Accurate and Inclusive Holiday Language: Spring Holidays

Accurate and Inclusive Holiday Language: Spring Holidays

March 30, 2021 By Brit Stamey Resources

While many spring holidays across many religions and traditions hover around themes of rebirth and hope, a huge range of traditions and practices fall during the spring months. This article aims to describe a selection of these holidays including how they are celebrated, how to describe them, and how to greet someone who is celebrating. 

It is important to note that “Happy Holidays” can be a great way to wish someone well whose religious and cultural practices you are not familiar with, but if you do know what holidays they celebrate, it is better to specifically recognize those holidays (or recognize their lack of observance). 

Hopefully this will be a helpful guide in referring to these holidays, but it is not exhaustive and is just a jumping off point! I encourage you to visit the list of resources below and learn more about holidays you aren’t familiar with or want to learn more about.

Lent: February 17 – April 3, 2021 (Holy Week March 28 – April 3, 2021)

Lent is observed by many denominations of Christians including Anglicans, Roman Catholics, Easter Orthodox, Lutherans, and Methodists, as well as some Baptists and Evangelicals. While both eastern and western Christian churches observe Lent, they count the days differently and determine the start dates differently so dates may vary slightly. To commemorate the 40 days leading up to the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ, Christians spend Lent in prayer and reflection, as well as sometimes fasting or giving up a specific vice like a favorite food or habit. It is a solemn and reflective period of time. The last week of Lent is called Holy Week and includes Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday leading up to Easter. Good Friday specifically commemorates the crucifixion and death of Jesus and is a solemn day of mourning. You can wish someone who is observing Lent a “Blessed Lent” or “Holy Lent.”

Passover: March 27 – April 4, 2021

Passover (Pesach in Hebrew) is a Jewish festival commemorating the exodus of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt and celebrating their freedom. Celebration includes the seder, a festive meal that retells the story of Exodus through symbolic foods. This ritual meal and readings to accompany the symbolic foods are outlined in a book called a Haggadah. Throughout Passover, Jews often abstain from eating any foods with leaven (called hametz or chametz). Food made from unleavened bread, called matzah, like matzah ball soup is popular throughout the holiday. Passover is a very important festival and is a time for celebration and joy. You can wish someone who celebrates a “Happy Passover,” “Chag Sameach” (Hebrew for joyous/happy festival), or “Chag Pesach Sameach” (Hebrew for joyous/happy Passover festival).

Holi: March 28-29, 2021

Holi, also known as the “festival of colors” or “festival of love,” is a Hindu holiday marking the arrival of spring celebrating love and new life. It is a very joyous holiday and often celebrated with dancing and singing as well as covering one another in colored powder and/or water. On the night it begins, bonfires are often lit while the next day is a time for signing, dancing, and celebrating. Holi celebrates the Hindu god Krishna and the legend of Holika and Prahlad, and very broadly commemorates the triumph of good over evil. You can wish someone who celebrates a “Happy Holi.”

Easter: March 28 – April 4, 2021 Easter is a very significant Christian holiday celebrating the belief in the resurrection of Jesus Christ after his death by crucifixion. Western Christianity typically follows the Gregorian calendar while Eastern Orthodox Christianity typically follows the Julian calendar so the dates may vary slightly between the two observances. Celebrations often include going to church for services, eating symbolic foods at family meals, and decorating the home. Although not always part of the religious celebrations, decorating and/or hiding easter eggs and receiving easter baskets from the Easter Bunny can be a part of the celebrations as well. You can wish someone who celebrates a “Happy Easter.”

Ramadan: April 12 – May 12, 2021 (dates may vary across different countries)

Ramadan is festival in Islam that lasts for a month commemorating Muhammad receiving the initial revelations of the Quran, the holy book for Muslims. The month is a time for fasting, reflection, and prayer. Strict fasting is typically observed from sunrise to sunset every day during Ramadan for those who are able. Adherents often spend more time in prayer and at mosque during the month. A pre-dawn meal, called a suhoor (or sahūr), usually starts the day. After evening prayers, an iftar meal is often a social occasion to break the fast together with friends and family. The month is a time of introspection and it is also common to give to charity during the festival. You can greet someone who is celebrating by saying “Ramadan Kareem” (which means “have a generous Ramadan”) or “Ramadan Mubarak” (which means “happy Ramadan”). 

Vaisakhi: April 13, 2021

Vaisakhi (or Baisakhi) is the Sikh New Year festival as well as marking the beginning of Hindu solar New year. It is often celebrated as a harvest festival and people may buy each other gifts or decorate their homes with rangoli (designs often made with powdered color or rice) in floral patterns. Sikhs often celebrate by visiting highly decorated Gurdwaras, their places of worship, and enjoying parades through the streets called nagar kirtans. Nagar kirtans (nagar meaning “town/neighborhood” and kirtans describing singing divine hymns) include signing, dancing, reading scriptures, and chanting hymns throughout the streets. It is also a time to be thankful and to pray for the year to come. Gifts of sweets, household items, and greeting cards are common and you can wish someone who is celebrating a “Happy Vaisakhi.”

First day of Ridván: April 20-21, 2021

Ridván means paradise and the period beginning with the first day of Ridván and lasting for twelve days is called “the King of Festivals” in the Baha'i faith. The holiday commemorates the beginning of the faith and is a time for celebration and prayer. You can wish someone celebrating “Happy Ridván.”

Eid al-Fitr: May 12-13, 2021

Eid al-Fitr is a three-day holiday that marks the end of Ramadan in Islam. Adherents will often attend communal prayers, prepare festive meals, and visit relatives. Wearing new clothes and giving gifts to children are also common observances. It is also called “The Feast of Breaking the Fast” and the greeting changes on this day from the typical Ramadan greetings to “Eid Mubarak” (which means “blessed celebration” or “blessed feast”).

Vesak or Buddha Day: May 26, 2021 (date may vary)

Vesak (Wesak, Vesak Day, Buddha Purnima, or Buddha Day) celebrates Buddha's birthday and is a time to reflect on Buddhist teachings. For some Buddhists, it also marks and is a time to commemorate Buddha achieving enlightenment. Vesak is celebrated across many different cultures and countries in different ways. Common ways to celebrate include going to a Buddhist temple and sometimes bringing food and offerings to the temple, meditating, chanting, and doing good deeds. Families might also decorate their homes, especially with lanterns, and friends and family might send cards to one another. You can wish those celebrating “Happy Vesak Day” or “Blessed Vesak Day.”

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Did we miss a favorite holiday, or should we do another article for other holidays? Let us know! Special thanks to Lauren Filippini.

Header photo by Bohdan Stocek on Unsplash.

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