Spiritual Life

Religious Holidays

Southwestern University for Religious Holidays, Observance Days, and Related Absences

Southwestern University is a community of members from diverse faith-traditions and members from no faith-traditions. We encourage students, faculty, and staff to be aware and respectful of the diverse religious observances of the University community members. Required accommodations exist for: Eid al-Fitr, Eid al-Adha, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Christmas Day, Ash Wednesday, Pesach (Passover), Good Friday, and Easter (see below for Southwestern’s Religious Observance Excused Absence Policy). Suggested accommodations may range: adjusted due dates, proctoring exams (if during fasting) at times best for student fasting, offering halal/kosher/vegetarian options when food is offered.

Major Holy Days 2023–2024

Major Holy Days 2023-2024

The days listed below are the ones most likely to affect the academic calendar.

NOTE: Dates in bold indicate holy days where work is prohibited or fasting is involved. An asterisk (*) indicates the holy day begins at sundown the day before this date and ends at sundown on this date.

Students seeking to request a religious accommodation may use this email template.


Holy Day Name


Brief Description


June 28*



For Shias, a commemoration of the martyrdom of Hussein, a grandson of the Prophet Muhammad, at Karbala. Only in the evenings.

Sept. 7

Krishna Janmashtami


The birthday of Sri Krishna, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu who helped restore the balance of good over evil.

Sept. 11–18



Eight-day Festival of Forgiveness and Self-Discipline.

Sept. 15–17

Rosh Hashanah


Beginning of the Jewish Year and High Holy Days. Work is
generally prohibited. Start of celebration is in the evening on
the 15th and end in the evening on the 17th.


Sept. 19

Ganesh Chaturthi


Birthday of Sri Ganesha, revered
as the god of wisdom, prosperity and good fortune and the remover of obstacles. Start of celebration is
from 11:01 a.m. and ends at 1:30 p.m. (Time in India)

Sept. 24–25

Yom Kippur


The Day of Atonement. Most
solemn Jewish holy day. Adults fast from food and drink. Work is generally prohibited. Celebrated
in the evenings.

Sept. 29–Oct. 6



The Feast of the Tabernacles.
Harvest Festival. Work is
generally prohibited on the first two days. Celebrated in the

Oct. 6–8

Shemini Atzeret


Marks the end of Sukkot. Work is
generally prohibited. Celebrated in the evenings.

Oct. 7–8

Simchat Torah


Work is generally prohibited. Marks end and beginning of
public Torah readings. Celebrated in the evenings.

Oct. 16*

Birth of the Bab


Day honoring the birth of one of the founders of the Bahá’í Faith.

Oct. 15–23



Festival of 9 nights celebrating the
Goddess. 10th day is a festival celebrating the Goddess’
triumph over evil.

Oct. 31*



Festival of Darkness honoring the dead. Celebrated in the evenings.

Nov. 1

All Saint’s Day


Honors all the saints known and unknown.

Nov. 12


Jain, Sikh

Festival of Lights. Light symbolizes a force against darkness, ignorance, evil. Diwali is celebrated over 5 days.

Dec. 3



First Sunday of Advent

Dec. 7–15



Festival of Lights. Marks the victory of the Maccabees and the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem.

Dec. 8



The day where the Virgin Mary was
free of original sin from the moment
of her conception.

Dec. 8 

Bodhi Day


Celebration of Buddha’s attainment
of enlightenment.

Dec. 12

Our Lady of Guaduape


According to Catholic tradition, Mary, mother of Jesus, appeared to Juan Diego, who was an Aztec convert to Christianity, on
December 9 and again on December 12, 1531. Juan Diego
was a young indigenous Indian
who was walking toward the Hill of
Tepeyac when he was stopped by an appearance of the Virgin Mary.

Dec. 22

Srimad Bhagavad Gita


Gita Jayanti is the date that Lord
Krishna revealed the Bhagavad Gita, a Hindu sacred text, to Prince Arjuna.

Dec. 25



Celebration of the Birth of Jesus Christ.

Dec. 26–Jan. 1


African American

Kwanzaa celebrates 7 principles of African heritage. Each of the 7 days are dedicated to a principle.


Jan. 7

Feast of the Nativity

Orthodox Christian

Celebration of the Birth of Jesus Christ.

Jan. 15

Makar Sankranti


A celebration marking the advent of the Sun’s northern migration and forthcoming Spring.

Feb. 6*

Lailat al Miraj


Commemoration of Prophet
Muhammad’s ascension to
Heaven. Celebrated in the evenings.

Feb. 10

Chinese New Year

Confucian, Daoist, Buddhist

A festival marking the new year for the Chinese calendar.

Feb. 14

Ash Wednesday


The beginning of Lent, a 40-day
fast and time of reflection.

Mar. 2–20

Nineteen Day Fast


Bahá’ís between the ages of 15 - 70 fast without food or drink from sunrise to sunset.

Mar. 8

Maha Shivaratri


An evening celebration of the wedding of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati.

Mar. 10–Apr. 9



Holy month of fasting without food or drink from sunrise to sunset.

Mar. 20–21

Now Ruz (New Year)

and Bahá’í

Celebration of the Persian New Year. Starts at 4:15 on the 20th and ends at 4:15 on the 21st.

March 24*



Celebration of the story of Esther.
Celebrated in the evenings.

Mar. 24

Palm Sunday


Beginning of Holy Week, prior to

Mar. 25*



Festival of colors. A two-day festival celebrates the advent of spring and the message that good victorious over evil.

Mar. 28

Mar. 29

Mar. 31

Holy/Maundy Thursday,

Good/Holy Friday,




Commemoration of the Last Supper of Jesus with the Disciples; Commemoration of the Crucifixion of Jesus; Celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus.

Apr. 9–10

Eid al Fitr

Islam Holy day celebrated to end Ramadan. Celebrated in the evenings. 

Apr. 13



Marks the formation of the Khalsa
(religious community of Sikhs) by
Guru Gobind Singh.

Apr. 17

Rama Navami


Celebration of the birth of Sri Rama, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu who helped restore balance of good over evil.

Apr. 19–May 1



Commemoration of the 12 days
when founder, Baha’u’llah,
declared mission.

Apr. 22–30



Festival of liberation of Israelites
from Slavery in Egypt. Work is
prohibited on the first two and last two days. Celebrated in the evenings.

Apr. 23




Celebrates the birthday of Hanuman, foremost devotee of Sri Rama and Sita.

May 5


Orthodox Christian

Celebration of Resurrection of Jesus.

**Religious holiday dates may vary in observance since they are calculated on a lunar calendar, and because they are celebrated on various days around the world.

Southwestern’s Religious Observance Excused Absence Policy

Policy Reminders: One-time University events should not be scheduled during the following holidays; these are events which either (1) require attendance, (2) may not be mandatory, but those not attending would miss an important opportunity to be included in a campus event, and/or (3) are one-time opportunities for participants to receive the services offered: Eid al-Fitr, Eid alAdha, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Christmas Day, Pesach (Passover), Good Friday, and Easter.

Chapel Services: In addition to the above religious holidays, the following dates and times have been identified for Chapel services during the 2023- 2024 academic year. These are priority events which no student, faculty, or staff member may be denied the opportunity to attend because of a conflicting class, meeting, or event.

  • Welcome Week Interfaith Worship Service, Sunday, August 20, 2023, 10am11am
  • Spiritual Life Interfaith Fair, Sunday, August 27, 2023, TBD
  • Homecoming Worship Service, Sunday, September 24, 2023, 10:30am
  • Candlelight Worship Services, Thursday, December 7, 2023, 6:00pm & 8:00pm
  • Ash Wednesday, Wednesday, February 14, 2024 Service – TBD
  • Palm Sunday, March 24, 2024 - TBD
  • Baccalaureate Worship Service, Friday, May 10, 2024, 7:00pm-8:00pm

Religious Absences: Because the religious holidays listed above reflect some, but not all, of the most commonly observed holidays, the University policies also permit any student to miss class in order to observe any religious or cultural holidays that are part of their tradition, including holidays that are not listed above. Students are expected to notify their professor of religious absences as far in advance as possible and fulfill missed assignments prior to the absence. Additionally, University policies permit faculty and staff, including student employees, to miss work in order to observe religious and cultural holidays that are part of their tradition, including holidays that are not listed above. This time off may be without pay or taken as accrued vacation time, and in the case of student employees, it can include a change in work hours within a pay period to accommodate the absence. The University policy notes that faculty members are still expected to meet their class schedules and should work with their Department chair or the Dean of the Faculty to arrange these absences.