
Cinco De Mayo Cinco de Mayo, or the fifth of May, is a holiday that celebrates the date of the Mexican army’s May 5, 1862 victory over France at the Battle of Puebla during the Franco-Mexican War. The day, is also known as the Battle of Puebla Day. In the United States, Cinco de Mayo has evolved into a commemoration of Mexican culture.
Ascension Day

The Ascension, in Christian belief, is the ascent of Jesus Christ into heaven on the 40th day after his Resurrection (Easter being reckoned as the first day). The Feast of the Ascension ranks with Christmas, Easter, and Pentecost in the universality of its observance among Christians. The feast has been celebrated 40 days after Easter in both Eastern and Western Christianity since the 4th century.

World Day for Cultural Diversity

The World Day of Cultural Diversity provides opportunity to deepen our understanding of the values of cultural diversity and to advance the four goals of the UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions adopted on  October 20th, 2005.

Memorial Day

In 1966, Congress and President Lyndon Johnson declared Waterloo, N.Y. the “birthplace” of Memorial Day. There, a ceremony on May 5, 1866, honored local veterans who had fought in the Civil War. It was not until after World War I, however, that the day was expanded to honor those who have died in all American wars. In 1971, Memorial Day was declared a national holiday by an act of Congress, though it is still often called Decoration Day.

Holiday/Observance Description
LGBTQ+ Pride Month Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) Pride Month is celebrated each year in the month of June to honor the 1969 Stonewall Uprising in Manhattan. The Stonewall Uprising was a tipping point for the Gay Liberation Movement in the United States.
World Environment Day World Environment Day is the United Nations day for encouraging worldwide awareness and action to protect our environment.
Race Unity Day Race Unity Day, also known as Race Amity Day, is observed the second Sunday in June. The day was started by the Bahá'í National Spiritual Assembly in the United States in 1957, but it was known as Race Amity Day until 1965. The goal is to raise awareness to the importance of racial harmony and understanding.
Loving Day Loving Day commemorates the date when the Supreme Court of America ruled to disband all anti-miscegenation laws in 1967 (laws that made mixed-race marriages illegal). Loving Day commemorates the idea that no authority can dictate who one can love. It is a victory for freedom and a step forward in human rights for everyone.
Juneteenth Juneteenth is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States.  Dating back to 1865, it was on June 19th that the Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free. Note that this was two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation - which had become official on January 1, 1863. The Emancipation Proclamation had little impact on the Texans due to the minimal number of Union troops to enforce the new Executive Order. However, with the surrender of General Lee in April of 1865, and the arrival of General Granger’s regiment, the forces were finally strong enough to influence and overcome the resistance.
World Refugee Day World Refugee Day is an international day designated by the United Nations to honor refugees around the globe. It falls each year on June 20 and celebrates the strength and courage of people who have been forced to flee their home country to escape conflict or persecution. 
Eid ul-Adha Eid ul-Adha, or the Festival of Sacrifice, celebrates the loyalty and devotion of the prophet Ibrahim and his willingness to sacrifice his son to Allah. Muslims may honor this devotion by sacrificing an animal and sharing the meat with families, friends, and to individuals in need.